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Interview with a GOP opponent of militarization: Police State Gears Up

By Dave Lindorff

(This article originally ran in WhoWhatWhy News)

If you’re a small-town police chief, or perhaps the chief of a university security department, the US Department of Defense has got a deal for you!

Thanks to the ending of the Iraq War, and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has 11,000 heavily armored vehicles that it has no use for.  Called MRAPs—Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected—they are designed to protect against AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and IEDs. And as pitchman Paul Richards used to say of the ’69 Pontiac Firebird, “They’re practically giving them away!”

Correction, they are giving them away.

All a local police department has to do to get itself an 18-ton MRAP—which originally cost taxpayers between $400,000-$700,000 complete with gun turret and bullet-proof windows—is send a few cops to pick it up and pay for the gas.

There are a few downsides: the things get only five miles to the gallon, can’t go over most bridges (or under them), and have a nasty habit of tipping over on rough terrain.

New weekly ThisCantBeHappening! radio show Climate change: Washington and the Oil Companies Know but Won’t Act to Stop It

ThisCantBeHappening! has a new radio program of the same name. TCBH founder Dave Lindotff  will be hosting the show every Wednesday at 5 pm Eastern Time on theProgressive Radio Network.

Are We Done With War Now?

BY DAVID SWANSON, GUEST COLUMN

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David Swanson David Swanson

Polls showed a large percentage of us in this country supporting the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and even — though somewhat reduced — the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But not long after, and ever since, a majority of us have said those were mistakes.

We’ve opposed attacking Iran whenever that idea has entered the news. We opposed bombing Libya in 2011 and were ignored, as was Congress. And, by the way, advocates of that happy little war are rather quiet about the chaos it created.

But last September, the word on our televisions was that missiles must be sent to strike Syria. President Barack Obama and the leaders of both big political parties said they favored it. Wall Street believed it would happen, judging by Raytheon’s stock. When U.S. intelligence agencies declined to make the president’s case, he released a “government” assessment without them.

Remarkably, we didn’t accept that choice. A majority of us favored humanitarian aid, but no missiles, and no arming of one side in the war. We had the benefit of many people within the government and the military agreeing with us. And when Congress was pressured to demand approval power, Obama granted it.

It helped more that members of Congress were in their districts with people getting in their faces. It was with Congress indicating its refusal to support a war that Obama and Kerry accepted the pre-existing Russian offer to negotiate. In fact, the day before they made that decision, the State Department had stressed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would never ever give up his chemical weapons, and Kerry’s remarks on that solution had been “rhetorical.”

The war in Syria goes on. Washington sent guns, but refrained from air strikes. Major humanitarian aid would cost far less than missiles and guns, but hasn’t materialized. The children we were supposed to care about enough to bomb their country are still suffering, and most of us still care.

But a U.S. war was prevented.

We’re seeing the same thing play out in Washington right now on the question of whether to impose yet more sanctions on Iran, shred a negotiated agreement with Iran, and commit the United States to joining in any war between Israel and Iran.

In January, a bill to do all of that looked likely to pass through the Senate. Public pressure has been one factor in, thus far, slowing it down.

Are we moving away from war?

The ongoing war in Afghanistan, and White House efforts to extend it beyond this year, might suggest otherwise. The military budget that still eats up, across various departments, roughly half of federal discretionary spending, and which is roughly the size of all other countries’ military spending combined, might suggest otherwise. The failure to repeal the authorizations for war from 2001 and 2003, and the establishment of permanent practices of surveillance and detention and secrecy justified by a permanent state of war, might suggest otherwise. As might the ongoing missile strikes from drones over a number of nations.

But you’ll notice that they don’t ask us before launching drone strikes, and that their assurances that no innocent people are harmed have proven highly misleading.

War may be becoming acceptable only as what its advocates have long claimed it was: a last resort. Of course if we can really make that true, we’ll never have a war again.

DAVID SWANSON will be speaking at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick.

Climate Changes-- Washington Freezes (Part III of three part Climate Change series)

By Dave Lindorff


(This is Part III of a three-part series on climate change by Dave Lindorff that is running in WhoWhatWhy News)


The case for harm reduction: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Drug War Sanity

By John Grant


It was to be expected. A famous person’s death by heroin overdose becomes a catalyst for today’s equivalent of the lynch mob. Leading the pack, Bill O’Reilly immediately and aggressively called for heads to roll. Soon, four people were arrested in Manhattan for allegedly selling the drugs to the Academy Award winning actor.

Cop literally a ‘ball-buster’: Sexual Assault and Other Philadelphia Police Scandals

By Linn Washington Jr.

 

Philadelphia -- A January 7, 2014 police assault on Darrin Manning that resulted in the 16-year-old honor student's needing emergency surgery to repair a ruptured testicle, is outrageous but hardly unusual in this city.

Cop literally a ‘ball-buster’: Sexual Assault and Other Philadelphia Police Scandals

By Linn Washington Jr.

 

Philadelphia -- A January 7, 2014 police assault on Darrin Manning that resulted in the 16-year-old honor student's needing emergency surgery to repair a ruptured testicle, is outrageous but hardly unusual in this city.

Making Iowa into a War Zone- National Guard Poised toAttack from Des Moines Airport

By Brian Terrell

The F-16 jets of the Iowa Air National Guard that formerly buzzed the city of Des Moines have disappeared and we are told that their base at the Des Moines International Airport is in the process of refitting into a command center for unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly called drones. The MQ-9 Reaper drones themselves will not be coming to Iowa but will be based in and launched overseas. When airborne, these unmanned planes will be flown by remote control via satellite link from Des Moines. Classified by the military as a “Hunter-Killer platform,” the MQ-9 Reaper is armed with Hellfire missiles and 500 pound bombs that according to plan will be launched by airmen sitting at computer terminals in Des Moines.

President Obama, in an address from the National Defense University last May, described this new technology as more precise and by implication more humane than other weaponry: “By narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.” There is an understandable appeal to the idea of a weapon that can discriminate between the good and the bad people and limit regrettable “collateral damage.” It is understandable too, that a nation weary of sending its sons and daughters to fight on battlefields far away, risking injury, death or the debilitating effects of posttraumatic stress, might look to embrace a new method of war whereby the warriors fights battles from the safe distances. Thousands of miles beyond the reach of the enemy, drone combatants often do not even have to leave their hometowns and are able to return to homes and families at the end of a shift.

All the promises of a new era of better war through technology, however, are proving false. Rather than limiting the scope of war, drones are expanding and proliferating it, killing more civilians both on battlefields and far from them, endangering our soldiers and the safety of our communities. Instead of keeping the horrors of war at a safe distance, drones bring the war home in unprecedented ways. The plan to fly drones out of the Iowa Air Guard Base in Des Moines threatens to make a literal war zone in Central Iowa.

In his National Defense University speech, the president contended that “conventional airpower and missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.”A few weeks later a study published by the same National Defense University refuted his claim. Drone strikes in Afghanistan, the study found, were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.”Despite the president’s assurances to the contrary, drone strikes cause immense “local outrage” in the countries where they happen, turning America’s allies into enemies. "What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world," said former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal. "The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one."

Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates also warns of the seductive power and precision of armed drones that leads many to perceive war as a “bloodless, painless and odorless” affair. “Remarkable advances in precision munitions, sensors, information and satellite technology and more can make us overly enamored with the ability of technology to transform the traditional laws and limits of war. A button is pushed in Nevada and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Kandahar.”Defense experts and policy makers, Gates warns, have come to view drone warfare as a “kind of video game or action movie. . . . In reality, war is inevitably tragic, inefficient and uncertain.” General Mike Hostage, chief of the US Air Combat Command, claims that while weaponized drones are useful in assassinations of terror suspects, they are impractical in combat. "Predators and Reapers are useless in a contested environment," Hostage said.

Some enlisted personnel are also questioning the use of drones. Heather Linebaugh, a drone operator for the US Air Force for three years says: “Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I'd start with: ‘How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?’ And: ‘How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?’ Or even more pointedly: ‘How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?’”

The transformation from fighter planes to drones will be marked by changing the name of the Air Guard unit in Des Moines from the “132nd Fighter Wing” to the “132nd Attack Wing.” This change is more than symbolic- a “fight” by definition has two sides. There is such a thing as a fair fight and a fight has some kind of resolution. An attack, however, is by nature one-sided, something that a perpetrator inflicts on a victim. A fighter might sometimes be justified, an attacker, never. Drone strikes rarely catch a “terrorist” in an act of aggression against the US and often occur in counties where the US is not at war. Their victims are targeted on the basis of questionable intelligence or “patterns of behavior” that look suspicious from a computer screen thousands of miles way. More than once, drone victims have been US citizens living abroad, executed without charges or trial.

Distance from the battlefield does not isolate soldiers from posttraumatic stress or the moral injury of war. Heather Linebaugh speaks of two friends and colleagues who committed suicide and another former drone operator, Brandon Bryant, said that his work had made him into a “heartless sociopath.” While drone pilots are at a greater distance from their victims than other soldiers, he says, the video feed they watch brings them closer: “Artillery doesn’t see the results of their actions. It’s really more intimate for us, because we see everything.”

When the 132nd Attack Wing is up and running, Iowa’s “citizen soldiers” will be engaged in combat in real time from the Des Moines International Airport. “In an F-16, your whole mission was to train to go to war,” said a pilot of an Ohio Air Guard wing that made a similar conversion from fighters to drones. “In this mission, we go to war every day.”Previous foreign postings of the 132nd were always made public, but where in the world the wing will be fighting from now on will be shrouded in secrecy. Reason and the rules of war both suggest that assassinations and acts of war on sovereign nations carried on by the 132nd from its base in Des Moines will make the airport there a military target, putting Iowans at peril.

Drone warfare is based on the lie that war can be made more exact, limited and humane through technology. Our civilian and military authorities, by bringing drones to Des Moines, are acting recklessly and in defiance of domestic and international law. They are acting without regard for the safety and wellbeing of our troops, of the people of Iowa or of people in faraway places who otherwise would mean us no harm. Rather than being an answer, drones perpetuate and multiply the horrors of war and bring them home into our communities.

Brian Terrell lives in Maloy, Iowa, and is a co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

Webinar: Transitioning to a New Economy

 

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Webinar: Transitioning to a New Economy

Thursday, February 6, 2014 @3pm EST

The United States is winding down two wars and beginning a postwar defense drawdown, and at the same time we are in a new environment of fiscal pressure. Many states and communities across the country need help to transition to new economic activity for communities, workers, and businesses currently dependent on the high wartime levels of Pentagon spending. There is federal assistance available to help states and communities with this transition planning and implementation.

Last year, thanks to legislation introduced by former State Senator and current New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, Connecticut established a Commission with a mandate to develop a plan for diversifying the state’s defense-dependent economy. In this presentation, you will hear about efforts in several states to enact similar legislation. Learn about how to connect with the broad spectrum of community, activists, labor activists, and state legislators working toward a new, sustainable economy.

On the webinar, we will hear from:

- Miriam Pemberton, Ph.D., Research Fellow at Institute for Policy Studies, who is working to develop these state commissions as well as other defense transition tools to help communities seeking a sustainable economic future.

- Judith LeBlanc, Field Director for Peace Action, who is working with communities organizing around defense transition efforts.
 

Click here to register for this free webinar!

 

 

WAND Education Fund
691 Massachusetts Avenue | Arlington MA 02476
322 4th Street NE | Washington, DC 20002
250 Georgia Avenue S.E. Suite 202 | Atlanta, GA 30312

Same criminal spying but with a White House blessing: Obama in NSA Speech Says Nothing Will Change

By Alfredo Lopez


This past week, the Federal government threw a one-two punch that will effectively destroy the Internet as we know it. Demonstrating, once again, his talent for obfuscation and misdirection, President Obama made a speech about reforming the NSA and controlling surveillance that actually officially recognized, sanctioned and even expanded the NSA's domestic spying and cyber-warfare.

Short-term profits trump survival: Washington and the Oil Industry Know the Truth about Climate Change

By Dave Lindorff


Climate skeptics in Congress, and oil and coal industry lobbyists like the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coal Council may be preventing any significant action in the US on reducing this country’s emissions of carbon into the atmosphere, but at the Pentagon, and in the executive suites of the oil industry giants, there is no doubt about the reality of climate change.


The Special Ops Surge: America’s Secret War in 134 Countries

By Nick Turse, TomDispatch

They operate in the green glow of night vision in Southwest Asia and stalk through the jungles of South America.  They snatch men from their homes in the Maghreb and shoot it out with heavily armed militants in the Horn of Africa.  They feel the salty spray while skimming over the tops of waves from the turquoise Caribbean to the deep blue Pacific.  They conduct missions in the oppressive heat of Middle Eastern deserts and the deep freeze of Scandinavia.  All over the planet, the Obama administration is waging a secret war whose full extent has never been fully revealed -- until now.

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, from their numbers to their budget.  Most telling, however, has been the exponential rise in special ops deployments globally.  This presence -- now, in nearly 70% of the world’s nations -- provides new evidence of the size and scope of a secret war being waged from Latin America to the backlands of Afghanistan, from training missions with African allies to information operations launched in cyberspace. 

In the waning days of the Bush presidency, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed in about 60 countries around the world.  By 2010, that number had swelled to 75, according to Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post.  In 2011, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that the total would reach 120.  Today, that figure has risen higher still.

In 2013, elite U.S. forces were deployed in 134 countries around the globe, according to Major Matthew Robert Bockholt of SOCOM Public Affairs.  This 123% increase during the Obama years demonstrates how, in addition to conventional wars and a CIA drone campaign, public diplomacy and extensive electronic spying, the U.S. has engaged in still another significant and growing form of overseas power projection.  Conducted largely in the shadows by America’s most elite troops, the vast majority of these missions take place far from prying eyes, media scrutiny, or any type of outside oversight, increasing the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.        

Growth Industry

Formally established in 1987, Special Operations Command has grown steadily in the post-9/11 era.   SOCOM is reportedly on track to reach 72,000 personnel in 2014, up from 33,000 in 2001.  Funding for the command has also jumped exponentially as its baseline budget, $2.3 billion in 2001, hit $6.9 billion in 2013 ($10.4 billion, if you add in supplemental funding).  Personnel deployments abroad have skyrocketed, too, from 4,900 “man-years” in 2001 to 11,500 in 2013.

A recent investigation by TomDispatch, using open source government documents and news releases as well as press reports, found evidence that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in or involved with the militaries of 106 nations around the world in 2012-2013.  For more than a month during the preparation of that article, however, SOCOM failed to provide accurate statistics on the total number of countries to which special operators -- Green Berets and Rangers, Navy SEALs and Delta Force commandos, specialized helicopter crews, boat teams, and civil affairs personnel -- were deployed.   “We don’t just keep it on hand,” SOCOM’s Bockholt explained in a telephone interview once the article had been filed.  “We have to go searching through stuff.  It takes a long time to do that.”  Hours later, just prior to publication, he provided an answer to a question I first asked in November of last year.  “SOF [Special Operations forces] were deployed to 134 countries” during fiscal year 2013, Bockholt explained in an email.

Globalized Special Ops

Last year, Special Operations Command chief Admiral William McRaven explained his vision for special ops globalization.  In a statement to the House Armed Services Committee, he said:

“USSOCOM is enhancing its global network of SOF to support our interagency and international partners in order to gain expanded situational awareness of emerging threats and opportunities. The network enables small, persistent presence in critical locations, and facilitates engagement where necessary or appropriate...”

While that “presence” may be small, the reach and influence of those Special Operations forces are another matter.  The 12% jump in national deployments -- from 120 to 134 -- during McRaven’s tenure reflects his desire to put boots on the ground just about everywhere on Earth.  SOCOM will not name the nations involved, citing host nation sensitivities and the safety of American personnel, but the deployments we do know about shed at least some light on the full range of missions being carried out by America’s secret military.

Last April and May, for instance, Special Ops personnel took part in training exercises in Djibouti, Malawi, and the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean.  In June, U.S. Navy SEALs joined Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, and other allied Mideast forces for irregular warfare simulations in Aqaba, Jordan.  The next month, Green Berets traveled to Trinidad and Tobago to carry out small unit tactical exercises with local forces.  In August, Green Berets conducted explosives training with Honduran sailors.  In September, according to media reports, U.S. Special Operations forces joined elite troops from the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia -- as well as their counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, India, and Russia for a US-Indonesian joint-funded coun­terterrorism exercise held at a training center in Sentul, West Java. 

In October, elite U.S. troops carried out commando raids in Libya and Somalia, kidnapping a terror suspect in the former nation while SEALs killed at least one militant in the latter before being driven off under fire.  In November, Special Ops troops conducted humanitarian operations in the Philippines to aid survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. The next month, members of the 352nd Special Operations Group conducted a training exercise involving approximately 130 airmen and six aircraft at an airbase in England and Navy SEALs were wounded while undertaking an evacuation mission in South Sudan.  Green Berets then rang in the new year with a January 1st combat mission alongside elite Afghan troops in Bahlozi village in Kandahar province.

Deployments in 134 countries, however, turn out not to be expansive enough for SOCOM. In November 2013, the command announced that it was seeking to identify industry partners who could, under SOCOM’s Trans Regional Web Initiative, potentially “develop new websites tailored to foreign audiences.”  These would join an existing global network of 10 propaganda websites, run by various combatant commands and made to look like legitimate news outlets, including CentralAsiaOnline.com, Sabahi which targets the Horn of Africa; an effort aimed at the Middle East known as Al-Shorfa.com; and another targeting Latin America called Infosurhoy.com.

SOCOM’s push into cyberspace is mirrored by a concerted effort of the command to embed itself ever more deeply inside the Beltway.  “I have folks in every agency here in Washington, D.C. -- from the CIA, to the FBI, to the National Security Agency, to the National Geospatial Agency, to the Defense Intelligence Agency,” SOCOM chief Admiral McRaven said during a panel discussion at Washington’s Wilson Center last year.  Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Library in November, he put the number of departments and agencies where SOCOM is now entrenched at 38.

134 Chances for Blowback

Although elected in 2008 by many who saw him as an antiwar candidate, President Obama has proved to be a decidedly hawkish commander-in-chief whose policies have already produced notable instances of what in CIA trade-speak has long been called blowback.  While the Obama administration oversaw a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (negotiated by his predecessor), as well as a drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan (after a major military surge in that country), the president has presided over a ramping up of the U.S. military presence in Africa, a reinvigoration of efforts in Latin America, and tough talk about a rebalancing or “pivot to Asia” (even if it has amounted to little as of yet). 

The White House has also overseen an exponential expansion of America’s drone war.  While President Bush launched 51 such strikes, President Obama has presided over 330, according to research by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.  Last year, alone, the U.S. also engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.  Recent revelations from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden have demonstrated the tremendous breadth and global reach of U.S. electronic surveillance during the Obama years.  And deep in the shadows, Special Operations forces are now annually deployed to more than double the number of nations as at the end of Bush’s tenure.

In recent years, however, the unintended consequences of U.S. military operations have helped to sow outrage and discontent, setting whole regions aflame.  More than 10 years after America’s “mission accomplished” moment, seven years after its much vaunted surge, the Iraq that America helped make is in flames.  A country with no al-Qaeda presence before the U.S. invasion and a government opposed to America’s enemies in Tehran now has a central government aligned with Iran and two cities flying al-Qaeda flags.

A more recent U.S. military intervention to aid the ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi helped send neighboring Mali, a U.S.-supported bulwark against regional terrorism, into a downward spiral, saw a coup there carried out by a U.S.-trained officer, ultimately led to a bloody terror attack on an Algerian gas plant, and helped to unleash nothing short of a terror diaspora in the region. 

And today South Sudan -- a nation the U.S. shepherded into being, has supported economically and militarily (despite its reliance on child soldiers), and has used as a hush-hush base for Special Operations forces -- is being torn apart by violence and sliding toward civil war.

The Obama presidency has seen the U.S. military’s elite tactical forces increasingly used in an attempt to achieve strategic goals.  But with Special Operations missions kept under tight wraps, Americans have little understanding of where their troops are deployed, what exactly they are doing, or what the consequences might be down the road.  As retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, has noted, the utilization of Special Operations forces during the Obama years has decreased military accountability, strengthened the “imperial presidency,” and set the stage for a war without end.  “In short,” he wrote at TomDispatch, “handing war to the special operators severs an already too tenuous link between war and politics; it becomes war for its own sake.”

Secret ops by secret forces have a nasty tendency to produce unintended, unforeseen, and completely disastrous consequences.  New Yorkers will remember well the end result of clandestine U.S. support for Islamic militants against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s: 9/11.  Strangely enough, those at the other primary attack site that day, the Pentagon, seem not to have learned the obvious lessons from this lethal blowback.  Even today in Afghanistan and Pakistan, more than 12 years after the U.S. invaded the former and almost 10 years after it began conducting covert attacks in the latter, the U.S. is still dealing with that Cold War-era fallout: with, for instance, CIA drones conducting missile strikes against an organization (the Haqqani network) that, in the 1980s, the Agency supplied with missiles.

Without a clear picture of where the military’s covert forces are operating and what they are doing, Americans may not even recognize the consequences of and blowback from our expanding secret wars as they wash over the world.  But if history is any guide, they will be felt -- from Southwest Asia to the Mahgreb, the Middle East to Central Africa, and, perhaps eventually, in the United States as well. 

In his blueprint for the future, SOCOM 2020, Admiral McRaven has touted the globalization of U.S. special ops as a means to “project power, promote stability, and prevent conflict.”  Last year, SOCOM may have done just the opposite in 134 places.  

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute.  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, on the BBC and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author most recently of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (just out in paperback).  You can catch his conversation with Bill Moyers about that book by clicking here

Copyright 2014 Nick Turse

Addicted to the fruit of a poisoned tree: Thanks to George Bush, Talks with Iran Make Sense

By John Grant


US military history from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan is too often a combination of destructive stumbling around followed by an effort to sustain and project forward the notion of US power and exceptionalism. To forge another narrative is very difficult.

Gangsters, warriors, thugs TAO is the NSA's Band of Technology Criminals

By Alfredo Lopez


On this website, we've speculated that one outcome of the flood of NSA-centered revelations has been to desensitize U.S. citizens and diminish outrage at what is actually revealed. We are becoming conditioned to the horror story that is the National Security Administration.

US: Global force for peace

By Jeff Bachman

 

I was shocked when I saw the recent Win/Gallup International poll. Can you believe that 24 percent of those polled in 65 countries named the United States as the greatest threat to peace in the world today? That’s right. This poll alleges that, with 193 countries to choose from, nearly one-fourth of all respondents chose the U.S. The runner-up? Pakistan at 8 percent.

I would expect this from Russia and China, where 54 percent and 49 percent of respondents view the United States as the greatest threat to peace, but I just cannot accept that Bosnia (49 percent), Argentina (46 percent), Greece (45 percent), Turkey (45 percent), Mexico (37 percent), Brazil (26 percent), and Peru (24 percent) would do the same.

 

One cheer for the Times (three for the Guardian): Nation’s Major Paper Says Snowden’s a Hero, but Won’t Say Obama’s a Criminal

By Dave Lindorff


Let’s start here by conceding that today’s New York Times editorial saying that President Obama should “find a way to end (Edward) Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home” was pretty remarkable.

It shouldn’t be, though.

Looking for clues, not 'sacred' relics: NY Times admits Exhumation Proves Ex-Brazilian President Murdered

By Dave Lindorff

A few weeks ago, WhoWhatWhy ran a piece of mine criticizing a subtly deceptive article in the New York Times that made light of a wave of exhumations of popular leftist figures in Latin America. Quoting unnamed “scholars,” the paper’s Latin American correspondent Simon Romero suggested the forensic digs may be the secularized continuation of customs from the time of early Christianity, when a vibrant trade involved the body parts of saints.

That, in fact, is nonsense.  The purportedly “natural”, “accidental”, or “suicide-related” deaths of such important left-leaning figures as Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda, Brazil’s President Joao Goulart and Chile’s President Salvador Allende all occurred during the rule of various rightist dictators.

The re-examination of evidence in these cases is based therefore on strong skepticism about the “official” narratives of their deaths.  This skepticism, in turn, is based on a well-documented history of thousands of cases of political murder in the region.

Far from looking for relics to sell, investigators are looking for evidence that these deaths were actually assassinations, the work of fearful tyrants anxious to prevent the victims’ return to power.  Now one result is in, and it’s explosive.

Truth Commission: Juscelino Kubitschek Assassinated

Investigators from Brazil’s Truth Commission, looking into the 1976 car crash of former leftist Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek and his limo driver, have discovered a bullet fragment lodged in the driver’s skull. This finding, the Commission ruled, along with other evidence, suggests that Kubitschek was murdered—most likely at the behest of the leaders of the CIA-backed military coup that also ousted his successor Joao Goulart.

A criminal government at work!: The NSA Paid to Steal Your Private Data

By Alfredo Lopez

 

As the people of this country, and much of the world, observe the year-end holidays, we can look back on 2013 as the year when any illusion of genuine democracy was dashed by the remarkable revelations about the police-state surveillance that watches us. Last week, we saw a deeply disturbing stroke added to that incrementally developing picture.

US hypocrisy over diplomatic immunity: US Embassy and Consular Employees Deserve It, Foreign Diplomats Not So Much

By Dave Lindorff

 

The diplomatic brouhaha between the US and India over a federal arrest and multiple strip-search and cavity search of a high-ranking Indian consular official in New York has exposed the astonishing hypocrisy of the US when it comes to the issue of diplomatic immunity.

No peace through military strength. A response to Catherine Ashton’s “To Secure Peace, Be Ready for Battle”

By Patrick T. Hiller

“The War to End all Wars” never achieved what H.G. Wells implied with this term. On the contrary, World War I not only resulted in the death of  more than 16 million humans, it also resulted in a victor’s peace directly setting the stage for World War II where an estimated 60 to 100 million people died. I like to believe that no World War is on the horizon, but I was quite surprised to read the headline of a Wall Street Journal opinion piece “To Secure Peace, Be Ready for Battle." The surprise was not so much the title itself. This language -- promoting ‘peace’ by amassing more military -- has been all-too-familiar and all-too-common in the twenty-first century perpetual ineffective and counterproductive war on terror and other misguided relics like humanly insane nuclear deterrence or the offensive, war-waging North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

My surprise with this opinion piece came after the headline when I realized it was not one of our usual media “experts” whose insights supporting the military status quo are abundantly available in major corporate media. The article is authored by Catherine Ashton, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy and vice president of the European Commission. Wait, didn’t the European Union receive the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize? And was it not the will of Alfred Nobel to recognize “the person who shall have done most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”? The answer to both questions is yes. Previous Nobel Peace Laureates Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire co-authored a letter stating that the EU was “clearly not one of the ‘champions of peace’ Alfred Nobel had in mind,” adding that the EU condones “security based on military force and waging wars rather than insisting on the need for an alternative approach.”  The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama also caused considerable controversy as he admitted himself. In his acceptance speech Obama noted: “So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.” No Mr. President, and no Ms. Ashton. This is not what Alfred Nobel had in mind with when he wrote his will.

The entire article by Ashton is so misguided that it is hard to focus on one part. Should we talk about the immorality of Western global power projection, the ineffectiveness of military versus nonviolent alternatives, the myth of the “defense” sector as a job creator or corporate interests in building “defense” machinery? Apparently it would have been nice from Ashton’s European Union perspective to have more of their own air tankers refuel the fighter jets while bombing the country of Libya to get rid of a dictator. It is troubling that Ms. Ashton seriously is using the Libyan example as a success story. All alarm bells should be ringing by now.   

Unfortunately Catherine Ashton, a diplomat at the highest level of the European Union, merges the need for international law enforcement and the prosecution of war criminals with the need for military power and domination. Unfortunately she proposes to treat the symptoms while at the same time projecting military power. Unfortunately she considers strengthened military capacities as vital to build a more peaceful world. Unfortunately she is telling us that the EU has not abandoned its identity as a peace project while promoting peace through military strength.    

We need to eradicate this skewed defense and security paradigm built upon the belief that peace and security should be pursued through military force. Security of the European Union unfortunately is defined in relation to military power and its global projection -- does this sound familiar? This view is created and maintained by those who benefit from legitimizing direct or structural violence -- violence which kills or social structures which prevent people from fulfilling their basic needs.

Author and peace studies professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer helps us move toward a more authentic concept of security. He distinguishes between protection of interests and authentic security. The first one is supported by offensive militarism. Nelson-Pallmeyer writes: “Militarism is not defense. Defending interests isn’t the same thing as defending legitimate security needs.” The second one based on the idea that leaders “take steps to keep families, homes, neighborhoods, and nation safe and secure.” Which one would you chose?

Or let us look at human security as another concept which outweighs Ashton’s EU proposal. Jody Williams, who received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ban landmines believes that peace is defined by human and not national security and that is must be achieved through sustainable development, environmental justice and meeting people’s basic needs (2011 Ted Talk). Mairead Maguire, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her action to help end the violence in Northern Ireland continues to speak out against the institutions of militarism and war. Both those extraordinary women know violent conflict and its consequences.

A Nobel Peace Prize is not necessarily a Nobel Peace Prize. Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Desmond Tutu and Adolfo Perez Esquivel have the moral and intellectual authority to inform us what about the necessary steps toward peace and security. They certainly do not involve instruments of war as President Obama suggests or preparing for battles as Catherine Ashton suggests.

***

Patrick. T. Hiller, Ph.D., Hood River, OR, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Conflict Transformation scholar, professor, on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association, and Director of the War Prevention Initiative of the Jubitz Family Foundation.

Corporate media keeps US citizens in the dark: Pakistan Outs Three US CIA Station Chiefs in Three Years

By Dave Lindorff


For the third time in three years, a CIA station chief has been outed in Pakistan, a country where the CIA is running one of its largest covert operations. It’s a remarkable record of failure by the CIA, since each outing, which has required a replacement of the station chief position, causes a breakdown in the agency’s network of contacts in the country.


A Holiday Fantasy: If I Were Emperor of the USA

By John Grant


It’s that time of the year again. Ho. Ho. Ho. There’s the urge to celebrate the Winter Solstice (AKA Christmas) with family and friends. It’s also time for end-of-the-year assessments concerning the absurdities of life in a fading empire in denial.

Blank Spots on the map: Almost all the U.S. Army’s secret military bases across the globe revealed on Google and Bing

By Daily Mail

The U.S. military can be a sensitive lot when it comes to the location of their military facilities.

With military bases on every continent, in every corner of the world, for the kinds of tasks they perform, it's no wonder that many of the locations are blacked out and hidden from public view.

The Pentagon says there are around 5,000 bases in total with around 600 overseas.

Josh Begley, a data artist, decided to set himself the task of mapping all known U.S. military bases around the world, and collect satellite pictures of them using Google and Bing Maps.

The project was inspired by Trevor Paglen's book 'Blank Spots on the Map' which goes inside the world of secret military bases that are sometimes censored on maps.

Begley has found the coordinates for 650 bases, and published pictures for 644 of them. The pictures can be viewed at http://empire.is/.

GO HERE.

Two cheers for Pope Francis: About Time American Idiocy and Paranoia over Marxism Got Called Out

By Dave Lindorff


So Pope Francis, the new pope who has conservative American Catholics, particularly those in politics and the media, freaked out because he is criticizing capitalist greed, knows Marxists who are "good people,"  and isn't upset to be labeled one of them, even though he says "Marxist ideology is wrong.".

There Are No Bad Bears

When he was a tiny little bear cub, Nelson would scamper over to be close to his mother when he heard any loud noise.  When he got a little bigger, if something scared him he would growl.  Bigger still, and he would stand up on his hind legs, growl, and wave his paws about.  And when he got even bigger than that -- when he began to look like a full-grown bear -- if Nelson heard something that might be dangerous, he would stand calmly still and listen harder.

Nelson's cubhood was a happy one.  His mother and the other big bears taught him to run and climb, and how to find the berries that were good and wouldn't make you sick.  They taught him how to settle arguments with other bears.  Growling was only for show, Nelson's mother always told him.

A bear must never attack another bear
But only growl and attack the air. 

She told him that little poem many times.

At the end of each day, Nelson's mother would read him stories before he went to bed in the cave. He especially liked "Goldilocks and the Three Humans." When Nelson got a little bigger his mother sometimes let him listen to stories told to a big circle of bears by the best bear storytellers in those mountains.  All of Nelson's friends listened to the stories, so Nelson's mother let him do so too.  Nelson found the stories -- full of fights and adventures -- to be tremendously strange but tremendously exciting.

Nelson knew that the bears around him in his woods and mountains were not the only bears in the world.  He knew other bears lived far way, and others even farther away on the far side of the world.  And yet Nelson was never taught a name for his bears until he was nearly full-grown.  And when he was taught the name, it was a name he had heard before in movies and books.  The name was: the Good Bears.

Nelson was happy to be a Good Bear, but the Bad Bears worried him.  He was told where they lived, and he was horrified at the thought that Bad Bears might come into the Good Bears' area.  He imagined what the Bad Bears looked like.  They must have horns and scales.  Some said the Bad Bears breathed fire.  Nelson began to grow afraid again, just as he had been afraid of everything when he had been a tiny cub.  And at the same time, Nelson was excited by the idea of the Bad Bears.  At any noise, Nelson would jump, his hair would stand up, he would rise and growl and wave his claws through the air fast enough to have ripped through a brick wall had there been a brick wall in the middle of the woods. 

There was nothing human in the woods until the day the truck came.  Nelson knew nothing of trucks.  They hadn't been in any stories.  He also knew nothing of guns.  So, when the forestry department came to help the bears by drugging them to sleep, inspecting them all over, sticking tags on them, and letting them go again, Nelson only knew that a large and noisy thing was nearby and getting closer.  He sprang into action.

While Nelson stood his tallest and roared his loudest at the truck, the truck did not talk back to him or retreat. The truck stopped. A human got out with something in his hands. There was a noise.  And then Nelson felt a sharp pain in his left rear leg.  Nelson felt dizzy.  He was spinning.  Or the forest was spinning.  Or the clouds were spinning.  Nelson heard voices, human voices.  They were saying he might be sick.  He must be tested.  They must help him.

Nelson woke up in a place he'd never seen or imagined.  There were huge hard bars on all sides of him, and above him.  Nelson roared like mad.  Humans came near to his cage but were afraid to come all the way up to it.  Nelson's rage and fury were limitless. Nelson nearly went insane with fear and anger and hatred. He roared and roared and smashed himself against the bars.  Afterward, he had no idea how long this had lasted.  It ended when the cage was loaded onto a truck, taken into the woods, and opened.  Nelson was free!

But something was wrong.  The trees were not the same as before.  The mountains were not the same shape.  It was as if the world had been twisted sideways somehow.  And then Nelson figured out what had happened.  The humans had released him into the wrong woods.  They had put him in the land of the Bad Bears.  Nelson shook with fear.  It was one thing to imagine fighting the Bad Bears with all the Good Bears standing at your side, like in the stories told to bear cubs.  It was another thing to be alone, the only Good Bear in a world of vicious Bad Bears seeking to destroy you.

Nelson heard and smelled something.  He looked quickly around for a place to hide, but it was too late.  A bear was coming close, and the bear had seen him.  But Nelson was in luck: this didn't look like a Bad Bear at all.  This was another Good Bear just like him.  They would be together now, two Good Bears against all of the Bad.  "Greetings, fellow Good Bear," growled Nelson. "How did you come to be in these woods?"

"I was born in them," said the bear. "But I haven't met you before. Where do you come from?"

Nelson was confused but answered, "I come from over that ridge and across the next valley, of course.  Don't all Good Bears come from there?"

The other bear began to back away slowly and the hair to rise on his back.  "You come from the land of the Bad Bears?" he growled.  "Are you a Bad Bear then?"

"What are you talking about?" growled Nelson.  "Do I look like a Bad Bear? Do I breathe fire? Where are my scales? Where are my horns? I'm a Good Bear, just like you."

"That's true," said the other bear, whose name was Steven.  Nelson and Steven relaxed a little and began to trust each other, but both were puzzled and confused.  Each of them thought the other must be a Bad Bear, but both could see it wasn't true.

Nelson stayed with Steven's family that night, planning to begin traveling home the next day.  In the morning Steven, who did not want Nelson to leave, said he would travel with him, at least half way.  And so, the two friends moved quickly through the day and crossed the mountain ridge.  And not long after crossing the ridge and beginning down the other side, they heard the most frightening noise in the world.  They heard the noise of war coming.  They heard it coming from in front of them and behind.

Hundreds of bears were roaring and stomping and screaming and smashing against the trees.  They all seemed to have gone insane, a huge line of them moving up from Nelson's woods.  And another gigantic group of mad crazy bears ready to kill was coming up the mountains from Steven's home.  Nelson and Steven stood perfectly still, listened, smelled, and thought.  And they thought well, without even quite knowing they'd done so, and without having to tell each other what to do.

Together, Nelson and Steven raced back to the top of the ridge.  They could see the armies of bears advancing up both slopes toward them.  Nelson faced the bears from his home.  He saw bears he knew, friends and family.  "Stop!," he roared.  "Who do you think you are attacking?"

"Stop!" roared Steven at his own bear nation.  "Who are you coming to kill?"

"The Bad Bears!" said Nelson's countrybears.

"The Bad Bears!" said Steven's bear kin.

"They don't exist," roared Nelson and Steven. 

"Look," roared Nelson.  "Look at this bear next to me.  He is from the land of what you call Bad Bears, but he is just like you and me.  His bears have been told that YOU are the Bad Bears.  And you know that isn't true."

Steven told his bears the same thing.  But meanwhile the bears had been advancing quickly and were nearing the ridgetop.  "Look at them," pleaded Nelson and Steven.  "Look at them!  They're Good Bears the same as you.  Bad Bears are only in stories.  Things in stories aren't always real.  Bear cubs know that!  And bear cubs know that growling is only for show. You must never attack another bear, but only growl and attack the air." 

The two bear friends were telling whole armies of angry bears what every bear mother had told every one of those bears when they had been young cubs.  Some of the bears were roaring like mad at their enemies.  Some of the bears were beginning to listen.  Some of the bears were stopping and looking carefully at the bears in front of them.

Bears growled, but they didn't attack.  They stopped and looked.  They understood that Steven and Nelson were right.

Nelson and Steven had stopped a war. 

Later, at Nelson's cave, Steven said to his friend, "Do you know why I'm glad you're not really a Bad Bear?"

Nelson nodded.  "I do," he said. "Because then I wouldn't exist.  And you'd be a Bad Bear too and not exist either."

"Exactly," growled Steven. "There'd be no more bears if we weren't all Good Bears, as of course we are!"

"I'm glad," growled Nelson.

Murray-Ryan Budget Dumps 51.4% into Military -- Happy Human Rights Day!

Excerpted from the press release pasted below:

"In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion."

This is an unbelievable outrage for Congress to churn out on International Human Rights Day while numerous members of Congress were off in South Africa claiming to support the use of nonviolence to effect change in the world.

How will the U.S. public react once the media lays bare this incredible proposal? Here's enough money to work wonders in green energy, infrastructure, actual humanitarian aid, education, and many other areas all combined.  This is an amount of money very difficult to comprehend, and it's being dumped into such unpopular projects as the ongoing war on Afghanistan.

One has to wonder how our Nobel Peace Prize laureate, "ender" of the war, President Barack Obama might respond should Congress send him such a budget.  I'm sure he'll be hard-pressed not to assume he's dreaming when he reads these numbers.  I'm sure ...

Oh, wait.  What?

Obama wanted 57% to go to militarism?


 

 

I see. I get it. Don't you get it? This is 18-dimensional chess. By proposing an outrageous budget, Obama motivated Congress to scale back to something slightly less outrageous. He never could have talked them into that. This took strategic planning and plotting.  Probably some people actually fell for it, actually thought Obama wanted funding for the wars he continues and launches. Pretty funny.

CONTACT:
Murray Press Office:(202) 224-5398
Ryan Press Office: (202) 226-6100

Murray and Ryan Announce Bipartisan Budget-Conference Agreement

Two-year budget agreement would avoid government shutdown in January, provide certainty to businesses and families, and return budget process to regular order

Bipartisan agreement would provide sequester relief for defense and domestic priorities—fully offset by concrete savings and reforms—and further reduce the deficit

Short-term agreement breaks through partisan gridlock and can serve as foundation for continued bipartisan work

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that they have reached a two-year budget agreement in advance of the budget conference’s December 13th deadline.

“I’m proud of this agreement,” said Chairman Ryan. “It reduces the deficit—without raising taxes. And it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” said Chairman Murray. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 would set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion—about halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion. The agreement would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

The sequester relief is fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling approximately $85 billion. The agreement would reduce the deficit by between $20 and $23 billion.

The House of Representatives is expected to take up the Bipartisan Budget Act first, followed by the Senate. If this bill is signed into law, the appropriations committees will then be able to work on spending bills at an agreed-upon level in advance of the January 15th deadline.


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