The US uses its media to spread outright lies about Russia, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, dismissing a report by the Washington Post about a ‘US diplomat’ ‘beaten’ by Russian security. In fact, it was a US spy who attacked a Russian police officer.
“US State Department and security services have been actively using the Washington Post for disseminating distorted information and outright lies about “harassment” of the US diplomats in Russia,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, commenting on a report by the US newspaper on the alleged beating of a US diplomat by Russian security staff.
The story in the report was completely made up, Zakharova said, dismissing the report published on June 29, in which the Washington Post claimed that a “Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) guard stationed outside the US Embassy in Moscow attacked and beat up a US diplomat who was trying to enter the compound.”
The ministry’s spokeswoman explained that, in reality, it was a US citizen who attacked a Russian security guard stationed outside the US embassy when the officer tried to check his ID.
“On the night of June 6, a taxi drove up to the US embassy in Moscow. A man with a hat drawn over his eyes jumped out of the car and rushed to the entrance. A police officer, who was on duty at the entrance, tried to check the ID of the suspicious man to ensure that there is no threat for the embassy,” Zakharova told journalists at a briefing on Thursday.
“Instead of letting the officer see his ID, the man hit him with an elbow in the face than pushed him away and fled to the embassy,” she added, stressing that the Washington Post report “not only distorts the information but openly contradicts the facts.”
She also emphasized that the attack on the police officer was recorded by the CCTV cameras and presented to the US State Department “long ago,” with Russian Foreign Ministry filing a protest over the incident.
It was later revealed that the man who attacked the officer was in fact a CIA agent, who worked in Russia under diplomatic cover and was returning from a mission on the night of the attack, the spokeswoman stressed, adding that the agent apparently tried to escape recognition.
She also said that information about the ‘diplomat’s’ allegedly broken shoulder reported by the Washington Post report is also false and was disproved by a video presented by the US side to the Russian ministry.
Zakharova also emphasized that it is the US that asked Russia to provide security for its embassy and send police to guard it. “Moreover, they [the US] regularly ask us to enhance [the embassy’s] security,” she added.
The ministry’s spokeswoman also expressed “regret” over “Washington deliberately souring the bilateral relations particularly by provocations and disinformation,” stressing that such policy “will not lead to anything good.”
The Washington Post report came just a day after Russian Foreign Ministry slammed another article by the US newspaper that claimed that “Russia is harassing US diplomats all over Europe.” It’s the Russian diplomats who are being pressured, not the other way around, the Foreign Ministry said, blasting the article.
Australia has now completed more than six weeks of an eight-week election campaign. There have been the usual claims and counterclaims from the major parties, dubious statistics, hyperbole, and a relentless focus on peripheral issues at the expense of clarity and insight.
Expenditure promises totaling billions of dollars have been made, with the principal beneficiaries being electorates with very small majorities, and therefore most susceptible to changing allegiance with the vagaries of shifting sentiment for or against the governing party or the main opposition party.
What is completely missing from the election campaign rhetoric or promises however, is any discussion of foreign affairs, defence or refugee policy.
This coyness is not unique to this election. The past several decades have seen major decisions taken without discussion as to their strategic context, the objectives of the policy, any exit strategy when the decision involves foreign wars (invariably at the behest of the Americans). This is currently the case with the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Neither is there any discussion by the major parties as to whether the decisions taken about going to war, or taking steps that may lead to war, are advantageous or prejudicial to the national interest.
Also completely absent from debate is any attempt to understand and respond to a rapidly changing geopolitical context. The Asia-Pacific region is in a major state of realignment, but one would not know that from listening to the political leaders or reading the mainstream media.
The dilemma Australia’s foreign policy faces and which urgently needs addressing was set out by the former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser when he said that Australia’s relationship with the United States had “become a paradox. Our leaders argue we need to keep our alliance with the US strong in order to ensure our defence in the event of an aggressive foe. Yet the most likely reason Australia would need to confront an aggressive foe is our strong alliance with the US It is not a sustainable policy.”
It has become impossible in the Australian context to even contemplate, let alone discuss, a possible foreign policy stance independent of that alliance with the US. This is notwithstanding a series of foreign policy disasters and quagmires that are a direct result of that alliance, including but not limited to Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria.
That another potential disaster was only narrowly avoided has come to light in a lengthy essay by James Brown (Quarterly Essay #62, 2016).
Brown, a former Army Captain who happens to be the son-in-law of the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, recounts how former Prime Minister Tony Abbott sought planning contingencies from the Australian military about the possible deployment of a brigade (about 3000 troops) to Eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of the shooting down of MH17 on 17 July 2014.
The initiative by Abbott was apparently taken without reference to the Cabinet, without debate in Parliament, and certainly without reference to the Australian public.
Abbott was dissuaded from this hare-brained scheme on the advice of the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and his own military advisers alarmed at the prospect that it could potentially lead to a direct conflict with Russia.
Although rightly critical of the lack of strategic planning in Australian foreign and defence policy, Brown is himself equally a victim of the Anglo-American mindset that bedevils Australian strategic thinking.
He refers for example, to what he says are the “brutal geopolitics” of Russian actions in Ukraine, and a “war for conquest remains a threat.” (at pp39-40).
That such a proposition could be seriously advanced is of deep concern. Brown completely ignores for example, the February 2014 American financed and organized coup d’état that violently overthrew the legitimate Yanukovich government of Ukraine.
Further, he ignores the fascist nature of the present regime in Kiev, its systematic discrimination against the Russian-speaking citizens of Eastern Ukraine, and the Kiev regime’s persistent violation of the Minsk accords. He also fails to note what is an extraordinary lack of judgment by Abbott in joining Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s Council of Advisers.
Brown is on stronger ground when he criticizes the procurement of 12 submarines and 72 F35 fighter aircraft. The submarines, which will not be delivered before 2030, are said to cost $50 billion, not including the additional $5-6 billion for their armaments.
The cost of the F35 fighters has been variously quoted at between $17 and $25 billion dollars.
The wisdom of these purchases, their strategic value if any, and the implications of their potential use in an actual war, is not open for discussion in the present election campaign. Nor are they likely to be properly analysed by whoever wins the 2 July election. Perhaps needless to add, public discussion and media coverage are conspicuous by their absence.
The 2016 Defence White Paper identified China as the most likely potential threat to Australia. Quite how this threat would manifest itself is unclear. China has no history of imperialism or military aggression in the Pacific region. Nothing in its present policy stances or conduct would suggest that is likely to change.
Australia actually fighting a war with China on its own is unthinkable. Any such conflict could only be as part of an American war, which takes one straight back to Fraser’s paradox quoted above.
When one looks at actual US behaviour in relation to China, then there is significant cause for concern that Australia could become embroiled in an American provoked war. The basis for such concern would include, for example, the American’s provocative behaviour in the South China Sea that Australia has publicly supported. Australian navy vessels take part in an annual exercise, Operation Talisman Sabre that practices blocking the vital Malacca Straits essential to Chinese trade.
Other developments, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, specifically exclude China, and are designed to assert American commercial interests at the expense of the national sovereignty of the non-American participants to the TPP.
America’s strategic policy, as set out in the 2002 Defence Department document Vision 2020 is based upon the assumption that America should exercise “full spectrum dominance” over the entire world, including for present purposes the Asia-Pacific region.
To this should be added the progressive increase in American military bases in the Asia-Pacific region, with nuclear weapon capability, and an American provoked war with China is far from unthinkable. There is of course historical precedent for current US policy, and that was the encirclement and economic warfare waged on Japan in the late 1930s early 1940s specifically designed to provoke a Japanese attack upon the US. That is exactly what happened.
American policy in the Asia-Pacific region is replicated in Europe, where it is pursuing equally provocative and dangerous policies on the Russian borders.
If Australia did become involved in a shooting war with China, as its current military and strategic posture would almost certainly guarantee, it is very difficult to see what role the hugely expensive submarines and F35 fighters would play.
That they would play any role at all would seem to depend on a number of assumptions. The war would have to start after 2030, as that is the earliest possible date for the delivery of the submarines.
It further assumes that the F35 fighter might actually fly in a combat effective manner. Neither assumption seems to have an evidential foundation.
Any Australian involvement in a war with China also appears to seriously underestimate the effectiveness of modern Chinese weaponry. Their supersonic cruise missile for example, would quickly eliminate the aircraft carrier based system the US Navy is built around.
Similarly, a single Dong Feng 41 supersonic ICBM missile would destroy the two crucial American military installations at Pine Gap and North West Cape that are a vital component of military communications and targeting. The Dong Feng 41 has 8-10 independently targetable nuclear warheads that would eliminate Australia’s major cities in addition to the specifically military targets noted.
Australia’s involvement in such a war would therefore last at most about 30 minutes, with huge casualties and its major cities smoking ruins. That is the very real risk Australia runs with its present alliance with the US. It is something that deserves proper debate, and this election, with both major parties complicit, is not providing such a debate.
The refusal to contemplate and discuss these military and geopolitical realities has a number of possible bases. An unspoken but potent spectre over Australian politics is the fate of the 1975 Whitlam Labor government. Whitlam had made clear his intention to close the Pine Gap spy installation, which while located in Australian territory was and is completely American controlled.
The evidence is now overwhelming that Whitlam was removed in a CIA orchestrated coup (Rundle 2015). After Whitlam was re-elected in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as the US ambassador. Green was known in American circles as the “coupmaster.” He had been instrumental in the coup against the Sukarno government in Indonesia in 1965 and Allende in Chile in 1973. His presence in Canberra in 1975 was not a coincidence.
It is doubtful if such an extreme step would be necessary in the foreseeable future. Both main political parties go to extraordinary lengths to remain on side with whoever occupies the White House.
This goes well beyond participating in the aforementioned wars of choice. It includes Australia’s voting record in the United Nations where it is a regular supporter of the Israeli regime, contrary to the overwhelming weight of opinion expressed in that body. Israel’s constant breaches of international law are never criticized by either the Australian government or the Opposition.
None of this is the subject of informed discussion and debate. It is not an overstatement to suggest a conspiracy of silence by the major parties to avoid asking what should be the obvious questions.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to point to any actual material benefit to Australia that flows from this ritual obeisance to American wishes. The illusion of security that it fosters, is as Fraser pointed out, a paradox and unsustainable as a policy.
The likelihood of a disastrous outcome for Australia from the American alliance is many times greater than any assumed benefit. The inconsistency of present foreign and defence policy with Australia’s national interests should be a matter of debate. It is not.
The geopolitical centre of the world is re-establishing itself in Eurasia, just as Halford Mackinder predicted more than a century ago. Russia and China, and other members of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are forging a new military, economic, financial and political framework. These changes are undermining the unipolar American centred world that has dominated for the past 70 years.
The question for Australia is whether it recognises the geopolitical realities dictated by its geography, its trade, and the wishes of its people for peace and stability ahead of the destruction being wrought by its traditional ally.
These are questions that need to be addressed. The major political parties and the media are failing in their obligations by refusing to discuss these issues. Their resolution is vital to the peace and prosperity of this nation.
Wilful blindness, strategic incoherence, and a misalignment of national interests are not a sound policy basis.
The heirs of Meyer Lansky, the impresario of the North American Mafia gambling colony in Cuba (1933-1958) are betting on a big payback from the negotiations between the United States and Cuba to normalize relations between the two countries. Compensation claims by U.S. citizens or businesses for properties nationalized by the Cuban revolution are among the issues under discussion.
Lansky’s daughter Sandi, her son Gary Rapoport, and her brother Paul have filed a compensation claim against Cuba for the Riviera Hotel and Casino with the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. The Cuban revolution confiscated the Riviera and other Mafia-owned properties after it toppled the gangster-linked regime of General Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
“It was through my grandfather’s hard work that the hotel was built,” Rapoport told the U. K. Daily Mail Online on December 23, 2015. “We are his natural relations . . . . By right, it should be our property.” He says the Riviera is valued at $70 million. The Tampa Bay Tribune, Reuters, and Haaretz have also covered the story.
The Riviera, which overlooks the Straits of Florida, was the crown jewel of Lansky’s casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in Havana. When the Riviera opened in December 1957, it was the largest Mafia-owned hotel-casino outside Las Vegas. The hotel’s 440 double rooms were booked solid for the winter season of 1957-1958.
However, the narrative that the success of the Riviera was the product of Meyer Lansky’s “hard work” is undercut by Lansky’s own assessment of his arrangement with Batista. Lansky talked candidly about his years in Cuba with Israeli national security writers Dennis Eisenberg, Uri Dan, and Eli Landau for their admiring biography Meyer Lansky: Mogul of the Mob (Paddington Press, 1979). (Lansky lived in Israel in 1970-1971 to avoid tax evasion charges in the United States.)
Lansky pitched his plan to Batista to open Mafia owned casinos and nightclubs in Cuba in 1933. Lansky promised to make Batista, who had just come to power in a coup d’etat, a partner. Batista and his inner circle would get regular payments from the Mafia gamblers. In return, the gangsters would be allowed to operate without interference from Cuban authorities. With a handshake and an abrazo, Lansky and Batista laid the foundations of the Cuban gangster state.
“Working on the well-known principle that it’s better to use other people’s money than your own, Lansky persuaded Batista to have the Cuban government help finance the venture,” Eisenberg, Dan, and Landau wrote. “The [Cuban] government agreed to back every dollar invested on the island by foreigners with a dollar of its own and to give every hotel that cost more than one million dollars the precious prize of a gambling license . . . and the casino hotels would not have to pay Cuban taxes.”
The Riviera was one of four new hotels with casinos, which opened in Havana between 1955 and 1958. Cuban development banks subsidized 50 percent of Lansky’s $14 million Riviera project; Lansky-linked investors provided the rest. Senator Eduardo Suarez Rivas, brother of Batista’s Minister of Labor Jose Suarez Rivas, was secretary of the Compania de Hotels La Riviera de Cuba, which operated the Riviera.
The Mafia gambling colony was the cornerstone of the Cuban gangster state. The gangsters’ graft bound Batista, his inner circle, senior security officers, and the Mafia together in the defense of one of the most repressive regimes in Latin America. As a CIA report put it, “In return for the loyalty they gave him, Batista always backed his security services. In times of crisis, he often suspended civil guarantees . . . and gave the services a free hand.”
The days of the North American gangsters in Cuba were numbered when Batista fled into exile on January 1, 1959. In 1958, Fidel Castro’s July 26th Movement had denounced the Mafia radio broadcasts from its guerrilla redoubt in the Sierra Maestra for turning Havana into a center of commercialized vice – gambling, prostitution, and drugs. When Castro arrived in Havana on January 8, he vowed to “clean out all the gamblers.” The Riviera and other gangster-owned properties were nationalized, and the Mafia gamblers returned to the United States.
To regain control of its casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in post-Castro Cuba, the Mafia waged a covert war on the Cuban revolution. The gangsters regrouped with their Cuban political allies, now in exile in the United States. The Mafia subsidized Cuban exile leaders and supplied arms to Cuban exile commando groups for attacks on Cuban targets from speedy boats and small aircraft. The gangsters also plotted with the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro.
In 1959, Lansky volunteered to arrange the assassination of Castro in a meeting with the CIA, according to Doc Stacher, a life-long Lansky associate. “He [Lansky] indicated to the CIA that some of his people who were still on the island, or those who were just going back, might assassinate Castro,” Stacher told his Israeli biographers. “Meyer Lansky thought that if Castro would be eliminated there was a good chance for Batista to make a comeback . . . He told them [CIA officers] he was quite prepared to finance the operation himself.” From 1960 to 1963, the CIA and the Mafia plotted covertly to assassinate Castro.
To portray Lansky as an aggrieved victim of Cuba is to stand history on its head. There should be no compensation for the heirs of the former Mafia gamblers in Cuba.
Jack Colhoun is an historian of the Cold War (University of Wisconsin, Madison, BA, 1968; York University, Toronto, PhD, 1976), an investigative reporter, and professional archival researcher. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Toronto Star, Salon, History News Network, The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times, the former (New York) Guardian newsweekly, and formerCovert Action Quarterly. He is the author of Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba, and the Mafia, 1933-1966 (New York: OR Books, 2013).
The tactics of employing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the preparation of so-called “color revolutions” in North Africa, the Middle East and a number of former Soviet states has been the modus operandi of the US and its satellites, which have been thoroughly discussed in various NEO articles.
It’s curious that these NGOs who are heavily sponsored by Washington choose to act precisely in those moments when a specific state begins resisting pressure applied on it by the so-called Western World. This resistance often is manifested as a reluctance to support certain projects that were put forward by Washington.
If we are to talk about post-Soviet regions, all Western NGOs, and American ones in particular, have been particularly active in Central Asian and Caucasus states over recent years in a bid to launch “color revolutions” across the majority of them.
Western NGOs have been particularly active in Armenia recently, which remains Russia’s most faithful ally in the Caucasus region. In an effort to repeat a Ukrainian-style scenario in Armenia and to force this country away from Russia, these Western-backed organizations have been trying to use any minor concern among the civilian population to provoke demonstrations and unrest, taking advantage of the huge funds they have been receiving.
For example, over the past 5 years, a research center of the US-Armenian University has been carrying a wide variety of different programs. The absolute majority of its employees are foreigners (immigrants from the United States and Europe), or Armenian citizens who graduated from this very university or received part of their education in the United States. The better part of the above mentioned programs are aimed at reducing the usage of the Russian language in Armenia and the deconstruction of Soviet history and heritage. Washington is convinced that those measures that have already been tested in Ukraine could allow it to strike a note of discord between Russia and Armenia as well.
According to various reports, including a report prepared by the UN, the number of NGOs that are constantly operating in Armenia in such fields as “social equality,” “freedom of speech,” and “human rights protection” exceeds two hundred. At the same time, the US Embassy is actively supporting local media sources, including the well-known “Voice of Armenia.” It’s estimated that the US Embassy is providing financial support to over 60% of all media outlets in Armenia, in hopes that this would allow it to keep a firm grip on public perception within the country, and limiting Russia’s and Iran’s involvement in Transcaucasia.
But US think tanks seek to take all of this one step further by systematically undermining the traditional values of Armenians, such as morality and family traditions. This goal is being pursued through the creation of an unprecedented number of religious sects that are appearing in Armenia each week. For some “strange reason” the headquarters of those sects are always based in the United States, no matter whether the sect is following Baha’i, Hare Krishnas, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, Scientologists, or other beliefs.
It’s curious that, conversely, in a truly democratic France, the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect is officially prohibited by law as a “cult.”
The Mormon sect which was the first to appear in Armenia in the early 90s was founded by the representatives of US secret services and military contractors. It’s hardly a secret that CIA creates such sects in states where the US is planning a coup d’etat to prepare a faithful proxy government beforehand.
The so-called “Church of Scientology” has also been pursuing similar goals, since it’s run by professional American agents. It is only logical that in most states the activities of Scientology sects are prohibited by law and regarded as a breach of national security. But in the US this sect enjoys complete freedom and even the tacit support of Washington. There’s a very good reason for this paradox, since back in 1959 the then CIA Director Allen Dulles struck a deal with the founder of the sect, Ron Hubbard, according to which the CIA would allow the “Church of Scientology” to operate freely in the US, it would get in return assistance in overseas operations and unconditional access to the the information this church accumulates in foreign states.
The above stated facts may explain why Armenia hosts one of the largest US embassies in the whole world, in spite of the fact that this country is relatively small in comparison to other nations. Nevertheless, the US still needs over five thousand NGOs under its control in Armenia, while spending up to 250 million dollars annually to keep them running.
9/11 Cover-Up Unraveling: 28 pages, JASTA bill, KSM trial fiasco a “perfect storm” – But Beware of Limited Hang-outs
The Warren Commission summarized its conclusion in three words: “Oswald acted alone.”
In support of its assertion that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a lone gunman, the Commission—steered by Kennedy’s worst enemy, former CIA Director Allen Dulles, whose expertise lay in deceptions, regime change operations and murders of heads of state—produced 28 volumes as well as an unnumbered summary report volume. Virtually all of the 18,803 pages totaling 10.4 million words consisted of irrelevancies, distractions and red herrings, famously including such monumentally non-essential information as Lee Harvey Oswald’s dental records.
The 9/11 Commission, following the Warren Commission template, claimed that “19 Arab hijackers with box-cutters, alongside a handful of al-Qaeda operatives, acted alone.” Like the Warren Commission, the 9/11 Commission began with its conclusion already inscribed in stone; the so-called investigation merely lined up support for a pre-ordained script. According to New York Times journalist Philip Shenon, 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow had written the entire report in chapter outline before the Commission even convened. Sen. Max Cleland, refusing to participate in the cover-up, resigned from the 9/11 Commission, comparing it to the long-discredited Warren Commission: “The Warren Report blew it. I’m not going to be part of that.” Later, even the co-chairs of the Commission, Kean and Hamilton, admitted that their Commission had been “set up to fail.”
Now, almost 12 years after the publication of the 9/11 Commission Report and more than half a century after the Warren Report, both official accounts have been thoroughly discredited. Polls show that since at least the 1990s, two-thirds of Americans do not believe the official version of the JFK killing. Likewise, polling data reflects widespread suspicion about 9/11. A 2006 New York Times / CBS poll, for example, found that 81% of Americans believed their government was “hiding something” or “mostly lying” about 9/11, while only 16% thought it was “telling the truth.”
Today we are facing a potential re-opening of the 9/11 investigation, paralleling the way the JFK assassination investigation was re-opened by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) from 1976 to 1978. In both cases, public skepticism toward the official versions, alongside the work of independent researchers, has created a climate in which calls for a new investigation could fall on receptive ears. Unfortunately, if a new 9/11 investigation follows in the footsteps of the HSCA, it could destroy the official story — but in such a way as to prevent an aroused public from rising up and demanding that the full truth be revealed, the perpetrators punished, and the government restructured in such a way as to ensure that no such murderous coup d’état ever happens again. (The HSCA concluded that JFK was murdered by unknown conspirators, hinted that the mafia was involved, but offered no rousing call to uncover the full truth and prosecute the perpetrators.)
Calls for an HSCA-style re-opening of 9/11 could follow developments in three related legislative and judicial venues: The push for the release of the classified 28 pages of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11; the JASTA bill allowing survivors and victims’ family members to sue government sponsors of terrorism; and the imminent implosion of the military prosecutions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, and his alleged co-conspirators.
The secret 28 pages, classified by President Bush, are said to implicate Saudi government officials and royal family members as co-conspirators of the 19 alleged hijackers. They also contain a footnote referencing Israel that has been the subject of much speculation, given the many converging lines of evidence pointing to a major Israeli role in 9/11. The movement to release the 28 pages has been garnering widespread mainstream coverage since the CBS flagship news show 60 Minutes featured it last month. Congressional bills urging the President to declassify the 28 pages have picked up more than 60 co-sponsors.
On April 24th, the AP ran a story headlined “White House poised to release secret pages from 9/11 inquiry.” But since then Obama has wavered, while a war of words has broken out between the forces of transparency and their opponents. On the opponents’ side, CIA Director John Brennan recently issued a pre-emptive salvo claiming that the secret pages contain “inaccurate information,” while 9/11 Commission co-chairs Kean and Hamilton chipped in that those pages contained “raw, unvetted material” with “no smoking gun.” These claims contrast sharply with statements by others who have read the 28 pages, including Sen. Bob Graham of Florida and Rep. Walter Jones, who have said that the secret pages completely overturn the official story of 9/11.
The push to release the 28 pages coincides with the House’s passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which now awaits Senate ratification and a likely White House veto. The JASTA bill would pave the way for lawsuits against foreign governments that sponsor terrorist attacks on American soil, and seems to have been written specifically to target Saudi Arabia for 9/11.
The Saudi government has responded with a two-pronged attack. Officially, it has threatened to sell off 750 billion dollars in US securities and other assets, thereby crashing the US economy, if Congress passes the JASTA bill. Meanwhile, an outline of the likely Saudi defense should it ever be prosecuted for 9/11 was published by Saudi legal expert Katib Al-Shammari. Writing in the Saudi-owned London newspaper al-Hayat, Al-Shammari argued that the US itself carried out the 9/11 attacks. (English translation here.) Citing the findings of architects and engineers that the World Trade Center was destroyed with explosives, not jet fuel fires, Al-Shammari asserts that the US government has blamed almost everyone except the true culprit – itself – in order to increase military budgets, launch wars, and pressure foreign governments.
The Saudis may even be holding evidence that could destroy the official version of 9/11 and prove US government complicity. Ten of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, all of them Saudis, were reliably reported to be alive after 9/11, as documented in Jay Kolar’s “What We Now Know About the Alleged 9-11 Hijackers.” Speculation on their current whereabouts focuses on three possibilities: (1) dead, presumably murdered by the orchestrators of 9/11; (2) alive and well and living under witness protection, possibly in Saudi Arabia; and/or (3) some of the hijackers may be “composite personalities” produced by forgery and identity theft.
In 2008, I traveled to Morocco to investigate the strange case of alleged hijacker Waleed al-Shehri, who had supposedly died when Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. On September 22nd, 2001, the BBC reported that al-Shehri was alive and well in Morocco:
A Saudi-Arabian aircraft pilot who was named as one of five suspects on board one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Centre, has turned up alive and well in Morocco. The man, Waleed Al-Shehri, has told Saudi journalists in Casablanca that he had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and Washington, and had been in Morocco at the time.
The FBI named five men with Arab names who they say were responsible for deliberately crashing American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center. One of those five names was Waleed Al-Shehri, a Saudi pilot who had trained in the United States. His photograph was released by the FBI, and has been shown in newspapers and on television around the world.
That same Mr Al-Shehri has turned up in Morocco, proving clearly that he was not a member of the suicide attack. He told Saudi journalists in Casablanca that he has contacted both the Saudi and American authorities to advise them that he had nothing to do with the attack. He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Dayton Beach in the United States, and is indeed the same Waleed Al-Shehri to whom the FBI has been referring.
But, he says, he left the United States in September last year, and became a pilot with Saudi Arabian Airlines, and is currently on a further training course in Morocco. He says he was in Marrekesh when the attack took place.
I spoke to people at the US Embassy in Rabat, who said that nobody currently working there remembered al-Shehri showing up in 2001 and proclaiming his innocence. They said that diplomatic personnel rotate in and out every few years, so none of the current (2008) embassy employees would have worked there in 2001. (I personally know the man who, I am told, was CIA station chief in Rabat in the late 1990s and early 2000s – he certainly was not rotating in and out every few years – but he has not responded to my communications about 9/11.)
Stonewalled by the US Embassy, confused by conflicting reports about al-Shehri’s history in Morocco (did he work for RAM or Saudia Airlines? etc.) I contacted Saudia Airlines requesting information about Waleed al-Shehri’s employment there as a pilot. A higher-up sounded very defensive as he implied that he knew things he could not tell be because “we do not want trouble.”
If the JASTA bill passes and Saudi Arabia is sued for 9/11, perhaps its leaders will decide it is less “trouble” to spill the beans, possibly by telling the truth about some of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, than to accept the blame for the worst mass murder ever committed on American soil. If the Saudis ever decide to tell the truth, we might learn that some of the alleged hijackers did not even exist, but were fictional cutouts created by intelligence services, with intelligence agents role-playing with forged and/or stolen identification. We know that this is the case for some of the alleged hijackers, including “Ziad Jarrah,” a cut-out impersonated by at least three different intelligence agents, as explained by Jay Kolar. It may also be the case for the al-Shehri brothers; Wail al-Shehri (allegedly Waleed’s brother, supposedly a 9/11 hijacker but still alive and well and flying for Saudia Airlines out of Morocco) has claimed to be the victim of identity theft, suggesting that his ID was used to create the “Wail al-Shehri” named as a 9/11 hijacker.
Some US authorities have admitted that these problems are real. Less than two weeks after 9/11, FBI Director Mueller was forced to admit that “hijackers” turning up alive had cast doubt over those identifications; then in 2002 he admitted that there is “no legal proof” of the hijackers’ real identities. A former high-level intelligence official told Seymour Hersh that the whole story of the alleged hijackers was fabricated: “Many of the investigators believe that some of the initial clues that were uncovered about the terrorists’ identities and preparations, such as flight manuals, were meant to be found. A former high-level intelligence official told me, ‘Whatever trail was left was left deliberately—for the F.B.I. to chase.’” The 9/11 Commission made no effort whatsoever to resolve any of these issues.
In addition to the 28 pages and JASTA affairs targeting Saudi Arabia, there is a third legal venue from which a mandate for a new 9/11 investigation could and should arise: The military tribunal show trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and co-defendants. There, in the kangaroo courts of Guantanamo, a destruction-of-evidence scandal is brewing that could blow 9/11 wide open. The Guardian (May 31, 2016) reports:
The judge overseeing the premiere military tribunal at Guantánamo Bay effectively conspired with the prosecution to destroy evidence relevant to defending the accused architect of the 9/11 attacks, according to a scathing court document.
Army Col James Pohl, who this week at Guantánamo is presiding over a resumption of pretrial hearings in the already troubled case, “in concert with the prosecution, manipulated secret proceedings and the use of secret orders”, the document alleges, preventing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s defense team from learning Pohl had permitted the Obama administration to destroy the evidence.
This latest scandal relates to evidence destroyed in 2013 and 2014 after the judge had ordered the prosecution to preserve it. That same judge, Col James Pohl, then secretly conspired with the Administration to destroy the very evidence he had ordered preserved, while lying to the defense by claiming the order had been followed and the evidence preserved.
This is not the first such KSM-related destruction-of-evidence scandal. In 2005, CIA Director General Michael Hayden admitted that the CIA destroyed videotapes of interrogations of al-Qaeda prisoners related to the 9/11 investigation. Earlier, in 2004, the CIA had denied to the 9/11 Commission that any such videotapes existed. That is why the 9/11 Commission built its official story (or, rather, filled in the details of Philip Zelikow’s pre-conceived official narrative) by relying on third-hand hearsay reports about what KSM, the mentally retarded “terror mastermind” Abu Zubaydah, and other alleged al-Qaeda operatives supposedly told their torturers.
Robert Baer, formerly the CIA’s best on-the-ground Mideast operative, vented his shock and displeasure in the pages of Time Magazine:
I would find it very difficult to believe the CIA would deliberately destroy evidence material to the 9/11 investigation, evidence that would cover up a core truth, such as who really was behind 9/11. On the other hand I have to wonder what space-time continuum the CIA exists in, if they weren’t able to grasp what a field day the 9/11 conspiracy theorists are going to have with this — especially at a time when trust for the government is plumbing new depths … If this sounds like paranoia, it is. But the CIA certainly is not helping by destroying evidence. And they should know better than to destroy evidence in the biggest criminal case in American history. More than anything what we need right now is complete and total transparency on 9/11.
It is hard to overstate the magnitude of the 9/11 destruction-of-evidence scandal. Essentially what we have is Zelikow’s pre-scripted official 9/11 story getting its after-the-fact “verification” through massive torture of such obviously innocent “masterminds” as the simple-minded Abu Zubaydah, an utterly incompetent individual tortured into what can only have been a series of false confessions during 83 waterboarding sessions in August, 2002. Amidst those false confessions, which must have consisted of Abu Zubaydah blubbering back to his torturers whatever they told him to say, was the claim that KSM was the mastermind of 9/11.
KSM, for his part, was waterboarded 183 times in March, 2003. Under torture, he confessed to more than 30 different crimes and attempted crimes, most of which he could not possibly have committed. Among those crimes were the murder of Daniel Pearl and various attempts to recruit terrorists in Montana and Washington that happened after he was already incarcerated.
The official story of 9/11, as mythologized in the 9/11 Commission Report, relies almost entirely on hearsay reports of what KSM supposedly said under torture, as close attention to its footnotes shows. The torturers lied to the Commission by asserting that no records of the interrogations existed; they later destroyed those very records. And these same torturers refused to allow the Commissioners any access to the alleged 9/11 suspects. Obviously it is not KSM himself, but his captors and torturers, who need to be arrested and interrogated not only for torture and obstruction of justice, but also as 9/11 suspects. For when torture, which is largely useless for any purpose except eliciting false confessions, is used to cover up a crime, the torturers may be assumed to be complicit in the crime they are covering up.
Conclusion: The American People Must Demand the Whole Truth – And Treason Trials
The JFK truth movement succeed in getting a “new investigation” – the 1976-1978 HSCA investigation. It succeeded in establishing that President John F. Kennedy died as the result of a conspiracy – the official conclusion of the HSCA probe. But it did not succeed in bringing anyone to justice, because it shied away from stating the obvious: that the JKF killing was a coup d’état, an act of high treason by elements of America’s deep state. Indeed, it did not even seriously consider that unspeakable possibility. Facing the truth would require subjecting the country to treason trials, a clash between the official and deep states, and potential instability, perhaps even revolution.
Today, the same taboo could hamstring any new 9/11 investigation. In the event of any such investigation, tremendous pressure will be brought to bear to keep the official narrative largely intact, even if a few Saudi government officials have to be thrown under the bus.
Could a new investigation elicited by JASTA and the 28 pages movement, perhaps in conjunction with the Guantanamo destruction-of-evidence scandal, uncover the whole truth, or at least much of it, and achieve a modicum of justice? Some observers such as alternative journalist Brandon Martinez argue that the push to blame the Saudis is a limited hang-out; while others including Les Jamieson of the 28 pages movement argue that once the case is re-opened all hell is likely to break loose … especially if the people rise up and demand the truth.
We do know more about 9/11 today than was known about the JFK assassination in 1978. Reams of evidence, including the more than 40 smoking guns cited by David Ray Griffin in the second edition of The New Pearl Harbor, prove that 9/11 was a coup d’état staged by high-level US government officials with the help of one or more foreign governments. (The case that the main foreign government involved was Israel, and that the prime motive for 9/11 was to launch a permanent war on Israel’s Muslim enemies, is explored in Christopher Bollyn’s Solving 9/11.)
Any HSCA-style “new investigation” of 9/11 would take place under the gaze of hundreds of millions of people worldwide who know that 9/11 was a neoconservative coup d’état, and tens of millions who are familiar with the evidence, including such smoking guns as the obvious controlled demolition of World Trade Center Building 7. For that reason, it would be harder to neuter than the HSCA’s 1978 JFK investigation was. The publicity ensuing from the push for another 9/11 investigation, followed by the investigation itself, would provide the 9/11 truth community with its best-ever chance of cracking the case and bringing at least some of the real perpetrators to justice.
Additionally, any actual investigation with sufficient funding and subpoena power would quickly penetrate the blame-the-Saudis smokescreen. The same alleged hijackers who were funded by the Saudi royals, to take one example, were living with an FBI asset during the run-up to 9/11. And if Bandar Bin Sultan, AKA “Bandar Bush,” gets fingered for 9/11, what will the American people make of Bandar smoking a celebratory cigar with George W. Bush on the White House balcony immediately following the mass murders of September 11th? Finally, one would expect the Saudis to vigorously defend themselves in court, and it seems likely that their best defense would be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. (That may be a lot to expect from the polished liars of the House of Saud; but if the truth serves their interests, they might choose to depart from habitual behavior patterns.)
Conclusion: The current “perfect storm” of JASTA, the 28 pages, and the imploding KSM trial offer an unprecedented opportunity to re-open the crime of the century. Everyone who opposes the 9/11 wars, wishes to revive constitutional rule in the so-called Western democracies, and recognizes that the current planetary path of militarization, debt slavery and environmental devastation is unsustainable, should be pushing for a new 9/11 investigation … while recognizing, and screaming from the rooftops, that an HSCA-style limited hangout is unacceptable.
A mural hanging inside the Ecuadorian parliament building by the famous Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamín, titled «Imagen de la Patria», includes an image of a grinning skull in a helmet emblazoned with the acronym «CIA». When the mural was first unveiled in August 1988, Guayasamín explained that this image epitomized all the foreign threats to his native country. And for almost three decades this «CIA skull» has gazed out at the deputies in parliament with a sinister grin.
The CIA’s fingerprints are visible in dozens of incidents in Ecuador in which politicians who threatened US foreign policy were eliminated. For example, in May 1981 the airplane carrying President Jaime Roldós crashed in the province of Loja, a mountainous region of Ecuador. President Reagan had had a hostile relationship with the Ecuadorians: Roldós had refused the invitation to his inauguration and maintained friendly relations with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Cuban government. He also demonstrated his solidarity with the Revolutionary Democratic Front in El Salvador, which opposed the military dictatorship. Roldós was planning to reorganize Ecuador’s oil industry, jeopardizing the interests of transnational oil corporations. Roldós was discarded because of a «whole array of grievances».
Once Rafael Correa took office, the CIA stepped up its work in Ecuador. In a recent interview Correa mentioned that in the early days of his administration a certain American diplomat requested a meeting, during which he introduced himself as «the official representative of the CIA» in Ecuador. That individual also emphasized that he acted independently of the US ambassador. As Correa noted, at that time «the Americans still thought they could take control of our government».
The impetus for Correa’s most recent revelatory statements about the subversive activities of US intelligence in his country was an incident involving a CIA agent codenamed «Swat».
From 1984 to 2007, a certain Leila Hadad Pérez, a woman of Lebanese descent, operated in Quito as an illegal CIA agent. At first she used a beauty salon as her front, and later a shop that sold carpets. Her real name was Sania Elias Zaitoum El Mayek. Swat was primarily interested in high-ranking officers in the armed forces and police. Their collaboration was underwritten with monthly «gratuities» paid out in dollars – equal to many times their official salaries – as well as the promise of a steady climb up their career ladders. Thanks to Swat’s efforts, many key posts in Ecuador’s intelligence services and armed forces were filled with CIA agents.
One of their main goals was to hinder Ecuador’s involvement in ventures aimed at integrating the continent and also to thwart any strengthened alliance with Venezuela. A campaign was also waged to compromise leaders who were friendly to Ecuador – such as Hugo Chávez, Inácio Lula da Silva, Néstor Kirchner, Evo Morales, and others.
Swat’s network of agents did all it could to prevent the closure of the US military base in Manta. Correa’s 2006 election campaign made no secret of what he planned to do about the US military presence there. Virtually every CIA field agent in the country was mobilized in response, as well as US military intelligence, which included politicians, police officers, military personnel, journalists, trade union and student activists, and NGOs. But their efforts failed. As Correa noted, the methods employed by Swat were «clumsy», and that «it was obvious she was the brains of the CIA in Ecuador». As a result, the Ecuadorian president decided to expel Swat from the country. In July 2009, the US military base in Manta was closed.
US Ambassador Todd Chapman tried to deny the existence of ties between the CIA and Ecuadorian politicians. With some irony, President Correa advised the American ambassador to learn «a little more about how these services work, if he doesn’t know».
Rafael Correa is confident that his country is still in danger of a coup d’état. Some analysts believe that in the end, the CIA’s conspiracy in Ecuador will be led by Mario Pazmino, the former director of Ecuador’s intelligence services. Correa has accused him of concealing strategically vital information regarding the strike that was launched from across the Colombian border on an illegal FARC camp located inside Ecuador. From beginning to end, that attack was planned by the CIA and US military intelligence.
As a result of these disclosures, Ecuador’s compromised intelligence and counterintelligence agencies have been subjected to reforms, a National Intelligence Secretariat has been established, new staff have been recruited, and new, specialized equipment has been installed. All this will make it possible to effectively monitor the organizations that answer to the CIA, such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). It was quickly discovered that Karen Hollihan, an Ecuadorian of German-American descent, had been dispatched to restore the agent network in Ecuador. A man named Fernando Villavicencio worked as an aide to Hollihan. He claims to be a petroleum expert, but his primary activity was denigrating President Correa. Villavicencio was sentenced to 18 months in prison for defamation, but he escaped and now uses the Internet to disseminate articles written by the CIA about corruption in Correa’s government. Another active contact of Hollihan’s is named César Ricaurte, who heads the non-profit organization Fundamedios, which monitors «threats to media freedom» in Ecuador, helping critics of the regime become involved in the CIA’s campaign of exposés.
The NGO Civic Participation (Participación Ciudadana), which specializes in «investigative journalism» authored by the CIA, has received $265,000 just from the NED in the last two years to cover their «current expenses».
The Ecuadorian Mario Ramos, the director of the Andean Center for Strategic Studies, who analyzes US operations against Latin American governments that refuse to toe Washington’s line, noted on TeleSUR that in its subversive activities the CIA sizes up each country before choosing «an appropriate destabilization strategy: economic war, media or psychological warfare, and so on».
Ramos believes that in order to counter such subversive operations, Latin Americans must establish «an integrated defense strategy» that will span the orbits of diplomacy, the military, and finance, and must focus the efforts of their countries’ intelligence services on this task.
The exposure of the CIA’s subversive operations in Ecuador, the parade of TV close-ups of the perpetrators, and the analysis of the catastrophic repercussions for the country resulting from these disloyal activities – this is all proof that Ecuador’s political leaders and security services have reached the necessary conclusions.
The horrific massacre in Orlando has once again thrust the specter of domestic terrorism into the limelight, and into the media space. Pundits and politicians alike have taken the incident as yet another opportunity to thump their chests about the need for even more counter-terrorism legislation, a further increase in surveillance state activity and, of course, more war abroad.
And while such opportunists posture as defenders of the American people, none care to face the inescapable reality that since 9-11, and the introduction of numerous pieces of draconian legislation ostensibly aimed at combatting terrorism, the agencies charged with surveillance and law enforcement have not managed to prevent attacks. Obviously, this raises the question of what exactly legislation such as the PATRIOT Act is really intended for if not to ‘keep Americans safe.’
But even more critical than retrospective criticism of the erosion of civil liberties after nearly a decade and a half of propaganda and fearmongering, is the need to oppose the further expansion of such legislation and domestic spying programs. Indeed, while what were once considered rights are now seen as passé, the US is staring down the barrel of a presidential election where the leading candidates are calling for even more surveillance, expanded government databases, and more billions of dollars to be poured into the NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, and the rest of the alphabet soup that comprises Police State USA.
Clinton, Trump, and Death as Political Currency
In the immediate aftermath of the heinous slaughter in Orlando, the neoconservative-neoliberal chimera known as Hillary Clinton predictably called for an expansion of surveillance and the police state. Less than 48 hours after the attack, in a speech in Cleveland, Clinton proclaimed:
We already know we need more resources for this fight. The professionals who keep us safe would be the first to say we need better intelligence to discover and disrupt terrorist plots before they can be carried out. That’s why I’ve proposed an ‘intelligence surge’ to bolster our capabilities across the board, with appropriate safeguards here at home.
As with all things Hillary, one must carefully deconstruct the statement to unravel the distortions and empty rhetoric, and distill her actual proposal. The first part of her statement is instantly suspect as the US has already grossly inflated its intelligence budget. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the 2017 intelligence budget will reach nearly $70 billion, with $50 billion being spent on the National Intelligence Program (NIP). One would have to seriously question the logic in Clinton’s statement, namely the implied consensus about the need for more resources. How much more exactly will prevent incidents like the one in Orlando? Perhaps another $50 billion would do the trick?
The second fallacy embedded in the torrent of misinformation that is a Hillary Clinton speech excerpt is the specious argument that “better intelligence” would “discover and disrupt terrorist plots before they can be carried out.” This vacuous statement must be dismissed out of hand after one considers the fact that the alleged Orlando killer, Omar Mateen, was investigated, followed, and interviewed by the FBI multiple times (he was also introduced to FBI informants whose responsibility was likely to keep tabs on him).
So, according to Clinton the US should spend tens of billions more dollars to fund the agencies and programs that already have the ability to single out a potential terrorist, do all the leg work to establish contact with him, invest human resources into his case, and yet still be unable to stop his alleged actions. To put it in terms Hillary’s Wall Street patrons would understand: sounds like a bad investment strategy.
The third unmistakably wrongheaded statement (I only selected three sentences, so she’s 3 for 3) is the absolutely odious suggestion of an “intelligence surge” to improve the capabilities of the intelligence community. In fact, what Clinton is actually suggesting is a massive increase in contracts awarded to private intelligence firms and military contractors, though veiling it as a boost to the intelligence community. This fact is made clear by the renowned investigative journalist Tim Shorrock in his 2008 book Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing where he notes that:
In 2006… the cost of America’s spying and surveillance activities outsourced to contractors reached $42 billion, or about 70 percent of the estimated $60 billion the government spends every year on foreign and domestic intelligence. Unfortunately, we cannot know the true extent of outsourcing, for two reasons. First, in 2007, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) refused to release an internal report on contracting out of fear that its disclosure would harm U.S. national security interests. Second, most intelligence contracts are classified, allowing companies like CACI to hide their activities behind a veil of secrecy.
Think about that figure for a second: 70 percent of the intelligence budget goes to outsourcing. In other words, government expenditure on surveillance and intelligence is an indirect subsidy to private corporations. This should come as no surprise considering similar indirect subsidies to energy companies, private mercenaries, and even big retail corporations.
Of course, Clinton knows all this perfectly well. So when she calls for an intelligence surge what she’s actually doing is making clear to her military-industrial-surveillance complex cronies that she will make sure to feed the goose that continues to lay the golden eggs. Just like her speeches to Goldman Sachs served to reassure Wall Street that she was their lady, so too does Clinton use the tragic events in Orlando to give a wink and a nod to Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI International, and the rest.
As with all things Clinton, her words drip with cynicism like her hands drip with the blood of Libyans, Syrians, Iraqis, Serbians, and countless others.
It should be mentioned too that aside from just funding, Clinton undoubtedly represents a further rightward shift in terms of “anti-terror” legislation – the kinds of bills that she’d promote and sign into law as president would be, to put it bluntly, no different than the Bush era bills that she supported such as the PATRIOT Act. As Conor Friedersdorf noted in The Atlantic in 2015:
[Clinton] served in the United States Senate from 2001 to 2009. She cast votes that enabled the very NSA spying that many now regard as a betrayal. And she knew all about what the NSA wasn’t telling the public. To say now that the NSA should’ve been more transparent raises this question: Why wasn’t Clinton among the Democrats working for more transparency?
Friedersdorf is being much too kind with his concluding rhetorical question. Clinton is perhaps one of the most hawkish surveillance state proponents in the US. Her total disregard for even the basic tenets of the US Constitution, let alone domestic or international law, make her not only unfit for office, but a dangerous criminal.
And then of course there’s the trainwreck made flesh, Donald Trump, who with his typically bombastic and utterly vacuous public statements has once again managed to make the criminal Hillary into the “sensible one.” In a speech on Monday June 13, Trump reverted to his usual racist demagogy that is light on actual policy prescriptions and heavy on xenophobia, racism, and outright lies. But in the midst of the Trump madness, there are indeed kernels of policy that should be worrying.
During the speech Trump called, once again, for a ban on Muslim immigration to the US, warning of “major consequences” for the Muslim community in the country. But Trump went further saying, “We have a dysfunctional immigration system, which does not permit us to know who we let into our country, and it does not permit us to protect our citizens properly.” Again, Trump provides no specific policy prescription, but the implication from his statement is an increase in surveillance of citizens domestically, as well as presumably the codification of a deeply racist immigration system which would discriminate based on religion and/or ethnicity.
Trump continued, saying “With these people, folks, it’s coming. We’re importing radical Islamic terrorism into the West through a failed immigration system and through an intelligence community held back by our president.” Here again Trump aligns with Clinton. While supposedly the two are opposed to one another, the fact is that both accept the false assumption that our problems would be solved if only we could just stop “holding back” the intelligence community. Clinton calls for a surge while Trump calls for taking off the training wheels. Sort of like an argument about which is better Pepsi or orange juice.
The Police State Is Not the Answer
While the Demopublican-Republicrat Party continues its political posturing, the assumptions that both have internalized are what need to be excised from the body politic. It is patently absurd to call for more surveillance in a country where, thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know the following:
- The PRISM program allows “The National Security Agency and the FBI [to tap] directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs.” According to cybersecurity experts PRISM uses obviously illegal tactics to “circumvent formal legal processes… to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos.”
- The BLARNEY system is utilized extensively. According to former AT&T technician Mark Klein and former Senior Advisor for Internet Technology at the FCC Scott Marcus, “Using a device called a ‘splitter’ a complete copy of the internet traffic that AT&T receives… is diverted onto a separate fiber-optic cable which is connected to a room which is controlled by the NSA.” Therefore, unlike PRISM, which the government and its apologists attempt to justify as being used to target key individuals, BLARNEY has no such capacity. Rather, it is designed solely to collect data, all internet data, to be used and likely stored.
- The NSA has constructed enormous data storage facilities such as the Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. As one top security official told Wired, “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”
Naturally, there is not nearly enough space here to detail all of the myriad surveillance programs. But, taking them together with what we know of government funding to private intelligence firms, how could anyone rightly argue that surveillance should be increased? If anything, the enormous expenditure has proven utterly useless.
Indeed, the legal framework developed in the post-9/11 era including draconian legislation such as the PATRIOT Act, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and many others, laid the foundation for the systemic and systematic stripping away of civil liberties and human rights. The technical infrastructure has been steadily evolving since 9/11 as technology continues to improve, providing the intelligence agencies with ever more tools for surveillance and intelligence gathering. The continued, unrestrained neoliberal policy of privatization has created a complex network of companies, contractors, and subcontractors, usually working independently of each other, all in the service of the security state. Finally, the political landscape in the United States has so thoroughly devolved that elected officials are more concerned about stopping the whistleblowers and leakers, than about addressing America’s continued descent into a fascist police state.
Such is the state of the union in 2016. And while the aspiring Mass Murderer-in-Chief Clinton continues to attack the political snake-charmer Trump, and The Donald does what The Donald does, the bodies of 50 innocent people are being laid to rest. Must the values and freedoms that the US allegedly once stood for also be buried?
As predicted, the FBI is revealed to have approached Orlando shooting suspect Omar Mateen in 2013 with informants posing as terrorists in an attempt to “lure” him into participating in a terrorist attack.
USA Today’s TC Palm reports in an article titled, “Exclusive: PGA Village residents want answers from security firm,” that (emphasis added):
The FBI launched an investigation into Mateen after Sheriff’s Office officials reported the incident to the agency. As part of its investigation, the FBI examined Mateen’s travel history, phone records, acquaintances and even planted a confidential informant in the courthouse to “lure Omar into some kind of act and Omar did not bite,” Mascara said. The FBI concluded Mateen was not a threat after that, Mascara said.
This is in line with the FBI’s practice of approaching and entrapping potential terror suspects by posing as terrorists themselves and aiding and abetting them in the planning and preparations for high-profile attacks. These undercover operations include everything from “casing out” potential targets, to the obtaining and training with actual, live explosives, to the purchasing of small arsenals of firearms including the sort of semi-automatic rifles and pistols used by Mateen during the Orlando shooting.
In addition to the FBI’s undercover operation, it is now also revealed that Mateen frequented the website of another FBI/CIA informant, Marcus Dwayne Roberson, a former US Marine, turned bank robber, turned US government informant.
While US politicians, law enforcement officials, and media networks attempt to claim Robertson’s extremist website, the Timbuktu Seminary, was his own independent project, the extent of his association with the US government makes this difficult, if not impossible to believe. Instead, it appears to be the perfect mechanism to feed the FBI’s entrapment pipeline, attracting and identifying possible suspects for the FBI to then approach and “investigate.”
The National Review’s article, “The Orlando Jihadist and the Blind Sheikh’s Bodyguard,” would report (emphasis added):
According to Fox News, Omar Mateen, the jihadist who carried out the mass-murder attack at a gay nightclub in Florida this weekend, was a student of Marcus Robertson, an Orlando-based radical Muslim who once served as a bodyguard to Omar Abdel Rahman — the notorious “Blind Sheikh” whom I prosecuted for terrorism crimes in the early to mid 1990s.
The National Review also reported that (emphasis added):
In Robertson’s case, it is reported that he agreed to work for the government, gathering intelligence both overseas and in the United States. According to Fox, however, he was expelled from the covert informant program in early 2007 after attacking his CIA handler in Africa.
But Robertson’s stint with the CIA was not the only time he would work for the US government after his service in the US Marine Corps. The National Review leaves out the fact that before his dismissal from the CIA, he was an informant for the FBI between 2004 and 2007.
The Daily Beast in its article, “Was Orlando Shooter Omar Mateen Inspired by This Bank-Robbing Ex-Marine?,” would report (emphasis added):
“Plaintiff worked as a covert operator for the FBI Terrorist Task Force from 2004 until 2007, performing operations in the United Sates and internationally with and against suspected and known terrorist organizations,” Robertson says in court papers.
Robertson remained in touch with American law enforcement and intelligence officials when he moved back to the United States, according to court papers filed by his attorney, “served as a confidential source in domestic terrorism investigations from Atlanta to Los Angeles.”
Is the American public expected to believe that a US government asset who received special training in the military and served as an informant and operative for both the FBI and the CIA would somehow, suddenly be allowed to drop off the US government’s radar and be allowed to run an extremist website in the United States?
Image: How far do undercover FBI investigations go? How about building a van-bomb for a suspect after taking him to a public park to detonate real explosives? The FBI’s own affidavit reveals that is precisely what FBI informants did while investigating Portland, Oregon terror suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud. Did the FBI’s attempts to lure the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, into committing a terror attack contribute in his radicalization? The FBI must answer to this.
Indeed, no American should believe this. Robertson was step one in Omar Mateen – the Orlando shooter’s – radicalization. The FBI’s attempt to pose as terrorists to lure Mateen into going along with a terrorist attack was step two. Though the FBI has so far failed to disclose the details of that investigation, comments made by FBI Director James Comey himself indicate that FBI informants may have worked on Mateen for up to 10 months.
Between exposure to Robertson’s extremist propaganda, honed after years of working as an informant and operative identifying and exposing terror suspects, and the FBI’s own informants over the course of months, if not years, it is clear that the US government and its “counterterrorism” measures radicalized Mateen – not “ISIS.”
The Guardian in its article, “CIA has not found any link between Orlando killer and Isis, says agency chief,” further highlights this blatant truth by reporting (emphasis added):
The Central Intelligence Agency chief has not been “able to uncover any link” between Orlando killer Omar Mateen and the Islamic State, despite Mateen’s stated allegiance to the jihadist group during Sunday’s LGBT nightclub massacre.
If Omar Mateen was a “homegrown terrorist,” the FBI served as the gardeners.
The American public must now demand the details of the FBI’s undercover work regarding Omar Mateen, as well as the truth behind any enduring ties between Robertson and the US government. If Robertson has no connections with the US government, an explanation as to why he is allowed to operate an extremist website on American soil must be provided.
For political and ideological opportunists attempting to seize upon the Orlando tragedy to uphold an example of “Islamic extremism,” it is especially ironic that the facts indicate that the act of terrorism was entirely divorced from “Islam,” and instead the result of America’s ongoing view of terrorism as a convenient and versatile geopolitical tool, rather than a threat to genuinely combat.
That quite literally every aspect that contributed to Omar Mateen’s radicalization is directly connected to the US government itself, illustrates just who the real threat is that American’s should fear – the threat within the halls of its own government – not “terrorists” dwelling beyond them.
By now everybody knows that former Senator Bob Kerrey led a seven-member team of Navy Seals into Thanh Phong village in February 1969, and murdered in cold blood more than a dozen women and children.
What hardly anyone knows, and what no one in the press is talking about (although many of them know), is that Kerrey was on a CIA mission, and its specific purpose was to destroy that village of civilian peasants. It was illegal, premeditated mass murder and it was a war crime.
And it’s time to hold the CIA responsible. It’s time for a war crimes tribunal to examine the CIA’s illegal activities during and since the Vietnam War.
War Crimes As Policy
War crimes were a central part of CIA strategy for fighting the Vietnam War. The strategy was known as Contre Coup, and it was the manifestation of a belief that the war was essentially political, not military, in nature. The CIA theorized that it was being fought by opposing ideological factions, each one amounting to about five percent of the total population, while the remaining ninety percent was uncommitted and wanted the war to go away.
According to the CIA’s mythology, on one side were communist insurgents, supported by comrades in Hanoi, Moscow and Peking. The communists fought for land reform, to rid Vietnam of foreign intervention, and to unite the north and south. The other faction was composed of capitalists, often Catholics relocated from North Vietnam in 1954 by the CIA. This faction was fighting to keep South Vietnam an independent nation, operating under the direction of quiet Americans.
Caught in the crossfire was the silent majority. The object shared by both factions was to win these undecided voters over to its side.
Contre Coup was the CIA’s response to the realization that the Communists were winning the war for the hearts and minds of the people. It also was a response to the belief that they were winning through the use of psychological warfare, specifically, selective terror ? the murder and mutilation of specific government officials.
In December 1963, Peer DeSilva arrived in Saigon as the CIA’s station chief. He claims to have been shocked by what he saw. In his autobiography, SubRosa, DeSilva describes how the VC had “impaled a young boy, a village chief, and his pregnant wife on sharp poles. To make sure this horrible sight would remain with the villagers, one of the terror squad used his machete to disembowel the woman, spilling he fetus onto the ground.”
“The Vietcong,” DeSilva said, “were monstrous in the application of torture and murder to achieve the political and psychological impact they wanted.”
But the methodology was successful and had tremendous intelligence potential, so DeSilva authorized the creation of small “counter-terror teams,” designed “to bring danger and death to the Vietcong functionaries themselves, especially in areas where they felt secure.”
How Counter-Terror Worked In Vietnam
Thanh Phong village was one of those areas where Vietcong functionaries felt secure. It was located in Kien Hoa Province, along the Mekong Delta. One of Vietnam’s most densely populated provinces, Kien Hoa was precariously close to Saigon, and is criss-crossed with waterways and rice paddies. It was an important rice production area for the insurgents as well as the Government of Vietnam, and thus was one of the eight most heavily infiltrated provinces in Vietnam. The estimated 4700 VC functionaries in Kien Hoa accounted for more than five percent of the insurgency’s total leadership. Operation Speedy Express, a Ninth Infantry sweep through Kien Hoa in the first six months of 1969, killed an estimated 11,000 civilians-supposedly VC sympathizers.
These functionaries formed what the CIA called the Vietcong Infrastructure (VCI). The VCI consisted of members of the People’s Revolutionary Party, the National Liberation Front, and other Communist outfits like the Women’s and Student’s Liberation Associations. Its members were politicians and administrators managing committees for business, communications, security, intelligence, and military affairs. Among their main functions were the collection of taxes, the recruitment of young men and women into the insurgency, and the selective assassination of GVN officials.
As the CIA was well aware, Ho Chi Minh boasted that with two cadre in every hamlet, he could win the war, no matter how many soldiers the Americans threw at him.
So the CIA adopted Ho’s strategy-but on a grander and bloodier scale. The object of Contre Coup was to identify and terrorize each and every individual VCI and his/her family, friends and fellow villagers. To this end the CIA in 1964 launched a massive intelligence operation called the Provincial Interrogation Center Program. The CIA (employing the US company Pacific Architects and Engineers) built an interrogation center in each of South Vietnam’s 44 provinces. Staffed by members of the brutal Special Police, who ran extensive informant networks, and advised by CIA officers, the purpose of the PICs was to identify, through the systematic “interrogation” (read torture) of VCI suspects, the membership of the VCI at every level of its organization; from its elusive headquarters somewhere along the Cambodian border, through the region, city, province, district, village and hamlet committees.
The “indispensable link” in the VCI was the District Party Secretary–the same individual Bob Kerrey’s Seal team was out to assassinate in its mission in Thanh Phong.
Initially the CIA had trouble finding people who were willing to murder and mutilate, so the Agency’s original “counter-terror teams” were composed of ex-convicts, VC defectors, Chinese Nungs, Cambodians, Montagnards, and mercenaries. In a February 1970 article written for True Magazine, titled “The CIA’s Hired Killers,” Georgie-Anne Geyer compared “our boys” to “their boys” with the qualification that, “Their boys did it for faith; our boys did it for money.”
The other big problem was security. The VC had infiltrated nearly every facet of the GVN-even the CIA’s unilateral counter-terror program. So in an attempt to bring greater effectiveness to its secret war, the CIA started employing Navy Seals, US Army Special Forces, Force Recon Marines, and other highly trained Americans who, like Bob Kerrey, were “motivationally indoctrinated” by the military and turned into killing machines with all the social inhibitions and moral compunctions of a Timothy McVeigh. Except they were secure in the knowledge that what they were doing was, if not legal or moral, fraught with Old Testament-style justice, rationalizing that the Viet Cong did it first.
Eventually the irrepressible Americans added their own improvements. In his autobiography Soldier, Anthony Herbert describes arriving in Saigon in 1965, reporting to the CIA’s Special Operations Group, and being asked to join a top-secret psywar program. What the CIA wanted Herbert to do, “was to take charge of execution teams that wiped out entire families.”
By 1967, killing entire families had become an integral facet of the CIA’s counter-terror program. Robert Slater was the chief of the CIA’s Province Interrogation Center Program from June 1967 through 1969. In a March 1970 thesis for the Defense Intelligence School, titled “The History, Organization and Modus Operandi of the Viet Cong Infrastructure,” Slater wrote, “the District Party Secretary usually does not sleep in the same house or even hamlet where his family lived, to preclude any injury to his family during assassination attempts.”
But, Slater added, “the Allies have frequently found out where the District Party Secretaries live and raided their homes: in an ensuing fire fight the secretary’s wife and children have been killed and injured.”
This is the intellectual context in which the Kerrey atrocity took place. This CIA strategy of committing war crimes for psychological reasons? to terrorize the enemy’s supporters into submission–also is what differentiates Kerrey’s atrocity, in legal terms, from other popular methods of mass murdering civilians, such as bombs from the sky, or economic boycotts.
Yes, the CIA has a global, illegal strategy of terrorizing people, although in typical CIA lexicon it’s called “anti-terrorism.”
When you’re waging illegal warfare, language is every bit as important as weaponry and the will to kill. As George Orwell or Noam Chomsky might explain, when you’re deliberately killing innocent women and children, half the court-of-public-opinion battle is making it sound legal.
Three Old Vietnam Hands in particular stand out as examples of this incestuous relationship. Neil Sheehan, CIA-nik and author of the aptly titled Bright Shining Lie, recently confessed that in 1966 he saw US soldiers massacre as many as 600 Vietnamese civilians in five fishing villages. He’d been in Vietnam for three years by then, but it didn’t occur to him that he had discovered a war crime. Now he realizes that the war crimes issue was always present, but still no mention of his friends in the CIA.
Former New York Times reporter and author of The Best and The Brightest, David Halberstam, defended Kerrey on behalf of the media establishment at the New School campus the week after the story broke. Halberstam described the region around Thanh Phong as “the purest bandit country,” adding that “by 1969 everyone who lived there would have been third-generation Vietcong.” Which is CIA revisionism at its sickest.
Finally there’s New York Times reporter James Lemoyne. Why did he never write any articles linking the CIA to war crimes in Vietnam–perhaps because his brother Charles, a Navy officer, was in charge of the CIA’s counter-terror teams in the Delta in 1968.
Phoenix Comes To Thanh Phong
The CIA launched its Phoenix Program in June 1967, after 13 years of tinkering with several experimental counter-terror and psywar programs, and building its network of secret interrogation centers. The stated policy was to replace the bludgeon of indiscriminate bombings and military search and destroy operations–which had alienated the people from the Government of Vietnam–with the scalpel of assassinations of selected members of the Viet Cong Infrastructure.
A typical Phoenix operation began in a Province Interrogation Center where a suspected member of the VCI was brought for questioning. After a few days or weeks or months undergoing various forms of torture, the VCI suspect would die or give the name and location of his VCI comrades and superiors. That information would be sent from the Interrogation Center to the local Phoenix office, which was staffed by Special Branch and Vietnamese military officers under the supervision of CIA officers. Depending on the suspected importance of the targeted VCI, the Phoenix people would then dispatch one of the various action arms available to it, including Seal teams like the one Bob Kerrey led into Thanh Phong.
In February 1969, the Phoenix Program was still under CIA control. But because Kien Hoa Province was so important, and because the VCI’s District Party Secretary was supposedly in Thanh Phong, the CIA decided to handle this particular assassination and mass murder mission without involving the local Vietnamese. So instead of dispensing the local counter-terror team, the CIA sent Kerrey’s Raiders.
And that, very simply, is how it happened. Kerrey and crew admittedly went to Thanh Phong to kill the District Party Secretary, and anyone else who got in the way, including his family and all their friends.
Phoenix Comes Home To Roost
By 1969 the CIA, through Phoenix, was targeting individual VCI and their families all across Vietnam. Over 20,000 people were assassinated by the end of the year and hundreds of thousands had been tortured in Province Interrogation Centers.
On 20 June 1969, the Lower House of the Vietnamese Congress held hearings about abuses in the Phoenix VCI elimination program. Eighty-six Deputies signed a petition calling for its immediate termination. Among the charges: Special Police knowingly arrested innocent people for the purpose of extortion; people were detained for as long as eight months before being tried; torture was commonplace. Noting that it was illegal to do so, several deputies protested instances in which American troops detained or murdered suspects without Vietnamese authority. Others complained that village chiefs were not consulted before raids, such as the one on Thanh Phong.
After an investigation in 1970, four Congresspersons concluded that the CIA’s Phoenix Program violated international law. “The people of these United States,” they jointly stated, “have deliberately imposed upon the Vietnamese people a system of justice which admittedly denies due process of law,” and that in doing so, “we appear to have violated the 1949 Geneva Convention for the protection of civilian people.”
During the hearings, U.S. Representative Ogden Reid said, “if the Union had had a Phoenix program during the Civil War, its targets would have been civilians like Jefferson Davis or the mayor of Macon, Georgia.”
But the American establishment and media denied it then, and continue to deny it until today, because Phoenix was a genocidal program — and the CIA officials, members of the media who were complicit through their silence, and the red-blooded American boys who carried it out, are all war criminals. As Michael Ratner a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights told CounterPunch: “Kerrey should be tried as a war criminal. His actions on the night of February 24-25, 1969 when the seven man Navy Seal unit which he headed killed approximately twenty unarmed Vietnamese civilians, eighteen of whom were women and children was a war crime. Like those who murdered at My Lai, he too should be brought into the dock and tried for his crimes.”
Phoenix, alas, also was fiendishly effective and became a template for future CIA operations. Developed in Vietnam and perfected with the death squads and media blackout of Afghanistan and El Salvador, it is now employed by the CIA around the world: in Colombia, in Kosovo, in Ireland with the British MI6, and in Israel with its other kindred spirit, the Mossad.
The paymasters at the Pentagon will keep cranking out billion dollar missile defense shields and other Bush league boondoggles. But when it comes to making the world safe for international capitalism, the political trick is being more of a homicidal maniac, and more cost effective, than the terrorists.
Incredibly, Phoenix has become fashionable, it has acquired a kind of political cachet. Governor Jesse Ventura claims to have been a Navy Seal and to have “hunted man.” Fanatical right-wing US Representative Bob Barr, one of the Republican impeachment clique, has introduced legislation to “re-legalize” assassinations. David Hackworth, representing the military establishment, defended Kerrey by saying “there were thousands of such atrocities,” and that in 1969 his own unit committed “at least a dozen such horrors.” Jack Valenti, representing the business establishment and its financial stake in the issue, defended Kerrey in the LA Times, saying, “all the normalities (sic) of a social contract are abandoned,” in war.
A famous Phoenix operation, known as the My Lai Massacre, was proceeding along smoothly, with a grand total of 504 Vietnamese women and children killed, when a soldier named Hugh Thompson in a helicopter gunship saw what was happening. Risking his life to preserve that “social contract,” Thomson landed his helicopter between the mass murderers and their victims, turned his machine guns on his fellow Americans, and brought the carnage to a halt.
Same with screenwriter and journalist Bill Broyles, Vietnam veteran, and author of Brothers in Arms, an excellent book about the Vietnam War. Broyles turned in a bunch of his fellow Marines for killing civilians.
If Thompson and Broyles were capable of taking individual responsibility, everyone is. And many did.
There is no doubt that Bob Kerrey committed a war crime. As he admits, he went to Vietnam with a knife clenched between his teeth and did what he was trained to do ? kidnap, assassinate and mass murder civilians. But there was no point to his atrocity as he soon learned, no controlling legal authority. He became a conflicted individual. He remembers that they killed women and children. But he thinks they came under fire first, before they panicked and started shooting back. The fog of war clouds his memory
But there isn’t that much to forget. Thanh Phong was Kerrey’s first mission, and on his second mission a grenade blew off his foot, abruptly ending his military career.
Plus which there are plenty of other people to remind Kerrey of what happened, if anyone will listen. There’s Gerhard Klann, the Seal who disputes Kerrey’s account, and two Vietnamese survivors of the raid, Pham Tri Lanh and Bui Thi Luam, both of whom corroborate Klann’s account, as does a veteran Viet Cong soldier, Tran Van Rung.
As CBS News was careful to point out, the Vietnamese were former VC and thus hostile witnesses and because there were slight inconsistencies in their stories, they could not be believed. Klann became the target of Kerrey’s pr machine, which dismissed as an alcoholic with a chip on his shoulder.
Then there is John DeCamp. An army captain in Vietnam, DeCamp worked for the organization under CIA executive William Colby that ostensibly managed Phoenix after the CIA let it go in June 1969. DeCamp was elected to the Nebraska State Senate and served until 1990. A Republican, he claims that Kerrey led an anti-war march on the Nebraska state capitol in May 1971. DeCamp claims that Kerrey put a medal, possibly his bronze star, in a mock coffin, and said, “Viet Cong or North Vietnamese troops are angelic compared with the ruthless Americans.”
Kerrey claims he was in Peru visiting his brother that day. But he definitely accepted his Medal of Honor from Richard Nixon on 14 May 1970, a mere ten days after the Ohio National guard killed four student protestors at Kent State. With that badge of honor pinned on his chest, Kerrey began walking the gilded road to success. Elected Governor of Nebraska in November 1982, he started dating Deborah Winger, became a celebrity hero, was elected to the US Senate, became vice-chair of Senate Committee on Intelligence, and in 1990 staged a run for president. One of the most highly regarded politicians in America, he showered self-righteous criticism on draft dodger Bill Clinton’s penchant for lying.
Bob Kerrey is a symbol of what it means to be an American, and the patriots have rallied to his defense. And yet Kerrey accepted a bronze star under false pretenses, and as John DeCamp suggests, he may have been fragged by his fellow Seals. For this, he received the Medal of Honor.
John DeCamp calls Bob Kerrey “emotionally disturbed” as a result of his Vietnam experience.
And Kerrey’s behavior has been pathetic. In order to protect himself and his CIA patrons from being tried as a war criminals, Bob Kerrey has become a pathological liar too. Kerrey says his actions at Than Phong were an atrocity, but not a war crime. He says he feels remorse, but not guilt. In fact, he has continually rehabbed his position on the war itself-moving from an opponent to more recently an enthusiast. In a 1999 column in the Washington Post, for example, Kerrey said he had come to view that Vietnam was a “just war. “Was the war worth the effort and sacrifice, or was it a mistake?” Kerrey wrote. “When I came home in 1969 and for many years afterward, I did not believe it was worth it. Today, with the passage of time and the experience of seeing both the benefits of freedom won by our sacrifice and the human destruction done by dictatorships, I believe the cause was just and the sacrifice not in vain.” Then at the Democratic Party Convention in Los Angeles last summer Kerrey lectured the delegates that they shouldn’t be ashamed of the war and that they should treat Vietnam veterans as war heroes: “I believe I speak for Max Baucus and every person who has ever served when I say I never felt more free than when I wore the uniform of our country. This country – this party – must remember.” Free? Free to murder women and children. Is this a consciousness of guilt or immunity?
CBS News also participated in constructing a curtain of lies. As does every other official government or media outlet that knows about the CIA’s Phoenix Program, which continues to exist and operate worldwide today, but fails to mention it.
Because if the name of one targeted Viet Cong cadre can be obtained, then all the names can be obtained, and then a war crimes trial becomes imperative. And that’s the last thing the Establishment will allow to happen.
Average Americans, however, consider themselves a nation ruled by laws and an ethic of fair play, and with the Kerry confession comes an opportunity for America to redefine itself in more realistic terms. The discrepancies in his story beg investigation. He says he was never briefed on the rules of engagement. But a “pocket card” with the Laws of Land Warfare was given to each member of the US Armed Forces in Vietnam.
Does it matter that Kerrey would lie about this? Yes. General Bruce Palmer, commander of the same Ninth Division that devastated Kien Koa Province in 1969, objected to the “involuntary assignment” of American soldiers to Phoenix. He did not believe that “people in uniform, who are pledged to abide by the Geneva Conventions, should be put in the position of having to break those laws of warfare.”
It was the CIA that forced soldiers like Kerrey into Phoenix operations, and the hidden hand of the CIA lingers over his war crime. Kerrey even uses the same rationale offered by CIA officer DeSilva. According to Kerrey, “the Viet Cong were a thousand per cent more ruthless than” the Seals or U.S. Army.
But the Geneva Conventions, customary international law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice all prohibit the killing of noncombatant civilians. The alleged brutality of others is no justification. By saying it is, Kerrey implicates the people who generated that rationale: the CIA. That is why there is a moral imperative to scrutinize the Phoenix Program and the CIA officers who created it, the people who participated in it, and the journalists who covered it up ? to expose the dark side of our national psyche, the part that allows us to employ terror to assure our world dominance.
To accomplish this there must be a war crimes tribunal. This won’t be easy. The US government has gone to great lengths to shield itself from such legal scrutiny, at the same it selectively manipulates international institutions, such as the UN, to go after people like Slobodan Milosevic.
According to human rights lawyer Michael Ratner the legal avenues for bringing Kerrey and his cohorts to justice are quite limited. A civil suit could be lodged against Kerrey by the families of the victims brought in the United States under the Alien Tort Claims Act. “These are the kinds of cases I did against Gramajo, Pangaitan (Timor),” Ratner told us. “The main problem here is that it is doubtful the Vietnamese would sue a liberal when they are dying to better relations with the US. I would do this case if could get plaintiffs–so far no luck.” According to Ratner, there is no statute of limitations problem as it is newly discovered evidence and there is a stron argument particularly in the criminal context that there is no statute of limitations for war crimes.
But criminal cases in the US present a difficult, if not impossible, prospect. Now that Kerrey is discharged from the Navy, the military courts, which went after Lt. Calley for the My Lai massacre, has no jurisdiction over him. “As to criminal case in the US–my pretty answer is no,” says Ratner. “The US first passed a war crimes statute (18 USC sec. 2441 War Crimes) in 1996–that statute makes what Kerrey did a war crime punishable by death of life imprisonment–but it was passed after the crime and criminal statutes are not retroactive.” In 1988, Congress enacted a statute against genocide, which was might apply to Kerrey’s actions, but it to can’t be applied retroactively. Generally at the time of Kerrey’s acts in Vietnam, US criminal law did not extend to what US citizens did overseas unless they were military.
[As a senator, Kerrey, it should be noted, voted for the war crimes law, thus opening the opportunity for others to be prosecuted for crimes similar to those he that committed but is shielded from.]
The United Nations is a possibility, but a long shot. They could establish an ad hoc tribunal such as it did with the Rwanda ICTR and Yugoslavia ICTY. “This would require action by UN Security council could do it, but what are the chances?” says Ratner. “There is still the prospect for a US veto What that really points out is how those tribunals are bent toward what the US and West want.”
Prosecution in Vietnam and or another country and extradition is also a possibility. It can be argued that war crimes are crimes over which there is universal jurisdiction–in fact that is obligation of countries-under Geneva Convention of 1948–to seek out and prosecute war criminals. “Universal jurisdiction does not require the presence of the defendant–he can be indicted and tried in some countries in absentia–or his extradition can be requested”, says Ratner. “Some countries may have statutes permitting this. Kerrey should check his travel plans and hire a good lawyer before he gets on a plane. He can use Kissinger’s lawyer.”
The judge in charge of military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay allegedly colluded with prosecutors to hide evidence that supported the defense of suspected 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “irreparably” harming his case, according to a court document obtained by the Guardian on Tuesday.
The accusation could be the impetus to reform the highly controversial tribunals at the U.S. military prison in Cuba altogether, according to Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham University Law School’s Center on National Security.
“This may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in underscoring the unviability of the military commissions,” Greenberg told the Guardian.
According to the recently unsealed defense filing, Army Colonel James Pohl “in concert with the prosecution, manipulated secret proceedings and the use of secret orders.”
Pohl’s actions prevented Mohammed’s attorneys from learning that evidence in his defense had been destroyed, the document alleges.
“First they tell us they will not show us the evidence, but they will show our lawyers. Now, they don’t even show the lawyers,” Mohammed is quoted in the filing as saying. “Why don’t they just kill us?”
It is unclear what evidence Pohl and the prosecutors hid. However, as the Guardian reports:
[O]n 19 December 2013, Pohl ordered the US to “ensure the preservation of any overseas detention facilities still within the control of the United States” – a reference to the secret “black site” prisons where the CIA and its allies tortured Mohammed and his co-defendants.
According to the defense filing, six months after Pohl issued an evidence-preservation order at the defense’s behest and over the prosecution’s objections, the judge “authorized the government to destroy the evidence in question”. Pohl’s reversal of course was “the result of secret communications between the government and Judge Pohl, which he conducted without the knowledge of defense counsel”, the motion asserts.
Mohammed’s attorneys say the prosecution “belatedly” gave them a version of Pohl’s destruction order “by attaching it to another secret order,” and said that “without benefit of ever having examined the actual evidence, that the government’s proffer or a summary of a substitute for the original (now destroyed) evidence provided the defense with an adequate alternative to access to the evidence in question.”
The destruction of the evidence “irreparably harmed” Mohammed’s defense and “call[s] into question Judge Pohl’s impartiality,” his attorneys said.
The Guardian continues:
The current military commission is the second Mohammed and his co-defendants face. They were initially charged in 2008, but that commission was voided after Barack Obama launched an ultimately doomed 2010 effort to move the trial to civilian court. In the interim, Obama and Congress passed an overhaul of the military commissions in an effort to bolster their credibility against the charge of ad-hoc justice.
Greenberg added, “Remember, a main reason they couldn’t have this [trial] in federal court was that it would have been such a circus. And now you have a full-blown circus, with judicial and every other kind of misstepping.”
Irene Gendzier makes two main claims about US Middle East policy in the late 1940s in her book Dying to Forget. Oil, Power, Palestine and the Foundations of U.S. Policy in the Middle East. One is that there was no contradiction between US support for Zionism and its goal of establishing a Jewish state in Arab Palestine, and US interest in the region’s oil reserves. This claim is based on heretofore unexamined contacts between Max Ball, who headed the Oil and Gas Division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and Eliahu Epstein, Washington representative of the Jewish Agency, the Jewish state in the making in Palestine. Gendzier argues that these contacts, outside official foreign policy, enabled the Jewish Agency to address US concerns about the impact of Zionism on US oil interests, and to insert its arguments into the discussion in the Truman White House. The “encounter between Max Ball and Eliahu Epstein in 1948 forms the basis of the ‘oil connection’ discussed in this book. The encounter. . . revealed that major U.S. oil executives were pragmatic in their approach to the Palestine conflict and were prepared to engage with the Jewish Agency and later with Israeli officials, albeit within existing constraints.” (xxi)
The second is that Israel’s military prowess in the 1948 war showed the Pentagon that Israel had changed the regional balance of power, and should be included in US military planning, and oriented toward the West and away from the Soviet Union. The USSR had supported partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, and Czechoslovakia in the emerging Soviet bloc had supplied Israel with arms. These “strategic” concerns about Israel’s potential role, Gendzier claims, outweighed US concerns for the effects of the war that established Israel: the destruction of Arab Palestine, the creation of a large refugee population, the antagonism of the Arab world, and potential “instability,” the hegemon’s bugbear, with consequences for US interests. The Pentagon’s judgment about Israel’s military ability has been noted by other writers, but Gendzier makes stronger claims. These “strategic reasons,” she argues, “undermined Washington’s critical position on Israeli policy toward refugee repatriation and territorial expansion. These vital factors in the conflict between Israel-Palestine and the Arab world thereby assumed a subordinate position.” (xxii)
Here, then, is the logic of U.S. oil policy, which was responsible for the increasing deference to Israeli policies whose purpose was to ensure that Israel turned toward the United States and away from the USSR. This objective, in turn, was allied to Washington’s principal goal in the Middle East—protection of its untrammeled access and control of oil. (xxii)
Observers of US politics recognize the US-Israel “special relationship,” and the “strategic asset” and “Israel Lobby” conceptions of it. The “asset” concept holds that the relationship expresses fundamental “US interests” that are independent of any Lobby influence, that the Lobby is powerful only when it promotes those interests. The Lobby proponents see a quasi-sovereign force capable of defining or undermining US interests. This book is clearly intended to enhance the “strategic asset” view.
The first chapter is entitled “The Primacy of Oil,” and “oil” is a primary, even the dominant theme of the book. For all this emphasis, Gendzier does not fully address the nexus of US oil interests, Zionism, and Arab resistance. She overlooks pre-war Arab and oil industry opposition, an “oil connection” that predates hers, and doesn’t do justice to the Trans-Arabia Pipeline (Tapline), a key postwar project and US policy instrument. She depicts a natural, inevitable synthesis of Zionism and US oil interests that was disproven by events she omits.
In 1933 Saudia Arabia awarded an oil concession to Standard Oil of California, through a subsidiary, California Arabian Standard Oil Company, Casoc. Standard of California was eventually joined by three other major US oil companies. In 1938 oil in commercial quantities was found. The Saudi monarch, Abd al Aziz ibn Saud, decided to award another concession, and Casoc again won the bidding.
The potential conflict between American support for Zionism and US oil interests arose in 1936 and later, following increased Jewish immigration to Palestine, and ruthless British suppression of the Palestinian Arab revolt against British rule. This elicited strong protest, from Arabs to US diplomats, from at least one oil industry executive, and from King Saud himself. “King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia made an eloquent appeal to President Roosevelt in a letter of November 29  criticizing the main points in the Zionist argument and pleading for justice for the Palestinian Arabs on the basis of self-determination.” Gendzier omits all of this.
World War II consolidated the position of Casoc and the US in Saudi Arabia, against potential British influence. The US extended Lend-Lease to Saudi Arabia to ease the financial crisis of the war, upgraded its diplomatic representation, and developed an air base at Dhahran near the oil fields. Casoc renamed itself Arabian American Oil Company, Aramco, and expanded the small oil refinery it had built.
Building a pipeline from the oil fields in eastern Saudi Arabia to the eastern Mediterranean was discussed during the war. Postwar, the Trans-Arabian Pipeline (Tapline) became a major instrument of US policy; it would support Saudi Arabia, assist the economies of the transit countries, fuel the recovery in western Europe, enhance “stability,” diminish Soviet influence, and profit the oil companies. Tapline was delayed and almost cancelled due to political complications in the Middle East, and also, despite its strategic importance, in the US.
The direct pipeline route led through Jordan and Palestine to the oil refinery and tanker terminal at Haifa, which was precluded by emphatic opposition from King Saud. The alternative led through Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Terms were readily agreed with the Christian Maronite government in Lebanon, and with King Abdullah in Jordan, despite strong public opposition to Zionism.
In Syria, opposition was stronger still, but agreement was reached in September, 1947, after intervention by the CIA, Aramco, King Saud and US diplomats. Parliamentary ratification was suspended after the UN partition resolution in November, when a crowd of 2,000 stormed the US Embassy in Damascus, and snipers fired on Aramco survey teams. In February, 1948, the Arab League “prohibited its members from granting any new Western oil concessions ‘until the Palestine situation was clarified.’” Moreover, Arab League officials “were ‘studying nationalization precedents’ and claimed that even ‘Ibn Saud, in case of a showdown, would not oppose any oil resolutions, even suspension of American oil operations, if faced with united front of all Arab states.’”
The US steel export license needed for the pipe subjected Tapline to the opposition of the domestic oil companies. Executive departments approved licenses, but in late 1947 Congress began three months of hearings over allegations that Aramco overcharged the US Navy during the war, and that the pipeline would ruin the domestic oil industry. As violence in Palestine escalated prior to the British withdrawal in May, 1948, followed by the Arab-Israeli war, congressional critics asked why licenses for export to an unsettled region seething with anti-Americanism should be granted, when steel was urgently needed elsewhere. By mid-year, “some American officials doubted that the project would ever be completed, and others worried that the stalemate would play into the hands of the Kremlin, which was rumored to have designs on Saudi petroleum.”
Tapline finally cleared US politics, but a pipeline route was obtained in Syria only after the CIA, in March, 1949, engineered a coup. Zionism had forced the re-routing of Tapline, increased the cost, and held up completion by twenty months. Gendzier mentions the coup, but omits the US political wrangle, including American Zionism’s initial opposition to Tapline.
American Zionists were preternaturally sensitive to their potential conflict with US oil interests. In July, 1942, Emmanuel Neumann of the American Zionist Emergency Committee met with State Department officials. In November, 1943, Nahum Goldmann, of the Zionist Organization of America, met with Harold Ickes, Roosevelt’s wartime oil czar. In October, 1945, Eliahu Epstein, Washington representative of the Jewish Agency, met with Arthur G. Newmayer, public relations director of Standard of New Jersey. In 1946, Zionist officials met with James Terry Duce, vice-president of Aramco. In these meetings, the Zionist officials
voiced concern about the strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia that could push the Zionist movement outside the circle of America’s strategic interests. They stressed the importance of a strong and stable Jewish state, given the loyalty of the Jewish community in Palestine to allied interests during the war. Moreover, they denied categorically that a pro-Zionist policy would harm the status of American oil companies in the Middle East; because oil has no significance while in the depths of the earth, the oil-producing states would need American companies in order to profit from their resources even if the United States pursued a pro-Zionist policy. There were even veiled threats as Zionist representatives hinted at damage to the oil companies’ image, should they appear anti-Zionist after the Holocaust, in a decisive hour for continued Jewish existence.
As the debate over Tapline began late in the war, the renamed American Zionist Emergency Council “set up a subcommittee for oil. It prepared a series of position papers and memoranda to establish guidelines for Zionist policy.” The “campaign was designed to prevent the construction of the pipeline unless it went through the Jewish state.” At first Zionists denied a need for the pipeline, “assuming that not laying it at all was better than not laying it through the future Jewish state, and thus removing that state from the circle of American interests.” They “tried to exploit differences of opinion within the oil industry and to reinforce the opposition of companies without Middle East concessions and those not participating in the project.” They argued that tanker transport was cheaper and safer, that a pipeline was vulnerable to terrorist attacks. (In 1947, Jewish terrorists attacked the Haifa oil refinery and the pipeline from Iraq three times). As agreements were signed and work begun, they advocated a “route through areas likely to be under Jewish sovereignty in the future.” Zionist officials presented the pipeline through Palestine as a contribution to regional development, to the integration of the Jewish state into the region, and to peace. Gendzier omits this campaign, which pitted American Zionism against Tapline for a time, even as she cites the article that discusses it.
The Truman White House, against the judgment of its diplomats and military experts, supported the historic vote recommending partition in the General Assembly of the UN in November, 1947. Palestine, unsettled by the Zionist campaign against British rule, erupted into civil war. By early 1948, the US had begun to consider alternatives to partition, including UN trusteeship, and extending British administration. Oil interests were chief among US concerns, and Gendzier mentions a weaker version of the February, 1948 threat by the Arab League against American oil companies cited above.
In January, 1948 the Jewish Agency prepared a “Note on Palestine Policy,” for private circulation in Washington during Congressional hearings on US oil interests. (99-101) In February, Max Ball, head of the Oil and Gas Division of the Interior Department, met Eliahu Epstein of the Jewish Agency, through family relations. Drawing on the Note, Epstein argued that Zionism was a progressive economic and political force, and asserted the harmony of Zionist and US interests in that respect, and the dependency of the Arab oil producers on western oil companies.
Ball argued that oil development was a progressive force in the Arab world, and that it would also fuel Europe’s recovery and stave off Communism and chaos there. Partition would antagonize the Arabs and jeopardize this, hence was not in US interests. Epstein replied that “ ‘imposition of the will of the U.N. by the loyal implementation of the partition scheme would have a soothing effect on the Arabs and make them regain their right sense of proportion’ ” (105) about their weakness. Epstein cited Palestine Jewry’s support of the Allied war effort. He mentioned the oil prospects of the Negev (Naqab), the southern desert of Palestine, and Ball offered to introduce Epstein to oil company executives. Ball later advised Epstein that such meetings could happen “ ‘only when the Jewish state is established both de facto and de jure. The Oil Companies’ policies are based on practical advantages’ ” which could be pursued only “when the Jewish state becomes a reality.” (108) Ball thus implicitly endorsed partition, at least in the Jewish Agency’s account which Gendzier quotes, when his government was still debating it.
These “historic encounters” (101) of Epstein and Ball are the high point of Gendzier’s “oil connection.” “From this vantage point, the future of the Jewish state appeared more promising than expected. . . major oil companies were not categorically set against [Zionism], which was interpreted as an indication of fu- ture interest.” (111) She claims that the “Jewish Agency strategy developed in the ‘Notes’ appeared to be effective in addressing the fear of partition endangering U.S. oil interests,” when disseminated in the White House by Clark Clifford, special counsel to Truman and Zionist advocate. (111) Ball’s role in oil policy and wide contacts, Gendzier claims, made his belief that Israel had a place in the oil companies’ plans “of no small importance in the period leading up to Israel’s unilateral declaration of independence and. . . the reassessment of U.S. policy toward Israel.” (112)
Gendzier’s account of the Truman Administration debate over partition vs. trusteeship in spring, 1948 does not cite the Jewish Agency’s blandishments about oil-related development, or their assurances that the Arabs had no alternatives. They would have been quite out of place as Palestine was being destroyed, with atrocities reported, refugees fleeing, and US officials fearing the destruction of US interests with the disaster. The State Department would shortly despair of Tapline ever being built. In June, the US ambassador in Saudi Arabia reported King Saud’s warning that Saudi Arabia would conform with any Arab League actions, and that consequences could include “(a) transfer Dhahran air base to British; (b) cancellation ARAMCO concession; (c) break in diplomatic relations.” (178)
After reviewing the studies of US recognition of Israel on May 15, which all stress domestic politics, Gendzier notes the absence of “any reference to the interactions between Max Ball and Eliahu Epstein.” These contacts “seemed to open unforeseen possibilities. At least, they invited oil company executives. . . to think about pragmatic possibilities after independence.” They “may have figured in [Clifford’s] calculations.” (168-9, emphasis added) This speculation is Gendzier’s “oil connection.”
In her final chapter, “The Israeli-U.S. Oil Connection and Expanding U.S. Oil Interests,” Gendzier tries to thicken this tenuous connection with accounts of two meetings between oil executives and Israeli officials, US government discussion, Aramco’s growing Saudi interests, and Max Ball’s authorship of the petroleum legislation of Israel and of Turkey. She mentions in passing the Arab League boycott of Israel, which actually began in 1945, as a boycott of the Palestine Jewish economy.
Two Aramco partners also had operations in Palestine, utilizing the Haifa refinery, which continued in Israel. Gendzier cites Uri Bialer’s statement from his Oil and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948-1963 that “agreements with AIOC, Shell, Socony Vacuum and Standard Oil of New Jersey—made, in fact, in open defiance of the Arab boycott—did indeed open up opportunities for Israel.” After 1948 the Haifa refiners obtained crude oil mostly from Venezuela, though the British also procured from Kuwait via the Cape of Good Hope. Gendzier omits Bialer’s further history and his statement: “Within four years, from late 1954 through 1958, all British and American companies which had constituted the backbone of Israel’s oil supply system, ceased operations in the country. . . While commercial considerations certainly played a part. . . the overriding one was undoubtedly political. . . by late 1958 the Arab League had in fact accomplished one of its main objectives—to force the foreign oil companies out of Israel.”
The Arab oil producers attempted an embargo on the US, Britain and Germany during and after the June, 1967 war, but the supply-demand balance in the marketplace did not favor it. Between 1970 and 1973 oil prices doubled, and demand rose to 99% of production capacity. From the outbreak of Arab-Israeli war in October to December 1973, OPEC price increases and Arab production cuts and embargo on the US raised the oil price four-fold, causing supply dislocations, long lines and fights for gasoline, a deep recession, and discussion in Congress of nationalizing the oil industry. In 1976 Aramco and Saudi Arabia agreed on terms for nationalization. Gendzier’s augury of a natural, inevitable mixing of oil and Zion was not borne out by events.
A decade ago Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published their article “The Israel Lobby,”precursor to their 2007 book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. They argue that the Israel Lobby is much more powerful than the oil lobby, and disagree that oil had much to do with the decision to invade Iraq, as does historian Stephen Sniegoski. In the 1940s, the US international oil companies (and the foreign policy executive) were weaker politically than the domestic oil industry, which held up Tapline over steel export licenses, and were also weaker than the nascent Israel Lobby.
Gendzier claims that Israel’s “strategic value” led the US to accept Israel’s refusal to repatriate Palestinian refugees, and its extension of sovereignty to conquered territory. This is no more persuasive than the “oil connection,” for similar reasons. Gendzier deprecates or omits US efforts to secure repatriation, misrepresents Israel’s access to arms sales and alliances, and exaggerates Israel’s role in US strategy.
As Gendzier notes, US diplomats and the CIA were clear-eyed about Israel’s military superiority and aggressive proclivities, and about the atrocities and coercion that led to the expulsion of around 85% of the Palestinian Arab civilian population when hostilities finally ended, 750-800,000 souls. This was far more than the Jewish displaced persons population in Europe, the largest population displacement since the war. A March, 1949 State Department report stated:
Failure to liquidate or materially reduce the magnitude of the Arab refugee problem would have important consequences. The Arab states presently represent a highly vulnerable area for Soviet exploitation, and the presence of over 700,000 destitute, idle refugees provides the likeliest channel for such exploitation. In addition, their continued presence will further undermine the weakened economy of the Arab states, and may well provide the motivation for the overthrow of certain of the Arab Governments.
The issues of refugees and territory dominated US relations with Israel into late 1949. In mid-September, 1948, Swedish diplomat and UN mediator Folke Bernadotte proposed an armistice and settlement that accepted partition, but called for territorial exchanges, for Jerusalem to be under UN administration, and most critically, for the Palestinian refugees to be repatriated as early as practicable. Two days after releasing the plan, Bernadotte was assassinated by Jewish terrorists. When US secretary of state George Marshall endorsed Bernadotte’s plan three days after his murder, “the floodgates of domestic protest really burst.” In late October Truman told the State Department and Marshall expressly that he wanted no statements or votes at the UN on Palestine until after the election.
In late October and November, Israel conquered the Negev, in December the Galilee, and in late De- cember and January battled with Egypt, before the final cease-fire. After the election, as Lovett explained to Marshall, “ ‘the President’s position is that if Israel wishes to retain that portion of the Negev granted it under Nov 29 resolution, it will have to take rest of Nov 29 settlement, which means giving up western Galilee and Jaffa,’ ” with the proviso that changes “ ‘should be made only if fully acceptable to the State of Israel.’ ” (229) Gendzier attributes this to US “strategic interest” in Israel. Yet, while
Truman remained responsive to domestic political pressures to back Israel, after his re-election he demonstrated an unprecedented degree of impartiality. . . Truman appointed as secretary of state Dean G. Acheson, who had earned the president’s trust and confidence. . . Under Acheson, State Department officials obtained Truman’s explicit consent to their policies on Arab-Israeli issues, and he refrained from overturning their handiwork.
Or tried harder to refrain.
The UN established the Palestine Conciliation Commission in December, 1948, which led to a peace conference at Lausanne, Switzerland in May, 1949. In preparation, “Truman originally authorized the State Department to contest Israeli retention of land beyond the partition borders. . . Accordingly, Truman wrote King Abdullah of Jordan that ‘Israel is entitled to the territory allotted to her’ by partition, but ‘if Israel desires additions. . . it should offer territorial compensation.’” At Lausanne, Israel proposed to retain Jaffa and the western Galilee without giving compensation, angering the US delegate, Mark Etheridge, a personal friend of Truman. The State Department was angered by “evidence that ‘certain agents of the Israeli government’ had indirectly pressured Truman to relent,” and suggested “ ‘immediate adoption of a generally negative attitude toward Israel.’ ”
State presented Truman “with a choice between approving department policy ‘on behalf of our national interest’ or overruling it in light of ‘strong opposition in American Jewish circles.’” Truman warned Israeli prime minister Ben-Gurion that “his refusal to honor partition borders would force the U.S. to conclude ‘that a revision of its attitude toward Israel has become unavoidable.’” Initially, “the president decided ‘to stand completely firm.’” In August, Truman endorsed a plan “to remove the southern Negev from Israel, and declared that Israel ‘sh[ou]ld be left under no illusion. . . that there is any difference of view’ between the White House and the State Department.” Israel claimed that Arab aggression had invalidated the partition resolution, and that its security depended on occupying further territory. “The Foreign Ministry also intensified its indirect pressure on Truman by ‘recruiting everybody we’ve got. . . all the Baruchs, Crums, Frankfurters, Welles, young and old Roosevelts, etc., and making an all-out effort’ to change Truman’s mind.”
Israeli President Chaim Weizmann, Truman’s Zionist anti-conscience during the statehood campaign, wrote another eloquent, sentimental appeal. Eddie Jacobson, Truman’s old Army buddy, postwar business partner, and Zionist last resort, again visited the White House, at Israeli Ambassador Elath’s request, and secured a pledge that “ ‘no single foot of land will be taken from Israel in [the] Negev.’ ” “Truman’s change of heart forced Acheson to suspend pressure on Israel and adjourn the Lausanne conference.”
Gendzier’s account discusses the frustration of Etheridge and the State Department, and Zionist lob- bying, but downplays Truman’s support for State, which Zionism overwhelmed. (Chapter 12, “The PCC, Armistice, Lausanne and Refugees”) Her chronology of US policymaking is subsumed in August, 1949, at the height of tension over territory and refugees, by discussion of an alleged epiphany of Israel’s “strategic value” in the government. She claims that this, rather than the machinations of the Israel Lobby, led the US to accept Israel’s sovereignty over conquered territory, and its adamant opposition to refugee repatriation. “The importance of the changing assessments of Israel and the Middle East by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the secretary of defense cannot be overestimated. . . the JCS concluded that Israel’s military justified US interest, and such interest merited lowering the pressure on Israel to ensure that it turned away from the USSR and toward the West and the United States.” (239)
Gendzier notes Acheson’s comment on an Israeli request in March 1949 for US military training. “ ‘Giving such permission could be one way of encouraging Israel towards a western orientation.’ ” (279) As Gendzier acknowledges, the Joint Chiefs turned down the request, “so long as a risk of war between Israel and the Arab states continued to exist. The Israeli army was not in dire need of foreign technical assistance, and the United States might become overtly involved if the Arab-Israeli conflict resumed. . . US strategic interests in the Middle East would unquestionably suffer under these circumstances” because of identification with Israel. Israel’s “orientation” was less important than US standing in Arab eyes.
Gendzier notes Acheson’s insistence to Israeli foreign minister Moshe Sharett in March, 1949, that “Israel consider accepting ‘a portion, say a fourth, of the refugees eligible for repatriation’.” (259) A State Department mission called for “Israel to repatriate at least 200,000 refugees” for any “satisfactory solution of the refugee problem” at the same time. (262) State rejected an Israeli offer to repatriate 100,000, and Truman supported Acheson’s decision to withhold $49 million of a $100 million loan. Yet “Israel used [Truman aide David] Niles as a conduit to complain about Acheson’s ‘coercion and blackmail,’ and Acheson, feeling pressured by the White House, capitulated,” releasing further sums, “even though Israel remained unyielding on the refugee issue.”
From 1949-52, the State Department proposed a mixture of development projects in the Arab countries and political initiatives, revisiting the 100,000 figure. All foundered on Israeli hostility, Congressional limits on funding, Arab aversion to implicit recognition of Israel, and the refugees’ desire to return home. “By 1951, officials in Washington concluded that large-scale repatriation would prove impossible in light of Israeli resistance, thus essentially embracing the Israeli view that resettlement on a grand scale provided the only realistic solution.”
The “realistic solution” proved to be the refugee camps, whose restive populations formed the guerilla factions that were the popular base of the Palestinian national movement of the 1960s, with all their political and social consequences. The State Department had foreseen this outcome and sought to ameliorate the conditions that produced it. Acheson’s withholding of the balance of the loan, until Israel reached Truman and countermanded him, and later efforts, strongly suggest that the Israel Lobby, not a concern for Israel’s orientation, was the decisive factor.
Gendzier notes that the Pentagon opposed partition, but argues that, after the Arab-Israeli war, it recognized Israel’s strategic value in the event of war with the USSR. The Soviet Union was expected to occupy the Middle East to prevent attacks on its southern regions from there, and to deny the Suez Canal, the Gulf and the oil fields to the Allies. The US declined to commit ground forces to the region in advance, but would station bombers at Britain’s Suez Canal bases to attack the USSR. The US had no plans to defend the oil fields, but would sabotage and bomb them.
In a brief memo titled “United States Strategic Interests in Israel,” in spring, 1949, the Joint Chiefs noted Israel’s harbor at Haifa, its network of bases and airfields (British legacies), both excellent but small and limited, and its battle-tested fighting forces. Israel flanked the Suez Canal, and dominated communications northward. The Chiefs did not view Israel as a potential base because it could not support large forces, nor was there need to develop facilities “because of the more highly developed and more accessible Cairo-Suez area some two hundred miles to the West.” Those British facilities “along the Suez Canal comprised 38 army camps and 10 airfields. In 1945 it was the single largest military base in existence, anywhere across the globe.”
Britain was charged with defending the Middle East, and US confidence in Britain’s ability to secure even the Suez Canal declined steadily after 1945. This culminated in the US abandoning the Middle East en- tirely, including the Canal, to concentrate its forces outside Britain in northwest Africa. The US announced this strategy at the ABC (American-British-Canadian) planners’ conference in fall, 1949 in Washington, and implemented it in the Offtackle plan, approved by the Joint Chiefs by year-end. US war planners viewed Israel as cannon fodder, which would expend itself defending a target they doubted could be held and would abandon.
The abandonment of Egypt for northwest Africa was in turn superseded by a “northern tier” strategy centered on Turkey, scene of early Cold War skirmishes. In 1947 the Truman Doctrine proclaimed the defense of Greece and Turkey. The US genuinely viewed Turkey as a “strategic asset,” and US policy was predictable. By the end of 1950 US military aid to Turkey totaled $271 million, with $154 million allocated in fiscal year 1951. By 1950, the US had trained Turkish troops in eight military schools, supplied the Turkish army with 50,000 tons of war materiel, and provided 11 surface vessels and four submarines to the Turkish navy. The Turkish air force received 314 World War II aircraft, with 25 jet fighters to be delivered in 1951, while numerous airfields were modernized or built outright. Turkey had remained neutral in World War II, and resisted being turned into an offensive base against the USSR without concrete assurances of western support. The US recognized this, and Turkey became an associate member of Nato in 1950, and a full member in 1951.
This was a total contrast with Israel. Gendzier cites the Pentagon’s statements about Israel as momentous portents, but concedes that the US refused Israel’s repeated requests for military ties. As noted, Gendzier acknowledged that the Joint Chiefs turned down the March, 1949, request for training. Gendzier also acknowledges that the Pentagon rejected a 1950 Israeli request for advanced weaponry, after Britain sold arms to Egypt. The Pentagon still found that “Israel had ‘the preponderance of striking power’ in the region and that additional arms acquisitions ‘would increase Israel’s offensive capabilities and give incentive to offensive planning.’”
Gendzier omits the denouement of this episode. Sharett decided to mount a major campaign in the US, and Truman yielded to crushing pressure and instructed the State Department “to formulate an arms supply policy that would satisfy the ‘many active sympathizers with Israel in this country.’” The “resourceful State Department” crafted the Tripartite Declaration with Britain and France, conditioning arms sales to Middle East states on a pledge of non-aggression, for purposes of “ ‘internal security and their legitimate self-defense’ ” and “ ‘defense of the region as a whole.’ ” Arab and Israeli reaction was guardedly positive, and the effect was to limit overall arms sales to the region.
Nor does Gendzier discuss military alliances. The Korean War in 1950 raised US concern about the Middle East, and to defend “against the Soviets and to assuage Arab anger about Israel, U.S. planners resolved to erect a security pact on Arab foundations.” The Middle East Command would be centered on Egypt, but exclude Israel “in light of Israeli neutralism and Arab-Israeli dynamics.” Israel in any event declined to join the pact, fearing obligations and compromises, and preferring direct relations with the US. Egypt rejected the MEC, abrogated its defense treaty with Britain, which ceded the bases in the Suez Canal Zone, and demanded that British forces leave Egypt. A successor proposal, the looser Middle East Defense Organization, foundered for the same reasons.
At the end of Chapter 13, “The View from the Pentagon and the National Security Council,” having strongly implied otherwise, Gendzier states that the “reassessment of Israel in 1949 cannot be interpreted as evidence that the JCS envisioned a ‘special relationship’ with Israel at this date.” (292)
What it signified was recognition of the potential value, in terms of U.S. strategy, of a state whose origins had originally aroused opposition due to the fear that U.S. support would imperil access to oil. Its reconsideration was in the context of U.S. calculations with respect to the overall assessment of “U.S. Strategic Position in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East,” in which the exclusion of communist penetration into Greece, Turkey and Iran was paramount. (292)
At the end of the final Chapter 14, “The Israeli-U.S. Oil Connection and Expanding U.S. Oil Interests,” Gendzier claims that “after independence, Israel emerged as an asset,” which “led U.S. officials to reduce their pressure on Israel” over refugee repatriation, territorial exchange and Jerusalem. “The decision to defer to Israel on these core issues signified Washington’s subordination of the Palestine Question, and its legitimation of Israel’s use of force in its policy toward the Palestinians to considerations of US interest.” (301)
The first set of claims is greatly exaggerated, the second is unproven at best. Israel’s “potential value” in US strategy was negligible. The US declined to sell Israel arms or include it in regional alliances. It abandoned the only theater in which Israel would be useful, before settling on its northern tier strategy. The US was concerned about the Cold War alignment of the entire region, and certainly not more for Israel than for the Arab states. The authoritative “Report by the National Security Council on United States Policy Toward Israel and the Arab States” in October, 1949, is even-handed, not a brief for Israel, and referred to a settled policy of refugee repatriation, territorial exchange and the internationalization of Jerusalem. The US was concerned about the destruction of Palestine for its own strategic reasons, because it feared Arab resentment of Israel as an opening for Soviet influence, and because of the radicalizing potential of the refugee population. The US continued to seek both refugee repatriation and territorial exchange, but was overwhelmed by the Israel Lobby.
Gendzier is trying to make the Israel Lobby disappear, to insert the “strategic asset” argument in the 1940s, in the face of a large body of writing depicting the Lobby’s paramount influence in this period. The overriding lesson of the 1940s is not the “primacy of oil,” but the “primacy of Zion.” “The Zionist lobby came into its own during the Truman presidency.” The Israel Lobby was powerful enough to overwhelm the US diplomatic and military establishments, and major business interests, and their settled policy, and to force them to adapt to its imperatives, beginning, but certainly not ending, with the destruction of Palestine.
No reader with an interest in the period will be persuaded about Gendzier’s “foundations” of Middle East policy, but her account does show that the US made practical adjustments after Israel’s establishment. The US abandoned the idea of Palestinian sovereignty embodied in the partition resolution, and acceded to Jordanian control of the remainder of Palestine, which disappeared as a political subject, replaced by discussion of refugees and ameliorative economic development. Some US officials advocated population transfer and border revisions to make Israel more compact and homogeneous. This was practical accommodation to Zionist realities, not a “strategic” adoption of Israel. US policymakers advanced plans for a general settlement and joint Arab-Israeli projects, in pursuit of “stability,” against Zionism’s destabilization. In October, 1947 the CIA predicted that “ ‘no Zionists in Palestine will be satisfied with the territorial arrangements of the partition settlement. Even the more conservative Zionists will hope to obtain. . . eventually all of Palestine.’ ” (70)
Too much of the book is unoriginal, or too long and distant from Gendzier’s main claims. The book begins with four pages establishing that senior US government officials were drawn from business elites. A discussion of US immigration and refugee policy misnames Roosevelt confidante Morris L. Ernst as “Ernest Morris.” (37) Curiously, for a work with high ambitions, by a professor emerita at Boston University, from a leading academic press, there is no bibliography.
The reader will learn from this book, if not the expected lessons. It reveals perhaps most of all the level of discussion in the United States, ten years after Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt tried to mainstream the issue of the Israel Lobby.
A PDF with notes of this article is at https://questionofpalestine.net/2016/04/21/dying-to-forget-the-israel-lobby/
In another setback for the death penalty trial of the five men accused of aiding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, two defense lawyers for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed say the U.S. government secretly destroyed relevant evidence.
On May 11, defense lawyers for the accused mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks asked for judge Col. James Pohl and the prosecution team to be recused from the trial, and for the case to be shut down. Defense lawyers David Nevin and Maj. Derek Poteet say that the U.S. government destroyed evidence related to the case, according to the New York Times. The two men are unable to provide further details because the issue is classified, but Mr. Nevin said the evidence was “favorable” to the defendants.
Major Poteet also told the Times that the defense was first informed in February that Colonel Pohl would provide them with a “summary of a substitute” for the original, classified evidence. The defense requested Colonel Pohl to preserve the evidence for the record and Pohl complied. Or so they thought.
“But they learned in February, they said, that about 20 months earlier, and without their knowledge, prosecutors had obtained from Colonel Pohl a secret order that reversed his previous decision,” the Times writes. “By the time they found out, the government had already destroyed the evidence, giving them no opportunity to challenge the move.”
Major Poteet said the situation created the appearance that Colonel Pohl was “colluding with the government.” The Times reports that the original, now destroyed evidence, may have been related to one of several foreign black site prisons operated by the Central Intelligence Agency in Thailand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Afghanistan, and at a secret site at the Guantánamo base. KSM was tortured for several years at one of these sites before being transferred to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in 2006.
The accusations are likely to delay upcoming scheduled hearings from May 30 to June 3. If there is a delay it will be latest in a long line of interruptions to this alleged pursuit of justice. Most recently, Col. Pohl canceled two weeks of hearings that were scheduled to begin on Friday, April 1st.
“The whole thing is really odd to me. I thought it was an April Fools’ joke,” said Chicago defense attorney Cheryl Bormann, who was already in Washington to travel to Guantánamo this weekend to represent alleged 9/11 plot deputy Walid bin Attash.
The destruction of evidence is, unfortunately, not the first controversy this trial has faced. Another conflict of interest became an issue in 2014 when the defense attorneys for Mohammed and the four alleged co-conspirators said they believed they were being spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Foreign Policy reported,
the FBI had secretly conducted an investigation into possible wrongdoing on the part of one or more members of the five separate defense teams (one for each defendant). Such an investigation could put defense team members in the untenable position of having to provide information to defend themselves or others against possible criminal action — information that could be used against the interests of their own clients.
There was also the issue of interference from outside sources during the hearings. FP continues:
In January 2013, the court’s audio-visual feed, visible to a small set of commission observers, was abruptly cut off by someone other than Judge Pohl; previously, Pohl was believed to be the only person with the authority to use the unique-to-Guantanamo “kill-switch.”
Later, a clearly annoyed Pohl learned that something called the Original Classification Authority (OCA) — which is likely the CIA given that most of the information subject to censorship in the case is related to the agency’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program — had hit the kill switch. Judge Pohl promptly cut off their privileges.
In February 2013 it was revealed that listening devices were hidden within smoke detectors, possibly infringing upon attorney-client privileges. The defense also claimed their emails and work files were disappearing. Former defendant Ramzi Bin al-Shibh was also removed from the trial by the judge in an attempt to speed the process along after so many delays. However, critics argue that al-Shibh was removed because he refused to be quiet, complaining loudly of sleep deprivation.
Is this trial really about truth, justice, and upholding law and order? If the military court hopes to find something close to the truth they should open the hearings to the public, end the spying on the defense team, and be transparent about the treatment of the alleged hijackers. Only by allowing the truth to be released will the wounds of 9/11 begin to heal.