An Argentine court sentenced former General Luciano Benjamin Menendez to life in prison Thursday for crimes against humanity committed at secret Dirty War-era detention centers in the late 1970s, making a landmark step in the struggle for justice for human rights abuses during one of the darkest chapters in the South American country’s history.
Menendez stood trial with 42 other defendants who will also be sentenced today after a nearly four year so-called “mega-trial” involving events related to over 700 victims.
The general was in charge of two clandestine jails, known as La Perla and La Ribera, in the province of Cordoba where torture, assassinations, and other human rights abuses were carried out during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. He was charged with over 600 cases of torture, over 300 murders and forced disappearances, unlawful detentions, and other crimes against humanity committed at the two detention centers between 1976 and 1978.
Thousands of people, including the families of victims and social movements such as the iconic Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, filled the streets outside of the federal court in the province of Cordoba to await the announcement under the banner of remembering the 30,000 disappeared during the dictatorship.
Former military intelligence agent Arnoldo Jose Lopez, former military man Ernesto Guillermo Barreiro, and former military captain Hector Pedro Vergez were also found to be among the principle masterminds responsible for the abuses and sentenced to life in jail for charges of hundreds of aggravated homicides, among other crimes.
Ricardo Alberto Lardone and Oreste Valentin Padovan, both considered among the special command at La Perla responsible for carrying out torture and kidnappings, were also sentenced to life in jail.
A total of 28 of the 43 accused were handed life sentences, nine were sentenced to up to 21 years, and six were acquitted.
The case was also historic for marking the first time a court in Cordoba tried charges of illegal apprension of babies during the dictatorship, a military practice of stealing babies from political dissidents, detainees, and victims of forced disappearance and handing them over the families linked to the military regime. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo has struggled for nearly 40 years to identify their missing grandchildren and reunite them with their families.
The La Perla case dealt with forced disappearance of Silvina Monica Parodi de Orozco, who was over six months pregnant when she and her husband Daniel Francisco Orozco were kidnapped. Silvina’s mother Sonia Torres is still searching for her missing grandchild, whose whereabouts has never been known.
The landmark trial brought together 21 separate cases of crimes against humanity at the hands of the Argentine military, police, and paramilitary forces immediately leading up to and in the years after the 1976 military coup against left-wing President Isabel Peron. The case heard some 600 witnesses provide testimony over the course of 350 hearings related to the 716 victims. Less than half, 340, of the victims survived. Most of the others, 311, were disappeared with no documentation of what happened to them, and the rest were killed.
La Perla was the second most important detention center in the country in the early years of the military dictatorship. Between 2,500 and 3,000 victims of state terrorism were detained at the secret military prison between 1976 and 1977, and it is though to have stopped operating by 1978, according to local media.
A 1979 U.S. Department of State memo included in a batch of over 1,000 pages of recently-declassifed documents related to Argentina’s Dirty War reveals that the U.S. Embassy was aware that “physical torture” was practiced at La Perla in 1976 and 1977. A 1978 State Department recommendation memo to then-President Jimmy Carter characterized General Menendez as as a “hardline general,” and another document indicated that Menendez was pushing for “continued strong efforts to battle ‘ideological subversion.'”
Argentina’s U.S.-backed Dirty War disappeared an estimated 30,000 victims in its brutal state terrorism campaign against suspected political dissidents, which involved systematic forced disappearances, torture, rape, and assassinations. Argentine human rights groups have dubbed the bloody era a “genocide” against political dissidents.
August 24, 2014
Ted Asregadoo speaks to Professor William I. Robinson about his six-month ordeal defending his right to academic freedom and free speech against a coalition of groups that comprise part of the Israel
“We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.” – Former US President Jimmy Carter, presidential campaign, 1976 [Source]
No clearer demonstration of the mass psychosis afflicting much of humanity can be seen than in the ongoing outrage and horror evoked by the photographs of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body. While it goes without saying that any empathetic being would react with utter revulsion and helpless fury at the fate of this poor little boy, one cannot ignore the vast indifference evident toward the thousands of other needless child deaths that occur daily around the world. For this silent slaughter, we hear: ‘Shit happens’ or ‘What am I supposed to do about it?’
Aylan’s death even touched the stony hearts of corporate media editors:
From Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal :
His name was Aylan. He was 3 years old, from war-torn Syria.
His final journey was supposed to end in sanctuary in Europe; instead it claimed his life and highlighted the plight of desperate people caught in the gravest refugee crisis since World War II.
Readers can be forgiven for missing similarly recounted tragedies concerning other young children. From an earlier 99.99998271% article [Note: see original for sources]:
Ask yourself if you have heard the name of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped and murdered by US marines after her family (34-year-old mother Fakhriyah Taha Muhsin, 45-year-old father Qasim Hamza Raheem, and six-year-old sister Hadeel Qasim Hamza) were killed.
How about Safa Younis Salim, a 13-year old girl who amazingly survived the Haditha Massacre, in which 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed including seven children, a 1-year-old girl staying with the family and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair?
How did she survive?
“I pretended that I was dead when my brother’s body fell on me and he was bleeding like a faucet.”
A six-year US military prosecution ended with none of the eight Marines sentenced to jail, despite one of the men – Sgt. Sanick De La Cruz – testifying (in return for immunity) that he had urinated on the skull of one of the dead Iraqis. This outcome outraged the Iraqi people (as the attack on Malala [Yousafzai] outraged the West) but the name of Safa Younis Salim remains practically unknown.
Informing the world about these children would run counter to the crucial narrative that the US and its NATO allies are an altruistic force for good in the world – bringers of peace, freedom and democracy. Aylan Kurdi, on the other hand, may prove very useful in furthering the true aims of the Western-aligned powers, and so – like Malala – he will be making the front pages for as long as is necessary.
Mainstream press outlets have overwhelmingly called for decisive action, with tabloids like The Sun and The Daily Mail plumbing new depths of hypocrisy. The UK’s ‘liberal-left’ Guardian newspaper joined the ‘humanitarian intervention’ ranks in a recent editorial:
To begin restoring that hope will inevitably mean international intervention of some kind. The establishment of credible safe havens and the implementation of a no-fly zone must be on the table for serious consideration.
Where were the editorials calling for the establishment of no-fly zones in order to overthrow the Israeli regime when last summer, in an orgy of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction, the inhabitants of Gaza (average age 17), described accurately by David Cameron as a prison camp, were subjected to a barrage of modern, US-supplied weaponry:
The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict has gathered substantial information pointing to the possible commission of war crimes by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups.
The 2014 hostilities saw a huge increase in firepower used in Gaza, with more than 6,000 airstrikes by Israel and approximately 50,000 tank and artillery shells fired. In the 51 day operation, 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed, a third of them children. Palestinian armed groups fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel in July and August 2014, killing 6 civilians and injuring at least 1,600.
Hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed in their own homes, especially women and children. Survivors gave graphic testimony describing air strikes that reduced buildings to piles of dust and rubble in seconds. “I woke up… in the hospital, and I later learned that my sister, mother and my children had all died,” said a member of the Al Najjar family after an attack in Khan Younis on 26 July that killed 19 of his relatives, “We all died that day even those who survived”.
The commission is concerned about Israel’s extensive use of weapons with a wide kill and injury radius; though not illegal, their use in densely populated areas is highly likely to kill combatants and civilians indiscriminately. There appears also to be a pattern whereby the IDF issued warnings to people to leave a neighbourhood and then automatically considered anyone remaining to be a fighter. This practice makes attacks on civilians highly likely. During the Israeli ground incursion into Gaza that began in mid-July 2014, hundreds of people were killed and thousands of homes destroyed or damaged.
Where is the global anguish and soul searching about the CIA drone campaign, which is now responsible, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, for the deaths of thousands of people, of whom many are civilians and hundreds children, including babies? Where is the mass public/media outrage against Obama’s strikes on weddings and funerals?
A population of billions that reacts so dramatically to one outrage yet indifference to another of equal horror can only be described as emotionally and empathically dysfunctional to a profound degree.
These oddities require no psychological explanation with regard to the media. Indeed, if there were any lingering doubts about the agenda of the corporate press, they can be safely dispensed with for all time. Despite this fact, confronting mainstream journalists about this agenda on social media invariably leads to ‘conspiracy’ smears, derision (often with peers piling into the fray), and sometimes blocking.
It is not even necessary (although it is highly recommended) to read Herman/Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent to see the systemic bias towards corporate/state-power-friendly narratives; common sense is adequate, and the current push to war on Syria is an apt example of the standard methods employed.
How do we know there is an agenda?
The Syria story is being universally framed as ‘We have to go in there and do something’ but a crucial element is missing, namely that US-aligned forces have long been covertly operating in Syria. An internal email dated 7th December 2011 of the Stratfor ‘global intelligence’ company published by WikiLeaks makes this very clear. It is a remarkable email, in that it clearly demonstrates the intent of the US to intervene in the affairs of Syria, and strongly implies that – among many other things – agents from the US, France, Jordan, Turkey, and the UK were already on the ground carrying out reconnaissance and the training of opposition forces.
While the content of the email is unambiguously damning – a clear smoking gun of a plan for regime change in Syria – equally striking is the casual tone of the writer. It is that of an employee who is extremely comfortable, not only in the knowledge that the US will eventually force regime change, but also that a way will be found to make it look good in the media, presumably understanding that another department in the Pentagon or the CIA will handle that side of things. The employee assumes the humdrum tone of a person simply doing what they are expected to do – passing on useful information to his superiors – without any consideration or fear that such actions may be illegal.
This casual approach speaks volumes about the attitude from the very top down of US officials and their employees in the public and private sectors toward the nation’s obligations to international law; namely that any ‘problems’ with such obligations can be worked around to everyone’s satisfaction (at least far enough to get the job done), as demonstrated with the invasion ten years ago of Iraq by the US and its ‘Coalition of the Willing’ without a UN resolution.
Some highlights from the email [Original typos uncorrected. Emphasis mine in bold]:
I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air camapign to give a Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that idea, saying that the idea ‘hypothetically’ is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within.
They emphasized how the air campaign in Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake.
There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve. It isn’t clear cut for them geographically like in Libya, and you can’t just create an NFZ over Homs, Hama region. This would entail a countrywide SEAD campaign lasting the duration of the war. They dont believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Ghadafi move against Benghazi. They think the US would have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn’t reach that very public stage.
The French representative was of hte opinion that Syria won’t be a libya-type situation in that France would be gung-ho about going in. Not in an election year. The UK rep also emphasized UK reluctance but said that the renegotiation of the EU treaty undermines the UK role and that UK would be looking for ways to reassert itself on the continent ( i dont really think a syria campaign is the way to do that.) UK guy mentioned as an aside that the air force base commander at Cyprus got switched out from a maintenance guy to a guy that flew Raptors, ie someone that understands what it means to start dropping bombs. He joked that it was probably a coincidence.
Absent from corporate media reporting is the Pentagon report demonstrating ‘that the growth and expansion of ISIS was a direct result of arms being sent by the US to anti-Assad Islamists, with the strategic [US] intention of toppling the Assad regime in Syria’. [Note: original reporting by Nafeez Ahmed here]
3: Moral relativism
Media reporting on ‘murderous dictators’ and ‘strongmen’ is selective. By a staggering coincidence, dictators that accede to US/NATO strategic demands are spared condemnation while leaders (often democratically elected) who do not are vilified relentlessly, as noted by Glenn Greenwald when Hillary Clinton warned of the dangers of Iran’s ’emerging dictatorship’ in 2010:
“.. Half a century of American foreign policy flatly contradicts this sentiment (which is why Clinton heard soft chuckles and a few muffled guffaws as she spoke). The US has adored military dictatorships in the Arab world, and has long supported states dominated by the shadowy world of intelligence services. This became even more obvious after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when Washington intensified cooperation with Arab intelligence services in the fight against Al-Qaeda and other terror groups.
Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East are military and police states where men with guns rule, and where citizens are confined to shopping, buying cellular telephones, and watching soap operas on satellite television. Countries like Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, as well as the entire Gulf region and other states are devoted first and foremost to maintaining domestic order and regime incumbency through efficient, multiple security agencies, for which they earn American friendship and cooperation. When citizens in these and other countries agitate for more democratic and human rights, the US is peculiarly inactive and quiet…”
Rule of thumb: if a head of state is subjected to a concerted smear campaign throughout the world’s media, that leader has either been targeted for removal, is proving stubborn in allowing the US and its allies to achieve their goals, or is generally aligned against Western interests.
4: Historical Precedent
The intervention rhetoric from public officials published uncritically by the media is nothing new:
Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. Dick Cheney,
August 26, 2002
Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons. George W. Bush, September 12, 2002
If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world. Ari Fleischer, December 2, 2002
The president of the United States and the secretary of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it. Ari Fleischer, December 6, 2002
We know for a fact that there are weapons there. Ari Fleischer, January 9, 2003
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. George W. Bush January 28, 2003
We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.Colin Powell, February 5, 2003
The Pulizer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity found in a study that ‘following 9/11, President Bush and seven top officials of his administration waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq’ with ‘at least 935 false statements [from top government officials] in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses’.
There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” George W Bush<
5: The source
Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers have been particularly vociferous in demanding bombs in Syria. For him at least, we have means, opportunity and motive. Murdoch’s ownership of a large chunk of mainstream outlets gives him enormous reach (means) while opportunity knocks courtesy of poor little Aylan.
A US oil company is preparing to drill for oil in the Golan Heights. Granted the license in February 2013 by Israel, Afek Oil and Gas is a subsidiary of Genie Energy Ltd, whose equity-holding board members include former US Vice President Dick Cheney, controversial media mogul Rupert Murdoch and financier Lord Jacob Rothschild.
[Note: article dated January 28th 2015. Murdoch remains on the board]
Aside from personal financial interest for Murdoch, a post-Assad, US-friendly Syrian government would mean one less major Russia-Iran-axis power in the Middle East to worry about, a turn of events also greatly desired by Israel, while economically Syria would be opened up to all manner of ‘opportunities’ for Western corporations.
6:The refugee crisis
This user-friendly graph (also available in table form for older data) provided by the World Bank shows large increases in numbers of refugees at key moments after US/allied interventions. [Note: you can add your own parameters] For instance, with the explosion of sectarian violence in Iraq in 2006 brought about by the Iraq War, the number of refugees increased from 262,299 in 2005 to 1,450,905 in 2006 and 2,309,245 in 2007.
7:War for profit
Investors see rising sales for makers of missiles, drones and other weapons as the U.S. hits Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Chicago-based BMO Private Bank. President Barack Obama approved open-ended airstrikes this month while ruling out ground combat.
As we ramp up our military muscle in the Mideast, there’s a sense that demand for military equipment and weaponry will likely rise,” said Ablin, who oversees $66 billion including Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. shares. “To the extent we can shift away from relying on troops and rely more heavily on equipment — that could present an opportunity.
There’s no doubt the world is getting to be a more and more dangerous place, and there are countries around the world that could look to buy aircraft and artillery,” Jeff Babione, deputy manager of Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning II program, said in an interview in Oslo. “There’s a sense that there’s less stability in the world than there was before.
Clearly the world has become increasingly unstable. The question of whether that has a major impact on the defense budget is uncertain,” Finnegan said. “There may be an investor psychology that suggests that there’s going to be a large benefit to these companies. But the jury is still out.
The arms industry is big business.
To conclude, the corporate media has concealed covert activities within Syria going back several years; has blacked out a Pentagon report demonstrating US prediction, supply and use of ISIS as a strategic asset; is again reporting selectively regarding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dictators; and has engaged in this precise kind of rhetoric in the past before every intervention. Rupert Murdoch is a board member of a company that is drilling for oil in the Golan Heights while his newspapers sound the clarion call that may open the way for a (hoped for) post-Assad Western puppet government. Meanwhile stocks in arms companies are at record levels and the refugee crisis is now a major humanitarian disaster at World War 2 levels, with refugee populations particularly high from nations where the US and its allies have acted (covertly or overtly).
It’s another set-up. Don’t get fooled again.
As the Colombian government and left-wing FARC rebels near the signing of a comprehensive peace accord, and though they have already signed a bi-lateral ceasefire which is largely holding, Colombia is still suffering from the worst human rights abuses in the Western Hemisphere. These abuses are being carried out by right-wing paramilitary groups (aka, death squads), which the U.S. and Colombian governments conveniently deny even exist.
These paramilitary groups, in accord with their long-time friend and ally, former President Alvaro Uribe, are openly and aggressively opposed to the peace accords, and will most certainly escalate their violence as a national referendum which will be held to ratify, or reject, these accords draws near. Thus, as Insight Crime recently reported, the Colombian Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) estimates that nearly 250 municipalities (or more than 25% of the 1,105 municipalities in all of Colombia) “are at risk of violence or fraud affecting the referendum on an anticipated peace deal” with the FARC. The departments of Choco, Arauca, Cauca and Putumayo – that is, departments with heavy concentrations of Afro-Colombians and indigenous – are among the departments with the greatest risk. Antioquia, the department of Alvaro Uribe who was governor there, has the greatest number of municipalities at risk.
Meanwhile, the paramilitaries are already exploiting the opportunity presented by the FARC’s ceasefire to gain territory and exact more advantage for the economic elites – both domestic and foreign – which they serve.
For starters, Colombia again, according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), suffered more assassinations of trade unionists than any country on earth in 2015, and therefore earned its spot as one of the 10 worst countries in the world for workers’ rights. As the ITUC explains in its annual report: “Trade unionists have been murdered with impunity for decades in Colombia. In 2015, 20 murders of trade unionists were recorded in Colombia – the highest number in any country.” And, not surprisingly, it is the paramilitaries who are carrying out such assassinations in the interest of capital.
In addition, 35 human rights defenders have already been killed in the first half of 2016. This is an incredible figure. Indeed, according to Colombia’s El Espectador, this year has been “one of the most violent in regards to the murder of human rights defenders and land claimants,” with the paramilitaries being the perpetrators of these crimes. Indeed, one of the chief perpetrators of the violence, particularly against those advocating for the return of land stolen during the armed conflict, is the paramilitary group known as the “Anti-Restitution of Land Army.” This group has been reinvigorated by the release from jail of infamous paramilitary leader Jose Gregorio Mongonez Lugo, also known as “Carlos Scissors.” He was responsible in the first place for the violent theft of land in the banana region of Magdelena, Colombia, and has now returned to make sure that it is not given back to its rightful owners.
All of this bodes very badly for the prospects of peace in Colombia. And indeed, one of Colombia’s great human rights defenders, Father Javier Giraldo, S.J., recently penned a sobering piece on this very subject, entitled, “Peace in Colombia?” This article was translated by the Colombia Support Network, and is well-worth a read, especially as you will never hear a voice such as his in the mainstream press.
As Father Giraldo opines, despite the progress of the peace talks in Havana which are quickly nearing a conclusion, “the country is profoundly polarized by the growth and the growing power of extreme right-wing forces. It appears as if the forces of the Cold War are coming back to life, powered by the monstrous economic strength of multinational businesses that are rapidly defending their exclusionary interests, using their extremely powerful resources.”
Father Giraldo rightly notes that the Colombian government, while paying lip-service to peace, in fact seeks the surrender and ultimate destruction of both the guerillas as well as Colombia’s peaceful forces for social change. As he explains:
… the methods of persuasion that have been used to promote the peace agreements rely mostly on the practical impossibility of achieving social change by means of armed conflict, given the gigantic and overwhelming military power of the government, supported by the imperial power with the greatest destructive reach in the recent history of humanity: the United States. . . . President Santos has instead, above all, on a peace that will benefit business leaders and transnational investors, who will be able to intensify their extraction of natural resources. But meanwhile his government represses with cruel violence the social protests of communities affected by the ecological and social destruction that has been caused and continues to be caused by these multinational companies.
Father Giraldo then expresses a seldom-uttered truth which I have certainly learned upon my numerous trips to Colombia in the past 17 years – that while the paramilitaries oppose the peace process because it will grant some immunity for rebels, the “popular movements feel more fear of the impunity of the powerful and of the paramilitaries and the agents of the government, whose war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide greatly exceed, both in quality and in cruelty, the crimes of the insurgency.”
And, it is the impunity for the right-wing paramilitaries, who now control large swaths of the Colombian government, which is nearly total. And again, this impunity is made possible by the Colombian and U.S. governments’ denial of the very existence of the paramilitaries, as well as the mainstream media’s near total silence about Colombia and its horrible human rights situation – certainly the worst in the Western Hemisphere. If peace in Colombia has any chance of succeeding, it will need to be supported and cultivated by people of good will throughout the world who are willing to tell the truth about Colombia and who are willing to provide accompaniment to the peace process.
Saudi Arabia on the American chessboard – Part 2
Since the Korean War, but particularly since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 until today, the United States has been steadily escalating its military presence in the Persian Gulf. Taking advantage of many colossal events of the past 36 years,  the hyper-empire has institutionalized its massive presence on land and sea, and expanded its objectives to include the unambiguous physical control of the area, as well as the clear understanding that local Arab governments should abide by them. The pretext is always the same: in “defense” of the national interests and security of the United States. From observing how the United States has been interacting with the governments of the region, and by judging from the size of its expeditionary force, we could reach a basic conclusion. The United States is occupying, de facto, the entire Arabian Peninsula. (Yemen, devastated by Saudi and American jets is yet to be conquered. Oman? Britain returned not as colonial ruler but as a soft occupying power.)
Under this articulation, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates are virtually occupied countries. If we compare this type of occupation to the mandate and protectorate regimes of the past, the results might be identical—the nations affected by it lose sovereignty. When Arab governments comply with the objectives of a foreign power that station military forces on their national milieu, then that power controls them in multiple ways including how they react to policy deliberations and what decisions they intend to take on specific issues. A good method to verify the concept of effective occupation is this: take notice of what the United States says and wants, and then compare it to what the gulf rulers do in response. (I shall discuss this detail at some point in the upcoming parts.)
If the presence of US forces or other means of political pressure are a factor in Saudi Arabia’s interventionist Arab wars, then we need to debate this issue. However, from the history of resistance to colonialism, we learnt: if a powerful state imposes its order on a nation by military means or other forms of coercion, and if this nation does not resist that imposition, then a mental subordination to the powerful state will ensue. This is especially true in the case of Saudi Arabia. One single event, 9/11, has transformed it from a US “ally” into an instant political hostage of the American Empire.
Nine-eleven did not only change the status of Saudi Arabia in American context, it also brought radical changes that altered the character of the regime. It worsened its domestic instability, increased its belligerence, amplified its religious chauvinism, and turned its arrogance of power into an instrument of death and destruction—all at the service of the United States. The reasons for such situation are known. Among the alleged attackers of the still-suspicious event of 9/11, there were 15 Saudi nationals.
More important, Wahhabism, a deranged, dogmatic version of Islam and the creed of Saudi Arabia, is coming under attack by the United States. Charge: it promotes “terrorism”. (Read Obama’s interview with the Atlantic Magazine.) This is, of course, a heavy blow to the US “ally’. How cynical and preposterous! Who could forget that just 36 years ago Carter and Brzezinski promoted Wahhabism as the religion of “freedom fighters” and “holy warriors”, and made Saudi Arabia pay for proselytes and weapons to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan? Without debating what terrorism is, and whether Wahhabism is promoting it, the fact that a master-terrorist superpower is doing such an accusation just today and after Wahhabi militants have destroyed Syria (and parts of Iraq) with US support, is an odious insult to all those who were killed by US and Saudi barbarity through Wahhabi proxies.
Now, from studying the US-Saudi financial and military interactions in all years before 9/11, it is reasonable to conclude that the Saudi regime had become the financier of the American interventionist agenda. Did 9/11 change those interactions? Considering Saudi Arabia’s role in the US invasion of Iraq and their continuing efforts in the wars against Libya, Syria, and Yemen, it is equally reasonable to conclude that 9/11 did not alter the basic Saudi-American relation. However, ample evidence suggests that the United States will continue using the Saudi tool until it will no longer need it. Still, 9/11 did affect their relation—it brought changes to the US strategy for controlling Saudi Arabia and other gulf governments. In addition, the intricate relation between Saudi Arabia of post‑9/11 with the United States of pre-9/11 had also gone through some changes. Nevertheless, relations between the two kept evolving in cadence with the changing of rhythms of 9/11 and with its political interpretations and propagandistic use.
From observing the events from 9/11 forward, it can be said that the Saudi function on the American chessboard changed too. Nine-eleven has transformed Saudi Arabia from a financier and supplier of religiously driven mercenaries to become a powerful criminal organization with a plan to execute. As often discussed by US and Israeli think tanks, that plan cannot be clearer in its declared tenets. I am pointing to the imperialist planned remake of the geostrategic assets and political orders of current Arab states. As such, the US invasion of Iraq, US-NATO bombardment of Libya, US-Saudi-Qatari war in Syria, US-Saudi-UAE war in Yemen, US-Saudi-Kurdish war in Iraq and Syria, and US-ISIS war in Syria, Iraq, and Libya are but one seamless chapter in this plan. With that, 9/11 has become an emblematic alibi for US imperialist expansions. [Read: B. J. Sabri, Imperialist Expansions and 9/11) 
Of interest, the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a terrorist, and expansionist state at the service of the United States (and Israel) did not help alter the way with which the US intended to play the card of 9/11. We need not speculate on the fact that the Saudis are fully aware of the American ploy and its objectives. Yet, their pressing priority has been all too evident: decrease pressure and preempt any pretext for a potential intervention in exchange for bending to US demands. Despite many American voices calling for the nuclear incineration of Saudi Arabia under the pretext of its alleged role in 9/11, the US government— who knows the entire truth about 9/11—had different calculations. (Rich Lowry, now the editor of the National Review, called for the destruction of Mecca with nuclear bombs.  Statement: US nuclear lunatics have no right to incinerate Saudi Arabia—not even a grain of its desert sand. If Saudi Arabia is guilty of something, and the US can prove it through an unbiased team of international panelists, then let them take it to international courts and punish it with civil laws.)
Incidentally, would the United States attack Saudi Arabia if its culpability was proved in international courts? Speculations aside, the United States might not attack Saudi Arabia for one fundamental reason: Saudi Arabia, a US “partner”, had nothing to do with 9/11—and the US knows that very well. In addition, if there were a verifiable Saudi regime’s involvement in 9/11, why wait this long to take action? That is said, the central motive for which the United States does not want to touch Saudi Arabia has to do with the function it established for it. The Saudi regime is an open bank for US world operations, chief buyer of its weapons, oil price manipulator to strangle Russia and Iran, a potential ally of Israel, and controller of the so-called Arab league to gain spurious legitimacy for US policies in the region.
In short, the United States needs Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has all the qualifications the United States needs in a regional player willing to play by its rules. The Saudi regime fits this profile for a number of reasons. It is ideologically structured yet pliable to US views, politically conditioned by an archaic system of governance, socially obscurantist to control potential unrest inimical to Washington, aggressive against neighbors, ruthless against dissenters, but above all, it has a lot of money and is willing to spend it on the American cause.
It is logical to argue, that 9/11 presented the Saudi regime with hard choices regarding their relation with the United States. To save its neck from possible and ever-present American accusations involving it in 9/11, the regime had to re-invent itself. It went from being a willing executioner of the older American agenda (destabilizing Communism, etc.) to be the chief agent of destruction at the service of a re-energized US imperialism with a new agenda.
I am referring to the Zionist American plan to redraw the map of current Arab states and alter their historically developed socio-political and cultural realities. To be sure, 9/11 was also the factor that altered another Saudi reality. It broke Saudi Arabia’s long held assumption for being America’s enduring “partner”. Aside from that, 9/11 benefitted the United States in another way. It securely placed Saudi Arabia and all of its oil and money between the unyielding clutches of US imperialism.
My argument of the Saudi succumbence to the US power is threefold. First, the Saudi regime realizes it has no means, power, or courage to make the United States leave the Gulf or, at least, lessen its supremacy over the governments of the gulf. Second, consequent to this realization, submissiveness to it in the form of fear sets in and resistance to it disappears. Third, besides protracted psychological conditioning, other tangible factors turned the Saudi-American relation into a complex interplay.
On one side, we have the Saudi deference to the United States. I view this deference as follows: (1) confluence and reciprocal opportunism of two different but oppressive ideologies —Wahhabism and imperialism; (2) oil and petrodollars, and (3) a long history of secret deals—since the day Franklin D. Roosevelt met Abdul Aziz Al Saud in 1945. On the other, we have a supremacist superpower that views Al Saud as no more than a backward tribal bunch whose primary function is providing special services to the United States. These include cheap oil, buying US weapons, investing oil money in the US capitalistic system, supporting US hegemonic quest, buying US national debt, and bankrolling its covert operations and wars.
To drive the point, I argue that the combination between lack of means, lack of resistance, and other forms of dependence (US political and public relations support, for example) has created a situation of dependency. It incrementally forced the Saudi regime into a mental subordination to the United States similar to an occupied mentality. What is an occupied mentality?
As stated earlier, noticing the magnitude of US military forces stationed at sea, as well as in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, and Jordan there can be but one conclusion: all these countries are under virtual US occupation. In addition, if we consider US global and regional agenda and the objective of its forces in the region, stating that the material occupation of the Gulf is moving in unison with a parallel occupation of the mind of rulers is a valid statement. Let us take the example of Iraq and see if applies to Saudi Arabia. By all definitions, Iraq of today is a top example of an occupied mentality. Whereas the United States has been occupying Iraq from 2003 until now—through scattered military bases and by directives from the US “embassy”—, the American-appointed Iraqi government still pretends that Iraq is an independent state. This is not schizophrenia. It is a conscious mental adaptation to an existing reality named occupation.
To articulate the argument of occupied mentality, I argue that an array of psychological processes is behind the mental adaptation to imposed captivity. This means, accepting subjugation to a foreign power is not only a symptom of besieged mentality, but also a conscious effort to turn that subjugation into a feeling of normalcy. In turn, this feeling becomes the primary impulse for cohabitation between occupiers and occupied. Generally, the lack of resistance to subjugation is, by itself, acquiescence to it: as a process and as result. At this point, it does not matter whether this acquiescence is induced, taught, imposed or voluntary—the result is still subjugation.
Considering this argument, Saudi Arabia is no different from Iraq when the issue is the adaptation to US domination. For instance, the Saudi regime knows it is under US siege. And it knows that the United States is waiting for the appropriate occasion to strike it someway. Yet, the Saudi regime is busy these days dispensing threats left and right, even to the power that nurtured its monstrosities, with the hope that someone would buy its trivial performance of national strength. To conclude, rulers who live under any form of foreign occupation or diktat and rulers who have lost their basic national decision-making are neither sovereign nor free.
Mapping the transformation of Saudi Arabia in terms of events is an incisive tool to navigate through the mysteries of the Saudi-American relation. Take, for example, the role played by the Saudi regime in Soviet-invaded Afghanistan. With so much money and relative stability, Al Saud had neither national imperatives nor definite rationales to spend billions of dollars on that war. Did they participate in it as (A) an act of self-defense against adversaries who never attacked them, (B) opposition to Communism, or, (C) a response to US-prodding?
For one, the claim that Saudi Arabia intervened in Afghanistan to fight Communism is rubbish. Many regimes of that period opposed Communism. Yet, none took their opposition to the fanatical militant level taken by Al Saud. Moreover, fighting invaders does not translate automatically into fighting the ideology driving their politico-economic system. These are two different categories. Vietnam is an example. The Vietcong fought the American invading force (and the South-Vietnamese army). But nowhere could one read that Vietnam’s war of liberation was directed against US capitalism as a system.
Second, is there any truth to the other claim that the Saudi intervention was an act of solidarity with Muslim Afghanistan? If religious feelings were driving the regime’s animosity against the Soviet invaders, then these same feelings should have risen when the United States invaded a predominately Arab and Muslim Iraq. In that occasion, the Wahhabi regime (whose religious scholars, preachers, and countless imams consistently dub Westerners as heathens, infidels, and nonbelievers)not only did not release a whisper against the coming invasion, it blessed and supported it. (It is on record what Bandar bin Sultan, a high- ranking Saudi emir with a 20-year tenure as ambassador to Washington, with ties to AIPAC and US Zionism, and with intimate connections to the Bush family had said on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. “I will not shave my beard until the US occupies Iraq and kills Saddam Hussein,” then addressing the American public, he added, “I will pray for the life of every one of your soldiers . . .”)
For debate: in terms of semantic equivalency, words such as heathens, atheists, infidels, nonbelievers, etc. are conceptually compatible. A question to the Saudis: why fight the Soviet invaders of Muslim Afghanistan under the charge of atheism, but never fight the Americans invaders of Muslim Iraq under the same charge?
Next: Part 3
- Examples: the Iranian Revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iraqi invasion of Iran, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Gulf War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and US-NATO bombardment of Serbia.
- The Splendid Failure of Occupation: Imperialist expansions and 9/11 (http://www.uruknet.info/?p=10086), 2005
- CounterPunch Services, National Review Editor Suggests “Nuking Mecca”, March 13, 2003
Police in Baltimore are facing a new scandal for their use of surveillance planes from the Iraq war to secretly spy on residents.
The aerial snooping has been happening since January without authorities informing the public they are being monitored for as much as 10 hours a day, Bloomberg reports.
Police from both Baltimore city and county are already under fire for the shooting of 23-year-old mother Korryn Gaines earlier this month – and face blowback from a damning report detailing the use of excessive force and targeting of minors.
While a fictional version of Baltimore’s police force was featured in the HBO series “The Wire,” the real-life version has been criticized for its warrantless use of Sting Ray cell phone tapping equipment favored by the National Security Agency.
The Cessna spy plane is fully kitted out with cameras and bankrolled by “justice reform” advocates from Texas, Laura and her husband John Arnold, the former Enron trader who made billions in hedge funds.
MIT-trained, Air Force Academy-graduate Ross McNutt created the spy planes for use in the Iraq war. The founder of the USAF’s Center for Rapid Product Development, he was tasked with creating a system to catch those planting roadside IEDs in Iraq, and produced Angel Fire, a live-feed surveillance system that uses synchronized cameras attached to a plane.
The camera images are stabilized and stitched together using computers, then fed to the ground, producing a constantly updated photographic map of the area.
The Angel Fire technology was used in Iraq from 2007. McNutt then moved on to courting commercial and local government clients.
LA County Sheriff’s Department tested the system in 2012 with a nine-day trial over Compton. Citizens protested after they found out they had been surveilled a year later.
Baltimore was later chosen as the ideal place for surveillance “because it was ready, it was willing, and it was post-Freddy Gray,” McNutt said, referring to the African-American man who was killed while in police custody in 2015.
During the trial of Caesar Goodson, the only police officer brought up on charges for the death of 25-year-old Gray (and eventually acquitted), protesters gathered outside the courthouse had no idea that overhead, they were being watched by the same police force.
Cops, and their super-rich benefactors, are able to monitor an area by streaming real-time images to analysts down below. The footage is also stored on hard drives for easy access later.
Crimes are logged each day and any that may be solved with the help of Persistent Surveillance are highlighted, although it’s not known if police brutality is being tracked.
The equipment can be used to follow the route of criminals fleeing a crime scene, but can also be used for unwarranted surveillance.
McNutt approached the ACLU to counter accusations of invading privacy. While the ACLU appreciated his candor, they were alarmed at the “Big Brother” implications of such a system.
The New York Police Department’s intelligence bureau routinely violated the famous Handschu Agreement, a set of 1985 guidelines that protect constitutional rights, for purely political reasons, according to a new inspector general report.
Inspector General Philip K. Eure of the NYPD released a report on Tuesday that found their intelligence bureau ignored the court-ordered guidelines for surveillance techniques on political activities, such as protests.
The report did not find any improper motivations but confirmed they ignored court-ordered protocol when investigating political activity. For example, Eure found that in 50 percent of relevant investigations, the NYPD continued investigation past the expiration of legal permission.
In addition, the report noted that the NYPD failed to properly document use of undercover agents and informers.
The 1985 Handschu Agreement is a strict set of guidelines that mandate how the NYPD must handle investigations of political, religious or ideological organizations. It resulted from a celebrated court case against the NYPD, filed way back in 1971 in the wake of the unsuccessful prosecution of members of the militant Black Panther movement. Prior to the Handschu agreement, the NYPD had a history of targeting political groups such as communists and the Black Panthers, going so far as to monitor members and infiltrate organizations to act as, “agents provocateurs to disrupt the activities of political organizations and to facilitate the arrests of organizational activists,” the New York Civil Liberties Union said.
Eure’s boss, Mark Peters, the city’s commissioner of investigation, announced: “This investigation demonstrates a failure by NYPD to follow rules governing the timing and authorizations of surveillance of political activity. While we found no evidence of improper motives, these rules are important to protect the rights of all New Yorkers and must be rigorously followed,” amNewYork reported.
The NYPD has scheduled a news conference to discuss the report’s findings.
We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone…
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.
—Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall”
The nation’s young people have been given front-row seats for an unfolding police drama that is rated R for profanity, violence and adult content.
In Arizona, a 7-year-old girl watched panic-stricken as a state trooper pointed his gun at her and her father during a traffic stop and reportedly threatened to shoot her father in the back (twice) based on the mistaken belief that they were driving a stolen rental car.
In Oklahoma, a 5-year-old boy watched as a police officer used a high-powered rifle to shoot his dog Opie multiple times in his family’s backyard while other children were also present. The police officer was mistakenly attempting to deliver a warrant on a 10-year-old case for someone who hadn’t lived at that address in a decade.
In Maryland, a 5-year-old boy was shot when police exchanged gunfire with the child’s mother—eventually killing her—over a dispute that began when Korryn Gaines refused to accept a traffic ticket for driving without a license plate on her car.
It’s difficult enough raising a child in a world ravaged by war, disease, poverty and hate, but when you add the police state into the mix, it becomes near impossible to guard against the growing unease that some of the monsters of our age come dressed in government uniforms.
The lesson being taught to our youngest—and most impressionable—citizens is this: in the American police state, you’re either a prisoner (shackled, controlled, monitored, ordered about, limited in what you can do and say, your life not your own) or a prison bureaucrat (politician, police officer, judge, jailer, spy, profiteer, etc.).
Unfortunately, now that school is back in session, life is that much worse for the children of the American police state.
The nation’s public schools—extensions of the world beyond the schoolhouse gates, a world that is increasingly hostile to freedom—have become microcosms of the American police state, containing almost every aspect of the militarized, intolerant, senseless, overcriminalized, legalistic, surveillance-riddled, totalitarian landscape that plagues those of us on the “outside.”
If your child is fortunate enough to survive his encounter with the public schools with his individuality and freedoms intact, you should count yourself fortunate.
Most students are not so lucky.
From the moment a child enters one of the nation’s 98,000 public schools to the moment he or she graduates, they will be exposed to a steady diet of
- draconian zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior,
- overreaching anti-bullying statutes that criminalize speech,
- school resource officers (police) tasked with disciplining and/or arresting so-called “disorderly” students,
- standardized testing that emphasizes rote answers over critical thinking,
- politically correct mindsets that teach young people to censor themselves and those around them,
- and extensive biometric and surveillance systems that, coupled with the rest, acclimate young people to a world in which they have no freedom of thought, speech or movement.
Clearly, instead of making the schools safer, we have managed to make them more authoritarian.
Young people in America are now first in line to be searched, surveilled, spied on, threatened, tied up, locked down, treated like criminals for non-criminal behavior, tasered and in some cases shot.
It used to be that if you talked back to a teacher, or played a prank on a classmate, or just failed to do your homework, you might find yourself in detention or doing an extra writing assignment after school.
That is no longer the case.
Nowadays, students are not only punished for minor transgressions such as playing cops and robbers on the playground, bringing LEGOs to school, or having a food fight, but the punishments have become far more severe, shifting from detention and visits to the principal’s office into misdemeanor tickets, juvenile court, handcuffs, tasers and even prison terms.
Look-alike weapons (toy guns—even Lego-sized ones, hand-drawn pictures of guns, pencils twirled in a “threatening” manner, imaginary bows and arrows, even fingers positioned like guns) can also land a student in hot water.
Consider that by the time the average young person in America finishes their public school education, nearly one out of every three of them will have been arrested.
Moreover, just as militarized police who look, think and act like soldiers on a battlefield have made our communities less safe, the growing presence of police in the nation’s schools is resulting in environments in which it’s no longer safe for children to act like children.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, these school resource officers have become de facto wardens in elementary, middle and high schools, doling out their own brand of justice to the so-called “criminals” in their midst with the help of tasers, pepper spray, batons and brute force.
Now advocates for such harsh police tactics and weaponry will tell you that school safety should be our first priority.
What they might fail to mention in their zeal to lock down the schools are the lucrative, multi-million dollar deals being cut with military contractors to equip school cops with tasers, tanks, rifles and $100,000 shooting detection systems.
Indeed, the militarization of the police has been mirrored in the public schools, where school police have been gifted with high-powered M16 rifles, MRAP armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and other military gear. One Texas school district even boasts its own 12-member SWAT team.
What we’re grappling with is not merely a public school system that resembles a prison and is treating young people like prisoners but also a profit-driven system of incarceration has given rise to a growth in juvenile prisons and financial incentives for jailing young people.
It has been said that America’s schools are the training ground for future generations.
Instead of raising up a generation of freedom fighters, however, we seem to be busy churning out newly minted citizens of the American police state who are being taught the hard way what it means to comply, fear and march in lockstep with the government’s dictates.
As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s getting harder by the day to convince young people that we live in a nation that values freedom and which is governed by the rule of law.
With every school police raid and overzealous punishment that is carried out in the name of school safety, the lesson being imparted is that Americans—especially young people—have no rights at all against the state or the police.
The bottom line is this: if you want a nation of criminals, treat the citizenry like criminals.
If you want young people who grow up seeing themselves as prisoners, run the schools like prisons.
But if you want to raise up a generation of freedom fighters, who will actually operate with justice, fairness, accountability and equality towards each other and their government, then run the schools like freedom forums. Remove the metal detectors and surveillance cameras, re-assign the cops elsewhere, and start treating our nation’s young people like citizens of a republic and not inmates in a police state.
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at email@example.com.
Since September 2001, the Pentagon has listed $40 billion worth of contracts for small arms intended for Afghanistan and Iraq, supplying 1.45 million guns to both countries while only accounting for 3 percent of them, says a new report by a British NGO.
The London-based nonprofit Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) pored over 14 years’ worth of contracts issued by the US Department of Defense, documenting the purchases of small arms – defined as anything under 30mm in caliber – ammunition and attachments, such as sniper scopes or tripods. They found a massive amount of weapons supplied by the US to the primary theaters of the “War on Terror,” and remarkably little accounting of whose hands they ended up in.
“Our findings raise concerns about the DOD’s own transparency and accountability when it comes to issuing contracts,” Iain Overton, AOAV’s director of investigations, said when announcing the report’s publication Wednesday.
Not only has the Pentagon’s contract database listed only 3 percent of the approximately 1.45 million small arms sent to Iraq and Afghanistan over the years, “we also know the US government has acknowledged they don’t know where many of these weapons now are,” Overton added.
A team of AOAV researchers spent almost a year looking into every contract published by the Pentagon between September 11, 2001 and September 10, 2015, said the organization, whose mission is “research and advocacy in order to reduce the incidence and impact of global armed violence.”
What they found was just over $40 billion of solicitations for small arms, ammunition and attachments, with just under $20 billion actually paid out to contractors. Of the 412 published contracts, 137 – or 33 percent – contained errors and discrepancies.
Ten companies accounted for 65 percent of the total published contract values, the researchers found. The top five contractors were Alliant Techsystems – now split into OrbitalATK and Vista Outdoor – DRS Technologies, BAE Systems Inc., Knight’s Armament Co, and General Dynamics. The largest single contract was for the modernization of Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri, worth up to $8.48 billion.
Some 949,582 small arms were sent to Iraq, and another 503,328 to Afghanistan, amounting to 1,452,910 assault and sniper rifles, pistols, machine guns and other unspecified firearms. Yet the Department of Defense contract publications listed only 19,602 of these weapons, just over 1 percent of the total. When AOAV pressed for verification, the DOD provided itemized lists for 719,474 weapons provided through June 2016.
The numbers “tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched,” veteran military correspondent CJ Chivers wrote in the New York Times Magazine, commenting on AOAV’s findings.
The retired Marine and author of The Gun also filled in a piece of the puzzle the researchers missed by not counting the grenade launchers and anti-tank weapons provided by the Pentagon.
“The data offer no insight into a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s,” Chivers wrote.
After the first few weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was either American or allied, “which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling,” Chivers wrote. “Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.”
American weapon manufacturers have made bigger contributions to the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, a major turnaround after years of backing the Republican ticket.
According to a report by Politico released on Wednesday, Clinton has received more donations from high-ranking employees of giant Pentagon contractors like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, outperforming her GOP rival Donald Trump by a 5-to-1 ratio.
According to filings with the Federal Election Committee, Trump’s campaign has banked nearly $55,000 in contributions from executives of the 25 major defense contractors, compared to $273,000 given to Clinton.
This marks a significant break from the years-old habit of supporting the Republican candidate. In fact, the arms industry has teamed with Republican congressional and presidential candidates in eight of the past 10 election cycles.
In the 2012 election cycle, for example, then-Republican nominee Mitt Romney received far more support from military contractors, compared to President Barack Obama.
Analysts attribute the change to Trump’s stance on national security, including his criticism of NATO and other military allies.
The real estate mogul said in late July that if he is elected president, the US would only aid the allies who have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”
The New York businessman has also blasted military contractors for the way they influence government spending.
Clinton, however, made a reputation for having good relations with military contractors during her run in the US Senate, where she served on the Armed Services Committee.
“I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats of all stripes over the years, and it’s the first time I’ve seen one who scares the hell out of me if he were to become president,” said Linda Hudson, who once headed the US branch of British arms provider BAE Systems, which is the Pentagon’s eighth largest contractor.
One Republican defense lobbyist told Politico that the arms manufacturing “community is just much more comfortable with Clinton.”
“With Hillary Clinton we have some sense of where she would go, and with Trump we have none,” the lobbyist said. “He knows nothing about the system.”
As the nation’s largest health insurance companies scale back participation in Obamacare (aka Affordable Care Act) creating what insurance jargon refers to as a death spiral, it was only a matter of time before state Democratic leaders and their agents announced their opposition to ColoradoCare (Amendment 69), a medicare-for-all health care system that will appear on the statewide November 8th ballot.
State Democratic establishment leaders who had already announced their opposition to ColoradoCare include Governor John Hickenlooper, former Governor Bill Ritter and Senator Michael Bennett who is running for re-election.
In an effort to salvage what is left of the President’s most significant (and perhaps only) legislative achievement as Obamacare struggles for relevance, ProgressNow Colorado (PN) held a press conference on August 17th (“ProgressNow Colorado Opposes Amendment 69, Calls For Nationwide Health Reform”) to announce their opposition to CC.
Featured speaker at the PN news conference was State House Majority Leader Cristina Duran, considered a ‘rising star’ who recently spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. In 2016, it has been reported that Duran received campaign contributions from at least a dozen special interest groups associated with the health insurance industry.
In addition, Colorado NARAL joined the PN news event, again voicing their opposition to CC. The lack of availability for abortions is what keeps NARAL functioning. The obvious irony is that if CC is adopted (which will allow abortions), NARAL’s raison d’etre will cease to exist and they will be able to close their doors.
Since it is essential for the President to have a functioning Affordable Care Act to top his Legacy List of accomplishments, it would be foolishly naïve to believe that the DNC’s fingerprints are not all over the opposition to ColoradoCare.
As the state’s ‘largest on line environmental and advocacy organization,’ the PN Colorado’s website identifies its vision to “act as a public relations shop promoting progressive ideals while pushing back on bad policies and bad behavior…” The archives of PN press releases reveals the organization acting as a thinly-veiled extension of the neo-liberal Democratic party as a pr flack rather than an issue-oriented, independent thinking progressive organization focused on societal concerns of Colorado citizens.
Curiously, the PN press release called for “nationwide healthcare reform” but isn’t that what the Democrats offered as the Affordable Care Act in 2010?
Since March, 2012, PN has issued twenty press releases solely dedicated to the benefits of Obamacare including “Colorado Progressives Celebrate Upholding of Obamacare” (June 28, 2012) and “Colorado Progressives Celebrate Another Big Obamacare Victory” (June 25, 2015).
In retrospect, it is now apparent that any mention of CC’s successful petition drive with 156,000 submitted signatures in October, 2015 was a deliberate omission by PN. Even as ‘Petitions Delivered Let CU Students Attend GOP Debate” earned a press release from PN on October 22, 2015, the CC ability to secure a place on the 2016 ballot (November 9, 2015), no small feat, was not applauded by the PN.
State Senator Irene Aquilar (also a doctor), one of the authors of CC, said that when “Organizations mislabeled as ‘progressive’ choose to support the status quo, choose moneyed influence over the lives of the 535 Coloradans who die each year because of lack of health care, it makes me angry.”
As the Colorado Democratic party has exposed its true nature; willing to choose narrow political gain and greed over the long-term health of their citizens, they have revealed little social conscience, except when its suits their partisan agenda.
But what do we expect from a party that has opened its doors to Wall Street money, big business that continues to send American jobs abroad, trade agreements that undermine a nation’s sovereignty, pro war neo cons, drone attacks on civilians, support for the MISI (military-intelligence-surveillance industry) and other corporate globalist leeches that care nothing about our native country or its citizens.
Originally dubbed in 2010 by the President as ‘comprehensive health reform’ and given the Act’s controversial nature throughout its short legislative life, it should come as no surprise that success of the Act relied on competition between insurance companies [and] has failed abysmally. The Act was never a panacea to provide health care; it was always a vehicle to provide insurance to cover health care costs. Therein lies a big difference between Obamacare and CC.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, competition among insurance companies will be completely absent in five states (Alabama, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming).
In what promises to be a futile attempt at a legislative fix, the Democrats have come up with a ‘reinsurance’ scheme to cover insurance industry losses while attempting to cover the cost of individual coverage. The mounting evidence, however, confirms that the politics of statutory resuscitation is formidable, if not impossible.
Apparently no one at the White House realized how many sick Americans there are, how expensive it would be to provide them with insurance coverage and that healthy Americans would prefer to take the risk and pay the penalty rather than pay double digit premium increases and exorbitant deductibles. Who did not see that coming?
Who believed that younger, healthier Americans would jump at the chance to sign up, take on health care debt on top of student loan debt – just to impress the President they had supported in 2008? My faith in the millennial generation is restored knowing they have the smarts to put the numbers together.
Some of those departing big leaguers who are abandoning their health care customers due to lack of profits include Aetna which covered 900,000 people in fifteen states and has announced a cut back to four states and suffered a loss of $300 M; Humana is cutting back its coverage from 1,350 counties to 156; Blue Cross lost $715 M in just three states and the nation’s largest health care insurance company, UnitedHealthGroup lost $450 M in 2015 and is cutting back to three states.
In late July, the Department of Justice filed suit to prevent the Humana – Aetna and the Cigna – Anthem mergers from taking place. By mid August, Aetna and Anthem informed the DOJ that they would totally pull out of Obamacare unless their mergers were approved. Any bets on whether these mergers will go forward after the Presidential election?
To date, 70% of the original Obamacare insurance participants have backed out because of financial problems with only seven of the original twenty three insurance providers still offering policies.
Those insurance companies not exiting the marketplace have announced premiums with a nationwide average increase of 24% that is not affordable for many families and yet many Americans have an urgent need for health care.
With a $600,000 bank balance, CC is up against what looks like a omnipotent wall of opposition not limited to such community-minded organizations as the Sheet Metal Workers Union, the Denver Center for Performing Arts, the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, all of which chose to publicly oppose the CC rather than remain in the background and thus support their fellow citizens who need reliable, affordable health care.
Meanwhile the main opposition group, Coloradans for Coloradans, which crowed about the Democrats joining the opposition, have collected $1 M from Anthem, $450,000 from UnitedHealthCare Services, Healthone Systems and Centura Health $250,000 each, Cigna Health $100,000, PHRMA $100,000, the Colorado Association of Realtors $100,000 and so forth – you might imagine the rest of the list.
Contributions from some of the very same insurance companies that have either pulled out or are dramatically scaling back their participation is indicative of how corporations can afford to sit and wait – until the Federal government sweetens the pot for their re-entry into the healthcare marketplace.
In addition, the Koch Brothers Americans for Prosperity are partners with the Democrats in pummeling Amendment 69 into the ground. This may be the first time that the Koch Brothers and the Democratic party have officially and publicly lined up on the same issue, excluding campaign contributions.
If the Democrats (along with the medical care/health insurance industrial complex and Koch Bros) succeed in defeating CC, they can expect to take the blame for depriving Colorado citizens of an alternative to Obamacare which will predictably continue its spiral.
If, by some miracle of divine intervention, Colorado voters approve Amendment 69, they are telling the Obama Administration that they have no faith in the President’s Affordable Care Act, no faith in the Federal government to fix it and no faith in the Democratic party to protect the public interest.
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31