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Afghanistan war crimes probe a sham and cover-up for US

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By Finian Cunningham | RT | November 14, 2017

When The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) announced it was planning to investigate alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, the timing seemed appropriate.

The announcement by the ICC on November 3 came within days of a deadly airstrike by US forces in northern Afghanistan, which UN officials say killed ten civilians.

But the history of the intergovernmental court since it was set up some 15 years ago gives pause to hope that it might deliver justice in Afghanistan. For many critics, the ICC is a byword for self-serving Western political control, either whitewashing crimes or smearing designated opponents. A pertinent question is: why has it taken the ICC so long to investigate alleged crimes in Afghanistan’s war?

The Pentagon claimed the air raid near the city of Kunduz on November 4 killed only Taliban militants. However, last week the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) provided a very different version of events. UNAMA said extensive interviews with local residents and medics show that at least ten civilians died in the airstrike.

The incident would, therefore, be a prime case to investigate. ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has promised an investigation into any alleged war crimes in Afghanistan would be “independent, impartial and objective.”

As a Reuters report stated, the ICC “could examine the role of US forces” in Afghanistan, which have been occupying the country for the past 16 years since October 2001, following the 9/11 terror attacks in Washington DC and New York City.

US torture practices conducted during CIA interrogations and renditions could also be probed, according to reports. An earlier announcement by the ICC said it would be looking into alleged violations committed by three parties: US military, Afghan security forces, and Taliban militants.

If the ICC did carry out an earnest probe into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, it would have its work cut out – even if it just restricted itself to incidents involving US forces and the CIA.

Two years ago, in October 2015, the northern city of Kunduz was the location of another apparent atrocity committed by the US air force. A hospital run by the French-based Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) was bombed and machine-gunned by US aircraft, killing 42 medical staff and patients. MSF condemned the attack as a violation of the Geneva Convention – a war crime. Though, the Pentagon maintained that its forces made a mistake while targeting militants.

There is very little clarity on the number of Afghan civilians who have been killed by US forces over the past 16 years, from gun battles, house raids, drone strikes, and airstrikes. One estimate puts the total number of civilian deaths in the war at over 31,000. Many of them are victims of Taliban shootings, and bombings or operations carried out by the US-backed Afghan security forces.

Nevertheless, there are abundant incidents involving civilians being killed by US operations in what could merit war crimes prosecutions. This is especially so given the renewal of American military operations in the country ordered by President Trump in August this year – three years after the US forces were officially supposed to wind down.

Trump’s defense secretary James Mattis, on a trip to the Afghan capital Kabul in September, warned that US airstrikes would be ramped up in the coming months. Already this year, the UN reports that there was a surge in civilian casualties from American-backed air raids. The situation has an ominous resonance with how civilian casualties have escalated from increased US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria under the Trump administration’s wider authorization to the Pentagon to mount operations.

So, it seems clear that if the ICC were to open prosecution cases in Afghanistan it would, to say the least, be kept busy. However, critics of the ICC say that its intentions are not motivated by seeking justice.

It’s a political move, says international criminal lawyer Christopher Black.

Since its establishment in 2002, the international court has come in for much criticism that it is a “political tool” of the United States and European allies. Virtually all of the court’s prosecutions and indictments have been against African leaders. For example, Omar Bashir (Sudan), Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Muammar Gaddafi (Libya), and Laurent Gbagbo (Ivory Coast) are among those indicted by the ICC.

The US is not a member of the 123-nation ICC. Neither are Russia, China, and India. However, the US exerts a controlling influence over the court’s prosecution office via European governments and the European Union, which are dominant in the administration of the ICC.

“The United States and its European allies use the ICC as a means of political control, not for justice,” says Christopher Black who is registered on the defense counsel for the court, but who has vociferously criticized its political subservience.

Black says the ICC has a similar function to several other ad hoc international tribunals, such as those which purportedly investigated war crimes in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

“These courts serve to cover-up actual crimes committed by Western powers while criminalizing political enemies of the West,” says Black.

In the case of former Yugoslavia, he points out, the Hague-based court did not examine the putative crimes of NATO bombing Belgrade in 1999. It only went after former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic whom Washington and the European governments wanted to criminalize to justify NATO’s illegal intervention in the Balkans.

With regard to Afghanistan, the declared intention of the ICC to divide its investigations between US and Afghan parties raises the suspicion the court will seek to mitigate violations carried out by American forces by embroiling other criminal actors.

Even if the ICC were to find US forces guilty of war crimes, it is doubtful that Washington would take any notice of such rulings.

As Christopher Black points out too, the focus of any forthcoming investigation is misplaced in its entire framework. “The focus of a war crimes investigation should be looking at the way the US launched this military occupation back in 2001. A case can be made that the US is guilty of the supreme crime of war of aggression. All other violations stem from Washington committing the ultimate crime of going to war in Afghanistan.”

He says the ICC planned investigation is a piecemeal approach which will serve to conceal the primary responsibility of the US in Afghanistan.

So why then would the ICC bother to set up such a probe into Afghanistan?

The answer is simply to salvage much-needed credibility for the court. Because of its lop-sided focus in prosecuting African leaders, the ICC has come under fire from African members for “double standards” and serving as a neocolonial instrument for Western powers.

Beginning last year, several African nations threatened to walk away from the ICC, including Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Gambia, and Uganda. Last month, Burundi formally completed its withdrawal from the ICC.

In other words, the court is in danger of imploding from lack of credibility. Hence, the announcement to go into Afghanistan is an attempt to salvage authority and public image by appearing to, at last, investigate alleged American war crimes.

“This is all about giving the ICC some badly needed credibility as it unravels in the face of a mass African walk-out,” says lawyer Christopher Black.

As such US and NATO states have nothing to fear from this proposed war crimes investigation in Afghanistan. It’s a cover-up and a sham driven by political interests, not by justice.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.

Read more:

US airstrike kills at least 10 civilians in Kunduz – UN

‘Cold day in hell before ICC goes after US for committing Afghanistan war crimes’

‘The more US engages in war on terror, the more terrorists it produces’

November 15, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Arab states spent $130bn to destroy Syria, Libya, Yemen: Algerian PM

Press TV – November 12, 2017

Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia says some regional Arab states have spent $130 billion to obliterate Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Ouyahia made the remarks on Saturday at a time when much of the Middle East and North Africa is in turmoil, grappling with different crises, ranging from terrorism and insecurity to political uncertainty and foreign interference.

Algeria maintains that regional states should settle their differences through dialog and that foreign meddling is to their detriment.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-sponsored militancy since 2011. Takfirism, which is a trademark of many terrorist groups operating in Syria, is largely influenced by Wahhabism, the radical ideology dominating Saudi Arabia.

Libya has further been struggling with violence and political uncertainty since the country’s former ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in 2011 and later killed in the wake of a US-led NATO military intervention. Daesh has been taking advantage of the chaos in Libya to increase its presence there.

Yemen has also witnessed a deadly Saudi war since March 2015 which has led to a humanitarian crisis.

Last Month, Qatar’s former deputy prime minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah said the United Arab Emirates had planned a military invasion of Qatar with thousands of US-trained mercenaries.

The UAE plan for the military action was prepared before the ongoing Qatar rift, but it was never carried out as Washington did not give the green light to it, he noted.

In late April, reports said the UAE was quietly expanding its military presence into Africa and the Middle East, namely in Eritrea and Yemen.

November 12, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Cold day in hell before ICC goes after US for committing Afghanistan war crimes’

RT | November 9, 2017

The ICC prosecutor’s decision to pursue a probe into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan is “completely political” and won’t amount to anything, law professor Francis Boyle believes. He said it will be a “cold day in hell” before any Americans are prosecuted.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced last week that her request to launch an investigation had been handed over to a pre-trial court. She said that if her request is granted, the probe will focus “upon those most responsible for the most serious crimes committed in connection with the situation in Afghanistan.”

However, Francis Boyle, an international law professor at the University of Illinois, told RT that while Bensouda is likely to get approval for the investigation, the move is simply a “propaganda stunt.” He added that Bensouda has no desire to go after any Americans who committed war crimes.

“You have to understand, this is all political,” said Boyle. He noted that the African country of Burundi has already pulled out of the ICC, and South Africa has voiced the same intention.

“So she’s in a position and the court is in a position that almost all of Africa is going to pull out of the ICC because the only people in the dock over there are black, tin-pot dictators from Africa,” Boyle said. He called the court a “Western, racist, imperial tool” which is being used against Africa.

Because of this, the so-called “white man’s court” will not be going after Americans, Boyle said. “It will be a cold day in hell” before we see Bensouda doing so, he added. Boyle noted that the ICC has “never gone after the Americans, the NATO states, Britain, Israel, despite clear-cut jurisdiction to do so.”

Boyle went on to accuse the US government of committing a Nuremberg crime against peace by “invading Afghanistan and attacking it and blowing them back to the Stone Age and killing a million Afghans.” He added that “I doubt very seriously Bensouda is going to deal with any of that.”

“The United States illegally and criminally invaded Afghanistan and attacked and destroyed them… and then they set up all these torture campus over there, they’ve been torturing these poor people forever. And at a minimum, the United States has probably killed a million Afghanis [sic] since October 2001,” he said.

“The Americans should have been investigated a decade ago at least,” said Boyle, who filed an ICC complaint against former US President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, in 2010, over their policy of “extraordinary rendition perpetrated upon about 100 human beings.” He added that “the American government knows full well they’ll be able to sabotage her [Bensouda], stop her. Nothing’s going to come of it.”

However, Boyle predicted that Bensouda would likely come back with a verdict that it was actually the Taliban who was responsible for crimes. “Or she might apportion blame, but that’s ridiculous too…if you read all the United Nations reports of human rights violations coming out of Afghanistan, they all blame the Taliban. And it’s a joke.”

Although the ICC statement doesn’t name specific parties that would be subject to the investigation, a report released by the prosecutor’s office last year said there is “reasonable basis” to believe crimes were committed by US military forces deployed to Afghanistan, and in secret detention facilities operated by the CIA. It also points the finger at the Taliban and Afghan government forces.

Boyle noted that although the US can technically be prosecuted by the court – despite not being a member – the ICC “pretty much do what they’re told to do,” citing money received from Europe, Japan, and South Korea, as well as the influence of America.

Meanwhile, the United Nations mission in Afghanistan said earlier on Thursday that at least 10 civilians may have been killed in an airstrike in the north city of Kunduz last week, despite a US military investigation stating that no evidence of civilian deaths had been found.

Boyle previously served on the board of Amnesty International USA and drafted legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention, known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which was signed into law after being unanimously approved by both chambers of the US Congress.

Read more:

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November 9, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Eritrea “Massacre” That Never Happened

By Mela Ghebremedhin | Black Agenda Report | November 8, 2017

Mass protest. Mass rally. Indiscriminate gunshots. Mass casualties and death. These are some of the sensationalist words and phrases used to create buzz and portray events as simply black and white. They are often also used without nuance or context. Recently, Eritrea made the headlines after a group of teenagers walked down the streets of Asmara to voice their discontent at their school being closed. Shouting “Allahu Akbar”, the boys, mostly aged around 14-15, were walking from their neighborhood, Akria, towards the Ministry of Education.

Many Eritreans on the sidewalks, in shops and restaurants, and otherwise within the city center looked on in confusion, particularly with the chants of “God is Great” in Arabic. Generally, such loud, public proclamations are rare in a society long known for its sense of collective tolerance and respect. After some members of the group threw stones at several policemen, authorities dispersed the crowd and fired some shots into the sky. In total, the entire incident lasted several minutes, with no casualties or injuries.

However, almost instantly, reports of the incident were twisted, mashed, mixed and remade to provide an account that was quite far from the reality. One of the most culpable was Aljazeera. Lately, it seems that anything negative is a treasure for Aljazeera. Associated Press, reporting from Ethiopia, the BBC, and others followed not too long after. The statement by the US Embassy in Eritrea, warning its citizens from going to the city center, was also somewhat ironic considering that people in the streets of Asmara are far safer than those in the US, who must regularly confront police brutality and killings, stop and frisk campaigns, regular mass shootings, and general violence.

Ironically, as more time passed by, the more twisted the reports became. By Wednesday, the story was completely distorted. The Washington Post and its Ethiopian writer – with an extensive history of reports on Eritrea that later ended up being debunked – stated that 100 were injured and 28 killed, despite the fact that there were no casualties and no one was injured. Notably, it was overlooked that the source for the claim was the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organisation (RSADO), which is based in Ethiopia and is an internationally recognized terrorist group.

The Washington Post and its Ethiopian writer – with an extensive history of reports on Eritrea that later ended up being debunked – stated that 100 were injured and 28 killed, despite the fact that there were no casualties and no one was injured.

Expectedly, news outlets jumped on the new “fact” of multiple deaths and the story quickly began trending on Twitter. Repeated efforts at clarifying and providing an accurate account of the event were made by Eritreans, located both in the Diaspora and on the ground in Asmara, but they were largely ignored. Instead, self-titled experts on Eritrea and acknowledged regime change activists fueled the fire, and spread inaccurate, false accounts. Others would continue the lies by shifting the source of the youths’ discontent, and also claiming that the Internet, telephone lines, and power in the capital were cut – despite things proceeding as normal in the city. Soon afterwards, almost as expected, the AJStream started sending private messages to many on Twitter, inviting them on their show. Obvious, right?

It is hard to understand how, instead of pursuing the truth or trying to provide an objective, balanced account, mainstream media rejected information or views of people tweeting from on the ground in Asmara, dismissing them as “supporters of the dictatorship” or “regime sympathizers.” What mainstream media failed to understand, however, is that the great majority of Eritreans – regardless of gender, class, or faith – were disappointed and angry towards the youngsters. Eritrea is not a country divided along religious or ethnic lines.

Shortly after the brief, small incident things returned back to normal. Some men – ordinary civilians – did stay out during the night, but only to ensure that there would be no more incidents. Notably, no militia or army personnel were called in to stand guard; in Eritrea, the people themselves have a sense of ownership and civil responsibility, and the prevalent attitude was that no such incidents should happen again. Women even brought them food and drinks, and it was quite telling that both Muslims and Christians were standing together in solidarity and community, side by side. However, on the other side of the world, the media and the Internet were abuzz with fake news and false accounts.

It should be noted that, by law, Eritrea follows a secular system where religious schools and national curriculum of education are separate. The issue with the school being shut down was that some of the speeches by the staff were found to be radical and could have posed a threat to the tolerance and peace prevailing within the country. Similarly, in the past, other schools, such as Cathedrale (Catholic) and St. Mary’s (Orthodox), were also closed down illustrating that this latest closure had nothing to do with discrimination.

According to Eritrea’s National Charter of 1994, “the diverse cultures of Eritrea should be a source of power and unity. The national system should be secular, separate from religion, yet respectful of the equality of religions” (PFDJ 1994:9). This vision was enshrined during the long, bitter armed struggle where people from all layers of Eritrean society – regardless of religious background – came together to win the country’s independence.

In today’s Eritrea, implementing a secular system has helped ensure peace and tolerance in a region known more for its ethno-religious volatility, violence, and tensions. What mainstream media and individuals looking for storm and chaos in a general sea of calm totally fail to understand is that Eritreans have a long history of struggle. Eritreans paid a heavy price for independence and sovereignty, and the people condemn any signs of conflicts, violence, discrimination, or division. Thus, despite the continuous efforts to disturb this harmony, the country remains united and will continue to work toward a society based on peace, love, tolerance, and mutual respect.

Mela Ghebremedhin is a freelance journalist based in Asmara, Eritrea.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Times hails Belgian royal’s conservation of the Congo – a place ravaged by Belgian royals

RT | November 7, 2017

“Why would a Belgian royal risk his life to save a Congolese wilderness?” reads a somehow unironic headline in the Times Magazine this weekend. The question is posed alongside an introduction to Belgium’s Prince Emmanuel de Merode.

According to the profile, de Merode is “battling to preserve the Virunga National Park – and the people and animals who live there.” The story follows de Merode’s conservation efforts in the eastern Congo where the royal is leading the redevelopment of Virunga’s internal infrastructure, including the costly construction of a two-mile canal and a series of hydroelectric plants.

Referring to de Merode’s “staggering ambition” for the country’s power grid, the article reads: “For this plant alone has raised $22million, plus $12million for a 250-mile network to distribute its electricity to three towns on Virunga’s border.”

The piece includes dazzling tales of de Merode evading machine gun fire while flying his Cessna jet over territories held by militiamen, his battle to defeat poachers targeting endangered animals and his “visionary” bid to remake the region.

But given the brutal history of the Belgian monarchy in the Congo, and the historic transfer of wealth out of the country to its rulers in Europe, some readers quickly declared the piece not only tone deaf, but also a stunning display of ignorance.

It is estimated that more 10 million people were killed during King Leopold II’s reign over the Congo, a country allocated to Belgium in 1884 during the Berlin Conference to regulate Europe’s colonization of West Africa.

Rising demand for rubber worldwide meant that land in the resource-rich Congo was divided up by the king and given to private mining companies in order to boost production. These companies were allowed to operate with impunity, forcing local Congolese into labor to collect the rubber cheaply.

The Force Publique, the 19,000-strong native paramilitary army set up to protect the interests of the mining firms, were notorious for cutting off the hands of workers who refused to collect rubber, or failed to meet their quotas. Soldiers also took women and family members hostage in order to force people into work.

For some, De Merode’s fundraising to build his hydroelectric dam might be more easily taken on its merits if his ancestors had not used profits from the Congo to fund large-scale urban renewal projects back in Belgium.

Leopold himself claimed he never profited personally from colonialism, but the Belgian scholar Jules Marchal has estimated that he drew around 220 million francs – more than $1billion in today’s money – from the Congo in his lifetime.

For his part, de Merode does acknowledge some of his country’s crimes, namely King Albert’s theft of two million acres worth of subsistence farms to create the national park in the first place.

“Enormous benefit was given to the whole of humanity, but the price is being paid by the local people who are among the poorest on earth,” he said. “You have an enormous case of social injustice… Local people are extremely hostile. Many of them are desperate, with no livelihood, no income and nowhere to go.”

One wonders if his concerns about social justice extend as far as reparations.

READ MORE: Prince William warns there are too many humans

November 7, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Glencore’s secret loan for Israeli billionaire to secure Congo mining rights revealed

RT | November 6, 2017

The world’s biggest mining firm Glencore secretly loaned tens of millions of dollars to an Israeli billionaire after enlisting him to secure a controversial mining agreement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), it has been revealed. The details were leaked as part of the Paradise Papers.

A trove of more than 13 million documents from the world’s leading offshore law firms, including Appleby, was released through the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on Sunday. The documents lay bare the secretive multi-jurisdictional dealings of Glencore, a scandal-plagued, Anglo-Swiss multinational with mining interests across the globe.

As a friend of the Congolese President Joseph Kabila, Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler’s role has been questioned by anti-corruption campaigners since Glencore floated in London in 2011. His notoriety in the resource-rich but conflict-riven and corrupt DRC spans nearly two decades.

Gertler was cited by a 2001 UN investigation, which said that he had given Kabila $20 million to buy weapons to equip his army against rebel groups in exchange for a monopoly on the country’s diamonds. A 2013 Africa Progress Panel report said a string of mining deals struck by companies linked to him had deprived the country of more than $1.3 billion in potential revenue. Last year, he was implicated in a scheme to bribe Congolese officials on behalf of US hedge fund manager Och-Ziff Capital Management, according to Bloomberg.

According to the Guardian, the Paradise Papers confirm that several times during 2008 and 2009, Gertler was called in to negotiate with DRC authorities over the struggling Katanga copper mine in the southeast of the country, which was hampered by stalled talks to secure a joint-venture agreement with DRC’s state-run miner Gecamines.

In 2009, Glencore, through a loan offer, took effective control of Katanga, but also kept Gertler’s interest in the firm by secretly loaning his company Lora Enterprises $45 million in pledged shares for him to take part in the loan. The loan was granted with the caveat that it would be repayable in the event that an agreement was not made with DRC authorities to secure a contract for a company linked to the firm.

While the details of the loan have been previously reported, the new documents show that Gertler was required to secure certain approvals from the government in return, according to the Guardian.

Daniel Balint-Kurti of the Global Witness campaign group told The Times : “Glencore must explain to the world why it used a secret offshore company to pump millions of dollars to a controversial friend of the Congolese president linked to bribery scandals.”

In a written statement, lawyers for Gertler told the Guardian that neither he nor any company or person related to him received any loan funds directly, and any allegation that the $45 million loan was improper “demonstrates misapprehension of international finance transactions.”

“Mr Dan Gertler is a respectable businessman who contributes the vast majority of his wealth and time to the needy and to different communities, amounting to huge sums of money. He transacts business fairly and honestly, and strictly according to the law,” the statement said.

Gertler’s lawyers said there was no basis for the allegation that Katanga received “preferential terms” in its agreement with the DRC as a result of his involvement.

Glencore has dismissed any allegations of impropriety concerning the loan. The loan was made on commercial terms and “negotiated at arm’s length,” it told Bloomberg.

November 6, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | 1 Comment

Chrystia Freeland: Canada doesn’t engage in “regime change”

A huge surprise to the people of Libya, Haiti, Honduras, Chile, Democratic Rep. Congo, Ghana, Uganda, Guatemala, and …

By Yves Engler | Dissident Voice | October 31, 2017

It may walk and quack like a regime-change-promoting duck, but Ottawa’s unilateral sanctions and support for Venezuela’s opposition is actually just a cuddly Canadian beaver, says Chrystia Freeland.

Canada has never been an imperialist power. It’s even almost funny to say that phrase: we’ve been the colony,” said the journalist turned politician after a Toronto meeting of foreign ministers opposed to the Venezuelan government.

The above declaration was part of the Canadian foreign minister’s response to a question about Chavismo’s continued popularity, which was prefaced by a mention of protesters denouncing Ottawa’s interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Freeland added that “one of the strengths Canada brings to its international affairs” is that it doesn’t engage in “regime change”.

Notwithstanding her government’s violation of the UN and Organization of American States charters’ in Venezuela, Freeland’s claim that Ottawa doesn’t engage in “regime change” is laughable. Is she unaware that a Canadian General commanded the NATO force, which included Canadian fighter jets, naval vessels and special forces, that killed Muammar Gaddafi in Libya six years ago?

Sticking to contexts more directly applicable to the situation in Venezuela, Ottawa has repeatedly endorsed US-backed military coups against progressive elected leaders. Canada passively supported the ouster of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, Ugandan President Milton Obote (by Idi Amin) in 1971 and Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973.

In a more substantial contribution to undermining electoral democracy, Ottawa backed the Honduran military’s removal of elected president Manuel Zelaya. Before his 2009 ouster Canadian officials criticized Zelaya and afterwards condemned his attempts to return to the country. Failing to suspend its military training program, Canada was also the only major donor to Honduras — the largest recipient of Canadian assistance in Central America — that failed to sever any aid to the military government. Six months after the coup Ottawa endorsed an electoral farce and immediately recognized the new right-wing government.

In the 1960s Ottawa played a more substantial role in the ouster of pan-Africanist independence leaders Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba. In 1966 Ghana’s Canadian-trained army overthrew Nkrumah. In an internal memo to External Affairs just after Nkrumah was ousted, Canadian high commissioner in Accra, C.E. McGaughey wrote “a wonderful thing has happened for the West in Ghana and Canada has played a worthy part.” Soon after the coup, Ottawa informed the military junta that Canada intended to carry on normal relations and Canada sent $1.82 million ($15 million today) worth of flour to Ghana.

Ottawa had a strong hand in Patrice Lumumba’s demise. Canadian signals officers oversaw intelligence positions in the UN mission supposed to protect the territorial integrity of the newly independent Congo, but which Washington used to undermine the progressive independence leader. Canadian Colonel Jean Berthiaume assisted Lumumba’s political enemies by helping recapture him. The UN chief of staff, who was kept in place by Ottawa despite being labelled an “imperialist tool” by Lumumba’s advisers, tracked the deposed prime minister and informed army head Joseph Mobutu of Lumumba’s whereabouts. Soon after Lumumba was killed and Canadian officials celebrated the demise of an individual Prime Minister John Diefenbaker privately called a “major threat to Western interests”.

It’s in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation where Canada was most aggressive in opposing a progressive government. On January 31 and February 1, 2003, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government organized an international gathering to discuss overthrowing Haiti’s elected government. No Haitian officials were invited to the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” where high-level US, Canadian and French officials decided that president Jean-Bertrand Aristide “must go”, the dreaded army should be recreated and that the country would be put under a Kosovo-like UN trusteeship.

Thirteen months after the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” meeting Aristide and most other elected officials were pushed out and a quasi UN trusteeship had begun. The Haitian National Police was also heavily militarized.

Canadian special forces “secured” the airport from which Aristide was bundled (“kidnapped” in his words) onto a plane by US Marines and deposited in the Central African Republic. Five hundred Canadian troops occupied Haiti for the next six months.

After cutting off aid to Haiti’s elected government, Ottawa provided tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid to the installed government, publicly supported coup officials and employed numerous officials within coup government ministries. Haiti’s deputy justice minister for the first 15 months of the foreign-installed government, Philippe Vixamar, was on the Canadian International Development Agency’s payroll and was later replaced by another CIDA employee (the minister was a USAID employee). Paul Martin made the first ever trip by a Canadian prime minister to Haiti to support the violent post-coup dictatorship.

Dismissing criticism of Ottawa’s regime change efforts in Venezuela by claiming Canada has been a benevolent international actor is wholly unconvincing. In fact, a serious look at this country’s foreign policy past gives every reason to believe that Ottawa is seeking to unseat an elected government that has angered many among the corporate set.

Anyone with their eyes open can tell the difference between a beaver and a duck.


Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.

October 31, 2017 Posted by | Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

How America Spreads Global Chaos

By Nicolas J.S. Davies | Consortium News | October 30, 2017

As the recent PBS documentary on the American War in Vietnam acknowledged, few American officials ever believed that the United States could win the war, neither those advising Johnson as he committed hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, nor those advising Nixon as he escalated a brutal aerial bombardment that had already killed millions of people.

U.S. F-105s bomb North Vietnam in 1966
(Photo credit: U.S. Air Force)

As conversations tape-recorded in the White House reveal, and as other writers have documented, the reasons for wading into the Big Muddy, as Pete Seeger satirized it, and then pushing on regardless, all came down to “credibility”: the domestic political credibility of the politicians involved and America’s international credibility as a military power.

Once the CIA went to work in Vietnam to undermine the 1954 Geneva Accords and the planned reunification of North and South through a free and fair election in 1956, the die was cast. The CIA’s support for the repressive Diem regime and its successors ensured an ever-escalating war, as the South rose in rebellion, supported by the North. No U.S. president could extricate the U.S. from Vietnam without exposing the limits of what U.S. military force could achieve, betraying widely held national myths and the powerful interests that sustained and profited from them.

The critical “lesson of Vietnam” was summed up by Richard Barnet in his 1972 book Roots of War.  “At the very moment that the number one nation has perfected the science of killing,” Barnet wrote, “It has become an impractical means of political domination.”

Losing the war in Vietnam was a heavy blow to the CIA and the U.S. Military Industrial Complex, and it added insult to injury for every American who had lost comrades or loved ones in Vietnam, but it ushered in more than a decade of relative peace for America and the world. If the purpose of the U.S. military is to protect the U.S. from the danger of war, as our leaders so often claim, the “Vietnam syndrome,” or the reluctance to be drawn into new wars, kept the peace and undoubtedly saved countless lives.

Even the senior officer corps of the U.S. military saw it that way, since many of them had survived the horrors of Vietnam as junior officers. The CIA could still wreak havoc in Latin America and elsewhere, but the full destructive force of the U.S. military was not unleashed again until the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the First Gulf War in 1991.

Half a century after Vietnam, we have tragically come full circle. With the CIA’s politicized intelligence running wild in Washington and its covert operations spreading violence and chaos across every continent, President Trump faces the same pressures to maintain his own and his country’s credibility as Johnson and Nixon did. His predictable response has been to escalate ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and West Africa, and to threaten new ones against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.

Trump is facing these questions, not just in one country, Vietnam, but in dozens of countries across the world, and the interests perpetuating and fueling this cycle of crisis and war have only become more entrenched over time, as President Eisenhower warned that they would, despite the end of the Cold War and, until now, the lack of any actual military threat to the United States.

Ironically but predictably, the U.S.’s aggressive and illegal war policy has finally provoked a real military threat to the U.S., albeit one that has emerged only in response to U.S. war plans. As I explained in a recent article, North Korea’s discovery in 2016 of a U.S. plan to assassinate its president, Kim Jong Un, and launch a Second Korean War has triggered a crash program to develop long-range ballistic missiles that could give North Korea a viable nuclear deterrent and prevent a U.S. attack. But the North Koreans will not feel safe from attack until their leaders and ours are sure that their missiles can deliver a nuclear strike against the U.S. mainland.

The CIA’s Pretexts for War

U.S. Air Force Colonel Fletcher Prouty was the chief of special operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1955 to 1964, managing the global military support system for the CIA in Vietnam and around the world. Fletcher Prouty’s book, The Secret Team: The CIA and its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, was suppressed when it was first published in 1973. Thousands of copies disappeared from bookstores and libraries, and a mysterious Army Colonel bought the entire shipment of 3,500 copies the publisher sent to Australia. But Prouty’s book was republished in 2011, and it is a timely account of the role of the CIA in U.S. policy.

Prouty surprisingly described the role of the CIA as a response by powerful people and interests to the abolition of the U.S. Department of War and the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947. Once the role of the U.S. military was redefined as one of defense, in line with the United Nations Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force in 1945 and similar moves by other military powers, it would require some kind of crisis or threat to justify using military force in the future, both legally and politically. The main purpose of the CIA, as Prouty saw it, is to create such pretexts for war.

The CIA is a hybrid of an intelligence service that gathers and analyzes foreign intelligence and a clandestine service that conducts covert operations. Both functions are essential to creating pretexts for war, and that is what they have done for 70 years.

Prouty described how the CIA infiltrated the U.S. military, the State Department, the National Security Council and other government institutions, covertly placing its officers in critical positions to ensure that its plans are approved and that it has access to whatever forces, weapons, equipment, ammunition and other resources it needs to carry them out.

Many retired intelligence officers, such as Ray McGovern and the members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), saw the merging of clandestine operations with intelligence analysis in one agency as corrupting the objective analysis they tried to provide to policymakers. They formed VIPS in 2003 in response to the fabrication of politicized intelligence that provided false pretexts for the U.S. to invade and destroy Iraq.

CIA in Syria and Africa

But Fletcher Prouty was even more disturbed by the way that the CIA uses clandestine operations to trigger coups, wars and chaos. The civil and proxy war in Syria is a perfect example of what Prouty meant. In late 2011, after destroying Libya and aiding in the torture-murder of Muammar Gaddafi, the CIA and its allies began flying fighters and weapons from Libya to Turkey and infiltrating them into Syria. Then, working with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Croatia and other allies, this operation poured thousands of tons of weapons across Syria’s borders to ignite and fuel a full-scale civil war.

Once these covert operations were under way, they ran wild until they had unleashed a savage Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra, now rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), spawned the even more savage “Islamic State,” triggered the heaviest and probably the deadliest U.S. bombing campaign since Vietnam and drawn Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Hezbollah, Kurdish militias and almost every state or armed group in the Middle East into the chaos of Syria’s civil war.

Meanwhile, as Al Qaeda and Islamic State have expanded their operations across Africa, the U.N. has published a report titled Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment, based on 500 interviews with African militants. This study has found that the kind of special operations and training missions the CIA and AFRICOM are conducting and supporting in Africa are in fact the critical “tipping point” that drives Africans to join militant groups like Al Qaeda, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram.

The report found that government action, such as the killing or detention of friends or family, was the “tipping point” that drove 71 percent of African militants interviewed to join armed groups, and that this was a more important factor than religious ideology.

The conclusions of Journey to Extremism in Africa confirm the findings of other similar studies. The Center for Civilians in Conflict interviewed 250 civilians who joined armed groups in Bosnia, Somalia, Gaza and Libya for its 2015 study, The People’s Perspectives: Civilian Involvement in Armed Conflicts. The study found that the most common motivation for civilians to join armed groups was simply to protect themselves or their families.

The role of U.S. “counterterrorism” operations in fueling armed resistance and terrorism, and the absence of any plan to reduce the asymmetric violence unleashed by the “global war on terror,” would be no surprise to Fletcher Prouty. As he explained, such clandestine operations always take on a life of their own that is unrelated, and often counter-productive, to any rational U.S. policy objective.

“The more intimate one becomes with this activity,” Prouty wrote, “The more one begins to realize that such operations are rarely, if ever, initiated from an intent to become involved in pursuit of some national objective in the first place.”

The U.S. justifies the deployment of 6,000 U.S. special forces and military trainers to 53 of the 54 countries in Africa as a response to terrorism. But the U.N.’s Journey to Extremism in Africa study makes it clear that the U.S. militarization of Africa is in fact the “tipping point” that is driving Africans across the continent to join armed resistance groups in the first place.

This is a textbook CIA operation on the same model as Vietnam in the late 1950s and early 60s. The CIA uses U.S. special forces and training missions to launch covert and proxy military operations that drive local populations into armed resistance groups, and then uses the presence of those armed resistance groups to justify ever-escalating U.S. military involvement. This is Vietnam redux on a continental scale.

Taking on China

What seems to really be driving the CIA’s militarization of U.S. policy in Africa is China’s growing influence on the continent. As Steve Bannon put it in an interview with the Economist in August, “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road.”

China is already too big and powerful for the U.S. to apply what is known as the Ledeen doctrine named for neoconservative theorist and intelligence operative Michael Ledeen who suggested that every 10 years or so, the United States “pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.”

China is too powerful and armed with nuclear weapons. So, in this case, the CIA’s job would be to spread violence and chaos to disrupt Chinese trade and investment, and to make African governments increasingly dependent on U.S. military aid to fight the militant groups spawned and endlessly regenerated by U.S.-led “counterterrorism” operations.

Neither Ledeen nor Bannon pretend that such policies are designed to build more prosperous or viable societies in the Middle East or Africa, let alone to benefit their people. They both know very well what Richard Barnet already understood 45 years ago, that America’s unprecedented investment in weapons, war and CIA covert operations are only good for one thing: to kill people and destroy infrastructure, reducing cities to rubble, societies to chaos and the desperate survivors to poverty and displacement.

As long as the CIA and the U.S. military keep plunging the scapegoats for our failed policies into economic crisis, violence and chaos, the [elite elements of] United States and the United Kingdom can remain the safe havens of the world’s wealth, islands of privilege and excess amidst the storms they unleash on others.

But if that is the only “significant national objective” driving these policies, it is surely about time for the 99 percent of Americans who reap no benefit from these murderous schemes to stop the CIA and its allies before they completely wreck the already damaged and fragile world in which we all must live, Americans and foreigners alike.

Douglas Valentine has probably studied the CIA in more depth than any other American journalist, beginning with his book on The Phoenix Program in Vietnam. He has written a new book titled The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, in which he brings Fletcher Prouty’s analysis right up to the present day, describing the CIA’s role in our current wars and the many ways it infiltrates, manipulates and controls U.S. policy.

The Three Scapegoats

In Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he named North Korea, Iran and Venezuela as his prime targets for destabilization, economic warfare and, ultimately, the overthrow of their governments, whether by coup d’etat or the mass destruction of their civilian population and infrastructure. But Trump’s choice of scapegoats for America’s failures was obviously not based on a rational reassessment of foreign policy priorities by the new administration. It was only a tired rehashing of the CIA’s unfinished business with two-thirds of Bush’s “axis of evil” and Bush White House official Elliott Abrams’ failed 2002 coup in Caracas, now laced with explicit and illegal threats of aggression.

How Trump and the CIA plan to sacrifice their three scapegoats for America’s failures remains to be seen. This is not 2001, when the world stood silent at the U.S. bombardment and invasion of Afghanistan after September 11th. It is more like 2003, when the U.S. destruction of Iraq split the Atlantic alliance and alienated most of the world. It is certainly not 2011, after Obama’s global charm offensive had rebuilt U.S. alliances and provided cover for French President Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Cameron, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Arab royals to destroy Libya, once ranked by the U.N. as the most developed country in Africa, now mired in intractable chaos.

In 2017, a U.S. attack on any one of Trump’s scapegoats would isolate the United States from many of its allies and undermine its standing in the world in far-reaching ways that might be more permanent and harder to repair than the invasion and destruction of Iraq.

In Venezuela, the CIA and the right-wing opposition are following the same strategy that President Nixon ordered the CIA to inflict on Chile, to “make the economy scream” in preparation for the 1973 coup. But the solid victory of Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party in recent nationwide gubernatorial elections, despite a long and deep economic crisis, reveals little public support for the CIA’s puppets in Venezuela.

The CIA has successfully discredited the Venezuelan government through economic warfare, increasingly violent right-wing street protests and a global propaganda campaign. But the CIA has stupidly hitched its wagon to an extreme right-wing, upper-class opposition that has no credibility with most of the Venezuelan public, who still turn out for the Socialists at the polls. A CIA coup or U.S. military intervention would meet fierce public resistance and damage U.S. relations all over Latin America.

Boxing In North Korea

A U.S. aerial bombardment or “preemptive strike” on North Korea could quickly escalate into a war between the U.S. and China, which has reiterated its commitment to North Korea’s defense if North Korea is attacked. We do not know exactly what was in the U.S. war plan discovered by North Korea, so neither can we know how North Korea and China could respond if the U.S. pressed ahead with it.

Most analysts have long concluded that any U.S. attack on North Korea would be met with a North Korean artillery and missile barrage that would inflict unacceptable civilian casualties on Seoul, a metropolitan area of 26 million people, three times the population of New York City. Seoul is only 35 miles from the frontier with North Korea, placing it within range of a huge array of North Korean weapons. What was already a no-win calculus is now compounded by the possibility that North Korea could respond with nuclear weapons, turning any prospect of a U.S. attack into an even worse nightmare.

U.S. mismanagement of its relations with North Korea should be an object lesson for its relations with Iran, graphically demonstrating the advantages of diplomacy, talks and agreements over threats of war. Under the Agreed Framework signed in 1994, North Korea stopped work on two much larger nuclear reactors than the small experimental one operating at Yongbyong since 1986, which only produces 6 kg of plutonium per year, enough for one nuclear bomb.

The lesson of Bush’s Iraq invasion in 2003 after Saddam Hussein had complied with demands that he destroy Iraq’s stockpiles of chemical weapons and shut down a nascent nuclear program was not lost on North Korea. Not only did the invasion lay waste to large sections of Iraq with hundreds of thousands of dead but Hussein himself was hunted down and condemned to death by hanging.

Still, after North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006, even its small experimental reactor was shut down as a result of the “Six Party Talks” in 2007, all the fuel rods were removed and placed under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the cooling tower of the reactor was demolished in 2008.

But then, as relations deteriorated, North Korea conducted a second nuclear weapon test and again began reprocessing spent fuel rods to recover plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.

North Korea has now conducted six nuclear weapons tests. The explosions in the first five tests increased gradually up to 15-25 kilotons, about the yield of the bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but estimates for the yield of the 2017 test range from 110 to 250 kilotons, comparable to a small hydrogen bomb.

The even greater danger in a new war in Korea is that the U.S. could unleash part of its arsenal of 4,000 more powerful weapons (100 to 1,200 kilotons), which could kill millions of people and devastate and poison the region, or even the world, for years to come.

The U.S. willingness to scrap the Agreed Framework in 2003, the breakdown of the Six Party Talks in 2009 and the U.S. refusal to acknowledge that its own military actions and threats create legitimate defense concerns for North Korea have driven the North Koreans into a corner from which they see a credible nuclear deterrent as their only chance to avoid mass destruction.

China has proposed a reasonable framework for diplomacy to address the concerns of both sides, but the U.S. insists on maintaining its propaganda narratives that all the fault lies with North Korea and that it has some kind of “military solution” to the crisis.

This may be the most dangerous idea we have heard from U.S. policymakers since the end of the Cold War, but it is the logical culmination of a systematic normalization of deviant and illegal U.S. war-making that has already cost millions of lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. As historian Gabriel Kolko wrote in Century of War in 1994, “options and decisions that are intrinsically dangerous and irrational become not merely plausible but the only form of reasoning about war and diplomacy that is possible in official circles.”

Demonizing Iran

The idea that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program is seriously contested by the IAEA, which has examined every allegation presented by the CIA and other Western “intelligence” agencies as well as Israel. Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei revealed many details of this wild goose chase in his 2011 memoir, Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.

When the CIA and its partners reluctantly acknowledged the IAEA’s conclusions in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), ElBaradei issued a press release confirming that, “the agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran.”

Since 2007, the IAEA has resolved all its outstanding concerns with Iran. It has verified that dual-use technologies that Iran imported before 2003 were in fact used for other purposes, and it has exposed the mysterious “laptop documents” that appeared to show Iranian plans for a nuclear weapon as forgeries. Gareth Porter thoroughly explored all these questions and allegations and the history of mistrust that fueled them in his 2014 book, Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scares, which I highly recommend.

But, in the parallel Bizarro world of U.S. politics, hopelessly poisoned by the CIA’s endless disinformation campaigns, Hillary Clinton could repeatedly take false credit for disarming Iran during her presidential campaign, and neither Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump nor any corporate media interviewer dared to challenge her claims.

“When President Obama took office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear bomb,” Clinton fantasized in a prominent foreign policy speech on June 2, 2016, claiming that her brutal sanctions policy “brought Iran to the table.”

In fact, as Trita Parsi documented in his 2012 book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran, the Iranians were ready, not just to “come to the table,” but to sign a comprehensive agreement based on a U.S. proposal brokered by Turkey and Brazil in 2010. But, in a classic case of “tail wags dog,” the U.S. then rejected its own proposal because it would have undercut support for tighter sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. In other words, Clinton’s sanctions policy did not “bring Iran to the table”, but prevented the U.S. from coming to the table itself.

As a senior State Department official told Trita Parsi, the real problem with U.S. diplomacy with Iran when Clinton was at the State Department was that the U.S. would not take “Yes” for an answer. Trump’s ham-fisted decertification of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA is right out of Clinton’s playbook, and it demonstrates that the CIA is still determined to use Iran as a scapegoat for America’s failures in the Middle East.

The spurious claim that Iran is the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism is another CIA canard reinforced by endless repetition. It is true that Iran supports and supplies weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, which are both listed as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. But they are mainly defensive resistance groups that defend Lebanon and Gaza respectively against invasions and attacks by Israel.

Shifting attention away from Al Qaeda, Islamic State, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and other groups that actually commit terrorist crimes around the world might just seem like a case of the CIA “taking its eyes off the ball,” if it wasn’t so transparently timed to frame Iran with new accusations now that the manufactured crisis of the nuclear scare has run its course.

What the Future Holds

Barack Obama’s most consequential international achievement may have been the triumph of symbolism over substance behind which he expanded and escalated the so-called “war on terror,” with a vast expansion of covert operations and proxy wars that eventually triggered the heaviest U.S. aerial bombardments since Vietnam in Iraq and Syria.

Obama’s charm offensive invigorated old and new military alliances with the U.K., France and the Arab monarchies, and he quietly ran up the most expensive military budget of any president since World War Two.

But Obama’s expansion of the “war on terror” under cover of his deceptive global public relations campaign created many more problems than it solved, and Trump and his advisers are woefully ill-equipped to solve any of them. Trump’s expressed desire to place America first and to resist foreign entanglements is hopelessly at odds with his aggressive, bullying approach to every foreign policy problem.

If the U.S. could threaten and fight its way to a resolution of any of its international problems, it would have done so already. That is exactly what it has been trying to do since the 1990s, behind both the swagger and bluster of Bush and Trump and the deceptive charm of Clinton and Obama: a “good cop – bad cop” routine that should no longer fool anyone anywhere.

But as Lyndon Johnson found as he waded deeper and deeper into the Big Muddy in Vietnam, lying to the public about unwinnable wars does not make them any more winnable. It just gets more people killed and makes it harder and harder to ever tell the public the truth.

In unwinnable wars based on lies, the “credibility” problem only gets more complicated, as new lies require new scapegoats and convoluted narratives to explain away graveyards filled by old lies. Obama’s cynical global charm offensive bought the “war on terror” another eight years, but that only allowed the CIA to drag the U.S. into more trouble and spread its chaos to more places around the world.

Meanwhile, Russian President Putin is winning hearts and minds in capitals around the world by calling for a recommitment to the rule of international law, which prohibits the threat or use of military force except in self-defense. Every new U.S. threat or act of aggression will only make Putin’s case more persuasive, not least to important U.S. allies like South Korea, Germany and other members of the European Union, whose complicity in U.S. aggression has until now helped to give it a false veneer of political legitimacy.

Throughout history, serial aggression has nearly always provoked increasingly united opposition, as peace-loving countries and people have reluctantly summoned the courage to stand up to an aggressor. France under Napoleon and Hitler’s Germany also regarded themselves as exceptional, and in their own ways they were. But in the end, their belief in their exceptionalism led them on to defeat and destruction.

Americans had better hope that we are not so exceptional, and that the world will find a diplomatic rather than a military “solution” to its American problem. Our chances of survival would improve a great deal if American officials and politicians would finally start to act like something other than putty in the hands of the CIA.


Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

October 31, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York Times Acknowledges US Global Empire

By Sheldon Richman | Libertarian Institute | October 27, 2017

One big advantage the war party has is the public’s ignorance about the activities of the far-flung American empire. Although frustrating, that ignorance is easy to understand and has been explained countless times by writers in the public choice tradition. Most people are too busy with their lives, families, and communities to pay the close attention required to know that the empire exists and what it is up to. The opportunity cost of paying attention is huge, considering that the payoff is so small: even a well-informed individual could not take decisive action to rein in the out-of-control national security state. One vote means nothing, and being knowledgeable about the U.S. government’s nefarious foreign policy is more likely to alienate friends and other people than influence them. Why give up time with family and friends just so one can be accused of “hating America”?

In light of this systemic rational ignorance, we must be grateful when a prominent institution acknowledges how much the government intervenes around the world. Such an acknowledgment came from the New York Times editorial board this week. The editorial drips with irony since the Times has done so much to gin up public support for America’s imperial wars. (See, for example, its 2001-02 coverage of Iraq and its phantom WMD.) Still, the piece is noteworthy.

The Oct. 22 editorial, “America’s Forever Wars,” began:

The United States has been at war continuously since the attacks of 9/11 and now has just over 240,000 active-duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories.

That alone ought to come as a shock to nearly all Americans. The UN has 193 member states — and the U.S. government has a military presence in at least 89 percent of them! The Times does not mention that the government also maintains at least 800 military bases and installations around the world. That’s a big government we’re talking about. And empires are bloody expensive.

The Times went on:

While the number of men and women deployed overseas has shrunk considerably over the past 60 years, the military’s reach has not. American forces are actively engaged not only in the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen that have dominated the news, but also in Niger and Somalia, both recently the scene of deadly attacks, as well as Jordan, Thailand and elsewhere.

The editorial writer might have mentioned that the U.S. government has been bombing seven Muslim countries for years when you count Pakistan and Libya. Civilian casualties were high under Barack Obama and are growing under Donald Trump. Having an alleged isolationist in the White House hasn’t done much for the long-suffering Muslims in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa.

The Times then provided this useful tidbit: “An additional 37,813 troops serve on presumably secret assignment in places listed simply as ‘unknown.’ The Pentagon provided no further explanation.”

Unknown, that is, to the people whom in theory the government is of, by, and for. Under the government’s actual operating principle, no explanation is required. Who the hell do the people think they are anyway?

To its credit, the Times reminded us “there are traditional deployments in Japan (39,980 troops) and South Korea (23,591) … along with 36,034 troops in Germany, 8,286 in Britain and 1,364 in Turkey — all NATO allies. There are 6,524 troops in Bahrain and 3,055 in Qatar, where the United States has naval bases.”

The writer suggested these are defensive deployments. I guess it’s too much to expect the Times to acknowledge that the U.S. government has a knack for creating the threats it then claims it must defend against.

The editorial writer pointed out that,

America’s operations in conflict zones like those in Africa are expanding: 400 American Special Forces personnel in Somalia train local troops fighting the Shabab Islamist group, providing intelligence and sometimes going into battle with them. One member of the Navy SEALs was killed there in a mission in May. On Oct. 14, a massive attack widely attributed to the Shabab on a Mogadishu street killed more than 270 people, which would show the group’s increased reach. About 800 troops are based in Niger, where four Green Berets died on Oct. 4.

The U.S. presence in Niger was surely news to most people — it certainly was to senior members of the U.S. Senate. One of them, warhawk Lindsey Graham, anticipates that Africa will be America’s next major battlefield. A few members of Congress object that the post-9/11 authorization for military force has become a blank check for U.S. operations anywhere and everywhere, but rather than passing a new AUMF, Congress should stop all overseas operations. They endanger Americans, not to mention the people who live in the targeted societies (For the U.S. role in the horrors wracking in Somalia, see this. Regarding Niger, see this and the links therein.)

Many of these forces are engaged in counterterrorism operations — against the Taliban in Afghanistan, for instance….

Hold on there, New York Times editorial writer. The Taliban is a terrorist organization? They ruled Afghanistan when Osama bin Laden and his then-small al-Qaeda organization operated there, but that does not make the Taliban a terrorist organization, no matter what other bad things you may justly say about them. Resistance to an invading army (America’s) falls outside the definition of terrorism. When the same people resisted the Soviets, Americans labeled them “freedom fighters.”

… against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; against an affiliate of Al Qaeda in Yemen.

Here the writer fails his readers miserably. The U.S. bombing of al-Qaeda in Yemen is mentioned, but not America’s complicity in Saudi Arabia’s genocidal bombing and blockade of Yemen — a war (against alleged but not actual Iranian proxies) that helps al-Qaeda by creating violent chaos like that in Libya. (Some members of Congress are trying to stop Trump from waging this war. Let’s help them succeed.)

Summing up, the Times is right: “it’s time to take stock of how broadly American forces are already committed to far-flung regions and to begin thinking hard about how much of that investment is necessary, how long it should continue and whether there is a strategy beyond just killing terrorists.” Or, I’d add, whether the strategy is really about killing terrorists at all when even top military people acknowledge that U.S. actions in the Muslim world create terrorists.

Yet we have little cause for optimism:

The Pentagon … thrives. After some belt-tightening during the financial crisis, it has a receptive audience in Congress and the White House as it pushes for more money to improve readiness and modernize weapons. Senators … approved a $700 billion defense budget for 2017-18, far more than Mr. Trump even requested.

Whether this largess will continue is unclear. But the larger question involves the American public and how many new military adventures, if any, it is prepared to tolerate.

We can hope against hope that the Times and other high-profile media outlets will finally begin to put the U.S. empire under a microscope.

October 30, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

UN Report: ‘Plausible External Attack Caused Dag Hammarskjold’s Plane to Crash’

Sputnik – October 26, 2017

New evidence has been unearthed of potential Western intelligence agency involvement in the 1961 plane crash death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold.

A new United Nations-mandated report has found it “plausible” an external attack or threat led to the notorious fatal plane crash that killed former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in September 1961.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tasked Tanzanian chief justice Mohamed Chande Othman to investigate the overnight crash into a forest on the approach to the Ndola airfield, in what was then northern Rhodesia, now known as Zambia.

​Othman’s 63-page report is rife with new evidence on the crash of the DC-6 aircraft which killed 16, including the famed Swedish diplomat. It was presented to the UN October 25.

Hammarskjold was the UN’s second Secretary General, appointed in 1953. His plane crashed en-route to a summit, at which he was going to attempt to negotiate a ceasefire in mining-rich Katanga province, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The incident remains a painful open wound in the history of the UN, and one of the 20th century’s most enduring mysteries.

‘Direct Attack’

Othman’s conclusion suggests the plane was deliberately brought down, either by “direct attack” or a distraction that diverted pilots’ attention “for a matter of seconds at the critical point at which they were on their descent.” Several witnesses attested to seeing a second aircraft in the air at the time.

“Based on the totality of the information we have at hand, it appears plausible external attack or threat may have been a cause of the crash. [There is a] significant amount of evidence from eyewitnesses that they observed more than one aircraft in the air, that the other aircraft may have been a jet, that SE-BDY was on fire before it crashed, and/or that SE-BDY was fired upon or otherwise actively engaged by another aircraft,” Othman wrote.

​Othman had access to a wide range of information for his report. New evidence suggested Katangan rebels who opposed Congo’s independence from Belgium had more air power than previously thought. Instead of a single French Fouga aircraft, rebels may have had three, and other planes, including one from West Germany, available for their use at a number of airfields in the region.

The Katangese separatists were supported by powerful Western political and mining interests, not eager to see Mr. Hammarskjold’s diplomacy succeed — and documents received by Othman indicate both the UK and US had agents in and around the Congo at the time of the crash.

At the time, Congo had only recently secured a troubled independence from Belgium, while the British and Portuguese continued to maintain colonial holdings around the area. The secession of Katanga brutally exposed the covert competition between rival powers and commercial interests for influence over Africa’s future — and for supporters of Katanga’s secession, Hammarskjold was a hate figure.

Othman’s report noted that while UN troops were engaged in a three-way battle against European soldiers of fortune and rebellious forces, Western intelligence agents (in particular British and American) secretly chronicled and even perhaps steered events on the ground. US aircraft equipped with high-powered radio transmitters flew frequent clandestine intelligence missions in the area, routinely intercepting UN communications.

There were major concerns among the highest echelons of the UN about a potential attack on the plane even before takeoff, leading pilots to fly an indirect route, circumventing Congolese territory and observing near-total radio silence while in the air.

Theories and Accusations

Theories over the decades have ranged from the crash being caused by an apartheid-era South African paramilitary organization carrying out a bomb plot — referred to as “Operation Celeste” — or the plane being shot down by a Belgian pilot. The Othman panel dismissed the theory a bomb brought down the plane, although could not conclude if sabotage was a cause of the crash. His team lacked access to original documents from South Africa detailing Operation Celeste.

Speculation and theorizing has been further driven by the refusal of several Western governments and intelligence agencies (in particular the UK, US and and Belgium, the former colonial power in the Congo) to disclose information relating to the crash.

​Ndola airport did not use its equipment to record radio traffic on the night of Hammarskjold’s death, although a UK diplomat who was at the airport at the time, Sir Brian Unwin, recalled two US aircraft ran their engines on the airfield throughout the night, fueling suspicion they were monitoring radio traffic.

Moreover, Othman said there were clear indications British colonial authorities had sought to blame pilot error for the crash at the time, but he said that conclusion should now be considered “logically unsound.”

“Judging from history and the manner in which potential new information has emerged over the years. It is still likely that additional information will be located, unearthed or made available,” Othman concluded.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Clinton, Assange and the War on Truth

By John Pilger | CounterPunch | October 20, 2017

On 16 October, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired an interview with Hillary Clinton: one of many to promote her score-settling book about why she was not elected President of the United States.

Wading through the Clinton book, What Happened, is an unpleasant experience, like a stomach upset. Smears and tears. Threats and enemies. “They” (voters) were brainwashed and herded against her by the odious Donald Trump in cahoots with sinister Slavs sent from the great darkness known as Russia, assisted by an Australian “nihilist”, Julian Assange.

In The New York Times, there was a striking photograph of a female reporter consoling Clinton, having just interviewed her. The lost leader was, above all, “absolutely a feminist”. The thousands of women’s lives this “feminist” destroyed while in government — Libya, Syria, Honduras — were of no interest.

In New York magazine, Rebecca Traister wrote that Clinton was finally “expressing some righteous anger”. It was even hard for her to smile: “so hard that the muscles in her face ache”. Surely, she concluded, “if we allowed women’s resentments the same bearing we allow men’s grudges, America would be forced to reckon with the fact that all these angry women might just have a point”.

Drivel such as this, trivialising women’s struggles, marks the media hagiographies of Hillary Clinton. Her political extremism and warmongering are of no consequence. Her problem, wrote Traister, was a “damaging infatuation with the email story”. The truth, in other words.

The leaked emails of Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, revealed a direct connection between Clinton and the foundation and funding of organised jihadism in the Middle East and Islamic State (IS). The ultimate source of most Islamic terrorism, Saudi Arabia, was central to her career.

One email, in 2014, sent by Clinton to Podesta soon after she stepped down as US Secretary of State, discloses that Islamic State is funded by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Clinton accepted huge donations from both governments for the Clinton Foundation.

As Secretary of State, she approved the world’s biggest ever arms sale to her benefactors in Saudi Arabia, worth more than $80 billion. Thanks to her, US arms sales to the world – for use in stricken countries like Yemen – doubled.

This was revealed by WikiLeaks and published by The New York Times. No one doubts the emails are authentic. The subsequent campaign to smear WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, as “agents of Russia”, has grown into a spectacular fantasy known as “Russiagate”. The “plot” is said to have been signed off by Vladimir Putin himself.  There is not a shred of evidence.

The ABC Australia interview with Clinton is an outstanding example of smear and censorship by omission. I would say it is a model.

“No one,” the interviewer, Sarah Ferguson, says to Clinton, “could fail to be moved by the pain on your face at that moment [of the inauguration of Trump] … Do you remember how visceral it was for you?”

Having established Clinton’s visceral suffering, Ferguson asks about “Russia’s role”.

CLINTON: I think Russia affected the perceptions and views of millions of voters, we now know. I think that their intention coming from the very top with Putin was to hurt me and to help Trump.

FERGUSON: How much of that was a personal vendetta by Vladimir Putin against you?

CLINTON: … I mean he wants to destabilise democracy. He wants to undermine America, he wants to go after the Atlantic Alliance and we consider Australia kind of a … an extension of that …

The opposite is true. It is Western armies that are massing on Russia’s border for the first time since the Russian Revolution 100 years ago.

FERGUSON: How much damage did [Julian Assange] do personally to you?

CLINTON: Well, I had a lot of history with him because I was Secretary of State when ah WikiLeaks published a lot of very sensitive ah information from our State Department and our Defence Department.

What Clinton fails to say – and her interviewer fails to remind her — is that in 2010, WikiLeaks revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had ordered a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the United Nations leadership, including the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and the permanent Security Council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.

A classified directive, signed by Clinton, was issued to US diplomats in July 2009, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks.

This was known as Cablegate. It was lawless spying.

CLINTON:  He [Assange] is very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence. And ah, he has done their bidding.

Clinton offered no evidence to back up this serious accusation, nor did Ferguson challenge her.

CLINTON: You don’t see damaging negative information coming out about the Kremlin on WikiLeaks. You didn’t see any of that published.

This was false. WikiLeaks has published a massive number of documents on Russia – more than 800,000, most of them critical, many of them used in books and as evidence in court cases.

CLINTON:  So I think Assange has become a kind of nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator.

FERGUSON:  Lots of people, including in Australia, think that Assange is a martyr for free speech and freedom of information. How would you describe him? Well, you’ve just described him as a nihilist.

CLINTON:  Yeah, well, and a tool. I mean he’s a tool of Russian intelligence. And if he’s such a, you know, martyr of free speech, why doesn’t WikiLeaks ever publish anything coming out of Russia?

Again, Ferguson said nothing to challenge this or correct her.

CLINTON: There was a concerted operation between WikiLeaks and Russia and most likely people in the United States to weaponise that information, to make up stories … to help Trump.

FERGUSON: Now, along with some of those outlandish stories, there was information that was revealed about the Clinton Foundation that at least in some of the voters’ minds seemed to associate you ….

CLINTON: Yeah, but it was false!

FERGUSON: … with the peddling of information …

CLINTON: It was false! It was totally false!  …..

FERGUSON: Do you understand how difficult it was for some voters to understand the amounts of money that the [Clinton] Foundation is raising, the confusion with the consultancy that was also raising money, getting gifts and travel and so on for Bill Clinton that even Chelsea had some issues with? …

CLINTON: Well you know, I’m sorry, Sarah, I mean I, I know the facts ….

The ABC interviewer lauded Clinton as “the icon of your generation”. She asked her nothing about the enormous sums she creamed off from Wall Street, such as the $675,000 she received for one speech at Goldman Sachs, one of the banks at the centre of the 2008 crash. Clinton’s greed deeply upset the kind of voters she abused as “deplorables”.

Clearly looking for a cheap headline in the Australian press, Ferguson asked her if Trump was “a clear and present danger to Australia” and got her predictable response.

This high-profile journalist made no mention of Clinton’s own “clear and present danger” to the people of Iran whom she once threatened to “obliterate totally”, and the 40,000 Libyans who died in the attack on Libya in 2011 that Clinton orchestrated. Flushed with excitement, the Secretary of State rejoiced at the gruesome murder of the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi.

“Libya was Hillary Clinton’s war”, Julian Assange said in a filmed interview with me last year. “Barack Obama initially opposed it. Who was the person championing it?  Hillary Clinton. That’s documented throughout her emails … there’s more than 1700 emails out of the 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails that we’ve published, just about Libya. It’s not that Libya has cheap oil. She perceived the removal of Gaddafi and the overthrow of the Libyan state — something that she would use in her run-up to the general election for President.

“So in late 2011 there is an internal document called the Libya Tick Tock  that was produced for Hillary Clinton, and it’s the chronological description of how she was the central figure in the destruction of the Libyan state, which resulted in around 40,000 deaths within Libya; jihadists moved in, ISIS moved in, leading to the European refugee and migrant crisis.

“Not only did you have people fleeing Libya, people fleeing Syria, the destabilisation of other African countries as a result of arms flows, but the Libyan state itself was no longer able to control the movement of people through it.”

This – not Clinton’s “visceral” pain in losing to Trump nor the rest of the self-serving scuttlebutt in her ABC interview  — was the story. Clinton shared responsibility for massively de-stabilising the Middle East, which led to the death, suffering and flight of thousands of women, men and children.

Ferguson raised not a word of it. Clinton repeatedly defamed Assange, who was neither defended nor offered a right of reply on his own country’s state broadcaster.

In a tweet from London, Assange cited the ABC’s own Code of Practice, which states: “Where allegations are made about a person or organisation, make reasonable efforts in the circumstances to provide a fair opportunity to respond.”

Following the ABC broadcast, Ferguson’s  executive producer, Sally Neighbour, re-tweeted the following: “Assange is Putin’s bitch. We all know it!”

The slander, since deleted, was even used as a link to the ABC interview captioned ‘Assange is Putins (sic) b****. We all know it!’

In the years I have known Julian Assange, I have watched a vituperative personal campaign try to stop him and WikiLeaks. It has been a frontal assault on whistleblowing, on free speech and free journalism, all of which are now under sustained attack from governments and corporate internet controllers.

The first serious attacks on Assange came from the Guardian which, like a spurned lover, turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks’ disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. Assange was portrayed as “callous” and a “damaged personality”.

It was as if a rampant jealousy could not accept that his remarkable achievements stood in marked contrast to that of his detractors in the “mainstream” media. It is like watching the guardians of the status quo, regardless of age, struggling to silence real dissent and prevent the emergence of the new and hopeful.

Today, Assange remains a political refugee from the war-making dark state of which Donald Trump is a caricature and Hillary Clinton the embodiment. His resilience and courage are astonishing. Unlike him, his tormentors are cowards.

October 20, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

U.S. Troop Deaths in Niger: AFRICOM’s Chickens Come Home to Roost

By Mark P. Fancher | Black Agenda Report | October 18, 2017

From the outset, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has incorrectly presumed the stupidity of Africans and others who are concerned about the continent. To answer accusations that the U.S. uses its military to ensure continuing imperialist domination of Africa, AFRICOM has stubbornly insisted that its sole objectives are to advise and support the armies of African government “partners” and to provide humanitarian assistance. But we know the truth to be otherwise.

U.S. Army General Donald Bolduc shamelessly told NBC News: “America is not at war in Africa. But its partner forces are.” But even a soldier can recognize the farce. Former Green Beret Derek Gannon said: “[U.S. military involvement in Africa] is called Low Intensity Irregular Warfare, yet technically it’s not considered war by the Pentagon. But warfare is warfare to me.”

The U.S. maintains two facilities in Africa that qualify as military bases. However, according to NBC the U.S. increased the number of embassy-based military missions called “Offices of Security Cooperation” from nine in 2008 to 36 in 2016. Researchers say the U.S. military now has a presence in at least 49 African countries, presumably to fight terrorism. Even if anti-terrorism were the actual ultimate objective, military.com has pointed out:

“The U.S. has found some of its efforts to fight extremists hobbled by some African governments, whose own security forces are ill-equipped to launch an American-style hunt for the militants yet are reluctant to accept U.S. help because of fears the Americans will overstay their welcome and trample their sovereignty.”

In the face of Africa’s suspicion, the U.S. still sees strategic benefits to extending AFRICOM’s tentacles into every corner of the continent. In one case the Obama Administration sent 100 troops to Niger in 2013 to set up a drone base in a location where the U.S. was already providing aerial refueling assistance to the French. By June of this year, the number of U.S. military personnel in Niger had grown to at least 645, and by now there may be as many as 800 U.S. troops in that country. While the military establishment may believe that ever-deepening engagement of this kind is helpful to U.S. interests, there is a cost. Earlier this month four U.S. soldiers in Niger were killed in a firefight with alleged terrorist forces. According to at least one account:

“On October 5, about 30 Nigerien troops were patrolling in unarmored trucks alongside a dozen U.S. Army soldiers, among them Green Beret special forces. The patrol was coming from a meeting with tribal leaders and came within striking distance of the border between Niger and its war-torn neighbor Mali. The militants rode in on motorcycles and attacked the patrol with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing eight: four Nigeriens, three Green Berets, and another U.S. soldier whose body wasn’t discovered until two days after the attack.”

Implicit in AFRICOM messaging is that U.S. troops help African soldiers protect helpless Africans from an unwanted “terrorist” presence. However, a CNN report about the ambush in Niger states:

“Some of the soldiers who attended the meeting with local leaders said that they suspected that the villagers were delaying their departure, stalling and keeping them waiting, actions that caused some of them to suspect that the villagers may have been complicit in the ambush…”

Military commanders who intervene in other countries should know that when non-combatant villagers have taken up the cause of any group — regardless of the group’s objectives — a military victory for the interveners is practically hopeless. Nevertheless, “[m]ultiple officials told CNN that the Trump administration is talking to the Nigerien government about a potential imminent U.S. military action to hit back at the militant group that killed the American soldiers.”

Under U.S. law, Congress has the opportunity to arrest any continuing reckless military engagement by Trump. The War Powers Resolution provides that under certain circumstances a President can deploy troops into combat situations, but there are periodic reporting requirements for a President as well as time limits on how long troops can remain engaged in conflicts without a formal declaration of war or specific Congressional authorization. Nevertheless, the Congress has a history of failing to curb U.S. military intervention in other countries, and we should not expect them to do it now. Notwithstanding the deaths in Niger, Africa is not regarded in the minds of Congress or the broader public as a place where the U.S. is at war.

AFRICOM has been confident of its ability to expand the U.S. military presence in Africa while flying below the radar because of its supposed advisory role. Its plan has been to use proxy African soldiers to engage in actual combat without worries of U.S. casualties and the attendant controversies and backlash. But the deaths in Niger represent an unexpected snafu.

While it may be true that on this occasion, the deaths in Niger faded quickly from media focus, and consequently from the attention of the U.S. public, there is good reason to believe there are more deaths to come. Africans are not stupid, but U.S. military officials are if they ignore the possibility that even the most humble African villagers passionately resent an ever-widening presence of U.S. military personnel in their communities. These humble people may lack the wherewithal to effectively demonstrate their hostility, but the recent killings in Niger with the suspected assistance of villagers evidence the possibility that there are forces eager to exploit African anger and confusion about the presence of U.S. troops.

If the death toll of U.S. troops continues to climb and AFRICOM loses its low profile, there should be no surprise in the Pentagon about its chickens coming home to roost.

Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes periodically for Black Agenda Report. He can be contacted at mfancher(at)Comcast.net.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments