War drums are beating again in Washington. This time Syria is in the crosshairs after a massacre there last week left more than 100 dead. As might be expected from an administration with an announced policy of “regime change” in Syria, the reaction was to blame only the Syrian government for the tragedy, expel Syrian diplomats from Washington, and announce that the US may attack Syria even without UN approval. Of course, the idea that the administration should follow the Constitution and seek a Declaration of War from Congress is considered even more anachronistic now than under the previous administration.
It may be the case that the Syrian military was responsible for the events last week, but recent bombings and attacks have been carried out by armed rebels with reported al-Qaeda ties. With the stakes so high, it would make sense to wait for a full investigation — unless the truth is less important than stirring up emotions in favor of a US attack.
There is ample reason to be skeptical about US government claims amplified in mainstream media reports. How many times recently have lies and exaggerations been used to push for the use of force overseas? It was not long ago that we were told Gaddafi was planning genocide for the people of Libya, and the only way to stop it was a US attack. Those claims turned out to be false, but by then the US and NATO had already bombed Libya, destroying its infrastructure, killing untold numbers of civilians, and leaving a gang of violent thugs in charge.
Likewise, we were told numerous falsehoods to increase popular support for the 2003 war on Iraq, including salacious stories of trans-Atlantic drones and WMDs. Advocates of war did not understand the complexities of Iraqi society, including its tribal and religious differences. As a result, Iraq today is a chaotic mess, with its ancient Christian population eliminated and the economy set back decades. An unnecessary war brought about by lies and manipulation never ends well.
Earlier still, we were told lies about genocide and massacres in Kosovo to pave the way for President Clinton’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. More than 12 years later, that region is every bit as unstable and dangerous as before the US intervention – and American troops are still there.
The story about the Syrian massacre keeps changing, which should raise suspicions. First, we were told that the killings were caused by government shelling, but then it was discovered that most were killed at close range with handgun fire and knives. No one has explained why government forces would take the time to go house to house binding the hands of the victims before shooting them, and then retreat to allow the rebels in to record the gruesome details. No one wants to ask or answer the disturbing questions, but it would be wise to ask ourselves who benefits from these stories.
We have seen media reports over the past several weeks that the Obama administration is providing direct “non-lethal” assistance to the rebels in Syria while facilitating the transfer of weapons from other Gulf States. This semi-covert assistance to rebels we don’t know much about threatens to become overt intervention. Last week Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said about Syria, “I think the military option should be considered.” And here all along I thought it was up to Congress to decide when we go to war, not the generals.
We are on a fast track to war against Syria. It is time to put on the brakes.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff commander General Martin Dempsey visited Colombia on March 29 to announce that within weeks U.S. military personnel will operate from a military base there with the newly formed Vulcan Task Force.
The Vulcan Task Force, which was established in December 2011, has 10,000 soldiers, three mobile brigades and one fixed brigade, operating from a base in Tibú, in the Catatumbo region (North Santander), just two miles from the Venezuela border.
On April 15, presidents Obama and Santos met during the Americas Summit and agreed on a new military regional action plan that will include training police forces in Central America and beyond. The announcement cited Operation Martillo, by which U.S. and Colombian forces have participated in operations this year against criminal elements on the coasts and interior of Central America.
The presence of U.S. soldiers on the military base in Tibú was presented by General Dempsey as an effort by the United States to support Colombia in its fight against drug trafficking and the insurgency. According to Dempsey, the Pentagon plans by June to send U.S. brigade commanders with practical experience in Afghanistan and Iraq to work with police and army combat units that will be deployed in areas controlled by the rebels. Dempsey said that U.S. military personnel will not participate in combat operations in Colombia.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Colombia has established its own version of U.S. joint special operations commands that carry out hunt-and-kill missions – operations for selective killings that have included U.S. citizens accused of having ties to Al Qaeda. With these special commandos, Colombia hopes to reach its goal of reducing the FARC guerrillas by 50% in two years.
U.S. participation in such an aggressive military campaign would undercut prospective attempts to negotiate a settlement of the armed conflict, which has increasing support in Colombia. The campaign, which apparently does not target successor paramilitary groups, is also likely to benefit those groups, which continue to commit human rights abuses, engage in drug trafficking, and operate in more than 400 municipalities in 31 Colombian states, according to a report by the Institute for Study of Development and Peace, INDEPAZ.
The Journal also cited statements by Southern Command chief General Douglas Fraser at a March 12 hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressing concern about the strengthening of diplomatic relations between Iran and the governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
The expansion of counterinsurgency forces in Africa and Latin America is also part of a new national security strategy released by the White House in February. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the new strategy introduces “innovative methods” for supporting counter-terrorist forces and expanding the United States’ influence on the two continents.
Joint Task Force Vulcan is led by Brigadier General Marcolino Tamayo Tamayo, who in 1985, when he was a lieutenant, participated in the operation to retake the Palace of Justice in Colombia. Similar joint task forces have been created in Tumaco, Nariño; Miranda, Cauca; and Tame, Arauca.
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A senior US military official has been forced to condemn a class taught at a military college that advocated a “total war” against Muslims.
The course at the Joint Forces Staff College in Virginia also suggested possible nuclear attacks on holy Islamic cities such as Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The story, originally published on Wired.com’s danger room blog, risks damaging America’s already tarnished image in the Islamic world, where it maintains a heavy military presence.
The head of the course Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dooley laid out a possible four-phase plan to carry out a forced transformation of Islam, with the aim of reducing it to “cult status.”
He added that it was possible to apply “the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki” to Islam’s holiest cities, and bring about “Mecca and Medina['s] destruction.”
“We have now come to understand that there is no such thing as ‘moderate Islam,’” Dooley noted in a July 2011 presentation, which concluded with a suggested manifesto to America’s enemies.
“It is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.”
The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said the course was “against our values.”
“It was just totally objectionable, against our values, and it wasn’t academically sound,” General Dempsey said.
He said he had ordered a full investigation when the course was suspended in April after one of the students objected to the material.
However Dempsey’s argument appeared to be undermined after it emerged that Dooley has not been fired from his job.
US forces continue to occupy Afghanistan, as well as maintaining bases inside friendly regimes in the Middle East.
There was widespread fury earlier this year when dozens of Afghans were killed in protests following the burning of Qurans at a US-run military prison in southern Afghanistan.
The Pentagon announced on April 23 that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has begun a trip to South America, arriving in Colombia as part of a three-nation tour that will also take him to Brazil and Chile.
It is his first visit to the continent as Pentagon chief, though he has visited often in other capacities, including as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Panetta’s meetings with top government and military officials in the three nations will follow those of America’s top military officer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, to Colombia and Brazil late last month.
Panetta’s mission also occurs two weeks after U.S. and Brazilian presidents Barack Obama and Dilma Rousseff met in the White House on April 9 and agreed on the establishment of the U.S.-Brazil Defense Cooperation Dialogue, announcing that Defense Secretary Panetta and Brazil’s Defence Minister Celso Amorim will hold the first meeting in that format on April 24.
Colombia is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in Latin America, though its population is less than a quarter of Brazil’s, and the third largest in the world after Israel and Egypt.
After the passage by Congress of the Clinton administration’s Plan Colombia in 2000, the military in Bogota has received approximately $7 billion in U.S. assistance, up from $50 million in 1998 when it was already the biggest beneficiary of American military aid in Latin America.
On October 30, 2009 the Obama administration and that of then-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe agreed on the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement, which opened up three Colombian air bases, two naval bases, two army installations “and other Colombian military facilities if mutually agreed” to the Pentagon.
One of the bases obtained by the United States, the Larandia Military Fort in Florencia, is within easy striking distance of Ecuador, as the Alberto Pawells Rodriguez Air Base in Malambo is of Venezuela.
Colombia launched a deadly attack against rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) inside neighboring Ecuador in 2008, which the Ecuadorian government accused U.S. special forces personnel inside its country of having assisted. The following year the Colombian armed forces conducted an incursion inside Venezuela, seizing four border guards.
Panetta is in Colombia to coordinate a final offensive against FARC fighters, who have been battling the country’s narco-autocracy and its political minions in Bogota since 1964.
According to Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, the defense secretary is to meet with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno and General Alejandro Navas, General Commander of the Military Forces of Colombia.
On April 23 Panetta praised his military ally, stating, “Colombia, to its credit, has done a tremendous job in going after the FARC.” He failed to mention with, in addition to $7 billion dollars of Washington aid, U.S. helicopter gunships, planes, trainers and special forces troops.
Pentagon spokesman Little added, “Clearly we still have plenty to talk about in continuing to support the Colombians in their efforts against [the FARC]…”
When chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dempsey was in Colombia on March 27-28, the Defense Department website reported that he visited Joint Task Force Vulcano, “a new interagency force aimed at defeating the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia…The strategy calls for Colombia to cut the FARC forces in half in two years.”
In Dempsey’s words, “They selected 2014 as a key moment for them, They want to accelerate their effects against the FARC.” With the Pentagon’s active connivance and assistance, which why is Dempsey was and Panetta is in the country.
Dempsey was explicit about the American role in the “final solution” of the Colombian civil war: “We’re getting ready to send some brigade commanders who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan down here to partner with their Joint Task Force commanders in a leader developmental function. The challenges they face are not unlike the challenges we’ve faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The Pentagon’s website reported the following on March 27, worth quoting in detail.
Dempsey “joined virtually the entire Colombian defense leadership to visit Joint Task Force Vulcano,” just outside the town of Tibu, only three kilometers from the Venezuela border.
“The Colombian government established the task force in December. It is the latest effort to defeat the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia…
“Dempsey arrived at the base in a Colombian Air Force Mi-17 helicopter along with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno and Gen. Alejandro Navas, commander of the Colombian Armed Forces.
“Following his comments, Dempsey discussed strategy with the minister and the chief of defense and also Army chief Maj. Gen. Sergio Mantilla Sanmiguel, Navy chief Vice Adm. Roberto Garcia Marquez and Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tito Saul Pinilla-Pinilla.
“Before Joint Task Force Vulcano stood up, there were a small number of troops in the region. Now there are more than 10,000, [spokesman for the task force, Colombian army Captain Jose Mojica] said. The forces are composed of three mobile brigades and a geographic brigade. A fourth brigade is getting ready to deploy to the area.
“This is all part of an ambitious Colombian strategy to cut the FARC by half in two years. U.S. Embassy officials said there are about 8,000 FARC members now. Colombian officials spoke of the plan as the end game for the rebellion against the government after 48 years of intermittent war.”
Immediately before Dempsey’s visit to Colombia, U.S. Army South held talks with the Colombian armed forces in Bogota from March 19-23.
Three years ago CBS News quoted an unnamed Pentagon official stating, “The more Afghanistan can look like Colombia, the better.” The equation is now being reversed.
Other top U.S. defense and military officials have for years spoken of “coming back home” to the Western Hemisphere as the war in Afghanistan winds down.
Panetta’s and Dempsey’s visits to Colombia and their statements regarding the purpose of them leave no doubt as to where America’s new, at any rate expanded, counterinsurgency war is occurring.
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The U.S. military is pushing more troops into Colombia to assist in that country’s war with insurgent groups and narcotraffickers, the Pentagon’s top military officer said Friday.
“It’s certainly in our interest to do what we can to help the nations of this region to break [these] networks,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters while on travel in the country this week.
That effort will include U.S. assistance to a handful of new, Colombian-led joint task forces in the country, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan.
At those outposts, American combat commanders will help train their Colombian counterparts on the finer points of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.
Those lessons will be based on nearly 10 years of combat experience dealing with insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has similar U.S.- run task forces operating in the Horn of Africa, the Trans-Sahara, Southern Philippines and elsewhere around the world.
Colombian forces have been waging a counterinsurgency against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist separatist group bent on overthrowing the government in Bogota, since the 1960s.
“The challenges they face are not unlike, to be sure, the challenges we’ve faced in the passed 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gen. Dempsey told reporters.
The new influx of U.S. troops could be in Colombia as early as June and conduct two-week rotations to help assist with the new joint task forces in the country, Lapan said.
However, Dempsey stressed, those troops will only advise and assist local military forces. They will not actively participate in any combat operations against FARC rebels.
One base, Joint Task Force-Vulcano, has already been built by Colombian forces and is situated along the country’s border with Venezuela.
Venezuela has been a key regional ally to Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made multiple diplomatic visits to Caracas in recent years.
Tehran has also expanded its network of embassies and cultural centers in Venezuela, as well as in Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua over the past six years, Southern Command chief Gen. Douglas Fraser told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 12.
Moving more of the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism specialists into South America and Africa was a key piece of the White House’s new national security strategy released in February.
While focused mainly on the Pacific region, the new DOD strategy introduced “innovative methods” to support local counterterrorism forces and expand American influence in those two continents, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at the time.
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