As murmurs of U.S. sanctions against Venezuela continue in the aftermath of the protest violence there, researcher Michael McCarthy recently published an article in World Politics Review making some good arguments for why they would be a bad idea. He points out that unilateral sanctions lack regional support, and argues that they would discourage dialogue within Venezuela, would likely be ineffective, and may even harm U.S. interests by scuttling efforts to improve and maintain ties in the region.
McCarthy claims that the push for sanctions represents a “symbolic action” on the part of U.S. officials to communicate “universal support for human rights.” This assumption is pervasive in the mainstream debate about Venezuela sanctions; most commentators assume that the moral basis of imposing sanctions is sound and that the only real debate is on whether they will have the desired practical effect. In this context, some of the most obvious questions are missing from the discussion—in particular: a) what right does the U.S. have to enact coercive, unilateral economic measures against democratically-elected governments (measures that in this case, happen to be nearly universally opposed in the rest of the region and, as a study by pollster Luis Vicente Leon recently presented at the Washington Office on Latin America shows, are overwhelmingly opposed domestically in Venezuela)? And b) what integrity does the U.S. have when it comes to promoting human rights?
Last year, over a thousand unarmed protestors were killed by the U.S.-backed military government of Egypt after an illegal coup overthrew the country’s first democratically-elected president. Among those killed was a young journalist, Ahmed Assem el-Senousy, who had the misfortune to film his own murder at the hands of a government soldier who had spotted his camera. It was a grim echo of an event from another era—in June, 1973, Swedish journalist Leonardo Henrichsen similarly filmed his own death in Chile at the hands of a soldier in an unsuccessful military coup attempt that presaged Augusto Pinochet’s U.S. supported takeover three months later. The State Department claims that U.S. interests always align with democracy and human rights, but it is hard to miss the glaring gap between U.S. rhetoric on these issues and its actions.
While officials and Congress members throw unfounded accusations at the Venezuelan government and continue to discuss punitive measures, there are no comparable discussions about removing tax-payer funded military aid to U.S. allies with abysmal human rights records – let alone imposing sanctions — including states like Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and many others. The U.S. ended its partial freeze of military aid to Egypt this January and has quietly defended Israel during its latest assault on Gaza, even as Palestinian casualties rise at an alarming rate. In this hemisphere, in places like Honduras and Colombia, countries ruled by rightwing allies of the Obama administration, the laws that condition U.S. military and security aid on human rights standards are nearly systematically ignored, just as they are in the Middle East.
Over the past dozen years, the U.S. government has made no secret of its hostility toward the government of Venezuela – even supporting and getting involved in a 2002 military coup against Chávez – despite the fact that, over and over again, it has been elected democratically. In her recent book, “Hard Choices,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even refers to Chávez as a “self-aggrandizing dictator.” She is much more sympathetic toward Egypt’s former president, Hosni Mubarak, whom she doesn’t label a dictator, though she does qualify her praise of his commitment to Middle East peace by mentioning that he is an “autocrat at home.” Clinton is not shy in explaining how she urged President Obama not to call for Mubarak to step down during the height of the 2011 Egyptian protests, citing her concerns about U.S. interests, just as she is not shy about detailing how she intervened to ensure that democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya was not reinstalled after an illegal military coup in Honduras. Most importantly, while Mubarak was in office and while she was Secretary of State (i.e. when it mattered), Clinton, like virtually every other U.S. official, consistently defended the U.S. relationship with Egypt. Instead of referring to him as an autocrat while she headed the State Department, she famously referred to Hosni Mubarak and his wife as “friends of the family.”
Last November, the current Secretary of State, John Kerry, visited Latin America and announced the “end of the Monroe Doctrine,” stating that the U.S. would no longer work to undermine the sovereignty of its hemispheric neighbors in order to promote its own interests. The open secret is that U.S. officials still actively reserve the right to define human rights and democracy in ways that serve U.S. objectives. Over the decades and right up to the present, the U.S. has spent hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to arm some of the world’s least democratic actors, often with some of the worst human rights records, from Suharto to Sisi. Even if one disagrees that the U.S.’s historic disdain for left governments in Latin America is not a factor in the push for sanctions against Venezuela, considering the role that the U.S. continues to play in supporting human right abuses around the world, why accept the U.S. government’s own terms in the debate?
Students at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas are asking former secretary of state Hillary Clinton to return the hefty speaking fee she is set to collect when she appears at the university in October.
Many Americans have criticized Clinton for her recent interview gaffes, including her defense of her six-figure speaking fees. Angered over her $225,000 speaking fee, UNLV students are now protesting her upcoming appearance at the university.
The students say if Clinton receives six figures for her speech, then she could at least donate the paycheck.
“You could give scholarships to thousands of students, benefit research on campus, give more students grants for research and studying,” Daniel Waqar, Student Relations Director for the UNLV Student Government told Ralston Reports.
Tuition is expected to increase by 17 percent at the school, so students could really use the extra financial support, he added.
“We would hope that Hillary Clinton commits to higher education … and returns part or whole of the amount she receives for speaking,” Elias Benjelloun, the UNLV student body president said.
Clinton is set to appear at the UNLV Foundation Annual Dinner in October. The event already comes with a pretty hefty price tag: individual tickets cost $200 each, while tables cost between $3,000 and $20,000.
Clinton’s office said the fee will be used to develop global initiatives ranging from climate change to women’s rights, according to The Washington Post.
Potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says the United States made a tactical mistake to put pressure on Israel to freeze its settlement activities on the Palestinian territories.
The former US secretary of state made the remarks in her new book ‘Hard Choices,’ scheduled to be released on June 10.
“I was concerned that we not be seen as pushing a longtime partner out the door, leaving Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the region to an uncertain, dangerous future,” she wrote.
“In retrospect, our early, hard line on settlements didn’t work.”
Clinton said Washington’s demand only hardened the stance of the now President of the Palestinian National Unity Government Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas himself ultimately rejected the freeze because it failed to include the East Jerusalem (al-Quds).
She noted that when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to resume settlement construction, it strained relations between Tel Aviv and Washington, leaving US President Barack Obama infuriated with Netanyahu.
Clinton is preparing for a presidential run in 2016 and in her new memoir she does not shy away from criticizing President Obama.
On May 23, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) trade show in Tampa, Florida to share her vision of “smart power” and to explain the State Department’s crucial role in extending the reach and efficacy of America’s growing “international counterterrorism network.”
First, there is such a thing as a “Special Operations Forces Industry Conference trade show.” Without some keen reporting by David Axe of Wired, that peculiar get-together might’ve flown completely under the radar—much like the shadowy “industry” it both supports and feeds off of like a sleek, camouflaged lamprey attached to a taxpayer-fattened shark.
Second, “special operations” have officially metastasized into a full-fledged industry. United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and, therefore, conveniently located near the special operations trade show, which happened again this year at the Tampa Convention Center. The theme was “Strengthening the Global SOF Network” and the 600,000-square-foot facility was filled with targets of opportunity for well-connected and well-heeled defense contractors.
According to the SOFIC website, this year’s conference afforded attendees “the opportunity to engage with USSOCOM Program Executive Officers, Science and Technology Managers, Office of Small Business Programs and Technology & Industry Liaison Office representatives, and other acquisition experts who will identify top priorities, business opportunities, and interests as they relate to USSOCOM acquisition programs.”
Third, Hillary’s widely-ignored speech marked a radical departure from the widely-held perception that the State Department’s diplomatic mission endures as an institutional alternative to the Pentagon’s military planning. Instead, Secretary Clinton celebrated the transformation of Foggy Bottom into a full partner with the Pentagon’s ever-widening efforts around the globe, touting both the role of diplomats in paving the way for shadowy special ops in so-called “hot spots” and the State Department’s “hand-in-glove” coordination with Special Forces in places like Pakistan and Yemen.
Finally, with little fanfare or coverage, America’s lead diplomat stood before the shadow war industry and itemized the integration of the State Department’s planning and personnel with the Pentagon’s global counter-terrorism campaign which, she told the special operations industry, happen “in one form or another in more than 100 countries around the world.”
If this isn’t entirely unexpected, consider the fact that under then-Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the State Department fought attempts by the Pentagon to trump its authority around the globe and, as reported by the Washington Post, “repeatedly blocked Pentagon efforts to send Special Operations forces into countries surreptitiously and without ambassadors’ formal approval.”
But that was before Hillary brought her “fast and flexible” doctrine of “smart power” to Foggy Bottom and, according to her remarks, before she applied lessons learned from her time on the Senate Armed Services Committee to launch the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which she modeled on the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review. That Pentagon-style review spurred the creation of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations to “advance the U.S. government’s foreign policy goals in conflict areas.”
According to a Congressional Research Service analysis, the initial intent of the Conflict Bureau was to replace the ineffectual Office of the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization, which was created in 2004 to help manage “stabilization” efforts in two nations the U.S. was actively destabilizing—Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the new, improved bureau does more than just react to messes made by unlawful invasions or direct costly remediation efforts in war zones—it also collaborates with “relevant partners” in the Department of Defense and NATO “to harmonize civilian and military plans and operations pertaining to conflict prevention, crisis response, and stabilization.”
This integrated relationship between State and Defense was confirmed by U.S. Special Operations chief Admiral William McRaven shortly after Hillary’s speech. When asked about the “unlikely partnership,” McRaven assured DefenseNews that SOCOM has “an absolutely magnificent relationship with the State Department” and that SOCOM doesn’t “do anything that isn’t absolutely fully coordinated and approved by the U.S. ambassador and the geographic combatant commander.”
As David Axe aptly described it in Wired, “Together, Special Operations Forces and State’s new Conflict Bureau are the twin arms of an expanding institution for waging small, low-intensity shadow wars all over the world.”
In fact, during Hillary’s time as America’s chief diplomat, the State Department embraced the shadowy edge of U.S. foreign policy where decision-makers engage in activities that look like war, sound like war and, if you were to ask civilians in places like Yemen and Pakistan, feel a lot like war, but never quite have to meet the Constitutional requirement of being officially declared as war.
The Whole-of-Government Shift
Once upon a time, “low-intensity shadow wars” were the Congressionally-regulated bailiwick of the Central Intelligence Agency. But 9/11 changed everything. However, the excesses of the Bush Administration led many to hope that Obama could and would change everything back or, at least, relax America’s tense embrace of “the dark side.”
Although the new administration did officially re-brand “The War on Terror” as “Overseas Contingency Operations,” Team Obama employed an increasingly elastic interpretation of the 9/11-inspired Authorization for Use of Military Force and expanded covert ops, special ops, drone strikes and regime change to peoples and places well-beyond the law’s original intent, and certainly beyond the limited scope of CIA covert action.
Obama’s growing counter-terrorism campaign—involving, as Secretary Clinton said, “more than 100 countries”—took flight with a new, ecumenical approach called the “Whole-of-Government” strategy. Advanced by then-Secretary of Defense Bill Gates and quickly adopted by the new administration in early 2009, this strategy catalyzed an institutional shift toward inter-agency cooperation, particularly in the case of “state-building” (a.k.a. “nation building”).
During remarks to the Brookings Institution in 2010, Secretary Clinton explained the shift: “One of our goals coming into the administration was… to begin to make the case that defense, diplomacy and development were not separate entities, either in substance or process, but that indeed they had to be viewed as part of an integrated whole and that the whole of government then had to be enlisted in their pursuit.”
Essentially, the Whole-of-Government approach is a re-branded and expanded version of Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full-Spectrum Dominance.” Coincidentally, that strategy was featured in the Clinton Administration’s final Annual Report to the President and Congress in 2001. It defined “Full-Spectrum Dominance” as “an ability to conduct prompt, sustained, and synchronized operations with forces tailored to specific situations and possessing freedom to operate in all domains—space, sea, land, air, and information.”
In 2001, Full-Spectrum Dominance referred specifically to 20th Century notions of battlefield-style conflicts. But the “dark side” of the War on Terror stretched the idea of the battlefield well-beyond symmetrical military engagements. “Irregular warfare” became the catchphrase du jour, particularly as grinding campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq exposed the reality that the full spectrum still wasn’t enough.
An assessment by the Congressional Research Service identified the primary impetus for the Whole-of-Government “reforms” embraced by Team Obama as the “perceived deficiencies of previous inter-agency missions” during the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those missions failed to address a myriad of problems created—culturally, economically and politically—by the wholesale bombing and occupation of those countries. The Full-Spectrum was half-baked. Lesson learned.
But the lesson wasn’t that the U.S. should avoid intervention, regime change or unleashing nascent civil, ethnic or religious conflicts. Instead, the lesson was that the “Whole-of-Government” must be marshaled to fight a worldwide array of Overseas Contingency Operations in “more than 100 countries.”
This Whole-of-Government shift signaled a renewed willingness to engage on variety of new fronts—particularly in Africa—but in a “fast and flexible” way. With other agencies—like the State Department—integrated and, in effect, fronting the counter-terrorism campaign, the military footprint becomes smaller and, therefore, easier to manage locally, domestically and internationally.
In some ways, the Whole-of-Government national security strategy is plausible deniability writ-large through the cover of interagency integration. By merging harder-to-justify military and covert actions into a larger, civilian-themed command structure, the impact of the national security policy overseas is hidden—or at least obfuscated—by the diplomatic “stabilization” efforts run through the State Department—whether it’s the Conflict Bureau working against Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, “stabilizing” post-Gaddafi Libya or spending $27 million to organize the opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime.
The Pass Key
The cover of diplomacy has traditionally been an effective way to slip covert operators into countries and the State Department’s vast network of embassies and consulates still offers an unparalleled “pass-key” into sovereign nations, emerging hot spots and potential targets for regime change. In 2001, the Annual Report to the President and Congress foresaw the need for more access: “Given the global nature of our interests and obligations, the United States must maintain the ability to rapidly project power worldwide in order to achieve full-spectrum dominance.”
Having the way “pre-paved” is, based on Hillary’s doctrinal shift at State, a key part of the new, fuller-spectrum, Whole-of-Government, mission-integrated version of diplomacy. At the SOFIC’s Special Operations Gala Dinner in 2012, Hillary celebrated the integration of diplomatic personnel and Special Operations military units at the State Department’s recently created Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications—a “nerve center in Washington” that coordinates “military and civilian teams around the world” and serves “as a force multiplier for our embassies’ communications efforts.”
As with most doors in Washington, that relationship swings both ways and mission-integrated embassies have served as an effective force multiplier for the Pentagon’s full spectrum of activities, particularly around Africa.
In his 2011 testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Don Yamamoto noted that State had “significantly expanded the number of DoD personnel who are integrated into embassies across the continent over the past three years,” and read a surprisingly long laundry list of collaborative efforts between State and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), including: “reduction of excess and poorly secured man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS); Defense Sector Reform in Liberia, DRC, and South Sudan; counterpiracy activities off the Somali coast; maritime safety and security capacity building; and civil-military cooperation.”
It seems that “civil-military cooperation” is a primary focus of the State Department in Africa. Most notably, Yamamoto told Congress that “embassies implement Department of State-funded Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs, which further U.S. interests in Africa by helping to professionalize African militaries, while also assisting our African partners to be more equipped and trained to work toward common security goals.”
As the ever-vigilant Nick Turse recently reported, U.S. presence on the continent has only grown since that testimony was given in 2011. On TomDispatch.com, Turse identified the infamous attack on Benghazi on September 11, 2012 as the catalyst for “Operation New Normal”—the continent-wide response to, quite ironically, the political potboiler still simmering around Secretary Clinton. Whether or not Congressional Republicans find anything more than incompetence at the root of Benghazi, the U.S. military certainly finds itself in a “new normal” of increased activity in response to the forces—and the weaponry—unleashed by U.S.-led regime change in Libya. According to Turse, the U.S. is “now conducting operations alongside almost every African military in almost every African country and averaging more than a mission a day.”
Those missions are, of course, integrated with and augmented by the State Department’s Conflict Bureau which has used a variety of state-building programs and its diplomatic “pass key” in places like Libya, Nigeria, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and six other African nations, all to develop a growing roster of “host country partners.”
Establishing “host country partners” is the nexus where the State Department, its Conflict Bureau and the AFRICOM meet—implementing the Whole-of-Government strategy in emerging or current conflict zones to fuse a mounting counter-terrorism campaign with stabilization, modernization and state-building initiatives, particularly in oil and resource-rich areas like the Niger River Delta, Central Africa and around AFRICOM’s military foothold on the Horn of Africa.
As Richard J. Wilhelm, a Senior Vice President with defense and intelligence contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, pointed out in a video talk about “mission integration,” AFRICOM’s coordination with the Departments of State and Commerce, USAID is the “most striking example of the Whole-of-Government approach.”
And this is exactly the type of “hand-in-glove” relationship Secretary Clinton fostered throughout her tenure at State, leveraging the resources of the department in a growing list of conflict areas where insurgents, terrorists, al-Qaeda affiliates, suspected militants or uncooperative regimes threaten to run afoul of so-called “U.S. interests”.
Ultimately, it became a hand-in-pocket relationship when Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates developed the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF) to “incentivize joint planning and to pool the resources of the Departments of State and Defense, along with the expertise of other departments, to provide security sector assistance for partner countries so they can address emergent challenges and opportunities important to U.S. national security.”
Although he’s been criticized as feckless and deemed less hawkish than Secretary Clinton, President Obama’s newly-proposed Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF) is the logical extension of the Clinton-Gates Global Security Contingency Fund and epitomizes the Whole-of-Government shift.
The $5 billion Obama wants will dwarf the $250 million pooled into the GSCF and will, the President said at West Point, “give us flexibility to fulfill different missions including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.”
That “flexibility” is exactly what Hillary Clinton instituted at State and touted at the SOFIC conference in 2012. It also portends a long-term shift to less invasive forms of regime change like those in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, and an increased mission flexibility that will make the Authorization for the Use of Military Force functionally irrelevant.
Normalizing the War on Terror
The ultimate outcome of this shift is, to borrow from Nick Turse, yet another “new normal”—the new normalization of the War on Terror. What the adoption of the Whole-of-Government/mission integration approach has done is to normalize the implementation of the re-branded War on Terror (a.k.a. Overseas Contingency Operations) across key agencies of the government and masked it, for lack of the better term, under the rubric of stabilization, development and democracy building.
It is, in effect, the return of a key Cold War policy of “regime support” for clients and “regime change” for non-client states, particularly in strategically-located areas and resource-rich regions. Regimes—whether or not they actually “reflect American values”—can count on U.S. financial, military and mission-integrated diplomatic support so long as they can claim to be endangered… not by communists, but by terrorists.
And because terrorism is a tactic—not a political system or a regime—the shadowy, State Department-assisted Special Ops industry that fights them will, unlike the sullen enthusiasts of the Cold War, never be bereft of an enemy.
It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
— Voltaire, 1694-1778
It is impossible not to gain the impression that the criteria for being awarded prestigious honors for services to “peace”, “humanity” or “distinguished public service” is a candidate who is duplicitous, vicious, stone-hearted and above all prepared to kill, plan killings or rejoice in killing on an industrial scale as brutally as can be devised.
Moments after being informed of the horrific death of Libyan Leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “Wow!” then unforgettably and chillingly laughed, telling a television crew: “We came, we saw, he died.” Asked if her recent visit to Libya might have had anything to do with his death, she “… rolled her eyes” and said “I’m sure it did.”
Six months later, in April 2012, Clinton received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service. The following month she received the Champions for Change Award for Leadership, and in May 2013, the inaugural Warren Christopher Public Service Award.
Madeleine Albright’s comment, when US Ambassador to the UN, on “60 Minutes” (12th May 1996) that the price of the lives of half a million children who had died as a result of US-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, was: “a hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it”, was no bar to her receiving, under two years later, the 1998 International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award: “For extraordinary contributions to the cause of … human freedom … The list of those who have received the Freedom Award reveals the remarkable ability of an individual to shape history and change for the better a world moving toward freedom for all.”
The “freedom of the grave” comes to mind.
Other recipients have been John McCain (2001) George H.W. Bush, whose regime vowed to “reduce Iraq to a pre-industrial age” – and did, in 1991 – and Bill Clinton whose Presidency (1993-2001) in addition to several massive bombings and unending daily ones (all illegal) oversaw, manipulated and pressured the UN to continue to implement the most draconian embargo in the organization’s history and ensure that children, the sick, went on dying in ever greater numbers every year of his Presidency. They were both honored in 2005.
In 2008 the Award went to Kofi Annan, during whose tenure as UN Secretary General (1997 – 2006) involved Iraq’s tragedy and “thirty four major armed conflicts.”
Annan was entrusted with oversight of international commitment to the UN’s fine founding pledge by: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war … to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person …” In the event he merely bleated mildly from time to time that some humanitarian holocaust was “regrettable”, “unfortunate” or that he was “concerned.”
Moreover, Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo, had profited from the pitiful UN-Iraq “Oil for Food” deal as children were dying, with former US Federal Reserve Chairman saying, on behalf of a Committee set up to investigate: “Our assignment has been to look for mis- or mal-administration in the oil-for-food programme, and for evidence of corruption within the U.N. organization and by contractors. Unhappily, we found both.”
These are minimal examples of how political pigs ears become polished silk purses. Now President Obama who, as Sherwood Ross has written, “has already bombed six countries (Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq) is risking a possible escalation of the Ukraine crisis he nurtured, into World War III against Russia”, was, on 7th May, awarded the 2014 Ambassador for Humanity Award by the Shoah Foundation.
The Shoah Foundation was established by Steven Spielberg to document the Holocaust, but has since expanded to document other modern genocides. Their new Ambassador’s actions should keep them occupied for a good while.
President Obama’s commitment to democracy and human rights has long been felt”, Spielberg said in a statement. “As a constitutional scholar and as President, his interest in expanding justice and opportunity and all is remarkably evident.”
The timing of the Award may outdo even the other more farcical honors, since, as Ross points out, according to Russian expert, Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois:
Obama now has broken the promise President George H.W. Bush gave to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that if he agreed to the reunification of Germany, NATO would move no farther east, toward Russia’s boundaries. The Obama administration and NATO are maneuvering humanity into a reverse Cuban Missile Crisis right on the borders of Russia. Can World War III be far behind?
Further, NATO is planning larger number of combat forces in Eastern Europe, thus “the dreaded Cold War, with all its staggering cost, with all its immeasurable weight of fear, begins again.”
But even the first year of the Obama Presidency marked a year zero for many. In 2009 at least seven hundred Pakistani civilians were obliterated in drone strikes. Those also killed, accused of terrorism, had no trial, no lawyer, no right of reply. They were simply executed under the US Commander in Chief’s personal policy.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to January of this year:
Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan – his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years. And in Yemen, Obama has opened a new front in the secret drone war.
Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes (since 23rd January 2009) eight times as many as were launched in the entire Bush presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people …
In Yemen, under US drones: “Last year saw the highest civilian casualty rate since Obama first hit the country in 2009.”
It is not drones alone. For example, a week to the day after Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:
On December 17 2009, a US Navy submarine launched a cluster bomb-laden cruise missile at a suspected militant camp in al Majala, southern Yemen.
The missile hit a hamlet inhabited by “one of the poorest tribes in Yemen. Shrapnel and fire left at least forty one civilians dead, including at least twenty one children and twelve women – five of whom were pregnant.
In his Nobel acceptance speech he defended the use of force as “not only necessary, but morally justified.” A constitutional lawyer who has, figuratively, burned his law books.
But the President started as he continues. Three days after becoming Ambassador for Humanity, the US announced a “pilot programme” which is sending anti-tank weapons to terrorists in Syria. Lest it be forgotten, these groups have been videoing themselves crucifying, beheading, removing and eating the organs of victims, chopping off hands and dragging people behind moving vehicles. Under the Commander in Chief aka Ambassador for Humanity, the “pilot project” is an experiment trying to establish whether the weapons will “fall into the wrong hands.” Nauseatingly farcical.
Gulag Guantanamo is still open with the untried, condemned to incarceration until time unknown and legally unaccounted for, another pre-2009 election pledge condemned to the trash bin of history.
Iraq’s citizens continue to be bombed with US missiles, under the US proxy Prime Minister.
At home, under this Presidency, the US has the highest first day of life infant mortality rate in the industrialized world, a survey released this week has found.
The US is in the top five countries with the world’s highest execution rates.
In 2011 Pew Research found that “the median black household had about seven per cent of the wealth of its white counterpart, down from nine per cent in 1984, when a Census survey first began tracking this sort of data.”
Change we can believe in?
It has to be wondered whether President Obama pondered on this as he headed to California and his Award ceremony in Air Force One, costing $228,288 per hour.
The prison population of America, at 2.4 million (2013 figures) is just the tip of the iceberg, including “around three thousand children locked up for things that aren’t crimes for adults, ‘such as running away, truancy and incorrigibility.’” See woeful details here.
As this is finished, news comes in of “Obama left alone as agents moonlight”. Shock, horror. Who protects the villagers of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia from the Ambassador for Humanity’s drones?
Perhaps the Nobel Committee could lead the way in ending these outrageous Awards by starting with rescinding a few of their own. It would be a start.
A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and the Nigerian military “Do something!” about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged “news” products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been “doing” to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried “not a single television news story about Boko Haram” in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn’t mean the Nigerian army hasn’t been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country’s mostly Muslim north.
The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read – which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband’s place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls – would have learned in the New York Times of the army’s savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb “Without Asking Who They Are,” according to the NYT headline. “They don’t ask any questions,” said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot,” said a student. “They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.”
The Times’ Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army’s “all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.” He reported:
“All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semi-desert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram — a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents — for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it.”
In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.
In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: “The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint.”
All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extra-judicially murdered, “most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri.” An additional 950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: “Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation,” he said. “There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis.”
Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. “In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot,” Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. “As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to ‘shoot him in the chest not the head – I want his hat.’”
These are only snapshots of the army’s response to Boko Haram – atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram’s ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group’s offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member – only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)
None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram’s “side” in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military’s culpability in the group’s mad trajectory – the same military that many newly-minted “Save Our Girls” activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.
The bush to which the Boko Haram retreated with their captives was already a free-fire zone, where anything that moves is subject to obliteration by government aircraft. Nigerian air forces have now been joined by U.S. surveillance planes operating out of the new U.S. drone base in neighboring Niger, further entrenching AFRICOM/CIA in the continental landscape. Last week it was announced that, for the first time, AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.
The Chibok abductions have served the same U.S. foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa, which were conjured-up to justify the permanent stationing of U.S Special Forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, in 2011, on humanitarian interventionist grounds. (This past March, the U.S. sent 150 more Special Ops troops to the region, claiming to have again spotted Kony, who is said to be deathly ill, holed up with a small band of followers somewhere in the Central African Republic.) The United States (and France and Britain, plus the rest of NATO, if need be) must maintain a deepening and permanent presence in Africa to defend the continent from… Africans.
When the crowd yells that America “Do something!” somewhere in Africa, the U.S. military is likely to already be there.
Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM’s founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called “the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa”). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush’s legacies in the Congo, where U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 – the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world’s newest nation – the culmination of a decades-long project of the U.S., Britain and Israel to dismember Africa’s largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the U.S. touches, these days.
Most relevant to the plight of Chibok’s young women, Obama led “from behind” NATO’s regime change in Libya, removing the anti-jihadist bulwark Muamar Gaddafi (“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hillary Clinton) and destabilizing the whole Sahelian tier of the continent, all the way down to northern Nigeria. As BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka writes in the current issue, “Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict.” The once-“shadowy” group now sported new weapons and vehicles and was clearly better trained and disciplined. In short, the Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the same Americans and (mainly French) Europeans who had brought these convulsions to the region.
If Obama has his way, it will be a very long war – the better to grow AFRICOM – with some very unsavory allies (from both the Nigerian and American perspectives).
Whatever Obama does to deepen the U.S. presence in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, he can count on the Congressional Black Caucus, including its most “progressive” member, Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of the U.S. Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Lee, along with Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and fellow Californian Karen Bass, who is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on African, gave cart blanch to Obama to “Do something!” in Nigeria. “And so our first command and demand is to use all resources to bring the terrorist thugs to justice,” they said.
A year and a half ago, when then UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s prospects for promotion to top U.S. diplomat were being torpedoed by the Benghazi controversy, a dozen Black congresspersons scurried to her defense. “We will not allow a brilliant public servant’s record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state,” said Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
As persons who are presumed to read, Black Caucus members were certainly aware of the messy diplomatic scandal around Rice’s role in suppressing United Nation’s reports on U.S. allies’ Rwanda and Uganda’s genocidal acts against the Congolese people. Of all the high profile politicians from both the corporate parties, Rice – the rabid interventionist – is most intimately implicated in the Congo Holocaust, dating back to the policy’s formulation under Clinton. Apparently, that’s not the part of Rice’s record that counts to Delegate Norton and the rest of the Black Caucus. Genocide against Africans does not move them one bit.
So, why are we to believe that they are really so concerned about the girls of Chibok?
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
The frontrunner to become the next president of the United States is playing an old and dangerous political game — comparing a foreign leader to Adolf Hitler.
At a private charity event on Tuesday, in comments preserved on audio, Hillary Clinton talked about actions by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in the Crimea. “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s,” she said.
The next day, Clinton gave the inflammatory story more oxygen when speaking at UCLA. She “largely stood by the remarks,” the Washington Post reported. Clinton “said she was merely noting parallels between Putin’s claim that he was protecting Russian-speaking minorities in Crimea and Hitler’s moves into Poland, Czechoslovakia and other parts of Europe to protect German minorities.”
Clinton denied that she was comparing Putin with Hitler even while she persisted in comparing Putin with Hitler. “I just want people to have a little historic perspective,” she said. “I’m not making a comparison certainly, but I am recommending that we perhaps can learn from this tactic that has been used before.”
Yes indeed. Let’s learn from this tactic that has been used before – the tactic of comparing overseas adversaries to Hitler. Such comparisons by U.S. political leaders have a long history of fueling momentum for war.
“Surrender in Vietnam” would not bring peace, President Lyndon Johnson said at a news conference on July 28, 1965 as he tried to justify escalating the war, “because we learned from Hitler at Munich that success only feeds the appetite of aggression.”
After Ho Chi Minh was gone, the Hitler analogy went to other leaders of countries in U.S. crosshairs. The tag was also useful when attached to governments facing U.S.-backed armies.
Three decades ago, while Washington funded the contra forces in Nicaragua, absurd efforts to smear the elected left-wing Sandinistas knew no rhetorical bounds. Secretary of State George Shultz said on February 15, 1984, at a speech in Boston: “I’ve had good friends who experienced Germany in the 1930s go there and come back and say, ‘I’ve visited many communist countries, but Nicaragua doesn’t feel like that. It feels like Nazi Germany.’”
Washington embraced Panama’s Gen. Manuel Noriega as an ally, and for a while he was a CIA collaborator. But there was a falling out, and tension spiked in the summer of 1989. Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said that drug trafficking by Noriega “is aggression as surely as Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland 50 years ago was aggression.” A U.S. invasion overthrew Noriega in December 1989.
In early August 1990, the sudden Iraqi invasion of Kuwait abruptly ended cordial relations between Washington and Baghdad. The two governments had a history of close cooperation during the 1980s. But President George H. W. Bush proclaimed that Saddam Hussein was “a little Hitler.” In January 1991, the U.S. government launched the Gulf War.
Near the end of the decade, Hillary Clinton got a close look at how useful it can be to conflate a foreign leader with Hitler, as President Bill Clinton and top aides repeatedly drew the parallel against Serbia’s president, Slobodan Milosevic. In late March 1999, the day before the bombing of Kosovo and Serbia began, President Clinton said in a speech: “And so I want to talk to you about Kosovo today but just remember this — it’s about our values. What if someone had listened to Winston Churchill and stood up to Adolf Hitler earlier?”
As the U.S.-led NATO bombing intensified, so did efforts to justify it with references to Hitler. “Clinton and his senior advisers harked repeatedly back to images of World War II and Nazism to give moral weight to the bombing,” the Washington Post reported. Vice President Al Gore chimed in for the war chorus, calling Milosevic “one of these junior-league Hitler types.”
Just a few years later, the George W. Bush administration cranked up a revival of Saddam-Hitler comparisons. They became commonplace.
Five months before the invasion of Iraq, it was nothing extraordinary when a leading congressional Democrat pulled out all the stops. “Had Hitler’s regime been taken out in a timely fashion,” said Rep. Tom Lantos, “the 51 million innocent people who lost their lives during the Second World War would have been able to finish their normal life cycles. Mr. Chairman, if we appease Saddam Hussein, we will stand humiliated before both humanity and history.”
From the Vietnam War to the Iraq War, facile and wildly inaccurate comparisons between foreign adversaries and Adolf Hitler have served the interests of politicians hell-bent on propelling the United States into war. Often, those politicians succeeded. The carnage and the endless suffering have been vast.
Now, Hillary Clinton is ratcheting up her own Hitler analogies. She knows as well as anyone the power they can generate for demonizing a targeted leader.
With the largest nuclear arsenals on the planet, the United States and Russia have the entire world on a horrific knife’s edge. Nuclear saber-rattling is implicit in what the prospective President Hillary Clinton has done in recent days, going out of her way to tar Russia’s president with a Hitler brush. Her eagerness to heighten tensions with Russia indicates that she is willing to risk war — and even nuclear holocaust — for the benefit of her political ambitions.
The New Democrats, Same as the Old
By RICHARD KREITNER | October 25, 2013
Last Monday, Hillary Clinton headlined a fundraiser at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan for Bill de Blasio, the man who managed her successful 2000 Senate campaign and last month declared himself “proud to come from the Clinton family.” Topping the list of co-chairs for the event—those who have promised to bundle $25,000 for de Blasio—was one Paul Adler, a Democratic power-broker in Rockland County, and a convicted felon.
Adler has long been a devoted supporter of de Blasio, whom he first met in 1996 when de Blasio ran the president’s re-election operation in New York. When Clinton named de Blasio her campaign manager in 1999, Adler told the Associated Press she would “benefit enormously” from such “a hands-on professional.”
In 2000, Rockland County was one of the most heavily contested swing districts in New York State, and Clinton faced tough opposition in former Rep. Rick Lazio, a social conservative well-liked by leaders in the ultra-Orthodox community. As chairman of the Rockland County Democratic Party, Adler was valuable enough to the Clintons that he was invited to spend a night at the White House, which he reciprocated by hosting Hillary at his home during her listening tours of the state. Serving as a delegate to Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in August 2000, Adler was profiled by CNN as one of the “the folks who are the heart and soul of American politics.” He proudly told the camera:
My Rolodex is my most prized possession. It is a 25-year work in progress. It is the tool that enables me to do what I need to do: to get somebody at an embassy to get a donor who allows me to get the superintendent of highways. If the building was on fire, I would run in to get that first.
His main task was cultivating Jewish support in the county, especially among the various Hasidic sects, which often deliver votes in blocs on the strong recommendation of rabbinic leadership. Adler was especially close to New Square, a Skverer Hasidic village of about 7,000 people that may have the most political power per capita of any community in the United States. Its leader, Rabbi David Twersky is seen as infallible by his followers: on Shabbat, hundreds or even thousands of worshippers watch the rabbi eat precisely specified portions of food—so much whitefish, so much egg salad—and eagerly await the honor of consuming his leftovers. The village was most recently in the news in 2011 when a young goon allied with Twersky—the nephew of his top political aide, Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer—set fire to a 43-year old plumber and father-of-four named Aron Rottenberg, who had dared attend services at an outside shul.
In the 2000 Senate election, New Square voted 1400-12 in favor of Clinton, while nearby communities voted just as overwhelmingly for the pro-life Lazio. In December of that year, the senator-elect welcomed Twersky and other New Square leaders to the White House, where they asked the president to review the case of four Skverers who had been convicted two years earlier of embezzling tens of millions of dollars from federal education and housing programs. On his last day of office in January 2001, President Clinton commuted the sentences of the four men. The appearance of a possibly illegal quid pro quo involving New Square’s votes, as well as other suspicious Clinton pardons, prompted the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White (now head of the SEC), to launch an investigation the following month.
A March 2001 article in the New York Times about the case noted the government would have to prove that New Square’s votes represented a “thing of value” which could be traded illegally for commutations. Otherwise, however unseemly the appearance of a deal, nothing illegal could be proven to have occurred. That line would only have been crossed, experts said, had a monetary donation been specifically tied to a certain promised outcome, and no New Square leaders had contributed financially to Clinton’s campaign.
By the time the commutations were granted, de Blasio was already running for a spot on the New York City Council. On December 7th, 2000, just a month after Hillary’s election and two weeks before his and Twersky’s White House visit, New Square Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer—the rebbe’s political liason to outsiders—attended a fundraiser in Manhattan for de Blasio’s council race, donating $2,500, the legal limit at the time. In August 2001, when the Village Voice asked de Blasio whether he had been questioned in White’s pardons investigation, he refused to say yes or no, only adding, “I’m waiting to hear what’s going to happen with that.”
Whether or not de Blasio ever did, the public never has. But given his leadership of Clinton’s campaign (with a specific portfolio, as one former Clinton aide recently told The Times, of soothing “many of the prickly political factions in New York State,” not a reference to cabdrivers), the timely Spitzer donation, and his relationship with Adler, it is almost impossible to conceive of the possibility that de Blasio did not at least know about New Square’s strategy for obtaining presidential pardons by showering Clinton with symbolically significant Jewish support—or, at most, participate in that strategy by helping procure for Twersky and Spitzer a much-desired visit to the White House to plead their case. Spitzer’s and, more recently and more extensively, Adler’s continued patronage of de Blasio’s political career at least gives the impression that the central figures of the New Square pardons episode remain deeply grateful toward Clinton’s former campaign manager, as they are towards this year’s Democratic candidate for Rockland County Executive, David Fried, another former Clinton aide who helped orchestrate the relationship between the village and the campaign at the time and has been endorsed by the ex-president. Either Spitzer and Adler are rewarding Fried and de Blasio for services rendered or they just happen to be supporting, financially and otherwise, the candidates who thirteen years ago were perfectly positioned to have helped them accomplish what was then their most urgent political—and for the New Square leaders, religious—goal.
In response to a series of questions about New Square and Paul Adler, de Blasio campaign spokesman Dan Levitan wrote: “Bill is proud of his time working for the Clinton Administration and on Hillary’s Senate campaign. The facts clearly show he had no involvement in this matter.”
In 1997, when four Skverers—three from New Square and one from Brooklyn—were arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government, the village refused to participate in the investigation. At one point a mob surrounded federal agents trying to serve subpoenas. Three other men, including a founder of the village and the mayor’s son, fled to Israel, though those two were later caught and convicted. According to the Talmud, “pidyon shvuyim”—releasing Jewish captives held by gentiles—is one of the most important mitzvahs in Jewish law, and by the summer of 2000, the Skverer community was desperate to spring the men from prison.
Meanwhile, Clinton was struggling in her race against Lazio, having a hard time defeating the “carpet-bagger” label in her newly adopted home state, as well as a general Clinton fatigue. Worse, the Jewish community was apoplectic over the news that the First Lady embraced and kissed Yasser Arafat’s wife, Suha, just after she slurred Israel, and a new book was out claiming that as a 26-year-old, Clinton had allegedly yelled “You fucking Jew bastard!” at the manager of her then-boyfriend Bill’s unsuccessful 1974 congressional campaign in Arkansas. It became de Blasio’s job to make sure Jewish leaders like Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a longtime Brooklyn macher, at the very least didn’t publicly endorse Lazio.
But for Rockland County there was Adler, who knew the soft spot in the ordinarily Republican-voting Hasidic front. On August 8th, Adler coordinated the candidate’s visit to New Square. Clinton, wearing a head covering and a long black skirt, met with Twersky, Spitzer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and assorted Rockland County leaders at the rabbi’s home. The community “embraced her with a warmth that surprised and delighted her campaign team,” The Daily News reported the following year.
As Clinton’s efforts to woo Twersky intensified, the rabbi hatched a strategy to achieve his one goal: winning the release of his four followers from prison. On August 25th, two weeks after Clinton’s visit, a Manhattan appeals court rejected a motion to overturn the convictions. With Adler, Clinton visited New Square again in mid-September, and according to two different accounts, one given to the News and one to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, it was either that month or the next when Twersky told Nathan Lewin, the Orthodox Washington lawyer representing the convicted villagers, of his plan to deliver overwhelming support in New Square for Clinton’s Senate bid in order to convince her husband to grant pardons—or at least commutations—to the four men. “I thought he was out of his mind,” Lewin recalled to the News at the time. (In a phone call, Lewin denied having had any knowledge of the rabbi’s plan.)
But sure enough, commutations of the men’s sentences were among the nearly 177 pardons and other remissions Bill Clinton granted during his final days in office. Newly installed as a senator, Hillary Clinton denied reports that she had attended a meeting before the election at which Twersky’s request for pardons was discussed. “Sen. Clinton doesn’t recall ever being present during any discussion of clemency for the New Square people prior to December 2000,” Clinton’s lawyer in the case, David Kendall, told the Daily News. In March 2001, FBI investigators visited the New Square Village Hall and Israel Spitzer’s home. Silver, several Rockland officials, and numerous Clinton staffers—some of whom launched legal defense funds for themselves—testified before a grand jury with lawyers provided and paid for by an unidentified source. But White’s successor as U.S. Attorney, James Comey (now head of the FBI), closed the investigation in 2002, without filing any charges, after 9/11 prompted a redistribution of resources and George W. Bush decided it was bad karma to go after his predecessor.
Meanwhile, on September 12th, 2000, just a day after being mentioned by The New York Post’s Fred Dicker as a possible replacement for the outgoing state party chair, Adler had been arrested and charged with embezzling at least $375,000 in corrupt real estate deals through bribery, extortion, and mail fraud, including $135,500 for “public relations consulting work” from the developer of the massive Palisades Center mall in West Nyack, which he then funneled through a shell company. According to the complaint, Adler told associates, “If you can’t help your friends, then why get into some of these positions?’” He added that he had not become chairman of the county party to “lose money.” The schemes were similar to the one that in 1987 led to charges against Adler and two associates of bribery and conspiracy to defraud the state government of $20 million in a complicated real estate deal involving a business partner of Governor Mario Cuomo’s son, Andrew; Adler was acquitted on all charges. This time, he was represented by the Bronx-based lawyer Murray Richman, who has made an illustrious career of defending mobsters. (In 2009, Richman bragged to filmmaker Errol Morris: “I had a trial in which my client stabbed the guy in the back four times—uh, no, uh, seven times—and my defense was he kept backing into the knife. And the jury bought it!”)
Responding to demands from Lazio that Clinton return Adler’s donations, a spokeswoman for the First Lady said, “Hillary knows that this is a difficult time for Paul and his family and she wishes them well.” Though the two inquiries were kept separate, as part of the Southern District investigation into Clinton’s pardons the FBI seized two boxes of documents from the Rockland County Democratic Party headquarters, dated 1996-2000: the exact years of Adler’s term as party chair. He faced up to 60 years in prison, but was sentenced to only 19 months in medium-security Otisville penitentiary in a plea bargain his lawyers were careful to assure the Times did not include cooperation with the pardons investigation. In the Post Jack Newfield reported that it was the non-Orthodox Adler who, on that Shabbat morning in January, delivered the news about the commutations to New Square, which Adler’s lawyer denied.
It isn’t clear how much of the New Square portfolio fell to de Blasio in Adler’s absence during the final months of Clinton’s Senate campaign. But it was clearly de Blasio who benefited most from the financial largesse of the community, when Twersky’s aide Spitzer donated $2,500 to what was widely seen as a long-shot run for an open City Council seat in Brooklyn. The district—Brooklyn’s 39th—straddled Park Slope and Borough Park, the urban stronghold of ultra-Orthodox leaders. But the Skverers represent a vanishingly small part of the Borough Park community, and participate almost not at all in its power structure. While Spitzer’s father, Avraham Chaim Spitzer, is a rabbi whose shul is in Borough Park, the synagogue is not in de Blasio’s district. Besides his $2,500 donation to de Blasio’s 2001 council race; a $250 donation to de Blasio’s 2005 re-election bid; and a $3,850 donation to his 2009 public advocate campaign, Spitzer has never before or since donated to a New York City political candidate. Not in Borough Park, not anywhere, not ever: Spitzer’s financial interest in city politics is wholly restricted to de Blasio’s career.
If you are Israel Spitzer, why donate to the nascent, long-shot bid for city council—a city, of course, which you don’t live in—by the guy who just ran the Senate campaign of a woman whose husband is President of the United States and therefore has the unilateral power to grant your most dire political wish? Was he buying access to the Clintons through de Blasio?
“There is no connection whatsoever,” Spitzer said when reached by phone last week. “My relationship to Bill de Blasio is as a councilman and public advocate. We have institutions all over, in Borough Park, in Williamsburg. New Square is not just New Square.”
Did you meet de Blasio when he was working on Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign?
“It has nothing to do with the Senate campaign or Hillary. We know him through various activities over the years.”
Your first donation to de Blasio came just a month after the end of Hillary’s campaign, and two weeks before your meeting at the White House with the Clintons.
“I was introduced to him when he decided to run for office, and I thought he was the right candidate.”
“What people may see is obvious,” says Alexander Rapoport, a de Blasio supporter who runs Masbia, a network of kosher soup kitchens that cater to the ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn. “Obviously, they did vote for her and they were pardoned. They don’t need for explanation. The eye sees what it sees.”
“We are supporting him 100%,” Spitzer says of de Blasio’s current campaign. “Not with financial support, but with access support, other support. We’re helping get communities to endorse him.”
Indeed, though he has given $2,500 to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 re-election bid, Spitzer has not yet contributed money to de Blasio’s mayoral race.
But Paul Adler has.
For a while after his release, in 2004, Adler kept a low-profile, but as the Rockland County Times noted in March, he has been staging a major comeback in the past three years, winning awards for philanthropy from the Rockland Development Council and for service to the Rockland Business Association, and serving on the boards of several Jewish community organizations. Adler has also regained his real estate license—impossible for a convicted felon in many states—and was hired in 2010 as a vice-president of Rockland-based Rand Commercial, where he tends to blend economic and political boosterism in equal parts. While Adler’s interests may be tangled, they rarely seem to conflict.
Rand Commercial is the leading firm invested in properties adjacent to the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement—Gov. Cuomo’s signature infrastructure project—and Adler has served as chief promoter for the project in local media. “It is pretty clear that when we build it, they will come,” Adler has said—a revealing use of the personal plural. “Business creates more business.” Rand has an entire website devoted to the new bridge, listing newly valuable properties for lease near the site, trumpeting Cuomo’s declarations of its necessity, and promising an economic windfall for adjacent communities. Any information Adler may have been privy to related to the bridge’s construction could have been easily and lucratively parlayed into business for Rand Commercial, but perhaps it is only attributable to coincidence or a keen sense for timing that Adler brokered the deal that will move the state police and New York State Thruway Authority facilities to a vacant warehouse owned by a Rand client in West Nyack.
Adler has also championed a projected desalination plant on the Hudson River proposed by United Water, serving the company as an advocate, pressing Rockland officials and community groups like the NAACP to support the plant over the objections of environmentalists, while encouraging the Cuomo administration to approve it. He was also recently admitted to the bar, which requires letters of recommendation vouching that the candidate possesses “the necessary character to justify the trust and confidence that clients, the public and the legal system will place in them.” Bar applications are sealed and confidential under state law.
This summer, when former state senator Nicholas Spano—who worked at Rand before being convicted of tax fraud in 2012—sought a judge’s permission to communicate with his fellow ex-con, a local paper quoted Adler advising Spano to think of redemption as “really a journey, not a destination.”
Adler’s journey has included a sharp spike in political fundraising activities—an activity the Adlers never seem to have taken much interest in before his arrest, and is perhaps an attempt to buy back the influence he lost. Since 2005, the Adler household has sprinkled more than $50,000 among dozens of local, state, and federal campaigns—including to Andrew Cuomo. He has held events at his home for Rep. Nita Lowey, a Westchester Democrat, and earlier this month hosted a major fundraiser for David Fried, the Democratic candidate for Rockland County Executive and a former White House advance aide for the Clintons who grew up in nearby Spring Valley, adjacent to New Square. A person who was involved in Rockland politics at the time said that in the fall of 2000, with Adler in prison, Fried pressed those who controlled the president’s schedule to fit in a visit to New Square, just across the Hudson from Chappaqua, where the Clintons had bought a home to facilitate Hillary’s Senate bid. According to the person, who is backing Fried in his current campaign, Fried was on the phone with Spitzer constantly at the time. Bill Clinton endorsed Fried earlier this year, saying he “worked closely” with the advance aide, and in the September primary New Square took the extraordinary step of splitting their usual bloc vote, throwing enough votes to Fried to defeat his opponent Ilan Schoenberger, the village’s long-time political patron who also attended the August 2000 meeting with Hillary Clinton.
The Facebook page for last Sunday’s “Democratic Unity Event” for Fried at Adler’s palatial home in New City, a secular community a few minutes’ drive from New Square, said “Everyone is welcome,” and the open door on a drizzly Sunday morning seemed to emphasize the point. In her rousing speech (“We need someone who’s gonna take us out of this darkness and into the light!”), Kristen Stavisky, Adler’s successor as Democratic county chair, named and drew applause for all the “electeds” in the room—all the public officials, that is, including sitting judges, willing to attend a fundraiser in a disgraced ex-convict’s home: David Carlucci, state senator; James Skoufis, assemblyman; Ellen Jaffee, assemblywoman; Christopher St. Lawrence, Mayor of Ramapo (whose town hall was raided in May by the FBI, investigating the construction of a widely-scorned baseball stadium midwifed, according to Skriloff and others, by Adler); Louis Falco, Rockland County Sherriff; and many more. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent a staffer. When Adler took the floor he especially called out New Square’s Spitzer, standing just to the side, for recognition. I can tell you that I’ve personally spoken with the governor,” Adler told a captivated room. “The governor will be in to campaign on this. Senator Schumer will be in. Senator Gillibrand will be in. The entire state delegation is going to be down here.”
“I don’t think candidates for political office should actively seek and obtain support, including financial, from a convicted federal felon,” says Michael Bongiorno, who as Rockland County District Attorney in 2000 helped put Adler behind bars. “I think it shows extremely poor judgment on the part of anyone who does so.”
“He is very involved with the community,” Fried says, explaining his willingness to accept Adler’s support. “He was recently admitted as an attorney, which required passage of the ‘Character and Fitness’ test. He is one of the largest donors to community programs and agencies including the JCC, and he is very involved with numerous organizations that are important to me.”
Last week, as Hillary Clinton hosted the Roosevelt Hotel event for de Blasio, her husband attended a fundraiser for Fried. Despite his $25,000 co-chairmanship of the de Blasio fundraiser, rumor has it Adler attended Fried’s. Through a spokesman, Fried declined a follow-up request for comment about his role in obtaining the New Square commutations.
“Adler is part of a small cabal that controls Rockland County,” says Robert Rhodes, a self-described left-wing Democrat who is president of the anti-developers group Preserve Ramapo, which has endorsed Fried’s Republican opponent Ed Day in the county executive race. “He’s a guy who goes to prison, then comes back here raising money for the county Democratic machine.”
And not only for the county machine.
Last January, the day before formally declaring his candidacy for the mayoral race, de Blasio wrote on Facebook, “My family is making a very important announcement at our home in Park Slope tomorrow.” Adler’s comment, the very first on the page, was simple: “Good luck.”
But Adler knew it would take more than luck to elect the long-shot de Blasio, having already hosted a Rockland County meet-and-greet for the candidate at his home and, along with Clinton alum Harold Ickes, co-chaired a high-dollar fundraiser for de Blasio at the Waldorf Astoria in 2010, widely seen as the first public hint of de Blasio’s mayoral aspirations and of Clintonian support. Adler has donated $1,500 so far to the mayoral campaign, while his wife Mary and son Samuel, who both also happen to work for Rand Commercial, have donated $4,950 and $250 to de Blasio, respectively, and their daughter, who was hired by Gov. Cuomo as a press officer for the state’s economic development agency, has donated $425. Adler attended de Blasio’s victory party in Gowanus on primary night last month.
Written by Adler and graced with his visage, the official Twitter feed of Rand Commercial—which does not handle city-based properties—spends a lot of time concerned with the New York City mayoral campaign:
— Rand Commercial (@randcommercial) October 9, 2013
— Rand Commercial (@randcommercial) October 2, 2013
— Rand Commercial (@randcommercial) Septe
mber 25, 2013
Reached by phone, Adler praised de Blasio’s “very progressive mindset” and declared his belief that “the winds are blowing for change.” When asked whether de Blasio played any role in the New Square pardons, Adler said Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager “didn’t have anything to do with that, he had nothing to do with anything.” Asked whether he recalled de Blasio attending any meetings between Clinton and the village leaders, Adler said no, called this reporter “sleazebag” twice, and hung up.
The response de Blasio spokesman Dan Levitan e-mailed did not address questions concerning Paul Adler—including whether the candidate has ever discussed New Square with him. A subsequent request for comment has not been returned.
But on Monday, when Adler sent his announcement about chairing the Clinton/de Blasio fundraiser—from his Rand Commercial e-mail account—he wrote:
We are all inextricably linked together, so let’s be active participants in making history once again.
I know I am always asking to you to support this cause or that candidate, but, we always seem to in the right place at the right time, and this time is no exception.
Richard Kreitner is a writer and researcher in New York City. He is on Twitter at @richardkreitner and can be reached at richard.kreitner [at] gmail.com.
Yesterday, Hillary Clinton offered a rousing endorsement of “longtime family friend” Terry McAuliffe in his second run for Governor of Virginia. McAuliffe certainly has been a good friend to the Clintons, having once made them a $1.35 million gift which, after becoming a scandal, turned into a loan. But the most interesting parts of McAuliffe’s history often go unnoticed, including his links to the security upgrades at the World Trade Center (WTC) in the late 1990s.
One of the primary companies involved in the security upgrades for the WTC was Ensec International, founded by Charles Finkel. Ensec’s Florida subsidiary had an office on the 33rd floor of the North Tower. At the same time, Finkel was an export sales executive for a company called Engesa, a manufacturer of tanks and other military vehicles for Operation Desert Storm. Engesa was a Saudi-approved supplier.
Ensec’s responsibility at the WTC involved setting up a new system for securing the basement levels, particularly in the parking garages. It was reported that the access control system used was manufactured and installed by Ensec. The system included proprietary software, proximity card readers and vehicle identification tags for all registered vehicles. The system also included cameras, located “in critical locations within the complex, such as machine rooms, computer areas, visitor areas and other sensitive locations.”
Lockheed Martin subcontracted the PANYNJ work to Ensec in November of 1996. This was the same time that Carlyle Group employee and Iran-Contra suspect Barry McDaniel was hired to run operations for the highly suspicious WTC security contractor Stratesec. And just as Ensec obtained the contract to work alongside McDaniel and Stratesec, it added Terry McAullife as a director.
Before joining Ensec, McAuliffe had been involved in a number of suspicious business dealings. For example, he was linked to Teamster related corruption. And he was also involved in a lawsuit regarding Loral Space, a company investigated for collaborating with and giving secrets to the Chinese for use in satellite and intercontinental ballistic missile programs.
The charges against McAuliffe in the Loral Space scandal were that he agreed “to participate in this scheme to sell seats on taxpayer-financed foreign trade missions and other government services in exchange for campaign contributions to the Democratic National Committee (DNC).” McAuliffe also “played a central role in selecting trade mission participants and, on information and belief, securing other favorable treatment from the Clinton Administration for Defendant Loral” It was also reported that McAuliffe “prominently figured among those selected for participating in the high-profile Commerce Department trade mission to China was Defendant Schwartz, who would go on to become the single largest contributor to the DNC.” Bernard Schwartz was the billionaire CEO of Loral.
The CEOs of Hughes Aircraft, Loral, and Lockheed co-wrote a letter to President Clinton, in October 1995, asking the president to “transfer all responsibility for commercial satellite export licensing to the Commerce Department.” Hughes was run by James Abrahamson at the time. Abrahamson would go on to be a director at Stratesec and later, with James Clapper, at satellite spy company GeoEye. Hughes, Loral, and Lockheed ended up paying enormous fines for illegal exports of advanced missile technology to China, and Hughes was charged with 123 counts of national security violations. But in 1996, Clinton did move oversight of the satellite exports to the Department of Commerce and the three CEOs thanked him publicly.
McAuliffe was linked to another company that was mired in scandal―Global Crossing. It was reported that McAuliffe purchased $100,000 in Global Crossing stock before the company went public and cashed out several years later for $18 million (some reports put it at a mere $8 million). Richard Perle was a lobbyist for Global Crossing, which was a partner in several deals with the Chinese company Hutchison Whampoa, called an “arm of the PLA [People's Liberation Army].” Li Ka-Shing was the Chinese billionaire owner of Hutchison who invested in firms owned by Winston Partners and employed Winston cofounder Marvin Bush’s brother, Neil Bush, as a consultant.
In 2001, McAuliffe became Chairman of the DNC. Between that role and his later job as campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential run, McAuliffe worked as Vice-Chairman of Carret investments. McAuliffe was hired at Carret by Alan Quasha, who once “bailed out George W. Bush’s failing oil company in 1986, folding Bush into his company, Harken Energy, thus setting him on the path to a lucrative and high-profile position as an owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and the presidency.”
Alan Quasha had owned Carret since 2003. But he was previously known for his leadership of Harken Energy, and thereby, his connection to the many suspicious organizations related to Harken, including BCCI. At Carret and Harken, Quasha had a partner named Hassan Nemazee. An investor in Harken and the founder of the Iranian-American PAC, Nemazee was also associated with the RAND Corporation. Nemazee was later charged with running a $292 million ponzi scheme.
In any case, Ensec International and its leaders should have been investigated for possible security breaches at the WTC. The management structure at Ensec, including its arms dealer founder Charles Finkel and director Terry McAuliffe, should have led the 9/11 Commission and NIST to consider the problems that might have resulted from this company having rebuilt the access systems for the WTC basement levels. Additionally, the fact that Lockheed Martin had subcontracted the PANYNJ work to Ensec was one indicator that these companies might have benefited from the attacks.
The official U.S. investigations into 9/11 are over but people should keep in mind that certain political figures remain from the glory days of the Bush and Clinton administrations. McAuliffe is one of those political figures and he has a suspicious background that includes unbelievable strokes of financial fortune and work for some apparently very powerful, international operators. Virginia residents might wonder what favors he might do as Governor for those old friends in high places.
There was a time during the 30-month covert dirty war on Syria when the Western governments and mainstream media would make a clamor over reported massacres.
Now, despicably, these governments and media just ignore such atrocities.
Why? Because it is increasingly clear that the groups committing these crimes against thousands of Syrian civilians are the foreign-backed mercenaries, whom the Western media and their governments have tried to lionize as “rebels” fighting for “democratic freedom”.
That charade is rapidly disintegrating, exposing not just criminal Western governments sponsoring the violence against civilians, but an entire media industry that is also guilty of war crimes through its willful complicity.
This is not mere hyperbole. To disseminate false information and lies about conflict – under the guise of independent news – is to be complicit in covering up war crimes. You can hardly get more serious misconduct than to tell lies about crimes against humanity.
These toxic lies and propaganda are now being exposed as the Western-backed plot to subvert the sovereign state of Syria unravels; this unraveling is accentuated by the West’s death squads becoming even more unhinged as they stare at looming defeat at the hands of the Syrian army.
The latest massacre occurred in the town of Khan al-Assal in the northern province of Aleppo. Some 150 people, mostly civilians, were reportedly slaughtered in cold blood. Many of the victims were shot in the head execution-style. The groups claiming responsibility are the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and Ansar al Khalifa.
Reliable sources say that the killers tried to cover up their barbaric crimes by mutilating the corpses and burning the remains. Only days before this orgy of murder, the same groups are believed to have massacred at least seven civilians in the town of Maqbara in the province of Hasakah.
Elsewhere, as the Syrian national army makes searing advances against the militants, it is apparent from the identities of the dead that the majority of these fighters are foreigners, from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Jordan, Turkey, as well as from the US and Europe, including Britain, France and Germany.
Just last week, it was reported that Saudi Arabia bought $50 million-worth of heavy arms from Israel to supply this foreign network in its endeavor to terrorize the people of Syria into submission.
Already, the US, Britain and France have stumped up over $200 million which they claim is provided to “the Syrian opposition” in the form of “non-lethal aid”.
This is just cynical semantics to cover up the fact that the Western governments and their regional Turk, Arab and Israeli proxies are sponsoring genocide in Syria.
Over the weekend as the mass murders in Khan al-Assal and Maqbara emerged there was a telling silence in the Western media. A cursory glance at outlets such as New York Times, Washington Post, Voice of America, the Guardian, BBC, France 24, Deutsche Welle, Reuters, among others, showed no or negligible reports on the atrocities.
A notable exception was the London-based Financial Times, which headlined: “Syria opposition condemns rebel attack”. The FT tried to obfuscate the mass murder of civilians by claiming that “extremist rebels” had executed captured Syrian army soldiers and by giving prominence to condemnation of the “abuses” by the exile non-entity group, the Syrian National Coalition.
Similar Western silence followed another massacre last month in the village of Hatlah in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour. In mid-June, more than 60 mainly Shia inhabitants were slaughtered again by Western-backed foreign militants. Most of the victims were women and children. Syrian government appeals for international condemnation at the United Nations were ignored.
Contrast this void in Western government and media reaction to earlier massacres. In May and June 2012, the Western media went viral with reports of mass killings in the villages of Houla and Qubair where some 108 and 78 inhabitants were murdered, many of them with throats slit. Immediately, the Western media then claimed or implied that the perpetrators were Syrian state forces and roundly condemned President Bashar al-Assad.
Back then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Assad of “ruling by murder and fear” and led the chorus of Western governments calling for Assad to step down.
It later transpired that the Houla and Qubair massacres were the work of the Western-backed foreign militants. But Western media did not follow-up with corrective reporting. This is the conduct of a propaganda ministry, not independent journalism.
The same propaganda formula of sensationalist headlines and innuendo, with minimal evidence, was repeated in subsequent massacres, such as in Tremseh in July 2012, or the bomb attack on Aleppo University in January this year in which more than 80 were killed. Also in that same month, more than 100 bodies were fished out of the Queiq River in the Bustan al-Qasr district of Aleppo – all of those victims with gunshot wounds to the head. Never mind that the district was under the control of foreign militants, the Western media continued their campaign of innuendo that it was the Syrian state forces that carried out the executions.
The Syrian government has consistently alleged that all these mass killings are the work of Western-backed militants. This sickening terrorist methodology concatenates with the Takfiri mentality of killing everyone who is deemed to be an infidel – Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Christian, non-believer alike, who does not subscribe to their fundamentalist twisted theology.
It is entirely in keeping that Western governments and Wahhabi Arab despots sponsor such groups given the long history of collusion between these protagonists, going back to the creation of al-Qaeda by Western military intelligence in Afghanistan during the 1980s to fight the then Soviet-backed government in Kabul.
The indiscriminate murder of civilians in wholesale massacres by Western-backed death squads operating in Syria to overthrow the Assad government is also consistent with the countless no-warning car bombs that have ripped through markets, streets, hospitals and schools all across Syria. Days before the latest slaughter in Khan al-Assal, a car bomb killed at least 10 in the Jaramana district of the capital, Damascus.
A few months earlier, another deadly bomb attack also targeted Jaramana, killing more than 30. The district is a mixed community of Muslim, Christian and Druze, which is largely supportive of the Assad government. As with the many other massacres in Syria, the aim is to terrorize the civilian population, to sow sectarianism and to coerce
the populace to relinquish support for the government.
As the foreign criminal conspiracy to force regime change in Syria flounders – with the turning point being the Syrian army victory in Qusayr early last month – the Western-sponsored terrorists are resorting to more and more desperate methods. This depravity was manifested yet again in the slaughter of civilians in Khan al-Assal and Maqbara. Tragically and despicably, we can expect more such atrocities in the coming weeks and months as the Western criminal conspiracy suffers more defeats.
But what is truly remarkable is how the Western governments and their propaganda machine, known euphemistically as the mainstream news media, are ignoring these latest massacres. That is because their vile game is up. They can no longer dissimulate on the reality of who is carrying out these massacres and how it is all part of a criminal genocidal campaign directed from Washington, London and Paris. That is why they are feigning to ignore such atrocities. To look into them honestly would uncover the ugly face of Western imperialism and the unconscionable role played all along by so-called Western news media.
Meanwhile, proper journalistic services like Press TV that are reporting the reality of what the Western governments are really doing in Syria via their death squads are being banned from satellite networks controlled by Western authorities.
Indeed, a very real extension of this censorship is how Press TV correspondent Maya Nasser was murdered last September by Western-backed death squads in Damascus for the very reason that he was helping to uncover the truth about what is being inflicted on Syria. Assassination is just an extreme act of censorship, as the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once noted.
Western government and media silence over the latest massacres in Syria is not just a matter of indifference or sloppy journalism. It is indicative of their complicity in the covert genocidal war on Syria.
Haim Saban and Barack Obama pay tribute to Hillary Clinton: “People can work together on behalf of the country they love”
Aired: November 30, 2012 on C-SPAN
The Saban Forum 2012 (which focuses on Middle East issues as related to U.S. foreign policy) kicked off with a keynote speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s remarks were immediately preceded by a tribute video to her career in service of the United States. President Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others are featured offering praise for Secretary Clinton’s life, career, and good works.
- Not Even a Star-Studded Tribute Can Convince Hillary Clinton to Run for President (Yet) (jezebel.com)
- The case against Hillary (salon.com)
- Hillary is Running: A Dispatch from the Saban Forum (newyorker.com)