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Corporatism and Fascism

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Corporatism and Fascism

Too Many Overseas Bases

Too Many Overseas Bases
By David Vine | Foreign Policy in Focus

In the midst of an economic crisis that’s getting scarier by the day, it’s time to ask whether the nation can really afford some 1,000 military bases overseas. For those unfamiliar with the issue, you read that number correctly. One thousand. One thousand U.S. military bases outside the 50 states and Washington, DC, representing the largest collection of bases in world history.

Officially the Pentagon counts 865 base sites, but this notoriously unreliable number omits all our bases in Iraq (likely over 100) and Afghanistan (80 and counting), among many other well-known and secretive bases. More than half a century after World War II and the Korean War, we still have 268 bases in Germany, 124 in Japan, and 87 in South Korea. Others are scattered around the globe in places like Aruba and Australia, Bulgaria and Bahrain, Colombia and Greece, Djibouti, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Romania, Singapore, and of course, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — just to name a few. Among the installations considered critical to our national security are a ski center in the Bavarian Alps, resorts in Seoul and Tokyo, and 234 golf courses the Pentagon runs worldwide.

Unlike domestic bases, which set off local alarms when threatened by closure, our collection of overseas bases is particularly galling because almost all our taxpayer money leaves the United States (much goes to enriching private base contractors like corruption-plagued former Halliburton subsidiary KBR). One part of the massive Ramstein airbase near Landstuhl, Germany, has an estimated value of $3.3 billion. Just think how local communities could use that kind of money to make investments in schools, hospitals, jobs, and infrastructure. Read more.

Camp Lejeune Whistle-Blower Fired

Camp Lejeune whistle-blower fired
By Mark Benjamin | Salon

Last April, two Marines at Camp Lejeune predicted to a psychiatrist that some Marine back from war was going to "lose it." Concerned, the psychiatrist asked what that meant. One of the Marines responded, "One of these guys is liable to come back with a loaded weapon and open fire."

They weren't talking about Marines suffering from a tangle of mental and religious angst, like news reports suggest haunted the alleged Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. The risk they reported at Camp Lejeune was broader and systemic. Upon returning home, troops suffering mental health problems were getting dumped into an overwhelmed healthcare system that responded ineptly to their crises, the men reported, and they also faced harassment from Marine Corps superiors ignorant of the severity of their problems and disdainful of those who sought psychiatric help.

As Dr. Kernan Manion investigated the two Marines' claims about conditions at the North Carolina military base, the largest Marine base on the East Coast, he found they were true. Manion, a psychiatrist hired last January to treat Marines coming home from war with acute mental problems, warned his superiors of looming trouble at Camp Lejeune in a series of increasingly urgent memos.

But instead of being praised for preventing what might have been another Fort Hood massacre, Manion was fired by the contractor that hired him, NiteLines Kuhana LLC. A spokeswoman for the firm says it let Manion go at the Navy's behest. The Navy declined to comment on this story. Read more.

Health Insurance Reform: The Enslavement of American Citizens to Corporate Rule

Health Insurance Reform: The Enslavement of American Citizens to Corporate Rule
By debbierlus | DemocraticUnderground

After months of silent, closed door negotiations between the holy trinity (the executive branch, the congress, & the health care industry), we stand on the brink of health insurance reform.

Health insurance reform. Do not confuse this with health care reform as that was never the intent of this legislation. This is not a minor point. Health care reform would have addressed the central problem of our current health care system and confronted the reality that in order to provide universal, affordable health care for all citizens, we would need to stop treating human health as a commodity. It would have taken a moral imperative to place human life over profit. But, right from the very beginning, the central GOAL in creating this legislation was just the opposite, the development of a plan that not only maintained, but expanded the ability of the health care industry (private insurers, big pharm, large hospitals) to profit off human illness.

And, that has what has been created. A bill that enshrines private health care companies as the government mandated model for health care administration. A bill that will provide 70 billion dollars in subsidies to private insurance companies, at the expense of universal, affordable coverage for every American citizen. A bill that negotiated away the government's ability to stop big pharm price gouging, in exchange for a phony bargain where the pharmaceutical companies would cut up to 8 billion dollars in costs over the next ten years while they elevated prices 10 billion this year alone. A bill that does not allow reimportation of drugs from Canada and holds the American people hostage to a mob type system of pay or die. Under this bill, millions will not be able to afford their prescriptions. Millions more will be forced to choose medication, food, or heat. Read more.

Activist: 'Don't dote on drones'

Activist: 'Don't dote on drones'
By Kirby Neumann-Rea | Hood River News

Insitu is not a bad company, but it has chosen the wrong fight.

That’s the message brought to Hood River Friday by Bruce Gagnon, in a speech in opposition to the manufacture by Bingen-based Insitu, and other companies, of unmanned drone aircraft.

“Drones are a manifestation of the growing U.S. military culture,” said Gagnon, co-founder and coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

Gagnon, 57, spoke to a capacity audience of about 200 people at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Columbia Peace Fellowship sponsored the talk, held to observe Armistice Day, as Veterans Day was known prior to World War II.

About 60 people attended a potluck at the church just before his talk, and about 40 attended a candlelight vigil, in the drizzle, at Overlook Memorial Park.

“We honor veterans by speaking out for peace,” said Linda Short of CRPF. Read more.

VIDEO: Who Decides About War?

VIDEO: Who Decides About War?

"Who Decides About War?," the National Conference on War Powers, Law, and Democracy, took place October 2-3, 2009 in Washington D.C.. Organized by the Guard Home! campaign, Liberty Tree Foundation, and many partners, and hosted by the National Lawyers Guild at the Georgetown Law School, this conference was the first of its kind in many years, uniting academics with activists, attorneys with veterans, in exploring key reforms necessary to democratizing defense in the United States, and making war less likely.

  • Keynote Remarks: Dr. Morton Halperin and Jeremy Scahill
  • Panel I - War Powers and the States
  • Panelists: State Rep. Michael Fisher (VT), Sen. Rich Madaleno (MD), Sen. Jamin Raskin (MD)

  • Panel II - War Powers Principles: Constitution, Law, & the People
  • Panelists: Elaine Brower (moderator), Leah Bolger, Ben Manski, Benson Scotch, David Swanson

  • Panel III - War Powers in Practice
  • Panelists: Jean Athey (moderator), John Bonifaz, Prof. Caleb Rossiter, Prof. Don Wallace

  • Roundtable: Peace Advocacy and Defense Reform Panelists: Phyllis Bennis, Geoff Millard, Elaine Brower, Kevin Zeese, Jeremy Scahill

For a full listing of speakers at the conference, click here.

To order a DVD of the proceedings, please contact us. Watch videos of the event.

Obama Signs Military Basing Deal with Colombia -- Could Set Stage for Expeditionary Warfare

Obama Signs Military Basing Deal with Colombia -- Could Set Stage for Expeditionary Warfare
One of the principal concerns of the pending agreement had been the possibility of the bases’ use for aggression against neighboring countries.
By Moira Birss | AlterNet

After several months of secrecy and controversy, on October 30th the US and Colombia signed an agreement to allow the United States military extensive access to seven Colombian bases, notwithstanding serious concerns about true intentions and eventual consequences of the deal.   

Despite pledges by Colombian and U.S. governments about the limitations of the agreement, the text of the deal and U.S. military documents contradict such assurances. One of the principal concerns raised by regional governments after news was leaked of the pending agreement had been the possibility of the bases’ use for aggressions against neighboring countries. In an interview Sunday with the Colombian daily El Tiempo, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield claimed that joint operations aren’t planned outside of Colombia, and that Article IV of the agreement expressly forbids such operations. In fact, a careful review of the text of the agreement, finally made public on November 3, reveals no such prohibition. 

Not only that, but similar assurances by Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva that the agreement "has no geopolitical or strategic connotation, other than being more effective in the fight against drug trafficking" are even more hard to believe after reading a recently uncovered Pentagon budget document that expresses clear regional intentions for the Palanquero air base. The document describes the U.S. presence in Palanquero as an “opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America,” and confirms the fears of Colombia’s neighbors when it discusses the possibility of using the base to confront the "threat" of what it calls "anti-U.S. governments." The most chilling phrase, however, is the discussion of the potential use of Palanquero to “expand expeditionary warfare capability.”  Read more.

Iraq Throws Obama a Curve Ball, Key 2010 Elections in Peril

Iraq Throws Obama a Curve Ball, Key 2010 Elections in Peril
By Raed Jarrar and Erik Leaver | AlterNet

The idea of running national elections under a similar scenario terrifies the ruling parties, and is why they oppose an open list solution despite the public pressure to change the system to a more transparent and representative one.

The question now for the United States is if this latest roadblock in Iraq will have any impact on withdrawal plans. Currently there are two parallel plans guiding U.S. withdrawal: the bilateral security agreement (aka SOFA), and Obama’s plan for the withdrawal of combat troops.

Under the SOFA, all U.S. troops must leave Iraq before December 31st 2011. , Obama added another commitment in his February 2009 speech at Camp Lejeune, NC. He called for a phased withdrawal, reducing troops from 120,000 to 50,000 between April andAugust2010 before bringing all the troops home by the December 31st 2011 SOFA deadline.

Unlike the Bush administration’s original plans for Iraq, both the bilateral security agreement and Obama’s phased withdrawal plan have set deadlines and are “time-based” plans. But Obama has muddied the waters in his response to the current election crisis. Read more.

McChrystal Testing the Limits

McChrystal Testing the Limits
By Ray McGovern

It is not too late for President Barack Obama to follow the example of Harry Truman, who fired Gen. Douglas McArthur in 1951 for insubordination. Then, as now, the stakes were high. Then it was Korea; now it is Afghanistan.

No more slaps on the wrist for Gen. Stanley McChrystal. In my view, Commander-in-Chief Obama should fire him for cause.

Then

In the Truman-McArthur showdown nearly six decades ago, the President and his senior advisers were preparing to engage North Korea and China in peace negotiations, when MacArthur, commander of the U.N. forces in Korea, issued an unauthorized statement containing a veiled threat to expand the war into China.

McArthur had been playing a back-channel game to win the support of like-minded Republican congressmen to widen the war, when Truman faced him down. With the backing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the secretaries of state and defense, he rose to the occasion and fired the distinguished “old soldier.”

Now

Today, Gen. McChrystal is conducting a subtler but equally insubordinate campaign for wider war in Afghanistan, with the backing of CENTCOM commander David Petraeus. It is now even clearer in retrospect that the President should not have appointed McChrystal in the first place, given what was already known of his role in covering up the killing of football star Pat Tillman and condoning the torture practices by troops under McChrystal’s earlier command in Iraq.

The Critical Unraveling of U.S. Society

The Critical Unraveling of U.S. Society
By David DeGraw | The Public Record

Report Contents:
I: U.S. Societal Breakdown
II: Environmental Crisis
III: The Obama Myth
IV: Economic Coup – Theft of Trillions
V: National Emergency

Download Full Report in PDF format

The economic elite have launched an attack on the U.S. public and society is unraveling at an increased rate.

I: U.S. Societal Breakdown
 We are in a NATIONAL EMERGENCYYou may have missed it in the mainstream news media, but statistical societal indicators are reading red across the board. Before exposing the root causes of this breakdown, let’s look at some vital statistics and facts:
* The inequality of wealth in the United States is soaring to an unprecedented level. The US already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the middle class and poor much harder than the top one percent, the gap between the top one percent and the remaining 99% of the US population has grown to a record high.
* As the stock market went over the 10,000 mark and just surged to a 13-month high, the three big banks that took taxpayer money and benefit the most from the government bailout have just set a new global economic record by issuing $30 billion in annual bonuses this year, “up 60 percent from last year.” Bloomberg reported: “Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, had a record profit in the first nine months of this year and set aside $16.7 billion for compensation expenses.” Goldman Sachs is on pace for the best year in the firm’s history, they are also benefiting by only paying 1% in taxes.

* The profits of the economic elite are “now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth.”
As the looting is occurring at the top, the US middle class is just beginning to collapse.
* Workers between the age of 55 – 60, who have worked for 20 – 29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans went up by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion.

Hell Comes Home

HELL COMES HOME
By Robert C. Koehler | Tribune Media Services

it certainly reflects the ignorance and arrogance of militarism, which perpetually organizes itself around an “enemy” somewhere out there stalking us. Those trapped in this mindset can imagine security only in relation to their power over this enemy, which leads them, and everyone else, into a vicious spiral of armed preparation, violence and counter-violence. What we fail to notice in our rage and fear is that violence — not the violence we endure but the violence we perpetrate — dehumanizes us. Killing is the ultimate traumatic experience. “In the military, you’re trained to shoot at a target, but sometimes the humanity of that target intrudes, and people come to question what they’ve done,” said Dr. Shira Maguen (putting it, I would say, mildly).

There’s no armor, it turns out, for conscience.

So our men and women are coming home from the killing fields wounded in their heads, used up, greeted only by the military’s own meat grinder of inadequate health care and intolerance for “weakness.”

“Frankly, in my more than 25 years of clinical practice, I’ve never seen such immense emotional suffering and psychological brokenness.” This is what whistleblower psychiatrist Kernan Manion wrote recently to President Obama about his experience counseling Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, as reported by Salon.

In September, Manion, having been told to “cease and desist all further correspondence with the government,” was fired by the Navy for his urgent, outspoken communiqués about the mental-health minefield the military has on its hands.

On Healthcare, Don't Follow the Money

On Healthcare, Don't Follow the Money
WaPo's new rule of journalism?

The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray (11/17/09) wrote a profile of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D.-Ark.) as one of the Democratic senators most likely to break with the rest of the party on healthcare reform. The article seemed to invert the advice Deep Throat once gave to the Post's Woodward and Bernstein into a new rule: Don't follow the money.

Headlined "A Centrist in Healthcare Debate, Lincoln Hears It From All Sides," the piece presented Lincoln's stance as something of a puzzle: "Hundreds of thousands of Lincoln's constituents are low-income and lack insurance, the very kind of voters expected to benefit under the Senate bill."

Murray described the senator as facing a dilemma:

The low-profile centrist is being pressed by both sides. Democratic activists are incensed that she has turned against the public option, an idea she once supported. Republicans are casting her cautious approach to the healthcare debate in starkly political terms, saying that she is unwilling to put local interests above those of a president who lost the state by a resounding 20 percentage points.

She even acknowledged the forces lining up against the politician:

In the process, Lincoln has riled liberal groups including MoveOn.org, which is targeting her with radio ads, direct mail and rallies outside two of her Arkansas offices. Perhaps more ominously, MoveOn--working with the liberal group Democracy for America--has amassed $3.5 million in pledges to fund primary challenges against any Democratic senator who sides with Republicans to block an up-or-down vote on a bill with a public option.

That would seem to raise another question: Who's keeping her IN power? The Center for Responsive Politics has some background on that from the second quarter of this year--information the Post apparently doesn't consider important:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has brought in the most from the health sector so far this year at $394,400, followed by Senate Finance Committee member Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who collected $324,350, and former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who brought in $266,100. All three senators are up for re-election in 2010.

CIA Secret 'Torture' Prison Found at Fancy Horseback Riding Academy

EXCLUSIVE: CIA Secret 'Torture' Prison Found at Fancy Horseback Riding Academy
ABC News Finds the Location of a "Black Site" for Alleged Terrorists in Lithuania
By Brian Ross and Matthew Cole | ABC News

The CIA built one of its secret European prisons inside an exclusive riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania, a current Lithuanian government official and a former U.S. intelligence official told ABC News this week.

Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at a café, the CIA installed a concrete structure where it could use harsh tactics to interrogate up to eight suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at a time. A full report on the can be seen on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson tonight.

"The activities in that prison were illegal," said human rights researcher John Sifton. "They included various forms of torture, including sleep deprivation, forced standing, painful stress positions."

Lithuanian officials provided ABC News with the documents of what they called a CIA front company, Elite, LLC, which purchased the property and built the "black site" in 2004. Read more.

Afghan Lessons from the Iraq War

Afghan Lessons from the Iraq War
By Ray McGovern

You don’t have to go back 40 years to the Vietnam War to feel the sting of déjà vu. Returning to the Iraq War just three years ago will suffice.

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates summed up the administration’s dilemma on Afghanistan in a single question: “How do we signal resolve and at the same time signal to the Afghans and the American people that this is not open-ended?”

It is the same question that policymakers and generals were grappling with three years ago with respect to Iraq. Let’s hope they learned the right lessons from that experience, but it’s doubtful since the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) has been no help in shedding light on what actually happened.

If you remember, President George W. Bush had been voicing lots of optimism about the Iraq War and Vice President Dick Cheney had claimed the enemy was “in its last throes.” But it was becoming increasingly clear by 2006 that sectarian violence was ripping Iraq apart, that the death toll of American troops was rising, and that U.S. defeat was looming.

But Bush and Cheney were hell-bent on preventing defeat from happening, at least on their watch. Nor did they want the neo-con dream of a U.S.-dominated Iraq to die.

However, many in Washington – especially in the military – recognized that the Bush/Cheney war couldn’t be open-ended and that hard decision would have to be made for a gradual withdrawal to begin.

Rumors Of Coups And War: U.S., NATO Target Latin America

Rumors Of Coups And War: U.S., NATO Target Latin America
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site

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There is no way of overestimating the challenge that the emergence of ALBA and the overall reawakening of Latin America pose to the role that the U.S. arrogates to itself as lord of the entire Western Hemisphere. The almost two-century-old Monroe Doctrine exemplifies Washington's claim to exclusive influence over all of North, Central and South America and the Caribbean Basin and its self-claimed right to subordinate them to its own interests. Never before the election victories of anti-neoliberal forces throughout Latin America over the past eleven years has the prospect of a truly democratic, multipolar New World existed as it does now.

It is in response to those developments that the U.S. and its former colonialist allies in NATO are attempting to reassert their influence in the Americas south of the U.S. border.
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November 28 will mark five months since the coup led by U.S.-trained commanders deposed the president of Honduras, the next day will see a mock election in the same nation designed to legitimize the junta of Roberto Micheletti, and the day following that will be a month since Washington signed an agreement with the Alvaro Uribe government in Colombia for the use of seven military bases in the country.

While intensifying a full-scale war in South Asia, continuing occupation missions in Iraq and the Balkans, maintaining warships off the coasts of Somalia and Lebanon, and deploying troops and conducting war games in most parts of the world, the United States and its NATO allies have not neglected Latin America.

Central and South America and the Caribbean are receiving a degree of attention from the U.S. and its partners not witnessed since the Cold War and in some ways are the targets of even more intense scrutiny and intervention.

Lowering the Bar: Kindergarten Recruitment

Lowering the Bar: Kindergarten Recruitment
By Jon Letman | Truthout

How old is old enough for students to be approached by military recruiters?

High school? Junior high? Fourth grade? How about ten weeks into kindergarten?

Last week at the dinner table, my five-year-old son announced blithely, "Soldiers came to school today." He then added, "They only kill bad people. They don't kill good people."

He made the announcement with the same levity he uses in recalling the plot line of Frog and Toad or a Nemo video.

My wife and I looked at each other incredulously.

"Soldiers came to school? What do you mean?" I asked. Read more.

Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Afghanistan as a Patronage Machine

Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Afghanistan as a Patronage Machine | TomDispatch.com

~Chip's Note: Every once in a while, Tom over at Tom's Dispatch writes an intro to an article that is so well-researched and comprehensive that it's difficult to excerpt just a portion as a prelude to the published article. This is one of those times. Both Tom's introduction and Pratap Chatterjee's "Paying Off the Warlords, Anatomy of an Afghan Culture of Corruption" will provoke your outrage at the stark reality of the what is really happening in Afghanistan. Now, on to Tom's introduction.

There is much discussion in the media today about "corruption" in Hamid Karzai's Afghanistan, but remarkably little actual reporting about it. Just back from Kabul, TomDispatch regular Pratap Chatterjee, author of Halliburton's Army, helps to rectify that deficit. He offers a rare, news-making, eye-opening inside look at how that country's system of nepotism and corruption -- involving its old "warlords" from the days of the post-Soviet civil war and its new corporate "reconstruction" raiders -- actually works. His piece is an anatomy of the way the brother of the country's new vice president (and long-time warlord), Mohammed Fahim, is raking in tens of millions of dollars in diesel fuel contracts for an American-built power plant -- even though far cheaper methods of bringing electricity to the Afghan capital now exist.

"Every morning," Chatterjee begins, "dozens of trucks laden with diesel from Turkmenistan lumber out of the northern Afghan border town of Hairaton on a two-day trek across the Hindu Kush down to Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. Among the dozens of businesses dispatching these trucks are two extremely well connected companies -- Ghazanfar and Zahid Walid -- that helped to swell the election coffers of President Hamid Karzai as well as the family business of his running mate, the country's new vice president, warlord Mohammed Qasim Fahim."

He then follows the history of corruption and the path of the money -- both Afghan and American -- as he traces the business dealings of the Afghan elite, including figures connected to Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and well-connected western "reconstruction" companies.

He concludes: "This week, Mohammed Qasim Fahim will be sworn in as the next vice-president of the new government of Afghanistan. Under an agreement with USAID, this new government is required to spend Afghan money to buy yet more diesel for the [U.S.-built] Tarakhil power plant, which in turn will put money exclusively and directly into the vice president's brother's pocket."

From TomDispatch today, a rare, carefully reported, follow-the-money piece from Afghanistan that reveals the corruption and nepotism at the highest levels of the Afghan government -- Pratap Chatterjee, "Paying Off the Warlords, Anatomy of an Afghan Culture of Corruption." This is a devastating look at how Afghaniscam actually works. Read more.

Opinion: U.S. Is Doing No Good In Afghanistan

Note: Chris Cook recorded some interesting audio of Malalai on her current book tour as well as some of the Question & Answer period.

Opinion: U.S. is doing no good in Afghanistan
By Malalai Joya | Mercury News

As an Afghan woman who was elected to Parliament, I am in the United States to ask President Barack Obama to immediately end the occupation of my country.

Eight years ago, women's rights were used as one of the excuses to start this war. But today, Afghanistan is still facing a women's rights catastrophe. Life for most Afghan women resembles a type of hell that is never reflected in the Western mainstream media.

In 2001, the U.S. helped return to power the worst misogynist criminals, such as the Northern Alliance warlords and druglords. These men ought to be considered a photocopy of the Taliban. The only difference is that the Northern Alliance warlords wear suits and ties and cover their faces with the mask of democracy while they occupy government positions. But they are responsible for much of the disaster today in Afghanistan, thanks to the U.S. support they enjoy.

The U.S. and its allies are getting ready to offer power to the medieval Taliban by creating an imaginary category called the "moderate Taliban" and inviting them to join the government. A man who was near the top of the list of most-wanted terrorists eight years ago, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has been invited to join the government.

Over the past eight years the U.S. has helped turn my country into the drug capital of the world through its support of drug lords. Today, 93 percent of all opium in the world is produced in Afghanistan. Many members of Parliament and high ranking officials openly benefit from the drug trade. President Karzai's own brother is a well known drug trafficker. Read more.

In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’

In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’
By Robert Pear | NY Times

In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident.

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.

The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.

High Costs Weigh on Troop Debate for Afghan War

High Costs Weigh on Troop Debate for Afghan War
By Christopher Drew | NY Times

While President Obama’s decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan is primarily a military one, it also has substantial budget implications that are adding pressure to limit the commitment, senior administration officials say.

The latest internal government estimates place the cost of adding 40,000 American troops and sharply expanding the Afghan security forces, as favored by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American and allied commander in Afghanistan, at $40 billion to $54 billion a year, the officials said.

Even if fewer troops are sent, or their mission is modified, the rough formula used by the White House, of about $1 million per soldier a year, appears almost constant.

So even if Mr. Obama opts for a lower troop commitment, Afghanistan’s new costs could wash out the projected $26 billion expected to be saved in 2010 from withdrawing troops from Iraq. And the overall military budget could rise to as much as $734 billion, or 10 percent more than the peak of $667 billion under the Bush administration. Read more.

Illinois Prison Top Contender to House Gitmo Detainees, Official Says

Illinois prison top contender to house Gitmo detainees, official says
By Jessica Yellin | CNN

If the Bureau of Prisons purchases the 1,600-cell site, it would operate primarily as a federal prison and lease a portion of it to the Defense Department to house a limited number of Guantanamo detainees, one Obama administration official said.

There are about 215 men held by the U.S. military at the Guantanamo prison camp. Among the detainees are five suspects with alleged ties to the 9/11 conspiracy, including accused mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who will be transferred to New York to go on trial in civilian court, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday.

A prison in northern Illinois is the leading contender to house some detainees transferred from the federal facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, two Obama administration officials told CNN Saturday.

Officials from the department of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security and federal Bureau of Prisons will be will be visiting the maximum-security Thomson Correctional Center, about 150 miles west of Chicago, on Monday, the officials said.

Earlier Saturday, a statement from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's office said senior Obama administration officials would be visiting the Thomson prison to see whether the "virtually vacant, state of the art facility" could be of use to the Bureau of Prisons. Read more.

Legal Case Filed Against 4 US Presidents & 4 UK Prime Ministers for War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity & Genocide in Iraq

For Justice For Iraq: Legal Case Filed Against Four US Presidents and Four UK Prime Ministers for War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide in Iraq | Press Release

Madrid: Today the Spanish Senate, acting to confirm a decision already taken under pressure from powerful governments accused of grave crimes, will limit Spain’s laws of universal jurisdiction. Yesterday, ahead of the change of law, a legal case was filed at the Audiencia Nacional against four United States presidents and four United Kingdom prime ministers for commissioning, condoning and/or perpetuating multiple war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Iraq.

This case, naming George H W Bush, William J Clinton, George W Bush, Barack H Obama, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Anthony Blair and Gordon Brown, is brought by Iraqis and others who stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in defence of their rights and international law.

Iraq: 19 years of intended destruction

Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, Surveillance State, U.S.A.

Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, Surveillance State, U.S.A. | TomDispatch.com

Wars come home in strange, unnerving ways -- as Americans have just discovered at Fort Hood. Even before Major Nidal Malik Hasan went on his killing spree, that base, a major military embarkation point for our war zones, was already experiencing the after-effects of eight years of war and repeated tours of duty. The suicide rate at Fort Hood was soaring (with 10 on the base in 2009 alone). Divorce rates were on the rise, as were mental health problems, drug and alcohol use, domestic abuse (up 75% since 2001), and murders among war-zone returnees. Even violent crime in Killeen, the town that houses the base, was up 22% (though it was down, according to the New York Times, "in towns of similar size in other parts of the country"). In an era in which our last president urged Americans to support his Global War on Terror by shopping and visiting Disney World, it often seemed that, except for soldiers and their families, our wars abroad affected little in this country.

And yet for an imperial power past its prime, foreign wars, even ones fought thousands of miles from home, have a way of coming back to haunt. Alfred W. McCoy tends to be ahead of the curve in his writing. In the Vietnam era, he had to fight the CIA to get his book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, published; in the Bush years, he was perhaps the first person to recognize that the photos from Abu Ghraib represented no anomaly but the product of a long history of CIA torture research -- and published a powerful book, A Question of Torture, on the subject.

His latest book, Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, meets counterinsurgency, another topic direct from today's headlines, head on. It ends on these lines: "...a state, like the United States, that rules a foreign territory through political repression and pervasive policing soon finds many of those same coercive methods moving homeward to degrade its own democracy. Such are the costs of empire." In his latest TomDispatch post, McCoy lays out just how that impulse for repression and policing, so vividly and violently expressed abroad in these last years, is now quietly taking aim at us. Tom

Welcome Home, War!
How America's Wars Are Systematically Destroying Our Liberties
By Alfred W. McCoy

In his approach to National Security Agency surveillance, as well as CIA renditions, drone assassinations, and military detention, President Obama has to a surprising extent embraced the expanded executive powers championed by his conservative predecessor, George W. Bush. This bipartisan affirmation of the imperial executive could "reverberate for generations," warns Jack Balkin, a specialist on First Amendment freedoms at Yale Law School. And consider these but some of the early fruits from the hybrid seeds that the Global War on Terror has planted on American soil. Yet surprisingly few Americans seem aware of the toll that this already endless war has taken on our civil liberties.

Don't be too surprised, then, when, in the midst of some future crisis, advanced surveillance methods and other techniques developed in our recent counterinsurgency wars migrate from Baghdad, Falluja, and Kandahar to your hometown or urban neighborhood. And don't ever claim that nobody told you this could happen -- at least not if you care to read on. Read more.

The War Stampede

The War Stampede
by Norman Solomon | Media Monitors

"The Obama administration is spending upwards of 90 percent of all U.S. funds in Afghanistan on military operations -- and what Eikenberry is seeking would add up to mere drops in the bucket compared to what Afghanistan really needs for “development and reconstruction.” Nor is the U.S. government in any moral or logistical position to effectively supply such aid."

Disputes are raging within the Obama administration over how to continue the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. A new leak tells us that Washington’s ambassador in Kabul, former four-star general Karl Eikenberry, has cautioned against adding more troops while President Hamid Karzai keeps disappointing American policymakers. This is the extent of the current debate within the warfare state.

During a top-level meeting November 11 in the White House, the Washington Post reports, President Obama “was given a series of options laid out by military planners with differing numbers of new U.S. deployments, ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 troops. None of the scenarios calls for scaling back the U.S. presence in Afghanistan or delaying the dispatch of additional troops.”

No doubt there are real tactical differences between Eikenberry and the U.S./NATO commander in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, the ultra-spun brainy spartan who wants to boost the current U.S. troop level of 68,000 to well over 100,000 in the war-afflicted country. But those policy disputes exist well within the context of a permanent war psychology. Read more.

Business Aims to Relax Bans on Products Made with Child & Slave Labor

 

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From the I Shit You Not File: Business Aims to Relax Bans on Products Made with Child & Slave Labor
By David Sirota | Open Left

We've seen corporations use "free trade" agreements to quietly camouflage their push for exploitable labor in broader arguments about globalization. What we haven't seen is corporate special interests openly push for U.S. regulators to openly allow companies to sell goods made with child and slave labor...until now.

Check out this report from Inside U.S. Trade (no link- subscription required) - it's straight from the I Shit You Not File:

Business groups are worried by the potential effects of provisions banning the import of all goods made with convict labor, forced labor, or forced or indentured child labor that were included in a customs bill sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA)...

These groups are examining the ramifications of the bill's provisions, especially in light of the bill's requirements that a newly created office in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) annually report to Congress on the volume and value of goods made with child labor, forced labor or convict labor that have been stopped at the border.

Business sources say this reporting requirement could cause DHS to more actively seek out imported products made with child labor, forced labor or convict labor...

One source did expect a push from lobbyists closer to the Finance Committee markup of the bill, and speculated that U.S. industry groups and foreign governments could form ad hoc coalitions to help send a united message. Read more.

Blackwater Attempted to Bribe Iraqi Officials

Blackwater Attempted to Bribe Iraqi Officials
By Jeremy Scahill | The Nation

In the aftermath of the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad by operatives working for Blackwater, top company officials including then-president Gary Jackson "authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support," according to the New York Times. Seventeen Iraqis were killed and more than twenty others wounded in the shooting, prompting the Iraqi government to announce it would ban the company from Iraq with officials vowing to prosecute the shooters. Blackwater, however, remains in Iraq to this day.

According to the Times, "Four former Blackwater executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then the company president, had approved the bribes, and the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where Blackwater maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients." The Times notes that the bribes "would have been illegal": Read more.

Blackwater Said to Pursue Bribes to Iraq After 17 Died

Blackwater Said to Pursue Bribes to Iraq After 17 Died
By Mark Mazzetti and James Risen | NY Times

Blackwater’s strategy of buying off the government officials, which would have been illegal under American law, created a deep rift inside the company, according to the former executives.

Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.

Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Four former executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then Blackwater’s president, had approved the bribes and that the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where the company maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients. Read more.

Drone Race to a Known Future: Why Military Dreams Fail -- and Why It Doesn't Matter

Drone Race to a Known Future: Why Military Dreams Fail -- and Why It Doesn't Matter
By Tom Engelhardt | Tom Dispatch

For drone freaks (and these days Washington seems full of them), here's the good news: Drones are hot! Not long ago -- 2006 to be exact -- the Air Force could barely get a few armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the air at once; now, the number is 38; by 2011, it will reputedly be 50, and beyond that, in every sense, the sky's the limit.

Better yet, for the latest generation of armed surveillance drones -- the ones with the chill-you-to-your-bones sci-fi names of Predators and Reapers (as in Grim) -- whole new surveillance capabilities will soon be available. Their newest video system, due to be deployed next year, has been dubbed Gorgon Stare after the creature in Greek mythology whose gaze turned its victims to stone. According to Julian Barnes of the Los Angeles Times, Gorgon Stare will offer a "pilot" back in good ol' Langley, VA, headquarters of the CIA, the ability to "stare" via 12 video feeds (where only one now exists) at a 1.5 mile square area, and then, with Hellfire missiles and bombs, assumedly turn any part of it into rubble. Within the year, that viewing capacity is expected to double to three square miles.

What we're talking about here is the gaze of the gods, updated in corporate labs for the modern American war-fighter -- a gaze that can be focused on whatever runs, walks, crawls, or creeps just about anywhere on the planet 24/7, with an instant ability to blow it away. And what's true of video capacity will be no less true of the next generation of drone sensors -- and, of course, of drone weaponry like that "5-pound missile the size of a loaf of French bread" meant in some near-robotic future to replace the present 100-pound Hellfire missile, possibly on the Avenger or Predator C, the next generation drone under development at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Everything, in fact, will be almost infinitely upgradeable, since we're still in the robotics equivalent of the age of the "horseless carriage," as Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution assures us. (Just hold your hats, for instance, when the first nano-drones make it onto the scene! They will, according to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, be able to "fly after their prey like a killer bee through an open window.")

And here's another flash from the drone development front: the Navy wants in. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead, reports Jason Paur of Wired's Danger Room blog, is looking for "a robotic attack aircraft that can land and take off from a carrier." Fortunately, according to Paur, the X-47B, which theoretically should be able to do just that, is to make its first test flight before year's end. It could be checking out those carrier decks by 2011, and fully operational by 2025.

Not only that, but drones are leaving the air for the high seas where they are called unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). In fact, Israel -- along with the U.S. leading the way on drones -- will reportedly soon launch the first of its USVs off the coast of Hamas-controlled Gaza. The U.S. can't be far behind and it seems that, like their airborne cousins, these ships, too, will be weaponized.

Taking the Measure of a Slam-Dunk Weapons System

Robot war. It just couldn't be cooler, could it? Read more.

Fort Hood, Veterans Day And Defending America

Fort Hood, Veterans Day And Defending America
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site

On November 10 President Barack Obama delivered a speech at Fort Hood where five days before 13 soldiers were killed and 29 wounded in a shooting rampage by a U.S. army psychiatrist.

The attack resulted in the largest number of U.S servicemen killed in one day anywhere in the world in almost four and a half year years: 14 Americans were killed in a helicopter crash and a collision in Afghanistan on October 26 of this year but three were Drug Enforcement Agency officials, 11 soldiers. The last day preceding November 5 when military deaths were higher than those at Fort Hood was on June 28, 2005 when 19 troops were killed in Afghanistan.

There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the sentiments expressed by Obama or to believe that whoever had won the U.S. presidential election last year would not have said something similar.

While mentioning of the dead that "Some had known intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan," Obama's emphasis, as that of the government and the country's media as whole, was on honoring those who defend America. Especially those who die defending America.

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