By Shaukat Qadir | December 21, 2009
Few people by now can be unaware of Blackwater, later known as Blackwater Worldwide and now as Xe. The private security agency formed in 1997 and based in North Carolina is owned by Erik Prince, a former member of the US Navy Seal special forces, and has long-standing links with both the CIA and the FBI.
Its presence in Pakistan has been an open secret for some years. The investigative journalist and writer Jeremy Scahill, an authority on Blackwater and author of the bestselling Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, revealed last month that it has been there since 2006. He says Blackwater is being employed for covert ops, essentially intended to target high-value al Qa’eda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, but it has also assisted in providing information for drone attacks and has kidnapped suspects and transported them covertly to the US for interrogation.
In other words, it is an American agency with a licence to kill or kidnap, thus exonerating official American agencies that might one day be held accountable. (Although personally I doubt if the CIA will ever be held accountable. I continue to aver that it is the only real rogue intelligence agency in the world. Mossad might enjoy liberty of action for any operation, but it cannot undertake one without the approval of the Israeli prime minister: no such restriction applies to the CIA.)
Mr Scahill does not engage in speculation, and is not to be taken lightly. So when he states that Xe is sitting in Karachi, he is not likely to be wrong. He has added that the operation is so secret that many senior people in the Obama administration were unaware of it.
However, he seems to have erred in one respect: Xe is not only in Karachi. It also has a massive presence in Islamabad and Peshawar, where I understand the organisation has rented up to seven adjacent houses. Neighbours who heard muffled explosions soon after the houses were occupied suspect that they are linked by underground tunnels.
That the former president Pervez Musharraf permitted Blackwater entry to Pakistan does not surprise me in the least; he would have been ready to bark if George Bush wanted him to, not that Asif Ali Zardari is much different; both have been acceding to every US demand at every opportunity.
There is no doubt that for the past year or so US drone attacks have been far more successful in targeting militants than before, although, with the exception of Baitullah Mehsud, only in taking out low-level soldiers. My information is that the CIA/Xe have improved their human intelligence, and with its presence in Peshawar it is possible that Xe might have contributed to this improved performance of drone attacks.
But what else is it doing there? If its purpose is to kidnap suspected terrorists and convey them to the US, then clearly no one can know how many they have managed to extract since the operations would be covert; but, equally clearly, none has been high profile, or their disappearance would have been noted. All major non-Pashtun names on the US list of terrorists still roam at large in Karachi and Punjab.
If Xe is meant to target al Qa’eda, again they don’t seem to have had much success. The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to assert that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, without offering concrete evidence; and if he is, why has the professional and highly paid Xe failed to kill or capture him? For such an expensive operation, Xe seems to have little to show to justify its continued presence in Pakistan.
The latest twist is that the organisation’s founder and owner, Mr Prince, has given an interview to the American magazine Vanity Fair, apparently in a fit of pique, in which he claims to have been a CIA asset since 2004 with a mission to hunt down and kill al Qa’eda militants for the US government. Describing the backlash after his employees shot dead 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007, Mr Prince said: “When it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under a bus.”
He now says he is severing all ties with Xe, and after the interview the CIA said it was cancelling all contracts with the organisation. Nevertheless, there appears to be no evidence of its impending departure from Pakistan. This is a security agency that is available to anyone who can afford it. If its contract has indeed been terminated by the CIA, what is it still doing in Pakistan? Either the “termination” was a farce for public consumption, or Xe has found other paymasters.
I am not a subscriber to conspiracy theories. However, sometimes there seems to be no alternative logical explanation, and/or the conspiracy theory appears logical in itself. When this happens, one is forced to become a believer. This seems to be one such instance.
Pakistan’s conspiracy theorists have long held that the real object of Xe, acting on behalf of the CIA, is to destabilise Pakistan so as to have an excuse to take over or destroy its nuclear assets, because Israel and the US remain uncomfortable with a nuclear Pakistan. I have long disputed this theory, but am finding it increasingly difficult to continue doing so.
The Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar has suggested that the US wants to leave behind a united Pashtunistan, consisting of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province and Afghanistan, an independent Balochistan and a weak, truncated Pakistan. The argument is a clever mix of fact and fiction; Jeremy Scahill he is not.
But then, what is Xe doing in Pakistan? All official statements from the US, Pakistan and Xe itself have denied its presence; but we all know it is there and, if my conclusions are correct, apparently serving no visibly useful purpose. All the denials can only give credence to one conspiracy theory or another: take your pick.
Brig Gen Shaukat Qadir is a retired Pakistani infantry officer
By Sherwood Ross | Black Listed News | December 23, 2009
The U.S. spends more for war annually than all state governments combined spend for the health, education, welfare, and safety of 308 million Americans.
Joseph Henchman, director of state projects for the Tax Foundation of Washington, D.C., says the states collected a total of $781 billion in taxes in 2008.
For a rough comparison, according to Wikipedia data, the total budget for what the Pentagon calls “defense” in fiscal year 2010 will be at least $880 billion and could possibly top $1 trillion. That’s more than all the state governments collect.
Henchman says all American local governments combined (cities, counties, etc.) collect about $500 billion in taxes. Add that to total state tax take and you get over $1.3 trillion. This means Uncle Sam’s Pentagon is sopping up nearly as much money as all state, county, city, and other governmental units spend to run the country.
If the Pentagon figure of $1 trillion is somewhat less than all other taxing authorities, keep in mind the FBI, the various intelligence agencies, the VA, the National Institutes of Health (biological warfare) are also spending on war-related activities.
A question that describes the above and answers itself is: In what area can the Federal government operate where states and cities cannot tread? The answer is: foreign affairs—raising armies, fighting wars, conducting diplomacy, etc. And so Uncle Sam keeps enlarging this area. His emphasis is not on diplomacy, either.
For every buck spent by the State Department, which gets some $50 billion a year, the Pentagon spends $20. As for the Peace Corps, its budget is a paltry $375 million—hardly enough to keep the Pentagon elephant in peanuts.
Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz and finance authority Linda Bilmes write in their “The Three Trillion Dollar War”(W.W. Norton), “defense spending has been growing as a percentage of discretionary funding (money that is not required to be spent on entitlements like Social Security), from 48 percent in 2000 to 51 percent today. That means that our defense needs are gobbling up a larger share of taxpayers’ money than ever before.”
And they add, “The Pentagon’s budget has increased by more than $600 billion, cumulatively, since we invaded Iraq.” With its 1,000 bases in the U.S. and another 800 bases globally, the U.S. truly has become a “Warfare State.” Today, military-related products account for about one-fourth of total U.S. GDP. This includes 10,000 nuclear weapons. Indeed, the U.S. has lavished $5.5 trillion just on nukes over the past 70 years.
No other nation has anything remotely like this menacing global presence. The Pentagon strengthens its grip by running joint “training” exercises with the military of 110 other nations, including outright dictatorships that suppress internal unrest.
The U.S. spends more on weaponry than the next dozen nations combined and is by far the No. 1 world arms peddler. “The government employs some 6,500 people just to coordinate and administer its arms sales program in conjunction with senior officials at American embassies around the world, who spend most of their ‘diplomatic’ careers working as arms salesmen,” writes Chalmers Johnson in “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire(Henry Holt).”
Chalmers goes on to say the U.S. military establishment today is “close to being beyond civilian control” and that despite its ability to “deliver death and destruction to any target on earth and expect little in the way of retaliation” it demands more and newer equipment “while the Pentagon now more or less sets its own agenda” and “monopolizes the formulation and conduct of American foreign policy.”
How long will it be before this tyrannical, anti-democratic, colossus that is sucking up as much money for war as all states, counties and cities spend on peace—and which straddles the globe, boosts dictators, and beats the war drums—turns on its own people?
Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based public relations executive who formerly worked for major dailies and wire services. Contact him at email@example.com
Copyright © 2006-2009 BlackListedNews.com
Press TV - December 24, 2009 15:04:54 GMT
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Borodavkin says his country is taking part in international efforts to find a political solution to the issue.
“Russia actively takes part in international efforts on the Iranian nuclear program within the framework of IAEA, the P5+1 and the security council,” he said.
Borodavkin says Moscow hopes a compromise can be reached between Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the international community.
“We consistently stand for a diplomat settlement to all problems related to Iran’s nuclear program,” the Russian official said.
China, however, said that all parties involved in Iran’s nuclear issue should enhance diplomatic efforts and stick to the path of negotiations.
“All parties should enhance diplomatic efforts and adhere to the right track of negotiations,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.
Beijing and Moscow have long been opposed to sanctions against Iran.
The US says it will seek new sanctions against Tehran if it fails to accept a proposal which was first floated by the Obama administration and later backed by the UN nuclear watchdog.
The proposal required Iran to send most of its domestically-enriched low-grade uranium out of the country for further refinement of up to 20 percent.
Despite having accepted the gist of the proposal, Iran refused to officially accept the proposed deal, as its concerns about the other side’s commitment to its obligations were not addressed.
Tehran says it needs nuclear power to produce electricity for its growing population.
By Stephen Lendman | December 24, 2009
After a two week April 1971 trial and four days of deliberation, an 11 white/one black member jury convicted Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) and Edward Poindexter for the bombing murder of police officer Larry Minard on August 17, 1970. Both men denied involvement, and ever since consistently maintained their innocence, insisting they were framed. Supporters agree, including Amnesty International that declared them political prisoners, and no wonder.
They were Omaha chapter National Committee to Combat Fascism (NCCF) leaders, an off-shoot of the Black Panther Party, targeted (as later revealed) by secret FBI/police Domino task force/COINTELPRO tactics, following J. Edgar Hoover’s orders to infiltrate, disrupt, sabotage, and destroy their activism for ethnic justice, racial emancipation, and real economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines.
COINTELPRO is the acronym for the FBI’s secretive/mostly illegal counterintelligence program to neutralize political dissidents, including communists; anti-war, human and civil rights activists; the American Indian Movement; and Black Panther Party among others.
In their book “Agents of Repression,” Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall wrote:
“the term came to signify the whole context of clandestine (typically illegal) political repression activities (including) a massive surveillance (program via) wiretaps, surreptitious entries and burglaries, electronic devices, live ‘tails’ and….bogus mail” to induce paranoia and “foster ‘splits’ within or between organizations.”
Other tactics included:
– “black propaganda” through leaflets or other publications “designed to discredit organizations and foster internal tensions;”
– “disinformation or ‘gray propaganda’ ” for the same purpose;
– “bad-jacketing” to “creat(e) suspicion – through the spread of rumors, manufacture of evidence, etc. – that bona fide organizational members, (usually leaders were) FBI/police informants,” to turn some against others violently;
– “assassinations (of) selected political leaders,” including Fred Hampton and Mark Clark on December 4, 1969 by Chicago police while they slept; and
– “harassment arrests (on bogus) charges.”
Individuals and organizations were targeted for their activism, not crimes that were blamed on innocent victims like the “Omaha Two.”
In November 1968, a J. Edgar Hoover memorandum ordered his agents “to exploit all avenues of creating….dissension within the ranks of the BPP (using) imaginative hard-hitting counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP.” From 1968 – 1971, they were vicious, including against Mondo we Langa and Edward Poindexter, targeted by the Bureau to be neutralized.
Months before they were arrested, FBI agents and Omaha police harassed them with tactics like frequent traffic stops, verbal abuse, and more. We Langa was called before a grand jury, and the Greater Omaha Community Action Agency fired him. Poindexter was victimized by bogus newspaper letters and an anonymous phone campaign. For the two men, it was just the beginning of a long nightmare, ongoing after 40 years.
Background on the “Omaha Two”
We Langa joined the BPP in 1969, then later the NCCF. He wrote for the local underground paper, Buffalo Chip, and in prison created art, wrote plays, short stories, articles, and five poetry books. He also contributed poems and stories to literary journals and magazines, including The Black Scholar, ARGO, Black American Literary Forum, Pacifica Review, Black Books Bulletin, and many others.
He’s one of several co-authors of “The Race: Matters Concerning Pan Afrikan History, Culture, and Genocide” published in 1992, and a contributor to Nebraska Voices, commissioned by the Nebraska Humanities Council in commemoration of the sesquicentennial of Nebraska’s statehood.
Like Poindexter, he’s been incarcerated for nearly 40 years, during which time he’s been non-violent and mentored young inmates as a model prisoner. Yet he’s bogusly called a “cop killer,” repeatedly (with Poindexter) denied parole, and in June 1968, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled them ineligible unless the Board of Pardons commutes their sentences – unlikely as it’s composed of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state who haven’t commuted a first-degree murder conviction in two decades, and overruled numerous Nebraska Parole Board’s post-1993 unanimous decisions to commute their sentences to time served.
Edward Poindexter is a Vietnam veteran, a graduate of Metro State University, St. Paul, MN with a straight A average, and earned an MA from Goddard Graduate Program in Montpelier, VT. He was imprisoned in Minnesota to separate him from we Langa.
He’s held leadership positions in the Art Club, Jaycees as president, and Harambee African Cultural Organization. He also:
– received the Insight Program’s Antoniak Award for outstanding achievement;
– created the musical drama, Shakedown Blues;
– published two Youth Survival Guides booklets for troubled youths;
– recorded Jammer from the Slammer promoting constructive problem-solving and self-motivation;
– participated in Minnesota’s Turn Off the Violence Campaign;
– was involved in the Juvenile Detention Bed Hotline Information Message Program producing works to support non-violence;
– teaches and is currently writing a workbook for a Minnesota Correctional System class on building self-esteem;
– teaches a health class including AIDS education;
– is involved in teaching other classes on the history of intolerance in America, the civil rights movement, black history, and music;
– developed a program for prisoners to encourage attitudinal and behavioral changes for men who batter women;
– produced motivational tapes; and
– proposed an audio recording studio, currently operating.
He’s also been a model prisoner, yet he’s denied parole.
Background on the Case
At trial, jurors were told that, using dynamite, blasting caps, and a battery, Poindexter made a suitcase bomb in we Langa’s kitchen. A week later, he allegedly instructed 15-year old Duane Peak to put it in a vacant house, call the police, and say a woman was dragged into it screaming. Peak was charged with the crime, confessed, and claimed we Langa and Poindexter put him up to it, but changed his story numerous times, only once incriminated the “Omaha Two,” was sentenced as a juvenile, and served about five years.
Initially, he didn’t implicate them. In fact, he was in custody three days before mentioning their names, clearly under pressure, threats, and believed beatings in return for leniency.
The defense never heard his taped 911 call. It wasn’t introduced at trial, and the original tape was destroyed. Years later, a copy surfaced with an accompanying FBI memo suggesting it was withheld because the voice wasn’t Peak’s, so perhaps authorities were shielding whoever made it, someone complicit in the crime to incriminate we Langa and Poindexter.
A week after the bombing, police targeted the black community, conducted warrantless searches, arrested NCCF members, had no evidence to hold them, so invented it by apparently planting dynamite, other explosives, blasting caps, and weapons in we Langa’s basement, then discovered them when he was in Kansas City for a speech, prepared a shoddy report, gave perjured trial testimony contradicting it, yet got the two men convicted for a crime they didn’t commit.
Years later, one juror admitted believing they were innocent because only circumstantial evidence was introduced, and Duane Peak’s testimony wasn’t credible. Another juror said the only black one thought they were innocent, yet relented after the others agreed to no death penalty.
The entire process was controversial and tainted, including circumstantial evidence that never should have been allowed pertaining to the defendants’ political beliefs, ones held by millions in the country, then and now.
In addition, their fingerprints weren’t on the alleged dynamite, skin tests performed to detect traces were negative, and according to former Omaha police officer, Marvin McClarty, an improper search procedure found it. Then shortly after the mens’ conviction, we Langa’s house mysteriously burned down, eliminating any chance for a post hoc accuracy check of police testimony.
In addition, in 1974, a federal court ruled the search illegal, cited inconsistencies in a police lieutenant’s testimony authorizing it, admitted the dynamite might have been planted, and ordered a new trial, upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1975.
However, in 1976, the Supreme Court applied a post hoc jurisdictional technicality to deny it by ruling that when states provide full and fair Fourth Amendment litigation opportunities (a dubious conclusion in this case), the Constitution warrants no habeas relief. Later rulings blocked the appellate process, and the statutory time limit for filing in Nebraska courts expired while the men awaited the federal outcome.
A major obstacle is that the Court of Appeals won’t address whether the men were fairly tried, whether tainted evidence was introduced, whether key witnesses committed perjury, only if under legal system standards the process was fair, true or not.
Most important, the likelihood that political targets can get due process and judicial fairness is nil when authorities want to convict and have complicit judges allowing it. The courts today are corrupted with them, hanging ones of the worst kind, so what chance have two black men under a system structured against them and always has been.
On June 19, 2009, the Nebraska Supreme Court showed it by denying Poindexter a new trial despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence as well as we Langa’s – with added closing statement emphasis saying:
“We affirm the judgment of the district court denying Poindexter’s motion for postconviction relief,” meaning that to be Black in America grants you none.
In the 1980s, Nebraska Chief Supreme Court Justice Norman Krivosha commissioned a study of the state’s judicial fairness that concluded it was equitable with one exception – race. People of color were more likely to be arrested, indicted, convicted, and given longer sentences than whites, including the death penalty for capital offenses. It’s no surprise that Nebraska’s 3% black population comprises over 40% of its inmates, and the same disparity holds nationally.
Blacks make up around 12.4% of the population, but almost half of those incarcerated. Around 50% of them are for non-violent offenses, and about half of those are drug related. In 2000, Human Rights Watch reported that in one-third of the states, 75% of all drug related offenders were black. In Illinois, it was 89%. Shockingly, with less than 5% of the world’s population, America has almost one-fouth of its prisoners, by far the largest total at around 2.4 million, growing at about 1,000 per week, mostly affecting blacks and hispanics.
It’s no wonder that we Langa and Poindexter couldn’t reopen their case despite later FBI documents (released in 1978) showing police and the Bureau collaborated to suppress exculpatory evidence to convict two innocent men. Jack Swanson, the chief detective in charge of the investigation, told the BBC why:
“I think we did the right thing at the time because the Black Panther Party….completely disappeared from Omaha after we got the two main players.” In other words, neutralize the leadership and the organization dies.
Yet former Nebraska Governor Frank Morrison (1961 – 1967, who with Thomas Kenney represented Poindexter as a public defender) believed the men:
– “were convicted for their rhetoric, not for any crime they committed….The only thing these fellas did was try to combat all the racial discrimination of the time the wrong way….They weren’t convicted of murder.”
It was for their activism and prominence to stifle dissent, keep them imprisoned to assure it, and continue a long tradition of defiling due process and judicial fairness for people of color, the poor, and disadvantaged in a democracy for the privileged alone, as virulent under Obama as earlier.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com