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The Facts Thwart Rehab of Colin Powell
By Ray McGovern
Watching retired Gen. Colin Powell refer to the parable of the Good Samaritan during Sunday’s Memorial Day ceremonies on the Mall in Washington, it struck me that Powell was giving hypocrisy a bad name.
Those familiar with the Good Samaritan story and also with the under-reported behavior of Gen. Powell, comeback kid of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM), know that the two do not mesh.
Powell’s well-documented disregard for those who have borne the brunt of the battle places him in the company of the priest and the Levite – in the Good Samaritan parable – who, seeing the man attacked by robbers on the side of the road, walked right on by.
Sadly, Powell has a long record of placing the wounded and the vulnerable on his list of priorities far below his undying need to get promoted or to promote himself. Powell’s rhetoric, of course, would have us believe otherwise.
Soldier Seeking Asylum: 'I Want to Be Able to Atone'
Elsa Rassbach interviews André Shepherd, a U.S. soldier applying for asylum in Germany
By Elsa Rassbach | Common Dreams
Background: the view from Germany
Berlin, May 26, 2009. Early in June, President Barack Obama will sign into law the supplemental funding of 92 billion U.S. dollars for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan that was approved by the U.S. Congress last week. Then he will depart for a speaking tour and meetings with heads of state in Egypt and in Europe.
On June 5th, he will be coming to visit us here in Germany, making stops at the concentration camp at Buchenwald, at Weimar, and at Dresden, a site also of massive bombings of civilians during World War II. This will be Obama's third visit to Germany in less than a year, and it seems likely that he will once again, as in the previous two visits, make a pitch for more German support for the ongoing "war against terror," particularly in Afghanistan. Though Obama is popular here, the German government has for the most part stonewalled his requests for further direct German involvement in these wars.
The well-known German ambivalence towards the U.S. "war against terror" is now being further tested by a U.S. soldier's application for asylum in Germany. André Shepherd, who was stationed in Germany, refuses to deploy to Iraq. Many U.S. soldiers stationed in Europe who refused service in or support of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan have been tried in U.S. military courts in Europe and imprisoned in the U.S. military's correctional facility at Mannheim; the most well known are Blake Lemoine (2005) and Agustín Aguayo (2006-2007).
But Shepherd is so far the first to turn to the German government for help: last November he filed a formal application to the German government for asylum. For the moment his case is entirely outside of U.S. jurisdiction.
Former President George W. Bush on Thursday repeated Dick Cheney's assertion that the administration's enhanced interrogation program, which included controversial techniques such as waterboarding, was legal and garnered valuable information that prevented terrorist attacks.
Bush told a southwestern Michigan audience of nearly 2,500 -- the largest he has addressed in the United States since leaving the White House in January -- that, after the September 11 attacks, "I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you."
In his speech, Bush did not specifically refer to the high-profile debate over President Obama's decision to halt the use of harsh interrogation techniques. Bush also didn't mention Cheney, his former vice president, by name.
Instead, he described how he proceeded after the capture of terrorism suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003.
"The first thing you do is ask what's legal?" Bush said. "What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision, within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, 'I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.' I can tell you that the information we got saved lives." Read more.
The Pentagon on Thursday denied a British newspaper report that photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse, whose release U.S. President Barack Obama wants to block, include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Daily Telegraph newspaper had shown "an inability to get the facts right".
"That news organization has completely mischaracterized the images," Whitman told reporters. "None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article."
Thursday's Telegraph quoted retired U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba, who conducted a 2004 investigation into abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, as saying the pictures showed "torture, abuse, rape and every indecency."
The newspaper said at least one picture showed an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.
Others were said to depict sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube. Read more.
US Iraq Casualties rise to 72,239
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 30 combat casualties in the six days ending May 27, 2009 as the official total rose to at least 72,239. The total includes 34,758 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 37,481 dead and medically evacuated (last reported April 4, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries - mainly brain trauma from explosions and PTSD - diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**
US media divert attention from the actual cost in American life and limb by occasionally reporting only the total killed (4,303 as of May 27) but rarely mentioning the 31,312 wounded in combat. To further minimize public perception of the cost, they cover for the Pentagon by ignoring the 36,624 (as of April 4, 2009))*** military victims of accidents and illness serious enough to require medical air evacuation, although the 4,303 reported deaths include 857 (up one) who died from those same causes, including at least 18 from faulty electrical work by KBR and 177 suicides through 2008.****
* The number of wounded is usually updated on Tuesdays by the Pentagon.
** New York Times, Jan 26, 2009
*** the number of "non combat" injured was reported by the Pentagon.
**** NYTimes, Jan 30, 2009
A Sunday Herald investigation has discovered that coalition forces are holding more than 100 children in jails such as Abu Ghraib. Witnesses claim that the detainees – some as young as 10 – are also being subjected to rape and torture.
It was early last October that Kasim Mehaddi Hilas says he witnessed the rape of a boy prisoner aged about 15 in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. “The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets,” he said in a statement given to investigators probing prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib. “Then, when I heard the screaming I climbed the door … and I saw [the soldier’s name is deleted] who was wearing a military uniform.” Hilas, who was himself threatened with being sexually assaulted in Abu Graib, then describes in horrific detail how the soldier raped “the little kid”.
In another witness statement, passed to the Sunday Herald, former prisoner Thaar Salman Dawod said: “[I saw] two boys naked and they were cuffed together face to face and [a US soldier] was beating them and a group of guards were watching and taking pictures and there was three female soldiers laughing at the prisoners. The prisoners, two of them, were young.”
It’s not certain exactly how many children are being held by coalition forces in Iraq, but a Sunday Herald investigation suggests there are up to 107. Their names are not known, nor is where they are being kept, how long they will be held or what has happened to them during their detention.
Proof of the widespread arrest and detention of children in Iraq by US and UK forces is contained in an internal Unicef report written in June. The report has – surprisingly – not been made public. A key section on child protection, headed “Children in Conflict with the Law or with Coalition Forces”, reads: “In July and August 2003, several meetings were conducted with CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) … and Ministry of Justice to address issues related to juvenile justice and the situation of children detained by the coalition forces … Unicef is working through a variety of channels to try and learn more about conditions for children who are imprisoned or detained, and to ensure that their rights are respected.” Read more.
One might think that the American public’s toleration of torture reflects the breakdown of the country’s Christian faith. Alas, a recent poll released by the Pew Forum reveals that most white Christian evangelicals and white Catholics condone torture. In contrast, only a minority of those who seldom or never attend church services condone torture.
Torture is a violation of US and international law. Yet, president George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney, on the basis of legally incompetent memos prepared by Justice Department officials, gave the OK to interrogators to violate US and international law.
The new Obama administration shows no inclination to uphold the rule of law by prosecuting those who abused their offices and broke the law.
Cheney claims, absurdly, that torture was necessary in order to save American cities from nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Many Americans have bought the argument that torture is morally justified in order to make terrorists reveal where ticking nuclear bombs are before they explode.
However, there were no hidden ticking nuclear bombs. Hypothetical scenarios were used to justify torture for other purposes.
We now know that the reason the Bush regime tortured its captives was to coerce false testimony that linked Iraq and Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda and September 11. Without this “evidence,” the US invasion of Iraq remains a war crime under the Nuremberg standard.
Torture, then, was a second Bush regime crime used to produce an alibi for the illegal and unprovoked US invasion of Iraq. Read more.
“My Administration is also confronting challenges to what is known as the ‘State Secrets’ privilege. This is a doctrine that allows the government to challenge legal cases involving secret programs. It has been used by many past Presidents - Republican and Democrat - for many decades. And while this principle is absolutely necessary to protect national security, I am concerned that it has been over-used. We must not protect information merely because it reveals the violation of a law or embarrasses the government.”
Thus spoke President Obama in his national security speech last week.
On May 14, The Frederick News-Post’s lead editorial celebrated the agreement by the FBI to pay $880,000 to the National Academy of Sciences for a review of the science used in the FBI’s investigation of the anthrax letters case (“Amerithrax”). According to the FBI, it took years and millions of dollars to develop and apply the science that incriminated Bruce Ivins.
It will take another 18 months or more for the NAS to complete its study. Though the NAS has announced that this study will not evaluate the quality of the case against Ivins, most observers, including FNP’s editor, assume that if the NAS finds the FBI science to be valid, this would “go a long way” toward confirming the guilt of Ivins.
Iraq Veteram Turned Conscientious Objector Currently Making Journey Across US to Seek Alternatives To War
AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW: IRAQ VETERAN TURNED CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR CURRENTLY MAKING JOURNEY ACROSS U.S. TO SEEK ALTERNATIVES TO WAR
Josh Stieber, who will begin his on-foot and bicycle, cross-country journey just after Memorial Day on May 27th in Washington, D.C., is now available for phone interviews or in-person interviews if you are able to meet him somewhere along his route. Please see website for listing of cities and expected dates and email to schedule either type of interview. He plans to be in the following states: Washington, DC; Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Montana, Washington and California.
With the military announcing successes in Iraq and seeking to repeat it's surge strategy in Afghanistan, the nature of these policies begs further examination. Are these tactics as successful as the military proclaims? What were the costs and human factors of these accomplishments? What are the effects?
A first-hand testimony can be heard from Iraq veteran Josh Stieber. Stieber was deployed to Baghdad as part of the Surge from Feb 07 to Apr 09. He spent the majority of his deployment living outside of larger military installations, working with his infantry company in converted warehouses and police stations. Spending time as a humvee driver, machine gunner, detainee guard, radio transmission operator, and a little bit of everything in between, Stieber has a broad range of firsthand experiences within the Army and of daily Iraqi life.
Upon return from his deployment, Stieber's experiences lead him to apply as a conscientious objector. Nearly a year of investigation into the sincerity of his claim was conducted until he was unanimously approved by the Department of the Army Conscientious Objection Review Board. He spent the meantime studying and preparing his cross-country trip where he hopes to share his experiences while learning about alternatives to military involvement.
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.