As President Obama's date for commencing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan approaches, the question becomes will the U.S. once again abandon the Afghan people to their fate. In the aftermath of the Mujaheddin's successful routing of the Soviets in the Nineties, the culmination of Zbigniew Brzezinski's desire to give the Russians "their own Vietnam," a tragedy ensued in which over 2 million Afghans starved or froze to death in the following years, as rival factions fought for power with the majority of the population, as always, caught in the middle. With the economic infrastructure in ruins, there was nothing to build upon, and war became the primary business, with the ability to control a piece of the opium trade a major prize.
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My local newspaper in central Maine outdid itself today in shameless catering to the all powerful military industrial complex, fielding an Op-Ed piece titled "Navy's needs have priority over more local issues."
Apparently General Dynamics doing business as Bath Iron Works, the largest employer in my state, fell behind in the construction schedule of the latest nuclear capable Aegis destroyer ship. Now the Navy wants to launch the destroyer asap.
What's the rush? Profits need to start gushing into campaign coffers as election season approaches? Because of the need to dredge the river in order to get the ship from the port of Bath, Maine to the coast, local people are upset about the environmental harm to the river. Dredging prior to launching a large ship is apparently done in winter most of the time, when many of the living organisms are dormant.
In Saakashvili's Georgia, the Bloom Is Off the Rose - by Stephen Lendman
Since May 21, anti-goverment protests rocked Georgia. Organized by an alliance of opposition parties, they erupted initially in September 2007 for early elections and democratic change, as well as ending corruption and police state terror. More on current protests below.
In 2003, Georgia's bloodless "Rose Revolution" replaced Edouard Shevardnadze with Mikhail Saakashvili, a totalitarian US-installed puppet with ties to other NATO countries and Israel.
Shevardnadze became a liability when he began dealing with Russia on energy pipelines and privatizations. Funded by the State Department, US intelligence, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), George Soros, and Freedom House, efforts to replace him played out as follows.
Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to speak at the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College in Minneapolis this Friday, May 27. Many of us with concerns about the state of justice are glad to have the opportunity to attend his Town Hall and ask him some questions:
Since when are torture, warrantless monitoring, indefinite detention and targeted assassinations legal? Why does Holder’s DOJ repeatedly file motions claiming “state secrecy” prevents any hearing, even for well-established cases of US torture? Why did Holder’s DOJ overrule its own Office of Professional Responsibility who decided ethics action should be taken against lawyers who wrote memos that provided cover for torturers?
The White House has put out a statement expressing its disapproval of various bits of H.R.1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. Here's the most interesting, if not the most adamant, objection:
"Detainee Matters: The Administration strongly objects to section 1034 which, in purporting to affirm the conflict, would effectively recharacterize its scope and would risk creating confusion regarding applicable standards. At a minimum, this is an issue that merits more extensive consideration before possible inclusion."
And here's Section 1034:
"Congress affirms that--
(1) the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad;
By John Grant
John Fleming is a 58-year-old African American born and raised in Philadelphia who served in the Army from 1969 to 1972 maintaining nuclear weapons in silos in Germany.
It was 10:45 AM on Friday outside Courtroom 1006 in Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center. Fleming had been “caught with an illegal substance” and he was there for Veterans Court. Instead of taking his chances in the regular court system in Philadelphia, he had volunteered to participate in Philadelphia’s Veterans Court.
He was pacing in the hall. He had been told to be there at 10 AM for court that would not begin until 11 AM. Earlier there had been some kind of misunderstanding and he had to come back. He was impatient.
Spanish Voters Reject Austerity - by Stephen Lendman
Since mid-May, Spain's M-15 movement began protesting for "Real Democracy Now," drawing large numbers of students, activists, unemployed workers, and other "los indignados" (the outraged ones) on streets throughout the country, defying a ban ahead of May 22 municipal and regional elections.
Tens of thousands said "No nos moveran" (We shall not be moved), opposing government imposed austerity to repay bankers at their expense.
Experiencing its worse economic crisis in decades, official figures show around 45% of Spanish youths unemployed, a crisis affecting all workers facing worsening, not improving conditions, some of the worst in Europe.
Obama Genuflects to AIPAC - by Stephen Lendman
Edward Said once called AIPAC "the most powerful and feared lobby in Washington." For years, it's "drawn on a well-organized, well-connected, highly visible, successful, and wealthy Jewish population," subverting potential opposition.
As a result, fear and respect "for AIPAC (exists) all over the country, but especially in Washington, where in a matter of hours, almost the entire Senate can be marshaled into signing a letter to the president on Israel's behalf. Who is going to oppose AIPAC and continue to have a career in Congress, or" to represent the Palestinian cause "when nothing concrete can be offered by that cause to anyone who stands up to AIPAC?"
Deferentially, each year, US politicians, including presidents, flock to its annual conference, paying homage to Israel and its influence.
The "Defense Authorization" bill now before Congress, HR
1750 1540, is arguably the worst bill ever considered likely to pass into law. It includes $118 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars a majority of Americans wants ended. But that's not why it's the worst bill ever.
This bill also includes $553 billion for other military waste. That's enough money to save and improve a lot of lives if it weren't being dumped into the war machine. But that's not why this is the worst bill ever.
The bill limits the President’s ability to implement the New START agreement unless there is full funding for the nuclear weapons complex, bars the retirement of nuclear weapons until two new nuclear facilities are completed, and bars further nuclear weapons reductions below New START levels unless approved by Congress. But that's not why this is the worst bill ever.
The bill invests heavily in a National Missile "Defense" system based in California and Alaska.
This bill revives a second engine for the F-35 that the Pentagon has no use for.
This bill bars any transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo.
But none of that is why this is the worst bill ever.
This is the worst bill ever because it gives presidents the power to single-handedly launch wars and to lock people up without trial.
This legislation, Section 1034 of the worst bill ever, undoes the limitations on one-man rule put in place by the U.S. Constitution over two centuries ago. This is the biggest formal shift of power in our government since we've had a government.
We have military operations now in some 75 countries, and a significant war in Libya, all illegal under the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Act. But the worst bill ever will erase the War Powers Act, and the Constitution will simply be ignored.
Meanwhile the significant withdrawal that President Obama promised to begin in Afghanistan has been scaled back to a withdrawal of 2.5 percent of U.S. forces
Call Congress today and tell your Representative and your two Senators:
Enough is enough!
End the wars!
Bring the troops home!
Convert the economy to peace!
And do not pass the worst bill ever!
Call toll-free 1-888-231-9276.
BY NOBEL PRIZE WINNER ADOLFO PEREZ ESQUIVEL, BUENOS AIRES, MAY 5, 2011:
FROM NOBEL TO NOBEL
In addressing you I do it fraternally and, at the same time, to express my concern and indignation after witnessing the destruction and death caused in several nations in the name of “freedom and democracy”, two words that have been twisted and stripped of meaning, and how you end up justifying murder, which was cheered up as if you were talking about a sports event.
My indignation refers to the big celebration of this assassination by North American social sectors, chiefs of state in Europe and other countries…a murder ordered by your administration and the satisfaction in your smiling face while stating that it was “in the name of justice”.
Movements for justice have historically been driven by a small percentage of any population. One percent of Americans nonviolently occupying Washington, D.C., could make Cairo and Madison and Madrid look like warm-up acts. It is certainly true that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens is the only thing that ever has changed the world for the better.
So, what happens if a society picks out a significant slice of its population, one including many thoughtful and committed citizens, and drugs them?
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) held a first-time, one-day, little publicized event last September that allowed people to turn in their extra prescription drugs. The DEA reports collecting 242,000 pounds or 121 tons. A second such day was held in April with 376,593 pounds or 188 tons of pills collected. This is the stuff nobody wants and is willing to hand in to the government. This is not the amount that's out in circulation. That amount is no doubt in proportion to the roaring flood of television ads for the stuff. "More Americans currently abuse prescription drugs," says the DEA, "than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined. . . . [I]ndividuals that abuse prescription drugs often obtained them from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet." And that's just the users said to be abusing.
By Ron Ridenour
Forty-seven governments on the Untied Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) will discuss and decide, beginning at its May 30th session, what to do about an unusually candid and truthful report in the world of international politics.
The Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka was delivered to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 31 concerning both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the last phases of the 26-year old civil war that ended May 19, 2009, and the consequences for approximately 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and, by extension, for the 2.7 million Sri Lankan Tamils, who were the losers in the war. Some 13% of the Sri Lanka’s 21 million people are Tamil.
The last ten years have witnessed an assault on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans, led largely by the FBI. Appointed mere days before the 9/11 attacks, Director Robert S. Mueller III has guided the bureau through the resurrection of many long discredited practices from its COINTELPRO era. Yet, the Obama administration has proposed extending Mueller's term as FBI director. Congress should reject the proposal and insist on a nominee from outside the bureau to restore accountability, law and order.
PITTSBURGH (NEWSRADIO 1020 KDKA) — KDKA Radio’s Chris Moore spoke with David Swanson about his views on what war really is.
Swanson is the author of “War is a Lie” and expresses his views on how wars really could have been avoided.
Alleged Obama - Netanyahu Rift - by Stephen Lendman
After Obama's May 18 speech called for establishing a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, world headlines suggested a rift with Netanyahu, misinterpreting what he meant. More on that below.
On May 17, in fact, New York Times writers Mark Landler and Helene Cooper headlined, "As Uprisings Transform Mideast, Obama Aims to Reshape the Peace Debate," saying:
Ahead of his speech, White House press secretary Jay Carney said he'd offer "some specific new ideas about US policy toward the region."
Unidentified officials also suggested he might endorse a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. Doing so, however, would represent "less of a policy shift than a signal" that Washington wants Israel to make concessions to restart peace talks - a gesture, whether or not substantive with teeth.
On May 17, after meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah, Obama said:
Extending Key Patriot Act Provisions - by Stephen Lendman
On October 13, 2001 New York Times writers Robin Toner and Neil Lewis headlined, "A NATION CHALLENGED: CONGRESS; House Passes Terrorism Bill Much Like Senate's, but With 5-Year Limit," saying:
The House gave "the government broad new powers for the wiretapping, surveillance and investigation of terrorism suspects. But in recognition of many lawmakers' fears of the potential for government overreaching and abuse, the House also included a five-year limit after which many of those powers would expire."
On October 26, George Bush signed it into law, prompting Center for Constitutional Rights senior litigation attorney Nancy Chang to ask, "What's So Patriotic About Trampling on the Bill of Rights?" saying:
Everything done by prince and company is Done In Our Names!!
2011-05-22 - Remember Blackwater USA, the private military group, which worked as contractors for the U.S. State Department? Since June 2004, it has been paid more than $320 million out of a $1 billion, five-year State Department budget for the Worldwide Personal Protective Service, which protects U.S. officials and some foreign officials in conflict zones.
Killings, Detentions and Torture in Egypt - by Stephen Lendman
On February 9, London Guardian writer Chris McGreal headlined, "Egypt's army 'involved in detentions and torture,' " saying:
Military forces "secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass (anti-Mubarak) protests began, (and) at least some of these detainees have been tortured, according to testimony gathered by the Guardian."
Moreover, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other human rights organizations cited years of army involvement in disappearances and torture. Former detainees confirmed "extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organized campaign of intimidation." Electric shocks, Taser guns, threatened rapes, beatings, disappearances, and killings left families grieving for loved ones.
Rupert Murdoch, who got his start in business marketing rats and manure, has chosen to deny Italy access to a television network that has presented critical coverage of both Murdoch and of leading Italian media baron and prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. The network, Current TV, is the project of a man identified in Italy primarily as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Al Gore.
Mixed Reactions to Obama's Middle East Speech - by Stephen Lendman
Perhaps one way to view Obama's speech is saying you can please all the people some of the time, some of them all the time, but not all of them all the time. World reactions were indeed mixed, though policies, not posturing, are key.
Obama's, in fact, have no ambiguity, including imperial wars and rock-solid support for Israel. However, not everyone believes it, including the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest American one, founded in 1897.
On May 19, its press release headlined, "ZOA: AIPAC Should Rescind Invitation for Obama to Speak," saying:
by Walter Brasch
The latest garbage spewing hate as it circles the Internet in a viral state of panic continues a three year smear against Barack Obama.
The attacks had begun with the extreme right wing spitting out Obama's full name—Barack HUSSEIN Obama, as if somehow he wasn't an American but connected to the Iraqi dictator who, despite the Bush Administration's best efforts, had no connections to 9/11.
When the right-wingers and Tea Party Pack get tired of their "cutesy" attempts to link Obama to militant Muslims, they launch half-truths and lies to claim he wasn't born in the United States. Like Jaws, Jason, or Freddy Krueger, "birther" propaganda keeps returning, even when independent state officials and analysts proved the claims false.
On The Chopping Block: Federal Worker Pensions - by Stephen Lendman
Bipartisan support endorses ending vital social benefits incrementally, principally Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, healthcare for those who can't afford it, and public pensions.
Notably, deep Medicare cuts were made. Much more is planned, including slashing Medicaid. Now federal pensions are being targeted. Civilian federal employees receive benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), consisting of three components:
-- a FERS annuity defined benefit plan;
-- mandatory Social Security participation; however most Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employees aren't part of Social Security unless they qualify separately from additional private sector employment; and
-- the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a 401(k) type defined contribution plan.
Obama's Middle East Hypocrisy - by Stephen Lendman
Since taking office in January 2009, Obama broke every major campaign promise, including relevant ones to his May 19 Middle East speech; namely:
-- democratic values;
-- closing Guantanamo in one year;
-- ending torture, illegal spying, and detention without trial;
-- "a new era of openness;"
-- willingness to meet individually with Iranian, Syrian, Venezuelan, Cuban, and North Korean leaders;
-- supporting Israeli and Palestinian efforts to "fulfill their national goals: two states living side by side in peace and security;" and
-- on Afghanistan saying (October 27, 2007): "I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this (and the Iraq) war(s). You can take that to the bank," and by implication not begin new ones.
BROOKLYN HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS RALLY AGAINST THE AFGHAN WAR -- PROVE THERE CAN BE A YOUTH PEACE MOVEMENT
The day was downcast, but the wonderful high school seniors from Brooklyn Collaborative School standing in the rain on Fifth Avenue were not. You could say they were upcast. They were living proof that daring and principled teachers could raise their students' consciousness about the material and political costs of our current wars and integrate them into the anti-war movement.
It was the morning of May 18. About 8 or 9 kids, all Latino and African American, had joined the Grandmothers Against the War weekly vigil at Rockefeller Plaza. Their Social Economics teacher, Stephen Simons, thought it would make a good field trip to supplement their class discussions regarding the question: was the Iraq war a just one?
Obama, Tell Netanyahu – Don’t Mess With Flotilla to Gaza
Ed. Note: The U.S. boat, “The Audacity of Hope,” will depart for Gaza next month with 50 on board, including Ray McGovern, who wrote this open letter to President Barack Obama after watching his speech Thursday on the Middle East. Speaking for passengers and crew, McGovern asks the President to serve notice on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday that Obama will hold him accountable for ensuring safe passage.
May 19, 2011
Dear Mr. President:
Your speech on the Middle East earlier today emboldens me to claim your protection as we set out to put flesh on your rhetoric. Fifty of your fellow citizens will be sailing on “The Audacity of Hope” to Gaza in June.