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

 

Ukraine News - Jan 20, 2015

 

Ukraine army launch massive tank counteroffensive in Donetsk - AFP


Poroshenko vows to retake East held by pro-Russian separatists, would not ‘‘give up an inch’’ of its land to them - The Boston Globe


Mobilization announced in Ukraine - TASS


Ukraine Accuses Russia of Sending More Troops and Artillery to Aid Rebels, 2 Battalions Containing about 300-350 Soldiers Each - NYTimes


Putin Sends Message to Poroshenko Saying Recent Military Action in East Ukraine Threatens Peaceful Settlement - Sputnik International


Kiev’s new offensive in Donbass may lead to irreversible consequences for Ukrainian statehood: Russia Foreign Ministry - RT News


Are Russian Naval Infantry From Murmansk Fighting In Donetsk (VIDEO, PHOTOS)? - Interpreter_Mag

 

VIDEO: Heavy Russian assault on Pisky yesterday. Ukrainian forces try to hold the line - YouTube

 

VIDEO: Russian army forces control most of Terminal 1 of Donetsk airport - Conflict Reporter on Twitter

 

VIDEO (Russian): Interview with Russian Soldiers Captured in Ukraine - LiveLeak

 

They were never there: Russia's silence for families of troops killed in Ukraine - The Guardian

 

EVERYTHING you EVER wanted to know about Russian Generals in Ukraine - Ukraine@war

 

How to identify Russian units in Ukraine - Ukraine@war

 

Rebels blow up part of Donetsk airport, many Ukrainian soldiers wounded - IBNLive

 

VIDEO: Reportedly the demolition of the New Terminal in Donetsk Airport by the anti-Kiev forces - Military Studies on Twitter

 

Ukrainian presidential_advisor Yuri Biriukov on why the battle for Donetsk airport does not succeed - Conflict Reporter on Twitter

 

VIDEO: (Eng subs): DPR PM Alexandr Zakharchenko press conference 19/01/15 - YouTube

 

VIDEO: (Eng subs): DPR deputy corps commander briefing on combats of 18 -19/01/15 - LiveLeak.com

 

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

Ukraine conflict: Security in east deteriorating, say OSCE observers - BBC News


Eastern Ukraine: Civilians dying and in grave danger as fighting escalates - Amnesty International


Hospital and university hit as Ukraine clashes flare - Yahoo News


Health crisis worsens in eastern Ukraine, WHO warns - Reuters


EBRD downgrades its forecast for Ukraine’s GDP decline in 2015 to 5% after a 7.5% drop in 2014 - UNIAN news


Driver says passenger bus near Ukraine’s Volnovakha was hit by fragmentation mine, “The checkpoint was shelled from Grads” he noted - TASS

 

VIDEO: Zoomed in, stabilized & slowed down video of Volnovakha explosion near bus 4better analysis - Ukraine@war on Twitter

 

Militants used Grad launchers to shell Volnovakha bus from Dokuchayevsk, The projectile has been identified as an unguided high-explosive M-21OF rocket: prosecutor general - interfax.com

 

Possible launch location determined for Volnovakha attack - Ukraine@war

 

Unpicking the Donetsk People’s Republic’s Tangled Volnovakha Bus Massacre Narrative - bellingcat

 

Another Bus Reportedly Hit By Rocket Or Shell In Donetsk, three reported dead (VIDEO) - Interpreter_Mag

 

Booby-trapped honey jar explodes, Ukrainian soldier killed and three others were seriously injured - ABC Radio Australia

 

New Images of the MH17 Buk Missile Launcher in Ukraine and Russia - bellingcat

 

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

Inside the Uniform, Under the Hood, Longing for Change

By Kathy Kelly

From January 4 – 12, 2015, Witness Against Torture (WAT) activists assembled in Washington D.C. for an annual time of fasting and public witness to end the United States' use of torture and indefinite detention and to demand the closure, with immediate freedom for those long cleared for release, of the illegal U.S. prison at Guantanamo.

Participants in our eight day fast started each day with a time of reflection. This year, asked to briefly describe who or what we had left behind and yet might still carry in our thoughts that morning, I said that I’d left behind an imagined WWI soldier, Leonce Boudreau.

I was thinking of Nicole de’Entremont’s story of World War I, A Generation of Leaves, which I had just finished reading.  Initial chapters focus on a Canadian family of Acadian descent. Their beloved oldest son, Leonce, enlists with Canada’s military because he wants to experience life beyond the confines of a small town and he feels stirred by a call to defend innocent European people from advancing “Hun” warriors. He soon finds himself mired in the horrid slaughter of trench warfare near Ypres, Belgium.

I often thought of Leonce during the week of fasting with WAT campaign members.  We focused, each day, on the experiences and writing of a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo, Fahed Ghazi who, like Leonce, left his family and village to train as a fighter for what he believed to be a noble cause.  He wanted to defend his family, faith and culture from hostile forces.  Pakistani forces captured Fahed and turned him over to U.S. forces after he had spent two weeks in a military training camp in Afghanistan.  At the time he was 17, a juvenile.  He was cleared for release from Guantanamo in 2007.

Leonce’s family never saw him again.  Fahed’s family has been told, twice, that he is cleared for release and could soon reunite with his wife, daughter, brothers and parents.  Being cleared for release means that U.S. authorities have decided that Fahed poses no threat to the security of people in the U.S. Still he languishes in Guantanamo where he has been held for 13 years. 

Fahed writes that there is no guilt or innocence at Guantanamo.  But he asserts that everyone, even the guards, knows the difference between right and wrong. It is illegal to hold him and 54 other prisoners, without charge, after they have been cleared for release.

Fahed is one of 122 prisoners held in Guantanamo. 

Bitter cold had gripped Washington D.C. during most days of our fast and public witness.  Clad in multiple layers of clothing, we clambered into orange jumpsuits, pulled black hoods over our heads, our “uniforms,” and walked in single file lines, hands held behind our backs. 

Inside Union Station’s enormous Main Hall, we lined up on either side of a rolled up banner.  As readers shouted out excerpts from one of Fahed’s letters that tell how he longs for reunion with his family, we unfurled a beautiful portrait of his face. “Now that you know,” Fahed writes, “you cannot turn away.” 

U.S. people have a lot of help in turning away.  Politicians and much of the U.S. mainstream media manufacture and peddle distorted views of security to the U.S. public, encouraging people to eradicate threats to their security and to exalt and glorify uniformed soldiers or police officers who have been trained to kill or imprison anyone perceived to threaten the well-being of U.S. people.  

Often, people who’ve enlisted to wear U.S. military or police uniforms bear much in common with Leonce and Fahed.  They are young, hard pressed to earn an income, and eager for adventure.  

There’s no reason to automatically exalt uniformed fighters as heroes.

But a humane society will surely seek understanding and care for any person who survives the killing fields of a war zone.  Likewise, people in the U.S. should be encouraged to see every detainee in Guantanamo as a human person, someone to be called by name and not by a prison number.

The cartoonized versions of foreign policy handed to U.S. people, designating heroes and villains, create a dangerously under-educated public unable to engage in democratic decision-making.

Nicole d'Entremont writes of battered soldiers, soldiers who know they've been discarded in an endless, pointless war, longing to be rid of their uniforms.  The overcoats were heavy, sodden, and often too bulky for struggling through areas entangled with barbed wire.  Boots leaked and the soldiers’ feet were always wet, muddy, and sore. Miserably clothed, miserably fed, and horribly trapped in a murderous, insane war, soldiers longed to escape.

When putting on Fahed’s uniform, each day of our fast, I could imagine how intensely he longs to be rid of his prison garb.Thinking of his writings, and recalling d’Entremont’s stories drawn from “the war to end all wars,” I can imagine that there are many thousands of people trapped in the uniforms issued by war makers who deeply understand Dr. Martin Luther King’s call for revolution:

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.”

This article first appeared onTelesur.  

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). On January 23rd, she will begin serving a 3 month sentence in federal prison for attempting to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter about drone warfare to the commander of a U.S. Air Force base.

Guantanamo Anniversary Protest at Boalt Law

by San Francisco World Can't Wait         January 13, 2015, UC Berkeley Law: On the second afternoon of the new semester, 35 people arrived at Boalt Hall for a press conference and speak-out. Called by the local chapters of World Can’t Wait, the National Lawyers Guild, and Code Pink, this protest marked the 13th anniversary of Guantánamo and raised three demands: Close Guantanamo Now – Prosecute All the Torturers – and Fire, Disbar and Prosecute John Yoo. 

We Are Not Your Soldiers wants to Visit Your School

Since 2006, the We Are Not Your Soldiers project has visited many high school and college campuses bringing the message that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a deadly moral, psychological and physical toll on soldiers while bringing death, grievous injury, displacement and suffering to the people of those countries. The We Are Not Your Soldiers project is ready to visit your school or classroom in the Spring semester with Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans to talk about their on-the-ground experience in occupying countries, where civilians pay the price.

Beyond Vietghanistan

By Martin Luther Obama Jr., as dictated to David Swanson

Text of "Beyond Vietghanistan: A Time To Break Treaties"
By Rev. Martin Luther Obama Jr. - January 19, 2015
Speech delivered at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City.

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because the Republican Congress leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in partial yet profound agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietghanistan. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, if not my brain, and I found myself in sympathy with your desires when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has not come for us in relation to Vietghanistan. The solemn duty of our brave troops in that troubled nation is to carry out the orders sent by their commanders, and the solemn duty of those in Washington making critical decisions is silence.

Let me be clear, the beauty of the words I've quoted is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is an impossibly difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men and women do not have the right to assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor should the human spirit move without great difficulty, if at all, against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding Democratic Party. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must cherish that uncertainty, wallow in it, treasure it, shed tears over it, and then do what the military and its profiteers want done.

Some, like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Jeffrey Sterling, and dozens more have already begun to break the silence of the night. They have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must intensify their suffering as a lesson to others. We must crush them with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must crush them. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of peace and justice to the high ground of humanitarian war and liberal imperialism with a permanent footing unlimited in time or space. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around during the never-to-be-looked-back-upon era of those great Americans, George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the last promises of my campaigns and the last pretenses of legislative or legal checks on warmaking, as I have called for routine normalization and renaming of the destruction of Vietghanistan, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking for more war, Dr. Obama? Why are you joining the voices of those who have never been given a Nobel Peace Prize? War and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live, a world in which evil foreigners must be confronted by the most profitable racket ever devised, or we must abandon all future elections to the domination of the Republican Party which will do exactly these same things without my eloquence.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Chicago, Illinois, -- the place where I began my political career -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Kabul or to the Taliban. It is not addressed to Syria or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietghanistan. Neither is it an attempt to make the new government of Vietghanistan a paragon of virtue, nor to overlook the role it can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While the Vietghanistanese may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without massive and relentless force beyond anyone's estimation of the limits of sanity.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Kabul, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in extending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents, especially our own. Let me tell you how we have suffered from these wars of President Bush's and how we must continue to suffer for decades to come.

For in the words of that old agency spiritual, this war will last, this war will last, thank god almighty, this war will last.

Fake plots get busted, real ones get a pass: The FBI’s Dubious Record on Prosecuting Terror Plots

By Dave Lindorff

 

            If you’re planning to commit an act of terror in the US and want to be left alone by the FBI, make sure your target is something, or someone, that the US government doesn’t like or care about.

 

Hancock Drone Resister Convicted on Unexpected New Charge

January 16, DeWitt Town Court, 5400 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse, NY                         

DEWITT, N.Y. Bonny Mahoney of Syracuse, New York was convicted by Judge David S. Gideon in DeWitt Town Court on a single count of trespass stemming from her arrest during a nonviolent protest at Hancock Air National Guard Base on April 28, 2013.   When Drone Resister Bonny Mahoney arrived in court on January 15 for her jury trial on charges of obstructing governmental administration (OGA) and 2 counts of disorderly conduct (DisCon), she was arraigned on a new charge (trespass) stemming from the same event where she was arrested 17 months earlier with 30 other protesters.   Her reasonable request for some time to modify her preparations was refused.   

Lawyers Jonathan Wallace of New York City, and Daire Irwin of Buffalo, NY drove in from their hometowns to assist Ms. Mahoney during her 2 day trial.   Asked to comment on his interest in these cases, Wallace said

"The steadfast commitment, personal integrity and humility of these activists, which echo the beliefs of Dorothy Day even though not all are Catholics, have made it an honor, and even more than that, a personal imperative, for me to help them in any way possible". 

Regarding Ms. Mahoney’s determination to defend herself, Irwin said,

"They may be peaceful but that doesn't mean they aren't going to fight injustice everywhere; and that includes in court."

Ms. Mahoney brought the trial back to her concerns about drone victims, saying,

 "I consider myself lucky to be able to defend myself against charges I feel are unjust. US drone policy does not provide this opportunity for its victims.”

Judge Gideon granted a pretrial motion by the attorneys to dismiss the OGA charge on the grounds that it didn’t specify who was obstructed, or how, and the jury was also dismissed.   In the end, the only charge Ms. Mahoney was convicted of was the new trespass charge.   Attorney’s Jonathon Wallace and Daire Irwin, who attended the trial to support Ms. Mahoney made arrangements to argue another motion before her sentencing hearing on February 12.

People have been protesting at Hancock National Air Guard Base since 2011 when the 174th began flying lethal Reaper drone missions over Afghanistan.   During the past year, protesters opposing weaponized drones were arrested at Hancock, Creech, Whiteman, and Beale Air Force and Air National Guard Bases, as well as RAF Waddington in the UK and in the German Parliament.   There are monthly trials coming up in DeWitt this spring beginning with John Honeck on trial for OGA and DisCon February 12 and 13, followed by a consolidated Jury trial for Bev Rice, Ellen Barfield, Joan Pleune and Jules Orkin who are facing the same charges from the same action on March 10, 11 and 12.

The Importance of Being Angry

Unfortunately, in many circles, anger has a bad reputation. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that we are scared when people are angry at us, so we try to scare people, especially children, out of being angry. By doing this, we hope to escape responsibility for our dysfunctional behaviour.

Another reason that anger has a bad reputation is because it enables people to defend themselves against violence and other forms of abuse. But if we want obedient and hardworking students, reliable and pliant employees/soldiers and submissive law-abiding citizens, then we must terrorize people out of being angry. Social control is not easy with people who are powerful and you need your anger to be powerful.

Protest John Brennan at the Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations is inviting its members only to attend this "on the record "CIA’s Global Mission: Countering Shared Threats" presented by war criminal, CIA director John O. Brennan. Join us on Jan. 26, 2015 to protest outside from 12pm - 2:30 pm at 58 E. 68th St., Manhattan to protest U.S. war crimes and their perpetrators.

Nuclear Madness and Resistance

The Jeffrey Sterling trial is a bit disheartening for anyone who'd rather humanity paid a bit of attention to avoiding nuclear apocalypse, even though Sterling exposed the CIA's crime to Congress, and Sterling or someone else (at least 90 people could have done it) exposed the crime to an author who put it in a book and would have put it in the New York Times if, you know, it weren't the New York Times (the paper obeyed Condoleezza Rice's demand for censorship).

The last time a whistleblower defendant faced prosecution in civilian U.S. court for "espionage" it was Dan Ellsberg, and the New York Times was a radically different beast.

Here's a report from Ray McGovern on Thursday's appearance by Condoleezza Rice in the Sterling trial:

"It was surreal in court earlier today; stiletto-heeled Rice prancing in within 2 feet of me, as if on the modeling runway, with a Paula Broadwell-type look on her face -- and, at the same time, Bill Harlow sitting down next to me after his testimony explaining how hard he had tried to get Jim Risen to listen to reason and not pursue/publish the story about the botched CIA 'Merlin' operation.....and how listening to Rice's request at the White House meeting, NY Times Washington Bureau Chief Jill Abramson felt 'out of her pay-grade range,' and how her NYT masters (surprise, surprise) bowed to the White House/CIA hyperbole re the dangers of publishing, and agreed to the urgent demand/request of Rice and her boss.  (Pls see my piece yesterday on pitfalls of letting covert action eager beavers loose on the basis of a false major premise i. e., that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon.)

"(As for Abramson, for being a good girl, she made it to the very top of NYT as Executive Editor, for services performed -- she was also Washington Bureau Chief when Judith Miller was plying her wares with the likes of Ahmed Chalabi.  But then Jill forgot her place; got too uppity and was unceremoniously dumped by the top men of that 'all-the-news-that's-allowed-by-the-White House-to-print' exclusive club of male chauvinist cowards.)

"Back to the courtroom:  All at once I find myself wondering what might be the appropriate reaction when an amateur Goebbels (Harlow) sits down next to you; so I wrote a little note to him.  (It did not seem to phase him one bit, so I'm sure he would not mind me sharing it with you):

"'Newsweek, Feb 2003, quote from Hussein Kamel's debrief 1995: "I ordered the destruction of all weapons — biological, chemical, missile, nuclear." Harlow: Newsweek story "incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue."  4,500 U.S. troops dead.  A consequential lie.'

"All stand; judge and jury leave; and I'm not sure he has read the note.  I give it to him; he reads it, smiles, 'Good to see you Ray!'

"Aaaarrrgggh."

Back to the disheartening nature of what Sterling or someone else let us know about:

Either the CIA went on completely mindless autopilot -- as everyone but I seems to believe -- or it tried to plant evidence of a nuclear weapons program on Iran. That is to say, it illegally proliferated nuclear weapons technology, presented Iran with an obvious fraud, risked serious hostility with Russia, and had zero chance of fulfilling its stated mission of slowing down an Iranian weapons program, should one have existed, and had zero chance of learning what Iran was doing. Stuffing nuke plans under a door in Vienna doesn't tell anyone what Iran is doing. Handing Iran nuke plans (or constructed nuke parts, as was contemplated) doesn't slow down a nonexistent program or even an existing one -- not even when obvious flaws are inserted in the plans. The CIA's Russian-American front man spotted flaws immediately. The CIA's own "red team" spotted flaws, fixed them, and built a working part from the plans in a matter of months. So, again, either this was just a crazed desire to do something, anything, serving no possible purpose and risking advancing the destruction of the planet, or somebody had in mind that it would be advantageous to plant nuke plans on Iran. After all, the Iranians weren't going to believe that Russian plans were written in American English. But Americans might conceivably believe that Iran would have nuke plans written in English, as they were asked to believe of Iraq as well. Foreigners speak English in American movies all the time, after all.

Maybe I shouldn't hunt for scraps of intelligence in "intelligence" operations.

But I can find them elsewhere.

The United States doesn't just write up Russian plans for nuclear weapons parts and spread them around the globe. It also manufactures U.S. versions of the same parts. It does so in Kansas City. And the good people of Kansas City protest it. And a judge has just declared a protester "not-guilty" of any crime -- the first time that's happened in some 120 protests. May the jury holding Jeffrey Sterling's fate in its hands take heed:

From the Nuclear Resister:

Nuclear weapons protester Henry Stoever found “not guilty” of trespass at new Kansas City plant

Nuke-Free-Worldby Jane Stoever

After a 90 minute trial on January 16, 2015, at the Kansas City, Missouri Municipal Court, Judge Elena Franco found that the City had failed to prove that Henry Stoever had the “mens rea” (guilty intent, criminal mind) for conviction of trespass. Judge Franco also found that the City witness had failed to prove where the property line was located at the new Honeywell nuclear weapons production, procurement and assembly plant in southern Kansas City, Missouri. This plant makes, procures and assembles 85% of the non-nuclear parts of a nuclear weapon. Early in the trial, Henry had played the video for the judge that showed him and two companions crossing the line.

When Judge Franco declared Henry “not guilty,” the 31 members in the audience burst into applause. Henry shook the hands of Judge Franco, the City Prosecutor, and the complaining witness, and then visited with supporters outside the courtroom, wiping back tears of joy.

In this case, Henry had filed with the Court and with the Prosecutor a 12-page Pre-trial Notice of Defenses, Brief and Motion in Limine, where he set forth a number of “claim of right” points for taking his action on August 22, 2014, to cross the supposed line at the weapons plant. In his closing statement, Henry quoted a dissenting opinion from Supreme Court Justices Douglas, Brennan, and Fortas in 1966, in Adderley vs. Florida: “We do violence to the First Amendment when we permit this ‘petition for redress of grievances’ to be turned into a trespass action.”

Henry was surprised at the not guilty finding, for the Judge said you may feel disappointed by my finding (because it was based on a technicality … and earlier, Henry had said he didn’t want to quibble over whether the line was a true property line, and that if the line were 20-30 feet farther onto the property, Henry would have gone there). Also, about two years ago, Henry had invited Franco to find him guilty so he could appeal his case to State Court (but that case was dismissed without going to a jury trial). In truth, the Judge today was not convinced Henry committed a crime—bravo! Bravissimo!

The entire Stoever family is celebrating. Many, many thanks to all who’ve risked arrest, to all who’ve supported our now about 120 individual instances of a person crossing the line, to all who’ve sent well-wishes! This is the first in the 120 instances in which a judge saw fit to say, “not guilty!”

U.S. Blows Off North Korea’s Offer to Stop Nuclear Tests

nkorea3The U.S. should negotiate with North Korea on its proposal to cancel nuclear tests in exchange for a U.S. suspension of joint military exercises with South Korea.

That’s the text of a petition just initiated by Alice Slater, World Beyond War, and the signers listed below.

The DPRK government (North Korea) disclosed on Jan. 10, 2015, that it had delivered to the United States the day before an important proposal to “create a peaceful climate on the Korean Peninsula.”

This year, we observe the 70th anniversary of the tragic division of Korea in 1945. The U.S. government played a major role in the arbitrary division of the country, as well as in the horrific Korean civil war of 1950-53, wreaking catastrophic devastation on North Korea, with millions of Korean deaths as well as the deaths of 50,000 American soldiers. It is hard to believe that the U.S. still keeps nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea today, even though the Armistice Agreement was signed back in 1953.

According to KCNA, the North Korean news agency, the DPRK’s message stated that if the United States “contribute(s) to easing tension on the Korean Peninsula by temporarily suspending joint military exercises in South Korea and its vicinity this year,” then “the DPRK is ready to take such responsive steps as temporarily suspending the nuclear test over which the U.S. is concerned.”

Unfortunately, it is reported that the U.S. State Department rejected the offer on Jan. 10, claiming that the two issues are separate. Such a quick spurning of the North’s proposal is not only arrogant but also violates one of the basic principles of the U.N. Charter, which requires of its members to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means.” (Article 2 [3]). To reduce the dangerous military tensions on the Korean Peninsula today, it is urgent that the two hostile States engage in mutual dialogue and negotiation for a peaceful settlement of the lingering Korean War, without any preconditions.

The North’s proposal comes at a time of increasing tensions between the U.S. and DPRK over a Sony film, which depicts a brutal CIA-induced assassination of the current North Korean leader. In spite of the growing doubts by many security experts, the Obama administration hastily blamed the North for last November’s hacking of the Sony Pictures’ computer system and subsequently imposed new sanctions on the country. Pyongyang proposed a joint investigation, denying its responsibility for the cyber-attacks.

The winter U.S.-R.O.K. (South Korea) war drill usually takes place in late Feb. DPRK put its troops on high military alert on such occasions in the past and conducted its own war drills in response. Pyongyang regards the large-scale joint war drills as a U.S. rehearsal for military attacks, including nuclear strikes, against North Korea. In the last year’s drill, the U.S. flew in B-2 stealth bombers, which can drop nuclear bombs, from the U.S. mainland, as well as bringing in U.S. troops from abroad. In fact, these threatening moves not only provoke the North but also violate the Korean War Armistice Agreement of 1953.

Instead of intensifying further sanctions and military pressures against the DPRK, the Obama administration should accept the recent offer from the North in good faith, and engage in negotiations to reach positive agreements to reduce military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

INITIAL SIGNERS:
John Kim, Veterans for Peace, Korea Peace Campaign Project, Coordinator
Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, NY
Dr. Helen Caldicott
David Swanson, World Beyond War
Jim Haber
Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u.,Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk for Justice and Peace, U.S. Province
David Krieger, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Sheila Croke
Alfred L. Marder,U.S. Peace Council
David Hartsough, Peaceworkers, San Francisco, CA
Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent/legal counsel and peace activist
John D. Baldwin
Bernadette Evangelist
Arnie Saiki, Coordinator Moana Nui
Regina Birchem, Women’s International League for Peace and Justice, US
Rosalie Sylen, Code Pink, Long Island, Suffolk Peace Network
Kristin Norderval
Helen Jaccard, Veterans For Peace Nuclear Abolition Working Group, Co-chair
Nydia Leaf
Heinrich Buecker, Coop Anti-War Cafe Berlin
Sung-Hee Choi, Gangjeong village international team, Korea

References:
1)     NYT, 1/10/2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/world/asia/north-korea-offers-us-deal-to-halt-nuclear-test-.html?_r=0
2)     KCNA, 1/10/2015
3)     Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, “Strategic Patience with North Korea,” 11/21/2013, www.thediplomat/2013/11/strategic-patience-with-North-Korea.

Local Syria ceasefires: The way out of a US policy

Local ceasefires can be successful, but first the United States must free itself from entangling regional alliances

By Gareth Porter, Middle East Eye

US contradictions between the Obama administration’s policy in Syria and realities on the ground have become so acute that US officials began last November discussing a proposal calling for support of local ceasefires between opposition forces and the Assad regime in dozens of locations across Syria.

The proposal surfaced in two articles in Foreign Policy magazine and in a column by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. Those indicated that it was under serious consideration by administration officials. In fact, the proposal may even have played a role in a series of four White House meetings during the week of 6-13 November, to discuss Syria policy, one of which Obama himself presided over.

Ignatius, who usually reflects the views of senior national security officials, suggested that the administration have nothing better to offer than the proposal. And Robert Ford, who served as US ambassador to Syria until last May and is now a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told David Kenner of Foreign Policy that he believes the White House “is likely to latch onto” the idea of local cease-fires “in the absence of any other plan they’ve been able to develop”.  

The proposal also appears to parallel the thinking behind the efforts of new United Nations peace envoy, Steffan de Mistura, who has called for the creation of what he calls “freeze zones” - meaning local ceasefires that would allow humanitarian aid to reach civilian populations.

The fact that the proposal is being taken seriously is especially notable, because it does not promise to achieve the aims of existing policy. Instead, it offers a way out of a policy that could not possibly deliver on the results it promised.

But the implication of such a policy shift would be a tacit acknowledgement that the United States cannot achieve its previous stated goal of unseating the Assad regime in Syria. The Obama administration would certainly deny any such implication, at least initially, for domestic political as well as foreign policy reasons, but the policy would refocus on the immediate need of saving lives and promoting peace, rather than on unrealistic political or military ambitions.

US Syrian policy lurched from Obama’s abortive plan to launch an air war against the Assad regime in September 2013 to the idea that the US would help train thousands of “moderate” Syrian opposition fighters to resist the threat from Islamic State (IS) in September 2014.  But the “moderate” forces have no interest in fighting IS. And in any case, they have long-ceased to be a serious rival of IS and other jihadi forces in Syria. 

It was no accident that the alternative policy surfaced in November, just as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had been completely routed from its bases in the north by IS forces. Post columnist Ignatius, whose writing is almost always informed by access to senior national security officials, not only mentioned that route as the context in which a proposal was presented in Washington, but quoted from three messages the desperate FSA commander under attack sent to the US military, requesting air support.

The author of the paper that appears to have struck a chord in Washington, Nir Rosen, is a journalist whose depth of knowledge of human realities on the ground in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, is unmatched. His personal encounters with the people and organisations that fought in those conflicts, recounted in his 2010 book, Aftermath, reveal nuances of motives and calculations that can be found nowhere else in the literature. 

Rosen now works for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, which was active in bringing about the local ceasefire in Homs, considered the most significant such achievement so far. Rosen gave Robert Malley, the senior National Security Council official responsible for Syria, a 55-page, single-spaced report, making the case for a policy of supporting the negotiation of local ceasefires, which also calls for “freezing the war as it is”.  The report is based on the twin premises that neither side can defeat the other militarily, and that the resulting stalemate strengthens the Islamic State and its jihadi allies in Syria, according to James Traub’s story in Foreign Policy. 

Negotiating local deals under the conditions of the Syrian war is devilishly difficult, as anexamination of 35 different local deals by researchers at the London School of Economics and the Syrian NGO Madani shows. Most of the deals were prompted by the Syrian regime’s strategy of besieging opposition enclaves, which meant the regime’s forces were hoping to impose terms that were nothing less than surrender. Sometimes local pro-government militias frustrated potential deals, because of a combination sectarian score-settling and because they were gaining corrupt economic advantages from the sieges they were imposing.  (In other cases, however, the pro-government NDF militias lent their supportive to local deals.)

The Syrian regime ultimately recognised that its interests lay in a successful deal in Homs, but the researchers found that the farther military commanders were from the location of fighting, the more they clung to the idea that military victory was still possible. The primary source of pressure for ceasefire, not surprisingly, was from the civilians, who suffered its consequence most heavily. The study observes that the larger the ratio of civilians to fighters in the opposition enclave the stronger the commitment to a ceasefire.

Both the LSE-Madani study and the Integrity Research paper say that international support in the form of both mediators and truce monitors would help establish both clearer arrangements and legal commitments for ceasefire, safe passage and opening routes of humanitarian assistance. Homs is an example of a deal where the UN actually plays a positive role in influencing the implementation of the truce, according to Integrity. 

The small steps toward peace and reconciliation that the local truces represent are highly vulnerable unless they lead to a comprehensive process. Even though the challenge from IS is a shadow over the entire process, it is an approach that is likely to be more effective than escalating foreign military involvement. And surprising as it may seem, the LSE-Madani study reveals that even IS concluded a ceasefire deal with a civil society organisation in Aleppo.

But even if the Obama administration recognises the advantages of the proposal of the local ceasefire approach for Syria, it cannot be assumed that it will actually carry out the policy. The reason is the heavy influence of its relations with its main regional allies on Washington. Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar would all reject a policy that would allow a regime they regard as an Iranian ally to persist in Syria. Unless and until the United States can figure out a way to free its Middle East policy from its entangling regional alliances, its policy in Syria will be confused, contradictory and feckless.

 

- Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on US national security policy.  His latest book, “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” was published in February 2014.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Center for Public Integrity Reveals How PR Firms Manufacture Consent for Oil, Big Business

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Center for Public Integrity has broken new ground by publishing a months-long investigation into the public relations and influence-peddling spending conducted by Big Business trade associations between 2008-2012.

What You Can Do to Stop US Torture

 

by Debra Sweet        One of the presistent fallacies about the US torture camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, is that it was a “mistake” of the Bush Regime, a misguided attempt to “keep America safe.” You hear this from Democrat apologists, who for the last six full years, have been in position to close it.  

 

When Ray McGovern Met Joseph Goebbels

Ray McGovern has been attending the Jeffrey Sterling trial. (Jeffrey who?)

Here's a report from him on Thursday's appearance by Condoleezza Rice:

It was surreal in court earlier today; stiletto-heeled Rice prancing in within 2 feet of me, as if on the modeling runway, with a Paula Broadwell-type look on her face -- and, at the same time, Bill Harlow sitting down next to me after his testimony explaining how hard he had tried to get Jim Risen to listen to reason and not pursue/publish the story about the botched CIA "Merlin" operation.....and how listening to Rice's request at the White House meeting, NY Times Washington Bureau Chief Jill Abramson felt "out of her pay-grade range," and how her NYT masters (surprise, surprise) bowed to the White House/CIA hyperbole re the dangers of publishing, and agreed to the urgent demand/request of Rice and her boss.  (Pls see my piece yesterday on pitfalls of letting covert action eager beavers loose on the basis of a false major premise i. e., that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon.)

(As for Abramson, for being a good girl, she made it to the very top of NYT as Executive Editor, for services performed -- she was also Washington Bureau Chief when Judith Miller was plying her wares with the likes of Ahmed Chalabi.  But then Jill forgot her place; got too uppity and was unceremoniously dumped by the top men of that "all-the-news-that's-allowed-by-the-White House-to-print" exclusive club of male chauvinist cowards.)

Back to the courtroom:  All at once I find myself wondering what might be the appropriate reaction when an amateur Goebbels (Harlow) sits down next to you; so I wrote a little note to him.  (It did not seem to phase him one bit, so I'm sure he would not mind me sharing it with you):

"Newsweek, Feb 2003, quote from Hussein Kamel's debrief 1995: 'I ordered the destruction of all weapons — biological, chemical, missile, nuclear.'  Harlow: Newsweek story 'incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue.'  4,500 U.S. troops dead.  A consequential lie."

All stand; judge and jury leave; and I'm not sure he has read the note.  I give it to him; he reads it, smiles, "Good to see you Ray!"

Aaaarrrgggh.

Video: RT Covers Jeffrey Sterling Trial

Watch me on RT with @AbbyMartin starting at 21:50. Then sign this: DropTheCharges.org

Hansel and Gretel at the Recruiter

By John LaForge

Military recruiters must feel like Hansel and Gretel’s “wicked witch,” fattening up the children to eat them. With sexual violence, endless wars of occupation, fatalities, brain trauma, permanent disabilities and an epidemic of suicides, what they’re selling these days looks like a lot like a bad horror show.

With the chance of being sent into quagmires in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc. on one hand, the likelihood of being sexually assaulted on the other¾and the specter of suicide among vets of all stripes¾you have to wonder how recruiters get anyone in the door. Newbies must not be reading the papers; all four active-duty services and five out of six reserve components met their recruiting goals in 2014, according to the Pentagon.

Yet a Dept. of Veterans Affairs study released Feb. 1, 2013 found veterans killing themselves at a rate of 22 a day. After interviewing Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, Stars and Stripes made this rosy conflation Dec. 15: “Suicides have not dropped off the radar, despite increased focus on combating sexual assault.” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, told the Washington Post last Nov. 7, “I don’t think we’ve hit the top yet on suicides.”

Among members of the Reserves and National Guard, suicides climbed eight percent between 2012 and 2013. Since 2001, more active-duty US troops have killed themselves than have been killed in Afghanistan, the Washington Post said. Last April, the AP reported that suicides in the Army National Guard and Reserve in 2013 “exceeded the number of active-duty soldiers who took their own lives, according to the Army.”

Stars and Stripes said the suicide rate among Marines and soldiers was particularly high, with those on active-duty suffering about 23 deaths per 100,000 service members in 2013, compared with 12.5 suicides per 100,000 overall in the US public in 2012¾as calculated by the Centers for Disease Control. The suicide rate among sailors also has increased this year, the CDC found.

Even if you never saw combat

An Army study of almost a million soldiers published last March reported not only that suicides among soldiers who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than doubled between 2004 and 2009, but that the rate for those who never spent time in war zones almost tripled over the same five years. While many expected military suicide to decline after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan were cut back, it has not happened, the Washington Post found.

 

Sexual assault still growing

Meanwhile, the “increased focus on combating sexual assault” has been declared a short-term failure. A 1,100-page Pentagon report released Dec. 4 found that reports of sexual assault in the military increased some eight percent in 2014, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), responded to the news saying, “I think this report shows a failure by the chain of command.” Sen. Gillibrand has fought to remove jurisdiction in sexual assault cases from commanding officers.

Spinning the findings as if increased reports of assault were positive, Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel had trouble finding the words. He said, “After last year’s unprecedented 50 percent increase in reports of sexual assault, the rate has continued to go up. That’s actually good news.” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, said the results showed “great progress,” but admitted, “We still have work to do on curbing retaliation against victims.”

The study found 62 percent of female survivors said they’d suffered retaliation, mostly from military colleagues or peers. Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps Captain and director of the Service Women’s Action Network, told the New York Times, “[T]he climate within the military is still a dangerous one for victims of sex crimes.” SWAN.org notes, “A culture of victim-blaming, lack of accountability, and toxic command climates is pervasive throughout the U.S. Armed Forces, preventing survivors from reporting incidents and perpetrators from being properly disciplined.”

One example is the light treatment given Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair last June after he pleaded guilty to maltreatment and adultery. As with most sexual assault cases, Sinclair’s lawyers spent months retaliating, re-victimizing and attacking the credibility of the accuser, an Army captain. Sinclair was sentenced to a rank reduction, full retirement benefits and a $20,000 fine, although he faced a possible life sentence and registration as a sex offender. The captain alleged that Sinclair had threatened to kill her if she disclosed their relationship.

For help regarding sexual harassment or sexual violence in the military, contact Protect Our Defenders at <info@protectourdefenders.com>; the S.W.A.N., at 646-569-5200; or the Veteran’s Crisis Line, at 1-800-273-8255. For help regarding though of self-harm or suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255.

-- John LaForge works for Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, edits its Quarterly newsletter, and is syndicated through PeaceVoice.

Covering Up For an Amateur Excellent Adventure

 

 


‘Justice’ Hidden Behind a Screen

 

 

Editor Note:  Behind a physical (and perhaps metaphorical) screen, the U.S. government is putting on its case to pin ten felony charges on ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for allegedly leaking secrets to a U.S. journalist about a risky and convoluted covert op against Iran.

By Ray McGovern

The federal government claims it is prosecuting former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for leaking information to a journalist about a risky covert operation in which the spy agency funneled flawed nuclear-bomb schematics to Iran. But the opening days of the trial suggest that the government may be using the case more to overcome its reputation for shoddy intelligence work.

Study Finds People Assume War Is Only Last Resort

A scholarly study has found that the U.S. public believes that whenever the U.S. government proposes a war, it has already exhausted all other possibilities. When a sample group was asked if they supported a particular war, and a second group was asked if they supported that particular war after being told that all alternatives were no good, and a third group was asked if they supported that war even though there were good alternatives, the first two groups registered the same level of support, while support for war dropped off significantly in the third group. This led the researchers to the conclusion that if alternatives are not mentioned, people don’t assume they exist — rather, people assume they’ve already been tried.

The evidence is, of course, extensive that the U.S. government, among others, often uses war as a first, second, or third resort, not a last resort. Congress is busily sabotaging diplomacy with Iran, while James Sterling is on trial in Alexandria for exposing a CIA scheme to gin up supposed grounds for a war with Iran. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney once pondered the option of having U.S. troops shoot at U.S. troops dressed up as Iranians. Moments before a White House press conference at which then-President George W. Bush and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed they were trying to avoid war in Iraq, Bush had proposed to Blair that they paint planes with UN colors and fly them low trying to get them shot at. Hussein was willing to walk away with $1 billion. The Taliban was willing to put bin Laden on trial in a third country. Gadaffi didn’t really threaten a slaughter, but Libya’s seen one now. The stories of chemical weapons attacks by Syria, invasions by Russia into Ukraine, and so forth, that fade away when a war fails to begin — these are not efforts to avoid war, to hold war off as a last resort. These are what Eisenhower warned would happen, and what he had already seen happen, when huge financial interests are stacked up behind the need for more wars.

But try telling the U.S. public. The Journal of Conflict Resolution has just published an article titled “Norms, Diplomatic Alternatives, and the Social Psychology of War Support,” by Aaron M. Hoffman, Christopher R. Agnew, Laura E. VanderDrift, and Robert Kulzick. The authors discuss various factors in public support for or opposition to wars, including the prominent place held by the question of “success” — now generally believed to matter more than body counts (meaning U.S. body counts, the massively larger foreign body counts never even coming into consideration in any study I’ve heard of). “Success” is a bizarre factor because of its lack of a hard definition and because by any definition the United States military just doesn’t have successes once it moves beyond destroying things to attempts at occupation, control, and long-term exploitation — er, excuse me, democracy promotion.

The authors’ own research finds that even when “success” is believed likely, even the muddle-headed people holding that belief tend to prefer diplomatic options (unless, of course, they are members of the United States Congress). The journal article offers some recent examples beyond the new research to back up its idea: “In 2002–2003, for instance, 60 percent of Americans believed that a US military victory in Iraq was likely (CNN/Time poll, November 13–14, 2002). Nevertheless, 63 percent of the public said they preferred a diplomatic solution to the crisis over a military one (CBS News poll, January 4–6, 2003).”

But if nobody mentions nonviolent alternatives, people aren’t uninterested in them or dismissive of them or opposed to them. No, in large numbers people actually believe that all diplomatic solutions have already been attempted. What a fantastic fact! Of course, it’s not that shocking given that war supporters habitually claim to be pursuing war as a last resort and to be fighting war reluctantly in the name of peace. But it’s an insane belief to hold if you’re living in the real world in which the State Department has become a minor unpaid intern to the Pentagon master. Diplomacy with some countries, like Iran, has actually been forbidden during periods in in which the U.S. public apparently thought it was being thoroughly pursued. And what in the world would it mean for ALL nonviolent solutions to have been tried? Could one not always think of another? Or try the same one again? Unless a looming emergency like the fictional threat to Benghazi can impose a deadline, the mad rush to war is unjustified by anything rational at all.

The role that the researchers attribute to a belief that diplomacy has already been tried could also be played by a belief that diplomacy is impossible with irrational subhuman monsters like ________ (fill in the government or residents of a targeted nation or region). The difference made by informing someone that alternatives exist would then include in it the transformation of monsters into people capable of speech.

The same transformation might be played by the revelation that, for example, people accused of building nuclear weapons aren’t actually doing so. The authors note that: “average support for the use of force by the U.S. military against Iran between 2003 and 2012 appears to be sensitive to information about the quality of available alternative courses of action. Although the use of force was never sup- ported by a majority of Americans during George W. Bush’s presidency (2001– 2009), it is notable that a significant drop in support for military action against Iran occurs in 2007. At that time, the Bush administration was seen as committed to war with Iran and pursuing diplomatic action half-heartedly. Seymour M. Hersh’s article in The New Yorker (2006) reporting that the administration was devising an aerial bombing campaign of suspected nuclear sites in Iran helped confirm this sense. Yet, a release of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 because of international pressure, undercut the argument for war. As an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney told The Wall Street Journal, the authors of the NIE ‘knew how to pull the rug out from under us’.”

But the lesson learned never seems to be that the government wants war and will lie to get it. “While public support for military operations against Iran declined during the Bush administration, it generally increased during President Barack Obama’s first term (2009–2012). Obama came to office more optimistic than his predecessor about the ability of diplomacy to get Iran to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. [You notice that even these scholars simply assume such pursuit was underway, despite their inclusion of the above NIE in the article.] Obama, for example, opened the door to direct talks with Iran over its nuclear program ‘without preconditions,’ a position George Bush rejected. Nevertheless, the inefficacy of diplomacy during Obama’s first term appears to be associated with gradual acceptance that military action might be the last viable option capable of getting Iran to change course. Paraphrasing former CIA director Michael Hayden, military action against Iran is an increasingly attractive option because ‘no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program’ (Haaretz, July 25, 2010).”

Now how does one keep pushing ahead with something that a foreign government persists in wrongly suspecting or pretending that one is doing? That’s never made clear. The point is that if you declare, Bushlike, that you have no use for diplomacy, people will oppose your war initiative. If, on the other hand, you claim, Obamalike, to be pursuing diplomacy, yet you persist, also Obamalike, in promoting the lies about what the targeted nation is up to, then people will apparently feel that they can support mass murder with a clear conscience.

The lesson for opponents of war seems to be this: point out the alternatives. Name the 86 good ideas you have for what to do about ISIS. Hammer away at what should be done. And some people, though generally accepting of war, will withhold their approval.

*Thanks to Patrick Hiller for letting me know about this article.

Andy Worthington on Guantanamo Panel -Chicago

World Can't Wait is sponsoring the US tour of Andy Worthington, a leading UK-based journalist covering Guantanamo. We are honored to host his speaking engagement here in Chicago at Grace Place, 637 S.Dearborn.   He will be joined on the panel by Candace Gorman, attorney who has represented men held at Guantanamo, and Debra Sweet, national director of The World Can't Wait. 

Ukraine News - Jan 15, 2015

 

UN Security Council demands investigations of bus massacre near Donetsk - TASS


Joint Investigation of Bus Massacre in Ukraine to Begin on Jan. 15, will include representatives from Ukraine, Russia, DPR and OSCE - Sputnik


VIDEO: 'Bus attack leads to launch of joint investigation’: OSCE - YouTube


Bus in Donetsk region hit by rocket fragments: OSCE report - TASS


Moscow says bus shelling in Donbas confirms the need to settle crisis peacefully, warns against use of force in eastern Ukraine - GlobalPost


VIDEO: Full-Length Bus Shelling Video Showing Multiple Launch Rocket System Impacts (Explosions at 52 Sec, Bus at 2:58 Sec) - YouTube


VIDEO: (Eng Subs): Interviews of bus tragedy survivors: We stood at the checkpoint behind other buses before a powerful explosion - YouTube


Bus shelling death toll rises to 13, 12 more people remain in hospital in critical condition - UKRAINE TODAY

 

Making sense of the Volnovakha bus massacre: it appears that a rocket hit the mine field to the right side of the bus triggering a chain reaction (PHOTOS) - Conflict Report

 

The bus in the Volnovakha was blown up by the ukrainian antipersonnel mine (PHOTOS, VIDEO) - Старый солдат

 

Volnovakha bus vs effects of a claymore mine, as the ones placed by Ukraine's army alongside the road (PHOTOS) - rui borges on Twitter

 

Bus with civilians hit at Ukrainian checkpost near Volnovakha by GRAD rockets - Ukraine@war

 

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

‘People Starving’ in Eastern Ukraine as Humanitarian Crisis Unfolds - newsweek.com


Lack of Aid Deepens Suffering in Conflict-Hit East Ukraine - AP


Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Ukraine (links to full report) - CPT


Pro-Russian Forces Enter Donetsk Airport As Ukrainian Military Loses Ground - ibtimes.com


Part of Donetsk airport's new terminal ruined but Ukrainian army still in control: Ukrainian military spokesman - interfax.com


Separatist leader says they opened up a corridor to the Ukrainian military’s withdrawal from the Donetsk airport - TASS


VIDEO: Donetsk sky blasted red as shelling bombards airport area - YouTube

 

VIDEO: Heavy shelling near Donetsk airport kills one - Reuters

 

VIDEO: The shelling around Donetsk Airport impacts on civilian homes of the suburbs - YouTube

 

Has Russia Used Thermobaric Multiple Launch Rocket Systems In Donetsk? - Interpreter_Mag

 

Ukrainian Military Reports Attacks On Southern Front - Interpreter_Mag

 

16 times, Russian drones were recorded over Mariupol today. In the evening, the military opened fire on one with AA guns - Conflict Reporter on Twitter

 

Ukraine parliament asks EU to name Donetsk, Luhansk republics as terrorist organizations - TASS

 

Deputies allied to Ukraine's prime minister demand that the conflict-hit eastern region's shaky ceasefire is replaced with martial law - TASS.

 

Commission for making amendments to Constitution to be set up in Ukraine as steps towards decentralization of power - TASS

 

Mapping Russias army camps INSIDE Ukraine - Ukraine@war

 

Russia to dispatch 12th humanitarian convoy to eastern Ukraine when ready - TASS

 

Moscow Red Cross Sues 17 News Agencies for Defamation Over Aid Convoy Reports - The Moscow Times

 

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

Russia to Shift Ukraine Gas Transit to Turkey as EU Cries Foul - Bloomberg


Gazprom warns EU to link to Turkey pipeline or lose Russian gas - Yahoo News


Turkey failed to agree natural gas price with Gazprom - Anadolu Agency

 

Poland stops reverse-flow supplies of gas to Ukraine - TASS

 

Russia to decide on Ukraine’s $3 bln bond repayment in nearest future: PM - TASS

 

Threat of debt writedowns hovers over Ukraine - The Globe and Mail

 

The New Ukraine: Rogues, Sexpots, Warlords, Lunatics and Oligarchs - New York Observer

 

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

Rally to Protest a 14th year of Guantanamo

We will begin the day's events with a powerful and creative action in front of the Art Institute at 4:30pm (look for the orange jumpsuits) which will be followed by a spirited march, with some in orange jumpsuits and black hoods, to the Federal Courthouse (Dearborn and Jackson). We wil then march to Grace Place for the evening event with Andy Worthington, author of "The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of 744 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison" and other guest speakers.

CIA on Trial in Virginia for Planting Nuke Evidence in Iran

Since Tuesday and continuing for the coming three weeks, an amazing trial is happening in U.S. District Court at 401 Courthouse Square in Alexandria, Va. The trial is open to the public, and among the upcoming witnesses is Condoleezza Rice, but -- unlike the Chelsea Manning trial -- most of the seats at this somewhat similar event are empty.

The media is mostly MIA, and during lunch break the two tables at the cafe across the street are occupied, one by the defendant and his lawyers, the other by a small group of activists, including former CIA officer Ray McGovern, blogger Marcy Wheeler (follow her report of every detail at ExposeFacts.org), and Norman Solomon who has organized a petition at DropTheCharges.org -- the name of which speaks for itself.

Why Gareth Porter (and others who are focused on the decades-long Western effort to frame Iran with having or pursuing nuclear weapons) are not here, I do not know. Why the public is not here, I do not know. Except that Jeffrey Sterling has not been even so much as demonized in the major media.

Jeffrey who?

Some people have heard of James Risen, a New York Times reporter who refused to name his source for a story. Damn right. Good for him. But what was the story and whom did the government want named as a source? Ah. Those questions might seem obvious, but the reporting on James Risen has avoided them like the plague for years and years now. And the independent media is not always as good at creating a story as it is at improving on stories in the corporate press.

Jeffrey Sterling went to Congress with his story. He was a CIA case officer. He is accused of having taken his story to James Risen. The prosecution is quite clearly establishing, against its own interest, during the course of this trial already, that numerous people were in on the story and could have taken it to Risen. If Sterling is to be proved guilty of the non-crime of blowing the whistle on a crime, the prosecution has yet to hint at how that will be done.

But what is the story? What is the crime that Sterling exposed for that tiny sliver of the population that's interested enough to have listened? (Sure, Risen's book was a "best seller" but that's a low hurdle; not a single prospective juror in Alexandria had read the book; even a witness involved in the case testified Wednesday that he'd only read the one relevant chapter.)

The story is this. The CIA drew up plans for a key part of a nuclear bomb (what a CIA officer on Wednesday described in his testimony as "the crown jewels" of a nuclear weapons program), inserted flaws in the plans, and then had a Russian give those flawed plans to Iran.

During the trial on Wednesday morning, the prosecution's witnesses made clear both that aiding Iran in developing a part of a bomb would be illegal under U.S. export control laws, and that they were aware at the time that there was the possibility of what they were doing constituting just such aid.

So, why do it?

And why is this trial going on for hours and hours without the slightest relevance to prosecuting Jeffrey Sterling, sounding for all intents and purposes like a defense of the CIA?

Well, the stated reason for this operation, known as Operation Merlin, was to slow down Iran's nuclear weapons program by causing Iranian scientists to spend time and resources on a doomed plan that would never work.

A very young, very very white jury is hearing the case made thusly. The U.S. government lacked evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program and not long after came out with an assessment that such a program did not exist and had not existed for some time. Nonetheless, years of effort and millions of dollars went into trying to slow the program down by a period of months. The CIA created a design, drawing, and parts list for a Russian nuclear fire set (the nuclear bomb component). They intentionally made it incomplete because supposedly no actual Russian scientist would credibly have complete knowledge of it. Then they told their designated Russian to tell the Iranians that it was incomplete because he wanted money, after which he would gladly produce what he couldn't credibly have.

According to one cable read aloud in court, the CIA would have liked to give Iran the actual device already constructed for them, but didn't because it wouldn't have been credible for their Russian to have it.

Before getting their Russian to spend years (anything shorter would not have been credible, they say) getting in touch with the Iranians, the U.S. scientists spent 9 months building the device from the plans and then proceeded to test it in a lab. Then they introduced multiple "flaws" into the plans and tested each flaw. Then they gave their flawed plans to their own team of scientists who weren't in on their cockamamie scheme. In five months, those scientists spotted and fixed enough of the flaws to build a fire set and get it to work in a lab. This was considered a success, we're told, because the Iranians would take a lot longer than five months, and because getting something to work outside of a lab is much harder.

To their credit, the defense lawyers' cross-examining of witnesses suggests that they find much of this ludicrous. "Have you ever seen a Russian parts list in English?" was one question asked on Wednesday. Another question: "You say you had people experienced in detecting flaws in fire set plans. Is that because there is a market in such things?" The judge sustained an objection to that last question.

The stated motivation for Operation Merlin is patent nonsense that cannot be explained by any level of incompetence or bureaucratic dysfunction or groupthink.

Here's another explanation of both Operation Merlin and of the defensiveness of the prosecution and its witnesses (in particular "Bob S.") at the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling which is thus far failing to prosecute Jeffrey Sterling. This was an effort to plant nuke plans on Iran, part of the pattern described in Gareth Porter's latest book.

Marcy Wheeler reminds me of related efforts to plant English-language nuke plans around the same period of time or not long after. There was the laptop of death, later reprised for another war marketing effort. There were nuke plans and parts buried in a backyard as well.

Why give Iran flawed plans for a key part of a nuclear weapon? Why fantasize about giving Iran the thing already built (which wouldn't delay Iran's non-existent program much). Because then you can point out that Iran has them. And you won't even be lying, as with forged documents claiming Iraq is buying uranium or hired subcontractors pretending aluminum tubes are for nuclear weapons. With Operation Merlin you can work some real dark magic: You can tell the truth about Iran having what you so desperately want Iran to appear to have.

Why go to such efforts? Why do Operation Merlin, whatever the motivation(s) may have been?

Democracy!

Of course.

But when "Bob S." is asked who authorized this madness he doesn't say. He clearly suggests that it initiated within the CIA, but avoids specifics. When Jeffrey Sterling told Congress, Congress didn't tell the public. And when somebody told James Risen, the U.S. government -- so outraged over assaults on freedom of the press in Paris -- started hauling people into court.

And the public doesn't even show up to watch the trial.

Attend this trial, people. Report on it. Report the truth. You'll have no competition. The big media are not in the room.


Ukraine News - Jan 14, 2015

 

Eleven Ukraine civilians, included seven women, killed when rocket hits bus - Yahoo News


VIDEO: 11 Civilians Killed in Bus Grad Attack - LiveLeak.com


VIDEO: Raw video shows the bodies still inside the bus- YouTube


Evidence Strongly Implicates Russian-Backed Separatists In Bus Shelling That Killed 11 Civilians - Interpreter_Mag

 

'Alternative' Theories Have Been Debunked - Interpreter_Mag

 

Did Separatists Boast Of Attack On Checkpoint That Killed 10 Civilians Before Trying To Blame Ukraine? - Interpreter_Mag

 

Separatist leaders say militia did not shell bus because it was "out of the operational range of the artillery of our militia” - RT

 

VIDEO (Russian): Separatist leader Andrey Purgin says militia did not shell the bus - YouTube

 

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

The tower of Donetsk Airport is destroyed, Insurgents issue an ultimatum to Ukrainian force - uatoday.tv


PHOTOS: Donetsk Airport Tower – before and after destruction - UKRAINE TODAY on Twitter 


VIDEO: Shelling lights up night sky over Donetsk airport as fighting intensifies - RT News


VIDEO: A Long Showdown In The Ruins Of The Donetsk Airport - rferl.org


Reports Of Shelling On Southern Front Of The Dontesk Region- Interpreter_Mag

 

Zakharchenko: "If we understand that this conflict can’t be solved peacefully, we will have to solve it by force” -  UNIAN news

 

VIDEO (English): PM of Donetsk Republic Zakharchenko about the actions of the Ukrainian Army - YouTube

 

VIDEO (English) - Press Conference of Ukraine Military Spokesman Lysenko, 13th of January 2015 - - Ukraine Crisis Media Center

 

Highlights from military analyst Dmitry Tymchuk - Ukraine Reporter

 

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

Ukraine Peace Summit Canceled Over Failing Cease-Fire - Reuters


Political Process in Ukraine Requires Dialogue Between Kiev, Donbas: Lavrov - Sputnik International


DPR official: "Kiev is avoiding a direct dialogue with the representatives of Donbas” - TASS


VIDEO (with English transcript): Address of Poroshenko: Mass shooting of people in Paris and Volnovakha are similar events - Censor.NET


VIDEO: Interview of Poroshenko - France 24


Poroshenko asked EU President to declare Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as terrorist organizations - Devin Ackles on Twitter


Poroshenko to submit to Ukrainian parliament bills on mobilization, National Guard this week - interfax.com


Ukraine to mobilize women if necessary: General Staff senior official - focus-fen.net

 

Ukraine to seize cars owned by businessmen for army needs - TASS

 

Russia Warns of Ukrainian Govt. War Mobilization Plans - Prensa Latina News Agency

 

Donetsk republic official says Poroshenko has no control of Ukrainian military forces - TASS

 

Ukrainian battalion commanders: No thanks to Poroshenko's tanks - Fort Russ

 

NATO Warns About Increased Fighting, And Russian Aggression, In Ukraine - Interpreter_Mag

 

USS Donald Cook Conducts Underway Engagement with Ukrainian Navy - U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet

 

How to identify Russian tanks in Ukraine - Ukraine@war

 

Russian special forces in Luhansk: so called insurgents armed with AS Val assault rifles - the weapon used by the Russian Federation Army only (VIDEO) - Censor.NET

 

Russia to Reinforce Military Groupings in Crimea, Kaliningrad, Arctic - Sputnik International

 

Russian Radars Started Active Combat Duty in 2014 - bellingcat

 

Russia Could Revise Commitment to START Due to 'Unfriendly' US Actions - Sputnik International

 

Interpol puts Ukraine's Yanukovich, two allies, on wanted list - Reuters

 

VIDEO: Russian state media says Yanukovych will not be extradited - uatoday.tv

 

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

World Bank downgrades Ukraine's economic outlook for 2015 - China.org.cn


Foreign currency reserves in Ukraine plunge 63 percent in 2014 - Reuters


Ukraine Eurobonds Drop as Goldman Sees More Than 70% Haircut - Bloomberg


U.S. to back $2 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine - Reuters

 

Statement of U.S. Treasury Department on Additional Economic Assistance to Ukraine - treasury.gov

 

Ukraine’s Effort to Cut Russian-Gas Reliance Sees Explorers Exit - Bloomberg

 

Energy minister: Ukraine imports about 70,000 tonnes of coal from Russia in 11 days of 2015 - kyivpost.com

 

Hungarian Imports of Russian Diesel Fuel Via Ukraine Disrupted - WSJ

 

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

Talk Nation Radio: Alice Slater on Nuclear Abolition, Nuclear Peril

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-alice-slater-on-nuclear-abolition-nuclear-peril

Alice Slater is New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Coordinating Committee of Abolition 2000 and on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War. Her blog is at http://globalhousework.org She discusses the growing movement to abolish nuclear weapons, the nations that are developing nuclear energy in order to be close to having the weapons, the offer that North Korea has made to the United States, and the history of resentments -- and the ignorance of that history -- that are leading toward potential nuclear conflict and apocalypse.

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

Mass killing in the name of God

By International Peace Bureau

Geneva, January 13, 2015 — IPB shares the worldwide outrage at the hideous murders of journalists and artists working at Charlie Hebdo, and the other victims of last week’s violence. We mourn with their families, friends, colleagues and French society as a whole, as well as with individuals and organisations everywhere who reject the idea of killing in the name of a religion or indeed any other ideology or cause. Equally, we extend our solidarity to those in Nigeria who have lost up to 2000 civilians during these same days, massacred by Boko Haram.

It is time to forcefully confront violent extremism and fundamentalism wherever it manifests itself. It is also time to stop pointing at “the others” and to confront the extremism in our own backyard, whether it stems from our own beliefs or attitudes or is manifested by other groups in our neighbourhood. In this context it is important to find a way to set aside religious or para-religious texts that make ‘infidels’ or ‘blasphemers’ a justified target.

An even deeper challenge is to strengthen our work to overcome the division in the world between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Analyses show that social injustice and inequality are not only ills in themselves, but also hamper development and give rise to violence and armed conflict.

The present confrontation between radical elements in the Muslim world and the more secular West plays into the hands of militant minorities on both sides. Furthermore, it benefits those who seize the opportunity to call for more spending on the military and more aggressive and interventionist policies. There is also a serious danger that states will use current events to increase their surveillance of all activists and citizens, not only those who present a terrorist risk.  Acknowledging the equality and interdependence of all people in our globalized world should help open the eyes to the need for dialogue, mutual respect and understanding.

There is another dimension that is receiving much less coverage in mainstream media. The major western powers are in many ways themselves responsible for the growth in Islamist militancy, on account of:

  • the long history of colonial domination of the Middle East and the Muslim world generally, including support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands;
  • the role of the US in arming and funding the Afghan mujahideen against the USSR - who then became key figures in the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and are now operating in Syria and elsewhere.
  • the devastating ‘war on terror’ which has caused enormous death and suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and around the Islamic world; and which is at the same time imposing draconian restrictions on human rights and freedoms, notably in the area of international migration.
  • the persistent tendency – especially in sections of the mass media - to demonise the whole Islamic world, to suggest that all Muslims are a threat to democratic values.

These factors have drastically polarised relations between Muslims and the West, and the Paris attacks are only the latest in a long line of killings on all sides. They can be seen as part of the unequal struggle of the poor against the rich, a reaction to drones and discrimination, arrogance and poverty. With every NATO war or hate-filled outburst from the far right, and with even deeper social crises to come, there will be more attacks. This is the brutal reality of capitalism, racism and war.

Peace and justice movements have said all this many times since 9-11 and the big powers do not want to hear it. Now they feel it, and they suffer it. We can overcome these challenges only with the politics of peacemaking: disarmament, reconciliation, education for peace, and genuine moves towards a just and sustainable world. This is the vision for which we must, and will, continue to work.

Pity Petraeus; Skewer Sterling

 

 


Crime and CIA Embarrassments

 

 

Editor Note: Ex-CIA official Jeffrey Sterling is going on trial for espionage because he allegedly told a reporter about a botched covert op that sent flawed nuclear designs to Iran, but powerful people want to spare ex-CIA Director David Petraeus indictment for leaking secrets to a mistress.

By Ray McGovern

South African Civil Rights Leader Calls Israeli Apartheid of Palestinians Much More Violent than South African Government Treatment of Blacks

By Ann Wright

Reverend Dr. Allan Boesak, a South African civil rights leader who worked with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela to end apartheid and promote reconciliation in South Africa, calls the Israeli treatment of Palestinians “much more violent than the South African government treatment of blacks.”

In a discussion at the Harris Methodist Church on January 11, 2015 with social justice leaders in the Honolulu, Hawaii community, Dr. Boesak said that  black South Africans faced violence from the apartheid white government and that he went to funerals each week of those killed in the struggle, but never on the scale that the Palestinians face from the Israeli government.  The South African government killing of blacks was small compared to numbers of Palestinians the Israeli government has killed.

405 black South Africans were killed by the South African government from 1960-1994 in eight major incidents.  The largest number of blacks killed in specific incidents were 176 in Soweto in 1976 and 69 in Sharpeville in 1960.

In contrast, from 2000-2014, the Israeli government killed 9126 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. In Gaza alone, 1400 Palestinians were killed in 22 days in 2008-2009, 160 killed in 5 days in 2012 and 2200 killed in 50 days in 2014. 1,195 Israelis were killed from 2000 through 2014.   http://www.ifamericansknew.org/stat/deaths.html

In the face of overwhelming violence, Dr. Boesak commented that it is human nature that a violence response by some is inevitable, but that it is incredible that the response of the majority of Palestinians is non-violent.

In 1983, Boesak launched the United Democratic Front (UDF), a movement of over 700 civic, student, worker, and religious organizations that became the first non-racial movement and the main force behind the anti-apartheid activities in the South Africa during the decisive decade of the 1980s. Together with Archbishop Tutu, Dr. Frank Chikane, and Dr. Beyers Naude, he campaigned internationally for sanctions against the South African apartheid regime and in the final campaign for financial sanctions during 1988-89.
 
In the 1990s Dr. Boesak joined the unbanned African National Congress, served on its first team to the Convention for Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiations preparing for the first free elections in South Africa, and was elected its first leader in the Western Cape. After the 1994 elections, he became the first Minister of Economic Affairs in the Western Cape and later in 1994 was appointed South African Ambassador to the UN in Geneva.

Dr. Boesak currently is the Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Global Justice, and Reconciliation Studies at Christian Theological Seminary and Butler University, both located in Indianapolis, Indiana.

On other aspects of the apartheid struggle, Dr. Boesak said that in South Africa the government did not create whites only roads, did not erect huge walls to keep blacks physically in specific areas and did not allow and protect whites to take lands from blacks and settle on those lands.

According to Boesak, international solidarity through boycott of South African goods and divestment from South African companies kept the anti-apartheid movement energized.  Knowing that organizations around the world were forcing universities to divest from South African investments and that millions of people were boycotting South African products gave them hope during the difficult struggle.  He said that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid is small compared to the level reached in the 1980s against South African apartheid and encouraged organizations to take up boycott and divestment stances, such as the Presbyterian Church in the United States did in 2014 by divesting from Israeli companies.

In a 2011 interview, Boesak said that he strongly supports economic sanctions on the state of Israel. He said, “Pressure, pressure, pressure from every side and in as many ways as possible: trade sanctions, economic sanctions, financial sanctions, banking sanctions, sports sanctions, cultural sanctions; I'm talking from our own experience. In the beginning we had very broad sanctions and only late in the 1980s did we learn to have targeted sanctions. So you must look to see where the Israelis are most vulnerable; where is the strongest link to the outside community? And you must have strong international solidarity; that's the only way it will work. You have to remember that for years and years and years when we built up the sanctions campaign it was not with governments in the West. They came on board very, very late.”

Boesak added, “It was the Indian government and in Europe just Sweden and Denmark to begin with and that was it. Later on, by 1985-86, we could get American support. We never could get Margaret Thatcher on board, never Britain, never Germany, but in Germany the people who made a difference were the women who started boycotting South African goods in their supermarkets. That's how we built it up. Never despise the day of small beginnings. It was down to civil society. But civil society in the international community could only build up because there was such a strong voice from within and that is now the responsibility of the Palestinians, to keep up that voice and to be as strong and as clear as they possibly can. Think up the arguments, think through the logic of it all but don't forget the passion because this is for your country.”

Boesak called the U.S. government protection of the Israeli government’s actions the single most important reason why apartheid Israel exists.  Without the support of the U.S. government in United Nations votes and in provision of military equipment to use on Palestinians, Boesak said the Israeli government would not be able to act with impunity.

Santa Cruz Tells Militarized Police to GIVE BACK THE BEARCAT

GIVE BACK THE BEARCAT RALLY
Santa Cruz community members call of the City Council to return the Armored Military Vehicle and make the grant process transparent.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2015
Santa Cruz City Council, 809 Center Street, Santa Cruz

Concerned community members will hold a  rally to stop the increased militarization of the police force and growing threats to the civil
liberties of all who make Santa Cruz their home. A coalition of community groups are asking that the BearCat grant be returned to Homeland Security and that police and other agencies notify the council and the public before applying for grants using a law modeled on the ACLU's Surveillance and Community Safety Ordinance.

Santa Cruz City Council  rushed a vote to except a $251,293.00 Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck or BearCat on December 9, 2014. This follows the acceptance of grants for License Plate Reading Cameras, also rushed without public input. The council is also passing a number of laws criminalizing the poor including this Tuesday's vote on the expansion of a stay-away order for minor infractions at city parks and beaches.

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