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Military Industrial Complex
If you’re watching this then it means I’m not around anymore. I imagine you’re probably in your late teens now. Maybe Mt. Kilimanjaro no longer has snow on its peak. Maybe the ice shelves on the northern coasts of Alaska have melted back and polar bears are dwindling in number. I always wanted to get up there and see Alaska. Maybe you’ll make it up there one day yourself. I wonder if it’s somehow possible for you to buy a plane ticket to Baghdad, to visit Iraq as a tourist. Will you visit the places where I’ve been? Will you talk to the people there? Will you tell them my name?
At some point in the future, soldiers will pack up their rucks, equipment will be loaded into huge shipping containers, C-130s will rise wheels-up off the tarmac, and Navy transport ships will cross the high seas to return home once again. At some point — the timing of which I don’t have the slightest guess at — the war in Iraq will end. And I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately — I’ve been thinking about the last American soldier to die in Iraq.
Tonight, at 3 a.m., a hunter’s moon shines down into the misty ravines of Vermont’s Green Mountains. I’m standing out on the back deck of a friend’s house, listening to the quiet of the woods. At the Fairbanks Museum in nearby St. Johnsbury, the lights have been turned off for hours and all is dark inside the glass display cases, filled with Civil War memorabilia. The checkerboard of Jefferson Davis. Smoothbore rifles. Canteens. Reading glasses. Letters written home. Read more.
Hundreds of supporters of Pakistan's opposition Jamaat-i-Islami party have demonstrated in what is believed to be the first major protest against the military's offensive against the Taliban in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
The demonstration in the capital, Islamabad, on Sunday took place as the army fought bloody street-to-street battles in Mingora, the main city in the Swat valley.
"To this point there has been absolutely total political support for the ongoing operation in Swat valley," Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna, reporting from Islamabad, said.
"But now there is the first sign that there are sectors in society who are opposed to what is going on."
Many of the protesters were carrying banners carrying slogans condemning the role of the United States in Pakistan.
"This is a great point of contention for many Pakistanis, not just the supporters of the political party gathered here," Hanna said.
"The speakers are basing part of their criticism on their belief that Pakistan is doing ... the work of the United States in its so-called 'war on terror'." Read more.
Colin Powell told Bob Schieffer he has "no idea" if the enhanced interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration were effective.
"I have no idea," he said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "I hear that they were. I hear that they weren't. You see people from the FBI who come out and say, 'We got all of that information before any of that was done.' I cannot answer that question. And the problem is, I don't know what I don't know."
He said that he was aware that enhanced methods of interrogation were being considered in the aftermath of 9/11 but said he was "not privy" to the memos of legal documents that were being written.
"I think it was unfortunate but we had a system that kept that in a very compartmented manner. And so I was apart that these enhanced interrogation techniques were being considered. And they were judged not to be torture at the time," he said.
At first glance, it appears that 2009 didn’t start so well for the military contractor Xe, until February known as Blackwater Worldwide. In January, with multiple other lawsuits pending, six of its former employees went on trial for the death of 17 Iraqi civilians in September 2007 in Nisoor Square, Baghdad. And in March, its contract in Iraq, where it has so far made more than $1 billion dollars, was canceled.
Yet, on April 20 the AP reported that Xe (pronounced “zee”) will remain in Iraq until the summer. It has been widely reported that its aviation company, Presidential Airlines, will continue operations in Iraq until the fall. And Triple Canopy, the company that will assume Xe’s contract in Iraq to protect U.S. personnel, will be hiring former Blackwater/Xe personnel.
The private military corporation (PMC) market, of which Xe is a boutique part, is growing globally at 6 to 8 percent a year and has now surpassed $100 billion, mostly based in the United States and the United Kingdom. The use of mercenaries goes back millennia, but the phenomenon of corporate private armies capable of challenging the nation state’s “monopoly on violence”—as President Barack Obama put it—is a late 20th century development that worries peace activists around the globe. These private armies are used not just on the battlefield but also to protect corporations, train public law enforcement personnel and, as after Katrina, patrol city streets. Read more.
By the now, it's maddeningly familiar. A scary terrorist plot is announced. Then it's revealed that the suspects are a hapless bunch of ne'er-do-wells or run-of-the-mill thugs without the slightest connection to any terrorists at all, never mind to Al Qaeda. Finally, the last piece of the puzzle: the entire plot is revealed to have been cooked up by a scummy government agent-provocateur.
I've seen this movie before.
In this case, the alleged perps -- Onta Williams, James Cromitie, David Williams, and Laguerre Payen -- were losers, ex-cons, drug addicts. Al Qaeda they're not. Without the assistance of the agent who entrapped them, they would never have dreamed of committing political violence, nor would they have had the slightest idea about where to acquire plastic explosives or a Stinger missile. That didn't stop prosecutors from acting as if they'd captured Osama bin Laden himself. Read more.
Obama Betrays The Liberals
By Sherwood Ross
America’s liberals stand betrayed. Their new president, the one they sweated to elect----a brilliant, charismatic leader with a professional background in constitutional law---has transmogrified himself from the champion who denounced in his campaign the illegalities of the Bush White House into a president bent on their perpetuation.
Liberals are stunned by Obama’s plan to “restart Bush-era military tribunals” for some Guantanamo detainees, reviving what the Associated Press pointed out, is “a fiercely disputed trial system he once denounced.”(May 15). Liberals are appalled by Obama’s May 21st proposal to hold terrorism suspects in “prolonged detention” inside the U.S. without a trial. “Such detention,” Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) wrote him, “is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world.”
During the last thirty years of wars in Afghanistan, Afghan civilians have had one safe place to escape to: Pakistan.
They fled the Soviet invasion. They fled civil wars. They fled US bombing. Pakistan took care of millions of these Afghan refugees.
Now that safe haven with its lush green valleys is burning with bombs.
And the hosts, the people who themselves welcomed Afghan refugees, at times literally into their homes or into campsites on their farms, are on the run. They are streaming out of Swat, Dir and Buner and registering as refugees in Mardan and the fertile valleys of Pakistan. The UN says about two million Pakistanis have been displaced during the last year of drone attacks, bombing and fighting.
A humanitarian catastrophe is taking place in areas of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), as a result of the Obama administration’s expansion of the occupation of Afghanistan into the so-called “AfPak war”.
Over the past seven years, ethnic Pashtun Islamist movements in NWFP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have lent assistance to the resistance being waged against the American-led forces in Afghanistan by the Pashtun-based Taliban, including by disrupting US and NATO supply routes through Pakistan.
On Washington’s insistence, the Pakistani government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ordered the military to embark on operations to crush the militants. In late April, Pakistani forces deployed into the Lower Dir and Buner districts of NWFP to drive out a small number who had moved into the area from their strongholds to the north, in the Swat Valley district.
Since May 8, the operation, which now involves up to 18,000 Pakistani troops, backed by air support and heavy artillery, has extended deep inside the Swat Valley. Over the past two weeks they have engaged in a series of battles against the vastly outnumbered and outgunned Islamist fighters.
There is virtually no independent reporting from the conflict zone. Most information coming out of Swat is sourced directly from the military, making its accuracy questionable.
What is clear, however, is that the assault into Buner, Lower Dir and the Swat Valley has rapidly degenerated into the savage collective punishment of entire Pashtun communities. Hundreds of thousands of terrified civilians have taken to the roads to get out of the conflict zone. By the beginning of this week, the United Nations had registered 1.45 million internally displaced persons.
This week Video Journalist Ginny Stein investigates the dark world of sexual assault in the US military.
It's a pervasive problem, with Veterans Affairs statistics showing nearly one in three female soldiers are sexually harassed while serving their country, and for some the consequences are devastating.
Private LaVena Lyn Johnson was just five weeks into her tour of Iraq when she was found dead in a contractor's tent. The US Army concluded the 19-year-old committed suicide after firing her M16 rifle into her mouth.
However, her father, who worked in the military as a civilian specialist in psychology, refuses to believe his daughter committed suicide.
For the past three years, Dr John Johnson has studied almost every aspect of his daughter's death. He now believes LaVena was raped and murdered by someone in her camp, and accuses the army of covering up a soldier on soldier slaying.
Dr Johnson says he will keep fighting for justice until the army changes "their attitude about how they treat women in the military".
Seymour Hersh says that Dick Cheney headed a secret assassination wing and the head of the wing has just been named as the new commander in Afghanistan.
In an interview with GulfNews on May 12, 2009 Pulitzer prize-winning American investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, said that there is a special unit called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that does high-value targeting of men that are known to be involved in anti-American activities, or are believed to be planning such activities.
According to Hersh, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was headed by former US vice president Dick Cheney and the former head of JSOC, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal who has just been named the new commander in charge of the war in Afghanistan.
On Monday, Iraqi government security forces arrested two prominent Sunni leaders in Iraq's volatile Diyala Province. One of them, Sheikh Riyadh al-Mujami, not coincidentally, is a prominent leader in the local Sahwa (Sons of Iraq), the 100,000-strong Sunni militia that was set up by the US military to quell attacks against occupation forces and launch an effort to battle al-Qaeda in Iraq. Both of those objectives were accomplished, but these efforts are being erased by ongoing missions by Iraqi government security forces, sometimes backed by the US military, to kill or capture both Sahwa leadership and fighters. The results of these attacks against the Sahwa are already evident in an escalation in violence that has taken two forms - a dramatic increase in spectacular attacks against Iraqi civilians and increasing attacks against occupation forces.
The Sahwa played a critical role in the reduction of overall violence in Iraq. When the US decided to pay off the resistance (to the tune of $300 per month per fighter) that was effectively shredding occupation forces from late 2003 until mid-2006, the number of US military personnel being killed began to decline, and has, until recently, continued to decline. The Sahwa were also effective in finding and eliminating al-Qaeda in Iraq, so the fact that we are now seeing a renewing of horrific attacks against the Shia should not come as a surprise as the Sahwa continue to leave their security posts around the country.
The Maliki government in Baghdad, which has perceived the Sahwa as a threat from the beginning of the group's formation, is systematically eliminating the perceived threat. Maliki has broken his promise to integrate the Sahwa into the government security apparatus, while continuing to forgo payment to Sahwa forces working in security positions around much of Baghdad.
I was on an airplane flying to Orange County from Sacramento to attend the al-Awda Conference; which is a Palestinian Right’s Conference. Al-Awda translates to “The Returning, “ when the Pilot voice filled the cabin to make an announcement that I think went unnoticed by most of my fellow passengers, but I heard it.
As the plane was on the approach to John Wayne airport, the Captain came on the intercom to remind us all to “remember our brave troops who have died for our freedom.” Even in this post 9-11 paranoid paradigm, if I wasn’t belted in for landing, I would have popped out of my seat at 13D and charged up to the cockpit to let the pilot know that my son was killed in Iraq and not one person anywhere in this world is one iota more free because he is dead.
As a matter of fact, the people of Iraq, the foreign country thousands of miles away where my oldest child’s brains, blood, and life seeped into the soil, are not freer, unless one counts being liberated from life, liberty and property being free. If you consider torture and indefinite detention freedom, then the Pilot may have been right, but then again, even if you do consider those crimes freedom, it does not make it so.
Here in America we are definitely not freer because my son died, as a matter of fact, our nation can spy on us and our communications without a warrant or just cause and we can’t even bring a 3.6 ounce bottle of hand cream into an airport or walk through a METAL detector with our shoes on. Even if we do want to exercise our Bill of Rights, we are shoved into pre-designated “free speech” (NewSpeak for; STFU, unless you are well out of the way of what you want to protest and shoved into pens like cattle being led to slaughter) zones and oftentimes brutally treated if you decide you are entitled to “free speech” on every inch of American soil.
The Obama administration's efforts to craft what it calls a "preventive detention" plan for suspected terrorists will face constitutional challenges similar to those raised against the Bush administration's policies.
Some detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are deemed too dangerous to release and may not be able to put on trial, creating a quandary that President Barack Obama said Thursday poses "the toughest issue we will face."
Charles Ganske of Russia Blog excerpted a portion of Simon Johnson's May 2009 article at the Atlantic Monthly titled, "The Quiet Coup." The author, Professor Johnson, served as director of the International Monetary Fund from 2007 to 2008, and currently is an academic economist at MIT's Sloan School of Management. Here are a few provocative excerpts:
...at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or—here’s a classic Kremlin bailout technique—the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk—at least until the riots grow too large....
Instead, the American financial industry gained political power by amassing a kind of cultural capital—a belief system. Once, perhaps, what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Over the past decade, the attitude took hold that what was good for Wall Street was good for the country. The banking-and-securities industry has become one of the top contributors to political campaigns, but at the peak of its influence, it did not have to buy favors the way, for example, the tobacco companies or military contractors might have to. Instead, it benefited from the fact that Washington insiders already believed that large financial institutions and free-flowing capital markets were crucial to America’s position in the world.
...In the name of looking to the future, we are being asked to forget the past....
It is instructive that the neoconservatives who gave us the Bush war program are now delighted with Obama’s policies, including his escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This all should be troubling to anyone who thinks elections can bring needed change. Presidents come and go, with little obvious effect on foreign policy, no matter what they say during their campaigns. Republican and Democrat, right and left — those terms are more about style than substance. In subtle ways and with staunch corporate media support, the system maintained by the ruling elite ensures that no successful national candidate will deviate too far from its plumb line. The marginalization of real anti-war candidates during the 2008 election was just the latest demonstration.
Bruce Fein worked as a government lawyer under three Republican presidents. He's also a critic of what he sees as presidential abuse of power. A recent Slate column by the attorney was headlined, "Czar Obama: The president's incredibly imperialist wielding of executive power."
Speaking recently on Bill Moyers' public TV program, Fein described Bush administration policies on treatment of suspected terrorists as unconstitutional. Bush "claimed authority to say he can kidnap people, throw them into dungeons abroad, dump them out into Siberia without any political or legal accountability. These are standards that are totally anathema to a democratic society devoted to the rule of law."
Don't expect Fein to be on Dick Cheney's VIP guest list any time soon.
Fein is not alone in his feeling about torture. A poll in April by CBS and the New York Times found 71 percent of respondents believed waterboarding is a "form of torture."
And torture, by treaty and U.S. law, is illegal.
Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News,
Human Rights Attorney Vince Warren: Obama’s “Preventive Detention” Plan Goes Beyond Bush Admin Policies
We get reaction to President Obama and Vice President Dick Cheney’s dueling speeches on torture from Vince Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Warren took part in a secret meeting Wednesday between Obama and several human rights groups. Warren says although he welcomes Obama’s willingness to hear critical views, he’s disappointed in Obama’s new support for preventive detention.
US general linked to Abu Ghraib abuse
Leaked memo reveals control of prison passed to military intelligence to 'manipulate detainees' - Rape of teen boy by American alleged
By Julian Borger | Guardian UK
Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, head of coalition forces in Iraq, issued an order last October giving military intelligence control over almost every aspect of prison conditions at Abu Ghraib with the explicit aim of manipulating the detainees' "emotions and weaknesses", it was reported yesterday.
The October 12 memorandum, reported in the Washington Post, is a potential "smoking gun" linking prisoner abuse to the US high command. It represents hard evidence that the maltreatment was not simply the fault of rogue military police guards.
On Friday, May 15, 2009, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would restart the military commissions he halted in the first days of his presidency. BORDC strongly opposes this decision.
The use of military commissions is not, contrary to its portrayal in the media, a partisan issue. Many conservatives, including BORDC Advisory Board member Bruce Fein, are opposed to these unconstitutional trials. Military tribunals are an inherently flawed system, and regular courts are already suited to situations like this with systems set up to handle intelligence issues and classified information. This is evidenced by the successful prosecutions of terrorists—over 120 of them, including Jose Padilla and Zacharias Moussaoui—in the regular courts. Broad existing laws and regular federal courts are already more than sufficient without needing to resort to legally and practically dubious trial systems.
Center for Constitutional Rights President Michael Ratner and Managing Attorney for CCR’s Guantanamo project Shayana Kadidal responded with disappointment to President Obama’s speech this morning. CCR represents the detainees at Guantánamo and is part of the key FOIA lawsuit surrounding the torture photo disclosures.
Ratner and Kadidal were disturbed by the direction the Obama administration is taking on questions of human rights, transparency, accountability and the law. CCR’s Executive Director, who met with the president yesterday, briefed his colleagues before boarding a plane this morning.
Cheney Intervened in CIA Inspector General's Torture Probe
By Jason Leopold | Truthout
Former Vice President Dick Cheney intervened in CIA Inspector General John Helgerson's investigation into the agency's use of torture against "high-value" detainees, but the watchdog was still able to prepare a report that concluded the interrogation program violated some provisions of the International Convention Against Torture.
The report, which the Obama administration may soon declassify, was completed in May 2004 and implicated CIA interrogators in at least three detainee deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and referred eight criminal cases of alleged homicide, abuse and misconduct to the Justice Department for further investigation, reporter Jane Mayer wrote in her book, "The Dark Side," and in an investigative report published in The New Yorker in November 2005.