In his first public comments on the US drone campaign in Pakistan, President Obama described it as “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases, and so on.” In 2011, then-national security advisor to the president John Brennan said of the CIA drone campaign that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Popular American mythology in the Obama era has held that drones are the surgeon’s tool in the endless, global war on terror. American soldiers and spies can knock off terrorists without bogging down the military in ground occupations, or killing civilians.
So says the myth. The reality is starkly different, according to scholar Micah Zenko.
Zenko examined civilian deaths from US military operations and found that drones kill more civilians than do piloted US aircraft—not fewer. “Drones are far less precise than airstrikes conducted by piloted aircraft, which themselves also conduct “precision strikes.” Drones result in far more civilian fatalities per each bomb dropped,” Zenko writes.
Zenko’s analysis shows us that the claims officials have long made about the supposed accuracy of drone strikes are dead wrong. But we don’t know why, in part because the US government refuses to disclose basic information about how it designates drone targets, or under what circumstances commanders order killings. It could be, as Zenko posits, “that the standards that need to be met before authorizing a [drone] strike are less rigid than Obama’s purported principle of “near certainty that the terrorist target is present.” This wouldn’t be surprising given that Obama continued the George W. Bush administration’s practice of “signature strikes” — killing anonymous suspected militants who appear to be associated with terrorists based upon their observable activity.”
If that’s the case, the US public and the victims of drone strikes have a right to know. But government secrecy and judicial evasiveness have conspired to keep us all in the dark about even the most basic legal theories upon which the CIA and military base their drone programs.
That secrecy has recently been reified. Just last week, a Washington D.C. federal appeals court tossed an ACLU lawsuit against the CIA seeking information about its drone operations. The court sided with the government, holding that releasing information about the drone program “could reasonably be expected to damage national security.”
As ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer said, “Secret law is always invidious, but it’s particularly so here because of the subject matter.” Now we know the stories officials have been telling us for years about the laser-like accuracy of drone strikes are false. But thanks to secret law, we don’t know why.
U.S. government hypocrisy is, as most everyone knows, boundless. It’s also utterly transparent. Our public officials evidently see no shame in belying their professions of benign intent with awesome malevolence and destruction. After all, there’s always the doctrine of American Exceptionalism to justify the unjustifiable. Take for instance Barack Obama’s global assassination campaign, or “drone war” in media-speak. It is now common knowledge (among the mildly informed, anyway) that said campaign is only nominally discriminate, and furthermore essentially pointless, assuming its point is not to foster Islamic extremism. Last year, leaked government documents confirmed what was already suspected: most of those killed by Barry O’s drone fleet are unidentified people who happen to be standing near the intended target, who for one reason or another (we’re not allowed to know) was selected for summary execution.
What is the effect of this policy? It’s not difficult to figure out. Let’s suppose for a moment that these remote control airstrikes really were “surgical”—that they didn’t result in dead civilians. It would still be an exercise in futility. Wiping out a single jihadist, no matter his rank, doesn’t eliminate his position: he can and will be replaced. Would it disrupt the relevant cell’s operation? Does it matter? Disrupt it enough and it will splinter, and now you’ve got two cells instead of one, and perhaps the new one is more monstrous than the original. ISIS, let’s remember, was first an al-Qaeda franchise. The latter group, whose side we’ve taken against Syria’s elected president, now seems like the “JV team” (credit to Obama for the awkward analogy) to the former’s Varsity. Needless to say, U.S. foreign policy, in its liberal interventionist form, facilitated the rise and expansion of ISIS; the group that now, according to most Republicans, presents the gravest threat to our national security.
To label the drone war as merely futile, however, is disingenuous. Counterproductive is a better word, although probably still too charitable. We take out one militant—reducing him to “a greasy spot on the ground”—and another springs up to take his place. That’s futility. But in the process, people living in Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen observe that the U.S. is not bound by any standard principle of law, least of all the one guaranteeing a criminal suspect due process. How, one wonders, are they expected to feel about that? If the American Empire says you’re fit to die, you’re fit to die, and that’s the end of it. Interesting concept. Of course, such tyranny would never be tolerated here at home, where a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial remains (for the most part) inalienable and uncontroversial. Not so for foreigners suspected by the U.S. government of terrorist activity in their own countries, with whom the U.S. is not at war and over whom the U.S. has no jurisdiction in any reasonable sense of the word.
The American public may not care very much about the extrajudicial killing of a few supposedly dangerous Muslims living in Somalia. (CNN doesn’t tell them to worry about it, so why should they?) They do, however, seem to care about anti-Americanism in the Muslim world, the threat of global jihad, etc.—and rightfully so. These are serious issues; they should be treated as such. Here’s an axiom: if we’re going to take an issue seriously, the very least we can do is make an effort to understand it. Why does Salafism (i.e. Wahhabism, i.e. Saudism) continue to spread like wildfire over the Middle East and beyond? Why do so many Muslims have, in the words of Donald Trump, a tremendous, tremendous hatred for the U.S.?
It couldn’t have anything to do with the continuous, illegal bombing of Muslim-majority countries. That would be too straightforward an answer, and moreover contradictory to the narrative our policy-makers, always looking out for the weapons industry, like to spin for us. There is, however, Occam’s razor, which would insist that we stop dismissing simple, obvious explanations. One such explanation might be that Obama’s drone fetish, even without the civilian death toll, certainly doesn’t make the jihadist recruiter’s job any less difficult (and in fact does precisely the reverse). Another might be that, by shoring up the medieval sadists governing Saudi Arabia and oppressing its population, the U.S. indirectly (or perhaps directly) promotes the ideology underpinning every Wahhabi terrorist gang in the world, whether JV or Varsity.
Saudi Arabia. The world’s most prolific exporter of oil. Also the world’s most prolific exporter of Islamic extremism, that omnipresent threat to civilization we’re allegedly so bent on eradicating. It was reported that our dear leader was cold-shouldered upon his recent arrival to the great pious kingdom. The impudence! Have the Wahhabi princes no appreciation for the Obama administration’s generosity? After all, $50 billion in munitions sales is nothing to sneeze at, particularly when those munitions are earmarked for war crimes. The United States has given Saudi Arabia, and its Wahhabi coalition, carte blanche to commit atrocities against civilians in Yemen: American bombs, including illegal “cluster bombs,” are being used to blow up schools, hospitals, mosques, etc., in the name of… well, nothing, really. What more could the Saudis want! More weapons? All they have to do is ask. Obama distributes “smart bombs” like candy.
The civil war in Yemen represents the latest, though not quite the greatest (which says a lot), failure of American foreign policy. With our weapons and whole-hearted support, Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabi pals have managed to do to Yemen what NATO did to Libya. In other words, Yemen is now a failed state with no central government and a massive power vacuum—ideal conditions for terrorists, in this case al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, to exploit. Naturally, all of this is underreported by Western media, since we have no enemy on whom to cast blame. You may hear the occasional whisper about Ayatollah culpability, but that’s about it.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen… every time the same result. To say that the U.S. has failed to learn its lesson is erroneous. I’ve seen no evidence that U.S. policy-makers are interested in learning any sort of lesson, nor that they actually desire a better outcome to begin with. They’re not merely inept, as so many like to insist; they’re cynical, and profoundly so.
Terrorism is useful. It can be, and is, cited to justify almost anything: extravagant military budgets, abrogation of civil liberties, alliance with nefarious regimes, arbitrary detention, torture, war. They all matter, but the last one matters most. If the objective really is to defeat terrorism, as defined by us, then our policy is irrational; in fact it meets the famous definition of insanity. Plainly, bombing volatile societies and unleashing dormant sectarian violence does nothing to contain terrorism. Plainly, it has the opposite effect. Terrorists draw strength and support from chaos and carnage; if you think Cheney et al. were oblivious to that fact, I’ve a got a plot of land to sell you…. Bush may be simple, and it’s certainly possible that he derived his conception of war from the pictures, but his cabinet was a sly bunch; a bunch whose loyalty was not to our nation’s security but rather to the Pentagon and the weapons manufacturers.
Before Bush was sworn in by the Supreme Court, Dick was pushing for a bigger military budget. Little did he know that he needn’t bother! The events of 9/11 were a windfall for the jingoists, damage to the Pentagon notwithstanding. Terrorism was no longer an abstract threat; the threat was all too palpable, all too urgent, and nobody was prepared to question the government’s response, which was not to invade the country that produced 15 of the 19 hijackers, but rather the one in which the plot’s ringleader, another Saudi, happened to live. The U.S. could have invaded Canada that October (surely there were some Bin Laden sympathizers loitering in that country)—we just wanted a show of military might, projected wherever.
That’s the terrorism effect. That’s why Saddam Hussein, our long-time ally and Israel’s great “existential threat” of the day, was suddenly charged with sponsoring terrorism. Casting Saddam as a Bin Laden advocate, however false, gave us a solid pretext for war. The consequence of that war—ISIS—gives us a solid pretext for more war, etc. As long as terrorism exists, we can go to war, and as long as we go to war, terrorism will exist. Meanwhile the Pentagon’s budget continues to swell. The War on Terror, then, is a self-sustaining enterprise.
The beauty of Obama’s global assassination campaign is that it allows us to bomb without declaring war. We don’t have to worry about running out of countries to invade; we can drone our allies if we so choose. That being said, no war machine is complete, and no Empire content, without the occasional full-scale invasion. Iran has been in the crosshairs for a long time—ever since they had the nerve to overthrow the iron-fisted dictator we kindly installed for them. Predictably, the Iranian nuclear agreement, Obama’s most significant foreign policy achievement, has done nothing to curb the hawks’ appetite. Indeed, many Republican presidential candidates have assured us that, as commander in chief, they would make it their first order of business to tear up the internationally-recognized treaty.
At the other end of the aisle, H.R. Clinton, the “superprepared warrior realist,” derides the prospect of normalizing relations with Iran. Back in 2008, she demonstrated her warrior spirit, boasting of her preparedness to “totally obliterate” the 80 million people who live there, which would steer the U.S. into a nuclear conflict with Russia, quite possibly annihilating us all. (Lest you forget: Trump is the real danger.)
Clinton and her fellow jingos hate the nuclear deal, and the reason is simple: it eliminates a major pretext for war. After all, the case against Iran is identical to the case against Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction and support for terrorism. And Israel at the center of it all. The Zionists lobbied hard for war with Iraq, and no one is lobbying harder for war with Iran. They intend to make Hillary’s obliteration fantasy into reality. Lucky for them, and unlucky for the rest of us, she is almost certainly our next president, and no one is more subservient to their will.
Unsurprisingly, no presidential candidate has been asked whether they plan to adopt Obama’s failed anti-terror policy, which is to fight terror with more terror, forever fanning the proverbial flames. Perhaps “failed” is not quite an accurate description, though, as that word implies a wish to succeed. Presently there’s no excuse to believe the Obama administration was ever serious about checking the scourge of Saudi-inspired terrorism. If Trump is right, and the Muslim world hates us, Obama was very much committed to aggravating that sentiment. He’s done a fine job.
Michael Howard can be contacted at email@example.com
Parliament has been deceived by the Conservative government on the scope and details of Britain’s unauthorized drone assassination program, according to a new report by the human rights NGO Reprieve.
The authors argue in the opening commentary that the “revelations in this report demonstrate that parliament has been misled” and that current scope of investigation into the issue is too “narrow.”
Published Sunday, the report makes a number of startling assertions. It claims the kill list – also known as the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL) – conflates drug enforcement and counterterrorism.
It also says UK police units have helped the US military find targets for assassination and that unrepresentative examples of die-hard extremists are being cited to mask the human impact of drone warfare.
War on everything
The investigation warns that under the auspices of the UK’s targeted killing policy the ‘War on Terror’ is being merged with the ‘War on Drugs,’ with people other than suspected terrorists being killed by drones.
It alleges there may have been up to 50 Afghan drug traffickers on the list since 2009 and that UK police officers working for the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) worked with electronic intelligence agency GCHQ and Britain’s Joint Narcotics Analysis Centre to pick out targets.
Reprieve’s study claims the UK government has used particularly extreme examples to justify its drone policy, in the same way that the death penalty in the US has been justified by pointing to the most extreme killers.
It cites the example of Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement on September 15, 2015, when he said that a UK drone strike had killed jihadist Reyaad Khan in Syria. Reprieve claims this was used to spin the reality of drone warfare.
“History teaches us that it has always been easiest for advocates of the death penalty to sell their case to some by highlighting the face of a serial killer who is captured on film committing his atrocities,” the report says.
This, the NGO claims, is not reflective of the demographic most profoundly affected by drone warfare, instead arguing that drones are “far from the marvelously precise killing machines” they are marketed as. It claims up to nine innocent children have been killed in pursuit of a “High Value Target.”
The report warns against assassination as a tool of policy. It lauds those Conservative politicians who criticized Tony Blair’s government for “complicity” in the US torture program, but adds “if this government now seeks to drag the UK back to medieval times with an assassination project, it is only right that it should be fully discussed with parliament and the public.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has dismissed Sen. Bernie Sanders questioning her qualifications to be President as “silly” – and looking at her résumé alone, she’d be right – but there is also the need to judge her performance in her various jobs.
What is troubling about Clinton’s record is that she has left behind a trail strewn with failures and even catastrophes. Indeed, her highest profile undertakings almost universally ended in disaster – and a person’s record should matter when voters are deciding whether to entrust him or her with the most powerful office on earth.
In other words, it’s not just a question of her holding one prestigious job or another; it’s also how well she did in those jobs. Otherwise, you have a case of the Peter Principle Squared, not just letting someone rise to the level of his or her incompetence, but in Clinton’s case, continuing to get promoted beyond her level of incompetence.
So, looking behind Clinton’s résumé is important. After all, she presents herself as the can-do candidate who will undertake small-scale reforms that may not move the needle much but are better than nothing and may be all that’s possible given the bitterly divided Congress.
But is Hillary Clinton really a can-do leader? Since she burst onto the national scene with her husband’s presidential election in 1992, she has certainly traveled a lot, given many speeches and met many national and foreign leaders – which surely has some value – but it’s hard to identify much in the way of her meaningful accomplishments.
Clinton’s most notable undertaking as First Lady was her disastrous health insurance plan that was concocted with her characteristic secrecy and then was unveiled to decidedly mixed reviews. Much of the scheme was mind-numbing in its complexity and – because of the secrecy – it lacked sufficient input from Congress where it found few enthusiastic supporters.
Not only did the plan collapse under its own weight, but it helped take many Democratic members of Congress with it, as the Republicans reversed a long era of Democratic control of the House of Representatives in 1994. Because of Hillary Clinton’s health-care disaster, a chastened Democratic Party largely took the idea of providing near-universal health-insurance coverage to Americans off the table for the next 15 years.
In Clinton’s next career as a senator from New York, her most notable action was to enthusiastically support President George W. Bush’s Iraq War. Clinton did not just vote to authorize the war in 2002, she remained a war supporter until 2006 when it became politically untenable to do so, that is, if she had any hope of winning the Democratic presidential nomination against anti-war Sen. Barack Obama.
Both in her support for the war in the early years and her politically expedient switch – along with a grudging apology for her “mistake” – Clinton showed very little courage.
When she was supporting the war, the post-9/11 wind was at Bush’s back. So Clinton joined him in riding the jingoistic wave. By 2006, the American people had turned against the war and the Republican Party was punished at the polls for it, losing control of Congress. So it was no profile-in-courage for Clinton to distance herself from Bush then.
Not Learning Lessons
Still, Clinton seemed to have learned little about the need to ask probing questions of Bush’s team. In November 2006, she completely misread Bush’s firing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and replacing him with ex-CIA Director Robert Gates. Serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Clinton bought the conventional wisdom that Gates’s nomination meant that Bush was winding down the Iraq War despite warnings that it actually meant the opposite.
If Clinton had done any digging, she could have discovered that Rumsfeld was dumped not because of his warmongering but because he backed his field generals – George Casey and John Abizaid – who wanted to rapidly shrink the U.S. military “footprint” in Iraq. But Bush and his neocon advisers saw that as effectively an admission of defeat, so they got rid of Rumsfeld and recruited the more malleable Gates to front for their planned escalation or “surge.”
Not only did Consortiumnews.com spell out that reality in real time, but it also was explained by right-wing pundit Fred Barnes in the neocon Weekly Standard. As Barnes wrote, Gates “is not the point man for a boarding party of former national security officials from the elder President Bush’s administration taking over defense and foreign policy in his son’s administration. … Rarely has the press gotten a story so wrong.”
Barnes reported instead that the younger George Bush didn’t consult his father and only picked Gates after a two-hour face-to-face meeting at which the younger Bush got assurances that Gates was onboard with the neocon notion of “democracy promotion” in the Middle East and shared Bush’s goal of victory in Iraq. [The Weekly Standard, Nov. 27, 2006]
But the mainstream press — and much of Official Washington — loved the other storyline. A Newsweek cover pictured a large George H.W. Bush towering over a small George W. Bush. Embracing this conventional wisdom, Clinton and other Senate Armed Services Committee members brushed aside the warnings about Gates, both his troubling history at the CIA and his likely support for a war escalation.
In his 2014 memoir, Duty, Gates reflects on his 2006 nomination and how completely clueless Official Washington was. Regarding the conventional wisdom about Bush-41 taking the reins from Bush-43, Gates wrote about his recruitment by the younger Bush: “It was clear he had not consulted his father about this possible appointment and that, contrary to later speculation, Bush 41 had no role in it.”
Regarding the mainstream news media’s wrongheaded take on his nomination, Gates wrote: “There was a lot of hilarious commentary about a return to ‘41’s’ team, the president’s father coming to the rescue, former secretary of state Jim Baker pulling all the strings behind the scenes, and how I was going to purge the Pentagon of Rumsfeld’s appointees, ‘clean out the E-Ring’ (the outer corridor of the Pentagon where most senior Defense civilians have their offices). It was all complete nonsense.”
Though Gates doesn’t single out Hillary Clinton for misreading the significance of his nomination, Gates wrote: “The Democrats were even more enthusiastic, believing my appointment would somehow hasten the end of the war. … They professed to be enormously pleased with my nomination and offered their support, I think mainly because they thought that I, as a member of the Iraq Study Group [which had called for winding down the war], would embrace their desire to begin withdrawing from Iraq.”
In other words, Hillary Clinton got fooled again.
Surging for Surges
Once installed at the Pentagon, Gates became a central figure in the Iraq War “surge,” which dispatched 30,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq in 2007. The “surge” saw casualty figures spike. Nearly 1,000 additional American died along with an untold number of Iraqis. And despite another conventional wisdom about the “successful surge” it failed to achieve its central goal of getting the Iraqis to achieve compromises on their sectarian divisions.
Yet, the mainstream press didn’t get any closer to the mark in 2008 when it began cheering the Iraq “surge” as a great success, getting spun by the neocons who noted a gradual drop in the casualty levels. The media honchos, many of whom supported the invasion in 2003, ignored that Bush had laid out specific policy goals for the “surge,” none of which were achieved.
In Duty, Gates reminds us of those original targets, writing: “Prior to the deployment, clear benchmarks should be established for the Iraqi government to meet during the time of the augmentation, from national reconciliation to revenue sharing, etc.”
Those benchmarks were set for the Iraqi government to meet, but the goals were never achieved, either during the “surge” or since then. To this day, Iraq remains a society bitterly divided along sectarian lines with the out-of-power Sunnis again sidling up to Al Qaeda-connected extremists and even the Islamic State.
But Clinton didn’t have the courage or common sense to recognize that the Iraq War “surge” had failed. After Obama appointed her as Secretary of State – as part of a naïve gesture of outreach to a “team of rivals” – Clinton fell back in line behind Official Washington’s new favorite conventional wisdom, the “successful surge.”
In the end, all the Iraq War “surge” did was buy President Bush and his neocon advisers time to get out of office before the failure of the Iraq War became obvious to the American public. Its other primary consequence was to encourage Defense Secretary Gates, who was kept on by President Obama as a gesture of bipartisanship, to conjure up another “surge” for Afghanistan.
In that context, in Duty, Gates recounts a 2009 White House meeting regarding the Afghan War “surge.” He wrote: “The exchange that followed was remarkable. In strongly supporting the surge in Afghanistan, Hillary told the president that her opposition to the surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary [in 2008]. She went on to say, ‘The Iraq surge worked.’
“The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.” Obama’s aides disputed Gates’s suggestion that the President indicated that his opposition to the Iraq “surge” was political, noting that he had always opposed the Iraq War. The Clinton team never challenged Gates’s account.
In other words, having been an Iraq War hawk when it mattered – from 2002-06 – Hillary Clinton changed direction when that was politically expedient, apologizing for her “mistake,” but then returned to her enthusiasm for the war by accepting the benighted view that the “surge worked.”
Clinton’s enthusiasm for “surges” also influenced her to side with Gates and General David Petraeus, a neocon favorite, to pressure Obama into a “surge” for Afghanistan, sending in an additional 30,000 troops on a bloody, ill-fated “counterinsurgency” mission. Again, the cost in American lives was about 1,000 soldiers but their sacrifice did little to shift the war’s outcome.
Again and again, Hillary Clinton seemed incapable of learning from her costly errors – or perhaps she just understands that the politically safest course is to do what Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment wants done. That way you get hailed as a serious thinker in the editorial pages of The Washington Post and at the think-tank conferences.
Virtually all the major columnists and big-name pundits praised Clinton’s hawkish tendencies as Secretary of State, from her escalating tensions with Iran to tipping the balance of the Obama administration’s debate in favor of a “regime change” mission in Libya to urging direct U.S. military intervention in Syria in pursuit of another “regime change” there.
On the campaign trail, Clinton seeks to spin all these militaristic recommendations as somehow beneficial to the United States. But the reality is quite different.
Regarding Iran, in 2010, Secretary Clinton personally killed a promising initiative sponsored by Brazil and Turkey (at President Obama’s request) to get Iran to swap much of its low-enriched uranium for radiological medical tests. Instead, Clinton followed the path laid out by Israel and the neocons, ratchet up pressure on Iran and keep open the “bomb-bomb-bomb Iran” option.
It is noteworthy that the diplomatic agreement with Iran to restrain its nuclear program and to give up much of its low-enriched uranium required Clinton’s departure from the State Department in 2013. I’m told that Obama understood that he needed to get her out of the way for the diplomacy to work.
But Clinton’s signature project as Secretary of State was another war of choice, this time the “regime change” in Libya resulting in the grisly murder of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and the descent of Libya into a failed state beset with terrorism, including the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. diplomatic personnel in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, and more recently the emergence of the Islamic State.
Clinton and her “liberal interventionist” allies sold the Libyan war as a “responsibility to protect” mission – or R2P – but the propaganda about Gaddafi’s supposed plans for “genocide” against the Libyan people was wildly exaggerated and fit with a long and sorry pattern of U.S. officials deceiving the U.S. public. [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Covering Up Hillary’s Libyan Fiasco.”]
According to all accounts, Obama was on the fence about the wisdom of joining European nations in undertaking the Libyan “regime change” and it was Secretary Clinton who tipped his decision toward going to war. The U.S. military then provided the crucial technological infrastructure for the war to go forward. Without the U.S. involvement, the “regime change” in Libya wouldn’t have happened.
As the conflict raged, Clinton’s State Department email exchanges revealed that her aides saw the Libyan war as a chance to pronounce a “Clinton doctrine,” bragging about how Clinton’s clever use of “smart power” could get rid of demonized foreign leaders like Gaddafi. But President Obama seized the spotlight when Gaddafi’s government fell.
But Clinton didn’t miss a second chance to take credit on Oct. 20, 2011, after militants captured Gaddafi, sodomized him with a knife and then murdered him. Appearing on a TV interview, Clinton celebrated Gaddafi’s demise with the quip, “we came; we saw; he died.”
However, with Gaddafi and his largely secular regime out of the way, Islamic militants expanded their power over the country. Many, it turned out, were terrorists, just as Gaddafi had warned. Some were responsible for killing Ambassador Stevens.
Over the next five years, Libya – a once prosperous North African country – descended into anarchy with dozens of armed militias and now three competing governments jockeying for power. Meanwhile, the Islamic State expanded its territory around the city of Sirte and engaged in its signature practice of beheading “infidels,” including a group of Coptic Christians slaughtered on a beach.
Yet, on the campaign trail, Clinton continues to defend her instigation of the Libyan war, disputing any comparisons between it and the Iraq War by rejecting any “conflating” of the two. Yet, the two disasters – while obviously having some differences – do deserve to be conflated because they have many similarities. Both were wars of choice justified by false and misleading claims and having terrible outcomes.
Clinton’s rejection of “conflating” the two wars has another disturbing element to it, the suggestion that she is incapable of extracting lessons from one situation and applying them to another. That inability to analyze, engage in self-criticism, and thus avoid repeating the same mistakes may indeed be a disqualifying characteristic for someone seeking the U.S. presidency.
So, is Hillary Clinton “qualified” to be President of the United States? While her glittering résumé may say one thing, her record – a litany of misjudgments, miscalculations and catastrophes – may say something else.
[For information about Hillary Clinton’s earlier career, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Clinton’s Experience: Fact and Fantasy.”]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Introduction: The terror bombings in Paris and Brussels have raised a cacophony of voices, ranging from state officials, Prime Ministers and Presidents, to academics, journalists and media consultants. Tons of ink and print have focused on the psychology, networks and operations of the alleged perpetrators – radicalized young Muslim citizens of the EU.
Few have examined the long-term, large-scale policies of the EU, US and NATO, which have been associated with the development and growth of the worldwide terror networks. This essay will discuss the historical links between Islamist terrorists and the US-Saudi Arabian-Pakistani intervention in Afghanistan, as well as the consequences of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. In Iraq, the US implemented a deliberate policy of destroying all secular state structures and promoting the Balkanization of the country via ethnic-religious and tribal wars – a policy it has followed in subsequent areas of intervention.
The last section will focus on the US-EU-Gulf Petrol-Monarchy proxy invasions and ‘regime change’ bombings of the secular republics of Libya and Syria with the further cultivation and growth of international Islamist terrorism.
Historical Origins of International Islamist Terrorism: Afghanistan
In 1979, President James Carter and his National Security Chief, Zbigniew Brzezinski, launched Operation Cyclone, a major Islamist uprising against the Soviet- aligned secular Afghan regime. The US coordinated its campaign with the rabidly anti-Soviet monarchy in Saudi Arabia, which provided the funding and mercenaries for ‘international jihad’ against secular governance. This brutal campaign ‘officially’ lasted 10 years until the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. It produced millions of casualties and decades of ‘blow-back’ when the CIA-Pakistani-Saudi trained Arab mercenaries (the ‘Afghan-Arabs’) returned to their home countries and elsewhere. The US intelligence agencies, Special Forces Commands and military directorates (especially Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service) trained and armed terrorists with US-Saudi funding. The American covert financial contribution mushroomed over the years rising to over $670 million dollars a year by 1987. Tens of thousands of Islamist mercenaries and adventurers were recruited from the Middle East, North Africa, the Gulf States, the Soviet Union (Chechens), Yugoslavia (Bosnians and Kosovars), China (Uigurs) and Western Europe.
With the defeat of the secular regime of President Najibullah in 1992, the Islamists and tribal factions then fought among themselves, converting Afghanistan into the world’s best-equipped training ground for International Islamist terrorists. Eventually, the Pashtun-based Taliban faction (with Pakistani arms and support) prevailed and established an extreme Islamist regime. The Taliban, despite its rhetoric, settled down to consolidating their brand of ‘Islamism in one country’, (1995-2001), a largely nationalist project. In its quest for respectability, it successfully destroyed the opium poppy fields, earning the praise of US President GW Bush in spring 2001. It also hosted a variety of Saudi princes and warlords, eventually including the jihadi-internationalist Osama bin Laden, who had been driven from North Africa.
Following the terrorist attack on the US in September 2001, the US and NATO invaded Afghanistan on October 2001 and overthrew the nation-centered Islamist Taliban regime. The subsequent chaos and guerrilla war opened up a huge new inflow and outflow of thousands of international extremists who came to Afghanistan, trained, fought and then departed, fully prepared to practice their terrorist skills in their countries of origin in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
The US interventions and invasion of Afghanistan provide some of the context for the subsequent bombings in Europe and the US. The Islamist ‘returnees’ to Europe and elsewhere had received funds from Saudi Arabia and training from the CIA and Pakistani intelligence. They began their work among a very ‘available’ constituency of potential recruits in the marginalized Muslim youth of the ghettos and prisons of Europe.
The Middle Period: the US-Zionist Invasion and Destruction of Iraq
The turning point in the growth and internationalization of Islamist terrorism was the US invasion, occupation and systematic reign of terror in Iraq. Largely under the guidance of key US Zionist policymakers (and Israeli advisers) in the Pentagon, State Department and the White House, the US dismantled the entire secular Iraqi army and police forces. They also purged the administrative, civil, educational, medical and scientific institutions of nationalistic secular professionals, opening the field to warring Islamist tribal factions. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed and millions fled in a regime of ethnic cleansing – which Washington touted as a model for the rest of the Middle East. However, thousands of experienced, but jobless Iraqi military officers, who had survived the US-orchestrated purges, regrouped and eventually joined with tens of thousands of nationalist and internationalist Islamist extremists to form ISIS. Their motives were arguable less ethno-religious and more related to revenge for their displacement and the destruction of their own society.
The deliberate US (Zionist)-EU-Saudi strategy to divide and conquer Iraq initially involved working closely with Sunni feudal tribal leaders and other extremists to counter the rising power of pro-Iranian Shia. They promoted a policy of fragmenting the country with the Kurds dominating in the North, the Sunnis in the center and the Shia in the south (the so-called Joseph Biden-Leslie Gelb Plan of national dismemberment and ethnic cleansing). The rationale was to create a weak central authority completely under US-EU tutelage and a loose group of fragmented subsistence fiefdoms in what had been the most advanced secular Arab republic.
Despite pouring billions of dollars in arms from the US to create a puppet-colonial Iraqi ‘national army’, the Saudis and Israelis pursued their own policy of financing sectors of the Kurds and violent Sunni opposition – with the latter forming the original mass base of ISIS.
As the US-client Shia regime in Baghdad focused on stealing billions while killing or exiling hundreds of thousands of educated Sunnis, Christians and other secular Iraqis from the capital, the morale of its US-puppet troops plummeted. With the entire experienced and nationalist Iraqi officer core purged (slaughtered or driven into hiding), the new puppet officers were cowardly, corrupt and incompetent – as openly acknowledged by their US ‘advisers’. ISIS, meanwhile had acquired hundreds of thousands of US weapons and was financed by the Shia-hating Saudi Royal Family and other Gulf Monarchs. Armed Sunnis soon launched major, lightning-quick offensives under the leadership of ex-Baathist army officers, supported by thousands of terrorists, suicide bombers and foreign mercenaries. US and European ‘military experts’ expressed ’shock’ at their effectiveness.
ISIS routed the Baghdad-controlled army, their US advisers and Kurdish allies from northern Iraq, capturing major cities, including Mosul, thousands of productive oil wells and drove their forces to within a few dozen kilometers of Baghdad. Territorial conquest and military successes attracted thousands more Islamist volunteers from the Middle East, Europe, Afghanistan and even North America. ISIS provided the military training; Saudi Arabia paid their salaries; Turkey purchased their captured oil and antiquities and opened its borders to the transfer of jihadi troops and weapons. Israel, for its part, purchased captured ISIS petrol at a discount from corrupt Turkish traders. Each regional player had its snout in the bloody trough that had once been Iraq!
ISIS successes in Iraq, led it to expand its operations and ambitions across the border into Syria. This occurred just as the US and EU were bombing and destroying the secular government of Colonel Gadhafi in Libya, in another ‘wildly successful’ planned campaign of ‘regime change’ (According to US Secretary of State Clinton as she gleefully watched the captive wounded Gadhafi ’snuff film’ by unspeakable torture – ‘WE came and HE died’.).
The chaos that ensued in Libya led to an exponential growth of extremist Islamist groups with tons of weapons of ‘liberated’ Libyan weapons! Islamist terrorists in Libya gained territory, took over oil wells and attracted ‘volunteers’ from the marginalized youth of neighboring Tunisia, Egypt, Mali and as far away as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Flush with more guns, money and training. Many graduates went on to Syria and Iraq.
The Contemporary Period: EU-US-Turkey-Saudi-Israeli Sponsored War in Syria
In 2011, as ISIS rolled across the Iraqi border into Syria and terrorist Islamist bands seized cities in Libya, the US-EU-Turkish-Saudi and Israeli regimes financed and armed Islamist (and the mythical ‘moderate’) forces in Syria to overthrow the nationalist-secular Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad.
Thousands of Islamist extremist volunteers heeded the call (and the fat paychecks) of the Saudi regime and its Salafist propagandists. These constituted the Saudi Royal Family’s own ‘Foreign Legion’. They were trained and armed and shipped into Syria by Turkish intelligence. The US armed and trained hundreds of its own so-called ‘moderate rebels’ whose fighters quickly defected to ISIS and other terrorist groups turning over tons of US arms, while the ‘moderate rebel leaders’ gave press conferences from London and Washington. ISIS seized swaths of Syrian territory, sweeping westward toward the Russian naval and air bases on the coast and upward from the south, encircling Damascus. Millions were uprooted and minority populations were enslaved or slaughtered.
The news of ISIS territorial gains with their plundered oil wealth from sales to Turkey and the flow of arms from Saudi Arabia, the EU and the US attracted over 30,000 ‘volunteer’ mercenaries from North America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
These new terrorists received military training, including bomb making and logistical planning in Syria. Many were citizens of the EU, Islamist extremists, numbering over five thousand. These young fighters trained and fought in Syria and then returned to France, Belgium, Germany and the rest of the EU. They had gone to Syria with the tacit support and/or tolerance of their own European governments who had used them, rather than NATO troops, in the US-EU campaign of ‘regime change’ against Damascus.
The European governments were sure they had ‘their’ Muslim recruits under control as they joined the US in a reckless policy of overthrowing independent secular governments in the Middle East and North Africa. They happily encouraged their marginalized young Muslim citizens to flock to Syria and fight. They hoped they would remain in Syria (fighting on the ground or buried under the ground). Officially, EU leaders claimed to support ‘moderate rebels’ (the bland term Western media used to sanitize Islamist terrorists) fighting the Assad ‘dictatorship’. European regimes were not prepared to detain the battle hardened ‘returnees’, who had been trained in Iraq and Syria. These young European Muslims (children of immigrants or converts to Islam) had been heavily indoctrinated and incorporated into international terrorist networks. They easily melted back into their marginalized European urban ghettos – beyond the control of Europe’s bloated intelligence services.
In practice, the EU regimes saw the thousands of Europe’s Muslim youth flocking to Syria as an ‘EU Foreign Legion’, a glorified wastebasket for unemployed young thugs and ex-prisoners, who would advance NATO’s imperial goals while solving the domestic social problem of the marginalized children of North African migrants. Europe’s Muslim youth were viewed as convenient cannon fodder by NATO planners and the governments of France, Belgium and the UK. For public relations, it was better for these young men and women to die overthrowing the secular government in Syria than to send in European soldiers (white Christians) whose deaths would have domestic political repercussions.
The EU underestimated the depth of antagonism these ‘volunteers’ felt about US-EU intervention in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as their anger at Europe’s continued support for Israeli land grabs in Palestine. In its racist arrogance, EU leaders underestimated the capacity of ISIS to indoctrinate, train and organize these marginalized kids from Europe’s slums into effective international cells able to carry the war back to Europe.
The EU smugly overlooked the active roles of Turkey and Saudi Arabia who had their own independent, regional ambitions. Ankara and Riyadh trained and financed the ‘volunteers’, and facilitated their flow into Syria from camps in Turkey and Jordan. The wounded were treated in Turkey and sometimes even in Israel. Thousands, many EU citizens, would flow back into Europe or to their countries of origin in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Russia.
The EU had slavishly and blindly followed Washington’s lead in all its Middle East wars. Now it is now paying a big price: Thousands of trained terrorists have returned; bombings and attacks on European civilians and civil structures have occurred, while the European government leaders trip over each other in a mad rush to dismantle civil and constitutional citizen rights and impose wide ranging police state measures (States of Emergency).
These new Saudi-funded terrorist recruits (Riyadh’s Legionnaires) are active in all the countries where the US and EU have launched proxy wars: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan . . . Turkey funds ISIS terrorists in Syria, Iraq and Kurdish territories to advance its own expansionist ambitions – oblivious to the clucking disapproval of EU leaders. Now Turkey receives over 6 billion Euro’s from the EU in what amounts to blackmail: In return, Turkey will ‘contain’ the flood of regional refugees in barely disguised concentration camps out of European sight.
Ever since the US-EU policymakers decided to implement a war against Arab and West Asian secular nationalism in the Middle-East, Afghanistan, Iran and North Africa through serial ‘regime change’ campaigns they have relied on Islamist Salafist mercenaries and volunteers to do most of the killing on the ground, while the West operates from the air. Washington and its NATO allies operated on the assumption that they could use and then discard their recruits, mostly from marginalized urban youth and criminal gangs, once they had served imperial military purposes. A few with requisite talent and ruthlessness could be turned into puppet ‘leaders’ to unleash on the Russians and other ‘obstacles’ in future engagements.
The EU-US totally misunderstood the volunteers’ high level of independence, their organizational autonomy and their own understanding of the tactical nature of their alliance with Western imperialism. Islamist extremist leaders, like their Western counterparts, believe there are no permanent alliances – only permanent interests.
The EU and US have pursued a policy of overthrowing independent Muslim and secular Arab nations and returning them to the status of pre-independence semi-colonies. The rollback policy against secular nationalism (with its deep roots in the Dulles era) has extended from North Africa, through the Middle East to Southwest Asia. For its part, ISIS and its allies envision a return to a pre-colonial Islamic caliphate over the same lands and people to counter Western imperialism. Millions are caught in the middle.
ISIS views the Westernized secular elites in the Muslim countries as a fifth column for the spread of empire, while it has re-socialized and trained young Islamists from the EU to serve as networks of terrorists ‘behind enemy lines’ sowing mayhem in the West.
The political repercussions of this internationalized war are profound. Millions of civilians in the war zones have been and will be killed, uprooted and converted into desperate refugees flooding the EU. Police-state emergency rule, arbitrary searches, arrests and interrogations have become the norm in the highly militarized European airports, train and metro stations, as well as markets and cultural centers. The EU has increasingly undergone an ‘Israelization’ of its society, with its population polarized and resembling Israel- Palestinian . . . its Muslim community marginalized and confined into little Gaza’s.
In this charged atmosphere, Israeli high tech security companies and advisers flourish, mergers and acquisitions of police state technology multiply. Israeli Prime Minister Benny Netanyahu embraces the French Prime Minister Hollande in the club of electoral authoritarians.
Meanwhile the refugees and their children flow to and fro, the bombs come and go. We line up to place flowers on our latest dead and then pay our taxes for more wars in the Middle East. More young ‘volunteers’ will become cheap fodder to fight in our wars; some will return and plant more bombs, so we can mourn some more at patriotic vigils -protected by armed battalions…
US airstrikes in Afghan province of Paktika have killed at least 17 civilians, local officials and elders say, rejecting official American and Afghan claims that only militants had been killed.
They were killed during three drone strikes carried out by the US in the area of Nematabad on Wednesday, former Afghan senator Hajji Muhammad Hasan said, quoted by The New York Times.
The first raid struck a vehicle carrying a local elder, Hajji Rozuddin, who was on his way to mediate a land dispute in a tribe with four bodyguards and seven other people, the report said.
“Hajji Rozuddin was strongly anti-Taliban,” said Hasan. “He carried bodyguards because the Taliban were trying to kill him.”
“The car was completely destroyed, and there was little of the bodies left,” he said.
Soon after the attack, another strike killed two people who had come to help recover the bodies from the truck after the first attack, said Hasan.
A third attack also killed three other civilians on top of a small hill. They were trying “to see what had happened and why the previous two men had not returned already,” he explained.
Governor Shaista Khan Akhtarzada also confirmed that an investigation team had determined that “the people killed were civilians.”
The US military had said on Thursday that two Wednesday airstrikes in Paktika killed 14 militants.
“There was no evidence to indicate that there were any civilian casualties at all,” Charles Cleveland, a spokesman for the United States military in Afghanistan, said.
Cleveland claimed that most of the “just under a hundred” US strikes in Afghanistan from January 1 to March 31 were focused on Daesh militants in eastern Nangarhar Province.
Officials and residents said that such airstrikes have been relatively rare in Paktika in recent months, even as the United States has intensified its air operations elsewhere in the country.
In January, US President Barack Obama authorized American forces to target Daesh terrorists emerging in Nangarhar.
Although Taliban leaders have warned Daesh against “waging a parallel insurgency in Afghanistan,” the Takfiri group has been trying to expand its outreach there and is reported to have between 1,000 to 3,000 terrorists on its payroll.
Afghanistan is gripped by insecurity 14 years after the United States and its allies attacked the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror.
(Please read Part I and Part II prior to this article)
The threat facing Turkmenistan is less of a Color Revolution than an Unconventional War. The catalyst for this conflict would be a terrorist invasion coming from Afghanistan that unexpectedly sweeps northwards along the Murgab River. Such an offensive doesn’t even have to reach the national capital in order to be successful, since all that it really needs to do is capture the city of Mary, the capital of the resource-rich Mary Region. This part of the country contains the lion’s share of Turkmenistan’s gas reserve, which includes the massive and decades-long functioning Dauletabad Field and the newly discovered Galkynysh Field, the latter being the world’s second-largest find.
It wouldn’t be all that difficult for terrorists to take over this plot of land either, since the Murgab River is scattered with tiny villages along its banks that could provide cover from government airstrikes and places to provoke pitched battles from. The fertile land nearby is endowed with agricultural potential that’s surely being stored somewhere closely accessible, and this could help feed the occupying forces until greater conquests are made. In short, the Murgab River is the most militarily and logistically sustainable route for an ISIL-like invasion of Turkmenistan, and it leads straight to the gas heart of Eurasia that’s critically connected to China and will possibly be linked to India in the coming decade as well.
The risk of terrorists gaining control of the largest source of China’s gas imports and possibly even destroying the facilities is too much for multipolar strategists in Beijing and Moscow to bear, and it’s assured that they’ve already engaged in some sort of unofficial contingency planning with their counterparts in Ashgabat. An anti-terrorist Chinese intervention is largely precluded due to geographic distances and a lack of support and logistics facilities en route, but the Russian military has no such hindrances and would be much more likely to assist the Turkmen authorities if called upon to do so. This is of course a last resort and would only be commissioned if Turkmenistan proves itself unable to stem the terrorist tide and defend its gas infrastructure, but such an event is most assuredly being planned for just in case the Turkmen-Afghan border proves to be just as fragile of a defense against terrorists as the Syrian-Iraqi one was before it.
Kazakhstan and the other three remaining states of former Soviet Central Asia are greatly at risk of a “Central Asian Spring” breaking out in the Fergana Valley, and Part IV of the Greater Heartland series will focus exclusively on this ever likely scenario. Accordingly, the rest of this section will explore the other Hybrid War vulnerabilities facing these four countries.
The geographically largest state in the Greater Heartland region is surprisingly immune from many of the conventional socio-political factors that lead to Hybrid Wars (excluding the variables that will later be discussed about the “Central Asian Spring”). If one was blind to the domestic and international contexts pertinent to Kazakhstan, then they’d be inclined to believe that the Russian population constitutes the greatest threat to the country’s sovereignty, although this couldn’t be anywhere further from the truth. Theoretically speaking, this demographic satisfies all of the criteria necessary for sparking a Hybrid War, but Kazakhstan’s multipolar alignment with the Eurasian Union and respectful treatment of this influential minority group precludes any chances that they or Russia would ever try to move forward with this scenario. On the reverse, the very inclusion of such a large Russian minority within Kazakhstan ties Astana and Moscow closer together than just about any other state in the former Soviet Union and works to enhance, not deteriorate, relations between them.
The only vulnerability in this relatively secure setup is if the US and its proxy NGO affiliates succeed in brainwashing the Russian-Kazakh population with Pravy Sektor- and Navalny-esque extreme nationalism, which could then create a delicate geopolitical situation where the raucous Russian minority agitates against Astana and attempts to drive a wedge between Kazakhstan and Russia. Security officials in both states are likely well aware of this obvious scenario and can be predicted to have rehearsed coordinated contingency measures for responding to it. Nonetheless, if such a virulent, discriminatory, and destructive ideology as “Greater Russian Nationalism” is allowed to fester in multicultural Kazakhstan and parts of the Russian Federation itself, then a scandalous outbreak in the Near Abroad could provoke a simultaneous cross-border event inside of Russia, especially if ‘sleeper sympathizers’ organize anti-government protests against Moscow’s “betrayal” of its compatriots out of its refusal to replicate the Crimean scenario in Northern Kazakhstan.
Another destabilization possibility that mustn’t be discounted in Kazakhstan is a repeat of the Zhanaozen riots, the ‘localized’ Color Revolution attempt that was sparked by a simmering labor dispute in 2011. The oil field workers were fed up with what they complained to be poor working conditions, low wages, and unpaid salaries, and this created an attractive atmosphere for Color Revolutionaries to exploit. Keeping with Color Revolution tradition, the riots started on 16 December, the 20th anniversary of Kazakh independence, and were presumably expected to signal the beginning of the regime change attempt to other cells across the country, almost one year to the day that the “Arab Spring” Color Revolution first broke out in Tunisia.
Seething with preexisting anger, the workers were extraordinarily easy to exploit, and the carnage they committed killed over a dozen people and injured more than 100 before a state of emergency and necessary military intervention restored order. The authorities’ decisive reaction and the multicultural, patriotic identity of most Kazakhs can be credited with preventing the spread of the Color Revolution virus from the distant Turkmen border all the way to centrally located capital, but the strategic lessons that can be learned from this episode are that: labor disputes and organizing could be both a cover and spark for a Color Revolution; and that destabilizations could start outside of the major cities and originate in the far-flung provinces.
This tiny mountainous republic is notably split along a steep North-South divide, with the capital of Bishkek being located along the northern plains while the major population centers of Jalal-abad and Osh reside in the southern Fergana Valley. The clan-based nature of Kyrgyz society has played a strong role in influencing the political system, and this has consequently created identity resentment among whichever group was disproportionately underrepresented at the given moment. Although the situation has relatively stabilized and become somewhat more ‘equitable’ since the 2010 Color Revolution, clan-based tension and its geographic affiliations are still deeply ingrained in the national psyche, and any visible calmness simply belies the aggravating tensions that lay just beneath the surface. As confirmation of this assessment, one need only remember the misleading “stability” that many had inaccurately judged to be prevalent in the country just prior to the 2005 and 2010 Color Revolutions, and after witnessing the ferocious clan-based and ethnic violence that exploded after each of them, it’s improbable to assume that the individual drivers of such identity conflicts simply disappeared on their own after only half a decade.
What really happened is that they went underground as usual and abstained from the national discourse, while still remaining psychologically mobilized and ready to act the moment a future destabilization distracts or dissolves the security forces and provides another strategic opening for settling unresolved blood feuds that still linger from last time. The most violent-prone area of Kyrgyzstan is its southern Fergana region that abuts Uzbekistan, and it’s here where radical Islamic elements have taken root. The difficulty in forcibly eradicating them is that any major Kyrgyz security operation so close to the Uzbek border, let alone one that potentially targets ethnic Uzbeks, could create a hostile impression towards much-stronger Uzbekistan, which in turn could use the events as a pretext for activating a prearranged plan to mobilize in response to the ‘human rights violations’ allegedly being committed against its ethnic compatriots. Tashkent’s geopolitical loyalty has always been nebulous and ill-defined, and the country’s been working more closely with the US ever since the 2014 drawdown in Afghanistan. Washington needs a Lead From Behind partner in Central Asia, and it’s possible that Uzbekistan has been designated this role, which if it doesn’t comply with, could lead to the “Central Asian Spring” scenario that will soon be discussed.
To return to the Hybrid War threats facing Kyrgyzstan, it’s important to highlight that the country’s mountainous terrain is very accommodating to guerrilla warfare. The southern mountain ranges are sparsely populated and the government barely has any presence in some of the more isolated areas. Looking at the regional geography at play, it’s conceivable that Fergana-based terrorists could receive weapons and fighters from Afghanistan by taking advantage of the lack of governance present in Southern Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. After all, this route is already used to smuggle tons of drugs, so it’s certainly possible that it could be used to transport terrorists and weapons along the way as well (if this isn’t being done already). It’s very difficult for the Kyrgyz authorities to exert full control over this region because of tight financial and human resources, a current prioritization on the more populated areas, and the inhibitive geography involved.
To emphasize the last point, wintertime typically renders all of the few north-south roads impassable and strands the mountainous southern-based citizens in their villages for the duration of the season. This effectively splits the country into two, and if timed to coincide with a Hybrid War, then it could give the regime change insurgents active in that region enough time to consolidate their gains and prepare for the hostilities that would inevitably recommence after the snow melts in spring. When one thinks of a terrorist-driven “caliphate”, the last thing that probably comes to mind is a mountainous, snow-covered retreat, but this is exactly what ISIL or any likeminded group could feasibly create in Southern Kyrgyzstan if they played their cards ‘right’. It would be extremely challenging to dislodge the terrorists in such a scenario, and the danger in doing so would critically spike if it were revealed that they had access to anti-aircraft weapons. The Kyrgyz military would obviously be unsuited for such a difficult task and would have to resort to their Russian partners in the CSTO for assistance, with Moscow predictably helping through a combination of drone surveillance and air strikes just as it’s currently doing in Syria at the moment.
The threat facing Tajikistan is structurally similar to the one in Kyrgyzstan, and it’s that the country’s large swath of mountainous geography could be exploited by terrorist groups in facilitating smuggling routes or providing cavernous shelter. It goes without saying that Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan is perhaps its greatest vulnerability, but some respite could be found in the fact that there are more ethnic Tajiks in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan, and that if this community were properly mobilized to its fullest extent, then it could provide an effective bulwark against the Taliban and other terrorist groups. At the moment, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case, since the Taliban was able to briefly capture the northern provincial capital of Kunduz at the end of September and achieve their greatest military success since 2001.
Up to this point, it had been largely assumed that this part of Afghanistan was the least welcoming to the Taliban owing to the valiant history of the Northern Alliance and the relatively secular Tajik community that inhabits the region. What Kunduz taught observers is that these two factors are no longer the strongest determinants of regional security, and that the Taliban has succeeded in the past decade and a half in proselytizing their ideology, gaining sympathizers, and infiltrating enough fighters into the area so as to set up an effective base of operations. The converts that they’ve claimed, the supporters that they’ve acquired, and the terrorists that they’ve relocated to Northern Afghanistan all played an integral role in the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz, and just because they had to conventionally retreat from the city doesn’t mean that their soft infrastructure had to withdraw as well. The reason that this is relevant to Tajikistan is that it proves that the Taliban have a strong presence right along the Amu Darya river border and that fears about their cross-border militant potential are not misplaced.
More domestically, however, the greatest threat comes from the Islamic Renaissance Party, the newly banned organization that represented the last legal party of political Islam in the region. The process was in the works for a while, but ultimately it was decided that the group was full of terrorists and needed to be shut down as soon as possible, with the decision being spurred by rogue former Deputy Defense Minister Abdukhalim Nazarzoda’s coup attempt earlier that month. He and a group of followers slaughtered over 30 soldiers in the capital of Dushanbe before fleeing into the mountains where they were finally hunted down and killed a week later. The subsequent investigation revealed that the deputy head of the Islamic Renaissance Party, Mahmadali Hayit, had consorted with the coup plotters earlier in the year and that 13 members of the party were suspected of being involved in the attacks, so it makes absolute sense that the organization would be outlawed soon thereafter in the interests of national security. At the same time, however, the proclamation came so abruptly that the authorities didn’t have time to completely extinguish the organization, and countless sympathizers and probable sleeper cells can be assumed to be embedded in society. Whether they’ll make the transition to militant action on behalf of the terrorist organization or repent for their prior allegiance to it and disown its ideology remain to be seen, but the actionable threat remains nonetheless and is obviously a destabilizing factor that could be leveraged in any coming Hybrid War against Tajikistan.
Aside from the “Central Asian Spring” scenario that will be detailed in Part IV, there are still quite a few other Hybrid War threats facing the region’s largest country. Uzbekistan is first and foremost threatened by a complete breakdown in law and order stemming from a succession crisis after the passing of Islam Karimov. The author previously explored the contours of these chilling possibilities in his piece “Uzbekistan’s Bubbling Pot Of Destabilization”, but to concisely summarize, the clan-based nature of Uzbek society coupled with the competition between the National Security Service and the Interior Ministry creates a cataclysmic scenario where a black hole of disorder arises in the heart of Central Asia and rapidly spreads throughout the rest of the region.
The only thing that could stop the previously held-together society from dramatically decentralizing down to Somalian-style warlordship would be the rapid reconsolidation of power under one of the two competing security agencies, but since their rivalry could predictably intensify in the days following Karimov’s death (and with the resultant security breakdown this would entail if they focus more on one another than on their designated subjects), it can’t be precluded that Uzbekistan could unravel before anyone realizes what even happened. Of course, if Karimov publicly designates a successor prior to his death or steps down and allows his designee to rule before then, this could potentially assuage the risks inherent in this scenario, but it doesn’t look too likely that this would happen, nor would these steps prevent the rival agency from attempting a major power play the moment the ‘head honcho’ inevitably dies anyhow.
Parallel with this possible tumult could be an explosion of terrorism from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizb ut Tahrir, ISIL, the Taliban, some yet-to-be-named organization, and/or a combination of these groups, which would exacerbate the already deteriorating security situation in the country and divide the security services’ focus even more. There’s also the likelihood that the Taliban or ISIL might even make a conventional move on Uzbekistan amidst the greater breakdown of regional order, which in that case would usher in a global crisis similar to the one that transpired when ISIL crossed into and began conquering Iraq.
Therefore, true to the theory of Hybrid War, any type of social disruption in the tightly controlled Uzbek society, be it through a Color Revolution, succession crisis, or a combination of factors, would create a tantalizing opportunity for Unconventional Warriors to rise up against the state and increase the odds of regime change. In this case, if there’s no real government in power at the moment, then it would prolong the “regime vacuum” and amplify country’s disorder until it reaches the critical point of spreading to its neighbors. Therefore, in such a scenario as the one previously described, it’s important for some leader or leading entity (e.g. military junta) to assume power as soon as possible in order to preempt a regional breakdown. In hindsight, it was precisely this quick emergence of leadership, however weak and fragmented, that emerged in Kyrgyzstan after the 2010 Color Revolution that helped to miraculously contain the chaos and prevent it from turning into a “Central Asian Spring”.
Before addressing this curious concept that’s been alluded to a few times already, it’s necessary to briefly touch upon a minor socio-political factor in Uzbekistan that shouldn’t be overlooked when discussing forthcoming disorder there. The autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan is a little-known administrative entity in the former Soviet Union that handsomely sits atop rich oil and gas reserves and provides transit to two energy pipelines to Russia. The dried-up majority of the Aral Sea has endowed the region even more oil and gas than was previously accessible, meaning that Karakalpakstan will likely become more important than ever to the Uzbek state.
Still, its energy potential isn’t the exact reason why the autonomous republic is brought up when discussing Hybrid War scenarios, since there lately have been whispers of a Karakalpakstan “independence” movement that provocatively wants to join Russia. In all probability, this isn’t a genuine movement but rather a proxy front controlled by the US to advance the objective of straining the already frayed ties between Russia and Uzbekistan. The appearance of a “pro-Russian” separatist organization at the crossroads of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan isn’t incidental, and its’ designed to destabilize the entire region if ever given the opportunity. On its own, the Karakalpakstan “independence” movement is powerless to do anything to upset the Central Asian balance, but in the event that the eastern more populated part of the country descends into bedlam following one or some of the abovementioned scenarios, then it’s likely that this group will emerge from the shadows (or more likely, be parachuted or infiltrated into the theater) to violently lay stake to its secessionist claim so that it can then transform into an American protectorate.
To be continued…
Andrew Korybko is the American political commentator currently working for the Sputnik agency. He is the post-graduate of the MGIMO University and author of the monograph “Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach To Regime Change” (2015). This text will be included into his forthcoming book on the theory of Hybrid Warfare.
David Packouz (L) and Efraim Diveroli
From Ukraine to North Africa to the Middle East, and most recently in the Caucasus with the outbreak of hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia, death and destruction are on the prowl in multiple wars, while at the same time international laws governing armed conflict are rapidly being cast onto the rubbish heap.
Many of these wars have been instigated by powers outside the countries in which they are being fought, and the tide of violence threatening to engulf the world now is unprecedented in history. You would think that at such a time, Hollywood would have better taste than to make a movie glorifying the arms trade.
But of course, you would be wrong.
Scheduled for release in August, “War Dogs” is based on the real life story of Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, two twenty-something Jews who got involved in the arms trade and ended up bidding on Pentagon contracts, in the process scoring deals to supply weapons, ammo, and other military equipment to forces the US was arming in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Their story was told in a 2011 Rolling Stone article which detailed their passion for money-making, recreational drug use, and their predilection for shady business dealings. “Packouz and Diveroli met at Beth Israel Congregation, the largest Orthodox synagogue in Miami Beach,” the story informs us, and then goes on to describe how they landed some lucrative contracts, including one worth $300 million, all while operating a small company known as AEY, a shell company Diveroli’s father had set up. All of this was in the years 2005-2007.
For decades, weapons had been stockpiled in warehouses throughout the Balkans and Eastern Europe for the threat of war against the West, but now arms dealers were selling them off to the highest bidder. The Pentagon needed access to this new aftermarket to arm the militias it was creating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The trouble was, it couldn’t go into such a murky underworld on its own. It needed proxies to do its dirty work — companies like AEY. The result was a new era of lawlessness…
One evening, Diveroli picked Packouz up in his Mercedes, and the two headed to a party at a local rabbi’s house, lured by the promise of free booze and pretty girls. Diveroli was excited about a deal he had just completed, a $15 million contract to sell old Russian-manufactured rifles to the Pentagon to supply the Iraqi army. He regaled Packouz with the tale of how he had won the contract, how much money he was making and how much more there was to be made….
Diveroli, by the way, is the nephew of celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a staunch supporter of Israel and author of several books, including one entitled “Kosher Sex”–a book in which he “breaks down sexual taboos” while pioneering “a revolutionary approach to sex, marriage, and personal relationships, drawing on traditional Jewish wisdom.” Boteach has also run inflammatory ads in the New York Times defending Israel, and in 2012 was bankrolled by Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson in an unsuccessful campaign for Congress.
So in other words, while Boteach was doing the TV talk show circuit advising Americans how to improve their sex lives, his nephew Diveroli was finding his niche in the “murkey underworld” of arms trafficking.
Above all, Diveroli cared about the bottom line. “Efraim was a Republican because they started more wars,” Packouz says. “When the United States invaded Iraq, he was thrilled. He said to me, ‘Do I think George Bush did the right thing for the country by invading Iraq? No. But am I happy about it? Absofuckinglutely.’ He hoped we would invade more countries because it was good for business.”
The big $300 million deal they landed found them purchasing stocks of Chinese-made ammunition in the Balkans and transporting them to Afghanistan, but a US embargo against Chinese weapons meant the whole thing had to be carried out clandestinely. The ammo was repackaged in cardboard boxes with no Chinese lettering. But some of the ammo was quite old, a number of the crates were infested with termites, and the two ended up being indicted for fraud and pleading guilty. And now we have a forthcoming Hollywood movie about their endogamic escapades.
It’s tempting to dismiss “War Dogs” as just another piece of Hollywood trash, but of course it comes as millions are coping with the destruction of homes and lives in the bogus war on terror and as whole nations are being torn apart. In Syria, the US has aligned itself with so-called “moderate” rebels, equipping them with vast stocks of weapons, many of which have ended up in the hands of ISIS, while in Yemen, we have assisted Saudi Arabia in an air campaign which, as of January 2016, had resulted in 2,795 killed and 5,324 wounded. At least 62 civilians were killed by coalition airstrikes in December alone, reports the UN, which was more than twice the number killed in the previous month. Many others have been left homeless.
A girl drinks from a leaking street pipe in Yemen, where millions now have no access to drinking water
But this hasn’t stopped the US from continuing to fuel the fire, so to speak. According to Defense News, the State Department has facilitated $33 billion worth of weapons sales to its Arab Gulf allies since May of 2015. The weapons–including anti-armor missiles, attack helicopters, and ballistic missile defense capabilities–have been sold to the six countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC. These would of course be some of the same countries that have been supplying arms to ISIS while also carrying out war crimes in Yemen.
“In addition, the U.S. government and industry also delivered 4,500 precision-guided munitions to the GCC countries in 2015, including 1,500 taken directly from U.S. military stocks — a significant action given our military’s own needs,” said David McKeeby, a spokesman with the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
How much of this ordnance may have ended up in the hands of not-so-moderate terrorists is unclear, but in December of 2015, Amnesty International published a report entitled “Taking Stock: The Arming of the Islamic State,” which found that the terrorist army “now deploys a substantial arsenal of arms and ammunition, designed or manufactured in more than 25 countries.”
A lot of this was looted or captured from poorly secured Iraqi military stocks, says the report, but illicit weapons transactions also seem to have played a considerable role in building up the ISIS arsenal–and some of the “chain of custody” evidence cited in the report, including a cache of weapons transferred from Croatia to the Free Syrian Army, sounds almost eerily similar to the sort of shady weapons trafficking operation run by Packouz and Diveroli.
Of course there is the old adage about art imitating life, and, on some level the fact that Hollywood would make a film about two Jews and then go on to entitle it “War Dogs” is perhaps not surprising. This, keep in mind, coming at a time when evidence of Israel’s support for terrorists in Syria is as clear as the hand in front of your face. And of course who could forget the lovable Victoria Nuland and her famous “f**k-the-EU” comment, mouthed off at a time when her State Department was busy engineering a coup in Ukraine?
In fact, efforts by Zionist Jews to create instability and instigate wars are getting to be about as common as fireflies on a summer night. They’re not always easy to spot, but you know they’re out there because they occasionally involuntarily light up, as when someone like Nuland gets caught in a taped phone conversation.
And now it looks like certain fireflies have moved into the Caucasus where they seem to be taking advantage of a long-simmering dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. On April 2, intense fighting broke out followed by a series of charges, counter-charges, claims and counterclaims, made by both sides. According to the Armenians, it started with an offensive launched by Azerbaijani troops using tanks and artillery. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, insists it was responding to large-caliber weapons fire from inside the ethnic Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh area. So who is telling the truth? Or are both sides lying?
Hard to say for sure, but a couple of knowns are worth mentioning: A) Armenia is closely allied with Russia, and, B) Azerbaijan, too, has ties, including trade ties, with Russia, but it also is closely aligned with Turkey and maintains extensive trade relations with Israel. And the trade with Israel has been especially heavy in the area of military procurement.
Israeli drones, anti-aircraft and missile defense systems have been supplied to Azerbaijan in the wake of a $1.6 billion agreement struck between the two countries in 2012. Israeli companies are also active in the Azerbaijani telecommunications, agriculture, water supply medical technology, and energy sectors. That makes for a lot of sayanim on the ground inside a relatively small country.
Perhaps no surprise, then, that Armenian forces shot down an Israeli drone on April 2–the very day hostilities broke out.
The ThunderB drone is known for its light weight, 62 pounds, and its long flying time–25.5 hours–on a single tank of fuel. It is made by an Israeli company known as BlueBird, which reportedly may be about to be purchased by Elbit Systems.
And then on Tuesday came news of yet another Israeli drone spotted over Nagorno-Karabakh–this one believed to be a Harop drone, made by Israeli Aerospace Industries. The Harop is also known as a “suicide drone” in that rather than firing a missile at a target it simply becomes the missile itself, ramming the target and destroying it.
According to Gordon Duff, senior editor at Veterans Today, the key to understanding the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is to recognize “that Azerbaijan is a client state of Israel and the CIA.” He adds that Azerbaijan has as well become “the regional operating center for Google Idea Groups,” which he refers to as the “shadow CIA.”
Google Ideas was formed in 2010. At that time Google CEO Eric Schmidt tapped the State Department’s Jared Cohen to direct the new venture, dubbed as a “think/do tank.” In late 2015, Google was reorganized under a parent company called Alphabet, Inc., and in February of this year Google Ideas was rebranded as “Jigsaw”–although it is still run by Cohen and still affiliated with Google.
Cohen, by the way, is also an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and during his years with the State Department (2006-2010) he worked closely with Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, and became a strategic advisor in US policy toward Iran. Jigsaw’s mission is to “use technology to tackle the toughest geopolitical challenges, from countering violent extremism to thwarting online censorship to mitigating the threats associated with digital attacks,” says Schmidt.
Sounds nice, but a purview of Jigsaw’s website–fittingly kind of creepy and dark-looking–suggests that virtually all of the “activists” it has provided support to seem to be from countries with governments the US seeks to overthrow. And indeed, in 2012 Wikileaks released a cache of emails concerning Cohen’s activities in the Middle East, including one, apparently written by Cohen himself, in which he discusses efforts to stir up trouble in Iran:
I wanted to follow-up and get a sense of your latest thinking on the proposed March trip to UAE, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. The purpose of this trip is to exclusively engage the Iranian community to better understand the challenges faced by Iranians as part of one of our Google Ideas groups on repressive societies. Here is what we are thinking: Drive to Azerbaijan/Iranian border and engage the Iranian communities closer to the border (this is important because we need the Azeri Iranian perspective).
So here, it seems, we have Cohen basically setting up shop on the Iran-Azerbaijan border. It should be noted that both Azerbaijan and Armenia border Iran, while Azerbaijan also shares a border with Russia. A conflict breaking out in this region could easily spill over into Russia or Iran–both of which have called for the two warring parties to adhere to a 1994 ceasefire agreement.
But of course, such a spillover would advance certain geopolitical interests. For one thing, it would pose a dilemma for Russia at a time when it is engaged in Syria. Sergei Zheleznyak, vice speaker of the Russian state Duma, has voiced the view that a “third force” is behind developments in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Russian News Agency Tass :
“It is clear that the force that continues to fan the flames of war in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus dissatisfied with the peacekeeping and counter-terror success of Russia and our allies in Syria is interested in the speedy exacerbation of the protracted conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region,” the parliamentarian wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday.
According to Zheleznyak, “neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia essentially need this exacerbation now.” He noted that “there is every likelihood that this provocation has been organized by a third force,” adding that “information on its presence is beginning to leak out.” In view of this, he drew attention to the fact that “at night in the mountains it is enough to have a few trained armed persons who know the opposing sides’ balance of forces to provoke them to open reciprocal ‘reprisal’ fire.”
Most people probably assumed Zheleznyak, in talking about a “third force,” was referring to Turkey–and certainly Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet in Syria factors into the equation. But another element that perhaps figures even more prominently is the “clash of civilizations” that hardcore Zionists have long salivated over the thought of.
We might theorize that ISIS was created with a two-fold objective: one was to break apart Syria and bring about the overthrow of Bashar Assad, while the other was to jockey into existence a clash of civilizations between Christians and Muslims. In both of these objectives it has failed. Assad is still standing, and while the rise of ISIS certainly inflamed anti-Muslim sentiments in the West, it has not resulted in the all-out war between Christianity and Islam that would have played so well into the hands of the Jewish state.
But where the ISIS plan failed, the conflict in the Caucasus could well succeed. Armenia is predominantly a Christian state, while Azerbaijan is mostly Muslim. A war between these two could galvanize public opinion in the region along religious lines. Regional political alignments and the history of the Armenian genocide are also to be considered. Turkey, though sharing a border with Armenia, has openly sided with Azerbaijan. Russia, on the other hand, has remained officially neutral. However, an RT report filed April 5 shows journalist Murad Gazdiev reporting from inside Armenian Karabakh trenches.
Armenian Genocide–young girls crucified on crosses
So where is Israel in all of this? Officially it doesn’t seem to be saying much about it, but in May of 2015, the Jewish Daily Forward published an article entitled, “Why Israel’s Alliance with Azerbaijan is so Shortsighted.” The writer, Christopher Atamian, takes the Jewish state to task over its refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide as well as for its lucrative arms contract with Azerbaijan, a country he refers to as an “authoritarian regime that is fueling regional conflict.”
“This is the same country that attempted to wipe out the entire Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh in 1991 before losing a bloody war against the Armenians,” he adds.
What he leaves unspoken, of course, is that Israel’s refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide is tantamount to holocaust denial. More than 1.5 million Armenians were massacred from the years 1915 to 1922, and the Jewish state’s silence on the matter became a particularly hot-button issue last year on the genocide’s 100th anniversary.
Zheleznyak, the Duma vice speaker, seems for his own part to be offering sage advice to both parties in the current conflict, noting that Russia’s president as well as its government agencies “urge Armenia and Azerbaijan to cease fire and not to allow to draw them into someone else’s insidious game, as long as it is still possible.”
“As long as it’s still possible” is of course the key question. The more people die, the further recede the possibilities of the regional players not getting trapped or caught up in the “insidious game”–and the greater grow the chances of the conflict’s becoming the parabolic curve that ignites World War III.
Should that come to pass, maybe Diveroli and Packouz will vie for ringside seats–although it doesn’t appear they’ll especially want to sit next to each other. According to the article in Rolling Stone, the two had a major falling out.
“Listen, dude, if you f**k me, I’m going to f**k you,” one of them warned during an argument over money.
“Whatever,” replied the other.
One wonders why they didn’t name the movie “War Pigs” rather than “War Dogs.” Perhaps it wouldn’t have been kosher enough.
In the past year in Israel we’ve seen an arson attack on a Palestinian home which left a mother, father and their 18-month-old baby dead; we have seen a video of Jewish settlers dancing and celebrating the attack by stabbing a photo of the baby; we have observed continued expropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank, including one of the biggest land grabs in recent years–579 acres near the Dead Sea; and more recently we have seen a second video showing an Israeli soldier executing a wounded Palestinian with a gunshot to the head.
The execution video showed Israeli soldier Elior Azaria pump a bullet into the head of 21-year-old Abdul Fattah Sharif, as he lay on the ground wounded and barely moving. The murder took place on Purim, the Jewish holiday which celebrates the massacre of thousands of Gentiles, as told of in the Book of Esther. The next holiday on the Jewish calendar is Passover, coming up on April 22-23. The significance of Passover is laid out in twelfth chapter of Exodus:
On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn–both men and animals–and I will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord–a lasting ordinance… And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’
It seems that both Purim and Passover are in essence celebrations of the deaths of non-Jews. Suppose Gentiles observed holidays each year in which we celebrated Jewish deaths? What do you suppose would be said of it?
Whatever one’s views of Judaism may be (there are some admirable sentiments expressed in the Old Testament as well as some repellent ones), Zionism has morphed from the simple idea of a homeland for a specific group of people into a supremacist ideology that has had appalling consequences–not only for its victims but also even for its adherents, dehumanizing them to a degree never thought imaginable.
Zionism is the great Passover feast that has become a celebration of war.
Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to scale back US military engagement in the Middle East and to keep America’s soldiers from getting bogged down in never-ending regional civil wars. President Obama has kept park of that campaign promise, with America’s troop presence abroad reduced. But US military engagement, as a whole, has increased significantly, through the use of unmanned drones and the deployment of troops in combat and security situations in more countries than in 2009.
Obama’s White House ended the previous administration’s Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom — combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan that continued to fester following George W. Bush’s attempts at regime change in Baghdad and the bombing of mountains into submission around Kabul. Today, despite recent reports that the Defense Department has understated the US troop presence in Iraq, troop levels in each country are down.
Nonetheless, Obama followed up his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize by expanding US military actions to nearly every country in the Middle East and North Africa, while reviving a Cold War posture toward Russia and China.
For instance, during the so-called Arab Spring, the US undertook a military campaign against Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi, leading to the leader being deposed and killed in the streets. The ousting of Qaddafi turned the once thriving country into a hotbed for Daesh extremists and today Libya is largely considered a failed state.
Under Obama, the US has expanded drone wars in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria with limited results and many civilian deaths.
Reports by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggest that the majority of US drone strikes result in civilian casualties, but under Obama these casualties have been defined away by invoking a macabre redefining of the “kill box” – anybody within a certain proximity to targeted victim is deemed a combatant.
The US today now finds itself performing aggressive joint military exercises with the South Koreans, seen as dress rehearsals for a full-scale invasion of North Korea — a nuclear capable country. American and NATO forces are posted along the Russian border in Norway to prepare for potential offensive actions against Moscow justified by the fantasy of Russian military aggression in Europe. US forces are now fighting in not only Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in Syria, Libya, and Yemen.
The paradox of the Obama Administration is how a president who campaigned on getting us out of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has now committed the US to the escalation of several recent wars.
Obama is no dove, and the world is no safer. With unmanned drone use increasing overseas, perpetual war has never been rebranded so effectively.
As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods.
They kill us for their sport
— Edgar in William Shakespeare’s “King Lear”
[The condemnation of Radovan Karadzic to forty years of imprisonment by the International Crime Tribunal-Yugoslavia occasions these reflections.]
They come; they see; people die. They laugh. Or say it was worth it. Their maps are not a territory inhabited by living beings; they are military targets. They bomb from safe altitudes, no lower than 15,000 feet (Yugoslavia, 1999, for example) to protect their own volunteer warriors. In 38,000 sorties and 22,000 tons of bombs in three months (Yugoslavia, 1999), they never lost a plane. They promise the people their bombs will not harm a hair on their heads; then, they bomb markets and bridges at noon, when people are at their thickest; the say they are as careful at noon as they are at midnight. They claim they have nothing against the people—only against their leaders; then they bomb water supplies, electrical grids, schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, museums. They hold civilians in their power, hostages to their air force, their cluster and phosphorus bombs. They poison the land with depleted uranium and raise whole crops of human cancers for generations. They send drones. They fund, train, and arm cutthroat armies. They terrorize civilians for their political ends. They are the humanitarians of the “international community,” and they have nothing to envy the conquistadores, the exterminators of native people, the enslavers, the imperialists of times gone by. They are the agents of collateral genocide.
They are the terror they claim to fight, and they dress it in noble words.
“Operation Iraqi Freedom” (9 March to 9 April 2003) claimed from 40,000 to 100,000 Iraqi military deaths. “Insurgent” deaths (April 2003 to January 2009) amounted to between 26, 320 and 27, 000. Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated from between 190,000 and one million. The death toll for “Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan” (2001-2014) adds up to 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. By contrast, the NATO British contingent in Afghanistan, a total of 134,780 troops, lost 447. At a conservative estimate the total deaths caused by the “war on terror” in these three war zones alone are 1.3 million (estimates from Iraqi Body Count, The Lancet, Physicians for Social Responsibility). But these estimates include only deaths resulting from violent conflict. They do not include deaths resulting from the aftermath of war—destroyed infrastructure and support institutions. From sanctions: the regime of sanction in Iraq, August 6th (Hiroshima Day) 1991 to 2003, claimed 1.7 million Iraqi lives, according to UN data.
How do they get away with it? By thwarting, strong-arming, co-opting, bribing, rewriting, and abusing international law: the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1976 amended Geneva Conventions (on the laws and customs of war, which the US did not sign), the Charter of the United Nations, and their own constitutions. They wage wars of aggression in the name of abstractions or noble causes—“the war on terror,” R2P, “human rights,” and the prize, “genocide,” debasing the term, if convenient, to a street rumble between two ethnic groups.
What if the United Nations issued a resolution banning wars on abstractions? The “wars on terror” would become illegal (and, no, they didn’t end with Obama; they just became the “humanitarian wars”). The Security Council could order a “global police action” to sweep up and “neutralize” the army of cutthroats. So far, only Russia has shown, with actions in Syria, that it is willing to act to remove the terrorist scourge, whose atrocities proliferate and extend from the Middle East, through the heart of Africa, to European capitals. As I write, the Syrian Army, backed by Russian airstrikes, has retaken Palmyra, a significant strategic victory, opening the way to liberation of Raqqa, the IS stronghold, in the east of Syria.
But, in fact, there is no need for such a resolution. The UN Charter forbids wars of aggression. It specifies that breaking the peace to wage a “war of choice” is the “supreme international crime.” The provisions of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) include jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes but exclude the “supreme international crime,” the crime of aggression. This exclusion resulted at the instigation of the US in 1998-99, just as it prepared to attack Serbia in the Kosovo War. The US signed (Clinton) and then unsigned (Bush) the statute, without ever intending to ratify it, but it meddled, bullied and coerced so as to make it clear who was in charge of writing and unwriting the laws, who had the right to impunity ad infinitum, based on its assumed altruistic morality of intervening to adjust the affairs of the world.
The US exercised every political muscle to subordinate the ICC to the authority of the Security Council, where it could exercise its veto power to deep-six any prosecution of crimes it opposed. It favored ad-hoc tribunals such as the International Tribunal for Crimes in Yugoslavia (ICTY), instituted by the Security Council in 1993, at the request of the US. A virtual kangaroo court, it abducted and tried Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague in a show trial for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—without any substantial evidence, limiting time for cross-examination by the defense, using pseudo-legal pretexts to harass and obstruct it, treating the defense contemptuously, and in every way demonstrating that the tribunal was politically motivated, a feature contrary to the spirit and purpose of criminal law. The tribunal refused to investigate credible evidence charging NATO with war crimes, though it was charged with investigating crimes committed by all parties in the tragic secession wars of Yugoslavia. An example will suffice to demonstrate the political bias of the tribunal: Milosevic was indicted, among other spurious charges, for murdering 374 people; NATO killed 500 civilians. Only one of the two was investigated.
Failing to secure impunity for aggression by placing the ICC under the authority of the Security Council, the US insisted on an amendment, preventing the court from exercising that jurisdiction, until seven eights of ratifying states agreed on a definition of aggression and the means by which it could be prosecuted. Until the angels stop dancing on the pin of that prevarication, the US and its junior partners in the “international community” can freely exercise their right to crimes of aggression. This is how the ICC lists the crimes of aggression it is prevented from prosecuting:
*Invasion or attack by armed forces against territory
*Military occupation of territory
*Annexation of territory
*Bombardment against territory
*Use of any weapons against territory
*Blockade of ports or coasts
*Attack on the land, sea. Or air forces or marine and air fleets
*The use of armed forces which are within the territory of another state by agreement, but in contravention of the conditions of the agreement
*Allowing territory to be used by another state to perpetrate an act of aggression against a third state
*Sending armed bands, groups, irregulars, or mercenaries to carry out acts of armed force
Tell me one crime of aggression the “international community,” the dogs of war, has not committed with impunity since the unfortunate downfall of the Soviet Union in their unopposed quest for recolonizing the world? Do you wonder that Putin is garnering so much global popularity for insisting on acting within the law? How many Security Council resolutions have authorized actions by the “international community” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen—not to mention actions in martyred Africa or the underhanded counter-reform chicaneries in Latin America? None. This is a period of American absolutism, which is wiping clean the rule of law off the face of the earth. The result is creeping barbarism. No one is safe from Timbuktu to Brussels. Anarchy is indeed loosed upon the world.
Take Libya: now that it is not even a functional state, does any law there even apply? Why do the cowards who destroyed it bother to twist themselves into knots, like serpents in a pit, to justify a second intervention? Why don’t they maraud right in—like ISIS does? Because cowards cannot admit to cowardice, much less submit to judgment–and because the tatters they made of the law are the last cover for these scoundrels’ moral nakedness. They drag others into their bolgia of deepening Hell. Right now, for NATO member Italy, it’s a question of complying with US request, already approved in late February, to use the military base at Sigonella, Sicily, to send drones to Libya to protect American Special Forces while they clear out ISIS. Since when have Special Forces required the assistance of a mechanical Mary Poppins? They’re supposed to be in dangerous situation, by definition. It’s not conscience that “makes cowards of [them] all.” It’s criminality. If Qaddafi had not been sadistically and illegally removed (check list of crimes of aggression above) there would be no ISIS in Libya.
Never mind: Sigonella will be used for American drone raids in Libya. Opposition in the Italian Parliament and public opinion are vocally against this use, so the Italian government is presenting the project as “defensive,” just as in 1999 the formula of “integrated defense” was deployed to justify the use of Italian Tornadoes bombing Yugoslavia. Drones in this case will not be “defensive.” Contrary to the idea of protecting Special Forces, drones depend on precisely those forces on the ground to furnish the exact coordinates of the target the drone must hit and destroy. Precision attacks will be launched from Sigonella not “integrated defense.”
And then what? Retaliation— Paris, Istanbul, Beirut, Brussels in Rome or Milan? State of siege in Italy? Suspension of civil liberties? Hecatombs of dead civilians? Well may the Italian government resent the publicity the United States has bestowed on the accord over the use of Sigonella. They would have preferred to keep the accord secret, hoping that ISIS wouldn’t notice Italy’s collaboration with US forces in Libya. Fat chance, but cowards and gangsters think like that—make it look like an accident or construct “plausible deniability.”
“Your wars; our dead” is a popular poster in protests against wars in Italy. It expresses the consciousness of the ultimate cowardice of these wars, and, indeed, of all aggressive wars.
Luciana Bohne is co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
On the night of October 3, 2015, a United States Air Force AC-130 gunship repeatedly attacked a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Forty-two people were killed and dozens wounded. The US military plane had conducted five strafing runs over the course of more than an hour despite MSF pleas to Afghan, US and Nato officials to call off the attack.
As we reported at the time, MSF were unequivocal in their condemnation of the American attack. The hospital was ‘intentionally targeted’ in ‘a premeditated massacre’; it was a ‘war crime’. The medical charity rejected US assurances of three inquiries by the US, Nato and the Afghan government. MSF demanded instead an independent international investigation. It was to no avail. The US ignored public outrage and went ahead with its standard whitewashing procedures when it commits war crimes that get exposed. The outcome was announced on March 18. BBC News reported:
‘The US military has disciplined more than a dozen service members after an air strike on a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Afghanistan killed 42 people last year.
‘The Pentagon has acknowledged that the clinic was targeted by mistake, but no personnel will face criminal charges.’
Note that the BBC wording – ‘the Pentagon has acknowledged that the clinic was targeted by mistake’ – is deceptive bias. The BBC made no mention that MSF had presented strong evidence that the clinic was ‘deliberately targeted’, that the attack was a ‘war crime’, and that there was an urgent need for an independent inquiry.
The BBC continued:
‘the sanctions, which were not made public, were mostly administrative.
‘Some received formal reprimands while others were suspended from duty.
‘Both officers and enlisted personnel were disciplined, but no generals were punished.’
MSF said that they would not comment until the Pentagon makes the details of its report public. (At the time of writing, this has yet to happen).
On the morning of March 18, we noted that the BBC’s report was, for a while at least, linked from the front page of its news website. But it was soon removed from this prominent position and instead buried deep in the international news section. This is not unusual when reporting the crimes of the West; if they are reported at all.
Our subsequent online searches revealed just four low-key, relatively brief newspaper reports in the British press that US personnel had been ‘punished’ for the Kunduz bombing: in the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Guardian. The Telegraph reported that the Pentagon would shortly ‘publish a version of its report on the attack. It will be redacted to remove classified material.’ In other words: anything too embarrassing or damaging to US interests.
A few days later, on March 23, a tiny news item on page 34 of The Times carried the headline ‘US commander sorry for hospital attack’. The entirety of the piece, all of 61 words, was this:
‘The new commander of US-Nato forces in Afghanistan has apologised for a mistaken attack on a hospital in Kunduz last October that killed 42 people. General John Nicholson of the US army went to the northern city to meet relatives of those who died at the hospital run by the charity Médecins Sans Frontières. He said the incident was a “horrible tragedy”.’
As ever, Western atrocities are described as ‘tragedy’ rather than ‘war crime’. No other UK national newspaper, as far as we could see, even reported General Nicholson’s ‘apology’.
The New York Times did better, and included this telling quote from Zabiullah Niazi, a nurse who had lost an eye, a finger and the use of one hand, as well as suffering other injuries in the US attack:
‘They hit us six months ago and are apologizing now. The head of the provincial council and other officials who said we accept the apology, they wouldn’t have said it if they had lost their own son and eaten ashes, as we did.’
According to Mr. Niazi, General Nicholson did not even appear at an arranged meeting in the governor’s office with two survivors and male members of victims’ families. Instead, he made a speech in a packed auditorium where family members and survivors did not get a chance to speak. As a further sign of the tightly stage-managed proceedings, the general’s wife stopped by ‘for one minute to say hello and express sorrow’, said Mr Niazi. She spent more time – five minutes – with female survivors and family members in a separate room.
The general’s ‘apology’ was similarly dismissed by an Afghani doctor whose brother, also a doctor, was killed in the US attack. Dr. Karim Bajaouri said:
‘They are asking forgiveness for killing civilians?! They’re only making an apology? First they fire on civilians and then apologize. Personally, I don’t need such apologies, I do not accept them. Our moral wounds cannot be healed this way.’
The Guardian made a recent passing reference to Kunduz in an article by Simon Tisdall, an assistant editor and foreign affairs columnist. The focus of the piece was on Afghanistan as an election issue in the US Presidential race:
‘The fact that the most memorable US contribution to the battle for Kunduz was the destruction of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital with the loss of at least 22 lives, none of them insurgents, only emphasised how hapless and haphazard the US mission in Afghanistan has become.’
(Oddly, Tisdall’s article was originally published on October 15, 2015, but then updated on March 29, 2016; presumably to include the above line.)
Once again, compliant ‘liberal’ journalism is marked by its readiness to label war crimes as merely ‘hapless’ and ‘haphazard’.
In the wake of the Pentagon’s announcement of ‘punishments’ for the Kunduz killers, an article on the Foreign Policy website noted:
‘Human rights advocates denounced the U.S. military’s decision not to file criminal charges against troops’.
Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch told Foreign Policy:
‘It’s incredibly disappointing and discouraging. We have come up with our own analysis of the case, and we think there should be a criminal investigation.’
As Prasow observed, the American military ‘has a vested interest in protecting its own’.
‘For good reason the victims’ family members will see this as both an injustice and an insult: the US military investigated itself and decided no crimes had been committed’.
The statement continued:
‘The failure to criminally investigate senior officials liable for the attack is not only an affront to the lives lost at the MSF hospital, but a blow against the rule of law in Afghanistan and elsewhere.’
Such comments contrast starkly with the bland indifference of the ‘liberal’ press.
Summing up, then, the reaction to the Pentagon’s ‘punishment’ of the Kunduz killers in the ‘mainstream’ press was as instructive as ever. True to form, we found not a single editorial or column denouncing this latest US whitewashing of US crimes.
Then again, it is standard practice for the Western media to mock Official Enemies, while being blind to the crimes of ‘our’ own Glorious Leaders.
Gone are the good ol’ days when Russia was only a ‘threat’ to countries on its periphery. Moscow now represents a threat to “all of us” according to British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
Speaking to Reuters during a trip to Georgia, Hammond said Russia was a threat to all countries on the basis that it “ignores the norms of international conduct and breaks the rules of the international system” — and this, he said “represents a challenge and a threat to all of us.”
The first, but most minor point to make here is that Russia’s allies would probably beg to differ. Hammond’s comments are a prime example of the flippant way in which leaders and representatives of Western nations make sweeping statements about “us all” or the “international community” when what they actually mean is “us and our friends.”
But, like I said, that is a minor issue in comparison to the outrageously hypocritical reasoning Hammond gave to justify his opinion.
International law, except not for us
In March 2014, Curtis FJ Doebbler, a professor of international law in the Faculty of International Relations at Webster University in Geneva wrote for CounterPunch that “like any source of law, a large part of the legitimacy of international law depends on its equal application to all.” This, demonstrably, has not been the case when it comes to the United States.
American lawyers and diplomats, Doebbler continued, have attempted to twist international law “into an instrument justifying the actions of the United States, while criticizing the actions of other States based on misinterpretations or misapplication” of that law.
There simply can be no question mark here. It is incontrovertibly true. To get through all the examples of Washington’s blatant disregard for international law would take an eternity. But let’s do a quick recap of some of the more egregious examples:
- US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, illegal under international law: Civilian death toll up for debate, a Guardian report estimated that as many as 20,000 could have been killed in the first year of conflict alone.
- US invasion of Iraq in 2003, illegal under international law: Left one million dead, according to various reports.
- NATO intervention in Libya in 2011 violated the parameters of the UN resolution permitting NATO action, hence also illegal. The intervention left scores of civilians dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. Libya, once the richest country in Africa, is now a failed state.
- US bombing of Syria in 2014, illegal under international law. Washington has been given no authority to carry out airstrikes in Syria. Nor, by the way, has the United Kingdom (maybe someone should tell Hammond?)
- Ongoing use of drone strikes, killing hundreds of innocents, including children.
- Continued use of Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention and torture of people ‘perceived’ as threats. In one of the grossest injustices, Shaker Aamer was held at Guantanamo for 13 years without trial or charge before finally being reunited with his family in the UK.
None of this is up for debate — and yet Hammond has not, to my knowledge, classified the United States as a threat to “all of us”. If breaking international law is the benchmark here, it would follow that he probably should.
What’s an invasion or two among friends?
Unfortunately, as Hammond has just displayed, Western nations often confuse ‘consensus among friends’ to mean ‘legal’. As such, they believe that none of their actions deserve to be scrutinized in the same manner as the actions of their declared enemies. This however, does not stop them from using the subject of international law as an “instrument of political rhetoric” to condemn other countries.
Washington has displayed such flagrant disregard for international “norms” and the “rules of the international system” so consistently and so appalling that the world has become desensitized to it. To acknowledge the sheer scale of the horror that has been unleashed by our collective indifference is too uncomfortable. Our best bet is to distract ourselves with a convenient bogeyman.
Hammond might be happy to bury his head in the sand, but it doesn’t make what he is saying any less ridiculous when all the facts are laid on the table.
What Hammond really means
And it’s not the first time Hammond has hugely exaggerated (or fabricated, if you prefer) the threat Russia poses to the UK. In March of last year, he said Russia could potentially pose the “single greatest threat” to Britain’s security. It’s unclear what kind of alternate universe you need to be living in to believe this, but what is clear is that Hammond has upped sticks and taken residence there.
The truth is, what Hammond and his neighbors in cuckoo-land really mean when they say these things is that Russia is a threat to Western dominance; the dominance that allows their own breaches of international law to go unchecked and unpunished and anyone else’s to be amplified a thousand-fold. Any threat or challenge to that hegemony in international affairs is unacceptable. And that, more than anything, is the threat which Russia represents.
The funny thing is, Hammond probably doesn’t think that’s what he means. He probably genuinely believes that Russia threatens the security of Britain. Whether he thinks this conflict might take the form of an invasion, an unprovoked nuclear attack, information warfare or something else, he has probably convinced himself that there really is cause for huge concern. After all, he has admitted that for “anyone over the age of about 50” fearing Russia is familiar territory. He is not an expert on today’s Russia, its political system or its foreign policy. All he really has to go on are his bad memories of the Cold War and whatever terribly misinformed advice he is being given.
But threat or no threat, if the “rules of the international system” are really that important to Philip Hammond, he’s got a funny way of showing it.
Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance journalist and media analyst. She has lived in the US and Germany and is currently based in Moscow. She previously worked as a digital desk reporter for the Sunday Business Post in Dublin. She studied political reporting at the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism in Washington, DC and also has a degree in business and German. She focuses on US foreign policy, US-Russia relations and media bias.
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