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Rot In the Big Apple: Bashing Critics of Brutality Betrays Efforts to Reform Police

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Last fall an apparently unbalanced survivalist steeped in anti-government paranoia murdered a Pennsylvania State Trooper and seriously wounded another Trooper during a sniper attack. Recently an apparently unbalanced man with a criminal past murdered two New York City policemen as they sat in their patrol car hours after he allegedly shot a former girl friend.

The predictable start of vigilantism: Reverse Course on Police Militarization or Reap the Whirlwind

By Dave Lindorff

 

Let me make it clear from the outset of this article: I’m against violence and killing, and I’m certainly no advocate of killing police officers.

Obama’s Trojan Horse: US Recognition of Cuba after 54 Years of Hostility and War Does't Mean an End to US Subversion

Obama’s Trojan Horse:

 

US Recognition of Cuba after 54 Years of Hostility and War Does't Mean an End to US  Subversion

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

A Hollywood Hack Holiday: Ending Torture One Dick At a Time

By John Grant


CAUTION! To paraphrase Bill O’Reilly, you are now entering a no-censor zone that discusses obscene activity.
 

The Christmas movie from Sony Pictures I want to see is Seth Rogan and James Franco rectally feeding Dick Cheney at the climax of a movie sequel called The Enhanced Interview: Saving the Homeland One Dick At a Time.


Making a joke of the Supreme Court: Justice Antonin Scalia is a Publicity-Seeking Intellectual Midget

By Dave Lindorff


Sometimes you really don't need to write much to do an article on something. Writing about the inanity of Justice Antonin Scalia, the ethics-challenged, lard-bottomed, right-wing anchor of the Supreme Court, is one of those times.

The US Must Prosecute Torturers and their Enablers, or Forever Be a Labeled a Rogue Nation

By Dave Lindorff

            In all the media debate about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release, finally, of a heavily redacted report on officially sanctioned torture by the CIA and the US military during the Bush/Cheney administration and the so-called War on Terror, there has been little said about the reality that torture, as clearly defined in the Geneva Convention against Torture which went into effect in 1987, is flat-out illegal in the US as a signatory of that Convention.

Elizabeth Warren Could Use Some Elizabeth Peacen

Why people want to become fans of a senator rather than pushing senators to serve the public is beyond me.

Why people want to distract and drain away two years of activism, with the planet in such peril, fantasizing about electing a messiah is beyond me.

And when people who've chosen as their messiah someone who isn't even running for the office they're obsessed with, respond to criticism with "Well, who else is there?" -- that makes zero sense. They've made the list and could make it differently.

But here's what's really crazy about talking to Elizabeth-Warren-For-Presidenters. If you complain that she hasn't noticed the military budget yet, they tell you that doing so would cost her the election. And when you reject that contention, they tell you that wars are just one little issue among a great many.

Now, when Congress was cooking up a Grand Bargain to solve the debt "crisis," people who were polled almost universally rejected any of the acceptable solutions under consideration, such as smashing Social Security. Instead, they said they wanted the rich taxed and the military cut. When pollsters at the University of Maryland show people the federal budget, a strong majority wants big cuts to the military. This is nothing new. People favor cutting war spending. People who elected Obama believed (falsely) that he intended to cut the military.

A different and more substantiated argument would be that turning against military spending would cost Warren the support of wealthy funders and the tolerance of media gatekeepers. But that does not seem to be the argument that Warren-For-Presidenters make.

It's the "just one issue among many" thing that's truly nuts. Look at this:

One little item makes up over half the discretionary budget, the things a Senator votes to spend money on or not spend money on. Does Warren think this massive investment in war preparation is too much, too little, or just the right amount? Who the hell knows? Can anyone even be found who cares?

The cost of one weapons system that doesn't work could provide every homeless person with a large house.

A tiny fraction of military spending could end starvation at home and abroad.

The Great Student Loan Struggle takes place in the shadow of military spending unseen in countries that simply make college free, countries that don't tax more than the United States, countries that just don't do wars the way the U.S. does. You can find lots of other little differences between those countries and the U.S. but none of them on the unfathomable scale of military spending or even remotely close to it.

Financially, war is what the U.S. government does. Everything else is a side show.

In the typical U.S. Congressional election, the military budget is never mentioned by any candidate or commentator. But surely it's fair to ask Senator Warren, with her great interest in financial questions and economic justice, whether she knows the military budget exists and what she thinks of it.

As far as I know, nobody has asked her. When asked about Israel bombing families, she literally ran away. When asked again, she gave her support to the mass killing.

When a candidate is never asked about a subject, most people simply imagine the candidate shares their own view. This is why it's important to ask.

Of course, many people actually think that war is only one little issue among many others and that, for example, funding schools is totally unrelated to dumping over half the budget into a criminal enterprise. To them I say, please look carefully at the graphic above.

I’ve had it!: Eleven Reasons I’m Ashamed to be an American Citizen

By Dave Lindorff

 

I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good. 

 

I’ve had it!: Eleven Reasons I’m Ashamed to be an American Citizen

By Dave Lindorff

 

I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good. 

 

Three Rotten Cases and Counting: Is the Police Reform Movement Getting Legs?

By John Grant


How and why certain events in politics and culture coalesce into a critical mass is always an interesting thing to ponder. Sometimes it can happen when all hope has been lost.

No more grand juries: Coercive 13th Century Relics, They Serve the Political Interests of DAs, not Justice

By Dave Lindorff

 

         In case people didn’t get it earlier, it’s time to recognize that the ancient institution of the grand jury has outlived its usefulness, and should be eliminated, as its only real purpose today is to give prosecutors political cover and an added cudgel with which to  intimidate witnesses.

 

What you need to know about terrorism and its causes: a graphic account


John Rees says it's the 'war on terror' that produces terrorism and the government exaggerates the threat and demonises UK Muslims to win acceptance for its war policies.

Car bomb attack in Baghdad

Car bomb attack in Baghdad October 7, 2013.


The UK government's ‘Counter-terrorism awareness week’ has just ended. A raft of new laws said to protect us from terror attacks have been announced and institutions and individuals have been encouraged to report to the police any person they think may be involved in terrorism.

This is only the latest round of such measures, part of an ongoing attempt to dragoon the population into seeing the world the government’s way.

There is however one central problem. The government story doesn’t fit the facts. Here’s why:

Fact 1: What causes terrorism? It's foreign policy, stupid

Figure 1: People Killed by Terrorists Worldwide

Figure 1: People Killed by Terrorists Worldwide

What this graph shows (Fig. 1) is the escalation of terror worldwide in the wake of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003. As Dame Eliza Manningham Buller, the former head of MI5, told the Iraq inquiry, the security services warned Tony Blair launching the war on terror would increase the threat of terrorism. And it has. The threat of terrorism cannot be eradicated until its fundamental causes are removed. No legal crackdown can remove historic drivers of terrorism on the scale of the crisis in the Middle East. Only a change of policy can do that.

Fact 2: Most terrorism doesn’t happen in the West

Figure 2: World risk map

Figure 2: World risk map

The people most at risk of terrorism are not in the West but often in the areas where the West fights its wars and proxy wars. North America and nearly all of Europe are at low risk (Fig. 2). Only France, a country with a long and colonial past (and one of the most active in and vocal about current conflicts) is at medium risk. Six of the countries most at risk - Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen - are the sites of Western wars, drone wars or proxy wars.

Fact 3: The 'war on terror' kills far more people than terrorism

The cure is more deadly than the disease. A moment’s thought will tell us why. Deploying Western military firepower, the most technologically sophisticated and destructive in the world, is always going to end up killing more civilians than a suicide bomber with a back pack - or even the 9/11 bombers in hijacked planes.

As this pie chart shows (Fig 3), the civilian deaths in Afghanistan alone are far greater than those caused by the 9/11 attacks. And if we add the civilian deaths caused by the war in Iraq and the terrorism it spawned during the occupation then the enterprise must rank as one of the most counterproductive in military history.

Figure 3: Casualties from the war on terror and invasion of Iraq

Figure 3: Casualties from the war on terror and invasion of Iraq

Fact 4: The real extent of the terrorist threat

Terrorist attacks are often ineffective, especially when carried out by ‘lone wolf’ extremists rather than military organisations like the IRA. Over half of terror attacks cause no fatalities. Even if we look at the period in which the IRA was involved in bombing and at the global picture (Fig. 4) most terror attacks did not kill anyone. This is not to minimise the loss of life that does take place. But it is to put it in perspective.

It is now nearly ten years since the 7/7 bus bombing in London. In that decade there has been one additional killing in the UK as a result of ‘Islamic’ terrorism, that of drummer Lee Rigby. That brings the 10 year death toll to 57 people. Last year alone the number of people killed in ‘normal’ murders in the UK numbered 500. And that was one of the lowest figures for decades.

There is of course no comparison between the level of the IRA campaign and today’s ‘Islamic extremism’. The IRA, after all, blew up a senior Tory inside the Houses of Parliament, killed a member of the Royal family in his yacht off the coast of Ireland, blew up the hotel in which the Cabinet were staying for the Tory party conference and fired a mortar into the back garden of 10 Downing Street. And that is to mention only a few of the more spectacular attacks.

Even in the period since 2000 there have been more actual (as opposed to planned) attacks by the Real IRA and Islamophobe Ukrainian student Pavlo Lapshyn, who conducted a murder and a series of attacks on mosques in the West Midlands, than there have been by ‘Islamic’ extremists.

Figure 4: Total fatalities per terrorist attack

Figure 4: Total fatalities per terrorist attack

But don’t take my word for it. Read what Foreign Policy, the house journal of the US diplomatic elite, had to say in a 2010 an article called ‘It’s the Occupation, stupid!’:

‘Each month, there are more suicide terrorists trying to kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Muslim countries than in all the years before 2001 combined. From 1980 to 2003, there were 343 suicide attacks around the world, and at most 10 percent were anti-American inspired. Since 2004, there have been more than 2,000, over 91 percent against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries’.

And a Rand Corporation study concluded:

‘The comprehensive study analyzes 648 terrorist groups that existed between 1968 and 2006, drawing from a terrorism database maintained by RAND and the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. The most common way that terrorist groups end - 43 percent - was via a transition to the political process…Military force was effective in only 7 percent of the cases examined’.

The lesson of all this is clear: the war on terror produces terror. And the government exaggerates the threat in order to win acceptance of an unpopular policy. In doing so it demonises whole communities and ensures that a minority have additional motivation for committing terrorist attacks. This is the very definition of a counter-productive policy.

Source: Counterfire

In combat, the killing of Michael Brown by Officer Wilson would have been called a war crime

By Dave Lindorff

 

What’s wrong Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson’s killing of the unarmed 18-year-old black teenager, Michael Brown, and with a Grand Jury decision not to indict him for that outrageous slaying, is what is wrong with American law enforcement and American “justice” in general. 

 

Both actions were permeated not only with racism, which clearly played a huge rule in both the verdict rendered by a Grand Jury composed of nine whites and only three blacks, and in this tragic police killing by a white cop of a black child, but also by a mentality on the part of police -- and apparently by at least a majority of the citizen jurors on a panel evaluating Wilson’s actions -- that cops are authorities who must be obeyed without question, on pain of death.

 

Oh no! The American jihadis are coming!: Stoking Fear as the US Prepares for the Nest War in the Middle East

By Dave Lindorff


You read it in USA Today: The latest “threat to America” is “thousands of jihadis” with Western passports,” returning from battle in Syria and Iraq to wreak havoc and destruction in the “US homeland.”


It’s a nightmare profoundly hoped for by the US Department of Homeland Security, that massive security-state bureaucracy looking for a raison d’être

It’s not about justice, it’s winning convictions: Prosecutors Falsely Push Prison Term for Innocent Teen

By Linn Washington Jr.

 

Nasheeba Adams was both ecstatic and sad as she stood outside of Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center courthouse recently hugging her son Tomayo McDuffy.

FERGUSON AND THE ‘US VS. THEM’ ILLUSION

By Robert C. Koehler

As the grand jury’s decision on whether nor not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson loomed, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told a TV reporter “he’s preparing for peace and war.”

What the governor did, in the tense uncertainty preceding the decision, was pre-declare a state of emergency and activate the Missouri National Guard to help contain the possibility of violent, anti-police protests. He also appointed 16 people, including several of the protesters, to a newly created “Ferguson Commission” to recommend solutions to the racial problems plaguing that community, which the killing of Michael Brown last August made unavoidably apparent.

Meanwhile, gun sales at local shops are through the roof and the local Klan is stirring, distributing fliers warning protesters that they’ve awakened a sleeping giant.

America, America . . .

Before we proceed further, let’s stir in a little Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

That level of thinking — the political, governmental and media consensus of who we are — is blind and deaf to history and locked into us-vs.-them thinking. Security, whether domestic or international, is a game played against presumed and, often enough, imagined enemies. Thus, prior to the governor’s decision to call out the Guard, the FBI had issued an intelligence bulletin warning local officials that “the announcement of the grand jury’s decision … will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure,” according to the Washington Post.

If nothing else, this sort of consciousness remains utterly unaware of its own contribution to the trouble. As law enforcement ups its level of militarized authoritarianism, it agitates the elements predisposed to regard it as the enemy and seek its humiliation and defeat. This is a small segment of the protesters, but no matter. Preparing for war requires, first of all, an oversimplification of the social context in which the preparers operate. Once this is accomplished, the warnings become self-fulfilling prophecies.

In other words, what matters is that there’s an “enemy” out there. The preparation essentially creates the enemy, especially when the power imbalance is enormous, e.g.: federal, state and local government, plus maybe half the general population, vs. distraught, impoverished community residents.

What doesn’t matter is that the protesters want profound, nonviolent change, not an excuse to trash local convenience stores. For instance, the Don’t Shoot Coalition, which formed in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting and has coordinated protest efforts since then, recently issued 19 “rules of engagement” in anticipation of the grand jury verdict. Rule no. 1: “The first priority shall be preservation of human life.”

Other rules include: “Every attempt should be made to communicate with protesters to reach ‘common sense’ agreements based on these protocols, both ahead of time and at the scene of protests.”

And: “Police rank and file will be instructed to provide every latitude to allow for free assembly and expression, treating protesters as citizens and not ‘enemy combatants.’”

At the very least, what we do not need, in the wake of the terrible wrong of an 18-year-old’s killing, is a dismissive oversimplification of the community’s reaction to it. On the other side of the issue, we need infinitely more than an indictment and, ultimately, conviction and punishment of the police officer who did it. That is to say, what matters here is not the fixing of personal blame (or lack thereof), but the acknowledgment of systemic and historic wrong of monumental proportions and — at long, long last — a momentum of social healing that doesn’t end prematurely.

The United States of America is a nation founded on slavery and the conquest and slaughter of the indigenous peoples in its way. It’s also a democracy, sort of — originally for white, male property owners — which, over two-plus centuries, has expanded its recognition of who qualifies as a human being and who, thus, can be a full participant in the political process. The country’s sense of exceptionalism exceeds, by a wide margin, the good it has brought into the world.

Oh well. That’s no excuse to quit trying. The possibility of who we can become — a healed, connected people, an invaluable force for global salvation — is worth our endless effort to realize. And maybe the Ferguson Commission has more than a perfunctory contribution to make to such an achievement.

What I know is that we cannot define our social brokenness in terms of good guys and bad guys, which is always so tempting. Alexis Madrigal, writing last August in The Atlantic about UCLA’s Center of Policing Equity, which has investigated police behavior and racial disparity in dozens of police departments in the U.S., made an interesting observation to that end:

“When staffers from the Center of Policing Equity go into a police department, they talk with community advocates, police officers, and the people of the city—all of whom provide important information about law enforcement behaviors. What they find is communities who have for generations felt like they’re not being policed but occupied. And yet, at the same time, they find the ‘vast majority’ of police officers and executives trying to do the right thing.”

The “level of thinking” that has caused immeasurable harm within and beyond our national borders — that killed Michael Brown — begins with a conviction that the enemy is out there, waiting to get us. If we had the courage to look beyond this fear, what we would see, perhaps, is not an enemy but someone almost indistinguishable from ourselves.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.

US Prepares to Sell Saudi Arabia Warships to Help Take Down Iran

By Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space


The American revolution was supposed to have happened because of the revulsion our 'founding fathers' had with the institution of 'divine right of kings' or monarchy.  Supposedly the new American nation went to war with England because a revolutionary 'democracy' was the preferred way of organizing our new nation.  (Of course the truth was that the American 'founding fathers' had their own dreams of empire which is just what has sadly turned out for this country.  But the mythology of America is all about our rejection of monarchy.)

Fast forward to today and we see the headlines on November 20 in the Portland Press Herald newspaper: Bath Iron Works may get Saudi ship contract worth billions

The article reads in part:


Saudi Arabian officials say they are preparing to move forward with an upgrade to the country’s navy that could include a multibillion-dollar contract for Bath Iron Works, the Reuters news service reported Wednesday.

BIW’s DDG-51 destroyer is one of at least two ship designs being considered for the long-discussed Saudi Naval Expansion Program II, or SNEP, which has an estimated value of roughly $20 billion, Reuters said.

Patrick Dewar, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin, told the news service that Saudi officials were planning to release new information over the next several months about how the country plans to proceed with SNEP.
 

Dewar told Reuters that the Saudis are considering whether to buy up to a dozen of Lockheed’s steel monohull Littoral Combat Ship or the larger DDG-51 destroyer built by BIW, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Corp.

“We are aware of the ongoing discussions between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia concerning modernization of the Saudi fleet,” said BIW spokesman Jim DeMartini.

“We are in the business of building naval surface combatants and should the two governments reach an agreement on a program, we would be highly interested in pursuing that opportunity.”


Looking at a map we see the close proximity of Iran to Saudi Arabia.  We know that the Saudi monarchy wants to take down Iran (as does Israel and the US).  We know that the DDG-51 destroyer built by BIW is outfitted with so-called 'missile defense' systems that are key elements in US first-strike attack planning.  We know that these warships are heavily reliant on US military satellites to direct the on-board weapons systems to their targets.  Saudi Arabia does not have the military satellites nor the ground-based command and control systems to guide these weapons systems to their targets.  Thus any Saudi high-tech ships and weapons would be run through the Pentagon's warfighting satellite system.  In other words the Saudi monarchy would be paying for the ships that would essentially augment existing US military forces now surrounding Iran in places like Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations in the region.

Most interesting of all is that US shipyard workers would be building warships for a brutal and unforgiving monarchy that is known for making ISIS look like amateurs. Saudi Arabia is one of the last places on earth where capital punishment is a public spectacle - carried out in what is called Chop Chop Square in Riyadh.

Capital and physical punishments imposed by Saudi courts, such as beheading, stoning (to death), amputation and lashing, as well as the sheer number of executions have been strongly criticized. The death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of offences including murder, rape, armed robbery, repeated drug use, apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery and can be carried out by beheading with a sword, stoning or firing squad, followed by crucifixion. The 345 reported executions between 2007 and 2010 were all carried out by public beheading. The last reported execution for sorcery took place in September 2014.

Interfaith Unity Against Terrorism reports:


Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Wahabbism – the extremist thought from which all jihadist militancy now pours forth. Saudi Arabia and its Wahabbism’s militant Islamic doctrines constitute a clear and present danger to the Middle East and to the entire world. The house of Saud derives its legitimacy from religious credentials underwritten by Wahabbi clerics. Wahabbism is the creed that has fuelled all jihads –many with West’s blessings- in world’s recent memory.

 

You'd think that official circles in Washington would be up-in-arms about selling high-tech weapons of war to the brutal monarchy of Saudi Arabia.  But this likely $20 billion weapons sale indicates just how corrupt and immoral the US 'experiment' in democracy has become.  The #1 industrial export product of the US today is weapons.  The US wants to take down Iran and has made a pact with the Saudi's to do just that.

There can be no doubt that the American dream of freedom, justice and democracy is now no more than a hollow phrase.

 

Nukes, Drones and Robots

Helen Caldicott:

Neisen Laukon:

Bruce Gagnon:

Special Armistice Day Edition: Interview of IVAW Vet and Folksinger Emily Yates About Her Independence Park Assault Conviction

By Dave Lindorff


Emily Yates, a US Army veteran of two tours in Iraq and an activist with Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), was at a demonstration last year on Philadelphia's Independence Mall protesting against a looming US plan to begin a massive bombing assault on Syria. While standing in the shade of a couple of trees (it was a sweltering summer day), she was confronted by some burly National Park Police officers, who told her to leave.

The Bases of War in the Middle East

From Carter to the Islamic State, 35 Years of Building Bases and Sowing Disaster 
By David Vine, TomDispatch

With the launch of a new U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS), the United States has engaged in aggressive military action in at least 13 countries in the Greater Middle East since 1980. In that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed, or gone to war in at least one country in the region. The total number of invasions, occupations, bombing operations, drone assassination campaigns, and cruise missile attacks easily runs into the dozens.

As in prior military operations in the Greater Middle East, U.S. forces fighting IS have been aided by access to and the use of an unprecedented collection of military bases. They occupy a region sitting atop the world’s largest concentration of oil and natural gas reserves and has long been considered the most geopolitically important place on the planet. Indeed, since 1980, the U.S. military has gradually garrisoned the Greater Middle East in a fashion only rivaled by the Cold War garrisoning of Western Europe or, in terms of concentration, by the bases built to wage past wars in Korea and Vietnam.

In the Persian Gulf alone, the U.S. has major bases in every country save Iran. There is an increasingly important, increasingly large base in Djibouti, just miles across the Red Sea from the Arabian Peninsula. There are bases in Pakistan on one end of the region and in the Balkans on the other, as well as on the strategically located Indian Ocean islands of Diego Garcia and the Seychelles. In Afghanistan and Iraq, there were once as many as 800 and 505 bases, respectively. Recently, the Obama administration inked an agreement with new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to maintain around 10,000 troops and at least nine major bases in his country beyond the official end of combat operations later this year. U.S. forces, which never fully departed Iraq after 2011, are now returning to a growing number of bases there in ever larger numbers.

In short, there is almost no way to overemphasize how thoroughly the U.S. military now covers the region with bases and troops. This infrastructure of war has been in place for so long and is so taken for granted that Americans rarely think about it and journalists almost never report on the subject. Members of Congress spend billions of dollars on base construction and maintenance every year in the region, but ask few questions about where the money is going, why there are so many bases, and what role they really serve. By one estimate, the United States has spent $10 trillion protecting Persian Gulf oil supplies over the past four decades.

Approaching its 35th anniversary, the strategy of maintaining such a structure of garrisons, troops, planes, and ships in the Middle East has been one of the great disasters in the history of American foreign policy. The rapid disappearance of debate about our newest, possibly illegal war should remind us of just how easy this huge infrastructure of bases has made it for anyone in the Oval Office to launch a war that seems guaranteed, like its predecessors, to set off new cycles of blowback and yet more war.

On their own, the existence of these bases has helped generate radicalism and anti-American sentiment. As was famously the case with Osama bin Laden and U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, bases have fueled militancy, as well as attacks on the United States and its citizens. They have cost taxpayers billions of dollars, even though they are not, in fact, necessary to ensure the free flow of oil globally. They have diverted tax dollars from the possible development of alternative energy sources and meeting other critical domestic needs. And they have supported dictators and repressive, undemocratic regimes, helping to block the spread of democracy in a region long controlled by colonial rulers and autocrats.

After 35 years of base-building in the region, it’s long past time to look carefully at the effects Washington’s garrisoning of the Greater Middle East has had on the region, the U.S., and the world.

“Vast Oil Reserves”

While the Middle Eastern base buildup began in earnest in 1980, Washington had long attempted to use military force to control this swath of resource-rich Eurasia and, with it, the global economy. Since World War II, as the late Chalmers Johnson, an expert on U.S. basing strategy, explained back in 2004, “the United States has been inexorably acquiring permanent military enclaves whose sole purpose appears to be the domination of one of the most strategically important areas of the world.”

In 1945, after Germany’s defeat, the secretaries of War, State, and the Navy tellingly pushed for the completion of a partially built base in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, despite the military’s determination that it was unnecessary for the war against Japan. “Immediate construction of this [air] field,” they argued, “would be a strong showing of American interest in Saudi Arabia and thus tend to strengthen the political integrity of that country where vast oil reserves now are in American hands.”

By 1949, the Pentagon had established a small, permanent Middle East naval force (MIDEASTFOR) in Bahrain. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy’s administration began the first buildup of naval forces in the Indian Ocean just off the Persian Gulf. Within a decade, the Navy had created the foundations for what would become the first major U.S. base in the region -- on the British-controlled island of Diego Garcia.

In these early Cold War years, though, Washington generally sought to increase its influence in the Middle East by backing and arming regional powers like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iran under the Shah, and Israel. However, within months of the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and Iran’s 1979 revolution overthrowing the Shah, this relatively hands-off approach was no more.

Base Buildup

In January 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced a fateful transformation of U.S. policy. It would become known as the Carter Doctrine. In his State of the Union address, he warned of the potential loss of a region “containing more than two-thirds of the world’s exportable oil” and “now threatened by Soviet troops” in Afghanistan who posed “a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.”

Carter warned that “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America.” And he added pointedly, “Such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

With these words, Carter launched one of the greatest base construction efforts in history. He and his successor Ronald Reagan presided over the expansion of bases in Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the region to host a “Rapid Deployment Force,” which was to stand permanent guard over Middle Eastern petroleum supplies. The air and naval base on Diego Garcia, in particular, was expanded at a quicker rate than any base since the war in Vietnam. By 1986, more than $500 million had been invested. Before long, the total ran into the billions.

Soon enough, that Rapid Deployment Force grew into the U.S. Central Command, which has now overseen three wars in Iraq (1991-2003, 2003-2011, 2014-); the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2001-); intervention in Lebanon (1982-1984); a series of smaller-scale attacks on Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011); Afghanistan (1998) and Sudan (1998); and the "tanker war" with Iran (1987-1988), which led to the accidental downing of an Iranian civilian airliner, killing 290 passengers. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the CIA helped fund and orchestrate a major covert war against the Soviet Union by backing Osama Bin Laden and other extremist mujahidin. The command has also played a role in the drone war in Yemen (2002-) and both overt and covert warfare in Somalia (1992-1994, 2001-). 

During and after the first Gulf War of 1991, the Pentagon dramatically expanded its presence in the region. Hundreds of thousands of troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the war against Iraqi autocrat and former ally Saddam Hussein. In that war’s aftermath, thousands of troops and a significantly expanded base infrastructure were left in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Elsewhere in the Gulf, the military expanded its naval presence at a former British base in Bahrain, housing its Fifth Fleet there. Major air power installations were built in Qatar, and U.S. operations were expanded in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003, and the subsequent occupations of both countries, led to a more dramatic expansion of bases in the region. By the height of the wars, there were well over 1,000 U.S. checkpoints, outposts, and major bases in the two countries alone. The military also built new bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (since closed), explored the possibility of doing so in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, and, at the very least, continues to use several Central Asian countries as logistical pipelines to supply troops in Afghanistan and orchestrate the current partial withdrawal.

While the Obama administration failed to keep 58 “enduring” bases in Iraq after the 2011 U.S. withdrawal, it has signed an agreement with Afghanistan permitting U.S. troops to stay in the country until 2024 and maintain access to Bagram Air Base and at least eight more major installations.

An Infrastructure for War

Even without a large permanent infrastructure of bases in Iraq, the U.S. military has had plenty of options when it comes to waging its new war against IS. In that country alone, a significant U.S. presence remained after the 2011 withdrawal in the form of base-like State Department installations, as well as the largest embassy on the planet in Baghdad, and a large contingent of private military contractors. Since the start of the new war, at least 1,600 troops have returned and are operating from a Joint Operations Center in Baghdad and a base in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil. Last week, the White House announced that it would request $5.6 billion from Congress to send an additional 1,500 advisers and other personnel to at least two new bases in Baghdad and Anbar Province. Special operations and other forces are almost certainly operating from yet more undisclosed locations.

At least as important are major installations like the Combined Air Operations Center at Qatar’s al-Udeid Air Base. Before 2003, the Central Command’s air operations center for the entire Middle East was in Saudi Arabia. That year, the Pentagon moved the center to Qatar and officially withdrew combat forces from Saudi Arabia. That was in response to the 1996 bombing of the military’s Khobar Towers complex in the kingdom, other al-Qaeda attacks in the region, and mounting anger exploited by al-Qaeda over the presence of non-Muslim troops in the Muslim holy land. Al-Udeid now hosts a 15,000-foot runway, large munitions stocks, and around 9,000 troops and contractors who are coordinating much of the new war in Iraq and Syria.

Kuwait has been an equally important hub for Washington’s operations since U.S. troops occupied the country during the first Gulf War. Kuwait served as the main staging area and logistical center for ground troops in the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. There are still an estimated 15,000 troops in Kuwait, and the U.S. military is reportedly bombing Islamic State positions using aircraft from Kuwait’s Ali al-Salem Air Base.

As a transparently promotional article in the Washington Postconfirmed this week, al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates has launched more attack aircraft in the present bombing campaign than any other base in the region. That country hosts about 3,500 troops at al-Dhafra alone, as well as the Navy's busiest overseas port.  B-1, B-2, and B-52 long-range bombers stationed on Diego Garcia helped launch both Gulf Wars and the war in Afghanistan. That island base is likely playing a role in the new war as well. Near the Iraqi border, around 1,000 U.S. troops and F-16 fighter jets are operating from at least one Jordanian base. According to the Pentagon’s latest count, the U.S. military has 17 bases in Turkey. While the Turkish government has placed restrictions on their use, at the very least some are being used to launch surveillance drones over Syria and Iraq. Up to seven bases in Oman may also be in use.

Bahrain is now the headquarters for the Navy’s entire Middle Eastern operations, including the Fifth Fleet, generally assigned to ensure the free flow of oil and other resources though the Persian Gulf and surrounding waterways. There is always at least one aircraft carrier strike group -- effectively, a massive floating base -- in the Persian Gulf. At the moment, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson is stationed there, a critical launch pad for the air campaign against the Islamic State. Other naval vessels operating in the Gulf and the Red Sea have launched cruise missiles into Iraq and Syria. The Navy even has access to an “afloat forward-staging base” that serves as a “lilypad” base for helicopters and patrol craft in the region.

In Israel, there are as many as six secret U.S. bases that can be used to preposition weaponry and equipment for quick use anywhere in the area. There’s also a “de facto U.S. base” for the Navy’s Mediterranean fleet. And it’s suspected that there are two other secretive sites in use as well. In Egypt, U.S. troops have maintained at least two installations and occupied at least two bases on the Sinai Peninsula since 1982 as part of a Camp David Accords peacekeeping operation.

Elsewhere in the region, the military has established a collection of at least five drone bases in Pakistan; expanded a critical base in Djibouti at the strategic chokepoint between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean; created or gained access to bases in Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Seychelles; and set up new bases in Bulgaria and Romania to go with a Clinton administration-era base in Kosovo along the western edge of the gas-rich Black Sea.

Even in Saudi Arabia, despite the public withdrawal, a small U.S. military contingent has remained to train Saudi personnel and keep bases “warm” as potential backups for unexpected conflagrations in the region or, assumedly, in the kingdom itself. In recent years, the military has even established a secret drone base in the country, despite the blowback Washington has experienced from its previous Saudi basing ventures.

Dictators, Death, and Disaster

The ongoing U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, however modest, should remind us of the dangers of maintaining bases in the region. The garrisoning of the Muslim holy land was a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and part of Osama bin Laden’s professed motivation for the 9/11 attacks. (He called the presence of U.S. troops, “the greatest of these aggressions incurred by the Muslims since the death of the prophet.”) Indeed, U.S. bases and troops in the Middle East have been a “major catalyst for anti-Americanism and radicalization” since a suicide bombing killed 241 marines in Lebanon in 1983. Other attacks have come in Saudi Arabia in 1996, Yemen in 2000 against the U.S.S. Cole, and during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Research has shown a strong correlation between a U.S. basing presence and al-Qaeda recruitment.

Part of the anti-American anger has stemmed from the support U.S. bases offer to repressive, undemocratic regimes. Few of the countries in the Greater Middle East are fully democratic, and some are among the world’s worst human rights abusers. Most notably, the U.S. government has offered only tepid criticism of the Bahraini government as it has violently cracked down on pro-democracy protestors with the help of the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Beyond Bahrain, U.S. bases are found in a string of what the Economist Democracy Index calls “authoritarian regimes,” including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen. Maintaining bases in such countries props up autocrats and other repressive governments, makes the United States complicit in their crimes, and seriously undermines efforts to spread democracy and improve the wellbeing of people around the world.

Of course, using bases to launch wars and other kinds of interventions does much the same, generating anger, antagonism, and anti-American attacks. A recent U.N. report suggests that Washington’s air campaign against the Islamic State had led foreign militants to join the movement on “an unprecedented scale.”

And so the cycle of warfare that started in 1980 is likely to continue. “Even if U.S. and allied forces succeed in routing this militant group,” retired Army colonel and political scientist Andrew Bacevich writes of the Islamic State, “there is little reason to expect” a positive outcome in the region. As Bin Laden and the Afghan mujahidin morphed into al-Qaeda and the Taliban and as former Iraqi Baathists and al-Qaeda followers in Iraq morphed into IS, “there is,” as Bacevich says, “always another Islamic State waiting in the wings.”

The Carter Doctrine’s bases and military buildup strategy and its belief that “the skillful application of U.S. military might” can secure oil supplies and solve the region’s problems was, he adds, “flawed from the outset.” Rather than providing security, the infrastructure of bases in the Greater Middle East has made it ever easier to go to war far from home. It has enabled wars of choice and an interventionist foreign policy that has resulted in repeated disasters for the region, the United States, and the world. Since 2001 alone, U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen have minimally caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and possibly more than one million deaths in Iraq alone.

The sad irony is that any legitimate desire to maintain the free flow of regional oil to the global economy could be sustained through other far less expensive and deadly means. Maintaining scores of bases costing billions of dollars a year is unnecessary to protect oil supplies and ensure regional peace -- especially in an era in which the United States gets only around 10% of its net oil and natural gas from the region. In addition to the direct damage our military spending has caused, it has diverted money and attention from developing the kinds of alternative energy sources that could free the United States and the world from a dependence on Middle Eastern oil -- and from the cycle of war that our military bases have fed.

David Vine, a TomDispatch regular, is associate professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other publications. His new book, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, will appear in 2015 as part of the American Empire Project (Metropolitan Books). For more of his writing, visit www.davidvine.net.

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 2014 David Vine

Pot Pretenses: Nixon's Lies Require Ending His War on Weed

By Linn Washington Jr.

 

Repeated lies and law-breaking forced the 1974 resignation of then U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, leading to Nixon’s subsequent, and continued inclusion on the list of the "Worst Presidents" in American history.

A Veterans Day Story: Iraq Veterans' Emily Yates vs. the Federal Military Machine

By John Grant


When you tuck your children in at night
Don’t tell ‘em it’s for freedom that we fight
                                                                                   - Emily Yates

 

Hot tub poll shows Republicans don’t like their politicians: Election Night Wasn’t a GOP Victory, It was a Democratic Rout

By Dave Lindorff


The sclerotic Democratic Party was trounced yet again yesterday, as Republicans outdid projections and appear to have taken at least seven Senate seats away from the Democrats, giving them control of the both houses of Congress. 


Prof. Boyle may be wrong, but he may be right: With a Government this Vile and This Secretive We Need to Ask Questions

By Dave Lindorff

A few days ago, I published a short story linking to a PRN.fm radio interview PRN.fm radio interview I did with noted international law attorney Francis Boyle, whom I pointed out was a drafter of the US Biological Weapons and Anti-Terrorism Act passed into law in 1981, which supposedly barred the United States from continuing to keep or to develop new germ warfare weapons.

Boyle told me, on last Wednesday’s radio program “This Can’t Be Happening!,” that he believes the Zaire Ebola strain that is wracking Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea   in west Africa, originally came from one of several BSL4-level bio-research labs operated in those countries and funded by a combination of the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and the US Defense Department, perhaps because of testing of Ebola being conducted there, or because of some containment breach. 

U.S. Sends Planes Armed with Depleted Uranium to Middle East

There's a version of this story at Al Jazeera.

The U.S. Air Force says it is not halting its use of Depleted Uranium weapons, has recently sent them to the Middle East, and is prepared to use them.

A type of airplane, the A-10, deployed this month to the Middle East by the U.S. Air National Guard's 122nd Fighter Wing, is responsible for more Depleted Uranium (DU) contamination than any other platform, according to the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). "Weight for weight and by number of rounds more 30mm PGU-14B ammo has been used than any other round," said ICBUW coordinator Doug Weir, referring to ammunition used by A-10s, as compared to DU ammunition used by tanks.

Public affairs superintendent Master Sgt. Darin L. Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing told me that the A-10s now in the Middle East along with "300 of our finest airmen" have been sent there on a deployment planned for the past two years and have not been assigned to take part in the current fighting in Iraq or Syria, but "that could change at any moment."

The crews will load PGU-14 depleted uranium rounds into their 30mm Gatling cannons and use them as needed, said Hubble. "If the need is to explode something -- for example a tank -- they will be used."

Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told me, "There is no prohibition against the use of Depleted Uranium rounds, and the [U.S. military] does make use of them. The use of DU in armor-piercing munitions allows enemy tanks to be more easily destroyed."

On Thursday, several nations, including Iraq, spoke to the United Nations First Committee, against the use of Depleted Uranium and in support of studying and mitigating the damage in already contaminated areas. A non-binding resolution is expected to be voted on by the Committee this week, urging nations that have used DU to provide information on locations targeted. A number of organizations are delivering a petition to U.S. officials this week urging them not to oppose the resolution.

In 2012 a resolution on DU was supported by 155 nations and opposed by just the UK, U.S., France, and Israel. Several nations have banned DU, and in June Iraq proposed a global treaty banning it -- a step also supported by the European and Latin American Parliaments.

Wright said that the U.S. military is "addressing concerns on the use of DU by investigating other types of materials for possible use in munitions, but with some mixed results. Tungsten has some limitations in its functionality in armor-piercing munitions, as well as some health concerns based on the results of animal research on some tungsten-containing alloys. Research is continuing in this area to find an alternative to DU that is more readily accepted by the public, and also performs satisfactorily in munitions."

"I fear DU is this generation's Agent Orange," U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott told me. "There has been a sizable increase in childhood leukemia and birth defects in Iraq since the Gulf War and our subsequent invasion in 2003. DU munitions were used in both those conflicts. There are also grave suggestions that DU weapons have caused serious health issues for our Iraq War veterans. I seriously question the use of these weapons until the U.S. military conducts a full investigation into the effect of DU weapon residue on human beings."

Doug Weir of ICBUW said renewed use of DU in Iraq would be "a propaganda coup for ISIS." His and other organizations opposed to DU are guardedly watching a possible U.S. shift away from DU, which the U.S. military said it did not use in Libya in 2011. Master Sgt. Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing believes that was simply a tactical decision. But public pressure had been brought to bear by activists and allied nations' parliaments, and by a UK commitment not to use DU.

DU is classed as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and evidence of health damage produced by its use is extensive. The damage is compounded, Jeena Shah at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) told me, when the nation that uses DU refuses to identify locations targeted. Contamination enters soil and water. Contaminated scrap metal is used in factories or made into cooking pots or played with by children.

CCR and Iraq Veterans Against the War have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request in an attempt to learn the locations targeted in Iraq during and after the 1991 and 2003 assaults. The UK and the Netherlands have revealed targeted locations, Shah pointed out, as did NATO following DU use in the Balkans. And the United States has revealed locations it targeted with cluster munitions. So why not now?

"For years," Shah said, "the U.S. has denied a relationship between DU and health problems in civilians and veterans. Studies of UK veterans are highly suggestive of a connection. The U.S. doesn't want studies done." In addition, the United States has used DU in civilian areas and identifying those locations could suggest violations of Geneva Conventions.

Iraqi doctors will be testifying on the damage done by DU before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commissionin Washington, D.C., in December.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration said on Thursday that it will be spending $1.6 million to try to identify atrocities committed in Iraq . . . by ISIS.

It Can Happen To Anyone: How I Became Radicalized

By John Grant


       saw the masked men
       Throwing truth into a well.
       When I began to weep for it
       I found it everywhere.

                  -Claudia Lars
 

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