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The Golden Age of Black Ops

Special Ops Missions Already in 105 Countries in 2015

By Nick Turse | TomDispatch | January 20, 2015

In the dead of night, they swept in aboard V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Landing in a remote region of one of the most volatile countries on the planet, they raided a village and soon found themselves in a life-or-death firefight. It was the second time in two weeks that elite U.S. Navy SEALs had attempted to rescue American photojournalist Luke Somers. And it was the second time they failed.

On December 6, 2014, approximately 36 of America’s top commandos, heavily armed, operating with intelligence from satellites, drones, and high-tech eavesdropping, outfitted with night vision goggles, and backed up by elite Yemeni troops, went toe-to-toe with about six militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. When it was over, Somers was dead, along with Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher due to be set free the next day. Eight civilians were also killed by the commandos, according to local reports. Most of the militants escaped.

That blood-soaked episode was, depending on your vantage point, an ignominious end to a year that saw U.S. Special Operations forces deployed at near record levels, or an inauspicious beginning to a new year already on track to reach similar heights, if not exceed them.

During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) deployed to 133 countries — roughly 70% of the nations on the planet — according to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bockholt, a public affairs officer with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This capped a three-year span in which the country’s most elite forces were active in more than 150 different countries around the world, conducting missions ranging from kill/capture night raids to training exercises.  And this year could be a record-breaker. Only a day before the failed raid that ended Luke Somers life — just 66 days into fiscal 2015 — America’s most elite troops had already set foot in 105 nations, approximately 80% of 2014’s total.

Despite its massive scale and scope, this secret global war across much of the planet is unknown to most Americans. Unlike the December debacle in Yemen, the vast majority of special ops missions remain completely in the shadows, hidden from external oversight or press scrutiny. In fact, aside from modest amounts of information disclosed through highly-selective coverage by military media, official White House leaks, SEALs with something to sell, and a few cherry-picked journalists reporting on cherry-picked opportunities, much of what America’s special operators do is never subjected to meaningful examination, which only increases the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.

The Golden Age

“The command is at its absolute zenith. And it is indeed a golden age for special operations.” Those were the words of Army General Joseph Votel III, a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, as he assumed command of SOCOM last August.

His rhetoric may have been high-flown, but it wasn’t hyperbole. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, including their numbers, their budget, their clout in Washington, and their place in the country’s popular imagination. The command has, for example, more than doubled its personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 today, including a jump of roughly 8,000 during the three-year tenure of recently retired SOCOM chief Admiral William McRaven.

Those numbers, impressive as they are, don’t give a full sense of the nature of the expansion and growing global reach of America’s most elite forces in these years. For that, a rundown of the acronym-ridden structure of the ever-expanding Special Operations Command is in order. The list may be mind-numbing, but there is no other way to fully grasp its scope.

The lion’s share of SOCOM’s troops are Rangers, Green Berets, and other soldiers from the Army, followed by Air Force air commandos, SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen and support personnel from the Navy, as well as a smaller contingent of Marines. But you only get a sense of the expansiveness of the command when you consider the full range of “sub-unified commands” that these special ops troops are divided among: the self-explanatory SOCAFRICA; SOCEUR, the European contingent; SOCKOR, which is devoted strictly to Korea; SOCPAC, which covers the rest of the Asia-Pacific region; SOCSOUTH, which conducts missions in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean; SOCCENT, the sub-unified command of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in the Middle East; SOCNORTH, which is devoted to “homeland defense”; and the globe-trotting Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC — a clandestine sub-command (formerly headed by McRaven and then Votel) made up of personnel from each service branch, including SEALs, Air Force special tactics airmen, and the Army’s Delta Force, that specializes in tracking and killing suspected terrorists.

And don’t think that’s the end of it, either. As a result of McRaven’s push to create “a Global SOF network of like-minded interagency allies and partners,” Special Operations liaison officers, or SOLOs, are now embedded in 14 key U.S. embassies to assist in advising the special forces of various allied nations.  Already operating in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Poland, Peru, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, the SOLO program is poised, according to Votel, to expand to 40 countries by 2019. The command, and especially JSOC, has also forged close ties with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency, among others.

Shadow Ops

Special Operations Command’s global reach extends further still, with smaller, more agile elements operating in the shadows from bases in the United States to remote parts of Southeast Asia, from Middle Eastern outposts to austere African camps. Since 2002, SOCOM has also been authorized to create its own Joint Task Forces, a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. Take, for instance, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) which, at its peak, had roughly 600 U.S. personnel supporting counterterrorist operations by Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Abu Sayyaf.  After more than a decade spent battling that group, its numbers have been diminished, but it continues to be active, while violence in the region remains virtually unaltered.

A phase-out of the task force was actually announced in June 2014.  “JSOTF-P will deactivate and the named operation OEF-P [Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines] will conclude in Fiscal Year 2015,” Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee the next month. “A smaller number of U.S. military personnel operating as part of a PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] Augmentation Team will continue to improve the abilities of the PSF [Philippine Special Forces] to conduct their CT [counterterrorism] missions…”  Months later, however, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines remained up and running. “JSOTF-P is still active although the number of personnel assigned has been reduced,” Army spokesperson Kari McEwen told reporter Joseph Trevithick of War Is Boring.

Another unit, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Bragg, remained in the shadows for years before its first official mention by the Pentagon in early 2014.  Its role, according to SOCOM’s Bockholt, is to “train and equip U.S. service members preparing for deployment to Afghanistan to support Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan.”  That latter force, in turn, spent more than a decade conducting covert or “black” ops “to prevent insurgent activities from threatening the authority and sovereignty of” the Afghan government. This meant night raids and kill/capture missions — often in concert with elite Afghan forces — that led to the deaths of unknown numbers of combatants and civilians. In response to popular outrage against the raids, Afghan President Hamid Karzai largely banned them in 2013.

U.S. Special Operations forces were to move into a support role in 2014, letting elite Afghan troops take charge. “We’re trying to let them run the show,” Colonel Patrick Roberson of the Afghanistan task force told USA Today. But according to LaDonna Davis, a spokesperson with the task force, America’s special operators were still leading missions last year. The force refuses to say how many missions were led by Americans or even how many operations its commandos were involved in, though Afghan special operations forces reportedly carried out as many as 150 missions each month in 2014. “I will not be able to discuss the specific number of operations that have taken place,” Major Loren Bymer of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan told TomDispatch. “However, Afghans currently lead 96% of special operations and we continue to train, advise, and assist our partners to ensure their success.”

And lest you think that that’s where the special forces organizational chart ends, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan has five Special Operations Advisory Groups “focused on mentoring and advising our ASSF [Afghan Special Security Force] partners,” according to Votel. “In order to ensure our ASSF partners continue to take the fight to our enemies, U.S. SOF must be able to continue to do some advising at the tactical level post-2014 with select units in select locations,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Indeed, last November, Karzai’s successor Ashraf Ghani quietly lifted the night raid ban, opening the door once again to missions with U.S. advisors in 2015.

There will, however, be fewer U.S. special ops troops available for tactical missions.  According to then Rear-, now Vice-Admiral Sean Pybus, SOCOM’s Deputy Commander, about half the SEAL platoons deployed in Afghanistan were, by the end of last month, to be withdrawn and redeployed to support “the pivot in Asia, or work the Mediterranean, or the Gulf of Guinea, or into the Persian Gulf.”  Still, Colonel Christopher Riga, commander of the 7th Special Forces Group, whose troops served with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan near Kandahar last year, vowed to soldier on. “There’s a lot of fighting that is still going on in Afghanistan that is going to continue,” he said at an awards ceremony late last year.  “We’re still going to continue to kill the enemy, until we are told to leave.”

Add to those task forces the Special Operations Command Forward (SOC FWD) elements, small teams which, according to the military, “shape and coordinate special operations forces security cooperation and engagement in support of theater special operations command, geographic combatant command, and country team goals and objectives.” SOCOM declined to confirm the existence of SOC FWDs, even though there has been ample official evidence on the subject and so it would not provide a count of how many teams are currently deployed across the world.  But those that are known are clustered in favored black ops stomping grounds, including SOC FWD Pakistan, SOC FWD Yemen, and SOC FWD Lebanon, as well as SOC FWD East Africa, SOC FWD Central Africa, and SOC FWD West Africa.

Africa has, in fact, become a prime locale for shadowy covert missions by America’s special operators. “This particular unit has done impressive things. Whether it’s across Europe or Africa taking on a variety of contingencies, you are all contributing in a very significant way,” SOCOM’s commander, General Votel, told members of the 352nd Special Operations Group at their base in England last fall.

The Air Commandos are hardly alone in their exploits on that continent. Over the last years, for example, SEALs carried out a successful hostage rescue mission in Somalia and a kidnap raid there that went awry.  In Libya, Delta Force commandos successfully captured an al-Qaeda militant in an early morning raid, while SEALs commandeered an oil tanker with cargo from Libya that the weak U.S.-backed government there considered stolen. Additionally, SEALs conducted a failed evacuation mission in South Sudan in which its members were wounded when the aircraft in which they were flying was hit by small arms fire. Meanwhile, an elite quick-response force known as Naval Special Warfare Unit 10 (NSWU-10) has been engaged with “strategic countries” such as Uganda, Somalia, and Nigeria.

A clandestine Special Ops training effort in Libya imploded when militia or “terrorist” forces twice raided its camp, guarded by the Libyan military, and looted large quantities of high-tech American equipment, hundreds of weapons — including Glock pistols, and M4 rifles — as well as night vision devices and specialized lasers that can only be seen with such equipment. As a result, the mission was scuttled and the camp was abandoned. It was then reportedly taken over by a militia.

In February of last year, elite troops traveled to Niger for three weeks of military drills as part of Flintlock 2014, an annual Special Ops counterterrorism exercise that brought together the forces of the host nation, Canada, Chad, France, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, the United Kingdom, and Burkina Faso.  Several months later, an officer from Burkina Faso, who received counterterrorism training in the U.S. under the auspices of SOCOM’s Joint Special Operations University in 2012, seized power in a coup.  Special Ops forces, however, remained undaunted. Late last year, for example, under the auspices of SOC FWD West Africa, members of 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, partnered with elite Moroccan troops for training at a base outside of Marrakech.

A World of Opportunities

Deployments to African nations have, however, been just a part of the rapid growth of the Special Operations Command’s overseas reach.  In the waning days of the Bush presidency, under then-SOCOM chief Admiral Eric Olson, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed in about 60 countries around the world. By 2010, that number had swelled to 75, according to Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post.  In 2011, SOCOM spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that the total would reach 120 by the end of the year. With Admiral William McRaven in charge in 2013, then-Major Robert Bockholt told TomDispatch that the number had jumped to 134. Under the command of McRaven and Votel in 2014, according to Bockholt, the total slipped ever-so-slightly to 133. Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel noted, however, that under McRaven’s command — which lasted from August 2011 to August 2014 — special ops forces deployed to more than 150 different countries.  “In fact, SOCOM and the entire U.S. military are more engaged internationally than ever before — in more places and with a wider variety of missions,” he said in an August 2014 speech.

He wasn’t kidding.  Just over two months into fiscal 2015, the number of countries with Special Ops deployments has already clocked in at 105, according to Bockholt.

SOCOM refused to comment on the nature of its missions or the benefits of operating in so many nations. The command would not even name a single country where U.S. special operations forces deployed in the last three years.  A glance at just some of the operations, exercises, and activities that have come to light, however, paints a picture of a globetrotting command in constant churn with alliances in every corner of the planet.

In January and February, for example, members of the 7th Special Forces Group and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment conducted a month-long Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) with forces from Trinidad and Tobago, while troops from the 353rd Special Operations Group joined members of the Royal Thai Air Force for Exercise Teak Torch in Udon Thani, Thailand. In February and March, Green Berets from the 20th Special Forces Group trained with elite troops in the Dominican Republic as part of a JCET.

In March, members of Marine Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare Unit 1 took part in maneuvers aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens as part of Multi-Sail 2014, an annual exercise designed to support “security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.” That same month, elite soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines took part in a training exercise code-named Fused Response with members of the Belizean military. “Exercises like this build rapport and bonds between U.S. forces and Belize,” said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Heber Toro of Special Operations Command South afterward.

In April, soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group joined with Honduran airborne troops for jump training — parachuting over that country’s Soto Cano Air Base.  Soldiers from that same unit, serving with the Afghanistan task force, also carried out shadowy ops in the southern part of that country in the spring of 2014.  In June, members of the 19th Special Forces Group carried out a JCET in Albania, while operators from Delta Force took part in the mission that secured the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.  That same month, Delta Force commandos helped kidnap Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected “ringleader” in the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, while Green Berets deployed to Iraq as advisors in the fight against the Islamic State.

In June and July, 26 members of the 522nd Special Operations Squadron carried out a 28,000-mile, four-week, five-continent mission which took them to Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Japan, among other nations, to escort three “single-engine [Air Force Special Operations Command] aircraft to a destination in the Pacific Area of Responsibility.” In July, U.S. Special Operations forces traveled to Tolemaida, Colombia, to compete against elite troops from 16 other nations — in events like sniper stalking, shooting, and an obstacle course race — at the annual Fuerzas Comando competition.

In August, soldiers from the 20th Special Forces Group conducted a JCET with elite units from Suriname.  “We’ve made a lot of progress together in a month. If we ever have to operate together in the future, we know we’ve made partners and friends we can depend upon,” said a senior noncommissioned officer from that unit.  In Iraq that month, Green Berets conducted a reconnaissance mission on Mount Sinjar as part an effort to protect ethnic Yazidis from Islamic State militants, while Delta Force commandos raided an oil refinery in northern Syria in a bid to save American journalist James Foley and other hostages held by the same group.  That mission was a bust and Foley was brutally executed shortly thereafter.

In September, about 1,200 U.S. special operators and support personnel joined with elite troops from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Finland, Great Britain, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Slovenia for Jackal Stone, a training exercise that focused on everything from close quarters combat and sniper tactics to small boat operations and hostage rescue missions. In September and October, Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment deployed to South Korea to practice small unit tactics like clearing trenches and knocking out bunkers. During October, Air Force air commandos also conducted simulated hostage rescue missions at the Stanford Training Area near Thetford, England.  Meanwhile, in international waters south of Cyprus, Navy SEALs commandeered that tanker full of oil loaded at a rebel-held port in Libya.  In November, U.S. commandos conducted a raid in Yemen that freed eight foreign hostages.  The next month, SEALs carried out the blood-soaked mission that left two hostages, including Luke Somers, and eight civilians dead. And these, of course, are only some of the missions that managed to make it into the news or in some other way onto the record.

Everywhere They Want to Be

To America’s black ops chiefs, the globe is as unstable as it is interconnected. “I guarantee you what happens in Latin America affects what happens in West Africa, which affects what happens in Southern Europe, which affects what happens in Southwest Asia,” McRaven told last year’s Geolnt, an annual gathering of surveillance-industry executives and military personnel.  Their solution to interlocked instability? More missions in more nations — in more than three-quarters of the world’s countries, in fact — during McRaven’s tenure. And the stage appears set for yet more of the same in the years ahead. “We want to be everywhere,” said Votel at Geolnt.  His forces are already well on their way in 2015.

“Our nation has very high expectations of SOF,” he told special operators in England last fall. “They look to us to do the very hard missions in very difficult conditions.”  The nature and whereabouts of most of those “hard missions,” however, remain unknown to Americans. And Votel apparently isn’t interested in shedding light on them.  “Sorry, but no,” was SOCOM’s response to TomDispatch’s request for an interview with the special ops chief about current and future operations. In fact, the command refused to make any personnel available for a discussion of what it’s doing in America’s name and with taxpayer dollars.  It’s not hard to guess why.

Votel now sits atop one of the major success stories of a post-9/11 military that has been mired in winless wars, intervention blowback, rampant criminal activity, repeated leaks of embarrassing secrets, and all manner of shocking scandals. Through a deft combination of bravado and secrecy, well-placed leaks, adroit marketing and public relations efforts, the skillful cultivation of a superman mystique (with a dollop of tortured fragility on the side), and one extremely popular, high-profile, targeted killing, Special Operations forces have become the darlings of American popular culture, while the command has been a consistent winner in Washington’s bare-knuckled budget battles.

This is particularly striking given what’s actually occurred in the field: in Africa, the arming and outfitting of militants and the training of a coup leader; in Iraq, America’s most elite forces were implicated in torture, the destruction of homes, and the killing and wounding of innocents;  in Afghanistan, it was a similar story, with repeated reports of civilian deaths; while in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia it’s been more of the same.  And this only scratches the surface of special ops miscues.

In 2001, before U.S. black ops forces began their massive, multi-front clandestine war against terrorism, there were 33,000 members of Special Operations Command and about 1,800 members of the elite of the elite, the Joint Special Operations Command. There were then also 23 terrorist groups — from Hamas to the Real Irish Republican Army — as recognized by the State Department, including al-Qaeda, whose membership was estimated at anywhere from 200 to 1,000. That group was primarily based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although small cells had operated in numerous countries including Germany and the United States.

After more than a decade of secret wars, massive surveillance, untold numbers of night raids, detentions, and assassinations, not to mention billions upon billions of dollars spent, the results speak for themselves. SOCOM has more than doubled in size and the secretive JSOC may be almost as large as SOCOM was in 2001. Since September of that year, 36 new terror groups have sprung up, including multiple al-Qaeda franchises, offshoots, and allies. Today, these groups still operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan — there are now 11 recognized al-Qaeda affiliates in the latter nation, five in the former — as well as in Mali and Tunisia, Libya and Morocco, Nigeria and Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen, among other countries. One offshoot was born of the American invasion of Iraq, was nurtured in a U.S. prison camp, and, now known as the Islamic State, controls a wide swath of that country and neighboring Syria, a proto-caliphate in the heart of the Middle East that was only the stuff of jihadi dreams back in 2001.  That group, alone, has an estimated strength of around 30,000 and managed to take over a huge swath of territory, including Iraq’s second largest city, despite being relentlessly targeted in its infancy by JSOC.

“We need to continue to synchronize the deployment of SOF throughout the globe,” says Votel. “We all need to be synched up, coordinated, and prepared throughout the command.” Left out of sync are the American people who have consistently been kept in the dark about what America’s special operators are doing and where they’re doing it, not to mention the checkered results of, and blowback from, what they’ve done. But if history is any guide, the black ops blackout will help ensure that this continues to be a “golden age” for U.S. Special Operations Command.

Copyright 2015 Nick Turse

March 22, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tunisia museum attack: Who’s behind it, what are their goals?

RT | March 19, 2015

Groups like IS, which could be behind the Bardo Museum shootings, have a long history of collaborating with the West and may have attacked tourists just to maintain their anti-Western façade, says independent political analyst Dan Glazebrook.

RT: Do you think that the Western tourists were targeted on purpose?

Dan Glazebrook: Yeah, I think so. The thing is with ISIS and these groups – they have a long history of collaborating with the West. It’s fundamental to their appeal that they kind of try to present themselves as anti-Western. If you look over the last several years, they’ve been singing from the same song-sheet – whether it’s on Libya, the fight against Gaddafi; Syria, the fight against Assad. We’ve had revelations about fighters’ passage to Syria to go and fight against Assad being facilitated by MI5, by British intelligence. This all came out in the hearings in Mozambique last year. So these guys are on the same page, they are helping to fulfill the West strategic aims of destabilization in the area. … The thousands and thousands people they’ve killed, the vast majority of them have been other Muslims and non-white people. From time to time they have to kill some Europeans and some Westerners in order to maintain this façade of somehow being opposed to the West, whilst they continue to carry out and facilitate the West’s strategic aims.

RT: A large number of Islamic State fighters reportedly come from Tunisia. Why is that?

DG: It was estimated at one point that the actual majority of foreign fighters in Syria were of Tunisian origin, over 3,000… They’ve also fought in Libya; they’ve fought in terrorist campaigns in Algeria. There are many different reasons; part of it is a kind of extremist backlash against the extremist secularism of the previous President [Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali and his predecessor [Habib Bourguiba]. But I think a lot of it is just simply to do with the economics and finances. There is very high unemployment in Tunisia. It is rumored that you can get up to $27,000 a year for going to fight for ISIS… Billions of dollars were put into these sectarian militias to build up these groups by Saudi Arabia and the USA as a bulwark against the resistance axis of Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah. These billions of dollars are still slushing around.

‘Attack might be publicizing Ansar al-Sharia’s merger with ISIS’

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, also commented on the Tunis museum attack.

RT: No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. Who in your view is most likely to be behind it?

Brian Levin: The most likely would probably be Ansar al-Sharia which is a radical Salafist terrorist group which started in Tunisia shortly after the Tunisian revolution in January, 2011. It was formed three months later by a fellow named Abu Ayadh. That is the most likely suspect, although, ISIS affiliates are present in neighboring Libya as well.

RT: Do you think the attackers were pursuing any particular goal with this terrible assault?

BL: Yes, I would think that if it is Ansar al-Sharia or if Ansar al-Sharia is using this to publicize some kind of merger with ISIS – this would be the time and the place to do it. Tunisia, as I said, in an area where ISIS has been exporting its brand of radicalism. That is one thing – Tunisia is Western friendly and it has got a strong economy.

RT: Earlier, a warning for tourists had been issued calling on them not to visit certain areas. Is this kind of attack in Tunisia a rare event and just how dangerous is the country for travelers?

BL: There have been advisories put out about travel to Tunisia. Its biggest industries are in fact tourism and minerals. It is a democratic society and it is Western friendly. Its economy is strong [but] it relies on these exports and tourism. And an attack like this could really hurt the economy in a place where there is fragility with respect to the economic situation. Remember again, Tunisia was the success story of the Arab Spring. This is the time and the place where groups like ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia are trying to make radicalism an imprint there and in the neighboring countries as well.

RT: The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has said that IS was behind the attack. Do you believe that that is likely?

BL: It could be in a sense to the extent that these actors had the same goal… Ansar Al-Sharia is allying itself with the al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa. The fact of the matter is it very well could be ISIS. ISIS does have an imprint in North Africa. One of the things that ISIS had wanted to do even when it was just AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] back in 2004, they wanted to export their terrorism to places like Jordan, and now has an imprint in places like Libya which neighbors Tunisia.

Read more 17 tourists, 2 locals slain in Tunis museum attack

March 20, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

African Union blames US, UK, Norway for South Sudan civil war – leak

RT | March 6, 2015

By supporting South Sudan’s independence from Sudan, the US, UK and Norway have created conditions for the civil war, which broke out in the world’s youngest country in 2013, leaked documents from an inquiry by the African Union allege.

In 2005, the US, UK, Norway and the East African trading bloc, IGAD, pushed through a peace deal, which legitimized the South Sudanese rebels, and paved the way for the country’s independence in 2011.

According to a draft of the African Union inquiry obtained by Reuters, the actions of the Western powers helped establish “a politically unchallenged armed power in South Sudan” that acted with impunity and legitimized “rule of the gun.”

At least 10,000 people were killed and another 1.5 million have been displaced since July 2013 when the fighting between the forces loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, and the militants led by his sacked deputy Riek Machar began.

The findings of the inquiry were to be presented to the African Union’s Peace and Security Council in late January, but it was decided the document will be shelved.

According to a Reuters source, it was done due to concerns the publication may disrupt the talks on forming a transitional government in South Sudan, which are currently underway between Kiir and Machar.

The inquiry suggested that South Sudan’s president and his rival should “be barred from participation in the transitional executive,” and the oil producer should be effectively placed under African Union control for a period of five years.

The investigation, led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said that Kiir and Machar are responsible for the political crisis in December 2013 and “the organized massacres and the large-scale violence that followed.”

Officials from the US, UK and Norway said that they won’t comment on the document, which they haven’t seen.

“I think that the investigation that the African Union has started and the commission’s position, it needs to be made public,” Borge Brende, Norway’s Foreign Minister, told NRK broadcaster.

The call to make the inquiry public is supported by Washington, London and the UN Security Council.

March 6, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 2 Comments

Two Different Approaches, Two Different Results in Fighting Ebola

By Matt Peppe | Just The Facts | March 1, 2015

In recent weeks the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has slowed from a peak of more than 1,000 new cases per week to 99 confirmed cases during the week of February 22, according to the World Health Organization. For two countries who have taken diametrically opposed approaches to combating the disease, the stark difference in the results achieved over the last five months has become evident.

The United States, which sent about 2,800 military troops to the region in October, has announced an end to its relief mission. Most soldiers have already returned. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby declared the mission a “success.” The criteria for this determination is unclear, as the troops did not treat a single patient, much less save a single life.

President Barack Obama proclaimed the American response to the crisis “an example of American leadership.” In the case of Ebola, as is the case “whenever and wherever a disaster or disease strikes,” according to Obama, “the world looks to us to lead.” The President claimed that the troops contributed not only by their own efforts, but by serving as a “force multiplier” that increased the ability of others to contribute. Apparently the U.S. forces also have the effect of divine inspiration.

This is an example of “American values,” Obama declares, which “matter to the world.” The “American leadership” is one more example of “what makes us exceptional,” according to Obama, as is the case “whether it’s recession, or war, or terrorism.”

Anything that Americans do is exemplary of these “values,” which by virtue of American supremacy are superior to those of people from any other nation.

When you look behind the President and the Pentagon’s rhetoric, it becomes more difficult to find concrete examples of success in the U.S. military mission to Africa. From the beginning, the capacity of American troops to make a difference in containing and eliminating a medical disease was questionable, to say the least.

In October, the Daily Beast reported that soldiers would receive only four hours of training in preparation for their deployment to Africa. That is half of a regular work day for people with no medical background. When they arrived, they did not exactly hit the ground running. “The first 500 soldiers to arrive have been holing up in Liberian hotels and government facilities while the military builds longer-term infrastructure on the ground,” wrote Tim Mak.

The DoD declared on its Web site that “the Defense Department made critical contributions to the fight against the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa. Chief among these were the deployment of men and women in uniform to Monrovia, Liberia, as part of Operation United Assistance.” So, the chief contribution of the DoD was sending people in military uniforms to the site of the outbreak.

The DoD lists among its accomplishments training 1,539 health care workers & support staff (presumably non-technical and cursory); creating 10 Ebola treatment units (which you could count on your fingers); and construction of a 25-bed medical unit (for a country that has had 10,000 cases of Ebola).

USAID declares that “the United States has done more than any other country to help West Africa respond to the Ebola crisis.” Like the DoD, they are short on quantitative measurements for their assertions and long on abstractions. In vague business-speak, USAID says they “worked with UN and NGO partners,” “partnered with the U.S. military,” and “expanded the pipeline of medical equipment and critical supplies to the region.”

While the USAID personnel have clearly helped facilitate the delivery of equipment and supplies. this is far from proof that the U.S. has done more than any other country. By the end of April, all but 100 U.S. troops will have left West Africa, to continue what Obama called the “civilian response.” The transition to the civilian response seems as vague, and on a much smaller scale than the military response.

The U.S. response did involve many people and several hundred millions of dollars, which is, indeed, more than most countries contributed. But an examination of the facts shows that the U.S. played mostly a support role, involved in collaboration with other actors in the tangential aspects of the crisis. U.S. government employees were not directly involved in treating any patients. Their role was rather to help other health workers and officials on the front lines who actually did. To say this is an example of American leadership and exceptionalism seems like a vast embellishment.

The other country who has taken a very public role in the Ebola crisis is Cuba. Unlike the U.S., Cuba sent nearly 500 professional healthcare workers – doctors and nurses – to treat African patients who had contracted Ebola. These included doctors from the Henry Reeve Brigade, which has served over the last decade in response to the most high-profile disasters in the world, including in Haiti and Pakistan. In Haiti, the group was instrumental in detecting and treating cholera, which had been introduced by UN peace keepers. The disease sickened and killed thousands of Haitians.

Before being deployed to West Africa, all the Cuban doctors and nurses completed an “intense training” of a minimum of two weeks, where they “prepared in the form of treating patients without exposing themselves to the deadly virus,” according to CNN.

After Cuba announced its plan to mobilize what Cubans call the “army of white robes,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that “human resources are clearly our most important need.”

“Money and materials are important, but those two things alone cannot stop Ebola virus transmission,” she said. “We need most especially compassionate doctors and nurses” to work under “very demanding conditions.”

Like their American counterparts, Cuban authorities also recently proclaimed success in fighting Ebola. They used a clear definition of what they meant.

“We have managed to save the lives of 260 people who were in a very very bad state, and through our treatment, they were cured and have gotten on with their lives,” said Jorge Delgado, head of the medical brigade, at a conference in Geneva on Foreign Medical Teams involved in fighting the Ebola crisis.

The work of the Henry Reeve Brigade was recognized by Norwegian Trade Unions who nominated the group for the Nobel Peace Prize “for saving lives and helping millions of suffering people around the world.”

The European Commission for humanitarian aid and crisis management last week also “recognized the role Cuba has played in fighting the Ebola epidemic.”

For more than 50 years, Cuba has carried out medical missions across the globe – beginning in Algeria after the revolution in 1961 and taking place in poor countries desperately needing medical care throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. They have provided 1.2 billion consultations, 2.2 million births, 5 million operations and immunizations for 12 million children and pregnant women, according to Granma.

“In their direct fight against death, the human quality of the members of the Henry Reeve brigade is strengthened, and for those in need around the world, they represent welcome assistance,” writes Nuria Barbosa León.

The mission of the DoD is one of military involvement worldwide. As Nick Turse reports in TomDispatch, U.S. military activity on the African continent is growing at an astounding rate. The military “averages about one and a half missions a day. This represents a 217% increase in operations, programs, and exercises since the command was established in 2008,” Turse writes. He says the DoD is calling “Africa the battlefield of tomorrow, today.”

Turse writes that the U.S. military is quietly replicating its failed counterinsurgency strategy in Africa, under the guise of humanitarian activities. “If history is any guide, humanitarian efforts by AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command) and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa will grow larger and ever more expensive, until they join the long list of projects that have become ‘monuments of U.S. failure’ around the world,” he writes.

There are some enlightening pieces of information listed by the DoD as part of the “transition to Operation Onward Liberty.” The DoD “will build partnership capacity with the Armed Forces of Liberia” and will “continue military to military engagement in ways that support Liberia’s growth toward enduring peace and security.”

It is unclear what role the U.S. military will help their Liberian counterparts play, unless peace and security is considered from the perspective of multinational corporations who have their eyes on large oil reserves, rather than the perspective of the local population.

In Liberia, as in most of Africa, Washington’s IMF and World Bank-imposed neoliberal policies have further savaged a continent devastated by 300 years of European colonialism. Any U.S. military involvement in Liberia and elsewhere is likely to reflect the economic goals of the U.S. government, which primarily consist of continuing the implementation of the Washington consensus.

The U.S. military, unsurprisingly, seems to be using the Ebola crisis as a pretext to expand its reach inside Africa, consistent with the pattern of the last seven years that Turse describes. The deployment of several thousand troops to West Africa can be understood as a P.R. stunt that is the public face of counterinsurgency.

U.S. troops are used as props. The idea is to associate them with humanitarianism, rather than death and destruction. But a true humanitarian mission would be conducted by civilian agencies and professionals who are trained and experienced specifically in medicine, construction and administration, not by soldiers trained to kill and pacify war zones.

Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, warned last fall about the dangers of conceiving of a “war on terror template” in response to a disease such as Ebola.

“Countering Ebola will require a whole new set of protections and priorities, which should emerge from the medical and public health communities. The now sadly underfunded National Institutes of Health and other such organizations have been looking at possible pandemic situations for years,” Greenberg writes. “It is imperative that our officials heed the lessons of their research as they have failed to do many times over with their counterparts in public policy in the war on terror years.”

The approaches of the United States and Cuban governments to the Ebola epidemic are a study in contrasts. The goals that led to these policy choices are clear. And after nearly six months on the ground, the difference between a military and a technical assistance mission can easily be evaluated. The results speak for themselves.

March 2, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Deception, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

UN, banks and oil palm giants feast on the stolen land of Uganda’s dispossessed

By Anne van Schaik & Oliver Tickell | Ecologist  | February 19, 2015

A small community in Uganda is challenging a UN-backed international oil palm venture that has expropriated small farmers and obliterated an entire forest on a Lake Victoria island to establish a vast plantation. Three years after the grab, Friends of the Earth groups are backing the islanders legal action, which is launched today.

Fighting a land grab can seem like a hopeless cause: the odds are hardly even when farmers without land or a source of income are pitted against multinational corporations, European banks and UN Agencies. However in Uganda, one community is fighting back.

Four years ago, an oil palm plantation partly operated by the oil palm giant Wilmar International began on Bugula, a highly biodiverse island on Lake Victoria. Then home to about one hundred small-scale farmers, the project was sold to them with extravagant promises of employment and development.

Yet today, 3,600 hectares of pristine forest have been destroyed, replaced with a vast swathe of oil palm, and many farmers and their families find themselves destitute with little compensation – if any – awarded to them for the loss of their land.

Finding themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances, three of them are today launching their legal action on behalf of the rest of the community against the oil palm company, Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL), demanding the restitution of their land and compensation for lost crops and income.

Although nominally independent, OPUL is 90% owned by Bidco Uganda, itself a joint venture between the oil palm giant Wilmar International, Josovina Commodities and Bidco Oil Refineries, a Kenya-based company. Wilmar International holds at least 39% of the shares in OPUL and is providing technical expertise for the project.

In launching the legal action in Masaka today, the Bugula islanders are taking on more than just these mighty corporations.

The oil palm project is backed by the Ugandan government, which even helped to finance it, and by a United Nations agency: the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is “directly overseeing” the project after providing a $52 million loan.

So this is ‘improving access to land and tenure security’?

Established in 1974 after the World Food Conference, IFAD’s ‘motto’ is “Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty”. Its Financing Policies and Criteria state that the projects it finances should incorporate “engagement with indigenous peoples” and “improving access to land and tenure security”.

The Bugula project is carried out under IFAD’s ‘Vegetable Oil Development Project – Phase 2‘ which claims to be aimed at “increasing the domestic production of vegetable oil and its byproducts, thus raising rural incomes for smallholder producers and ensuring the supply of affordable vegetable oil products to Ugandan consumers.”

According to IFAD, “Oil palm activities are carried out on Bugula Island in Kalangala District (Ssesse islands) and Buvuma Island in Mukono District. In the course of the project, about 3,000 smallholder farmers will directly benefit from oil palm development and 136,000 households from oilseed development. The project is directly supervised by IFAD.”

It records a total project cost of $146.2 million, to which it is contributing a $52.0 million loan repayable in 2018, co-financed with SNV Netherlands Development Organization, which is contributing $0.3 million. It claims to benefit 139,000 households.

The Ecologist spoke today with Alessandro Marini, IFAD’s Country Representative for Uganda by telephone, but he repeatedly refused to comment at that time because he was “on his way into a meeting”. He has since failed to respond to our email requesting his views.

The UK is the single biggest contributor to IFAD.

John Muyiisa’s story

In January, Anne van Schaik of Friends of the Earth Europe joined NAPE / Friends of the Earth Uganda in a fact-finding mission to Bugula Island, Kalangala, and visited the house of John Muyiisa, one of the plaintiffs.

John saw his 43-acre plot taken for the palm oil project, and has since not stopped fighting to get it back. John showed us the state of his house, which is about to collapse because he doesn’t have the resources to repair it. The foundations of the new house he was planning to build for his family have been left abandoned since the project began.

When he showed us the small plot that was left to him, John said: “We all depended on this land. My land was not only my income but also a secured future income for my children. It would have provided me with the money I needed to buy a new house. Now I have lost my land and our plans are shattered.” These concerns have found little sympathy among local government officials.

We also visited the nearby island of Buvuma, where IFAD has financed another oil palm project. When we expressed our interest to hear from the local community about the effects of the island’s palm oil project, they exhausted themselves by explaining the benefits of the project.

“There will be electricity, employment, new roads, and extra income for local palm oil growers”, officials told us. This sounded all-too familiar to what we heard during a visit in 2013, but two years on, these promises seem emptier than ever.

Once we had finished speaking with the officials, we joined them at a community meeting at the district house to discuss compensation for lost land. When the chairperson gave farmers the floor to talk about the effects of the project, many raised their hands.

They talked about how the compensation had been inadequate, how it is totally unclear to them how it had been calculated, and how some of them didn’t want to leave their land but were given no choice. Clearly embarrassed and annoyed, a local official responded and corrected them. “People should not first sign an agreement and then complain after”, he said.

His unsympathetic stance was mirrored by other government officials on both islands. Often we heard jokes about how farmers drank away their compensation money in bars, got themselves a second wife or otherwise managed to fritter it away.

This indifference, although unspoken, is implicitly shared by IFAD, BIDCO, OPUL and Wilmar. Indeed, the chain of responsibility stretches back further – to banks in Europe and the USA whose financial support sets the wheels in motion for these devastating land grabs.

Europe’s mega-banks financing palm oil explosion

Taking the case of Wilmar International, in 2014 US and EU financiers had a total of €371 million of shares in the corporation, and 1.1 billion Euro in loans outstanding to them.

For instance in the Netherlands, ING held more than €26 million in shares; the British bank HSBC held €298 million in loans, while BNP Paribas and Dutch Rabobank held €189 million and €111 million respectively. Deutsche Bank held €4 million in shares and €12 million in outstanding loans.

Like Wilmar, many of these financiers have adopted policies to address the environmental, social and governance impacts of their investments. However, there is no accountability mechanism in place for most of these commitments, and so there is no financial or legal incentive for financiers to follow through.

This means that many European financial institutions, through their investments in agribusiness projects, are supporting a significant number of what are in fact land grabs in the global South. Such incidents are widespread and growing: new cases are reported to civil society organisations on a near-weekly basis in countries from Cambodia and Papua New Guinea to Indonesia, Myanmar and Nigeria.

Europe needs to take action at the political level. Both by ensuring financial institutions on its soil are not complicit in land grabs, and by voting this year to finish reforms to halt the expansion of agrofuels which compete for cropland.

UN-IFAD must hang its head in shame

And clearly IFAD is an organization crying out for abolition. Its financing of the Bugula Island land grab is in clear violation of its financing principles and criteria, indeed the very purpose of its existence – “Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty”

While IFAD speaks of “community-driven development approach to fighting rural poverty“, “improving access to land and tenure security”, “dynamic and inclusive rural development“, “food and nutrition security for all”, “inclusive growth and poverty eradication”, and “sustainable smallholder agriculture” it is actually financing land-grabbing projects that achieve the precise reverse of all its empty rhetoric.

Indeed it is robbing poor farmers and farming communities of their land and livelihoods, leaving them destitute, and handing over their wealth for plunder by foreign corporations and profiteering financiers.

As for John and the rest of the former farmers of Bugula, the next steps in their fight for justice will be taken in court in Masaka. With pressure coming at them from both sides, the message to oil IFAD, palm companies and financiers alike is clear: the battle against land grabs is on.


Action: to support John Muyiisa’s struggle in his search for legal redress for the farmers of Kalangala, please visit our crowdfunding page.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , , | Leave a comment

Libya Lies – Rape as a Weapon of War – Made in the USA?

By Felicity Arbuthnot | Dissident Voice | February 17, 2015

It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century, you just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests.
— Secretary of State, John Kerry, “Meet the Press”,  March 2, 2014

Various professional psychology sites state succinctly: “Projection is a defense mechanism which involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people.”

Further: “Projection tends to come to the fore in normal people at times of crisis, personal or political, but is more commonly found in the neurotic or psychotic – in personalities functioning at a primitive level as in narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder”, opines Wiki.

With that in mind it is worth returning to the assault on Libya and the allegation by Susan Rice, then US Ambassador to the UN, in April 2011, that the Libyan government was issuing Viagra to its troops, instructing them to use rape as a weapon of terror.

However, reported Antiwar.com, MSNBC was told “by US military and intelligence officials that there is no basis for Rice’s claims. While rape has been reported as a ‘weapon’ in many conflicts, the US officials (said) they’ve seen no such reports out of Libya.”

Several diplomats also questioned Rice’s lack of evidence, suspecting she was attempting “to persuade doubters the conflict in Libya was not just a standard civil war but a much nastier fight in which Gaddafi is not afraid to order his troops to commit heinous acts.”

The story was reminiscent of the pack of lies which arguably sealed the 1991 US-led Iraq onslaught — of Iraqi troops leaving premature babies to die after stealing their incubators. The story, of course, was dreamt up by global public relations company, Hill and Knowlton Strategies, Inc., then described as the world’s largest PR company which had been retained by the Kuwait government.

A tearful hospital “volunteer”, Nayirah, gave “testimony” which reverberated around an appalled world. It transpired she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Washington and was neither a “volunteer”, “witness”, nor in Kuwait. Amnesty International obligingly backed up the fictional nonsense suffering lasting credibility damage.  However, as with Libya two decades later, Iraq’s fate was sealed.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice and Foreign Affairs advisor, Samantha Power are credited with helping persuade President Obama to intervene in Libya. By the end of April 2011, Rice was also pushing for intervention in Syria, claiming that President Assad was “seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria’s citizens …” In the light of all, she vowed: “The United States will continue to stand up for democracy and respect for human rights, the universal rights that all human beings deserve in Syria and around the world.” (Guardian, April 29, 2011)

Looking across the world at the apocalyptic ruins of lives and nations resultant from America’s continuance in uninvited “standing up” for “democracy”, “human rights” and “universal rights” there are surely few who could not only silently weep.

Amnesty, perhaps “once bitten” not only questioned the Libya Viagra nonsense but denied it in categorical terms. According to Donatella Rovera, their Senior Crisis Response Advisor, who spent three months in Libya from the start of the crisis: “We have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped.”

Liesel Gerntholtz, heading Womens Rights at Human Rights Watch, which also investigated the mass rape allegations, stated: “We have not been able to find evidence.”

The then Secretary of State, Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton, was “deeply concerned” stating that: “Rape, physical intimidation, sexual harassment and even so-called ‘virginity tests’ “were taking place not only in Libya, but “throughout the region.” Presumably leaving the way open for further plundering throughout Africa in the guise of bestowing “democracy”, “human rights” etc.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court obediently weighed in, telling a Press Conference of:  “ … information that there was a policy to rape in Libya those that were against the government. Apparently (Colonel Gaddafi) used it to punish people.” A bit of a blow for the impartiality and meticulous evidence of the ICC it might be thought.

A week after the bombing of Libya started in March 2011, Eman al-Obeidy burst in to a Tripoli hotel telling the international journalists there she had been raped. She was removed by Libyan security. Government spokespeople claimed she had mental health problems, was drunk, a thief, a prostitute and would be charged with slander. The world sneered.

By June 2011 Ms al-Obeidy had ended up in Boulder, Colorado, US, granted asylum with remarkable speed, with the help of Hillary Clinton, according to US news outlets.

In November 2014 al-Obeidy, now known as Eman Ali, was arrested for “violating conditions of her bail bond and probation.” It was her third arrest. Prosecutors allege that she tested positive for opiates and alcohol. The probation and bail bond relate to an alleged assault case in a Boulder bar with Ms al-Obeidy-Ali accused of pouring drink over a customer and then lobbing a glass at her.  The trial is scheduled for 17th February with the possibility of her asylum status being rescinded.

However, back to projection. It transpires that the Pentagon has been supplying Viagra to US troops since 1998. That year it spent $50 million to keep troops, well, stiffened up.  “The cost, roughly, of two Marine Corps Harrier jets or forty five Tomahawk cruise missiles …”

By 2014 the cost of extra-curricular military forces’ frolics had risen to an astonishing $504,816 of taxpayers money. An additional $17,000-plus was spent on two further erectile enhancing magic potions.

The Washington Free Beacon helpfully estimated: “that the amount of Viagra bought by the Pentagon last year could have supplied 80,770 hours, 33 minutes, and 36 seconds of sexual enhancement, assuming that erections don’t last longer than the 4 hour maximum advised by doctors.”

Surely coincidentally on February 14, St Valentine’s Day, Joachim Hagopian released an article: “Sexual Assault in the US Military – More Rapists Attend the Air Force Academy Than Any Other College in America.”

In a survey taken in 2012 “an unprecedented number” of over “26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact was reported by service men and women.” Further, weekly: “another high profile officer often in charge of reducing assaults was being investigated and charged himself.”

The US Air Force at Colorado Springs, writes Hagopian “has more rapists on Campus than any other college in the country.”

But then the US military planners would seem to be sex and bodily function obsessed. In 1994 they contemplated releasing pheromones (a hormonal stimulus) against enemy troops “to turn enemy soldiers into flaming love puppets whose objects of affection would be each other.”

“While enemy troops were preoccupied with making love instead of war …” America’s finest could blow them to bits. This bit of military dementia was dubbed the “gay bomb.”

Also dreamed up have been halitosis, flatulence and vomit-inducing chemicals to unleash on foes. Body function obsession clearly rules in the armed forces, officially and unofficially.

Projection: “ … is more commonly found … in personalities functioning at a primitive level.” Indeed. And to think both Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi were labeled mad by such as these.

~

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger’s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.)

February 17, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Company’s Rice Plantation Pushes out Nigerian Communities

teleSUR | January 29, 2015

After years of working with the government to develop a sustainable community agriculture system, over 40,000 Nigerians will now have to fend for themselves after their land was given away to U.S. food company Dominion Farms, international human rights groups told teleSUR Thursday.

“The land in question is taken from the farmers,” Raymond Nyayiti Enoch from the Center for Environmental Education and Development (CEED) Nigeria told teleSUR via email.

“Added still, they will have no alternative fertile land of food production because the Federal Government Agency, the Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority (UBRBDA) have spent years developing the land and working with the farmers to boost food production in the way and manner beneficial to the farmers and their community,” he said.

A report was released Wednesday detailing a land grab case in the Gassol community in Nigeria’s northeastern Tabara State, where Dominion Farms has taken over a large swath of fertile community land in order to develop a 300-square-kilometer rice plantation.

The move comes as a shock to the communities, who were kept in the dark about the development decision and who had previously been working with the government to develop small-scale, community agriculture that they could depend on for food.

For years, the federal government has been trying to increase international investment in Nigeria’s agriculture sector in order to increase local food production and become a food exporter in order to increase GDP.

However, according to Enoch, potential economic benefits for the country come at a high price. The secretive way in which the government carried out the transaction with Dominion Farms could cause internal conflict, not only between the federal government and the tens of thousand of Nigerians affected by the sudden loss of land, but also with the government-led UBRBDA who the federal bodies involved excluded from the deal.

“It poses a potential conflict that would mar the production process even before its started,” said Enoch, who added that this will make it hard to attract further international investment.

Ange David, member of GRAIN, an international rights group that supports small farmers, said the government is taking the wrong tactic if its trying to improve its economy.

“Nigeria has a target to resolve the problem of employment, so how [will it] resolve it by this kind of ‘investment’ who will put more than 40,000 persons on the street or push [them] to leave their village and to join the urban zone like Abuja or Lagos,” David told teleSUR in an email, referring to two of the most populous cities in Nigeria that experience high poverty rates.

“As we know, the major occupation of the people of Taraba is agriculture,” said David. “So how can we imagine that this land grab can help that communities who will lose the land for ever.”

According to Enoch, this is the first major land grab in Nigeria, with several others “looming” across the country, including in the same state of Tabara.

Nigeria is one of the many countries around the world being affected by U.S. multinational companies and their land grabbing strategies.

In Sierra Leone, a western African nation embattled by Ebola, the people have joined forces to combat another virus, that of “multinational companies,” which have recently taken advantage of the poverty stricken communities to buy up their lands at negligible prices. This only benefits the corporations, leaving the population without the possibility of cultivating their own land.

Also see: Paraguay: Big Business Want to “Eliminate Farmers and Indigenous Communities” Says Activist

And: ​Israel, Land-Grabs and the ‘Wild West’

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , | 5 Comments

UK government accused of sponsoring human rights abuses in Ethiopia

proxy

RT | January 21, 2015

A development project funded by the UK government and run by the World Bank could be facilitating a violent resettlement program in Ethiopia that has been dogged by allegations of forced displacement, physical assaults and rape, a leaked report suggests.

Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) is the primary sponsor of the World Bank’s foreign aid initiative, supposedly set up to improve basic health, education and public services in Ethiopia. It has attracted over £388 million in UK taxpayer’s money to date.

According to a leaked report, obtained by the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists, the seemingly benign aid program is facilitating a controversial resettlement scheme driven by the Ethiopian government.

The scathing report, carried out by the Bank’s in-house watchdog, warns of poor oversight, inadequate auditing and a failure to adhere to its own regulations which has bred links between the development program and the forced displacement of the Anuak people.

The Anuaks are a marginalized minority Christian group in Ethiopia.

Severe human rights abuses

The Ethiopian government’s resettlement program has been condemned by human rights groups worldwide who warn it has led to the destruction of thousands of Ethiopians’ livelihoods.

The initiative, known as ‘villagization’, aims to relocate 1.5 million rural families from their homesteads to villages across Ethiopia.

Since its launch in 2010, the program has been the centre of allegations of rape, physical assaults, forced evictions and disappearances.

Many of those who are uprooted from their homes and resettled elsewhere are forced to reside in substandard living conditions in refugee camps in Southern Sudan.

While the World Bank’s top brass have long denied any links to the Ethiopian government’s villagization program, an inquiry conducted by the Bank’s internal watchdog indicates otherwise.

The inquiry’s leaked findings, which surfaced this week, said the Bank’s inadequate auditing controls created a situation whereby over £300m of the DfID’s foreign aid funding could have been siphoned directly into the contentious resettlement scheme.

The report did not examine allegations the resettlement program is responsible for human rights abuses in Ethiopia, however, stressing that such an inquiry was not within its remit.

Nevertheless, it uncovered a slew of failures in the planning and implementation of the World Bank’s foreign aid program, particularly the Bank’s failure to carry out risk assessments.

The watchdog also found the Bank did not adopt necessary safeguards to protect marginalized indigenous peoples.

Uneven economic development

Anuradha Mittal, founder of the Oakland Institute, a Californian development NGO that is active in Ethiopia, said the DfID participated in the World Bank’s development initiative, and should therefore take responsibility for the scheme’s failings.

“Along with the World Bank and other donors, DfID support constitutes not only financial support but a nod of approval for the Ethiopian regime to bring about ‘economic development’ for the few at the expense of basic human rights and livelihoods of its economically and politically most marginalized ethnic groups,” she told The Guardian.

David Pred of Inclusive Development International, an NGO that works to defend the rights of the Anuak people, said the World Bank has facilitated the forced displacement of “tens of thousands of indigenous people from their ancestral lands.”

“The Bank today just doesn’t want to see human rights violations, much less accept that it bears some responsibility when it finances those violations,” he told the Guardian.

A spokesman for the World Bank declined to comment on its internal watchdog’s leaked report.

Probed on the watchdog’s findings, the DfID also declined to comment.

A marriage of convenience?

In March 2014, an Ethiopian farmer secured legal aid to sue the British government following his claim UK taxpayers’ funds were sponsoring Ethiopia’s resettlement scheme.

He said murder, rape and torture were employed by Ethiopian authorities, as part of the forced displacement program.

The 34 year-old farmer, known as Mr. O, had been forced to flee Ethiopia after he was tortured and beaten for trying to protect his land.

He said the British government were contributing to the devastation of some of Ethiopia’s poorest people rather than assisting them.

In June, Britain’s DfID faced a judicial inquiry over its alleged funding of human rights abuses in Ethiopia.

A High Court judge ruled at the time that Mr. O had a case against the British government, and his legal challenge was upheld. His lawsuit is still ongoing.

Ethiopia’s single-party government is a core ally in the West’s war on terror.

It is also a leading recipient of UK aid, despite human rights groups’ repeated allegations the funding is used to crush dissent in the troubled state.

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Assassination Nation

Drones and Targeted Killing

By Ron Jacobs | CounterPunch | January 16, 2015

Imagine living in a town or neighborhood where a serial killer is on the loose. The killer’s primary weapon is a pipe bomb filled with small metal projectiles like BBs and nails. The bombs are designed to kill and maim those in the vicinity of the explosion. The killer’s weapons are usually aimed at male targets, but quite often several others in the vicinity are also killed, including women and children. Oftentimes, a note is sent to the media after the attacks warning of future attacks unless the people being targeted give in to the killer or killers’ demands. The fact of the attacks’ unpredictability has created a perennial fear in the region, leaving every resident uncertain of their future and their family’s safety.

Now imagine the killer is the United States military and CIA. The pipe bombs are armed drones packing explosives powerful enough to kill everyone within a few hundred meters. Although the drones are not randomly aimed, the appearance to those targeted on the ground is that they are. In other words, nobody in the targeted vicinity knows when or exactly where the drone will hit and who it is intended to kill. In response, the local residents of the targeted area stay inside, not sending their children to school or going to work all the while hoping their families will not be murdered in the next attack. Then the drone strikes, killing at first a man and his fellow tea drinkers. The screams of the wounded and dying attract his neighbors, who go to retrieve the wounded. Some approach quickly while others much more tentatively, knowing of the likelihood of a second drone strike designed to kill the rescuers. Then, the silence.Layout 1

Since the use of killer drones by the United States began, more than 3500 people have been killed. Many of those killed were civilians. The number of civilians killed depends on how one counts civilians. The US government tends to consider every male in a targeted area over the age of fourteen to be a militant (itself a rather ambiguous term) and does not count their deaths as civilian deaths even when it is clear they were not involved in hostilities. If we were to apply this metric to the deaths that occurred when the planes flew into the WTC on September 11, 2001, then it seems safe to assume that the number of civilian deaths in that event would drop quite a bit. I am not suggesting that we do this, merely pointing out that the statistics regarding deaths by drone published by the US government (and related corporations) are self-serving and, at best, only somewhat truthful when it comes to the numbers of civilian dead.

Marjorie Cohn is an attorney who teaches both international human rights law and criminal law. She is a former head of the National Lawyers Guild and the editor of the recently released book Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues. This text includes entries written by attorneys, religious leaders, antiwar activists and others. The writers, while predominantly from the United States, also include (among others) Bishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa and human rights activist Ishai Menuchin from Israel. As the title indicates, the essays cover the topic of assassination by drone and Special Forces hit squads through a variety of prisms. However, the primary prism is the prism of international law. The unanimous consensus of every writer is that these killings are illegal by virtually every measure and precedent that exists in the field of international law. […]

In short, this book is a rapid-fire attack on the US policy of targeted assassination by drone or other means. It is also a look at the origins of this policy in Tel Aviv’s onslaught against the Palestinians and its assassination of Palestinian leaders by missile strike and commando. Most importantly it is a reasoned and legalistic addition to the demand that this policy end now and forever. After reading this book, the best words I could come up with to describe the nature of the US policy of targeted killing and assassination by drone or other means are the same words spoken by Barack Obama in the wake of the recent murders of twelve journalists in Paris by men quickly labeled terrorists. To quote the US president, these killings are “cowardly, evil attacks.”

January 17, 2015 Posted by | Book Review, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Charlie Hebdo Massacre: Another Staged Event to Incite War and Destroy Freedom?

By Brandon Martinez | Non-Aligned Media | January 11, 2015

The “Islamists” strike again – at least that’s what those who stand behind the latest outrage in Paris want us to believe.

On Wednesday, two masked gunmen wielding AK-47s stormed the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper based in Paris, France, assassinating the entire leadership of the paper. Twelve people were killed in the ensuing rampage, mostly Charlie Hebdo employees and a few policemen. Days later, four more random civilians were gunned down at a kosher supermarket by two other militants allegedly connected to the shooters in Paris.

Sporadically shouting “Allah Akbar” throughout the duration of their onslaught, the two attackers were caught on video making a spectacle of themselves as they paraded down the Paris street guns blazing. It is typically unusual for terrorists to immediately make it known who they are and what they stand for before concluding their dirty work, an anomaly the mainstream media refuses to emphasize for obvious reasons.

Other anomalies are cause for skepticism. How did the terrorists get ahold of military-grade weaponry undetected? Journalist Gearoid O Colmain told Russia Today that the two deceased suspects, French-born Said and Cherif Kouachi, had received military training from militants in Syria and had also traveled to Yemen to meet with al-Qaeda leaders there. And yet the pair was able to return to France without interference from authorities. Other reports indicate that the brothers were known and being monitored by French intelligence, but were still able to obtain the necessary armaments to conduct Wednesday’s attack without a hiccup.

In a Jan. 8 article, Sputnik News reported: “Said and Cherif Kouachi, two brothers in their 30s who are suspected of committing the [Charlie Hebdo] terror attack, have been known to France’s General Directorate for Internal Security and the prefecture of Police of Paris, Le Point news magazine said Thursday.” The Sputnik article further revealed that in 2008 Cherif Kouachi had been arrested and sentenced to a prison term of three years for attempting to recruit others to fight for al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Others contend some aspects of the Paris shooting were completely staged like a scene from a Hollywood action movie. Ali Şahin, a Turkish MEP and member of the ruling AKP party, echoed this view, citing the mysterious absence of street traffic where the shooting took place, and the odd lack of blood or recoil when a Paris cop was shot point blank by one of the gunmen.

In an op-ed for Press TV, analyst Kevin Barrett calls into question the dubious story that authorities found IDs left behind in the terrorists’ get-away car, which led police to quickly identify the suspects. Barrett contends that such a ‘mistake’ would not be made by sophisticated terrorists, but rather bears the markings of a false flag deception aimed at implicating Muslims.

“Al-Qaeda in Yemen” is officially being blamed for the Charlie Hebdo massacre, an unusual detour from ISIS or ‘Islamic State’ (IS) as it is now called, which has been the go-to bogeyman for neoconservative talking heads on the mass media for months.

According to a Fox News report, “Cherif Kouachi told a French TV station before Friday’s raid at an industrial park that he was sent by Al Qaeda in Yemen and had been financed by the cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.” The same report goes on to admit that al-Awlaki was “killed by a U.S. airstrike in Yemen in 2011,” but failed to explain how a dead man was able to finance and direct an attack four years after his death.

Many questions about the Paris attack remain and will likely go unanswered by the subservient sell-outs who populate mainstream media outlets.

Western Foreign Policy and Muslim Discontent

Even if we were to presuppose that a group of Muslims carried out a terrorist attack like the one we saw in Paris, one question journalists and reporters should be asking is ‘why would Muslims be angry enough to want to harm France and its citizens?’ To evade this essential line of inquiry, the prevailing script contends that it was Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Islamic cartoons, which depict Islam’s prophet Mohammed in a derogatory manner, that motivated the attack, and nothing else — a convenient narrative for France’s political class whose militaristic foreign policy warrants scrutiny.

Following the lead of Washington and Tel Aviv, France has as of late pursued staunchly anti-Muslim foreign policies, yet it befuddles journalists to ask why Muslims are upset with the present pro-American, pro-Israeli puppet regime in Paris?

It cannot be overlooked that America and France led the NATO onslaught against Libya in 2011, bombarding civilians and infrastructure in the name of “liberating” the predominately Muslim North African country from a ‘dictator.’ Thanks to the US, Britain, France, Canada and other rogue states, Libya ­– once a boon of progress in an otherwise bleak part of the world – is now a failed state plagued by terrorism and civil war. The stability and prosperity that Libyans once enjoyed under Gaddafi is nothing but a distant memory as the country is teetering on collapse whilst NATO-backed Takfiri gangs and warlords wrestle for control of Tripoli.

Many have also forgotten that the French invaded Mali, a Muslim-majority country in West Africa, in January of 2013 to put down the rise of armed groups opposed to France’s puppet regime in Bamako. Add to that France’s unyielding support of Israel and its terroristic policies against the Palestinians.

In the case of real Muslim violence directed at France and other NATO member states, it would be wise to broach the underlying causes of Muslim discontent, rather than objectifying it with stale neocon propaganda memes about ’72 virgins in heaven’ and other inanities.

Could it be that the Muslim world has suffered a litany of Western military invasions over the past few decades, causing the deaths and displacement of a few million Muslims, which may lie behind the deep-seated consternation and disdain emanating from that part of the world? Or do they simply ‘hate us for our freedoms,’ as neocon warmongers and Zionists assure us?

An average intellect could easily deduce the above puzzle, but those are queries that few in the degenerated ‘mainstream’ dare to raise with any serious vigor.

Islamic Extremism: A Manufactured Enemy?

So now we’ve seen attacks in Ottawa, Sydney and Paris within a relatively short period of time. Is it reasonable to believe that this recent string of ‘lone-wolf jihadist’ attacks across the West have been organic occurrences, cooked up in the deranged minds of mad-men? Or is there something more sinister at work?

Many analysts are questioning the dubious timing and nature of all of these incidents, which come at just the right moment to lend credence to the US-led coalition against ISIS. It is nothing short of miraculous that just as various Western countries gear up for military strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, ‘terror incidents’ hit their respective homelands right on cue to give the politicians their belated ‘casus belli’ for joining the campaign to be rid of ISIS.

In any case, the West’s crusade against ISIS is as counterfeit as it is comical. The West’s ‘fight against ISIS’ is not truly aimed at combatting the militant group, but rather at destabilizing the region as a whole to further weaken and disorientate Israel’s rivals. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, al-Nusra Front — they are all outgrowths of the same poisonous American-Zionist imperial tree. Washington and Tel Aviv have routinely sponsored Takfiri zealots against regimes they seek to depose, the latest victims being Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. These armed radical groups have served a two-tiered purpose for their clandestine backers in America and Israel: firstly, they provide a pretext for the US and its lapdogs to invade the Middle East; secondly, they act as scare-crows to corral public opinion behind the interventions, providing a replenishing source of patsies and dupes that can take the fall for false flag attacks engineered by the state.

After each and every one of these terror events, Western governments have immediately enacted legislation which increases the powers of the secret services and police, effectively establishing a police/surveillance state aimed at cracking down on civilian dissent against government policies. Extirpating the ‘war on terror’s’ critics at home, while attacking Israel’s enemies abroad – what a perfect brew for the masterminds of this global strategy of tension operating under the guise of ‘Jihadism.’

“Free Speech” to Bash Muslims, but not Zionists

In response to the atrocity in Paris, French politicians and other Western leaders have been pontificating about Western ‘values’ and have selectively invoked ‘freedom of speech.’ “We live in a free and open democracy which has freedom of speech,” the West’s dishonest leaders say. “Radical Muslims don’t believe in ‘our values,’ hence the necessity to fight them overseas” is the standard establishment talking point, trotted out time and again by the professional script readers fronting as presidents and prime ministers.

The hypocrisy is stunning. Like most of Europe today, France is certainly not a bastion of freedom of speech, having implemented numerous draconian laws over the years, especially the infamous “Gayssot Act” which criminalizes opinions that contradict official World War II and ‘holocaust’ historiography. French revisionists such as Robert Faurisson, Vincent Reynouard and others who have questioned the “Six Million” mythology have been jailed and fined extortionate amounts of money by the French state for their dissident historical viewpoints. The existence of such repressive laws in France unveils the duplicity of the newfound love of free speech being expressed by the likes of French President Francois Hollande and his ministers.

Taking a page out of Stalin’s playbook, the French regime recently banned pro-Palestine protests, even going so far as to prosecute a number of prominent pro-Palestinian activists as “hate criminals.” And while France’s reprobate leaders fully sanction and even encourage satirical assaults upon Islam and Muslims in the name of “free speech” – not to mention lobbing bombs on Muslims in places like Libya and Mali – these same miscreants have outlawed any parodying of Zionism and Jewish privilege.

While championing Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Muslim cartoons as “free expression,” France’s mealy-mouthed political class have simultaneously led a ceaseless witch-hunt against French comedian Dieudonne, whose anti-Zionist parodies have angered the country’s Jewish ruling class. French authorities have enacted stiff bans against the wildly popular Dieudonne, preventing him from performing at public venues across the country under penalty of prison time and fines. Britain too has banned the comic from entering that country on the grounds that his famous “Quenelle” gesture resembles a Nazi salute and is therefore ‘anti-Semitic.’

In reference to Dieudonne, French President Francois Hollande himself pledged to use every means at the disposal of his government to “fight against the sarcasm of those who purport to be humorists but who are actually professional anti-Semites.” In Hollande’s Orwellian France, “free speech” is reserved only for those who defame Islam, whereas critics of Zionism and Jewish exceptionalism are first stigmatized and then criminalized – a tribute to the real power behind the throne of that once-free country.

Copyright 2015 Brandon Martinez

January 11, 2015 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , , , , | 2 Comments

IMF Policies Blamed for Rapid Ebola Spread in West Africa

teleSUR | December 23, 2014

Strict public spending cuts imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone may have contributed to the rapid spread of Ebola in these countries, according to Cambridge University researchers.

“A major reason why the Ebola outbreak spread so rapidly was the weakness of healthcare systems in the region,” said Cambridge sociologist Alexander Kentikelenis, lead author of the study that appeared in the latest issue of medical journal The Lancet.

“Policies advocated by the IMF have contributed to underfunded, insufficiently staffed and poorly prepared health systems in the countries with Ebola outbreaks,” added Kentikelenis.

The first cases of the deadly virus were discovered in Guinea earlier this year, but quickly spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. The three countries have been the worst affected by the epidemic, both in terms of lives lost and the damages to their already fragile economies.

According to the researchers, all three countries have been receiving aid from the IMF since the 1990s. However, the lending came with what the IMF calls “conditionalities” that required all three governments “to adopt policies that favor short-term economic objectives over investment in health and education,” reads the report.

Kentikelenis told the BBC that IMF imposed government spending cuts and caps on wages meant countries could not hire health staff and pay them adequately. He also added that the IMF emphasizes and supports decentralized health care systems, which made it harder to mobilize a coordinated response to the virus outbreak.

The IMF denied all accusations in a press release, and called them “factual inaccuracies.”

As of Dec. 21, at least 7,580 people have died from Ebola in six countries: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the United States and Mali, making it the worse outbreak of the virus since it was first identified in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

December 25, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , | 2 Comments

The Persistent U.S. Opposition To Self-Determination

By Matt Peppe | Just the Facts | December 21, 2014

There is no principle in international law more fundamental than the right of all peoples to self-determination. This is universally accepted by the entire world, yet nearly 70 years after the signing of the UN Charter, the United States continues to fight tooth and nail against this most basic human right.

On December 18, the U.S. was one of only seven countries to vote against a UN General Assembly resolution that passed with 180 votes affirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

Earlier this year, the U.S. also found themselves on the wrong side of the international consensus when the UN Special Committee on Decolonization approved a statement to “reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination.”

Self-determination “denotes the legal right of people to decide their own destiny in the international order,” according to the Legal Information Institute.

This right was enshrined in international law with its inclusion in the UN Charter in 1945. Article 1 of the Charter states that one of the purposes of the United Nations is: “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”

In the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, this was made even more explicit: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

For people deprived of equal rights and political participation, self-determination could take many forms: independence, assimilation, sovereign association, or another form they choose for themselves. But no one has a right to self-determination at the expense of someone else.

“It is well known that any attempt to deny a human group its self-determination only intensifies its demand for sovereignty and enhances its collective identity,” writes Shlomo Sand in The Invention of the Jewish People. “This does not, of course, give a particular group that sees itself as a people the right to dispossess another group of its land in order to achieve its self-determination. But that is precisely what happened in Mandatory Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century.”

Some people justify Israel’s right to exist by claiming that Jewish people deserve self-determination just like all other peoples. But European Zionists seeking self-determination did not have a right to conquer the indigenous population of an already-populated land to establish a state which did not include Palestinians. In 1947, Jews represented no more than 33% of the population and owned no more than 10% of the land in Mandatory Palestine. There is no justification for ethnically cleansing people, stealing their land, and preventing the return of refugees for seven decades in order to manipulate the demographics of the state and engineer an artificial ruling majority.

The United States has never respected self-determination as a concept or a right. As independence movements from Asia to Africa to the Middle East fought wars of liberation following World War II, the United States fought on the side of colonial domination and subjugation.

Self-determination is not just a utopian ideal. It is a legal right. The contents of the UN Charter and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – as well as all treaties ratified by the U.S. government – are the “supreme law of the land,” per Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, prevention of self-determination is a legally enforceable human rights violation.

The “traditional American conception” of self-determination, writes Noam Chomsky in The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, is that “we will determine, since we are plainly the authentic representatives of the Palestinians – as of the Filipinos, the Nicaraguans, the Greeks, the Vietnamese, the Chileans, the Salvadorans, and many others who have been privileged to enjoy our beneficient attentions.”

When France decided to abandon a failed war to maintain colonial rule over Vietnam, the United States stepped in and escalated the war, carrying out wholesale slaughter of people seeking their liberation. U.S. military forces killed between 2.5  and 5 million Vietnamese, most of them civilians, in an attempt to prevent them from choosing their socioeconomic system on their own.

When the Portuguese dictatorship fell in 1974, clearing the way for independence for former colonies like Angola, the United States encouraged South Africa to invade that country the next year to install a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime. The racist South Africans would have succeeded if it weren’t for a massive military intervention by Cuba on behalf of the populist Angolan government that crushed the invading forces and sent them back to Pretoria with their tail between their legs.

In 1898, American ships landed at Guánica. One hundred sixteen years later, Puerto Rico is still a colonial possession of the United States. In 1946, Puerto Rico was placed on the United Nations List of Non-Self Governing-Territories. The United States was forced to report regularly on the island’s political status with the goal of decolonization. Not willing to give up ownership of their tropical cash cow, the U.S. backed a new Puerto Rican Constitution that disguised the colonial status of the island. It was given the euphemistic status of a “Commonwealth,” in which the U.S. maintained sovereignty over Puerto Rico. Only the U.S. Congress – which Puerto Ricans cannot elect representatives to or participate in – is empowered to relinquish sovereignty over the island.

The United States has partnered with Israel in keeping Palestinians stateless since the creation of the Israeli state in 1948. In Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel has occupied since 1967, Palestinians do not have citizenship in any state and do not enjoy sovereignty over the territory the entire world has recognized as their own.

Israel has for decades demonstrated that it intends to maintain the nearly half-century occupation indefinitely and prevent any Palestinian state. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party charter states: “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel,” and “The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem.” As the majority party in the Knesset, they have been carrying this out in practice.

There is an name for ruling over people while preventing them from being part of the political process that governs their lives. It’s called colonialism, In international law, it is a crime against humanity.

Israel’s plan is to simply continue the status quo under the guise of a “peace process.” While Israel, with the help of the United States, uses the farcical cover of negotiations, they continue to steal Palestinian land and water while transferring in hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis onto stolen land and evicting residents of East Jerusalem to clear the way for more Jews.

It is what historian Illan Pappe and others have called “slow-motion genocide.” They create the conditions intended to drive as many Palestinians as possible from their land – to Jordan, Syria, or anywhere outside Greater Israel. They hope that as more 1948 refugees grow older and die their ancestors will lose their claim to the land they were systematically driven away from before the formation of the state of Israel. In this way, the Jewish state hopes to establish its permanence from the Jordan river to the Sea.

All this is only possible because the Israeli state denies Palestinians sovereignty to govern themselves or participate in a binational arrangement to share governance in Greater Israel. People who can’t vote and have no voice in these policies obviously cannot change them. Which is why it is so important to Israel to continue to deny Palestinians self-determination. Preserving their colonial domination over territory and people they have conquered is much more important to Israel than having a legitimate claim to being a democratic state that values human rights.

The rest of the world showed in voting for the UN resolution affirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination how isolated the U.S. and Israel are as they cling to a morally and legally indefensible position. Only Canada and four American client states (all tiny Pacific Island nations) joined them in voting against the measure.

The vote is a “strong affirmation of the international support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, led by their right to self-determination and liberation,” said Riyad Mansour, Permanent Palestinian Observer at the UN.

When the Palestinians finally are able to achieve their basic human right of self-determination, it will be in spite of decades of U.S. interference and complicity in Israeli repression. As they were in Vietnam and Southern Africa, and as they continue to be in Puerto Rico, the United States will shamefully be on the wrong side of history.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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