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Kissinger Planned Attacks on Cuba

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. (Photo: Gerald Ford Library)
National Security Archive | October 1, 2014

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ordered a series of secret contingency plans that included airstrikes and mining of Cuban harbors in the aftermath of Fidel Castro’s decision to send Cuban forces into Angola in late 1975, according to declassified documents made public today for the first time. “If we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures,” Kissinger instructed General George Brown of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a high-level meeting of national security officials on March 24, 1976, that included then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “I think we are going to have to smash Castro,” Kissinger told President Ford. “We probably can’t do it before the [1976 presidential] elections.” “I agree,” the president responded.

The story of Kissinger’s Cuban contingency planning was published today in a new book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana, co-authored by American University professor William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh who directs the National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project. Research for the book, which reveals the surprising and untold history of bilateral efforts towards rapprochement and reconciliation, draws on hundreds of formerly secret records obtained by the authors. The documents detailing Kissinger’s Cuban contingency planning in 1976 were obtained by Kornbluh through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.

According to the book, Kissinger’s consideration of open hostilities with Cuba came after a protracted effort of secret diplomatic talks to normalize relations — including furtive meetings between U.S. and Cuban emissaries at La Guardia airport and an unprecedented three-hour negotiating session at the five-star Pierre Hotel in New York City. Cuba’s efforts at supporting the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, the authors write, “was the type of threat to U.S. interests that Kissinger had hoped the prospect of better relations would mitigate.”

The book describes Kissinger as “apoplectic” with Castro — in oval office meetings Kissinger referred to the Cuban leader as a “pipsqueak” — for Cuba’s decision to deploy thousands of soldiers to Angola to assist the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party of António Agostinho Neto against attacks from insurgent groups that were supported covertly by the United States and apartheid regime of South Africa. Concerned that Castro would eventually broaden his military incursion beyond Angola, Kissinger counseled Ford that they would have to “crack the Cubans.” “If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them,” Kissinger told the president, according to a March 15, 1976, Oval Office memorandum of conversation.

In the March 24 meeting with an elite national security team known as the Washington Special Actions Group, Kissinger expanded on the domino scenario. “If the Cubans destroy Rhodesia then Namibia is next and then there is South Africa,” Kissinger argued. To permit the “Cubans as the shock troops of the revolution” in Africa, he argued, was unacceptable and could cause racial tensions in the “Caribbean with the Cubans appealing to disaffected minorities and could then spillover into South America and even into our own country.”

Moreover, the lack of a U.S. response to the global exercise of military power by a small Caribbean island nation, Kissinger feared, would be seen as American weakness. “If there is a perception overseas that we are so weakened by our internal debate [over Vietnam] so that it looks like we can’t do anything about a country of eight million people, then in three or four years we are going to have a real crisis.”

Drafted secretly by the Washington Special Actions Group in April 1976, the contingency plans outlined punitive options that ranged from economic and political sanctions to acts of war such as mining Cuba’s harbors, a naval quarantine, and strategic airstrikes “to destroy selected Cuban military and military-related targets.” The contingency planners warned Kissinger, however, that any act of aggression could trigger a superpower confrontation. Unlike the 1962 missile crisis, stated one planning paper, “a new Cuban crisis would not necessarily lead to a Soviet retreat.”

Indeed, “a Cuban/Soviet response could escalate in areas that would maximize US casualties and thus provoke stronger response,” Kissinger’s national security advisers warned. “The circumstances that could lead the United States to select a military option against Cuba should be serious enough to warrant further action in preparation for general war.”

Back Channel to Cuba was released today at a press conference at the Pierre Hotel, the site of the first official secret meeting to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba in July 1975. The authors suggested that the history of such talks, and the lessons they hold, remain especially relevant at a time when both President Obama and President Raul Castro have publicly declared the urgency of moving beyond the legacy of perpetual hostility in U.S.-Cuban relations.

Document 1: Memorandum of Conversation, February 25, 1976

During a conversation with President Ford in the Oval Office, Secretary of State Kissinger raises the issue of Cuba’s military incursion into Angola, implying that Latin American nations are concerned about a “race war” because of Cuba’s efforts in Africa. “I think we are going to have to smash Castro. We probably can’t do it before the elections.” The president responds, “I agree.”

 

Document 2: Memorandum of Conversation, March 15, 1976

In another Oval Office conversation, Kissinger raises the Cuban military involvement in Africa and expresses concern that Castro may deploy troops elsewhere in the region. “I think sooner or later we have to crack the Cubans … I think we have to humiliate them.” He continues to argue that, “If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them. That would create a furor … but I think we might have to demand they get out of Africa.” When President Ford asks, “what if they don’t?” Kissinger responds, “I think we could blockade.”

 

Document 3: Washington Special Actions Group Meeting, Cuba, March 24, 1976

Kissinger convenes The Washington Special Actions Group-a small elite team of national security officials-on March 24 to discuss a range of options and capabilities to move against Cuba. “We want to get planning started in the political, economic and military fields so that we can see what we can do if we want to move against Cuba,” he explains. “In the military field there is an invasion or blockade.” Kissinger shares his domino theory of Cuban military involvement in the region. “If the Cubans destroy Rhodesia then Namibia is next and then there is South Africa. It might only take five years,” Kissinger argues. In discussing military options, he states, “if we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures – we get no reward for using military power in moderation.” Kissinger orders the group to secretly draw up plans for retaliation if Cuban troops go beyond Angola.

 

Document 4: Cuban Contingency Plan Summary, (ca. April 1976)

This document is a summary of the Cuban Contingency survey considering the possible U.S. reactions to continued Cuban and USSR “Angola style” intervention. The summary notes that the U.S. is already engaging in some efforts to dissuade further intervention through “public warnings, signals to the USSR, changes in our African policy and some measures designed to isolate Castro.” While any U.S. response will affect U.S.-Soviet relations, “It is easier to bring pressure on Cuba, as the closer and weaker partner in a tightly interwoven relationship, than on the Soviet Union.”

 

Document 5: Cuban Contingency Plan Paper 1, (ca. April 1976)

According to this lengthy contingency planning paper, the objective of these plans is to prevent a pattern in which Cuba and the USSR “arrogate to themselves the right to intervene with combat forces in local or regional conflicts.” The contingency plan outlines four courses of action that vary on a scale of seriousness for deterring continued Cuban intervention, including: political pressure, actions against the USSR, a scenario of actions (combining political, economic and military measures), and military steps. Any actions taken towards Cuba could spur greater tension with the USSR. “In short, confronting Cuba — the weaker partner — is an obvious step toward confronting the USSR.” Political measures are presented as the best option for dissuading Cuba because of the increased chances of a U.S.-Cuban “incident” stemming from military actions. Along with the possibility of an incident, this document notes that “one of Cuba’s main foreign policy objectives has been to normalize relations with the countries of this hemisphere.”

The document outlines the option for a quarantine. As Cuba is highly dependent on imports and foreign military equipment (from the USSR), especially by sea, the U.S. would be able to exacerbate Cuba’s greatest vulnerability. On that same theme, the paper points to the U.S. base at Guantanamo as the greatest vulnerability for a Cuban response to any U.S. military actions. Other military steps outlined in the plans include mining Cuban ports and conducting punitive strikes against selected targets.

 

Document 6: Cuban Contingency Plan Paper 2, (ca. April 1976)

This paper covers several categories of U.S. actions against Cuba: deterrence, pressure to cease and desist, interdiction of Cuban action under way, and retaliation. Any form of deterrence taken by the U.S. would have to be “predicated on a willingness to take some action if the deterrence failed.” However, and reiterated once again, any action taken to confront Cuba would also incite a confrontation with the USSR. The possible military measures presented include three forms of quarantine (selected war materiel, POL imports, maritime blockade excluding food and medicine), mining Cuban ports, and punitive airstrikes on selected targets.

The document notes two important ambiguities — the role of Cuban military involvement in Africa and the threshold to determine the U.S. response to a Cuban provocation. “In sum, there is a good chance the US will be confronted by an ambiguous situation, in which Cuban intervention is not clearly established.” As well, there is “no precise threshold” which would determine the U.S. response, except to state that the threshold would be low if Cuban action were directed against the US or its territories (Puerto Rico), higher in the Caribbean and Latin America, and highest in Africa.

The document states that “we should further make it clear that we are not reverting to the shenanigans of the early 1960’s” and that the U.S. is not violating any international agreements. While the Soviets in 1970 indicated that they regarded the 1962 U.S.-Soviet agreement as still in force, the “failure of the Cubans to permit the UN supervision renders the US pledge technically inoperative.”

 

Document 7: Kissinger Aide-Memoire to Cuba, January 11, 1975

This conciliatory message drafted by an aide to Kissinger, and approved by the Secretary of State, was given to the Cuban side at the first meeting between U.S. and Cuban representatives, which took place at a cafeteria in La Guardia airport. “We are meeting here to explore the possibilities for a more normal relationship between our two countries,” it begins. The objective is to “determine whether there exists an equal determination on both sides to settle the differences that exist between us.” While the ideological differences are wide, Kissinger expresses hope that such talks will “be useful in addressing concrete issues which it is in the interest of both countries to resolve.” As a gesture to the Cubans, the U.S. will permit Cuban diplomats (accredited to the UN) to travel from New York to Washington and may begin granting additional visas to Cubans for cultural, scientific and education meetings. For Kissinger, “no purpose is served in attempting to embargo ideas.”

 

Document 8: Memorandum for the Secretary, Meeting in New York with Cuban Representatives, January 11, 1975

In a briefing paper on the first secret meeting at La Guardia airport, Kissinger’s aide Lawrence Eagleburger reports on the tone and exchange of views. The Cubans stated they had no authority to negotiate at that time, but emphasized the importance of removing the embargo as a “sine qua non” for talks. Eagleburger reports that he wanted to “leave both Cubans with a clear understanding that while I had received their message, I was in no way prepared — even unofficially — to accept [removing the embargo] as a precondition to further talks.” Even though at times there was a seemingly difficult tone in the meeting, as Eagleburger explains, “the atmosphere of the meeting was extremely friendly.”

 

Document 9: Memorandum of Conversation, Pierre Hotel, U.S.-Cuba Meeting, July 9, 1975

This meeting marks the first formal negotiating session to explore normalized relations between the United States and Cuba. To break the ice, Eagleburger suggests that Kissinger is disposed to meet with the Cuban foreign minister during the upcoming UNGA meetings in September. Assistant Secretary of State William D. Rogers begins by explaining that Washington would support lifting multilateral sanctions at the OAS and that the United States would then begin to dismantle the trade embargo, piece by piece, in response to similar gestures from the Cubans. Over the course of the next three hours the U.S. and Cuban officials discuss a series of reciprocal and bilateral improvements of relations, with much of the meeting focused on the Cuban responses to the points raised by the U.S. side. Responding to the piece by piece approach of the U.S., the Cuban representatives reiterate that any precondition for talks remains the lifting of the embargo. “We cannot negotiate under the blockade,” Ramon Sánchez-Parodi argues; “until the embargo is lifted, Cuba and the United States cannot deal with each other as equals and consequently cannot negotiate.”

October 1, 2014 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 7 Comments

Syrian Foreign Minister: US to Conduct Airstrikes Against IS for 3 Years

RIA Novosti – September 27, 2014

The United States has informed Syria that it will conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) for three years, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Saturday.

“They [the United States and its allies] said they will strike for three years. They informed us but this doesn’t mean they have our acceptance,” Muallem said.

Earlier in September, the United States announced the formation of an international coalition aimed at fighting IS militants. Washington and its allies have already conducted a number of airstrikes on IS positions both in Syria and Iraq.

The United States has been carrying out airstrikes against the IS on the Syrian territory without any formal permission from Damascus.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that the coalition should seek consent of the countries, in which the airstrikes are conducted.

September 28, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Parliament and Congress Have No Power to Legalize War

By David Swanson | War is a Crime | September 26, 2014

Congress has fled town to avoid voting for or against a new war. Many of the big donors to Congressional campaigns would want Yes votes. Many voters would want No votes, if not immediately, then as soon as the panic induced by the beheading videos wears off, which could be within the next month. Better to just avoid displeasing anyone — other than people who notice you running away.

The standard for legal-ish cosmopolitan respectability in the U.S. now has become getting five kings and dictators to say they are on your side as you start bombing a new country.

But the British Parliament is still at the level of believing an actual vote by a legislature is appropriate. Do Americans remember that their beloved founding fathers put war powers in the hands of the legislature because of the ugly history of royal wars in Britain? Times have changed.

But if we want to actually comply with the law, we have to admit that neither Parliament nor Congress has the power to legalize attacking Syria. This is because both the U.S. and the U.K. are parties to the United Nations Charter, which bans war with very narrow exceptions — exceptions that have not been in any way met.

And if you want to get really serious about laws, the Kellogg-Briand Pact has never been repealed, the U.S. and U.K. are parties to it, and it bans all war without exception.

Now, you can interpret the Kellogg-Briand Pact to allow self-defense because the right to military self-defense, even when it’s unlikely to actually work, is just so obvious to your way of thinking. And the U.N. Charter explicitly allows military self-defense. But here’s the problem: There’s nothing defensive about attacking Syria, and President Obama himself described it as “offense” in an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC.

Another word for “offense” is aggression, which the Nuremberg tribunal called “essentially an evil thing . . . the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Asked about Congress’s responsibilities on Tuesday, Senator Tim Kaine (D., Va.) claimed that presidents could fight defensive wars without Congress but needed Congressional authorizations for offensive ones. In fact, offensive wars are not legal by any common understanding. Asked, then, about international law, at an event at the Center for American Progress, Kaine reportedly said that bombing Syria, as distinct from Iraq, was “complicated” and that he was not sure “how they would do that, perhaps using principles of self-defense or defending Iraq against other threats. I think we’ll find out more about what the administration says about that after the UN General Assembly,” he said.

Only in America. Only the White House gets to invent legal rationale for blatant crimes, with the law makers and enforcers prepared to accept the rationale before they hear it.

Prior to the U.N. meeting, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power wrote to the U.N. arguing that it is legal for the United States to attack Syria because it is legal for Iraq to defend itself. By this logic, if Canada experienced a violent rebellion, it would be legal for China to attack the United States.

It’s fun to pretend that the rule of law doesn’t matter to you because you have all the weapons. It’s fun to take two-month vacations from Washington. Just don’t count on everyone voting you back next year.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

The American Conquest of Europe

By John Chuckman | CounterPunch | September 26, 2014

Russia’s President Putin is reported to have said in a conversation a while back that he could be in Kiev in two weeks. In our press, this was reported as yet more evidence of aggressive intentions, but, given even a moment’s thought, that is a patently false interpretation. It is also further evidence, as if more were needed, of the level of desperation American propaganda around events in Ukraine has reached. It is almost as though America’s intelligence/news media alliance started mimicking the almost forgotten Soviet apparatchiks of decades ago.

Yes, undoubtedly, the Russian military could be in Kiev in a couple of weeks. The very fact that they are not only shows what nonsense we hear from America and the coup-installed government in Ukraine. Clearly, Putin’s words were to the effect, “I wouldn’t have to tolerate the mess on our borders in Ukraine if I truly had aggressive intentions. For goodness sakes, use your brains, I could be in Kiev in two weeks.”

This deliberate misinterpretation of a casual statement stands out for me as one of the most pathetic of many pathetic things coming from Western politicians and media. And it is deliberate, for if it were the truth that the intelligence service of a superpower could only interpret statements with such feeble understanding, the world would have entered a new era of extreme danger, with idiots advising the commander who has his finger on the launch button. But I know there’s no genuine danger of that. The interpretation is intended only to shape American public opinion, never very well informed at the best of times. It’s a sound bite not intended to provide real information, just a momentary association of something very negative with the name of Russia’s president, indeed one of a stream of sound bites broadcast recently as though they meant something, as though they were news.

It is a classic method of propaganda, closely related to the technique in advertising of repeating a phrase or slogan or jingle over and over, no matter how silly its actual content is on analysis, and like all the best propaganda, it starts with a truth no matter how insignificant, incompletely reported, and removed from context. But there are two deeply concerning aspects to what otherwise would just be garbage. First, it flows from the writers and editors of what is supposed to be a free and open press, not advertising agencies trying to sell personal hygiene products, and thus demonstrates once more how meaningless is the term, “free and open press.” When the American government has a point to make, even a point that is dishonest or silly, in supporting some ill-conceived and dangerous policy, the entire press instantly enlists to echo it across the land, offering saturation access to the public that could not be bought for millions of dollars. At least in matters of foreign affairs, American journalism does not exist outside the childish fantasies of young journalism students thinking they are going to dig for the truth and serve the right to know once they graduate. You know, the bilge about the press being the fourth branch of government, the tribune of the people, and keeping citizens informed.

But more worrying is why the government or the press in America wishes now to cast aspersions on one of the world’s most important leaders? It has been more than three decades since Russia and the United States were commonly understood as enemies, each capable of obliterating the other. Why would anyone want to look backward to that? And why would anyone deliberately attack a man who has proved himself a sophisticated statesman, one whose words and behaviors show more consistency than those of any of our Western leaders, and especially president Obama who has not spent a day of his time in the White House without killing someone somewhere and surely has matched George Bush for lack of character.

Such cheap propaganda is symptomatic of aggressive intent. I believe the United States’ establishment is starting to feel a new sense of its relative decline in the world, and it is desperate to shore things up by hurting new competitors. The so-called pivot towards China is one of its tactics, and the expansion of NATO right against the face of Russia is another. Both are provocative and risky. And I only wish the world could understand that the United States is not that far from being a de facto bankrupt. It has no money for anything except by the unsound and unethical practice of printing more of it, knowing its special position as a world reserve currency allows it to cheat holders of dollars around the entire planet with their devaluation. And devalue it will, sooner or later, effectively leaving most of the bill for its stupid wars to be paid by others.

Geography and many other factors, such as the distribution of energy and other natural resources, say that Russia and Europe are over the long term destined to be strong, natural economic partners. But the United States has been Europe’s partner – indeed, a good deal more than a mere partner since WWII – and it does not like the prospect of Russia in any way displacing it. It is utterly backward thinking, but we are discussing brains driven by hormones here, not by logic or good will. I recall at an energy conference I attended during the Reagan era meeting a representative from the American State Department whose main message was that we had to stop Russian gas pipelines into Europe. As a believer in people freely buying what they need from others freely selling what they have, I didn’t agree with him and said so, and the people of Europe clearly weren’t convinced because many pipelines exist and many billions of cubic feet of gas flow.

The United States has taken every effort to get some return for its costly investment in a half-failed scheme to destabilize Ukraine, and with each deft move of Russia, it has played the old “look out for the commies” theme, just tarted up a bit so it doesn’t seem laughably out of date. The combination of the expansion of NATO plus scare-mongering about Russia buys some time against what I believe is inevitable. And minds driven only by the hormonal impulse of being dominant – full-spectrum dominance is the grotesque Washington insider expression – are incapable of clearly analyzing a situation, regardless of their intelligence and technology and information resources. And they are certainly not capable of acting on behalf of the great basic principles of rights and freedoms with which they sloppily wallpaper their every public statement. They are blind to the chances they take, to the risks they expose all of us to, and to the damage they create for the happiness and prosperity of millions of people.

America’s elaborate dirty tricks in Ukraine were intended to make Russia considerably less secure. You can almost imagine the buzz-cut thugs at Langley having a good laugh over expense-account steaks and martinis when they first thought they had succeeded, the laughter one expects from sociopathic American frat-boys who’ve just played a very dirty joke on someone, as by drugging some poor girl’s drink at a party and raping her. Perhaps the intentions included a plan ultimately to base missiles in Ukraine near Russia’s border, which would be a tremendously provocative act. Certainly it was hoped that gradually Ukraine would become more western-oriented, although the prospect for a poor country like Ukraine, one with shaky democratic credentials and not a good record in human rights, becoming in our lifetime full members of Europe is simply not in the cards. After all, the U.S. keeps pushing for Israel to become part of major European organizations, but that is too much even for some of America’s yes-men in Europe to accept.

Accusing Russia of looking out for what’s happening on her borders isn’t an accusation, it’s what all states do everywhere. Goodness knows the case of Cuba should provide perspective and food for thought. The United States has needlessly hurt that country for half a century with its embargo, many of the chief traditional products of Cuba having been things to satisfy the American markets, such as sugar and tobacco. But an embargo alone was never enough to secure the desired dominance. The United States invaded Cuba with a proxy army of Cuban refugees it trained, supplied, and paid. It tried to assassinate Cuba’s leader, many, many times, and it periodically sent terrorist forces to blow or shoot up things in Cuba. Ships in ports were shot up, hotels were attacked, and an airliner full of people was bombed. When Cuba asked for the return of America’s base at Guantanamo, a base only leased from Cuba originally under duress, the United States simply refused and still illegally occupies the land half a century later.

Of course, America was quite ready to hurl the world into nuclear war when it discovered that the Soviet Union had placed missiles in Cuba as a way both of protecting its ally against new invasions and as increased leverage in dealing with an often inflexible and aggressive United States. The missiles were provocative, but most thinking people felt they were not adequate cause for nuclear war. Fortunately, President Kennedy was able to stand up against the terrible pressures of the military-intelligence establishment and reach a negotiated settlement with Premier Khrushchev, an act which many believe, including this author, later cost him his life in Dallas. Well, all that gives you just some idea of how America responds to what it considers trouble or meddling, even a hundred miles from its border.

We hear the accusation that Russia arms the rebels in Ukraine, as well as the Assad government in Syria. My answer is that America, which spends as much on its military as all others on the planet combined, is also the world’s largest arms dealer as well as a ready covert supplier to groups anywhere it deems as serving its interests, whether extremist groups, including ISIS, set up to destroy Syria or the Nazi-like groups affiliated with Ukraine’s new government and employed in its coup. America runs a virtual conveyor belt of death machines and munitions to Israel to keep it well supplied in upsetting peace throughout the Mideast and suppressing millions of people it took prisoner half a century ago, a situation which has ranked in my view as the world’s most dangerous until now. A great deal of the aggression and repression of Israel have to do with the fact that their best minds recognize the unfavorable situation into which they are locked: no population growth versus high population growth for Arabs, the most highly subsidized national economy in the world affording poorer prospects for most residents than their native places would, an interminable series of wars and repressions and acts which the world sees as atrocities, early dreams all soured by a sense of no way out, and perhaps a sense of having committed a colossal blunder in starting it all.

So in a very real sense, both America and Israel, unwilling or unable to deal with their tremendous problems in a statesmanlike, realistic, and enduring way, dance a hideous danse macabre, with the entire world forced to watch in fear and horror.

When you compare Europe today to, say, Europe of fifty years ago, something more than a little disturbing becomes apparent. Then, despite the height of the Cold War presumably giving reason for greater solidarity with America, there were many independent voices in Europe. France had a consistently strong and decisive voice, and it was determined not to be subservient to NATO. Britain, today perhaps the worst example of subservience to America in all things, also showed independence at critical points, as when it refused to send troops to the holocaust of Vietnam despite great pressure from President Johnson. Today, there are no independent voices, and despite the clear, long-term interests of Europeans in having good relations with Russia, we see country after country acquiesce to America’s demands for destructive sanctions. Even Holland, a country we think of as fair and tough-minded, issued an interim report on the destruction of Malaysian Airlines’ MH17 which told us nothing we already didn’t know. That was clearly at the insistence of the United States, unwilling to see its proxy government in Ukraine revealed for the violent and incompetent operation that it is. NATO, an obsolete organization by any measure, has been expanded, serving primarily the interest of continued American hegemony in Europe, and America pushes the idea of every member spending more on its military. The United States also has Europeans committing to plainly idiotic purchases, as in buying the F-35, a plane one great American fighter jet designer called the worst ever conceived. The plane cannot ever do what it was supposed to do because it was foolishly commissioned to do a bit of almost everything, and the Pentagon wants as many others chipping in to subsidize the immense cost of salvaging something from the wreck. Perhaps the F-35 is emblematic of a conquered Europe, throwing away money on junk because America expects them to do so.

September 26, 2014 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

Danish F16s to fight ISIS: Danish government more loyal to the U.S. than to its own citizens

By Jan Oberg | TFF | September 26, 2014

What’s your image of Denmark? Apart from the Little Mermaid, Carlsberg beer and H.C. Andersen perhaps something with decency, welfare, development aid, equality and peace?

Unfortunately, that image is outdated. During the last good 15 years Denmark has participated in wars on/in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, it was an occupying country in Iraq for four years and a main bomber nation of Libya.

The government’s decision earlier today to send 7 F16s to fight with the U.S. increases the risk of terror actions against Denmark.

It must have been known for quite some time since, about a month ago, the Danish government decided to send a Hercules transport plane with humanitarian aid to Iraq. Most likely, it was a set-up because it was immediately changed into a Hercules transport plane + 55 soldiers to assist the U.S. and the Kurds.

Today’s decision is a violation of the UN Charter – the spirit of the Preamble as well as Article 1 which states that peace shall be established by peaceful means – and, later, only when everything has been tried and found in vain can a military action be decided.

Denmark must now calculate with Danish casualties and, even worse, with taking responsibility for scores of innocent civilians’ death – something that can’t be avoided when targeting individuals from the air.

The decision documents that Denmark has learnt nothing from the earlier – failed – wars and that it does not have alternative expertise.

The common sense, solidarity and humanity that characterised Denmark, at least to some extent, about 20 years ago is now eradicated and replaced by thoughtless militarism; its only guideline has been and is: Accept willingly and unconditionally what the US does and follow it when it calls upon you to do its dirty job – His Master’s Voice.

If you think I exaggerate: There is not one major policy or decision the last 30-40 years where Denmark has shown the courage to stand up against Washington.

Millions of dollars are allocated to state-financed research institutes, military analysis centres and mainstream thinking that “explains” and legitimizes the policies. (The only peace research institute, COPRI, which was very well evaluated by international scholars was destroyed by the government of Anders Fogh Rasmussen who also made Denmark an occupying power – only to be rewarded with the position of NATO Secretary-General).

It is my judgement that the decision to participate in the war on Iraq was the largest foreign policy blunder in Denmark since 1945.

I wrote ”Predictable Fiasco” in which the present situation in Iraq was predicted fairly precisely and I presented a 20-point plan on what to do instead of war.

Thus I don’t know how to characterise a decision by a Social Democratic-led government to go to war in Iraq for a second time!

PM Helle Thorning Schmidt presented the decision around lunch time today Friday September 26. Each of her arguments and assumptions were dubious, anti-intellectual and constructed to suit the event

1) She said that this was not a war because ISIS is not a state (!!) – now you know the level of what followed.

But this is war no matter what her spin doctors may have invented. Those who in the thousands will be killed – ISIS people as well as civilians – can’t see it as anything but war. And nothing but military equipment is being used.

2) As mentioned above, the decision violates the UN Charter.

3) Mission creep is already a fact. First, Denmark should send only humanitarian aid, then it changed to military aid and now 7 F16s – the next step is likely to be what is constantly denied and therefore rather safe to predict: Boots on the ground.

4) It will not be a short, limited affair – it could well last for years. ISIS may be relatively small in numbers but could grow fast – there is enough of hatred; it has a lot of funds from Western allies such as Saudi-Arabia, Qatar and Bahrein – who are playing a double game. And they have advanced weapons, a lot of it U.S.-produced, stolen from the Iraqis.

5) ISIS is the result of more than 100 years of Western arrogance in the region – wars, deceit, lies and agreements such as Sykes-Picot (1916) and Balfour – imposing of Western values, occupations (foremost Iraq), base-building, stealing of oil and coup d’etats. The list is long!

Read the first of four articles here by TFF Associate Farhang Jahanpour at Oxford – one of the world’s leading scholars and commentators on the region as a whole.

6) This action as a whole will only have one result: More terrorists. The entire ‘War on Terror’ is wrongly conceived from October 7, 2001. We can’t rid the world of terrorism by killing terrorists and ignoring the underlying causes any more than we can combat criminality by killing criminals.

Eventually there will be a blowback, a boomerang effect.

7) The Danish government now gives ISIS and others a perfect reason for targeting Denmark. It puts the security of the Danish citizens at risk – something that must be seen in relation also to the Muhammad caricatures as well as Denmark’s participation in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

While it is the first duty of a government to secure the lives and safety of its people, the Danish government does the opposite. To be loyal to Its Master’s Voice.

Add to this that Obama’s speech about how to combat ISIS was a manifest disappointment with neither strategy nor a vision for the future of the region. It boiled down to the bizarre: We kill people who kill people because it is wrong to kill people! (Deliver back that Nobel Peace prize medal, Mr. President!)

Finally, Denmark’s defence, security and foreign policy establishment increasingly looks like a one-party system with very little diversity.

All security research at its Institute for International Studies is financed by – you guessed it! – the Ministry of Defence. Not much research there on peace by peaceful means or alternative defence, peace-making, reconciliation, forgiveness etc.

Since 1975 when Denmark bought F16s a MIMAK has developed – a Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex with a degree of consent that is pathetic for a society that professes to be pluralist, democratic, humanist and open (-minded).

In particular, Denmark has been rewarded with lots of contracts for its booming military industry – and plans to waste at least US$ 5 billion on new fighter planes.

So, next week the Danish Parliament will – probably with one small left-wing party as dissenter – endorse that Denmark goes to war yet again, for a fifth time – only to cash in yet another fiasco (to be denied).

This only goes to show that democracy is forced to give in to militarism – because there is a considerable opinion in Denmark that does not support this and also did not support the four preceding wars.

Like in Norway and Sweden (exception in the latter: the xenophobic Sweden Democrats) those of us believing in international law and who have the idea that peace is better than war have no party anymore that represents our views.

In summary, the Denmark and the Norden you may think you know is changing and we need a debate about this moral and intellectual defeat under MIMAK in our countries.

But certainly people in the rest of the world who used to look up to Scandinavia should know and tell us what they think.

Rogue states, big and small, is a problem to the whole world. And the sooner they change, the better for all.

September 26, 2014 Posted by | Islamophobia, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Coalition of the Clueless

By Sharmine Narwani | RT | September 25, 2014

This US-engineered Coalition is in for some surprises. With few common goals, it has thrust itself into battle against the most determined players in the region and beyond.

The airwaves are still heaving with spin two days after US airstrikes against Syria.

Undoubtedly the attacks were timed to occur on the eve of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, so ‘Coalition’ partners could cluster behind the decision to bomb a sovereign state, uninvited.

The irony, of course, is that they are doing so at the UN – the global political body that pledges to uphold international law, peace and stability, and the sanctity of the nation-state unit.

The goal this week will be to keep the ‘momentum’ on a ‘narrative’ until it sinks in.

On day one, heads of state from Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, the UK and France were paraded onto the podium to drum in the urgency of American strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra and other militant groups inside Syria.

Every American official – past and present – in the White House rolodex was hooked up to a microphone to deliver canned sound bites and drive home those ‘messages.’ In between, video-game-quality footage of US strikes hitting their targets was aired on the hour; clips of sleek fighter jets refueling midair and the lone Arab female fighter pilot were dropped calculatingly into social media networks.

The global crew of journalists that descends annually on the UN for this star-studded political event, enthused over US President Barak Obama’s ability to forge a coalition that included five Arab Sunni states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE.

Few mentioned that these partners are a mere fig leaf for Obama, providing his Syria campaign with Arab and Muslim legitimacy where he otherwise would have none. Not that any of these five monarchies enjoy ‘legitimacy’ in their own kingdoms – kings and emirs aren’t elected after all – and two of these Wahhabi states are directly responsible for the growth and proliferation of the Wahhabi-style extremism targeted by US missiles.

Even fewer spent time dissecting the legality of US attacks on Syria or on details of the US ‘mission’ – as in, “what next?”

But with a mission this crippled at the outset, it didn’t take long for an alternative view to peek through the thick media fog.

On the ground in Syria, dead civilians – some of them children killed by US bombs – muddied the perfect script. Confused Syrian rebels – many who had called for foreign intervention to help crush the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – demanded to know how these airstrikes were meant to help them.

Sunni Arabs would be radicalized by these strikes, they warned, as ideologically sympathetic citizens of the Arab coalition states took to their information channels and swore revenge for airstrikes against ISIL and al-Nusra.

The Syrian government, for the most part, remained mute – whether to save face or because they could ‘smell’ the gains coming. Contrary to Washington’s prevailing narrative, privately the story was that the US had informed the Assad government of both the timing and targets of the attacks in advance.

Sources say that the US even provided ‘guarantees’ that no Syrian military or government interests would be targeted. A Reuters exclusive claiming that the US went so far as to provide assurances to Iran, suggests this version is closer to the truth. When US airstrikes against Syria were on the table a year ago, the various parties went through a similar game of footsies. Last September, the Americans backed off – allegedly because of communications from their adversaries that even a single US missile would trigger a warfront against Israel. This time, Washington needed to know that scenario was not going to be activated, and this week they offered the necessary guarantees to ensure it.

Although the Russians and Iranians have publicly lashed out at the illegality of US strikes, they do not seem too worried. Both know – like the Syrian government – that these air attacks could be a net gain for their ‘Axis.’

Firstly, the United States is now doing some useful heavy-lifting for Assad, at no real cost to him. The Syrian armed forces have spent little time on the ISIL threat because their focus has traditionally been on protecting their interests in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Hama – and the countryside in these areas – as well as towns and cities around the Lebanese and Jordanian borders. That changed when ISIL staged successful attacks on Mosul and created new geopolitical urgency for Assad’s allies – which triggered some major Syrian strikes against ISIL targets.

But to continue along this path, the Syrians would have to divert energy and resources from key battles, and so the American strikes have provided a convenient solution for the time being.

Secondly, the Syrians have spent three years unsuccessfully pushing their narrative that the terrorism threat they face internally is going to become a regional and global problem. The US campaign is a Godsend in this respect – Obama has managed to get the whole world singing from the same hymn sheet in just two months, including, and this is important, the three states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – most instrumental in financing, weaponizing and assisting ISIL and other extremist militias inside Syria.

Syria, Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and a host of like-minded emerging powers are pleased about this new laser focus on jihadi terror and for the accompanying resource shift to address the problem.

Thirdly, the US has now been placed in the hot seat and will be expected to match words with action. For three years, Washington has overlooked and even encouraged illegal and dangerous behaviors from its regional Sunni allies – all in service of defeating Assad. With all eyes on America and expectations that Obama will fail in his War on Terror just like his predecessors, the US is going to have to pull some impressive tricks from its sleeves.

Ideally, these would include the shutting down of key border crossings (Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon); punishing financiers of terror and inhibiting the flow of funds and assistance from Washington’s regional allies; cutting off key revenue streams; tightening immigration policies to stem the flow of foreign fighters; disrupting communications networks of targeted terrorist groups; broader intelligence sharing with all regional players; and empowering existing armies and allied militias inside the ‘chaos zone’ to lead and execute ground operations.

Thus far, there are signs that some of these things are already happening, with possibly more to come.

Now for the fun part. The Syrians, Iranians and Russians do not fundamentally trust Washington or its intentions. The suspicion is that the US is on another one of its regime-change missions, displaying its usual rogue-state behavior by violating the territorial integrity of a sovereign state under false pretenses, and that it will shortly revert to targeting the Syrian government.

While they can see clear gains from the current level of US intervention – as distasteful as they find it – they are watching carefully as events unfold.

If there is the slightest deviation from the ‘guarantees’ provided by the US, this trio has plenty of room to maneuver. Iran, for one, has dallied with the Americans in both Iraq and Afghanistan and they know how to cause some pain where it counts. The Russians, for that matter, have many playgrounds in which to thwart US ambitions – most urgently in Ukraine and in Afghanistan, from which the US hopes to withdraw billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment by the end of 2014.

All understand that Washington has just assumed a risky public posture and that many, many things can go wrong. The Sunni Arab fig leaf can disappear in a nano-second if domestic pressures mount or revenge attacks take place internally. Information could leak about continued assistance to terrorist militias from one or more of its coalition partners – a huge embarrassment for Washington and its wobbly Coalition. ISIL will almost certainly act against coalition partner soft-targets, like carrying out further kidnappings and executions. Continued airstrikes will almost definitely result in a growing civilian casualty count, turning those ‘hearts and minds’ to stone. Syrian rebels could swiftly turn against the US intervention and radicalize further. Massive displacement caused by airstrikes could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. And as in all other past US military War-on-Terror adventures, terrorism could thrive and proliferate in quantum leaps.

As Moscow-based political analyst Vladimir Frolov noted to the Washington Post : “The United States has underestimated the complexity of the situation before, so let’s just wait until they run into problems.”

The idea that US military engagement could continue for the long-term is unlikely given the myriad things that can go wrong fast. Obama is going to be reluctant to have his last two years in office defined by the hazardous Syrian conflict – after all, he was to be the president who extracted America from unessential wars.

But the most compelling reason that this Coalition will not pass the first hurdle is that its key members have entirely different ambitions and strategic targets.

Over a decade ago, these US-engineered coalitions were wealthier, less-burdened and shared common goals. Today, many of the coalition members face domestic economic and political uncertainties – and several states are directly responsible for giving rise to ISIL. How can the Coalition fight ISIL and support it, all at once?

What’s missing is a formula, a strategy, a unified worldview that can be equally as determined as the ideological adversary it faces.

Down the road, we will discover that the only coalition able and willing to fight extremism does indeed come from inside the region, but importantly, from within the conflict zone itself: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. For starters, they are utterly vested in the outcome of their efforts – and would lead with political solutions alongside military ones. Those elusive boots-on-the-ground that everyone is seeking? They live it. Pit that group against Obama’s Coalition-of-the-Clueless any day and you know which side would win handily.

The question is, can this Coalition stomach a solution it is working so hard to avoid? Will it partner with vital regional players that were foes only a few months ago? It is doubtful. That would require a worldview shift that Washington is still too irrational to embrace.

Follow @snarwani on Twitter

September 26, 2014 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s Novel Lawyering to Bomb Syria

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 23, 2014

The Obama administration has devised an extraordinary legal justification for carrying out bombing attacks inside Syria – that the United States and its Persian Gulf allies have the right to defend Iraq against the Islamic State because the Syrian government is unable to stop the cross-border terror group.

“The Syrian regime has shown that it cannot and will not confront these safe havens effectively itself,” said the U.S. letter delivered by Ambassador Samantha Power to United Nations officials. “Accordingly, the United States has initiated necessary and proportionate military actions in Syria in order to eliminate the ongoing ISIL [Islamic State] threat to Iraq, including by protecting Iraqi citizens from further attacks and by enabling Iraqi forces to regain control of Iraq’s borders.”

Yet, beyond the danger to world order if such an expansive theory is embraced by the international community (does anyone remember how World War One got started?), there is the hypocrisy of the U.S. government and many of those same Gulf allies arming, training and funding Syrian rebels for the purpose of preventing the Syrian military from controlling its territory and then citing that lack of control as the rationale to ignore Syria’s sovereignty.

In other words, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and other enemies of Syria covertly backed the rebels inside Syria and watched as many of them – including thousands of the U.S.-preferred “moderates” – took their newly acquired military skills to al-Qaeda affiliates and other terrorist organizations. Then, the U.S. and its allies have the audacity to point to the existence of those terror groups inside Syria as a rationale for flying bombing raids into Syria.

Another alarming part of the U.S. legal theory is that among this new “coalition of the willing” – the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan – only Jordan shares a border with Syria. So, this novel principle would mean that distant countries have the right to destabilize a country from afar and then claim the destabilization justifies mounting military attacks inside that country.

Such a theory – if accepted as a new standard of behavior – could wreak havoc on international order which is based on the principle of national sovereignty. The U.S. theory also stands in marked contrast to Washington’s pious embrace of strict readings of international law when denouncing Russia just this summer for trying to protect ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine from brutal assaults by the U.S.-backed coup regime in Kiev.

In Ukraine, the Obama administration rejected any and all mitigating circumstances, such as the overthrow of an elected president and the coup regime’s use of artillery, airstrikes and even neo-Nazi militias to suppress eastern Ukraine’s ethnic Russian population. In the Ukraine case, the Obama administration insisted that national sovereignty was inviolable despite the fact that the Feb. 22 coup had violated Ukraine’s constitutional order and had produced a human rights disaster.

An entirely different set of rules were applied to Syria, where President Barack Obama decided that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go” and where Obama authorized the CIA to provide arms, training and money for supposedly “moderate” rebels. Other U.S. “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, supported some of the more extreme anti-Assad groups.

Israel’s right-wing Likud government also was eager for “regime change” in Syria as were America’s influential neoconservatives who saw Assad’s overthrow as a continuation of their strategy of removing Middle East leaders regarded as hostile to Israel. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was the first on the list with Syria and Iran to follow. In those cases, the application of international law was entirely optional.

Before President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. government came up with another convenient argument, claiming the war was an act of American self-defense because otherwise Hussein might give his “weapons of mass destruction” to al-Qaeda for use against U.S. targets. As it turned out, Hussein had no WMDs and was a bitter enemy of al-Qaeda, which didn’t exist in Iraq until after the U.S. invasion.

The overthrow and subsequent execution of Hussein turned Iraq into a cauldron of bloody chaos, pitting Shiites against Sunnis and creating a fertile environment for a group of brutal Sunni extremists who took the name “al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

Getting Assad

But Official Washington is slow to learn lessons. In 2011, the Obama administration’s “liberal interventionists” threw their weight behind a Sunni-led uprising to oust Assad, who runs a harsh but largely secular government with key support from Alawites, Shiites, Christians and other minorities who feared Sunni extremism.

As with Iraq, Syria’s sectarian violence drew in many Sunni extremists, including jihadists associated with al-Qaeda, particularly the Nusra Front but also “al-Qaeda in Iraq” which rebranded itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or simply the Islamic State. Eventually, al-Qaeda leaders rejected the Islamic State because it had become a rival of the Nusra Front and because its brutality was  too graphic even for al-Qaeda.

Despite the growing radicalism of Syrian rebels, Official Washington’s influential neocons and the “liberal interventionists” continued the drumbeat for ousting Assad, a position also shared by Israeli leaders who went so far as to indicate they would prefer Damascus to fall to al-Qaeda extremists rather than have Iranian ally Assad retain control. [See Consortiumnews.com’sIsrael Sides with Syrian Jihadists.”]

Whenever there was a chance to push Obama into ordering a U.S. military assault on Assad’s government, “the Assad-must-go crowd” pressed the argument. For instance, a still-mysterious Sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, was immediately blamed on Assad’s forces. The neocons and the ”liberal interventionists” demanded an air war to punish the Syrian government – and possibly open the way for a rebel victory.

This pressure on Obama mounted despite strong doubts within the U.S. intelligence community that Assad’s forces were responsible. Some evidence pointed to rebel extremists trying to create a provocation to bring the U.S. military into the war on their side.

Partly because of those doubts, President Obama backed away from a military strike at the last minute and accepted a compromise arranged by Russian President Vladimir Putin to get Assad to surrender his entire chemical weapons arsenal. Since then, additional evidence has emerged raising doubts about the government’s complicity and pointing more toward the rebels. [See Consortiumnews.com’sThe Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

Nevertheless, much of the mainstream U.S. news media, including the foreign-page editors of the New York Times who have increasingly fallen under the spell of neocon ideology, have taken to citing the Syrian government’s guilt for the Sarin gas attack as flat fact, rather than a point in serious dispute. It seems no journalism standards need apply when demonized figures, such as Assad or Putin, are facing accusations.

Israel’s Shift

Yet, with al-Qaeda-connected terrorists controlling part of the Israeli border along the Golan Heights, the Israeli government began to reverse its position on demanding Assad’s removal. As the Israeli investigative Web site, Debka Files, reported on Sept. 9, citing military and intelligence sources:

“The Israeli government has radically changed tack on Syria, reversing a policy and military strategy that were long geared to opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad … This reversal has come about in the light of the growing preponderance of radical Islamists in the Syrian rebel force fighting Assad’s army in the Quneitra area since June. Al Qaeda’s Syrian Nusra front … is estimated to account by now for 40-50 percent – or roughly, 4,000-5,000 Islamists – of the rebel force deployed just across Israel’s Golan border. …

“Nusra Front jihadis fighting alongside insurgents on the various Syrian battlefronts made a practice of surreptitiously infiltrating their non-Islamist brothers-at-arms, a process which the latter’s foreign allies, the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, either ignored or were unaware of. These tactics began to pay off in the past month, when large numbers of moderate rebels suddenly knocked on the Nusra Front’s door and asked to join.”

I have confirmed this Israeli shift with my own sourcing. But it’s unclear whether Israel’s change of heart will cause any second thoughts among U.S. neocons who typically conform their policy recommendations to Israeli interests. However, on the Syrian case, the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” friends might be too dug in on ousting Assad to adjust.

Indeed, all of Official Washington seems incapable of admitting that its wishful thinking about Syrian “moderates” may have caused another major strategic error in the Mideast. The unrealistic “group think” about “moderates” contributed to a power vacuum in Syria that has pulled in some of the most vicious Islamic extremists on earth and turned parts of Syria into a new base of operation for international terrorism.

For his part, President Obama recognized the folly of training Syrian “moderates” – just last month he dismissed the notion as a “fantasy” that was “never in the cards” as a workable strategy – but he nevertheless resurrected it last week as a key part of his new Syrian initiative. He won solid congressional majorities in support of spending some $500 million on the training scheme.

The most charitable view of Obama’s strange flip-flop is that he feared being accused of aiding Assad if the U.S. bombing campaign against the Islamic State indirectly strengthened Assad’s hold on Damascus. So, Obama tacked on what he knew to be a useless appendage, a tough-sounding plan to “ramp up” the “moderate” rebel forces.

Similarly, Obama’s harsh rhetoric about refusing to coordinate the airstrikes with the Syrian government may be more a concession to the sensibilities of the neocons and the “liberal interventionists” than a reality.

I was told last week that U.S. intelligence had used Russian government go-betweens to clear the airstrikes with the Syrian government which gave quiet permission for the bombing campaign in parts of Syria. I was further told on Monday that U.S. military officials and their Syrian counterparts have met face-to-face to ensure that the U.S.-led airstrikes would encounter no Syrian air defenses.

That tacit approval from the Syrian government could be a sound legal basis for the airstrikes, much as other governments, such as Yemen and Pakistan, have tolerated or even encouraged U.S. air attacks on domestic enemies associated with al-Qaeda and other militant groups.

Yet, Obama may find it politically impossible to state the truth – that a “realist” approach to foreign affairs sometimes requires working with disreputable governments. So, instead of simply saying that Syria has no objection to these bombing raids, Obama has invented a dangerous new legal theory to justify the violation of a country’s sovereignty.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

September 24, 2014 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Black Caucus “Left” Wing Crumbles Before Obama’s War Machine

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | September 24, 2014

The ever-shrinking “left” wing of the Congressional Black Caucus crumbled last week, an early casualty of the new phase of President Obama’s three-year war for regime in change in Syria. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, to which 24 of the Black lawmakers belong, also failed to rally against a Democratic president’s war plans.

The lop-sided House vote was not on whether to authorize Obama to launch attacks against targets in Syria; the White House claims the president is acting within his powers as commander-in-chief, and needs no OK from the Congress. Instead, the administration sought a general demonstration of approval for Obama’s scheme to train and arm so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels. A vote on the $500 million price tag comes later, after the November elections.

In essence, Obama was asking for a do-over, to fix his previous policies in Syria. The United States and its Arab, Turkish, European and, reportedly, Israeli allies have, in fact, been arming and training rebels to bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad since at least 2011. They have failed, despite having spent mountains of money to subsidize a kaleidoscope of armed groups, each vying for Islamic fundamentalist authenticity and the privilege to slaughter Shiites, Christians, secularists, apostate Sunni Muslims and backsliders of all kinds. It also turned out – to the administration’s apparent surprise – that these jihadists don’t see themselves as mere foot soldiers under an American chain of command. In fact, the best fighters think of the United States as the “Great Satan” – an opinion widely shared in that part of the world. With the rise of the head-chopping champions of ISIS, Obama had no choice but to ask Congress to give him another chance to scour the region in search of that most elusive of men, the “moderate” Syrian rebel, and turn him into a killing machine that can defeat both the Syrian government and ISIS.

Blank Check for Expanded War

Back in 2006, after three years of failure in Iraq, George W. Bush agreed to a timetable for withdrawal from that country. He had little choice, because the Congress was in no mood to continue his war. But last week President Obama, by a vote of 273 to 156, was allowed a second throw of the dice in what may turn out to be an even larger war in Syria and Iraq and who knows where else. The reason that Obama’s wars have such longer shelf-life, is that Democrats will not oppose him, including such luminaries of the Caucus left wing as John Conyers and Maxine Waters, who were among the 23 Black members who gave the president a blank check, last week.

Barbara Lee, the California congresswoman who joined 16 other Black lawmakers in opposing Obama’s new-and-improved war in the Middle East, said, on the House floor: “The consequences of this vote, whether it’s written in the amendment or not, will be a further expansion of a war currently taking place and our further involvement in a sectarian war.” There is also another consequence: the total discrediting of a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus, who have abandoned the historical Black consensus on social justice and peace.

Below is a breakdown of the CBC vote on September 17 on arming and training Syrian rebels.

Yes
23

  • Karen Bass (CA)
  • Joyce Beatty (OH)
  • Sanford Bishop (GA)
  • Corrine Brown (FL)
  • G. K. Butterfield (NC)
  • Andre Carson (IN)
  • William Lacy Clay (MO)
  • James Clyburn (SC)
  • John Conyers, Jr. (MI)
  • Keith Ellison (MN)
  • Chaka Fattah (PA)
  • Al Green (TX)
  • Steven Horsford (NV)
  • Sheila Jackson Lee (TX)
  • Hank Johnson (GA)
  • Gregory Meeks (NY)
  • Cedric Richmond (LA)
  • Robert Scott (VA)
  • David Scott (GA)
  • Terri Sewell (AL)
  • Marc Veasey (TX)
  • Maxine Waters (CA)
  • Frederica Wilson (FL)

No
17

  • Yvette Clarke (NY)
  • Emanuel Cleaver (MO)
  • Elijah Cummings (MD)
  • Danny Davis (IL)
  • Donna Edwards (MD)
  • Marcia Fudge (OH)
  • Alcee Hastings (FL)
  • Hakeem Jeffries (NY)
  • Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)
  • Robin Kelly (IL)
  • Barbara Lee (CA)
  • John Lewis (GA)
  • Gwen Moore (WI)
  • Donald Payne Jr. (NJ)
  • Charles Rangel (NY)
  • Bobby Rush (IL)
  • Bennie Thompson (MS)

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

September 24, 2014 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

High Cost of Bad Journalism on Ukraine

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 22, 2014

The costs of the mainstream U.S. media’s wildly anti-Moscow bias in the Ukraine crisis are adding up, as the Obama administration has decided to react to alleged “Russian aggression” by investing as much as $1 trillion in modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

On Monday, a typically slanted New York Times article justified these modernization plans by describing “Russia on the warpath” and adding: “Congress has expressed less interest in atomic reductions than looking tough in Washington’s escalating confrontation with Moscow.”

But the Ukraine crisis has been a textbook case of the U.S. mainstream media misreporting the facts of a foreign confrontation and then misinterpreting the meaning of the events, a classic case of “garbage in, garbage out.” The core of the false mainstream narrative is that Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated the crisis as an excuse to reclaim territory for the Russian Empire.

While that interpretation of events has been the cornerstone of Official Washington’s “group think,” the reality always was that Putin favored maintaining the status quo in Ukraine. He had no plans to “invade” Ukraine and was satisfied with the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Indeed, when the crisis heated up last February, Putin was distracted by the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Rather than Putin’s “warmongering” – as the Times said in the lead-in to another Monday article – the evidence is clear that it was the United States and the European Union that initiated this confrontation in a bid to pull Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere of influence and into the West’s orbit.

This was a scheme long in the making, but the immediate framework for the crisis took shape a year ago when influential U.S. neocons set their sights on Ukraine and Putin after Putin helped defuse a crisis in Syria by persuading President Barack Obama to set aside plans to bomb Syrian government targets over a disputed Sarin gas attack and instead accept Syria’s willingness to surrender its entire chemical weapons arsenal.

But the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies had their hearts set on another “shock and awe” campaign with the goal of precipitating another “regime change” against a Middle East government disfavored by Israel. Putin also worked with Obama to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, averting another neocon dream to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

The Despised Putin

So, Putin suddenly rose to the top of the neocons’ “enemies list” and some prominent neocons quickly detected his vulnerability in Ukraine, a historical route for western invasions of Russia and the scene of extraordinarily bloody fighting during World War II.

National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, one of the top neocon paymasters spreading around $100 million a year in U.S. taxpayers’ money, declared in late September 2013 that Ukraine represented “the biggest prize” but beyond that was an opportunity to put Putin “on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

The context for Gershman’s excitement was a European Union offer of an association agreement to Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych, but it came with some nasty strings attached, an austerity plan demanded by the International Monetary Fund that would have made the hard lives of the average Ukrainian even harder.

That prompted Yanukovych to seek a better deal from Putin who offered $15 billion in aid without the IMF’s harsh terms. Yet, once Yanukovych rebuffed the EU plan, his government was targeted by a destabilization campaign that involved scores of political and media projects funded by Gershman’s NED and other U.S. agencies.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover who had been an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, reminded a group of Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations.” Nuland, wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, also showed up at the Maidan square in Kiev passing out cookies to protesters.

The Maidan protests, reflecting western Ukraine’s desire for closer ties to Europe, also were cheered on by neocon Sen. John McCain, who appeared on a podium with leaders of the far-right Svoboda party under a banner honoring Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. A year earlier, the European Parliament had identified Svoboda as professing “racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views [that] go against the EU’s fundamental values and principles.”

Yet, militants from Svoboda and the even more extreme Right Sektor were emerging as the muscle of the Maidan protests, seizing government buildings and hurling firebombs at police. A well-known Ukrainian neo-Nazi leader, Andriy Parubiy, became the commandant of the Maidan’s “self-defense” forces.

Behind the scenes, Assistant Secretary Nuland was deciding who would take over the Ukrainian government once Yanukovych was ousted. In an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland crossed off some potential leaders and announced that “Yats” – or Arseniy Yatsenyuk – was her guy.

The Coup

On Feb. 20, as the neo-Nazi militias stepped up their attacks on police, a mysterious sniper opened fire on both protesters and police killing scores and bringing the political crisis to a boil. The U.S. news media blamed Yanukovych for the killings though he denied giving such an order and some evidence pointed toward a provocation from the far-right extremists.

As Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said in another intercepted phone call with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Asthon, “there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition.”

But the sniper shootings led Yanukovych to agree on Feb. 21 to a deal guaranteed by three European countries – France, Germany and Poland – that he would surrender much of his power and move up elections so he could be voted out of office. He also assented to U.S. demands that he pull back his police.

That last move, however, prompted the neo-Nazi militias to overrun the presidential buildings on Feb. 22 and force Yanukovych’s officials to flee for their lives. Then, rather than seeking to enforce the Feb. 21 agreement, the U.S. State Department promptly declared the coup regime “legitimate” and blamed everything on Yanukovych and Putin.

Nuland’s choice, Yatsenyuk, was made prime minister and the neo-Nazis were rewarded for their crucial role by receiving several ministries, including national security headed by Parubiy. The parliament also voted to ban Russian as an official language (though that was later rescinded), and the IMF austerity demands were pushed through by Yatsenyuk. Not surprisingly, ethnic Russians in the south and east, the base of Yanukovych’s support, began resisting what they regarded as the illegitimate coup regime.

To blame this crisis on Putin simply ignores the facts and defies logic. To presume that Putin instigated the ouster of Yanukovych in some convoluted scheme to seize territory requires you to believe that Putin got the EU to make its reckless association offer, organized the mass protests at the Maidan, convinced neo-Nazis from western Ukraine to throw firebombs at police, and manipulated Gershman, Nuland and McCain to coordinate with the coup-makers – all while appearing to support Yanukovych’s idea for new elections within Ukraine’s constitutional structure.

Though such a crazy conspiracy theory would make people in tinfoil hats blush, this certainly is at the heart of what every “smart” person in Official Washington believes. If you dared to suggest that Putin was actually distracted by the Sochi Olympics last February, was caught off guard by the events in Ukraine, and reacted to a Western-inspired crisis on his border (including his acceptance of Crimea’s request to be readmitted to Russia), you would be immediately dismissed as “a stooge of Moscow.”

Such is how mindless “group think” works in Washington. All the people who matter jump on the bandwagon and smirk at anyone who questions how wise it is to be rolling downhill in some disastrous direction.

But the pols and pundits who appear on U.S. television spouting the conventional wisdom are always the winners in this scenario. They get to look tough, standing up to villains like Yanukovych and Putin and siding with the saintly Maidan protesters. The neo-Nazi brown shirts are whited out of the picture and any Ukrainian who objected to the U.S.-backed coup regime finds a black hat firmly glued on his or her head.

For the neocons, there are both financial and ideological benefits. By shattering the fragile alliance that had evolved between Putin and Obama over Syria and Iran, the neocons seized greater control over U.S. policies in the Middle East and revived the prospects for violent “regime change.”

On a more mundane level – by stirring up a new Cold War – the neocons generate more U.S. government money for military contractors who bestow a portion on Washington think tanks that provide cushy jobs for neocons when they are out of government.

The Losers

The worst losers are the people of Ukraine, most tragically the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, thousands of whom have died from a combination of heavy artillery fire by the Ukrainian army on residential areas followed by street fighting led by brutal neo-Nazi militias who were incorporated into Kiev’s battle plans. [See Consortiumnews.com’sUkraine’s ‘Romantic’ Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers.”]

The devastation of eastern Ukraine, which has driven an estimated one million Ukrainians out of their homes, has left parts of this industrial region in ruins. Of course, in the U.S. media version, it’s all Putin’s fault for deceiving these ethnic Russians with “propaganda” about neo-Nazis and then inducing these deluded individuals to resist the “legitimate” authorities in Kiev.

Notably, America’s righteous “responsibility to protect” crowd, which demanded that Obama begin airstrikes in Syria a year ago, swallowed its moral whistles when it came to the U.S.-backed Kiev regime butchering ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine (or for that matter, when Israeli forces slaughtered Palestinians in Gaza).

However, beyond the death and destruction in eastern Ukraine, the meddling by Nuland, Gershman and others has pushed all of Ukraine toward financial catastrophe. As “The Business Insider” reported on Sept. 21, “Ukraine Is on the Brink of Total Economic Collapse.”

Author Walter Kurtz wrote:

“Those who have spent any time in Ukraine during the winter know how harsh the weather can get. And at these [current] valuations, hryvnia [Ukraine’s currency] isn’t going to buy much heating fuel from abroad. …

“Inflation rate is running above 14% and will spike sharply from here in the next few months if the currency weakness persists. Real wages are collapsing. … Finally, Ukraine’s fiscal situation is unraveling.”

In other words, the already suffering Ukrainians from the west, east and center of the country can expect to suffer a great deal more. They have been made expendable pawns in a geopolitical chess game played by neocon masters and serving interests far from Lvov, Donetsk and Kiev.

But other victims from these latest machinations by the U.S. political/media elite will include the American taxpayers who will be expected to foot the bill for the new Cold War launched in reaction to Putin’s imaginary scheme to instigate the Ukraine crisis so he could reclaim territory of the Russian Empire.

As nutty as that conspiracy theory is, it is now one of the key reasons why the American people have to spend $1 trillion to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal, rather than scaling back the thousands of U.S. atomic weapons to around 900, as had been planned.

Or as one supposed expert, Gary Samore at Harvard, explained to the New York Times : “The most fundamental game changer is Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. That has made any measure to reduce the stockpile unilaterally politically impossible.”

Thus, you can see how hyperbolic journalism and self-interested punditry can end up costing the American taxpayers vast sums of money and contributing to a more dangerous world.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

September 23, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Anti-nuclear’ Obama plans to spend $1 trillion on nukes

RT | September 22, 2014

Despite campaigning on a platform that endorsed having “a nuclear-free world” in the not so distant future, United States President Barack Obama is overseeing an administration that’s aim has taken another path, the New York Times reported this week.

On Sunday, journalists William Broad and David Sanger wrote for the Times that a half-decade of “political deals and geopolitical crises” have thrown a wrench in the works of Obama’s pre-White House plans, as a result eviscerating his previously stated intentions of putting America’s — and ideally the world’s — nuclear programs on ice.

According to the Times report, an effort to ensure that the antiquated nuclear arsenal being held by the US remains secure has since expanded to the point that upwards of $1 trillion dollars is now expected to be spent on various realms of the project during the next three decades, the likes of which are likely to keep the trove of American nukes intact and do little to discourage other nations from doing likewise.

“The original idea was that modest rebuilding of the nation’s crumbling nuclear complex would speed arms refurbishment, raising confidence in the arsenal’s reliability and paving the way for new treaties that would significantly cut the number of warheads,” the journalists wrote. “Instead, because of political deals and geopolitical crises, the Obama administration is engaging in extensive atomic rebuilding while getting only modest arms reductions in return.”

Shortly after he first entered the oval office in early 2009, the Nobel Peace Prize commission awarded Pres. Obama with its highest award for, among other factors, taking a strong stance against international nuclear procurement.

“I’m not naïve,” Obama said that year. “This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence.”

After speaking with analysts, however, the Times journalists — both Pulitzer winners — now raise doubts that the commander-in-chief’s campaign goals will come to fruition anytime soon.

“With Russia on the warpath, China pressing its own territorial claims and Pakistan expanding its arsenal, the overall chances for Mr. Obama’s legacy of disarmament look increasingly dim, analysts say,” they wrote. “Congress has expressed less interest in atomic reductions than looking tough in Washington’s escalating confrontation with Moscow.”

Indeed, international disputes have without a doubt raised concerns in recent years over the nuclear programs of other nations. The Washington Post reported this week that Pakistan is working towards achieving the capability to launch sea-based, short-range nuclear arms, and concurrently the Kremlin confirmed that Russia is set to renew the country’s strategic nuclear forces by 100 percent, not 70 percent as previously announced.

As those countries ramp up their nuclear programs on their own, the Times report cites a recent study from the Washington, DC-based Government Accountability Office to show that the US is making more than just a minor investment with regards to America’s nukes. According to that report, 21 major upgrades to nuclear facilities have already been approved, yet in the five years since Obama took office, “the modernization push” to upgrade the nukes has been “poorly managed and financially unaccountable.”

“It estimated the total cost of the nuclear enterprise over the next three decades at roughly $900 billion to $1.1 trillion,” the journalists noted. “Policy makers, the [GAO] report said, ‘are only now beginning to appreciate the full scope of these procurement costs.’”

September 22, 2014 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

R.I.P. Jacob David George

September 21, 2014

Jacob took his life this past week.

Since the start of the war on Afghanistan in 2001, through 2013, 2.5 million members of the military, Coast Guard, Reserve and National Guard units have deployed.

September 21, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Vietnam: My orange pain

September 21, 2014

50 years after the US military intervention in the Vietnam War, the weapons it used continue to harm the local population. Unexploded mines still take lives and the consequences of “Agent Orange” claim new victims. A defoliant used by the US Air Force to destroy forests where Vietcong guerrilla fighters were taking cover, “Agent Orange” is highly toxic to humans. The chemical not only severely harmed the health of those immediately exposed to it, but also led to birth defects in subsequent generations. Its impact is still being felt in Vietnam, where it is estimated that around 5 million people are suffering from its damaging effects. They call it their “orange pain.”

September 21, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

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