Last week, the Obama Administration formally charged the Islamic Republic of working with al-Qa’ida. The charge was presented as part of the Treasury Department’s announcement that it was designating six alleged al-Qa’ida operatives for terrorism-related financial sanctions, see here. The six are being designated, according to Treasury, because of their involvement in transiting money and operatives for al-Qa’ida to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The announcement claims that part of this scheme was a “secret deal” between the Iranian government and al-Qa’ida, whereby Tehran allowed the terrorist group to use Iranian territory in the course of moving money and personnel.
For the most part, major media outlets uncritically transmitted the Obama Administration’s charge, without much manifestation of serious effort to verify it, find out more about the sourcing upon which it was based, or place it in any sort of detailed and nuanced historical context. Stories by Joby Warrick, see here, in the Washington Post and Helene Cooper, see here, in The New York Times exemplify this kind of “reporting”.
For nearly ten years, a cadre of hawkish analysts, politicians, and some Iranian expatriates have pushed their insistent but unsubstantiated claims of extensive collaboration between the Islamic Republic and al-Qa’ida. Some even charged that Osama bin Ladin was “living in luxury” in Iran, an assertion later elaborated in a 2010 “documentary” film that was extensively “covered” on Fox News.
During her service at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and at the National Security Council in 2001-2003, Hillary was one of a handful of U.S. officials who participated in nearly two years of substantive talks with Iranian counterparts about Afghanistan and al-Qa’ida.
–Since leaving government, we—and other former U.S. officials knowledgeable about the U.S.-Iranian dialogue over these matters—have related how the Iranians raised, almost immediately after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the problem of al-Qa’ida personnel trying to make their way from Afghanistan into Iran, consistently warning about the difficulties of securing Iran’s 936 kilometer-long border with Afghanistan (as well as its 700 kilometer-long border with Pakistan).
–We and others have also related how Tehran documented its detention of literally hundreds of suspected al-Qa’ida operatives, repatriated as many of these detainees to their countries of origin as it could, and requested U.S. assistance in facilitating repatriations of detainees whose governments did not want to cooperate (a request the Bush Administration denied).
–Furthermore, we described how, over the course of 2002 and early 2003, Bush Administration hardliners made substantive discussion and coordination with Iran over Iraq dependent on Tehran finding, arresting, and deporting a small number of specific al-Qa’ida figures—beyond the hundreds of suspected al-Qa’ida operatives the Islamic Republic had already apprehended—that Washington suspected had sought refuge in Iran’s lawless Sistan-Balochistan province. Although Tehran deployed additional security forces to its eastern borders, Iranian officials acknowledged that a small group of al-Qa’ida figures had managed to avoid capture and enter Iranian territory, most likely through Sistan-Balochistan, in 2002. The Iranian government located and took some of these individuals into custody and said that others identified by the United States were either dead or not in Iran. At the beginning of May 2003, after Baghdad had fallen, Tehran offered to exchange the remaining al-Qa’ida figures in Iran for a small group of MEK commanders in Iraq, with the treatment of those repatriated to Iran monitored by the International Committee for the Red Cross and a commitment not to apply the death penalty to anyone prosecuted on their return. But the Bush Administration rejected any deal.
Today, much of the American media unquestioningly “reports” information provided by the U.S. government about Iran’s supposed links to al-Qa’ida, noting, as Helene Cooper does in her story, that U.S. “officials admit that they are largely in the dark about what is going on with the Qaeda operatives believed to be in Iran.” But the only reason why the United States does not know more or have a cooperative relationship with the Islamic Republic over al-Qa’ida is that Washington cut off talks with Tehran over al-Qa’ida and Afghanistan in late May 2003. This decision was supposedly taken because the Defense Department claimed to have a communications intercept indicating that an al-Qa’ida figure inside Iran might have been involved in the May 12, 2003 Riyadh terrorist bombings. But the claim was never substantiated and was disputed by much of the U.S. Intelligence Community; by 2007, the Bush Administration was reduced to telling the Washington Post that “there are suspicions, but no proof” that an al-Qa’ida figures in Iran “may have been involved from afar in planning” the May 2003 attacks, see here.
Not even the George W. Bush Administration was prepared to make concrete accusations that the Islamic Republic was deliberately facilitating al-Qa’ida’s terrorist activities. Now, however, the Obama Administration is advancing specific, on-the-record charges that Iran is helping al-Qa’ida. There is no reason for anyone to have any confidence that official Washington “knows”, in any empirically serious way, that Tehran is cooperating with al-Qa’ida in the ways that are alleged.
Of the six al-Qa’ida operatives sanctioned by the Treasury Department last week, only one is alleged to be physically present in Iran—and, by Treasury’s own account, he is there primarily to get al-Qa’ida prisoners out of Iranian jails. Moreover, the United States apparently has no hard evidence that the Iranian government is supportive of or even knowledgeable about the alleged al-Qa’ida network in the Islamic Republic. In her story, Helene Cooper writes that a “senior Administration official” said “in a conference call for reporters” (which means that the White House wanted everyone to hear this, and Helene did not have to leave her office to hear it), that “our sense is this network is operating through Iranian territory with the knowledge and at least the acquiescence of Iranian authorities”. A “sense” that al-Qa’ida is operating in Iran with “at least the acquiescence of Iranian authorities” now apparently amounts to proof of a “secret deal” that can be authoritatively referenced in the announcement of a legally and politically significant action by the Treasury Department.
This is all strongly reminiscent of the way in which the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations prepared the way for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. And much of the mainstream media seems content to reprise the dishonorable role they played in making that war possible. As her pre-war reporting on Saddam Husayn’s weapons of mass destruction programs unraveled in the war’s aftermath, Judy Miller of The New York Times sought to defend herself by arguing that “my job isn’t to assess the government’s information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself.” Ms. Miller may no longer be at The New York Times. But it seems that her spirit lives on there, at the Washington Post, and in too many other journalistic venues.
The phony debt ceiling crisis was, from beginning to end, a con. It was an elaborate and successful hoax in which the nation’s first black president, the Democratic and Republican parties, Wall Street and corporate media all played indispensable parts. The object of the supposed “crisis” was to short circuit public opinion, existing law, democratic process and traditions of public oversight, in order to deal fatal blows to Medicaid, Medicare, social security, job growth and public expenditures for the common good. It worked. We’ve been conned.
President Barack Obama as First Actor in the Con
The key actor in the con was and is Barack Obama, leader of the Democratic party and president of the United States. When the Bush and Obama administrations bailed out the banksters in 2008, 2009 and 2010 they didn’t print new warehouses of greenbacks and send them over in a fleet of trucks. The Federal Reserve simply opened its spreadsheets, and wrote numbers with lots of zeroes crediting the banksters’ accounts. It literally created the new money by giving it away, and next proceeded to borrow those funds back from the banksters at interest. The debt ceiling crisis was nothing but those same banksters twirling their mustaches and oinking “Well, we don’t think you (the government that created the money by giving it to them) can really afford to repay all these loans you’ve been taking out… We might have to downgrade your credit rating…”
The whole notion of excessive government indebtedness, or that government might not be able, as the president threatened, to issue or cash social security checks was always a crock, a sham. There was never, ever a moment when Barack Obama didn’t know that his homey analogies about government having to live within its means just like a family were just cynical fairy tales.
The president could have prevented this “crisis” by passing a debt ceiling when he had a 50 vote majority in Congress for all of 2009 and 2010. He could have avoided it again by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. Instead the president renewed the Bush tax cuts when he had a 50 vote majority in Congress. The president could have defused it in the last month by any of a number of means, including simply calling it fake. But giving away the game is not what actors in a con do.
The Second Actor: Corporate Media
The second key actor in the con was and is the corporate media establishment. Media is nothing less than the sum total of the public conversation. Our corporate media is owned by a tiny group of greedy billionaires and soulless corporations who get to decide what most of us see and hear, what gets in and what gets left out of that supposedly public conversation. So corporate media cynically repeated the bankster’s doubts about getting their free money paid back.
Over the years, corporate media moguls had manufactured an entire Matrix-like world of fake “money experts” and economists who assured us in the 90s that tech stocks would never go down, and in the 2000s that real estate prices would never decrease, and always that lower taxes on the rich would trickle down to create jobs for the poor.
For these masters of alternative realities, re-branding the white nationalist wing of the Republican party as “the tea party” portraying it as a mass movement, and riffing on a new/old set of lies about the government going broke were par for the course. Corporate media set the limits of the political discourse inside a false reality — one where the myths that the US government could and might go broke, and where trickle down economics were unquestioned facts. It portrayed the only political choices available in that universe as the president’s accommodation vs the “tea party’s” extremism.
The Third Actors: Republicans and their tea party faction
Every Jeff needs a Mutt, every good cop needs a bad cop. This was the role played by Republicans. Throughout the Obama presidency their job has been to refuse the president’s pre-emptive compromises to meet them fifty, seventy, ninety percent of the way, moving the goal ever rightwards. Along the way a secondary function is to gratuitously insult the president, sometimes in openly racist terms, thus enabling some of the president’s backers to try to rally black and progressive support around him despite his utter abandonment of any progressive agenda.
The power of Republicans and their tea party subsidiary to dictate the course of events has always been exaggerated. During the first two years of the Obama presidency they had no legislative majorities anywhere and could not even call a committee meeting. Even with a majority in the House since the beginning of this year, Republican power to do damage is always limited by the combined power of the Democratic White House and a large Democratic minority in Congress. Despite the insistence of Republicans and the power of corporate media the imaginary “debt crisis” would not have existed unless the White House and Congressional Democrats co-signed it into existence.
The Fourth Actors, Hand Wringing Democrats, Progressives, and the Black Establishment
Last week we decided that Barack Obama, far from being weak, vacillating, and too spineless to stand up for the tens of millions of working and poor people who elevated him to office, was simply smarter than they were. Barack knows which side he’s on — only Democrats and so-called “progressives” don’t know, or pretend not to know.
Every abusive relationship has two parts. There’s an abuser, who does what he does, and there’s an enabling victim who forgives and makes excuses for the abuser. When Democrats and progressives waste ink and air on President Barack Obama trying to “make him do it” or discoursing on his “weakness” and lack of progressive backbone, they are effectively enabling his serial abuse by ascribing it to curable causes open to democratic remedies rather than deliberate intent and the people-proof mechanisms of their own party and of US governance in general. They enable their abuser.
The most pitiful and sometimes the most unprincipled of these are members of the Black Misleadership Class who support President Obama. The only card they have left is to point to the daily stream of racist quips and quotes from Republicans and tea partyers or Glen Beck, or whoever they can find that day calling the president a White House porch monkey, or some other racist epithet, as the reason to circle the wagons, squelch examination of Obama policies and silence criticism of his many betrayals in office of the cause of peace and justice.
The Directors of the Skit: Wall Street and Corporate America
Was there every really any danger of the US going broke? The stock market didn’t crash. The holders of US Treasury bonds didn’t try to unload them with this horrific train wreck a mere 24 hours distant. That was because they knew the train and the tracks were imaginary, they knew it was a hoax. They knew that President Obama could have declared it a foolish stunt and ignored it. They knew they would get their money any damned way.
President Obama expects to raise more than 1 billion dollars in direct financing of his 2012 presidential campaign alone, most of it from corporate sources and from Wall Street. This doesn’t count the money going to other Democrats in the House and Senate, or Democratic candidates for governor, for state and county level judges and other offices, for state legislatures and the like. Substantially the same contributors not only fund and own both parties, but also bankroll and dictate the policy positions of organizations like the Urban League, the National Council of LaRaza, and the NAACP.
If you don’t think dependence on corporate money, as a politician, or say as the National Urban League, whose keynote address this weekend was delivered by billionaires Bill Gates, makes you subservient to a corporate agenda, you’re living in some other world. All the actors in this drama live at the corporate trough. That’s it, and that’s all.
The Deal: Super-committees, Automatic Cuts, and Default Governing By Budget Cutting
With all the players acting their parts, the rigged game produced its expected outcome. Contrived in the imaginary universe where trickle down economics are the accepted norm, The Deal contains no new taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
President Obama announced that he has averted a crisis with more than a trillion dollars in immediate spending cuts, a number much higher than the value of the stimulus package passed at the beginning of his administration. A bipartisan “super-committee” of perhaps only a dozen Senate and House members will earmark a further $3 trillion in near term budget cuts, which will be submitted to Congress as up-or-down no-amendment, take-it-or-leave-it votes. And should Congress reject them, a round of automatic budget cuts dictated by some unknown formula will ensue. Medicare, Medicaid, social security, environmental protection and much more will inevitably fall.
Thus on the strength of a single vote in Congress drummed up by this fake crisis, the will of the American people has been subverted. Medicare, Medicaid and social security, if put up for popular votes would all win. If Congress had to debate them under scrutiny and take votes in public on them, Wall Street and the corporations would lose and the people would win. But that’s the purpose of a modern political “crisis:” to engineer the enactment of measures on behalf of elites that normal political processes would not allow.
Welcome to the future, where a black president has been the indispensable anchor player in the con game that ended the New Deal and Great Society.
If ‘justice for all’ were more than misty sentiment appended to a perfunctory ‘pledge of allegiance,’ H.R. 2634 — a bill seeking broad and long delayed remedial action on behalf of all Vietnam Era victims of Agent Orange — would sail through Congress and gain swift approval from the President.
Introduced by California Congressman Bob Filner, the senior Democrat on the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee, the proposed ‘Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act’ challenges our lawmakers and our nation to finally confront and repair the chemically induced public health and environmental wreckage that remains the most shameful and unresolved legacy of the U.S. war against Vietnam.
*From 1961 to 1971, approximately 19,000,000 gallons of herbicides, primarily Agent Orange, were sprayed over the southern region of Vietnam, much of it contaminated with deadly dioxin.
*Potentially 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to herbicides in this period, resulting in chronic illnesses, shortened life spans, and high rates of birth deformities. Even today, exposure continues in contaminated areas, designated dioxin ‘hot spots,’ and through contact with the food chain.
*Public health resources in Vietnam are inadequate for the necessary care and treatment of Agent Orange victims, many of whom reside in remote rural areas far from available medical and custodial services.
H.R. 2634, which was authored for Representative Filner by the Vietnam Relief and Responsibility Campaign, many of whose members are U.S. veterans of the war, authorizes the creation of programs throughout Vietnam to deliver an appropriate level of medical assistance to the victims, and provide much needed home, respite and daycare services as well.
One component of the bill, moreover, would authorize “assistance to repair and rebuild substandard homes in Vietnam for covered individuals,” as well as proposed funding for the long overdue clean-up of “those areas in Vietnam that continue to contain high levels of dioxin,” a program of critical importance to public health issues associated with on-going exposure to these deadly toxins.
H.R. 2634 is unique in that, presenting upfront the case of the victims in Vietnam, the bill recognizes the failure of American policy as we now approach four decades since the war’s end to recognize the heavy responsibility our government bears for the human suffering and environmental devastation resulting from our chemical assault on the people and land of southern Vietnam.
But the bill by no means limits its remedial reach to the victims within Vietnam. There are generous provisions that will expand programs and research to benefit our own veterans, and create medical centers “designed to address the medical needs of descendants of the veterans of the Vietnam era.” In essence this means that, as in Vietnam, there would be a presumption that certain birth anomalies among the children and grandchildren of exposed victims would be recognized as resulting from contact with Agent Orange.
Finally, H.R. 2634 would launch an assessment and treatment program aimed exclusively at Vietnamese-Americans who lived in Vietnam and parts of Cambodia and Laos during the exposure period from January 9, 1961 through May 7, 1975.
If you want to see the face of justice as it applies to the unfinished business surrounding the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, give the H.R. 2634 (linked here) a thorough read, and find a way to support it. Will H.R. 2634 get far in today’s troubled political climate? It certainly should, but it’s not very likely.
However if we think of this honorable document, to the degree it is aimed at the victims in Vietnam, as a wedge in an on-going campaign that both the U.S. and Vietnamese governments are anxious to resolve in their bi-lateral relations, its chances of contributing in the not too distant future to the implementation of much that it contains might not be as slim as we imagine.
#2: The US military is responsible for the most egregious and widespread pollution of the planet, yet this information and accompanying documentation goes almost entirely unreported. In spite of the evidence, the environmental impact of the US military goes largely unaddressed by environmental organizations and was not the focus of any discussions or proposed restrictions at the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. This impact includes uninhibited use of fossil fuels, massive creation of greenhouse gases, and extensive release of radioactive and chemical contaminants into the air, water, and soil.
The extensive global operations of the US military (wars, interventions, and secret operations on over one thousand bases around the world and six thousand facilities in the United States) are not counted against US greenhouse gas limits. Sara Flounders writes, “By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products and energy in general. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.”
While official accounts put US military usage at 320,000 barrels of oil a day, that does not include fuel consumed by contractors, in leased or private facilities, or in the production of weapons. The US military is a major contributor of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that most scientists believe is to blame for climate change. Steve Kretzmann, director of Oil Change International, reports, “The Iraq war was responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) from March 2003 through December 2007. . . . That war emits more than 60 percent that of all countries. . . . This information is not readily available . . . because military emissions abroad are exempt from national reporting requirements under US law and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
According to Barry Sanders, author of The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism, “the greatest single assault on the environment, on all of us around the globe, comes from one agency . . . the Armed Forces of the United States.”
Throughout the long history of military preparations, actions, and wars, the US military has not been held responsible for the effects of its activities upon environments, peoples, or animals. During the Kyoto Accords negotiations in December 1997, the US demanded as a provision of signing that any and all of its military operations worldwide, including operations in participation with the UN and NATO, be exempted from measurement or reductions. After attaining this concession, the Bush administration then refused to sign the accords and the US Congress passed an explicit provision guaranteeing the US military exemption from any energy reduction or measurement.
Environmental journalist Johanna Peace reports that military activities will continue to be exempt based on an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that calls for other federal agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Peace states, “The military accounts for a full 80 percent of the federal government’s energy demand.”
As it stands, the Department of Defense is the largest polluter in the world, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest US chemical companies combined. Depleted uranium, petroleum, oil, pesticides, defoliant agents such as Agent Orange, and lead, along with vast amounts of radiation from weaponry produced, tested, and used, are just some of the pollutants with which the US military is contaminating the environment. Flounders identifies key examples:
- Depleted uranium: Tens of thousands of pounds of microparticles of radioactive and highly toxic waste contaminate the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Balkans.
- US-made land mines and cluster bombs spread over wide areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East continue to spread death and destruction even after wars have ceased.
- Thirty-five years after the Vietnam War, dioxin contamination is three hundred to four hundred times higher than “safe” levels, resulting in severe birth defects and cancers into the third generation of those affected.
- US military policies and wars in Iraq have created severe desertification of 90 percent of the land, changing Iraq from a food exporter into a country that imports 80 percent of its food.
- In the US, military bases top the Superfund list of the most polluted places, as perchlorate and trichloroethylene seep into the drinking water, aquifers, and soil.
- Nuclear weapons testing in the American Southwest and the South Pacific Islands has contaminated millions of acres of land and water with radiation, while uranium tailings defile Navajo reservations.
- Rusting barrels of chemicals and solvents and millions of rounds of ammunition are criminally abandoned by the Pentagon in bases around the world.
The United States is planning an enormous $15 billion military buildup on the Pacific island of Guam. The project would turn the thirty-mile-long island into a major hub for US military operations in the Pacific. It has been described as the largest military buildup in recent history and could bring as many as fifty thousand people to the tiny island. Chamoru civil rights attorney Julian Aguon warns that this military operation will bring irreversible social and environmental consequences to Guam. As an unincorporated territory, or colony, and of the US, the people of Guam have no right to self-determination, and no governmental means to oppose an unpopular and destructive occupation.
Between 1946 and 1958, the US dropped more than sixty nuclear weapons on the people of the Marshall Islands. The Chamoru people of Guam, being so close and downwind, still experience an alarmingly high rate of related cancer.
On Capitol Hill, the conversation has been restricted to whether the jobs expected from the military construction should go to mainland Americans, foreign workers, or Guam residents. But we rarely hear the voices and concerns of the indigenous people of Guam, who constitute over a third of the island’s population.
Meanwhile, as if the US military has not contaminated enough of the world already, a new five-year strategic plan by the US Navy outlines the militarization of the Arctic to defend national security, potential undersea riches, and other maritime interests, anticipating the frozen Arctic Ocean to be open waters by the year 2030. This plan strategizes expanding fleet operations, resource development, research, and tourism, and could possibly reshape global transportation.
While the plan discusses “strong partnerships” with other nations (Canada, Norway, Denmark, and Russia have also made substantial investments in Arctic-capable military armaments), it is quite evident that the US is serious about increasing its military presence and naval combat capabilities. The US, in addition to planned naval rearmament, is stationing thirty-six F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets, which is 20 percent of the F-22 fleet, in Anchorage, Alaska.
Some of the action items in the US Navy Arctic Roadmap document include:
- Assessing current and required capability to execute undersea warfare, expeditionary warfare, strike warfare, strategic sealift, and regional security cooperation.
- Assessing current and predicted threats in order to determine the most dangerous and most likely threats in the Arctic region in 2010, 2015, and 2025.
- Focusing on threats to US national security, although threats to maritime safety and security may also be considered.
Behind the public façade of international Arctic cooperation, Rob Heubert, associate director at the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, points out, “If you read the document carefully you’ll see a dual language, one where they’re saying, ‘We’ve got to start working together’ . . . and [then] they start saying, ‘We have to get new instrumentation for our combat officers.’ . . . They’re clearly understanding that the future is not nearly as nice as what all the public policy statements say.”
Beyond the concerns about human conflicts in the Arctic, the consequences of militarization on the Arctic environment are not even being considered. Given the record of environmental devastation that the US military has wrought, such a silence is unacceptable.
- Dimitrina Semova, Joan Pedro, and Luis Luján (Complutense University of Madrid)
- Ashley Jackson-Lesti, Ryan Stevens, Chris Marten, and Kristy Nelson (Sonoma State University)
- Christopher Lue (Indian River State College)
- Cassie Barthel (St. Cloud State University)
- Ana I. Segovia (Complutense University of Madrid)
- Julie Flohr and Mryna Goodman (Sonoma State University)
- Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)
- Julie Andrzejewski (St. Cloud State University)
A political observer says the US militaristic approach to the ‘democratic revolution’ in Yemen is antagonizing the population, turning the Middle Eastern country into another Somalia.
“Instead of dealing with the democratic process, which they (the US administration) say they believe in, they [have] hurried and built a drone base in Yemen and now they are using drones to attack the people of Yemen,” Eugene Michael Jones, editor of Culture Wars magazine, told Press TV on Tuesday.
“You (the US) are radicalizing the [Yemeni] population by doing this thing, … the danger [is] that Yemen [is] going to become Somalia. It can split up into two countries; it can split up into tribes,” Jones added.
Considering that there can be no military solution to the situation in Yemen, the analyst said that the US has to close down its drone base in the country and to allow the formation of a transitional council that the Yemeni demonstrators have been demanding.
For several weeks, Yemeni protesters have been calling for the establishment of such a council to prevent the country’s longtime dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, from remaining in office.
Earlier this week, thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of the city of Taizz to condemn US and Saudi interference in the country.
The demonstrators, who were carrying banners calling for the boycott of the US and Saudi products, accused Washington and Riyadh of attempting to prop up Saleh.
The protesters also chanted slogans denouncing Ali Abdullah Saleh’s three-decade dictatorship, stressing that the regime’s officials should be brought to trial for the killing of hundreds of people during months of anti-government rallies.
The protests have intensified since Saleh vowed to return from Saudi Arabia — where he has been receiving treatment for burns and wounds he sustained in an attack by tribesmen on his palace in Sana’a in June — to oversee a national dialogue and elections.
The Yemeni revolution began in January, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the major cities to call for an end to corruption and unemployment.
Hundreds of people have been killed and many more injured by forces loyal to Salah in the violent repression of the anti-regime protests.
In this age of austerity, all the politicians are talking about the need for spending cuts. But when it comes to shared burdens and slashed budgets, don’t expect the Pentagon to start holding bake sales, despite what you may have heard about reductions to its obscenely bloated funding.
Citing the U.S. government’s $14.3 trillion debt, lawmakers from both parties have seized the moment to try and attain long hoped-for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. But the recent deal does seem to include some good news for lovers of peace: the push for reductions would encompass the war-making part of the state. Indeed, according to a “fact sheet” released by the White House on the bipartisan compromise, the recent deal to raise the national debt ceiling “puts us on track to cut $350 billion from the defense budget over 10 years.”
Popular liberal pundits, such as The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson and Ezra Klein, reacted by calling the supposed defense cuts “gigantic” and “unprecedented.” The White House says they’re the first spending reductions since the 1990s.
But don’t start cheering yet. As with any other major bipartisan initiative in Washington – the Iraq war and the Wall Street bailouts come to mind – there’s ample reason to be skeptical.
First, the cuts for 2012 are virtually nil. Security spending—which includes the Pentagon, State Department, Homeland Security, part of Veterans Affairs and intelligence spending—will be capped at $684 billion in 2012, a decline of merely $5 billion (less than 1 percent) from this year.
Yes, there are potentially far more drastic cuts down the road. In addition to the first $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade, a bipartisan Congressional committee must come up with an additional $1.5 trillion cuts by November — or trigger an automatic across-the-board reduction of $1.2 trillion starting in 2013, half of which would be expected to come from military spending.
However, expect this threat of deep military cuts – if cutting defense by 3 percent a year can be called “deep” when it has grown at a rate of 9 percent over the last decade – to be used as a bargaining chip by Democrats to extract concessions on tax increases from Republicans; don’t hold your breath expecting them to actually materialize. And with House Republicans already pledging to “fight on behalf of our Armed Forces,” by which they mean the military-industrial complex, don’t expect Democrats to put up much of a fight. Even were Obama so inclined, the idea that he will expend political capital on cutting military spending even as he expands the war on terror in Libya, Yemen and Somalia is doubtful, especially with an election looming.
But let’s put aside cynicism and accept the Obama administration at its word. Let’s assume the White House and Congress agree to cut military spending by $350 billion a year over 10 years. While the numbers may sound impressive out of context, that’s like draining an Olympic-sized pool with a glass from your kitchen: you’re going to be at it for awhile. The military budget has ballooned so much over the last decade that even if it were cut in half tomorrow, the U.S. would still spend more than it did in 2001.
Indeed, the Obama administration’s proposed military budget for 2012 – the baseline from which future cuts are projected – is at its “highest level since World War II,” according to the non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, “surpassing the Cold War peak” set by Ronald Reagan and a Democratic House of Representatives in 1985. Even if, instead of over a decade, the whole, entirely-subject-to-change $350 billion were cut from the defense budget in one fiscal year alone, the U.S. would still lead the globe in military spending, devoting twice as much to guns and bombs as its closest and much more populous rival, China. And that’s without factoring in the cost of any new wars.
Of course, official budget numbers don’t tell the whole story. Factoring in interest payments for past military expenditures, spending on veterans’ care and other defense-related items not included in the Pentagon budget, economist Robert Higgs estimates the yearly grand total spent on the military is $1 trillion or more, with over half of the federal income tax going to the military. And that massive national debt that’s being used to justify cuts in social spending? Nothing has contributed to it more than the dramatic rise in military spending over the last decade, a factoid you might have missed if you get your news from a television.
The tragic irony is that debt caused in large part by foreign military adventures is being used to further a class war here at home, even as the bloodshed continues in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and beyond. Too bad that, rather than denounce this morally and fiscally damaging addiction to militarism, politicians prefer to orchestrate the decline of the American empire from within.
Medea Benjamin can be reached at (email@example.com)
US Muslims protesting against a planned congressional hearing on the alleged role of Muslims in homegrown terrorism in New York, March 2011
Nearly half of American Muslims say they have experienced racial or religious discrimination over the past year, a new poll has revealed.
According to the survey conducted by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, a Gallup research hub in the United Arab Emirates, 48 percent of Muslims in America said they had “personally experienced racial or religious discrimination” in the past year, AFP reported on Tuesday.
The poll, which was carried out ahead of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 incidents, shows that American Muslims lead all other faith groups in rejecting terrorism and attacks on civilians.
Muslim Americans also tend to have more negative views of the American military and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), attributing such opinions to the so-called “war on terror” which focuses heavily on Muslims, the report added.
Based on the survey, following the election of US President Barack Obama, the 2.6 million Muslims in America, tend to be more optimistic about both the economy and politics compared with the other faith groups.
“Situation could turn to long, evil American series”
Former Deputy Head of the Phalange party in Lebanon, Lawyer Rashad Salameh, said some armed and financed factions were behind the recent developments in Syria, and noted that the Syrian state has positively dealt with the legal reform demands, “but it turned out that what was happening on ground was actually an organized military operation.”
In an exclusive interview with Al-Manar Website, Salameh said that a true conspiracy was targeting Syria, and that it may undermine the threats launched by some Western leaders to “isolate” the Syrian regime. He recalled that isolation was not new for Syria, and that Syrians were able to overcome this threat throughout all previous stages.
While expressing confidence in the awareness and sincerity of the Syrian people, he revealed that the Americans have offered to their thugs and allies in Lebanon a “promise” that the Syrian regime would collapse. He said that US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman has assured his allies, during his latest visit to Beirut, that the Assad regime in Syria would be toppled. He put the latest statement made by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in this context, and expressed belief that Hariri got a cue of the American aims before issuing his statement in which he condemned the Syrian regime.
Concerning the international tribunal, lawyer Salameh said he was fully convinced of Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s statement in this regard, and confirmed that the so-called Special Tribunal for Lebanon was violating all international standards. He found it strange how the indictment could turn into a “long and evil American series,” and stressed that serious investigation starts by questioning false witnesses who misled the investigation and, therefore, concealed the true culprits.
CONSPIRACY AGAINST SYRIA… SERIOUS
Lawyer Rashad Salameh told Al-Manar Website that the latest incidents in Syria were proof that the opposition movement, which started with legal reform demands, turned to something else. He noted that the Syrian regime positively dealt with the reform demands, mainly in relation with the multiplicity of parties, amendment of the constitution, holding elections, reinforcing political life, and increasing freedoms.
But Salameh said that incidents showed that military operations were taking place on ground, and backed the idea by pointing to the huge number of martyrs within the security forces and innocent civilians. “This huge number of martyrs signals that there’s an armed and financed side behind the incidents. It also shows that this side was well-prepared for these acts,” he added.
Salameh regretted that some Western states reject seeing the picture in its real form. He said that these sides were not demanding reform but the collapse of the regime. “This is a conspiracy which is using some tools seeking to create strife in Syria,” he warned. “Although they claim they are an opposition in opinion, everything shows they’re not. In fact, we’re before some armed groups that seek to attack official buildings, manipulate the train line, and explode oil pipelines. The Syrians cannot remain silent before such violations, crimes, threats to the general stability and security.”
While stressing that the Syrian army was still unified alongside the majority of the people in support of the current regime, he criticized the stances made by some Western states in support of the armed groups. “Some Western officials give themselves the right to claim, with an order tone, that this regime should end. Such rhetoric strengthens the international conspiracy theory, where some states that we believed to be democratic take part.”
Salameh recalled, in this context, the stances made earlier by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he said that, as part of the NATO alliance, he would carry out any decision to militarily interfere in Syria in case such decision was issued by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He also pointed to the statement made by Syrian former Deputy President Abdul Halim Khaddam who called, through an Israeli TV station, for a military operation in Syria. He said that all these signs show the depth of the conspiracy targeting Syria at this stage.
SYRIA HAS SUFFICIENT IMMUNITY TO RESIST
Lawyer Rashad Salameh commented on the latest stance made by US President Barack Obama in which he declared that the United States will continue to increase its pressure on the Syrian regime, and work with others around the world to isolate Al-Assad’s government.
Salameh pointed to the biased media coverage of the Syrian developments. He noted that some Arab and European media panels, including Italian Television, claimed Sunday that the number of victims exceeded 136 in Hamah only and that the total number of victims throughout Syrian districts exceeded 350. “It turned out that these numbers were not accurate, according to the same panels,” he said.
Concerning the American President’s promise to isolate the Syrian President, Salameh said that such threats are baseless. He recalled that Syria has experienced isolation for over five years, when former US President George W. Bush took the decision to isolate Syria. He said that Syria was able to overcome its crisis and restore its natural role, when France was more moderate.
He also said that Syria did not have fears over the Lebanese situation because Lebanon is a strong state. He said that Lebanon was great because of the resistance’s victories, alongside the Resistance-Army-People balance, which reflected Lebanon’s unity. He further pointed out the tense relations between Turkey and Syria.
While concluding that Syria had enough immunity to stand in the face of the conspiracy, he recalled the previous stage during the rule of late President Hafez Assad. “At that time, Syria was under siege from Turkey, Jordan and at the same time Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Yet, it was able to overcome this status through its relation with Lebanon and mainly, through the strategic relation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, this is not the first time in which Syria is targeted.”
AMERICANS PROMISED THEIR ALLIES
Salameh revealed that the Americans have offered their thugs and allies in Lebanon a “promise” that the Syrian regime would collapse. He said that US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman has assured his March 14 allies, during his latest visit to Beirut, that the Assad regime in Syria would be toppled.
Commenting on Feltman’s stance that Syrian President Bachar Assad will not triumph, Salameh noted that it was Feltman who launched such a slogan, not the Syrian nation. “If I was Syrian and I heard such statements, I would have perceived that there was an external danger and that claiming that the issue was purely internal was not true.” He also criticized the American administration’s claims that it refused the interference of anybody in Syria’s affairs “as if it was preventing the whole world, except itself, from interfering in others’ affairs.”
Salameh, who said Feltman’s promise to his allies, over the collapse of the Syrian regime, was not frank, also uncovered that the US diplomat advised his allies to stay silent. “Some of them accepted the advice but others did not,” he said, adding that he did not find strange the latest stance of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. “Hariri was committed to the advice for a while, but it seemed that he got a dose of American reinforcements, so he issued the delayed statement,” he said. “Hariri must remember that Syria’s stability was an essential condition for Lebanon’s stability, and vice versa. His statement was not useful for Hariri himself, for Lebanon or even for the future of the ties between Lebanon and Syria.”
RADICALS NOT SUITABLE ALTERNATIVE
Salameh said that someone has convinced the American administration and its followers that the fate of the region can be in the hands of specific radicals, given that these radicals could be allies to the US. He warned against such an option, and recalled the dangerous sectarian conflict that recently took place in Egypt. He recalled, in this context, WikiLeaks’ cables that quoted former PM Saad Hariri as advising Jeffrey Feltman to “try Bayanouni (Muslim Brotherhood) and Abdul Halim Khaddam” and telling them that they would find them moderate. “It seemed that the Americans have believed Feltman’s advice and chosen to apply it,” he added.
Salameh, who said he fully trusted the Syrian nation’s originality, expressed belief that Syrians will not accept extremist radicals as an alternative for the current regime. “Under their control, freedom would not get any better. This is the alternative prepared by the ongoing conspiracy against Syria.”
To conclude, Lawyer Rashad Salameh attacked the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and said he fully agreed with Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah in this context. He said that Sayyed Nasrallah’s vision reflected the truth, whether at the level of the investigation’s measures or the amendments to the internal rules of regulation.
Salameh said the tribunal was unconstitutional, and noted that the process has started at the moment in which the government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora requested its creation under chapter seven. He pointed to the agreement that was signed between the United Nations and then Justice Minister Khaled Qabbani, which contradicted the constitution. “The Lebanese Republic cannot be the confined to the Justice Minister, as there’s a President who, according to the constitution, is the one eligible to sign external agreements. Add to this the fact that Saniora’s government was not constitutional.”
Salameh also pointed to the suspicious change of accusations according to the political developments. “At the beginning, Syria was the target, and the four officials were the victims. If an indictment was issued at the time, then the main suspect would have been Syria without doubt,” he stressed, adding that it has been proven that this tribunal violated all legal standards.
He also noted that Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has offered solid evidence concerning an Israeli possible role in the assassination of former PM Rafiq Hariri, but that the tribunal chose to reject it. “Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare had declared that the evidence will not change the course of investigation even before receiving them,” he recalled.
“The US and Israel were the first to benefit from the crime. But they will never be among the suspects,” he stressed.
LONG AND EVIL AMERICAN SERIES…
In parallel, Salameh said that Lebanon should be ready for the sanctions some sides are seeking to impose against it. He noted, however, that such sanctions would include all Lebanon, and not a specific political party. He warned that such an option would undermine stability in the country and increase the horizontal division within the Lebanese.
Legally, Salameh also noted that Hariri’s murder was never among the crimes that should be explored by international tribunals. He noted that those concerned have sought to find the best definition of “terrorism” that could correspond to Hariri’s murder, and found it in a “silly” article in the Lebanese law. He noted that only in this law, there’s no reference to a crime against humanity, or annihilation.
According to Salameh, another violation of international law by this tribunal was the release of “various” indictments. “We believe that there’s only one indictment in all causes. With this cause, they’re promising us many. This is unpopular. We’re speaking of an indictment, not of an evil and boring American series.”
To end, Salameh stressed that whoever really wants the truth could not reach it through this tribunal and this investigation. He said that serious investigation must start by questioning the false witnesses who lied, misled the investigation, and hid the real culprit.