Dear Ambassador Power:
I recently read your statement decrying the UN General Assembly’s election of Venezuela to the UN Security Council. This statement, so obviously laden with hypocrisy, necessitated this response.
You premise your opposition to Venezuela’s ascendancy to the Security Council on your claim that “From ISIL and Ebola to Mali and the Central African Republic, the Security Council must meet its responsibilities by uniting to meet common threats.” If these are the prerequisites for sitting on the Security Council, Venezuela has a much greater claim for this seat than the U.S., and this is so obvious that it hardly warrants pointing out. Let’s take the Ebola issue first. As even The New York Times agrees, it is little Cuba (another country you decry) which is leading the fight against Ebola in Africa. Indeed, The New York Times describes Cuba as the “boldest contributor” to this effort and criticizes the U.S. for its diplomatic estrangement from Cuba.
Venezuela is decidedly not estranged from Cuba, and indeed is providing it with critical support to aid Cuba in its medical internationalism, including in the fight against Ebola in Africa and cholera in Haiti. And, accordingly, the UN has commended both Cuba and Venezuela for their role in the fight against Ebola. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola recently stated:
I urge countries in the region and around the world to follow the lead of Cuba and Venezuela, who have set a commendable example with their rapid response in support of efforts to contain Ebola.
By this measure, then, Venezuela should be quite welcome on the Security Council.
In terms of ISIL, or ISIS as some call it, Venezuela has no blame for that problem. Of course, that cannot be said of the U.S. which has been aiding Islamic extremists in the region for decades, from the Mujahideen in Afghanistan (which gave rise to Bin Laden and Al Qaida) to the very radical elements in Syria who have morphed into ISIL. And, of course, the U.S.’s multiple military forays into Iraq — none of which you ever opposed, Ms. Power — have also helped bring ISIS to prominence there. So again, on that score, Venezuela has a much greater claim to a Security Council seat than the U.S.
And what about Mali? Again, it is the U.S. which has helped destabilize Mali through the aerial bombardment of Libya, which brought chaos to both countries in the process. Of course, you personally supported the U.S.-led destruction of Libya so you should be painfully aware of the U.S.’s role in unleashing the anarchy which now haunts Libya and Mali. Venezuela, on the other hand, opposed the U.S.’s lawless assault on Libya, thereby showing again its right to be on the Security Council.
Indeed, while you state quite correctly that “[t]he UN Charter makes clear that candidates for membership on the Security Council should be contributors to the maintenance of international peace and security and support the other purposes of the UN, including promoting universal respect for human rights,” the U.S. is unique in its undermining of all of these goals. It is the U.S. — through its ceaseless wars in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslovia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Vietnam, to name but a few — which has been the greatest force of unleashing chaos and undermining peace, security and human rights across the globe for the past six decades or so. As Noam Chomsky has recently opined — citing an international poll in which the U.S. was ranked by far “the biggest threat to world peace today” — the U.S. is indeed “a leading terrorist state.”
Meanwhile, Venezuela has played a key role in brokering peace in Colombia, and has been a leader in uniting the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean into new and innovative economic and political formations (such as ALBA) which allow these countries to settle their disputes peacefully, and to confront mutual challenges, such as Ebola. It is indeed because of such productive leadership that, as you note in your statement, Venezuela ran unopposed by any of its Latin American neighbors for the Security Council seat.
What’s more, as Chomsky again points out, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez led “the historic liberation of Latin America” from centuries-long subjugation by Spain and then the U.S. I would submit that it is Venezuela’s leadership in that regard which in fact motivates your opposition to Venezuela’s seat on the Security Council, and not any feigned concern about world peace or human rights.
Israeli Minister for Military Affairs Moshe Ya’alon says the borders of many Middle Eastern countries are bound to change in the future as a result of recent developments in the region.
The Israeli minister said in a recent interview with the US-based National Public Radio (NPR) that the current borders would change in the coming years, as some have “been changed already.”
The Israeli minister added that the borders of some countries in the region were artificially drawn by the West.
“Libya was a new creation, a Western creation as a result of World War I. Syria, Iraq, the same — artificial nation-states — and what we see now is a collapse of this Western idea,” he stated.
However, Ya’alon said the borders of some nations, including the Egyptian border with Israel, would remain unchanged.
“We have to distinguish between countries like Egypt, with their history. Egypt will stay Egypt,” said Ya’alon.
The minister did not say whether the borders of Israel, also drawn by Western powers after World War I, would change or not.
Regarding the right to return for Palestinian refugees, Ya’alon said Tel Aviv could not allow such a move, as it would keep the Israeli-Palestinian conflict alive “forever.”
He also said that the insistence to remove Israeli settlers from the West Bank amounts to ethnic cleansing.
The Israeli regime expelled more than 700,000 people from their homeland after it occupied Palestine in 1948.
Israeli forces have wiped nearly 500 Palestinian villages and towns off the map, leaving an estimated total of 4.7 million Palestinian refugees hoping for an eventual return to their homeland more than six decades later.
Since 1948, the Israeli regime has denied Palestinian refugees the right of return, despite United Nations’ resolutions and international laws that uphold the people’s right to return to their homeland.
Tel Aviv has built over 120 illegal settlements built since the occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds.
The UN High Commission for Refugee Affairs warned on Friday of a new wave of internal displacement because of increased fighting amongst militant groups in Libya.
The current number of internally displaced Libyans is 290,000, including 100,000 who were forced out of their homes during the last three weeks.
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Affairs, Adrian Edwards, told reporters in Geneva that 29 Libyan cities were affected by the wave of displacement.
Edwards warned, “basic healthcare, food and other basic needs, including lodges before the start of winter, is urgently needed.” He noted that the UN Refugee commission and its partners are responding to some of these needs, but they face obstacles trying to reach all displaced people.
The UN official said that the most affected areas are located near Tripoli, as the fighting forced more than 100,000 to leave their homes during the last three weeks and 15,000 others to leave their homes from around Benghazi.
According to Edwards the cause of delays in delivering aid to displaced Libyans is the need to gain permission for the humanitarian convoys heading to affected areas.
The UN High Commission, in cooperation with partners, delivered the first humanitarian delegation to the east of Libya in the middle of August. It delivered 6,700 tons of median and food aid; however, this is still far below what is needed.
One month ago today, President Obama was congratulating Libya on a “milestone” election — even though the disintegration of the country after the 2011 US invasion was ongoing.
Said Obama in June:
I congratulate the Libyan people on the conclusion of the elections for a new Council of Representatives, a milestone in their courageous efforts to transition from four decades of dictatorship toward a full democracy.
Today, the US announced it has evacuated all US personnel from Libya. They piled into vehicles and escaped to Tunisia.
The only thing left behind was the hollow words of hollow State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf:
Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya.. …We reiterate that Libyans must immediately cease hostilities and begin negotiations to resolve their grievances.
Nothing better demonstrates the enormous disconnect between Washington’s rhetoric and actual reality than this, an emergency evacuation of the entire US diplomatic and military presence in Libya just weeks after a “milestone” election and just over three years after a US/NATO attack that was to bring democracy and prosperity to the country.
As the US and NATO attacked Libya in March, 2011, President Obama addressed the American people to explain his decision to attack.
Gaddafi was killing his own people, Obama claimed. That was a lie. He was fighting the very insurgents whose ongoing violence has forced the United States to flee the country.
US intervention would stop the violence, Obama claimed. That was a lie.
“Qaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous,” said Obama.
But Gaddafi was forced from power — sodomized and murdered by US allies in Libya. The country is more dangerous than ever. The US has been forced to evacuate.
Obama claimed that the US/NATO invasion would end the violence in Libya:
[W]e were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves.
That was a lie. The violence worsened.
America was exceptional, claimed Obama in his 2011 speech. That is why we had to invade Libya:
To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and -– more profoundly -– our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.
Libya was supposed to be the next “domino” in the fantasy of an “Arab Spring” pushed so hard by the US administration and its compliant media. Instead, Egypt is ruled by a US-backed dictator who overthrew an elected government and Libya is a completely destroyed no-go zone.
Reality caught up with Obama and the murderous rhetoric of the interventionists and neocons.
Moscow is next on their target list. Those in the US who push back against the lies designed to provoke a war with Russia are called “Putin’s best friend” and “Russian agents.” Just like they were called “Saddam’s best friend” and “Iraqi agents” just like they were called “Gaddafi’s best friend” and “Libyan agents.” The lies are the same, the results are always a disaster.
Will Americans notice what failures their leaders are? Will Americans demand an end to the disastrous interventions?
Let this sink in: three years after the US invasion of Libya that would “free” the country, the US has been forced to have a Saigon moment.
Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bashar Ja’afari says the current tumult in the Middle East, including the crisis in his country, is a scheme by the West to safeguard Israel’s interests, Press TV reports.
“This is a geopolitical plan that is not only targeting Syria exclusively, although Syria is very important for either the success or failure of this plan, but it is targeting the whole area,” said Ja’afari Wednesday in an exclusive interview with Press TV in New York.
He said the main goal of the Western plot “is to secure for a long time the interests of Israel and preventing the establishment of Palestinian state in Palestine.”
“So they need to open up a new front, a kind of deviation, from the focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian question to another focus which might be a war between Muslims and Muslims,” he added.
He further underlined that the West intends to incite divisions among Muslims under the false notion of a Sunni-Shia conflict to provoke wars between Muslim countries in the region.
The Syrian envoy went on to reiterate that the huge participation of Syrian voters in the country’s presidential election served as big “NO” message to foreign interference in their country’s internal affairs.
“Our message would be a friendly message… [that] we want to have friends and we want to have normal, bilateral relationship with everybody. We do not interfere into the American domestic affairs. Please don’t interfere into our own domestic affairs.”
According to official figures, President Bashar al-Assad won nearly 90 percent of the votes cast in Syria’s presidential race. Syria’s Supreme Constitutional Court announced that over 73 percent of the 15.8 million eligible voters had taken part in the election.
An Open Letter to the Graduates of West Point: Refuting President Obama’s Lies, Omissions and Distortions
On May 2014 President Obama delivered the commencement address to the graduates of United States Military Academy at West Point. Beyond the easy banter and eulogy to past and present war heroes, Obama outlined a vision of past military successes and present policies, based on a profoundly misleading diagnosis of the current global position of the United States.
The most striking aspect of his presentation is the systematic falsification of the results of past wars and current military interventions. The speech is notable for the systematic omissions of the millions of civilian deaths inflicted by US military interventions. He glosses over the growth of NSA, the global police state apparatus. He presents a grossly inflated account of the US role in the world economy. Worst of all he outlines an extremely dangerous confrontational posture toward rising military and economic powers, in particular Russia and China.
Distorting the Past: Defeats and Retreats Converted into Victories
One of the most disturbing aspects of President Obama’s speech is his delusional account of US military engagements over the past decade. His claim that, “by most measures America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world”, defies belief. After 13 years of warfare, the US has failed to defeat the Taliban. Washington is in full retreat and leaves behind a fragile puppet regime which will likely collapse. In Iraq the US was forced to withdraw after killing several hundred thousand civilians and fueling a sectarian war which has propelled a pro-Iranian regime to power. In Libya, the NATO war devastated the country, destroyed the Gadhafi government,thus undermining reconciliation, and bringing to power bands of terrorist Islamic groups profoundly hostile to the United States.
Washington’s effort to broker an accord between Palestine and Israel was a dismal failure, largely because of the Obama regime’s spineless attitude toward Israel’s land grabs, and new “Jews only” settlements. The craven pandering to the Jewish power configuration in Washington hardly speaks for the world’s “greatest power” … by any measure.
Through your economic studies you are surely aware that the US has been displaced by China in major markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa. China poses a major economic challenge: it does not have overseas bases, Special Forces’ operations in seventy-five countries; it does not pursue military alliances and does not militarily intervene in countries. Obama’s expansion of the US military presence off China’s coast speaks to an escalation of bellicose behavior, contrary to his assertions of “winding down” overseas military operations.
Obama speaks of defending “our core interests” militarily.Yet he threatens China over disputed piles of rocks in the South China Sea, overlooking the “core interests” of the 500 biggest US corporations with hundreds of billions of dollars invested in the most dynamic economy in the world and the second biggest trading nation.
Obama spoke of the threat of “terrorism” yet his policies have encouraged and promoted terrorism. Washington armed and promoted the Islamic terrorists which overthrew Gadhafi; backs the Islamic terrorists invading Syria; provides 1.5 billion in military aid to the Egyptian military dictatorship which is terrorizing the political opposition, via assassinations and arrests of thousands of political dissidents. The US backed the violent overthrow of the elected regime in the Ukraine and is backing the client regime’s terror bombing of the pro-democracy Eastern regions. Obama’s “anti-terrorism” rhetoric is in fact a cover for state terrorism, which closes the door on peaceful resolution of overseas conflicts, and leads to the multiplication of violent opposition groups.
Obama speaks to “our success in promoting partnerships in Europe and in the world at large”. Yet his bellicose policies toward Russia has deeply divided the US from the leading countries in the European Union. Germany has multi-billion dollar trade agreements with Russia and objects to harsh sanctions as does Italy, Holland and Belgium. Latin America has relegated the US centered Organization of American States to the dust bin of history and moved toward regional organizations which exclude the US. Washington has no “partners” backing its hostile policies toward Venezuela and Cuba. In Asia, Washington’s efforts to forge an economic bloc excluding China, runs against the deep and comprehensive ties that link South Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia to China. Washington’s closest partners are the least dynamic and most repressive: Israel, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in the Middle East; Egypt, Morocco and Algeria in North Africa; Colombia in Latin America ; and motley groups of sub-Sahara despots and Kleptocrats who squirrel billions of dollars into oversees bank accounts in New York and London far in excess of their countries’ health and educational budgets.
Obama’s diagnosis of the position of the US in the world is fundamentally flawed: he grossly understates the military losses, the decline of economic power,and the growing divisions between former regional allies. Above all he refuses to recognize the profound loss of faith by the majority of Americans in Washington’s foreign military and trade policies. The flawed diagnosis, the deliberate distortions of present global realities and the deep misreading of domestic public opinion cannot be overcome by new deceptions, bigger lies and the continuation and escalation of military interventions, in which you, the newly minted officers, will serve as cannon fodder.
Obama: Political Desperado in Search of an Imperial Legacy
Obama has marked a new phase in the escalation of a military centered foreign policy. He is presently engaged in a major military build-up of air and ground troops and military exercises in the Baltic States and Poland… all of which is pointing toward Russia and signaling that a possible ‘First Strike’ strategy is underway. Obama has been seized by a manic global military escalation. He is expanding naval forces off China’s coast. He has dispatched hundreds of Special Forces to Jordan to train and arm mercenaries invading Syria. He is intervening militarily in the Ukraine to bolster the Kiev regime. He has dispatched hundreds of military forces throughout Africa. He has allocated $1 billion for military expenditure along the European frontiers with Russia and $5 billion to boost the capacity of despotic regimes to repress popular insurgencies under the pretext of “fighting terrorism”.
Obama’s ‘vision’ of US foreign policy is clearly and unmistakably colored by a propensity to engage in highly dangerous military confrontations. His resort to multiple “Special Forces” operations, his increasing reliance on military proxies, is a reversion to 19th century colonial policies. Recruiting soldiers from one oppressed country to conquer another, is a throwback to old style empire building. When Obama speaks of “American leadership, as indispensable for world order” he deceives no one. The Washington centered world order is disintegrating. Disorder is the consequence of military intervention attempting to delay the inevitable.
The Obama Administration’s involvement in the violent coup in the Ukraine is a case in point: as a consequence of the rise to power of a junta headed by a billionaire “President”,power sharing with neo-fascists that country is disintegration, civil war rages and the economy is bankrupt. Obama’s war on Libya has led to a Hobbesian world in which warlords fight jihadists over shrinking oil sales. In Syria US backed ‘rebels’ have destroyed the economy and the social fabric of civil society.
No major country in South America follows US ‘leadership’. Even in the United States few American citizens back Obama’s hostile policies to Cuba and Venezuela.
Obama’s duplicitous rhetoric of talking peace and preparing wars has lost credibility. Obama is preparing to commit you, the newly commissioned officers of West Point, to new overseas wars opposed by the majority of Americans.
Obama will send you to war zones in which you will be pitted against popular insurgencies, in which you will be despised by the surrounding population. You will be asked to defend an Administration which has pillaged the Treasury to bail out the 15 biggest banks, who paid $78 billion dollars in fines between 2012 – 2013 for fraud and swindles and yet their CEO’s received double digit pay increases. You will be told to fight wars for Israel in the Middle East. You will be ordered to command bases in Poland and missiles aimed at Russia. You will be sent to the Ukraine to advise neo-Nazis in the National Guard. You will be told to subvert Latin American military officials in hopes of inciting a military coup and converting independent progressive governments into neo-liberal client states.
Obama’s vision does not resonate with your hopes for an America committed to democracy, freedom and development. You face the choice of serving a political desperado intent on launching unjust wars at the behest of billionaire swindlers and armchair militarists or resigning your commission and joining the majority of American people who believe that America’s “leadership” should be directed at reducing the wealth and power of an unelected oligarchy in this country.
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.
The Left Forum’s tenth annual conference was held this year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York. Left Forum describes itself as “convening “the largest annual conference of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested public.”
The rather enigmatic theme for Left Forum 2014 was “Reform and/or Revolution: Imagining a World of Transformative Justice,” but one heard no mention of justice for the victims of sixty-nine years of US-NATO genocide presently ongoing in a dozen Muslim nations in the Middle-East and Africa as being a reason for either “reform” or “revolution.” The entire focus of the three day event, save in a a very small number of the three-hundred-and-eighty panel/workshops, was on “reform and/or revolution” to benefit Americans in America.
For this writer, the actual theme of Left Forum 2014 seems to have been: Martin Luther King was Wrong!: Americans CAN make a better America WHILE still continuing to kill the poor overseas in spite of the cost in human and financial resources that SHALL NOT stop Americans from making progress on social and justice issues at home.
Martin Luther King Jr. said:
I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such. “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly … for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence. … Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. … I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak … for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and … in sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportion relative to the rest of the population.
A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then … I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war.
Martin Luther King cried out, “For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence I cannot be silent!”
But Cornel West, now of New York Theological Seminary, the keynote speaker at Left Forum 2014’s Opening Plenary, and Harry Belafonte and Angela Davis, who spoke at its Feature Event, were silent on the sixty-seven years of US-NATO genocide overseas, the ongoing US-NATO slaughter of Muslims in a dozen nations in the Middle East and Africa and the covert violence around the world for “unjust predatory investments” that Rev. King condemned. Amazingly, their cries and exhortations were to fight for justice for Americans at home. Left Forum 2014 was a truly an ‘America First’ proposition.
All three most beloved African American celebrities of the Left railed against the injustices suffered by African Americans, Native Turtle Islanders, Latin Americans, and non-heterosexuals (including one supposes those returning from military duty in one or the more of the nations under military occupation or attack, and from US military bases in more than a hundred and fifty nations.)
The shouting was mainly about getting a better deal for Americans in America, Americans who King had held responsible for atrocity wars and covert genocide on three continents since 1945. Yours truly was uncomfortably aware that he sat in a college gymnasium filled with knowledgeable people, who, by virtue of their anti-government stance and protests, felt themselves innocent of the massive atrocities that King held himself responsible for, along with his fellow Americans.
Perhaps the most galling pill to swallow was the presence on stage of progressive media Democracy Now director Amy Goodman, long committed to false reporting to destroy the government and the population that supports it in Syria, having had a dedication to the destruction of beautiful, democratic and prosperous Libya and third world hero Muammar Gaddafi, and to dutiful backing of the Orange, Green and now Ukrainian “revolutions” sponsored by CNN and arranged by CIA and its many foreign branches.
I was gratified to find that quite a few panel facilitators and speakers at the three day conference were very knowledgeable and outspoken about the perfidy and treachery of Amy Goodman — and just as angry about her role in contributing to the death and maiming of so many innocent citizens by disseminating false propaganda in support of US-NATO bombings and funding of terror.
In fact, the panels I sought out were run and attended by dedicated scholars well aware of the traitorous nature of so many of those who pride themselves in being leftists and progressives critical, or even damning, of their government without realizing that not working firstly to stop the carnage of US-NATO deadly military operations and CIA’s equally deadly covert activities makes Leftists and Progressives more responsible for the genocide continuing than anyone else. For as the segment of society most informed about the horror of American actions overseas, yet refraining from referring to them as prosecutable crimes against humanity, not calling for their prosecution, and not seeking justice for America’s victims, makes such intellectuals, professors, historians and journalists accessories after the fact, even in some cases before the fact, for backhandedly protecting criminals in hindering the arrest and bringing to justice of all fellow Americans responsible. … Full article
With everyone’s attention focused on the European elections or President Barack Obama’s speech at West Point or the Ukraine, a story by Eric Schmitt in The New York Times on Tuesday may not have caught your attention. I believe, however, that it provides an insight into some of the major problems of American foreign policy.
What Mr. Schmitt reports is that the U.S. has set up covert programs to train and equip native teams patterned on their instructors, the U.S. Army Delta Force, in several African countries. The program was advocated by Michael A. Sheehan who formerly was in charge of special operations planning in the Department of Defense and is now, according to Mr. Schmitt, holder of the “distinguished chair at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.”
Mr. Schmitt quotes him as saying, “Training indigenous forces to go after threats in their own country is what we need to be doing.” So far allocated to this effort, Mr. Schmitt writes, is $70 million, and the initial efforts will be in Libya, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.
How to do this, according to the senior U.S. officer in Africa, Major General Patrick J. Donahue II, is complex: “You have to make sure of who you’re training. It can’t be the standard, ‘Has the guy been a terrorist or some sort of criminal?’ but also, what are his allegiances? Is he true to the country or is he still bound to his militia?”
So let me comment on these remarks, on the ideas behind the program, its justification and the history of such efforts. I begin with a few bits of history. (Disclosure: I am in the final stages of a book that aims to tell the whole history, but the whole history is of course much too long for this note.)
Without much of the rhetoric of Mr. Sheehan and General Donahue and on a broader scale, we have undertaken similar programs in a number of countries over the last half century. Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Guatemala, Egypt, Iraq, Thailand, Chad, Angola to name just a few. The results do not add up to a success almost anywhere.
Perhaps the worst (at least for America’s reputation) were Chad where the man we trained, equipped and supported, Hissène Habré, is reported to have killed about 40,000 of his fellow citizens. In Indonesia, General Suharto, with our blessing and with the special forces we also had trained and equipped, initially killed about 60,000 and ultimately caused the deaths of perhaps 200,000. In Mexico, the casualties have been smaller, but the graduates of our Special Forces program have become the most powerful drug cartel. They virtually hold the country at ransom.
Even when casualties were not the result, the military forces we helped to create and usually paid for carried out the more subtle mission of destroying public institutions. If our intention is to create stability, the promotion of a powerful military force is often not the way to do it. This is because the result of such emphasis on the military often renders it the only mobile, coherent and centrally directed organization in societies lacking in the balancing forces of an independent judiciary, reasonably open elections, a tradition of civil government and a more or less free press.
Our program in pre-1958 Iraq and in pre-1979 Iran certainly played a crucial role in the extension of authoritarian rule in those countries and in their violent reactions against us.
General Donahue suggests that we need to distinguish among the native soldiers we train and empower those who are “true to the country.” But how? We supported Hissène Habré so long that we must have known every detail of his life. He is now on trial as war criminal. General Suharto has never been charged (nor have those Americans who gave him a “green light”) for his brutal invasion of East Timor. Both probably believed that they met General Donahue’s definition of patriotism.
And in Mali, our carefully trained officers of the Special Forces answered what they thought was both patriotic and religious duty by joining the insurgency against the government we (and we thought they) supported. We have a poor record of defining other peoples’ patriotism.
And, in the interest of more urgent objectives, we have been willing to support and fund almost anyone as long as we think he might be of value. General Manuel Noriega, our man in Panama, went on to spend 22 years in an American prison after we invaded his country and fought the soldiers we had trained.
Indeed, we have a poor record of even knowing who the people we train are. After the Turkish army carried out one of its coups in the 1960s, when I was the member of the Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East, I asked the appropriate branch of the Defense Department who were the new leaders, all of whom had been trained in America, often several times during the years. The answer was that no one knew. Even in army records, they were just Americanized nicknames.
And, more generally, our sensitivity to the aspirations, hopes and fears of other people is notoriously crude or totally lacking. Growing out of the Cold War, we thought of many of them as simply our proxies or our enemies.
Thus, we found Chad not as a place with a certain population but just as a piece of the Libyan puzzle, and today we think of Mali in the same way. Now we are talking of training “carefully selected” Syrian insurgents to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Do we have any sense of what they will overthrow him for?
Beyond these, what might be considered “tactical” issues are “strategic,” legal and even moral considerations. I leave aside the legal and moral issues — such as what justification we have to determine the fate of other peoples — as they do not seem very persuasive among our leaders.
But just focus on the long-term or even middle-term results of the new policy: the most obvious is that we meddle in and take some responsibility for the politics of an array of countries in which we have little direct interest. And often with the obvious danger of a deeper, more expensive and more painful result. We are close to this commitment in Syria.
Less obvious is that our activities, no matter how carefully differentiated, will be seen to add up to an overall policy of militarism, support of oppressive dictatorships, and opposition to popular forces. They also meld into a policy of opposition to the religion of over a billion people, Islam. And they do so at great expense to our expressed desires to enable people everywhere, including at home, to live healthier, safer and decent lives.
I end with a prediction: in practically every country where Mr. Sheehan’s and General Donahue’s program is employed, it will later be seen to have led to a military coup d’etat.
William R. Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author and professor who taught Middle Eastern studies at Harvard. President John F. Kennedy appointed Polk to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council where he served during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His books include: Violent Politics: Insurgency and Terrorism; Understanding Iraq; Understanding Iran; Personal History: Living in Interesting Times; Distant Thunder: Reflections on the Dangers of Our Times; and Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change.
The Pentagon has been secretly backing a U.S. Special Operations program to build elite units to fight “terrorism” in Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali, the New York Times revealed Monday.
The program was launched last year and is backed by millions of dollars in classified Pentagon funds. U.S. military trainers, including members of the Green Berets and Delta Force, are working with African “commandos” to “build homegrown African counterterrorism teams,” according to the Times.
According to the reporting, $70 million in Pentagon funds is going towards “training, intelligence-gathering equipment and other support” for commandos in Nigeria and Mauritania. And $16 million is going towards commandos in Libya. In Mauritnaia, $29 million has been allotted for “logistics and surveillance equipment in support of the specialized unit.” According to the Times, the program in Mali “has yet to get off the ground as a new civilian government recovers from a military coup last year.”
The U.S. military has for years been increasing its role across the continent of Africa, including the expansion of AFRICOM, drone attacks in Somalia, air strikes and arms shipments to Libya, and more.