The European Union May Be on the Verge of Regime Collapse

By John Feffer, TomDispatch

Europe won the Cold War.

Not long after the Berlin Wall fell a quarter of a century ago, the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States squandered its peace dividend in an attempt to maintain global dominance, and Europe quietly became more prosperous, more integrated, and more of a player in international affairs. Between 1989 and 2014, the European Union (EU) practically doubled its membership and catapulted into third place in population behind China and India. It currently boasts the world’s largest economy and also heads the list of global trading powers. In 2012, the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize for transforming Europe “from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”

In the competition for “world’s true superpower,” China loses points for still having so many impoverished peasants in its rural hinterlands and a corrupt, illiberal bureaucracy in its cities; the United States, for its crumbling infrastructure and a hypertrophied military-industrial complex that threatens to bankrupt the economy. As the only equitably prosperous, politically sound, and rule-of-law-respecting superpower, Europe comes out on top, even if -- or perhaps because -- it doesn’t have the military muscle to play global policeman.

And yet, for all this success, the European project is currently teetering on the edge of failure. Growth is anemic at best and socio-economic inequality is on the rise. The countries of Eastern and Central Europe, even relatively successful Poland, have failed to bridge the income gap with the richer half of the continent. And the highly indebted periphery is in revolt.

Politically, the center may not hold and things seem to be falling apart. From the left, parties like Syriza in Greece are challenging the EU’s prescriptions of austerity. From the right, Euroskeptic parties are taking aim at the entire quasi-federal model. Racism and xenophobia are gaining ever more adherents, even in previously placid regions like Scandinavia.

Perhaps the primary social challenge facing Europe at the moment, however, is the surging popularity of Islamophobia, the latest “socialism of fools.” From the killings at the Munich Olympics in 1972 to the recent attacks at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, wars in the Middle East have long inspired proxy battles in Europe. Today, however, the continent finds itself ever more divided between a handful of would-be combatants who claim the mantle of true Islam and an ever-growing contingent who believe Islam -- all of Islam -- has no place in Europe.

Talk Nation Radio: Brian Salvatore on Army's Plan for Biggest Open-Air Burn of Explosives Ever

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-brian-salvatore-on-armys-plan-for-biggest-open-air-burn-of-explosives-ever

Dr. Brian A. Salvatore is a Professor of Chemistry at Louisiana State University Shreveport, where he has been on the faculty since 2003. Dr. Salvatore has twice served as Chairman of the Northwest Louisiana Section of the American Chemical Society, and he currently represents this section on the National Council of the American Chemical Society. He is also a member of the ACS’s national committee for Project SEED (Scientific Experience for the Economically Disadvantaged).

Dr. Salvatore discusses the work he's doing to prevent the largest ever open-air burning of explosives by the U.S. military, proposed for Northern Louisiana. Read this New York Times op-ed, this Truthout report, this open letter, and this report from the Shreveport Times.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Are the U.S. and Russian Governments Once Again on the Nuclear Warpath?

A quarter century after the end of the Cold War and decades after the signing of landmark nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements, are the U.S. and Russian governments once more engaged in a potentially disastrous nuclear arms race with one another?  It certainly looks like it.

With approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons between them, the United States and Russia already possess about 93 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, thus making them the world’s nuclear hegemons.  But, apparently, like great powers throughout history, they do not consider their vast military might sufficient, especially in the context of their growing international rivalry.

Where’s the US ‘Syriza’ party?: Greek Voters Have Tossed a Grenade into the Banker/Bureaucrat-Controlled European Establishment

By Dave Lindorff 


There is certainly exciting news from Greece today, with confirmation that the leftist coalition party Syriza has won a decisive victory, and, with the help of just one small party, the Greek Independence Party, is assured of a parliamentary majority. That means Syriza’s dynamic marxist leader, the 40-year-old former student radical
Alexis Tsipras, will shortly become Greece’s prime minister, pledged to undo years of crippling austerity and to turn Greece back into a real democracy, instead of a scene of corporate pillage.

Gaza in Arizona: How Israeli High-Tech Firms Will Up-Armor the U.S.-Mexican Border

By Todd Miller and Gabriel M. Schivone, TomDispatch.com

It was October 2012. Roei Elkabetz, a brigadier general for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was explaining his country’s border policing strategies. In his PowerPoint presentation, a photo of the enclosure wall that isolates the Gaza Strip from Israel clicked onscreen. “We have learned lots from Gaza,” he told the audience. “It’s a great laboratory.”

Elkabetz was speaking at a border technology conference and fair surrounded by a dazzling display of technology -- the components of his boundary-building lab. There were surveillance balloons with high-powered cameras floating over a desert-camouflaged armored vehicle made by Lockheed Martin. There were seismic sensor systems used to detect the movement of people and other wonders of the modern border-policing world. Around Elkabetz, you could see vivid examples of where the future of such policing was heading, as imagined not by a dystopian science fiction writer but by some of the top corporate techno-innovators on the planet.

Swimming in a sea of border security, the brigadier general was, however, not surrounded by the Mediterranean but by a parched West Texas landscape. He was in El Paso, a 10-minute walk from the wall that separates the United States from Mexico.

Just a few more minutes on foot and Elkabetz could have watched green-striped U.S. Border Patrol vehicles inching along the trickling Rio Grande in front of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s largest cities filled with U.S. factories and the dead of that country’s drug wars. The Border Patrol agents whom the general might have spotted were then being up-armored with a lethal combination of surveillance technologies, military hardware, assault rifles, helicopters, and drones. This once-peaceful place was being transformed into what Timothy Dunn, in his book The Militarization of the U.S. Mexico Border, terms a state of “low-intensity warfare.”

Come March From the EPA to the Pentagon on April 22, Earth Day

THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE ISSUES A CALL TO ACTION

 In times of great injustice and despair, we are called to act from a place of conscience and courage.  For all of you who are sick of heart over the destruction of the earth through pollution and militarization, we call on you to get involved in an action-oriented march that speaks to your heart and mind, marching from the EPA to the Pentagon on April 22, Earth Day.

 For those of us who marched in New York City on September 21, 2014, we saw hundreds of thousands of citizens taking to the streets to save Mother Earth.  There was a serious anti-war presence in the march making the connection between militarization and the destruction of the earth. 

 A lame-duck President Obama has, on occasion, done the right thing—supported the dreamers, recognized the insanity of official U.S. policy on Cuba and continues to release prisoners from the concentration camp in Guantanamo.  It seems now is the time to challenge this administration to do more by ending the killer-drone program, and to convince environmentalists to be vocal critics of the Pentagon’s role in the destruction of Mother Earth.

 The ineffectiveness of drone warfare, and thus the need to end it, is clear, Thanks to Wikileaks we have access to a July 7, 2009 secret report produced by the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of Transnational Issues discussing the failure of drone warfare in making the world safe. "The potential negative effect of HLT [High Level Targets] operations," the report states, "include increasing the level of insurgent support […], strengthening an armed group's bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group's remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or de-escalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”

 The effect of militarization on the environment is clear.  By starting the march at the Environmental Protection Agency, we will try to encourage environmentalists to join the action. A letter would be sent to Gina McCarthy, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Administrator, 1101A, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20460, to seek a meeting to discuss the Pentagon’s role in ecocide.  If the EPA refuses to meet with the citizen activists, consideration would be given to do nonviolent civil resistance at the agency. 

 A letter would also be sent to Chuck Hagel, The Pentagon, 1400 Defense, Arlington, Virginia 22202, requesting a meeting to discuss the Climate Crisis, acerbated by U.S. warmongering.  Again failure to get an appropriate response from Hagel’s office could result in nonviolent civil resistance.  

 The Call to Action highlights the need for the environmental agency to recognize the destructive role the military machine plays in climate chaos and to take action to remediate the situation. 

 According to Joseph Nevins in Greenwashing the Pentagon Monday, June 14, 2010, “The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.”

 The Pentagon is aware that national security could be affected by climate chaos.  However as Nevin tells us, “Such ‘greenwashing’ helps to mask the fact that the Pentagon devours about 330,000 barrels of oil per day (a barrel has 42 gallons), more than the vast majority of the world’s countries. If the U.S. military were a nation-state, it would be ranked number 37 in terms of oil consumption—ahead of the likes of the Philippines, Portugal, and Nigeria—according to the CIA Factbook.”

 To see another example of the military’s destructive nature, see Okinawa: A Small Island Resists U.S. Military's "Pivot to Asia" by Christine Ahn, which appeared December 26, 2014 in Foreign Policy in Focus. We are including some of the points made in the article:

 “Takeshi Miyagi, a 44-year old farmer, said he abandoned his fields in July to join the resistance by monitoring the sea by canoe. Miyagi says he and other activists are ensuring the protection of the biologically rich ecosystem of the Henoko and Oura Bays and the survival of the dugong. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment lists the dugong — a marine mammal related to the manatee — as “critically endangered.” It is also on the list of U.S. endangered species.

 “Okinawans are also pointing to the historic chemical contamination by U.S. military bases. Last month, the Japan Ministry of Defense began excavating at the Okinawa City soccer field where barrels containing toxic herbicides were discovered last year. In July, the Japanese government unearthed 88 barrels containing ingredients used to produce Agent Orange in reclaimed land next to the Kadena Air Force Base.”

 Finally, read Climate Change Challenges by Kathy Kelly: “. . . it seems the greatest danger – the greatest violence – that any of us face is contained in our attacks on our environment. Today’s children and generations to follow them face nightmares of scarcity, disease, mass displacement, social chaos, and war, due to our patterns of consumption and pollution.”

She adds this: “What’s more, the U.S. military, with its more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities, worldwide, is one of the most egregious polluters on the planet and is the world’s largest single consumer of fossil fuels.  Its terrible legacy of forcing its own soldiers and their families, over decades, to drink lethally carcinogenic water on bases that should have been evacuated as contaminated sites is covered in a recent Newsweek story.”

 If you are concerned by the challenges facing Mother Earth and want to end the killer drone program, get involved with the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance on April 22, Earth Day.

 Can you join us in Washington, D.C. for the EPA to the Pentagon?

Can you risk arrest?

Would you be able to sign onto the letters?

If you can’t come to D.C., can you organize a solidarity action?

National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

Max Obuszewski
mobuszewski at Verizon dot net

New TCBH! poem: Romney Running Again?

By Gary Lindorff

 

How inspiring is that!
Maybe we should go back to what we were trying to do
When we got discouraged:
Try to scratch together a living selling loosies in the street
As a man of color?
Maybe someone was building a time machine
And they should get back to that!
Teach a friend’s dog to speak for a YouTube video,
Go out in this snowstorm and not come in...


"We murdered some folks" in Guantanamo

Murder at Camp Delta is a new book by Joseph Hickman, a former guard at Guantanamo. It's neither fiction nor speculation. When President Obama says "We tortured some folks," Hickman provides at least three cases -- in addition to many others we know about from secret sites around the world -- in which the statement needs to be modified to "We murdered some folks." Of course, murder is supposed to be acceptable in war (and in whatever you call what Obama does with drones) while torture is supposed to be, or used to be, a scandal. But what about tortures to death? What about deadly human experimentation? Does that have a Nazi enough ring to disturb anyone?

We should be able to answer that question soon, at least for that segment of the population that searches aggressively for news or actually -- I'm not making this up -- reads books. Murder at Camp Delta is a book of, by, and for true believers in patriotism and militarism. You can start out viewing Dick Cheney as a leftist and never be offended by this book, unless documented facts that the author himself was deeply disturbed to discover offend you. The first line of the book is "I am a patriotic American." The author never retracts it. Following a riot at Guantanamo, which he led the suppression of, he observes:

"As much as I blamed the inmates for the riot, I respected how hard they'd fought. They were ready to fight nearly to the death. If we had been running a good detention facility, I would have thought they were motivated by strong religious or political ideals. The sad truth was that they probably fought so hard because our poor facilities and shabby treatment had pushed them beyond normal human limits. Their motivation might not have been radical Islam at all but the simple fact that they had nothing to live for and nothing left to lose."

As far as I know, Hickman has not yet applied the same logic to debunking the absurd pretense that people fight back in Afghanistan or Iraq because their religion is murderous or because they hate us for our freedoms. Hickman will be a guest on Talk Nation Radio soon, so perhaps I'll ask him. But first I'll thank him. And not for his "service." For his book.

He describes a hideous death camp in which guards were trained to view the prisoners as sub-human and much greater care was taken to protect the well-being of iguanas than homo sapiens. Chaos was the norm, and physical abuse of the prisoners was standard.  Col. Mike Bumgarner made it a top priority that everyone stand in formation when he entered his office in the morning to the sounds of Beethoven's Fifth or "Bad Boys." Hickman relates that certain vans were permitted to drive in and out of the camp uninspected, making a mockery of elaborate attempts at security. He didn't know the reasoning behind this until he happened to discover a secret camp not included on any maps, a place he called Camp No but the CIA called Penny Lane.

To make things worse at Guantanamo would require a particular sort of idiocy that apparently Admiral Harry Harris possessed. He began blasting the Star Spangled Banner into the prisoners' cages, which predictably resulted in the guards abusing prisoners who did not stand and pretend to worship the U.S. flag. Tensions and violence rose. When Hickman was called on to lead an assault on prisoners who would not allow their Korans to be searched, he proposed that a Muslim interpreter do the searching. Bumgarner and gang had never thought of that, and it worked like a charm. But the aforementioned riot took place in another part of the prison where Harris rejected the interpreter idea; and the lies that the military told the media about the riot had an impact on Hickman's view of things. So did the media's willingness to lap up absurd and unsubstantiated lies: "Half the reporters covering the military should have just enlisted; they seemed even more eager to believe the things our commanders said than we did."

After the riot, some of the prisoners went on hunger strike. On June 9, 2006, during the hunger strike, Hickman was in charge of guards on watch from towers, etc., overseeing the camp that night. He and every other guard observed that, just as the Navy Criminal Investigative Service report on the matter would later say, some prisoners were taken out of their cells. In fact, the van that took prisoners to Penny Lane took three prisoners, on three trips, out of their camp. Hickman watched each prisoner being loaded into the van, and the third time he followed the van far enough to see that it was headed to Penny Lane. He later observed the van return and back up to the medical facilities, where a friend of his informed him that three bodies were brought in with socks or rags stuffed down their throats.

Bumgarner gathered staff together and told them three prisoners had committed suicide by stuffing rags down their own throats in their cells, but that the media would report it a different way. Everyone was strictly forbidden to say a word. The next morning the media reported, as instructed, that the three men had hung themselves in their cells. The military called these "suicides" a "coordinated protest" and an act of "asymmetrical warfare." Even James Risen, in his role as New York Times stenographer, conveyed this nonsense to the public. No reporter or editor apparently thought it useful to ask how prisoners could have possibly hung themselves in open cages in which they are always visible; how they could have acquired enough sheets and other materials to supposedly create dummies of themselves; how they could have gone unnoticed for at least two hours; how in fact they had supposedly bound their own ankles and wrists, gagged themselves, put on face masks, and then all hanged themselves simultaneously; why there were no videos or photos; why no guards were disciplined or even questioned for ensuing reports; why supposedly radically lax and preferential treatment had been given to three prisoners who were on hunger strike; how the corpses had supposedly suffered rigor mortis faster than is physically possible, etc.

Three months after Hickman returned to the U.S. he heard on the news of another very similar "suicide" at Guantanamo. Who could Hickman turn to with what he knew? He found a law professor named Mark Denbeaux at the Seton Hall University Law School's Center for Policy and Research. With his, and his colleagues', help Hickman tried reporting the matter through proper channels. Obama's Justice Department, NBC, ABC, and 60 Minutes all expressed interest, were told the facts, and refused to do a thing about it. But Scott Horton wrote it up in Harpers, which Keith Olbermann reported on but the rest of the corporate media ignored.

Hickman and Seton Hall researchers found out that the CIA had been administering huge doses of a drug called mefloquine to prisoners, including the three killed, which an army doctor told Hickman would induce terror and amounted to "psychological waterboarding." Over at Truthout.org Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye reported that every new arrival at Guantanamo was given mefloquine, supposedly for malaria, but it was only given to every prisoner, never to a single guard or to any third-country staff people from countries with high risk of malaria, and never to the Haitian refugees housed at Guantanamo in 1991 and 1992. Hickman had begun his "service" at Guantanamo believing the prisoners were "the worst of the worst," but had since learned that at least most of them were nothing of the sort, having been picked up for bounties with little knowledge of what they'd done. Why, he wondered,

"were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they'd been taken into custody? Even if they'd had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it 'America's battle lab.'"

Protest John Brennan at the Council on Foreign Relations NYC 1/26

Here's our new downloadable poster about war criminal John Brennan which can be printed as 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17. 

Ukraine News - Jan 24, 2015

 

Ukraine rebel leader announces new offensive "until we reach the borders of the Donetsk region” - VOA


VIDEO (Eng Subs): We're on the offensive, peace talks only after we reach the borders of the Donetsk region: Zakharchenko - YouTube


Ukrainian army reports over 100 attacks by militants in past 24 hours - interfax.com


Mobilization 2015: 60% of potential recruits received draft notices: Ukraine Ministry of Defense - Censor.NET


Yatseniuk instructs regional governors to prepare war economy plans - interfax.com


Russian aggression in the Donbas costs Ukraine $5-7 million daily, Finance Minister says - Censor.NET

 

Ukraine separatists say 24 of their fighters killed in rocket attack on Donetsk airport - Fox News

 

VIDEO (Russian): Donetsk rebels say they lost 24 fighters dead and 30 wounded in a day - Patrick Jackson on Twitter

 

DNR + LNR introduce new currency in Crimea. Printed in China - Ian Bateson on Twitter

 

Ukraine's richest oligarch Rinat Akhmetov reportedly questioned by prosecutor's office as part of a criminal investigation into the "financing of terrorism and illegal armed groups” - Interpreter_Mag

 

Rebel-led Donetsk Republic to approve death-penalty law - ANSA.it

 

Ukraine: The Rise of The Right - sky.com

 

----------------------------------------------------------

Putin Addresses Russia's Security Council, blames Ukraine's criminal orders for new fighting - Sputnik International


Hard evidence, the regular Russian army invades Ukraine - Conflict Report


General Vyaznikov (commander of Russian Forces in Ukraine) relocated his HQ to rebel-held Soledar in Donetsk - Ukraine@war on Twitter


Russia launched military exercise in Crimea - Censor.NET


Defense chiefs conclude two days of talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels focusing on Ukraine and Middle East terrorism - defense.gov


NATO to create offices in six countries of Central and Eastern Europe - UNIAN news


US Deploying Troops to Ukraine to Train its National Guard - Military.com


U.S. Should Stay Out Of The Russo-Ukrainian Quarrel: Why The Conflict In Ukraine Isn't America's Business, Part 1 - Forbes

 

Video And Reports Suggest Russian-Backed Forces Have Captured Krasny Partizan (VIDEO) - Interpreter_Mag

 

Analysis The Rus Verkhnotoretske offensive is significant and more successful than the CP31 one. RF forces captured 30km² in 48 hours !! - Conflict Reporter on Twitter

 

Soldiers in Russian army uniforms seen next to leader of Donetsk separatists (PHOTO) - Censor.NET

 

OSCE: A convoy of ten unmarked T-80 tanks was seen travelling west on highway 36km east of rebel-held Donetsk - Conflict Reporter on Twitter

 

VIDEO: Russian TV shows Russia's flag flying above Donetsk Airport - Military Studies on Twitter

 

VIDEO: Brand new Russian  Army 2B26 Grad-K system takes part in shelling of Donetsk airport  - Conflict Reporter on Twitter

 

PHOTO: Ukraine’s Right Sector leader and Russia's bogeyman Dmytro Yarosh recovering in hospital from his "light” injuries at the Donetsk airport - Nikolaus von Twickel on Twitter

 

Were Chemical Weapons Used in Donetsk Airport’s Last Stand? - bellingcat

 

Ilovaisk 2.0 in the making at Debaltseve - Ukraine@war

 

Russia stops coal supplies to Ukraine - uatoday.tv

 

Electricity cut off in government controlled part of Luhansk region: governor - interfax.com

 

To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)

Phony baloney: Picking Apart Obama's "Progressive" State of the Union Speech

By Dave Lindorff


There were two times Republicans broke into fervent applause during this lame duck president's seventh State of the Union speech: the first was when he called for passage of "fast track" authority to negotiate and send to the Senate a Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact -- basically a NAAFTA for the Pacific region; the second was when he noted that he "won't be running for president again."

A Future in Prison

By Kathy Kelly

The Bureau of Prisons contacted me today, assigning me a prison number and a new address:  for the next 90 days, beginning tomorrow, I’ll live at FMC Lexington, in the satellite prison camp for women, adjacent to Lexington’s federal medical center for men.  Very early tomorrow morning, Buddy Bell, Cassandra Dixon, and Paco and Silver, two house guests whom we first met in protests on South Korea’s Jeju Island, will travel with me to Kentucky and deliver me to the satellite women’s prison outside the Federal Medical Center for men.  

In December, 2014, Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced me to three months in federal prison after Georgia Walker and I had attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of Whiteman Air Force base, asking him to stop his troops from piloting lethal drone flights over Afghanistan from within the base.  Judge Whitworth allowed me over a month to surrender myself to prison; but whether you are a soldier or a civilian, a target or an unlucky bystander, you can’t surrender to a drone. 

When I was imprisoned at Lexington prison in 1988, after a federal magistrate in Missouri sentenced me to one year in prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites, other women prisoners playfully nicknamed me “Missiles.”  One of my sisters reliably made me laugh today, texting me to ask if I thought the women this time would call me “Drones.”  

It’s good to laugh and feel camaraderie before heading into prison.  For someone like me, very nearly saturated in “white privilege” through much of this arrest, trial, and sentencing process, 90% (or more) of my experience  will likely depend on attitude.  

But, for many of the people I’ll meet in prison, an initial arrest very likely began with something like a “night raid” staged in Iraq or Afghanistan, complete with armed police surrounding and bursting into their home to remove them from children and families, often with helicopters overhead, sequestering them in a county jail, often with very little oversight to assure that guards and wardens treat them fairly.  Some prisoners will not have had a chance to see their children before being shipped clear across the country.  Some will not have been given adequate medical care as they adjust to life in prison, possibly going without prescribed medicines and often traumatized by the sudden dissolution of ties with family and community.  Some will not have had the means to hire a lawyer and may not have learned much about their case from an overworked public defender.  

In the U.S., the criminal justice system disproportionately incarcerates people of color for petty offences. Many take plea bargains under threat of excessive, punitive sentences. If I were a young black male, the U.S. penal system quite likely would not have allowed me to turn myself in to a federal prison camp.  

I’ll be incarcerated in a satellite camp outside a medical facility where I expect the wards are crowded with geriatric patients. How bleak and unnecessary it is to confine people for decades. My friend Brian Terrell, who was incarcerated in Yankton, South Dakota for six months after crossing the line at Whiteman AFB, told me that while in prison he saw signs on the walls recruiting prisoners to train for medically assisting geriatric male prisoners. I shudder to think of our culture’s pervading callousness, pointlessly consigning so many aged people to languish in prison.     

I will be free in three months, but our collective future is most assuredly shackled to a wrongheaded criminal justice system.  I hope this compulsively vengeful and diseased criminal justice system will change during my lifetime.  And I hope that my short sojourn inside Lexington’s prison walls will help me better understand and perhaps help shed some small light on the systems that affect other people trapped there.

During recent visits with concerned communities focused on drone warfare, many have helped me see a connection between the drone killings across Central Asia and the Middle East and the casual executions and incarceration of young black males in our own country.

In Afghanistan, where the noise of air strikes and civil war have faded to the buzz of drones and the silence of empty promises, our friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) continue their peace building efforts.  Last week, eighty street children walked from the APV center to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission office to assert their right to education.  Their signs expressed their determination to help create a school for street children.  One sign said, “We don’t want your charity.  We want dignity.”  

Our young friends wish to provide a better life for the very children whose only other ways off the streets may well include joining the Taliban, criminal gangs, or some other militia.  Meanwhile, the United States’ vengeful stance as a nation, concerned with protecting its wealth and status at all costs and its safety above all considerations of equity or reason, destroys the lives of the impoverished at home as it destroys those abroad.  

The “Black Lives Matter” protests need our support, as do the March 4-6 protests to “Shut Down Creech” Air Force Base.  Our friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers will continue to do vital work for peace and solidarity, in Kabul, that needs our support. It’s encouraging to know that thousands upon thousands of committed people seek and find work to make our world less like a prison for our neighbors and ourselves.


My address for the next three months is

Kathy Kelly 04971-045
FMC LEXINGTON
FEDERAL MEDICAL CENTER
SATELLITE CAMP
P.O. BOX 14525
LEXINGTON, KY  40512

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  For more information, please contact VCNV at info@vcnv.org.

Three Minutes to Midnight

By Robert F. Dodge, M.D.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just announced its latest nuclear Doomsday Clock moving ahead the minute hand to three minutes till midnight. The clock represents the count down to zero in minutes to nuclear apocalypse - midnight. This significant move of two minutes is the 22nd time since its inception in 1947 that the time has been changed.

In moving the hand to three minutes to midnight, Kennette Benedict, the Executive Director of the Bulletin, identified in his comments: "the probability of global catastrophe is very high"... "the choice is ours and the clock is ticking"..."we feel the need to warn the world" ..."the decision was based on a very strong feeling of urgency." She spoke to the dangers of both nuclear weapons and climate change saying, "they are both very difficult and we are ignoring them" and emphasized "this is about doomsday, this is about the end of civilization as we know it." The Clock has ranged from two minutes to midnight at the height of the Cold War to 17 minutes till midnight with the hopes that followed the end of the Cold War. The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin's Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates.

 What is clear is that the time to ban nuclear weapons is now. Today’s announcement by the Bulletin further corroborates the dangers confirmed by recent climate science. These studies identify the much greater dangers posed by even a small regional nuclear war using “just” 100 Hiroshima size bombs out of the 16,300 weapons in today’s global stockpiles. The ensuing dramatic climate changes and famine that would follow threaten the lives of up to two billion on the planet with effects that would last beyond 10 years. There is no escaping the global impact of such a small regional nuclear war.

Medical science has weighed in on the impacts and devastation of even the smallest nuclear explosion in one of our cities and the reality is there is no adequate medical or public health response to such an attack. We kid ourselves into a false sense that we can prepare and plan for the outcome of a bomb detonation. Every aspect and facet of our society would be overwhelmed by a nuclear attack. Ultimately the resultant dead at ground zero would be the lucky ones.

 Probability theorists have long calculated the dismal odds that the chance for nuclear event either by plan or accident are not in our favor.  Recent documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act detail more than 1,000 mishaps that have happened in our nuclear arsenals. Time is not on our side and the fact that we have not experienced a nuclear catastrophe is more a result of luck than mastery and control over these immoral weapons of terror.

The time to act is now. There is so much that can and must be done. Congress will soon begin budget debates that include proposals to increase nuclear weapons spending for stockpile modernization by $355 billion over the next decade and up to a trillion in the next 30 years--expenditures for weapons that can never be used and at a time when the economic needs for our country and world are so great.

Around the world, there is a growing awareness of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and a corresponding desire to rid the world of these weapons. The Vienna Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons conference last month saw 80 percent of the nations of the world participating. In October 2014, at the UN, 155 nations called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. At Vienna, 44 nations plus the pope advocated for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

The people are making their voices heard and demanding a change of course from the status quo.

In this week’s State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized that we are one people with a common destiny. He said this both in reference to our nation and our world. The threat of nuclear weapons unites us even as it threatens our very existence.  This reality can also be remembered in the words of Martin Luther King when he said,

“We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

The time for action is now, before it is too late. It’s three minutes till midnight.  

Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician, writes for PeaceVoice,and serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.

Sterling Prosecution Long on Rhetoric, Short on Evidence

By John Hanrahan, ExposeFacts.org

To hear the prosecution side tell it in the ongoing trial of Jeffrey Sterling, the former CIA officer who is accused of a national security leak involving Iran, Sterling has potentially (emphasis on potentially):

 

Courtroom sketch by Debra Van Poolen (<a href=



* placed a CIA “asset” at risk;

* hurt recruitment of other defectors, informants and turncoats;

* scared other current “assets” into having second thoughts about remaining as assets;

* tipped off the Iranians and the Russians and other nations that the CIA carries out clandestine schemes to disrupt other countries’ nuclear weapons programs;

* possibly caused the U.S. to modify its own nuclear weapons plans, and, well, you get the picture.

Sterling’s alleged actions — he is accused of providing New York Times reporter James Risen with classified information on a super-secret CIA scam, Operation Merlin, involving delivering flawed nuclear weapons plans to the Iranians in Vienna — also could “conceivably contribute to the deaths of millions of innocent victims.”

Or so said the CIA in talking points prepared for then-National Security Adviser and Hyperbolist-in-Chief Condoleezza Rice for a meeting with New York Times personnel in April 2003 in a successful effort to kill Risen’s story about Merlin. Risen subsequently reported the botched Iranian nuclear plan in his 2006 book “State of War,” much to the embarrassment of the CIA (and the New York Times editors who had killed his original piece).

All these dire warnings were delivered ominously by federal prosecutors in opening and closing arguments, by current and former CIA personnel, a former FBI counterintelligence officer and other national security officials. The case is now being deliberated by the jury.

There is only one thing wrong with the prosecution’s narrative about the dire consequences caused by James Risen’s book and Sterling’s alleged leaks — it is almost completely evidence-free.

Pressed by defense attorneys over the last two weeks, the various employees of the national security state could cite no one who had been killed or hurt as a result of the disclosures in Risen’s book, which came out nine years ago — more than enough time for the predicted cataclysm to occur.

No examples of prospective “assets” who had said no-thanks because of the Risen disclosures. No example of even one current asset who had quit over the disclosures. No alteration of U.S. nuclear weapons plans. And, no, Condi Rice, no one has yet been killed by non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons or in that scary mushroom cloud you falsely warned us about in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of WMD-free Iraq.

Typical this week was the testimony of former CIA official David Shedd, currently the acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who pointed to many dire potential results of the Risen book’s now-aging disclosures. He called the leak “a breach of security that potentially would affect similar operations,” and warned that such a leak “could require modification” of U.S. nuclear plans — apparently because the bogus plans had good stuff in them that, warts and all, provided tips about the U.S. program. Which only underscores the craziness: If there is good stuff in the flawed plans, why would you want to peddle them to Iran or any other country you consider an adversary?

For the government’s case, of course, it is enough to talk of potential harm rather than actual harm to national security, something prosecutor Eric Olshan did so skillfully in his closing argument. Add to that the factor of a lot of intelligence community people telling the jury that we all should be more than a little frightened because a cockamamie, dangerous CIA plot was exposed. That helps sweeten the pot, and could be enough to persuade some jurors despite the absence of facts. And have a Bush administration superstar like Condi Rice spin more tall tales about WMDs, this time in Iran. When you don’t have evidence in a national security whistleblowing case, scare them.

And evidence, beyond the circumstantial and an impressive (if incomplete) chronology that shows Risen and Sterling contacting each other frequently in phone calls during key periods, was sorely lacking.

With defense attorney Edward MacMahon masterfully picking apart some of the key testimony of prosecution witnesses this week, these witnesses were forced to admit they have found no evidence that it was Sterling who gave Risen a document for his book; or that it was Sterling who gave Risen any information about anything in his book; or that anyone had ever seen Risen and Sterling together; or that Sterling took home or otherwise purloined documents relating to Operation Merlin.

And MacMahon and fellow defense attorney Barry Pollack have also demonstrated that there are multiple other possible sources for the leak of the Merlin materials but none was investigated.These include the Russian scientist who actually dropped off the flawed nuclear plans for pick-up by an Iranian official in Venice, other CIA officials, and various staffers of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (to whom Sterling had legally gone in 2003 as a whistleblower to voice his concerns over Merlin). Pollack, in closing arguments, demonstrated there was a significant number of people who could have been sources for Risen, including the 90 CIA employees that government testimony showed had access to the Merlin program

FBI special agent Ashley Hunt, who has led the FBI investigation of the Merlin leak for more than a decade, presented the strongest circumstantial evidence against Sterling — the aforementioned chronology. MacMahon got her to acknowledge that she did not pursue — or was blocked from pursuing — certain paths of inquiry that might have turned up other suspects as the source of the Merlin information that Risen received.

Hunt acknowledged under tough questioning that she had once earlier in the investigation written memoranda saying Sterling was probably not the leaker and that the likely source was someone from the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (SSIC). She also acknowledged writing a memo in early 2006 citing “unified opposition” to her investigation within the committee, which was supposed to be monitoring Merlin. She testified that then-committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) told her he was not going to cooperate with the FBI, and the committee staff director, Republican William Duhnke, refused to talk to her at all.

Two former staffers from the SSIC who met with Sterling in March 2003, when he brought what they and other prosecution witnesses have described as a whistleblowing complaint about the Merlin scheme, did testify as prosecution witnesses at Sterling’s trial. Under questioning, they provided testimony helpful to Sterling that showed that Risen, indeed, apparently had sources on the committee — a committee that was already familiar with Operation Merlin even before Sterling came to them with his concerns.

One former staffer, Donald Stone, even acknowledged in his testimony that he had taken a call from Risen sometime after that meeting with Sterling, but that he had told him he couldn’t talk to the press. Stone said he had not provided Risen with any information on any subject ever.

The other former staffer, Vicki Divoll, was fired from the committee after providing non-classified information to a Judiciary Committee staffer on a contentious intelligence authorization bill matter, only to see that information (which was embarrassing to the Republicans) trumpeted the next day in a front-page New York Times story written by — James Risen. She testified she had never spoken to Risen on any matter, but that others on the committee had dealt with Risen from time to time.

Divoll acknowledged telling the FBI at one point that Alfred Cumming, the committee’s Democratic staff director, had spoken to Risen on occasion. She also testified she had heard during her committee tenure — but had no direct knowledge — that both the Democratic and Republican staff directors on the committee talked to reporters on various matters, and that both officials sometimes gave reporters information they wanted in a quid-pro-quo arrangement in which the reporter would also agree to write a story that the committee official wanted. She said this was very much “third-hand” information, maybe even “fifth-hand.”

Defense attorneys hammered on the point through testimony from these prosecution witnesses that despite Risen’s sources and potential sources in both the CIA and on Capitol Hill (including right on the SSCI), none had had their residences searched, their computer’s contents analyzed, their telephone call logs examined, their bank and credit card records searched — as had been the case with Sterling.

As part of the defense’s counter-narrative, Pollack said in his closing arguments: “They have a theory, I have a theory.” But, he added, a jury should not convict or acquit someone on the basis of theories in such a serious case. Rather, he said, it was the government’s responsibility to present evidence showing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and “they haven’t done it.”

For much of this trial, the courtroom has been awash in reasonable doubt. Of course, jurors could choose to infer from the prosecution’s chronology of circumstantial evidence that Sterling was, in fact, one of Risen’s sources. And some of them could be scared enough by the government’s narrative to believe the “State of War” disclosures made us less safe. In the government’s rebuttal to Pollack’s closing argument, prosecutor James Trump played the terrorism and treason cards, in case jurors had missed the message earlier. Sterling had “betrayed his country…betrayed the CIA…”, in contrast to CIA employees who “serve and we rest easier as a result.”

Given the flimsiness of the case presented against Sterling, it would be a tragic miscarriage of justice if he were to be convicted and face a long prison sentence on the basis of nothing more than inferences — and the fears of nuclear nightmares the government says can ensue because of the Operation Merlin disclosures.

     John Hanrahan is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of Government by Contract and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He has written extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Distrust But Verify

What the U.S. government does openly is many times worse than anything it can be doing secretly, and yet the secrets fascinate us.

If you compare polling on majority views on most political topics with actual U.S. policy, there's little overlap. Scholars now produce reports finding that the United States is an oligarchy. Most people don't vote. Those who try to engage with U.S. politics get excited when the Democrats fall back into the minority and start pretending to favor popular policies again. People hope to find reflected bits of decency in official rhetoric during a two-year-long period of pretended governance that amounts to a public sales pitch and a private wink to the campaign funding overlords.

Our government openly subsidizes the destruction of our planet's climate, openly allows corporations to pay negative taxes, openly redistributes wealth upward, openly funds a military as costly as the rest of the globe's nations' combined, openly serves as the marketing firm for the U.S. weapons that make up much of that other half of the globe's armed forces, openly enacts corporate trade policies that ruin economies and the environment, openly denies us basic human services, openly prosecutes whistleblowers, openly restricts our civil liberties, openly murders large numbers of people with drone strikes. We can watch a police officer in New York choke a man to death on video and walk away without being prosecuted for any crime. We can watch the U.S. Congress take direction in promoting a new war from a foreign leader (tune in February 11 for the latest), and yet what goes on in secret obsesses us.

I don't mean the lies that have been exposed, the false excuses for wars, the miscalculations, the "misplacement" of billions of dollars. I mean the human drama. It's not enough to know that Obamacare is a grotesque and deadly monstrosity; we want to know about the insurance executives' roles in writing it. It's not enough to know that Iraq has been destroyed. We want to hear about the oil barons drawing up the plans with Dick Cheney. It's not enough to know that a tragic crime was used to launch catastrophic wars, we want to know whether the crime was staged. We want to know who was behind every assassination, and every powerful bit of propaganda. We want to know whether each CIA operation can be explained by evil or incompetence. We're like Mark Twain, who said, "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it."

This is what I wonder in looking at Operation Merlin, over which Jeffrey Sterling is now on trial as a whistleblower. Whether giving nuclear weapons plans to Iran can be explained by incompetence that surpasses my understanding or must be explained by evil, the U.S. government is openly trying to incarcerate a whistleblower who did his legal duty. I just happen to have read a book by Donald Jeffries called Hidden History: An Expose of Modern Crimes, Conspiracies, and Cover-ups in American Politics. I've been thinking over dozens of alleged conspiracies from the killing of President Kennedy to the supposed forging of Obama's birth certificate. Some I think are real, others nonsense. The point is that I think there may be a hybrid solution. I may not have to choose incompetence or evil to explain the CIA giving nukes to Iran. I can choose incompetence combined with bureaucratic dysfunction combined with evil priorities.

If the CIA's top priority was nuclear disarmament, it wouldn't have tried, as it claims to have tried, to slow down an Iranian nuclear weapons program (if one existed, it didn't know) by giving Iran nuclear plans. The CIA officers involved testified in court that they knew their action risked proliferating nuclear weapons technology. That also means that if their top priority had been obeying the law, they wouldn't have created Operation Merlin. But if their top priority was being involved, appearing to be doing something important, and if they were risking an outcome that didn't much worry them, Operation Merlin is exactly what they would have done -- assuming gargantuan levels of incompetence. That is, if they didn't much care if Iran got nukes, if they in fact thought it would be a pretty cool excuse to start a war if Iran could be shown to be working on nukes, well then, why the heck not find the most outlandishly stupid and illegal way in which to try to slow Iran down -- a way that could very well speed Iran up?

This same hybrid explanation applies to other mysteries as well, of course. If the U.S. government's top priority had been preventing a crime like 911, it would have stopped bombing and occupying Muslim nations, adopted an approach of cooperation and generosity with the world, and invested at least a wee bit of effort into preventing the crime, especially when the president was handed a memo warning about it and when his top advisor was shouting about the need.  But if the people running the U.S. government didn't really give much of a damn about preventing such a crime, and if they in fact thought it would be just about the only way to get new wars started, well then, they would have done at least what we know them to have done and perhaps more that we could learn from a proper investigation.  Part incompetent, part evil -- how evil, we don't know. But we don't need to conclude that the hijackers didn't exist or a missile hit the Pentagon or the World Trade Center was blown up from within to achieve a satisfactory explanation. All such things could coexist with this theory, but they're not needed.

What argues against such explanations of unknown government misdeeds is not the degree of evilness. Remember, we're talking about a government that has used 911 as an excuse to destroy whole countries and kill upwards of a million human beings. Blowing up a couple of buildings is perfectly acceptable to most people who would launch wars. The exception is anyone whose sincere nationalism actually makes them value U.S. lives while considering non-U.S. lives to be worthless. But, remember, we're talking about the U.S. government. They send U.S. troops off to kill and die in the process of slaughtering the foreigners. They allow millions in the U.S. to die for lack of basic services while they dump funding into war preparations. Dick Cheney contemplated a proposal to stage a shooting of U.S. troops disguised as Iranians. The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved Operation Northwoods, which would have murdered Americans to frame Cuba. At question is not level of evil, but particular level of competent engagement in particular acts of evil.

Jeffries' book mixes a half century of well-documented crimes with pure speculation. I don't think the inclusion in a book of dubious conspiracies should hurt the inclusion of likely ones. If we aren't open to questioning everything, we'll miss lots of things. But it's simply not possible that every unusual plane crash over a period of decades has been an assassination. At least one or two of them must have been accidents. That Jeffries throws in completely random silliness, such as that Janet Reno was rumored to be gay (so what?) or that a couple killed on 911 had been married at the Vatican (gasp!), or that he thinks the Institute for Policy Studies is part of the elite establishment, doesn't mean that Lee Harvey Oswald actually killed Kennedy. I think we have to look at every case seriously and go where the evidence leads. I think that our approach should be: Distrust but verify. Begin with the assumption that the government is lying, and see if it can prove itself honest.

When I read that Karl Rove views religion as a useful tool for manipulating the gullible or that Bill Clinton had a seat on a jet known for providing sex with underage girls, I don't think such gossip is as significant as trade, energy, and war policies that will result in millions of deaths. But I don't think the public interest in such stories is completely beside the point either. "Whether important policy decisions are made at Bohemian Grove or not," writes Jeffries, "it is at the very least disturbing to know that our leaders are gathering together to worship a massive owl, dress in robes, and recite occult incantations." Is it? We just had a president who openly said God had told him to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. Who cares if he worships an owl, unless it was the owl who told him that? But it is disturbing because of the secrecy. Politicians who will pretend they want to end wars or tax billionaires whenever they're in the minority and in no danger of actually doing it are politicians with contempt for you and me; they are people who believe they are above us and can, like Henry V, make their own laws. Of course Michael Hastings' death could have been an accident, but to assume so, and to suggest that investigating it as a murder would be loony is to demonstrate a remarkable ignorance of history.  Recently, with each new FBI terror plot foiled and celebrated, I've assumed it would be shown to have been a case of entrapment in which the FBI encouraged the crime before preventing it. In each case, I've been right. That doesn't mean that tomorrow the FBI won't capture a terrorist it had nothing to do with creating; it just means: Distrust but verify.

Distrusting may have started with Kennedy's assassination, even if the need for distrusting today can be advanced further through an honest retelling of Pearl Harbor, and myths of losing innocence ought by all rights to go back to the genocide of the Native Americans if not to the agricultural revolution. Hidden History is not where I think people should start reading about Kennedy (James Douglass's book might be better). But I learned new things about Kennedy from Hidden History and think we should all consider Jeffries' remark: "[O]nce I realized that the president of the United States could be killed in broad daylight, without a single high-ranking public official questioning what really happened, and without any supposed journalist having the slightest curiosity about the subject, I understood that anything was possible."

Jeffries' book roams chronologically through a long list of scandals. He briefly mentions numerous outrages that are not really in dispute: Northwoods, Tonkin, Mongoose, Mockingbird, MK-Ultra, Cointelpro,  Fred Hampton, etc., etc. He focuses at greater length on a smaller number of possible conspiracies, providing good summaries of what's known about the killing of JFK and RFK in particular. On Chappaquiddick he's less convincing, on the October Surprise he's vague and truly bizarre (but could have been completely convincing as I think the evidence is well established). He strays into economics and politics and general corruption, speculates on AIDS, Vince Foster, Oklahoma City, etc. His sections on JFK Jr. and on the Anthrax scare are of interest, I think.

Do the surveillance state and the proliferation of private cameras end these mysteries? Imagine Kennedy shot in Dallas today. The video footage would be voluminous, and it would be around the world on the internet before the blood dried. But imagine Abdulrahman al Awlaki's killing today. Much of the world doesn't have the same technology one could expect in Dallas. And imagine Eric Garner's killing today. We have the video, but we're told not to believe our lying eyes. What could end bad government -- as well as misplaced suspicions of bad government -- would be open government, including the elimination of secret agencies. And what could accomplish that would be if the public, including Jeffrey Sterling's jury, assumed that anything the CIA said was more than likely a lie.

A Plan for Memorial Day 2015 from Veterans For Peace

We in Veterans For Peace (VFP) invite you to join us as we put together a special Memorial Day 2015 service. As many of you know, the year 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of what some consider to be the beginning of the American War in Vietnam-- the deployment of the U.S. Marines to DaNang. The Department of Defense is very aware of the significance of this year and has mounted a heavily funded initiative to make sure that the younger generations of this country see the Vietnam War as a noble enterprise. Included in their efforts is a well-funded website as well as plans for annual celebrations, such as Memorial Day events around the country. They are planning to tell their version of the war for the next ten years. 

However, we know that many of us disagree with their perspective, who see the war as, at the least, a grievous mistake if not an horrific crime.  As we have already seen, the Pentagon will downplay or ignore this perspective in their narrative of the war.  Thus, we in VFP have pledged to meet their campaign with one of our own -- we call it the Vietnam War Full Disclosure movement (http://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org).  Please join us in more fully opening up the dialogue of how the history of the American War in Vietnam has to be told.  We need to hear your voice. To begin with, we need you to write a letter. A special letter. 

We are calling on concerned citizens who have been seared by this war to each send a letter addressing the Vietnam War Memorial (The Wall) in Washington, DC directly. We are asking you to share your memories of this war and its impact on your loved ones while expressing your concerns over future wars. Direct your words to those who died in the American War on Vietnam. 
 
Our plans are to then gather boxes and boxes of letters from people like you who do not share the sanitized version of the Vietnam War advocated by the Pentagon. In order to bring as many of your voices into this dialogue, please send us your letter and then please send this request to ten of your friends and ask them to write their letters. And then ask them to send the request to ten of their friends. And ten more.
At noon on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015, we will place these letters at the foot of the Wall in Washington, DC as a form of remembrance. As a Vietnam War veteran myself, I share with many the belief that the Wall is no place for political events. I consider it to be sacred ground and will not dishonor this memorial with a political act. The placing of our letters at the Wall will be treated as a service, a commemoration of the terrible toll that war took on American and Southeast Asian families. And as a trumpet call for peace. 

 

Once the letters have been placed, those of us who served in Vietnam will "walk the Wall," i.e., we will continue to mourn our brothers and sisters by starting at the panel commemorating our arrival in Vietnam and finishing at the panel marking our departure from Vietnam. For me that involves a walk of about 25 paces, taking into account approximately 9800 American lives. But we will not stop there. 
 
We will continue walking beyond the confines of the Wall to memorialize the approximately six million Southeast Asian lives also lost during that war. This will be a symbolic act, for if we were to walk the total distance needed to commemorate those lives lost, using the model of the Wall, we would need to pace 9.6 miles, a walk equivalent to the distance from the Lincoln Memorial to Chevy Chase, Maryland. Nevertheless, we will carry the memory of those lives as best we can.
If you wish to submit a letter that will be delivered to the Wall on Memorial Day, please send it to vncom50@gmail.com (with the subject line: Memorial Day 2015) or by snail mail to Attn: Full Disclosure, Veterans For Peace, 409 Ferguson Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27516 by May 1, 2015. Email letters will be printed out and placed in envelopes. Unless you indicate that you want your letter shared with the public, the contents of your letter will remain confidential and will not be used for any purpose other than placement at the Wall. If you do want us to offer your letter as a form of public witness, we will share it with others by posting it on a special section of our website. A select few may be read at the Wall on Memorial Day.
 
If you wish to physically join us on May 25th, please let us know beforehand by contacting us at the above addresses. Please stay in touch with us by visiting http://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org/. And if you wish to make a donation to help us defray the costs of our action, feel free to do so by sending a check to the Vietnam Full Disclosure committee at Full Disclosure, Veterans For Peace, 409 Ferguson Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27516. 
 
Since I will be coordinating this effort on behalf of Veterans For Peace, I will be happy to hear your suggestions on how we can make this event a more meaningful statement about the American War in Vietnam. You may reach me at rawlings@maine.edu
 
Thank you in advance for writing your letter. For joining in on the dialogue. For working for peace.
 
Best, Doug Rawlings

Heather Zichal, Former Top Obama Energy Aide, Named Fellow at Industry-Funded Atlantic Council

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Heather Zichal, former top climate and energy aide to President Barack Obama his top aide in crafting his 2008 presidential campaign energy platform, has joined the industry-funded Atlantic Council as a fellow at its Global Energy Center.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Militarism in the Air We Breathe

If there is a group of Americans to whom Iraqis struggling with the health effects of depleted uranium, cluster bombs, white phosphorous, and all the various poisons of war can relate, it might be the mostly black and largely poor residents of Gibsland, in northern Louisiana.

Here's how an op-ed in the New York Times from one resident describes their situation:

"For years, one of the largest employers in that area was the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant, about four miles from Minden. The Environmental Protection Agency eventually listed the plant as a Superfund site because for more than 40 years 'untreated explosives-laden wastewater from industrial operations was collected in concrete sumps at each of the various load line areas,' and emptied into '16 one-acre pink water lagoons.'"

And now (from Truthout.org):

“After months of bureaucratic disputes between the Army and state and federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) recently announced an emergency plan to burn 15 million pounds of M6 — up to 80,000 pounds a day over the course of a year — on open ‘burn trays’ at Camp Minden, a disposal process that environmental advocates say is outdated and has been outlawed in other countries. The operation would be one of the largest open munitions burn in U.S. history.”

Every once in a while -- around Vieques or Jeju Island or Pagan Island -- environmental organizations find themselves confronting one little corner of the environment's greatest destroyer. While the big environmental groups seem unlikely to confront the institution of war itself until it's too late, we should take these opportunities to encourage them. Because they are taking on the military over this burn. There are plenty of former members of the U.S. military who can tell them about the health impacts of burns abroad, which veterans refer to as "the new Agent Orange." The EPA can fill activists in on who creates the most environmental disasters within the United States. Hint: It starts with mil and rhymes with solitary.

oiljets

A major motivation behind some wars is the desire to control resources that poison the earth, especially oil and gas. That fact, often disguised, should be faced by those of us concerned over the earth's future. The wars are not to protect us but to endanger us, by the generation of animosity and by the destruction of our planet. The production of the world's largest, most wasteful military ever is not a safety measure in case a good war comes along, but exactly what Eisenhower warned it would be, a generator of wars. The $1 trillion the United States dumps into the war machine each year is needed for urgent environmental protection. And the war preparations spending does not enrich us; it impoverishes us while concentrating wealth away from places like Gibsland. That's a lot of downsides for an institution whose main function is to kill lots of innocent people while stripping away our civil liberties.

But, back to the environmental downside. And oil. Oil can be leaked or burned off, as in the Gulf War, but primarily it is put to use in all kinds of machines polluting the earth’s atmosphere, placing us all at risk. Some associate the consumption of oil with the supposed glory and heroism of war, so that renewable energies that do not risk global catastrophe are viewed as cowardly and unpatriotic ways to fuel our machines. The interplay of war with oil goes beyond that, however. The wars themselves, whether or not fought for oil, consume huge quantities of it. One of the world’s top consumer of oil, in fact, is the U.S. military.

The U.S. military burns through about 340,000 barrels of oil each day. If the Pentagon were a country, it would rank 38th out of 196 in oil consumption. There's just no other institution that comes remotely close to the military in this or other types of environmental destruction. (But try to discover that fact at an anti-pipeline march.)

The environment as we know it will not survive nuclear war. It also may not survive “conventional” war, understood to mean the sorts of wars now waged. Intense damage has already been done by wars and by the research, testing, and production done in preparation for wars. Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. War “rivals infectious disease as a global cause of morbidity and mortality,” according to Jennifer Leaning of Harvard Medical School.

Perhaps the most deadly weapons left behind by wars are land mines and cluster bombs. Tens of millions of them are estimated to be lying around on the earth, oblivious to any announcements that peace has been declared. Most of their victims are civilians, a large percentage of them children.

It is wonderful to have organizations now and again challenging particular aspects of the destruction war causes. Below is a letter that every peace and environmental and peace-environmental organization in the world should sign onto:

 

Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
William Jefferson Clinton Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Mail Code: 2201A
Washington, DC 20460
Giles-Aa.cynthia@Epa.gov

SENT BY ELECTRONIC MAIL

RE: Proposed Open Burning of M6 Propellants at Camp Minden, Louisiana

Dear Assistant Administrator Giles,

We, the undersigned organizations, join Louisiana residents, workers and families in their call for a safer alternative to open burning of hazardous wastes at Camp Minden.

We oppose the plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to OPEN BURN 15 million pounds of abandoned M6 propellants at Camp Minden, Louisiana. By definition, open burning has no emissions controls and will result in the uncontrolled release of toxic emissions and respirable particulates to the environment. M6 contains approximately 10 percent dinitrotoluene (DNT) which is classified as a probable human carcinogen.1

Concerns for the potential human health risk created by open burning/open detonation as well as for environmental impacts on the air, soil, and water have required the military to identify and develop alternatives to open burning/open detonation treatment.2 Moreover, as the EPA’s plan provides for the safe handling and transport to an open burning area, these wastes could be similarly moved to an alternative treatment facility or system.

While we support the EPA’s initiative to require the U.S. Army to clean up and dispose of these improperly stored explosive wastes, we do not support open burning as a remedy given the inherent and avoidable risks to human health and the environment.

1U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Technical Fact Sheet, Dinitrotoluene (DNT), January 2014.
2 US Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratories USACERL Technical Report 98/104, Alternatives to Open Burning/Open Detonation of Energetic Materials, A Summary of Current Technologies, August 1998.

 

Laura Olah, Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, Wisconsin Dolores Blalock, ArkLaTex Clean Air Network, LLC, Louisiana
Marylee M. Orr, Executive Director, Louisiana Environmental Action Network/Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Louisiana
Devawn Palmer-Oberlender, Environmental Patriots of the New River Valley, Virginia Pamela Miller, Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Alaska
Craig Williams, Chemical Weapons Working Group, Kentucky
Erin Brockovich & Bob Bowcock, California
United Tribe of Shawnee Indians, Principal Chief, Jim Oyler, Kansas
Tim Lopez, Director, Voluntary Cleanup Advisory Board, Colorado
Greg Wingard, Executive Director, Waste Action Project, Washington
Mable Mallard, Philadelphia Community Right To Know Committee, Pennsylvania Doris Bradshaw, Defense Depot Memphis Tennessee - Concerned Citizens Committee Isis Bradshaw, Youth Terminating Pollution, Tennessee
Kaye Kiker, Community Organizer, Citizens Task Force, Alabama
Wilbur Slockish, Columbia River Education and Economic Development, Oregon
Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, Wisconsin
Doris Bradshaw, Military Toxics Project, Tennessee
Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity, California
LeVonne Stone, Fort Ord Environmental Justice Network, California
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), California
Josh Fast, Educator, PermanentGardens.com, Louisiana
Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association, Minnesota
Paul Orr, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Louisiana
Marcia Halligan, Kickapoo Peace Circle, Wisconsin
Kathy Sanchez, EJ RJ, Tewa women United org., New Mexico
J. Gilbert Sanchez, CEO, Tribal Environmental Watch Alliance, New Mexico
David Keith, Valley Citizens for a Safe Environment, Massachusetts
Forest Jahnke, Crawford Stewardship Project, Wisconsin
Maria Powell, President, Midwest Environmental Justice Organization, Wisconsin
Evelyn Yates, Pine Bluff for Safe Disposal, Arkansas
Cheryl Slavant, Ouachita Riverkeeper, Louisiana
Jean E. Mannhaupt, President, Park Ridge @ Country Manors Home Owners Assoc., New York
Stephen Brittle, President, Don’t Waste Arizona
Alison Jones Chaim, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin
Jill Johnston, Southwest Workers Union, Texas
Robert Alvarado, Committee for Environmental Justice Action, Texas
Phyllis Hasbrouck, Chair, West Waubesa Preservation Coalition, Wisconsin
John LaForge, Nukewatch, Wisconsin
Guy Wolf, Co-Director, DownRiver Alliance, Wisconsin
Don Timmerman & Roberta Thurstin, Casa Maria Catholic Worker, Wisconsin
LT General Russel Honore (Ret), GreenARMY, Louisiana
John LaForge, The Progressive Foundation, Wisconsin
Paul F. Walker, Ph.D., Director, Environmental Security and Sustainability, Green Cross International, Washington, DC
Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana
Lenny Siegel, Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight, California
John E. Peck, Executive Director, Family Farm Defenders, Wisconsin
Lois Marie Gibbs, Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Virginia
Willie Fontenot, Conservation Chair, Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, Louisiana
Kimberlee Wright, Executive Director, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Inc., Wisconsin
Elizabeth O'Nan, Director, Protect All Children's Environment, North Carolina
Frances Kelley, Louisiana Progress Action, Louisiana
Patrick Seymour, ISIS institute MilWaste Project, Massachusetts
Christina Walsh, Executive Director, cleanuprocketdyne.org, California
Glen Hooks, Chapter Director, Arkansas Sierra Club, Arkansas
Laura Ward, President, Wanda Washington, Vice President, FOCUS, Inc (Family Oriented Community United Strong, Inc.), Florida
Ed Dlugosz, President, NJ Friends of Clearwater, New Jersey
Anne Rolfes, Founding Director, LA Bucket Brigade, Louisiana
Monica Wilson, GAIA: Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, California
Dean A. Wilson, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Louisiana
Robin Schneider, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Texas
Lara Norkus-Crampton, Coordinator, Minneapolis Neighbors for Clean Air, Minnesota Haywood Martin, Chair, Sierra Club Delta Chapter, Louisiana
Mitzi Shpak, Executive Director, Action Now, California
Jane Williams, Executive Director, California Communities Against Toxics, California Robina Suwol, Executive Director, California Safe Schools, California
Renee Nelson, President, Clean Water and Air Matter (CWAM), California
Lisa Riggiola, Citizens For A Clean Pompton Lakes, New Jersey
Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, Executive Director, GreenLaw
James Little, member, Western Broome Environmental Stakeholder Coalition, New York Sparky Rodrigues, Malama Makua, Hawaii
Barry Kissin, Fort Detrick Restoration Advisory Board, Maryland

Submitted by:

Laura Olah, Executive Director
Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB)
E12629 Weigand’s Bay South
Merrimac, WI 53561
(608)643-3124
info@cswab.org
www.cswab.org
www.facebook.com/cswab.org


Ukraine News - Jan 22, 2015

 

Ukraine says Russian troops join separatists in new assaults - Bloomberg


Ukraine Claims Build-Up Of Russian Forces In Donbass (VIDEO) - Interpreter_Mag


Russia has 9,000 troops on Ukrainian soil, Poroshenko tells Davos forum - Firstpost


Gen. Hodges: Russia doubles support to Ukraine rebels - TheHill


VIDEO: Press Conference - U.S. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, Commander of the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe - LiveLeak.com


Lavrov: Russia to Push Ukraine Agenda Until a Desirable Outcome is Reached - The Moscow Times


Russia's response to Obama's speech? 'US intends to dominate the world' - smh.com.au

 

Russia Says EU Sticking To 'Unfriendly Course' - rferl.org

 

VIDEO: Putin says military is number one priority for Russia - uatoday.tv

 

Russia's new peace proposal for Ukraine is 'occupation plan': U.S. - Reuters

 

Ukraine conflict: US accuses rebels of 'land grab’ - BBC News

 

VIDEO: Watch Hillary Clinton Impersonate Vladimir Putin - ABC News

 

Ukraine Seeks New IMF Loan as Government Pursues Bondholder Deal - Bloomberg

 

Ukraine seeks larger IMF deal and hints at debt restructuring - FT.com

 

Gazprom Says Ukraine To Pay Full Gas Price As Of April 1 - rferl.org

 

Medvedev threatens to increase electricity prices for Ukraine - uatoday.tv

 

Russia Presses Ahead With Plan for Gas Pipeline to Turkey - NYTimes.com

 

-------------------------------------------------------

As Ukraine Says It's Lost 500 Square Kilometers of Territory, AP Reporters See Russian Armor Moving To Attack - Interpreter_Mag


Ukrainian army admits retreat from 31st roadblock near Luhansk - interfax.com


PHOTOS: Proof that militia captured the 31st checkpoint - LiveLeak.com


VIDEO (Russian): 31st checkpoint lost by Ukrainian military - YouTube


The Russian army offensive in northern Luhansk region – Day 1 - Conflict Report

 

Semenchenko: one soldier killed, seven wounded in battle for Luhansk checkpoints - UNIAN news

 

VIDEO: Shelling of Russian Cossack-held Stakhanov today causing a bloodbath (graphic!) - Conflict Reporter on Twitter

 

Confirmed location of Russian Army surface to air missile system 9K35 Strela-10 in Bryanka, Lugansk Region - Lugansk News Today

 

Convoy of Russian T-80 tanks spotted in Luhansk - uatoday.tv

 

Russia, Ukraine agree pullback line for heavy arms, though there was no agreement on a withdrawal of all troops - San Francisco Chronicle

 

-------------------------------------------------------

Donetsk Airport overrun by rebels, say army volunteers - kyivpost.com


VIDEO: Russia Spetsnaz Special Forces outside Donetsk Airport - raging.me on Twitter


VIDEO (Eng subs): DPR PM Zakharchenko interviews UAF soldiers captured at the Donetsk airport on his presser - YouTube


Praviy Sektor Leader Dmytro Yarosh Reported Wounded At Donetsk Airport - Interpreter_Mag


Ukrainian-held Avdeyevka Under Heavy Bombardment, Children To Be Evacuated - Interpreter_Mag

 

OSCE records GRADs into Ukrainian city killing civilians came from rebel-held areas - Ukraine@war on Twitter

 

VIDEO: Graphic, 2 civilians killed in the rebel-held Kirov region, Donetsk - Military Studies on Twitter

 

Tymchuk: Militants strike at Ukrainian forces near Mariupol - UNIAN news

 

Strategic railway bridge near Mariupol destroyed, cutting a railway link between the port city and Ukraine's west (VIDEO) - watch on - uatoday.tv

 

Shelling Reported In Mariupol (VIDEO) - Interpreter_Mag

 

Dokuchajevsk GRAD video was filmed at SAME TIME as Volnovakha attack - Ukraine@war

 

Aerial photo from OSCE UAV of Volnovakha shows their own NNE direction was wrong - Ukraine@war

 

To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)

I feel like I should send you a poem or something

Something about how life or God or who  ever  is behind the curtain of
all things  pulling all our strings,
the strings that jerk us up out of the void and into the light and
heat and cold and make us put on
our boots and start walking and talking and eating cornflakes for
breakfast and slaps us around and
dumps us in the middle of deep dark holes of despair and desperation
where monsters come out of the night
and gobble up our happiness when we aren't looking and then throws us
in the ocean of self doubt and confusion  that dries up the
next minute and leaves us spread out like dead butterflies on the
specimen table of alienation...
Only to have the phone ring and someone tell us that the person we
love most in the world just died
and now we have to look at the sunrise and wonder what we ever thought
was beautiful about it and if it will
ever look beautiful again. . .
And how wonderful it is that after all that happens Life or  God or
who ever it is that is behind the curtain of all things pulling
our strings now Jerks up out of the void the most incredible being
that says, "Look at me!  I'm going to start it all over again.
And I'm so beautiful none of what has come before me matters a flea's
butt because I bring with me the promise that
life can be different and nobody can deny that who looks at my tiny
fingers or by big bright eyes and the way I wiggle my toes
at the cosmos because I'm alive and that's all that matters and if
there's anything
at all close to pure being it's me!”

 

n 

Frank Asch

Frank Asch graciously offered to ThisCantBeHappening! This copyrighted new poem, written on the occasion of the birth of a new grandchild to a close friend. A noted children’s author/illustrator, Asch lives in Hawaii.

A cultural essay: Dirty Harry Goes To Iraq

By John Grant

 
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
                                    -George Orwell

 
Back in 1979, reviewers liked to point out that Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now was so plagued with difficulty and confusion (the star suffered a heart attack during shooting and a devastating typhoon destroyed all the sets) that the making of the film paralleled the reality of the Vietnam War itself.

U.S. SUPREME COURT DISRUPTED ON 5TH ANNIVERSARY OF CITIZENS UNITED

"Supreme Court Seven" Arrested After Standing Up to Protest Infamous Money-in-Politics Ruling

Contact: Timothy Brown, Kai Newkirk

Washington, DC—Seven activists with the democracy movement 99Rise disrupted the nation’s highest court this morning, issuing a series of statements calling for the justices to overturn their unpopular Citizens United decision, ruled on five years ago today. Each protester stood up and presented a demand to the Court before raising their index finger in the air. The gesture represents “one person, one vote” political equality, a principle which has been undermined by the limitless campaign spending facilitated by the activist Court.

“We have seen the consequences of the free flow of private money rushing into our public political system,” said 99Rise activist Curt Ries who risked arrest to protest the Court’s ruling. “Nearly $4 billion was spent in the 2014 Mid-Term Elections, and almost all of it came from a handful of wealthy individuals and organizations. The kind of influence that money buys fundamentally corrupts our electoral process by giving undue representation to wealthy donors and corporations. That's not a democracy, it's a plutocracy."

Last year 99Rise co-founder Kai Newkirk interrupted the Supreme Court in an unprecedented act of civil disobedience, which was caught on video. The seven people who disrupted the court today were: Alexandra Flores-Quilty, Curt Ries, Margaret Johnson, Mary Zeiser, Andrew Batcher, Katherine Philipson and Irandira Gonzales (who delivered her message to the Court in Spanish). 99Rise members again captured video footage from within the court chamber.

A recent study by Princeton University political scientists confirmed that analysis when it concluded that the will of the people has a “near-zero, statistically-insignificant impact on public policy.” Since the current Court has opened our elections to virtually unlimited sums of private money, 99Rise believes that the American people have no other choice but to fight for a Constitutional Amendment that would overturn Citizens United and guarantee political equality for all Americans, regardless of wealth.

99Rise is a grassroots organization waging nonviolent struggle to get money out of politics and reclaim democracy for the 99%. 99Rise organizers are urging the public to stand with the seven activists who were arrested today by signing their online petition at www.99rise.org.

 

99Rise is a grassroots network of organizers building the movement to reclaim democracy from big money through strategic nonviolent action. Keep up with us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Talk Nation Radio: Ted Rall on the State of Political Cartooning

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-ted-rall-on-the-state-of-political-cartooning

Ted Rall, cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is America’s most widely-syndicated alternative editorial cartoonist. Twice the winner of the RFK Journalism Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Rall’s cartoons and illustrations have appeared in Time, Newsweek, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice and hundreds of other publications and websites. He is a regular contributor to MAD magazine. He discusses the Charlie Hebdo killings, the state of cartooning, the state of our culture, and how to communicate messages when the press is not ideally free.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Why the CIA Is So Eager to Demolish Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

jeffrey-sterlingMidway through the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, one comment stands out. “A criminal case,” defense attorney Edward MacMahon told the jury at the outset, “is not a place where the CIA goes to get its reputation back.” But that’s where the CIA went with this trial in its first week — sending to the witness stand a procession of officials who attested to the agency’s virtues and fervently decried anyone who might provide a journalist with classified information.

The CIA’s reputation certainly needs a lift. It has rolled downhill at an accelerating pace in the dozen years since telling President George W. Bush what he wanted the nation to hear about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. That huge bloody blot on the agency’s record has not healed since then, inflamed by such matters as drone strikes, rendition of prisoners to torture-happy regimes and resolute protection of its own torturers.

CIA sensibilities about absolution and prosecution are reflected in the fact that a former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, Jose Rodriguez Jr., suffered no penalty for destroying numerous videotapes of torture interrogations by the agency — which knew from the start that the torture was illegal.

But in the courtroom, day after day, with patriotic piety, CIA witnesses — most of them screened from public view to keep their identities secret — have testified to their reverence for legality.

In the process, the CIA is airing soiled threads of its dirty laundry as never before in open court. The agency seems virtually obsessed with trying to refute the negative portrayal of Operation Merlin — the CIA’s effort 15 years ago to provide a flawed nuclear weapon design to Iran — in James Risen’s 2006 book State of War.

To underscore the importance of blocking the information about Operation Merlin that eventually surfaced in the book, Rice testified that — in her role as national security adviser in 2003 — she consulted with President Bush and got his approval before meeting with representatives of the New York Times. Rice succeeded in persuading the newspaper hierarchy not to publish the story. (Revealing CIA memos about the agency’s maneuvers to pressure the Times are posted as trial exhibits.)

The star witness at the end of last week, identified as “Mr. Merlin,” was the CIA-asset Russian scientist who delivered diagram material for a nuclear weapon component to an Iranian office in Vienna in 2000. Like the CIA officers who testified, he voiced pride in Operation Merlin — at one point even seeming to assert that it had prevented Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. (That was an especially bizarre claim. Mr. Merlin himself admitted that his efforts never got any response from Tehran, and there is no evidence the operation had any nonproliferation effect.)

Contrary to the narrative in State of War — which portrays him as very skeptical of the operation and reluctant to participate — Mr. Merlin’s testimony via video aimed to present himself as resolute about executing the plan: “I knew I needed to do my job. . . . I had no doubts.”

When the prosecutor asked whether it took a lot of persuading to get him to participate in the operation, Mr. Merlin responded with sudden vehemence: “It was not a rogue operation. It was a brilliant operation.” (The chapter in Risen’s book detailing Operation Merlin is titled “A Rogue Operation.”)

The prosecutor probably liked the answer — except for the obvious fact that it was not responsive to his question. So he tried again, inquiring whether it took a lot of persuasion from the CIA case officer to go through with his assigned mission to Vienna. The query was an evident prompt for a “No” answer. But Mr. Merlin replied:  “I don’t know.”

The prosecutor tried again, asking whether he had been reluctant to agree to go ahead with the task.

At first there was no answer, just conspicuous silence. Then: “I don’t know.” Then: “I didn’t have any doubts. I didn’t hesitate.”

All this is potentially important to the case, since the government is asserting that Risen’s book is inaccurate — that Operation Merlin was actually near flawless and that Sterling invented concerns and a narrative that unfairly characterized it.

Everyone agrees that Sterling went through proper channels to share his concerns and classified information with Senate Intelligence Committee staff in early March 2003. But the prosecution, armed with a 10-count felony indictment, alleges that he also went to Risen and disclosed classified information. Sterling says he’s innocent on all counts.

The government hadn’t wanted Mr. Merlin to testify, contending that he was too ill (with kidney cancer), but U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled for a video deposition. That turned out to be unfortunate for the prosecutors, since Merlin became foggy and evasive under cross-examination, with increasing frequency of replies like “I can’t recall” and “I don’t remember.” Dense fog of his own making eclipsed Mr. Merlin as a star witness for the government.

To close out the trial’s first week, before a three-day weekend, the government called more CIA witnesses to the stand. They hammered at the vital need for scrupulous rectitude from CIA officers to obey the law and regulations in handling classified materials. As you might imagine, none had anything to say about disapproval of violating laws against torture or destroying evidence of torture. Nor did any allude to realities of extremely selective prosecution for leaks, with top U.S. government officials and the CIA press office routinely funneling classified information to favorite journalists.

But high-ranking officials and PR operatives are not the only CIA employees apt to elude intense scrutiny for possibly leaking to the press. Judging from testimony at the trial, the harshest investigative spotlight shines on those seen as malcontents. The head of the CIA press office, William Harlow, indicated that Sterling (who is African American) became a quick suspect in the Operation Merlin leak case because he’d previously filed a suit charging the agency with racial bias.

Sterling’s other transgressions against a de facto code of silence included his visit to Capitol Hill when he spilled classified beans to Senate oversight committee staffers.

In the courtroom, during the trial’s first week, I often sat near retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s and prepared the CIA’s daily briefs for presidents from John Kennedy to George H.W. Bush. I wondered what McGovern was making of the spectacle; I found out when he wrote that “the real subtext of the Sterling case is how the politicization of the CIA’s analytical division over the past several decades has contributed to multiple intelligence failures, especially efforts to ‘prove’ that targeted regimes in the Middle East were amassing weapons of mass destruction.”

There’s no telling whether members of the jury will grasp this “real subtext.” Judge Brinkema seems determined to exclude anything more than faint wisps of such context. Overall, an elastic sense of scope is prevailing from the bench, to the benefit of the government.

“In the Sterling case, federal prosecutors seem to want to have it both ways,” McGovern observed. “They want to broaden the case to burnish the CIA’s reputation regarding its covert-op skills but then to narrow the case if defense attorneys try to show the jury the broader context in which the ‘Merlin’ disclosures were made in 2006 — how President George W. Bush’s administration was trying to build a case for war with Iran over its nuclear program much as it did over Iraq’s non-existent WMDs in 2002-2003.”

Along the way, the CIA is eager to use the trial as much as possible for image damage control, trying to ascend high ground that has eroded in part due to high-quality journalistic accounts of the sort that Risen provided in his State of War reporting on Operation Merlin.

And the CIA wants a very harsh prison sentence to serve as a warning to others.

The CIA is on a quest for more respect — from news media, from lawmakers, from potential recruits — from anyone willing to defer to its authority, no matter how legally hypocritical or morally absent. Demolishing the life of Jeffrey Sterling is just another means to that end.

     Norman Solomon is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

Activists hold mock funeral for the Earth at Washington State nuclear submarine base

By Leonard Eiger
 
Activists from a local peace group blocked the main gate and staged a mock funeral at the Navy’s West Coast Trident nuclear submarine base in an act of civil resistance to nuclear weapons.

Over sixty people participated in Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr's life and legacy on Saturday, January 17, 2015. The event concluded with a vigil and nonviolent direct action at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington.

Under the theme “Building the World House,” the day focused on Dr. King’s commitment to nonviolence and his opposition to war and nuclear weapons. Dr. King's essay "The World House" may very well be the best summation of Dr. King's teachings.
 
While some participants maintained a peaceful vigil at the Main Gate to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington on Saturday afternoon, others dressed in black monk's robes carried a coffin containing a globe representing the earth to the side of the road. People walked up to the casket and placed flowers on it, and then another robed participant recited a eulogy, "Mourning the Death of the Earth after Nuclear Annihilation." A funeral dirge completed the ceremony.
 
When the ceremony was finished participants carried the casket onto the roadway, blocking traffic entering the base. Washington State Patrol officers ordered the resisters to move the coffin out of the roadway. They complied, and carried the coffin to the median where they were detained. All received citations for being in the roadway illegally, and then released.
 
Those cited were Mary Elder, Seattle, WA; Peter Gallagher, Seattle, WA; Raghav Kaushik, Kirkland, WA; Mona Lee, Seattle, WA; Bernie Meyer, Olympia, WA; Michael Siptroth, Belfair, WA; and Rick Turner, Seattle, Wa; 
 
Following the initial action more protesters entered the roadway and blocked traffic. Gilberto Perez, Bainbridge Island, WA carried a sign calling for no naval base on Jeju Island, Korea. Jonathan Landolfe, Tacoma, WA carried a sign saying "Sea Hawks, Not War Hawks." Bruce Gagnon, Bath, ME carried a sign saying "Human Needs, NOT WAR$". All were removed from the roadway by State Patrol and cited for being in the roadway illegally.
 
Gagnon, the Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, gave the keynote address earlier in the day at Ground Zero Center. Gagnon spoke of the unsustainability of the US Navy's shipbuilding budget, and how "entitlement" programs including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are being defunded in order to fund the newest ships that include a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines. The OHIO Class Replacement Program alone (12 new Trident submarines) will cost an estimated $100 billion. 
 
Members of Ground Zero Center also participated in the Seattle MLK Rally & March on January 19th, carrying a full size inflatable replica of a Trident II D-5 thermonuclear armed missile. Accompanying the missile was a banner with a famous quote by Dr. King: "When scientific power outruns spiritual power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men." Participants handed out leaflets with facts on Trident.

The Trident nuclear weapons system was designed during the height of the Cold War and was predicated on the theory of Strategic Nuclear Deterrence, a doctrine that no longer applies long after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Continued deployment of Trident increases the risk of either accidental or intentional nuclear war, and building a new generation of ballistic missile submarines is increasing global proliferation of nuclear weapons at a time when the nuclear armed powers should be reducing reliance on nuclear weapons and making good faith efforts toward disarmament.
 
The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, contains the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. Each of the 8 Trident submarines at Bangor carries up to 24 Trident II (D-5) missiles, each capable of being armed with as many as 8 independently targetable thermonuclear warheads.  Each nuclear warhead has an explosive force of between 100 and 475 kilotons (up to 30 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb). It has been estimated that by the time the new generation of ballistic missile submarines are put into service, they will represent 70 percent of the nation's deployed nuclear warheads.

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action holds three scheduled vigils and actions each year in resistance to Trident and in protest of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The group is currently engaged in legal actions in Federal court to halt the Navy’s construction of a Second Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor. Ground Zero is also working with other organizations to de-fund the Navy’s plans for the next generation ballistic missile submarine. 

For over thirty-seven years Ground Zero has engaged in education, training in nonviolence, community building, resistance against Trident and action toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Photos attached.  Photo Credit: L. Eiger, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (Note: High resolution images available)

Contact:  Leonard Eiger, Media and Outreach
               Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
               www.gzcenter.org

Murdering journalists … them and us

By William Blum

After Paris, condemnation of religious fanaticism is at its height. I’d guess that even many progressives fantasize about wringing the necks of jihadists, bashing into their heads some thoughts about the intellect, about satire, humor, freedom of speech. We’re talking here, after all, about young men raised in France, not Saudi Arabia.

Where has all this Islamic fundamentalism come from in this modern age? Most of it comes – trained, armed, financed, indoctrinated – from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. During various periods from the 1970s to the present, these four countries had been the most secular, modern, educated, welfare states in the Middle East region. And what had happened to these secular, modern, educated, welfare states?

In the 1980s, the United States overthrew the Afghan government that was progressive, with full rights for women, believe it or not , leading to the creation of the Taliban and their taking power.

In the 2000s, the United States overthrew the Iraqi government, destroying not only the secular state, but the civilized state as well, leaving a failed state.

In 2011, the United States and its NATO military machine overthrew the secular Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi, leaving behind a lawless state and unleashing many hundreds of jihadists and tons of weaponry across the Middle East.

And for the past few years the United States has been engaged in overthrowing the secular Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. This, along with the US occupation of Iraq having triggered widespread Sunni-Shia warfare, led to the creation of The Islamic State with all its beheadings and other charming practices.

However, despite it all, the world was made safe for capitalism, imperialism, anti-communism, oil, Israel, and jihadists. God is Great!

Starting with the Cold War, and with the above interventions building upon that, we have 70 years of American foreign policy, without which – as Russian/American writer Andre Vltchek has observed – “almost all Muslim countries, including Iran, Egypt and Indonesia, would now most likely be socialist, under a group of very moderate and mostly secular leaders”. Even the ultra-oppressive Saudi Arabia – without Washington’s protection – would probably be a very different place.

On January 11, Paris was the site of a March of National Unity in honor of the magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose journalists had been assassinated by terrorists. The march was rather touching, but it was also an orgy of Western hypocrisy, with the French TV broadcasters and the assembled crowd extolling without end the NATO world’s reverence for journalists and freedom of speech; an ocean of signs declaring Je suis CharlieNous Sommes Tous Charlie; and flaunting giant pencils, as if pencils – not bombs, invasions, overthrows, torture, and drone attacks – have been the West’s weapons of choice in the Middle East during the past century.

No reference was made to the fact that the American military, in the course of its wars in recent decades in the Middle East and elsewhere, had been responsible for the deliberate deaths of dozens of journalists. In Iraq, among other incidents, see Wikileaks’ 2007 video of the cold-blooded murder of two Reuters journalists; the 2003 US air-to-surface missile attack on the offices of Al Jazeera in Baghdad that left three journalists dead and four wounded; and the American firing on Baghdad’s Hotel Palestine the same year that killed two foreign cameramen.

Moreover, on October 8, 2001, the second day of the US bombing of Afghanistan, the transmitters for the Taliban government’s Radio Shari were bombed and shortly after this the US bombed some 20 regional radio sites. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the targeting of these facilities, saying: “Naturally, they cannot be considered to be free media outlets. They are mouthpieces of the Taliban and those harboring terrorists.”

And in Yugoslavia, in 1999, during the infamous 78-day bombing of a country which posed no threat at all to the United States or any other country, state-owned Radio Television Serbia (RTS) was targeted because it was broadcasting things which the United States and NATO did not like (like how much horror the bombing was causing). The bombs took the lives of many of the station’s staff, and both legs of one of the survivors, which had to be amputated to free him from the wreckage.

I present here some views on Charlie Hebdo sent to me by a friend in Paris who has long had a close familiarity with the publication and its staff:

“On international politics Charlie Hebdo was neoconservative. It supported every single NATO intervention from Yugoslavia to the present. They were anti-Muslim, anti-Hamas (or any Palestinian organization), anti-Russian, anti-Cuban (with the exception of one cartoonist), anti-Hugo Chávez, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, pro-Pussy Riot, pro-Kiev … Do I need to continue?

“Strangely enough, the magazine was considered to be ‘leftist’. It’s difficult for me to criticize them now because they weren’t ‘bad people’, just a bunch of funny cartoonists, yes, but intellectual freewheelers without any particular agenda and who actually didn’t give a fuck about any form of ‘correctness’ – political, religious, or whatever; just having fun and trying to sell a ‘subversive’ magazine (with the notable exception of the former editor, Philippe Val, who is, I think, a true-blooded neocon).”

Dumb and Dumber

Remember Arseniy Yatsenuk? The Ukrainian whom US State Department officials adopted as one of their own in early 2014 and guided into the position of Prime Minister so he could lead the Ukrainian Forces of Good against Russia in the new Cold War?

In an interview on German television on January 7, 2015 Yatsenuk allowed the following words to cross his lips: “We all remember well the Soviet invasion of Ukraine and Germany. We will not allow that, and nobody has the right to rewrite the results of World War Two”.

The Ukrainian Forces of Good, it should be kept in mind, also include several neo-Nazis in high government positions and many more partaking in the fight against Ukrainian pro-Russians in the south-east of the country. Last June, Yatsenuk referred to these pro-Russians as “sub-humans” , directly equivalent to the Nazi term “untermenschen”.

So the next time you shake your head at some stupid remark made by a member of the US government, try to find some consolation in the thought that high American officials are not necessarily the dumbest, except of course in their choice of who is worthy of being one of the empire’s partners.

The type of rally held in Paris this month to condemn an act of terror by jihadists could as well have been held for the victims of Odessa in Ukraine last May. The same neo-Nazi types referred to above took time off from parading around with their swastika-like symbols and calling for the death of Russians, Communists and Jews, and burned down a trade-union building in Odessa, killing scores of people and sending hundreds to hospital; many of the victims were beaten or shot when they tried to flee the flames and smoke; ambulances were blocked from reaching the wounded … Try and find a single American mainstream media entity that has made even a slightly serious attempt to capture the horror. You would have to go to the Russian station in Washington, DC, RT.com, search “Odessa fire” for many stories, images and videos. Also see the Wikipedia entry on the 2 May 2014 Odessa clashes.

If the American people were forced to watch, listen, and read all the stories of neo-Nazi behavior in Ukraine the past few years, I think they – yes, even the American people and their less-than-intellectual Congressional representatives – would start to wonder why their government was so closely allied with such people. The United States may even go to war with Russia on the side of such people.

L’Occident n’est pas Charlie pour Odessa. Il n’y a pas de défilé à Paris pour Odessa.

Some thoughts about this thing called ideology

Norman Finkelstein, the fiery American critic of Israel, was interviewed recently by Paul Jay on The Real News Network. Finkelstein related how he had been a Maoist in his youth and had been devastated by the exposure and downfall of the Gang of Four in 1976 in China. “It came out there was just an awful lot of corruption. The people who we thought were absolutely selfless were very self-absorbed. And it was clear. The overthrow of the Gang of Four had huge popular support.”

Many other Maoists were torn apart by the event. “Everything was overthrown overnight, the whole Maoist system, which we thought [were] new socialist men, they all believed in putting self second, fighting self. And then overnight the whole thing was reversed.”

“You know, many people think it was McCarthy that destroyed the Communist Party,” Finkelstein continued. “That’s absolutely not true. You know, when you were a communist back then, you had the inner strength to withstand McCarthyism, because it was the cause. What destroyed the Communist Party was Khrushchev’s speech,” a reference to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 exposure of the crimes of Joseph Stalin and his dictatorial rule.

Although I was old enough, and interested enough, to be influenced by the Chinese and Russian revolutions, I was not. I remained an admirer of capitalism and a good loyal anti-communist. It was the war in Vietnam that was my Gang of Four and my Nikita Khrushchev. Day after day during 1964 and early 1965 I followed the news carefully, catching up on the day’s statistics of American firepower, bombing sorties, and body counts. I was filled with patriotic pride at our massive power to shape history. Words like those of Winston Churchill, upon America’s entry into the Second World War, came easily to mind again – “England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations would live.” Then, one day – a day like any other day – it suddenly and inexplicably hit me. In those villages with the strange names there were people under those falling bombs, people running in total desperation from that god-awful machine-gun strafing.

This pattern took hold. The news reports would stir in me a self-righteous satisfaction that we were teaching those damn commies that they couldn’t get away with whatever it was they were trying to get away with. The very next moment I would be struck by a wave of repulsion at the horror of it all. Eventually, the repulsion won out over the patriotic pride, never to go back to where I had been; but dooming me to experience the despair of American foreign policy again and again, decade after decade.

The human brain is an amazing organ. It keeps working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year, from before you leave the womb, right up until the day you find nationalism. And that day can come very early. Here’s a recent headline from the Washington Post: “In the United States the brainwashing starts in kindergarten.”

Oh, my mistake. It actually said “In N. Korea the brainwashing starts in kindergarten.”

Let Cuba Live! The Devil’s List of what the United States has done to Cuba

On May 31, 1999, a lawsuit for $181 billion in wrongful death, personal injury, and economic damages was filed in a Havana court against the government of the United States. It was subsequently filed with the United Nations. Since that time its fate is somewhat of a mystery.

The lawsuit covered the 40 years since the country’s 1959 revolution and described, in considerable detail taken from personal testimony of victims, US acts of aggression against Cuba; specifying, often by name, date, and particular circumstances, each person known to have been killed or seriously wounded. In all, 3,478 people were killed and an additional 2,099 seriously injured. (These figures do not include the many indirect victims of Washington’s economic pressures and blockade, which caused difficulties in obtaining medicine and food, in addition to creating other hardships.)

The case was, in legal terms, very narrowly drawn. It was for the wrongful death of individuals, on behalf of their survivors, and for personal injuries to those who survived serious wounds, on their own behalf. No unsuccessful American attacks were deemed relevant, and consequently there was no testimony regarding the many hundreds of unsuccessful assassination attempts against Cuban President Fidel Castro and other high officials, or even of bombings in which no one was killed or injured. Damages to crops, livestock, or the Cuban economy in general were also excluded, so there was no testimony about the introduction into the island of swine fever or tobacco mold.

However, those aspects of Washington’s chemical and biological warfare waged against Cuba that involved human victims were described in detail, most significantly the creation of an epidemic of hemorrhagic dengue fever in 1981, during which some 340,000 people were infected and 116,000 hospitalized; this in a country which had never before experienced a single case of the disease. In the end, 158 people, including 101 children, died. That only 158 people died, out of some 116,000 who were hospitalized, was an eloquent testimony to the remarkable Cuban public health sector.

The complaint describes the campaign of air and naval attacks against Cuba that commenced in October 1959, when US president Dwight Eisenhower approved a program that included bombings of sugar mills, the burning of sugar fields, machine-gun attacks on Havana, even on passenger trains.

Another section of the complaint described the armed terrorist groups, los banditos, who ravaged the island for five years, from 1960 to 1965, when the last group was located and defeated. These bands terrorized small farmers, torturing and killing those considered (often erroneously) active supporters of the Revolution; men, women, and children. Several young volunteer literacy-campaign teachers were among the victims of the bandits.

There was also of course the notorious Bay of Pigs invasion, in April 1961. Although the entire incident lasted less than 72 hours, 176 Cubans were killed and 300 more wounded, 50 of them permanently disabled.

The complaint also described the unending campaign of major acts of sabotage and terrorism that included the bombing of ships and planes as well as stores and offices. The most horrific example of sabotage was of course the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner off Barbados in which all 73 people on board were killed. There were as well as the murder of Cuban diplomats and officials around the world, including one such murder on the streets of New York City in 1980. This campaign continued to the 1990s, with the murders of Cuban policemen, soldiers, and sailors in 1992 and 1994, and the 1997 hotel bombing campaign, which took the life of a foreigner; the bombing campaign was aimed at discouraging tourism and led to the sending of Cuban intelligence officers to the US in an attempt to put an end to the bombings; from their ranks rose the Cuban Five.

To the above can be added the many acts of financial extortion, violence and sabotage carried out by the United States and its agents in the 16 years since the lawsuit was filed. In sum total, the deep-seated injury and trauma inflicted upon on the Cuban people can be regarded as the island’s own 9-11.

 

Notes

  1. US Department of the Army, Afghanistan, A Country Study (1986), pp.121, 128, 130, 223, 232
  2. Counterpunch, January 10, 2015
  3. Index on Censorship, the UK’s leading organization promoting freedom of expression, October 18, 2001
  4. The Independent (London), April 24, 1999
  5. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk talking to Pinar Atalay”, Tagesschau (Germany), January 7, 2015 (in Ukrainian with German voice-over)
  6. CNN, June 15, 2014
  7. See William Blum, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, chapter 3
  8. Washington Post, January 17, 2015, page A6
  9. William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, chapter 30, for a capsule summary of Washington’s chemical and biological warfare against Havana.
  10. For further information, see William Schaap, Covert Action Quarterly magazine (Washington, DC), Fall/Winter 1999, pp.26-29

Special Ops Missions Already in 105 Countries in 2015

The Golden Age of Black Ops
By Nick Turse, TomDispatch.com

In the dead of night, they swept in aboard V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.  Landing in a remote region of one of the most volatile countries on the planet, they raided a village and soon found themselves in a life-or-death firefight.  It was the second time in two weeks that elite U.S. Navy SEALs had attempted to rescue American photojournalist Luke Somers.  And it was the second time they failed.

On December 6, 2014, approximately 36 of America’s top commandos, heavily armed, operating with intelligence from satellites, drones, and high-tech eavesdropping, outfitted with night vision goggles, and backed up by elite Yemeni troops, went toe-to-toe with about six militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  When it was over, Somers was dead, along with Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher due to be set free the next day.  Eight civilians were also killed by the commandos, according to local reports.  Most of the militants escaped.

That blood-soaked episode was, depending on your vantage point, an ignominious end to a year that saw U.S. Special Operations forces deployed at near record levels, or an inauspicious beginning to a new year already on track to reach similar heights, if not exceed them.

During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) deployed to 133 countries -- roughly 70% of the nations on the planet -- according to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bockholt, a public affairs officer with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).  This capped a three-year span in which the country’s most elite forces were active in more than 150 different countries around the world, conducting missions ranging from kill/capture night raids to training exercises.  And this year could be a record-breaker.  Only a day before the failed raid that ended Luke Somers life -- just 66 days into fiscal 2015 -- America’s most elite troops had already set foot in 105 nations, approximately 80% of 2014’s total.

Despite its massive scale and scope, this secret global war across much of the planet is unknown to most Americans.  Unlike the December debacle in Yemen, the vast majority of special ops missions remain completely in the shadows, hidden from external oversight or press scrutiny.  In fact, aside from modest amounts of information disclosed through highly-selective coverage by military media, official White House leaks, SEALs with something to sell, and a few cherry-picked journalists reporting on cherry-picked opportunities, much of what America’s special operators do is never subjected to meaningful examination, which only increases the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.        

The Golden Age

“The command is at its absolute zenith.  And it is indeed a golden age for special operations.”  Those were the words of Army General Joseph Votel III, a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, as he assumed command of SOCOM last August. 

His rhetoric may have been high-flown, but it wasn’t hyperbole.  Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, including their numbers, their budget, their clout in Washington, and their place in the country’s popular imagination.  The command has, for example, more than doubled its personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 today, including a jump of roughly 8,000 during the three-year tenure of recently retired SOCOM chief Admiral William McRaven.

Those numbers, impressive as they are, don’t give a full sense of the nature of the expansion and growing global reach of America’s most elite forces in these years.  For that, a rundown of the acronym-ridden structure of the ever-expanding Special Operations Command is in order.  The list may be mind-numbing, but there is no other way to fully grasp its scope.   

The lion’s share of SOCOM’s troops are Rangers, Green Berets, and other soldiers from the Army, followed by Air Force air commandos, SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen and support personnel from the Navy, as well as a smaller contingent of Marines.  But you only get a sense of the expansiveness of the command when you consider the full range of “sub-unified commands” that these special ops troops are divided among: the self-explanatory SOCAFRICA; SOCEUR, the European contingent; SOCKOR, which is devoted strictly to Korea; SOCPAC, which covers the rest of the Asia-Pacific region; SOCSOUTH, which conducts missions in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean; SOCCENT, the sub-unified command of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in the Middle East; SOCNORTH, which is devoted to “homeland defense”; and the globe-trotting Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC -- a clandestine sub-command (formerly headed by McRaven and then Votel) made up of personnel from each service branch, including SEALs, Air Force special tactics airmen, and the Army's Delta Force, that specializes in tracking and killing suspected terrorists.

And don’t think that’s the end of it, either.  As a result of McRaven’s push to create “a Global SOF network of like-minded interagency allies and partners,” Special Operations liaison officers, or SOLOs, are now embedded in 14 key U.S. embassies to assist in advising the special forces of various allied nations.  Already operating in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Poland, Peru, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, the SOLO program is poised, according to Votel, to expand to 40 countries by 2019.  The command, and especially JSOC, has also forged close ties with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency, among others.

Shadow Ops

Special Operations Command’s global reach extends further still, with smaller, more agile elements operating in the shadows from bases in the United States to remote parts of Southeast Asia, from Middle Eastern outposts to austere African camps. Since 2002, SOCOM has also been authorized to create its own Joint Task Forces, a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM.  Take, for instance, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) which, at its peak, had roughly 600 U.S. personnel supporting counterterrorist operations by Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Abu Sayyaf.  After more than a decade spent battling that group, its numbers have been diminished, but it continues to be active, while violence in the region remains virtually unaltered. 

A phase-out of the task force was actually announced in June 2014.  “JSOTF-P will deactivate and the named operation OEF-P [Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines] will conclude in Fiscal Year 2015,” Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee the next month.  “A smaller number of U.S. military personnel operating as part of a PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] Augmentation Team will continue to improve the abilities of the PSF [Philippine Special Forces] to conduct their CT [counterterrorism] missions...”  Months later, however, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines remained up and running. “JSOTF-P is still active although the number of personnel assigned has been reduced,” Army spokesperson Kari McEwen told reporter Joseph Trevithick of War Is Boring.

Another unit, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Bragg, remained in the shadows for years before its first official mention by the Pentagon in early 2014.  Its role, according to SOCOM’s Bockholt, is to “train and equip U.S. service members preparing for deployment to Afghanistan to support Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan.”  That latter force, in turn, spent more than a decade conducting covert or “black” ops “to prevent insurgent activities from threatening the authority and sovereignty of” the Afghan government.  This meant night raids and kill/capture missions -- often in concert with elite Afghan forces -- that led to the deaths of unknown numbers of combatants and civilians.  In response to popular outrage against the raids, Afghan President Hamid Karzai largely banned them in 2013. 

U.S. Special Operations forces were to move into a support role in 2014, letting elite Afghan troops take charge.  “We're trying to let them run the show," Colonel Patrick Roberson of the Afghanistan task force told USA Today.  But according to LaDonna Davis, a spokesperson with the task force, America’s special operators were still leading missions last year.  The force refuses to say how many missions were led by Americans or even how many operations its commandos were involved in, though Afghan special operations forces reportedly carried out as many as 150 missions each month in 2014.  “I will not be able to discuss the specific number of operations that have taken place,” Major Loren Bymer of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan told TomDispatch. “However, Afghans currently lead 96% of special operations and we continue to train, advise, and assist our partners to ensure their success.”

And lest you think that that’s where the special forces organizational chart ends, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan has five Special Operations Advisory Groups “focused on mentoring and advising our ASSF [Afghan Special Security Force] partners,” according to Votel.  “In order to ensure our ASSF partners continue to take the fight to our enemies, U.S. SOF must be able to continue to do some advising at the tactical level post-2014 with select units in select locations,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Indeed, last November, Karzai’s successor Ashraf Ghani quietly lifted the night raid ban, opening the door once again to missions with U.S. advisors in 2015.

There will, however, be fewer U.S. special ops troops available for tactical missions.  According to then Rear-, now Vice-Admiral Sean Pybus, SOCOM’s Deputy Commander, about half the SEAL platoons deployed in Afghanistan were, by the end of last month, to be withdrawn and redeployed to support “the pivot in Asia, or work the Mediterranean, or the Gulf of Guinea, or into the Persian Gulf.”  Still, Colonel Christopher Riga, commander of the 7th Special Forces Group, whose troops served with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan near Kandahar last year, vowed to soldier on.  “There’s a lot of fighting that is still going on in Afghanistan that is going to continue,” he said at an awards ceremony late last year.  “We’re still going to continue to kill the enemy, until we are told to leave.”

Add to those task forces the Special Operations Command Forward (SOC FWD) elements, small teams which, according to the military, “shape and coordinate special operations forces security cooperation and engagement in support of theater special operations command, geographic combatant command, and country team goals and objectives.”  SOCOM declined to confirm the existence of SOC FWDs, even though there has been ample official evidence on the subject and so it would not provide a count of how many teams are currently deployed across the world.  But those that are known are clustered in favored black ops stomping grounds, including SOC FWD Pakistan, SOC FWD Yemen, and SOC FWD Lebanon, as well as SOC FWD East Africa, SOC FWD Central Africa, and SOC FWD West Africa.

Africa has, in fact, become a prime locale for shadowy covert missions by America’s special operators.  "This particular unit has done impressive things. Whether it's across Europe or Africa taking on a variety of contingencies, you are all contributing in a very significant way," SOCOM’s commander, General Votel, told members of the 352nd Special Operations Group at their base in England last fall.

The Air Commandos are hardly alone in their exploits on that continent.  Over the last years, for example, SEALs carried out a successful hostage rescue mission in Somalia and a kidnap raid there that went awry.  In Libya, Delta Force commandos successfully captured an al-Qaeda militant in an early morning raid, while SEALs commandeered an oil tanker with cargo from Libya that the weak U.S.-backed government there considered stolen.  Additionally, SEALs conducted a failed evacuation mission in South Sudan in which its members were wounded when the aircraft in which they were flying was hit by small arms fire.  Meanwhile, an elite quick-response force known as Naval Special Warfare Unit 10 (NSWU-10) has been engaged with “strategic countries” such as Uganda, Somalia, and Nigeria. 

A clandestine Special Ops training effort in Libya imploded when militia or “terrorist” forces twice raided its camp, guarded by the Libyan military, and looted large quantities of high-tech American equipment, hundreds of weapons -- including Glock pistols, and M4 rifles -- as well as night vision devices and specialized lasers that can only be seen with such equipment.  As a result, the mission was scuttled and the camp was abandoned.  It was then reportedly taken over by a militia. 

In February of last year, elite troops traveled to Niger for three weeks of military drills as part of Flintlock 2014, an annual Special Ops counterterrorism exercise that brought together the forces of the host nation, Canada, Chad, France, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, the United Kingdom, and Burkina Faso.  Several months later, an officer from Burkina Faso, who received counterterrorism training in the U.S. under the auspices of SOCOM’s Joint Special Operations University in 2012, seized power in a coup.  Special Ops forces, however, remained undaunted.  Late last year, for example, under the auspices of SOC FWD West Africa, members of 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, partnered with elite Moroccan troops for training at a base outside of Marrakech. 

A World of Opportunities

Deployments to African nations have, however, been just a part of the rapid growth of the Special Operations Command’s overseas reach.  In the waning days of the Bush presidency, under then-SOCOM chief Admiral Eric Olson, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed in about 60 countries around the world.  By 2010, that number had swelled to 75, according to Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post.  In 2011, SOCOM spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that the total would reach 120 by the end of the year.  With Admiral William McRaven in charge in 2013, then-Major Robert Bockholt told TomDispatch that the number had jumped to 134.  Under the command of McRaven and Votel in 2014, according to Bockholt, the total slipped ever-so-slightly to 133.  Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel noted, however, that under McRaven’s command -- which lasted from August 2011 to August 2014 -- special ops forces deployed to more than 150 different countries.  “In fact, SOCOM and the entire U.S. military are more engaged internationally than ever before -- in more places and with a wider variety of missions,” he said in an August 2014 speech.

He wasn’t kidding.  Just over two months into fiscal 2015, the number of countries with Special Ops deployments has already clocked in at 105, according to Bockholt.

SOCOM refused to comment on the nature of its missions or the benefits of operating in so many nations.  The command would not even name a single country where U.S. special operations forces deployed in the last three years.  A glance at just some of the operations, exercises, and activities that have come to light, however, paints a picture of a globetrotting command in constant churn with alliances in every corner of the planet. 

In January and February, for example, members of the 7th Special Forces Group and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment conducted a month-long Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) with forces from Trinidad and Tobago, while troops from the 353rd Special Operations Group joined members of the Royal Thai Air Force for Exercise Teak Torch in Udon Thani, Thailand.  In February and March, Green Berets from the 20th Special Forces Group trained with elite troops in the Dominican Republic as part of a JCET.

In March, members of Marine Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare Unit 1 took part in maneuvers aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens as part of Multi-Sail 2014, an annual exercise designed to support “security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”  That same month, elite soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines took part in a training exercise code-named Fused Response with members of the Belizean military.  “Exercises like this build rapport and bonds between U.S. forces and Belize,” said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Heber Toro of Special Operations Command South afterward.

In April, soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group joined with Honduran airborne troops for jump training -- parachuting over that country’s Soto Cano Air Base.  Soldiers from that same unit, serving with the Afghanistan task force, also carried out shadowy ops in the southern part of that country in the spring of 2014.  In June, members of the 19th Special Forces Group carried out a JCET in Albania, while operators from Delta Force took part in the mission that secured the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.  That same month, Delta Force commandos helped kidnap Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected “ringleader” in the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, while Green Berets deployed to Iraq as advisors in the fight against the Islamic State.

In June and July, 26 members of the 522nd Special Operations Squadron carried out a 28,000-mile, four-week, five-continent mission which took them to Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Japan, among other nations, to escort three “single-engine [Air Force Special Operations Command] aircraft to a destination in the Pacific Area of Responsibility.”  In July, U.S. Special Operations forces traveled to Tolemaida, Colombia, to compete against elite troops from 16 other nations -- in events like sniper stalking, shooting, and an obstacle course race -- at the annual Fuerzas Comando competition.

In August, soldiers from the 20th Special Forces Group conducted a JCET with elite units from Suriname.  “We’ve made a lot of progress together in a month. If we ever have to operate together in the future, we know we’ve made partners and friends we can depend upon,” said a senior noncommissioned officer from that unit.  In Iraq that month, Green Berets conducted a reconnaissance mission on Mount Sinjar as part an effort to protect ethnic Yazidis from Islamic State militants, while Delta Force commandos raided an oil refinery in northern Syria in a bid to save American journalist James Foley and other hostages held by the same group.  That mission was a bust and Foley was brutally executed shortly thereafter.

In September, about 1,200 U.S. special operators and support personnel joined with elite troops from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Finland, Great Britain, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Slovenia for Jackal Stone, a training exercise that focused on everything from close quarters combat and sniper tactics to small boat operations and hostage rescue missions.  In September and October, Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment deployed to South Korea to practice small unit tactics like clearing trenches and knocking out bunkers.  During October, Air Force air commandos also conducted simulated hostage rescue missions at the Stanford Training Area near Thetford, England.  Meanwhile, in international waters south of Cyprus, Navy SEALs commandeered that tanker full of oil loaded at a rebel-held port in Libya.  In November, U.S. commandos conducted a raid in Yemen that freed eight foreign hostages.  The next month, SEALs carried out the blood-soaked mission that left two hostages, including Luke Somers, and eight civilians dead.  And these, of course, are only some of the missions that managed to make it into the news or in some other way onto the record.

Everywhere They Want to Be

To America’s black ops chiefs, the globe is as unstable as it is interconnected.  “I guarantee you what happens in Latin America affects what happens in West Africa, which affects what happens in Southern Europe, which affects what happens in Southwest Asia,” McRaven told last year’s Geolnt, an annual gathering of surveillance-industry executives and military personnel.  Their solution to interlocked instability?  More missions in more nations -- in more than three-quarters of the world’s countries, in fact -- during McRaven’s tenure.  And the stage appears set for yet more of the same in the years ahead.  "We want to be everywhere,” said Votel at Geolnt.  His forces are already well on their way in 2015.

“Our nation has very high expectations of SOF,” he told special operators in England last fall. “They look to us to do the very hard missions in very difficult conditions.”  The nature and whereabouts of most of those “hard missions,” however, remain unknown to Americans.  And Votel apparently isn’t interested in shedding light on them.  “Sorry, but no,” was SOCOM’s response to TomDispatch’s request for an interview with the special ops chief about current and future operations.  In fact, the command refused to make any personnel available for a discussion of what it’s doing in America’s name and with taxpayer dollars.  It’s not hard to guess why.

Votel now sits atop one of the major success stories of a post-9/11 military that has been mired in winless wars, intervention blowback, rampant criminal activity, repeated leaks of embarrassing secrets, and all manner of shocking scandals.  Through a deft combination of bravado and secrecy, well-placed leaks, adroit marketing and public relations efforts, the skillful cultivation of a superman mystique (with a dollop of tortured fragility on the side), and one extremely popular, high-profile, targeted killing, Special Operations forces have become the darlings of American popular culture, while the command has been a consistent winner in Washington’s bare-knuckled budget battles

This is particularly striking given what’s actually occurred in the field: in Africa, the arming and outfitting of militants and the training of a coup leader; in Iraq, America’s most elite forces were implicated in torture, the destruction of homes, and the killing and wounding of innocents;  in Afghanistan, it was a similar story, with repeated reports of civilian deaths; while in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia it’s been more of the same.  And this only scratches the surface of special ops miscues.  

In 2001, before U.S. black ops forces began their massive, multi-front clandestine war against terrorism, there were 33,000 members of Special Operations Command and about 1,800 members of the elite of the elite, the Joint Special Operations Command.  There were then also 23 terrorist groups -- from Hamas to the Real Irish Republican Army -- as recognized by the State Department, including al-Qaeda, whose membership was estimated at anywhere from 200 to 1,000.  That group was primarily based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although small cells had operated in numerous countries including Germany and the United States

After more than a decade of secret wars, massive surveillance, untold numbers of night raids, detentions, and assassinations, not to mention billions upon billions of dollars spent, the results speak for themselves.  SOCOM has more than doubled in size and the secretive JSOC may be almost as large as SOCOM was in 2001.  Since September of that year, 36 new terror groups have sprung up, including multiple al-Qaeda franchises, offshoots, and allies.  Today, these groups still operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- there are now 11 recognized al-Qaeda affiliates in the latter nation, five in the former -- as well as in Mali and Tunisia, Libya and Morocco, Nigeria and Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen, among other countries.  One offshoot was born of the American invasion of Iraq, was nurtured in a U.S. prison camp, and, now known as the Islamic State, controls a wide swath of that country and neighboring Syria, a proto-caliphate in the heart of the Middle East that was only the stuff of jihadi dreams back in 2001.  That group, alone, has an estimated strength of around 30,000 and managed to take over a huge swath of territory, including Iraq’s second largest city, despite being relentlessly targeted in its infancy by JSOC.

“We need to continue to synchronize the deployment of SOF throughout the globe,” says Votel.  “We all need to be synched up, coordinated, and prepared throughout the command.”  Left out of sync are the American people who have consistently been kept in the dark about what America’s special operators are doing and where they’re doing it, not to mention the checkered results of, and blowback from, what they’ve done.  But if history is any guide, the black ops blackout will help ensure that this continues to be a “golden age” for U.S. Special Operations Command.

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute.  A 2014 Izzy Award winner, he has reported from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa and his pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. His New York Times bestseller Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam received a 2014 American Book Award.

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

Copyright 2015 Nick Turse

 

Support This Site

Donate.

Get free books and gear when you become a supporter.

 

Sponsors:

 

Financial supporters of this site can choose to be listed here.

Speaking Events

2015

April 11 Michigan

April 25 Houston

August 27, Chicago

Buy Books

Get Gear

The log-in box below is only for bloggers. Nobody else will be able to log in because we have not figured out how to stop voluminous spam ruining the site. If you would like us to have the resources to figure that out please donate. If you would like to receive occasional emails please sign up. If you would like to be a blogger here please send your resume.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.