It’s always interesting for me to observe the reaction of Americans and Western Europeans when they learn where I’m from. Many just don’t say anything. Many regurgitate something incoherent about Putin’s “imperial” ambitions, “the Boeing” that was shot down over Eastern Ukraine last year, and “that politician guy that got killed in Moscow.” Finally, there are those (unfortunately, a minority) who tell me that things must be more complicated than they are portrayed in the news and genuinely want to know what I think.
Things are definitely much more complicated than they’re portrayed in the news. I’ve had a chance to observe mainstream American, Canadian, and British media for quite some time now, and I’m amazed that so few people are appalled by the crudeness of propaganda that is fed to them, no matter whether the source is Fox News, CNN, or the BBC. Just like that Wal-Mart truck driver that stopped to help a stranded motorist doesn’t make Wal-Mart a great place to shop, the Pentagon Papers don’t make The New York Times a progressive newspaper. Neither does covering the Snowden case make The Guardian a source you should now trust and worship.
When I can hear explosions in the background in the middle of a phone conversation with my relatives who are hunkering down with their young children in the hallway of their apartment (“safe” because it’s away from the windows) while being shelled by Ukrainian artillery, and the “progressive” sources mentioned above pontificate about Russia’s “aggression” in Ukraine, call for more sanctions, and do not say a word about the massive devastation and suffering the US- and Europe-backed regime in Kiev has caused in just one year in one of the most urbanized parts of Europe, I feel disappointment and helplessness. Do these talking heads have no shame? Do those who listen to them have no brain? Opportunities to question, explore, and learn are all around you. Why not use them?
How many of you know that the cities of Donetsk (once home to over one million people) and Gorlovka (Horlivka; once home to more than 300 thousand people) have been shelled by the Ukrainian military pretty much daily throughout the month of May and in the first half of June – despite the so-called ceasefire?
How many of you know that American soldiers are actually in Ukraine training the Ukrainian National Guard – the troops that are then deployed to the East of the country? (Do a quick search, and even your “trustworthy” mainstream sources will confirm that – in a non-intrusive sort of way, of course.)
How many of you remember the context of Victoria Nuland’s “Fuck the EU” comment in her conversation with the US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt?
How many of you know that John Brennan, director of the CIA, visited Ukraine in April of last year, immediately after which Ukraine’s “counter-terrorist operation” began in the rebellious East of the country? (Do another quick search, and your “trustworthy” mainstream sources will again confirm that – also in a non-intrusive sort of way.)
How many of you can imagine Russia putting its navy ships in the Gulf of Mexico, installing an anti-American regime in Canada, and holding military exercises just south of the US-Mexican border? How many of you can imagine what the American reaction to that would be? How ridiculous would the EU look if it imposed sanctions on the US? (Well, the EU looks just as ridiculous with all its current posturing and double standards.)
How many of you can imagine US and European sanctions against Saudi Arabia for its actions in Yemen? How many of your “trustworthy” sources use the word “aggression” when describing Saudi Arabia’s actions?
It took crash investigators a few days to learn what was going on in and around the cockpit of Germanwings Flight 9525, which crashed over the Alps less than three months ago. How many of you wonder what ever happened to the black boxes of the Malasia Airlines Flight 17 now that almost a year has passed since the plane was shot down over Ukraine? (It seemed so clear whom to blame back then, didn’t it?)
You most definitely heard about “that politician guy that got killed in Moscow.” How many of you know about a whole number of “politician guys” that have “committed suicide” in Ukraine? Other than stumbling on an occasional blurb, you’d really have to look to see what’s going on.
How many of you know about Oles Buzina, a pro-Russian journalist, who got murdered in Kiev just two months ago?
Finally, have you ever wondered who actually benefits from this war in Ukraine? Do you really think it’s Russia, now stuck with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine, a rabidly russophobic regime next door, and NATO bristling with all its fancy glory literally on Russia’s borders? Is it the “separatists” (or Ukrainians alike), whose most industrialized region is now in ruins? Or is there perhaps another party that’s meddling in all this? Use your imagination. May curiosity be your friend.
There has never been a dime’s worth of difference between the Clintons (Bill and Hillary) and Barack Obama, and less than ten cents separates the worldviews of these Democratic political twins from the Bush wing of the Republican Party.
Each has their individual quirks. Barack destroys international order and the rule of law while dabbling at song; Bill dismantled the U.S. manufacturing base and threw record numbers of Blacks in prison as he toyed with his trumpet; George W. played the fool who would Shock and Awe the world into obedience; and Hillary is the evil crone that curses the dead while screaming “We are Woman” like a banshee. But they are all the same in their corporate soullessness.
They all lie for a living, and they live to lie. Hillary Clinton commingled official and personal criminality through the medium of email. Knowing that, in a life dedicated to crime, she could never successfully sequester her private and public conspiracies, Hillary privatized all of her email correspondence during her tenure as Obama’s Secretary of State (in the perfect spirit of neoliberalism). The fate of millions of Haitians whose country’s earthquake and development “aid” are under the Clinton family thumb were doubtless bundled into the tens of thousands of messages she erased on leaving Foggy Bottom.
Republicans have harassed her ever since, seeking an electronic smoking gun to show Clinton’s cowardice or lack of resolve to “stand up for America” and “our troops” or some other nonsense. What the Benghazi affair actually proves is that the Obama administration was just as intent as the Republicans to maintain the fiction that the “rebels” put in power by seven months of NATO bombing of Libya were not various flavors of Islamic jihadists – some of whom were already turning on their erstwhile masters. The U.S.-Saudi project to create and nurture the international jihadist network is a bipartisan venture that dates back to Jimmy Carter’s presidency – and, therefore, nothing for Democrats and Republicans to fight about. However, the GOP’s churning of Clinton’s emails does provide a glimpse into her quest to run for president in 2016 as the woman who vanquished Muammar Gaddafi (“Qaddafi” or simply “Q” in Clinton’s usage).
A number of Clinton’s correspondences were with Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton family spin-master who wrote nasty things about Barack Obama while working for Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign – which made it impossible for her to hire him at the State Department. Nevertheless, Clinton needed his talents for hype for the campaign ahead. Their emails in the summer of 2011 discussed how Hillary’s status as stateswoman could soar when the Libyan leader was finally eliminated. “This is a historic moment and you will be credited for realizing it,” wrote Blumenthal, feeding the crone’s huge gizzard of ego, according to an article in Monday’s New York Times. “You must go on camera,” wrote Blumenthal. “You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment.” Hillary was anxious to seize the time to establish what Blumenthal described as “the Clinton Doctrine.”
The Times piece somehow concludes that Obama stole Clinton’s thunder with an 1,100-word speech, in late August, declaring: “The Gaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.” But Hillary best expressed the ghoulishness of America’s ruling duopoly two months later, in October, when Gaddafi was savagely butchered by screaming jihadists. “We came, we saw, he died,” cackled the banshee.
In the annals of global diplomacy, no more vulgar words have been spoken by a major power foreign minister or head of state. Yet, Clinton’s calculated quip perfectly encapsulates the bloodlust that is the common characteristic of both the governing duopoly of the United States and their suckling children in ISIS and the other proliferating al Qaida factions.
Thanks to Seymour Hersh, we now have a much more plausible scenario for the May 2, 2011, demise of Osama bin Laden, the “OG” of the U.S.-Saudi spawned global jihad, whose body will never be located. Virtually the entire U.S. account of his death is a lie, repeatedly contradicted on its own terms – another layer of fictional Americana in the age of empire in decline.
Clinton was hard-pressed to imagine how she might trump the president’s bin Laden death-watch extravaganza. Her opportunity came five months later, when she delivered her gruesome paraphrase of Julius Caesar on the occasion of Col. Gaddafi’s murder. In the context of Washington’s deeply racist foreign policy, Gaddafi and bin Laden were equally deserving of death, although Gaddafi was among the most fervent and effective fighters against Islamic jihadists: his government was the first in the world to request a global arrest warrant against bin Laden.
The Libyan Islamists were quickly transferred to the new U.S.-NATO-Saudi-Qatari front lines in Syria. The CIA station in Benghazi was at the center of the action – and got burned in the wild and unwieldy process of herding jihadists, who find it difficult to take orders from “infidels,” even when the “Crusaders” are paying the bills and supplying the weapons.
The U.S. consulate and CIA station in Benghazi were attacked on September 11, 2012. The next day, the Pentagon’s intelligence agency issued a report predicting that a “Salafist principality” – another term for an Islamic State – would likely arise in Syria as a result of the war, and that “Western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey are supporting these efforts.” Moreover, the establishment of such an Islamic “principality” would create “the ideal atmosphere for AQI [al Qaida in Iraq, which became ISIS, ISIL and the Islamic State] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi” in Iraq – events that have since transpired.
The Defense Intelligence Agency report didn’t say so, but the “Western Powers” included the United States, through its CIA.
The document was declassified this year as the result of a suit by a libertarian right-wing legal outfit. The people of the world continue to be fed the fiction that the U.S. is engaged in a long, twilight struggle against al Qaida Salafists whose international network was created by, and continues to benefit from, “Western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey.”
However, the 2012 Pentagon warning about the rise of an Islamic State may have had some effect on U.S. policy in Syria. One year later, in September of 2013, President Obama backed off from his threat to bomb Syria in “retaliation” for a chemical missile attack against civilians – a crime much more likely committed by western-backed Salafists. The conventional wisdom is that the Russians tricked a hapless Secretary of State John Kerry into agreeing to the peaceful, internationally supervised destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal; or that the refusal of Britain’s Parliament to go along with an air assault on Syria made the U.S. position untenable; or that Obama feared losing a vote on the issue in the U.S. Congress. None of this rings true to me. The United States is not easily deterred by the opinions of Europeans, who in the end accept Washington’s acts as a fait accompli. And, it was not clear that Obama would have lost the vote in Congress – a vote that he requested, while at the same time declaring that he did not need the legislature’s permission to “punish” Syria for crossing his “red line.”
I think that high Pentagon officials and elements of the Obama administration – probably including the president, himself – took the Benghazi disaster and the Defense Intelligence Agency report to heart, and decided that it was better to keep bleeding the Syrians and their Russian, Lebanese and Iranian allies through a prolonged war, than to bomb al Qaida into power. For the U.S., regional chaos is preferable to the triumph of the, ultimately, unmanageable Salafists – unchained.
The thirty-plus year war against Iran would, however, be ratcheted up. The Bush administration was snatched back from the brink of a military assault against Teheran in 2007 when – to the great consternation of Vice President Dick Cheney – all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies declared, publicly and unanimously, that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program, years before.
The spooks reaffirmed their consensus in the 2010 National Intelligence Estimate – again, that there was no evidence Iran has any intention of making a bomb. The Obama administration has since avoided asking the intelligence agencies for their analysis on the issue, knowing they would get the same answer. Instead, they rely on Israeli propaganda, pick and choose various “experts” from inside and outside the arms control “community,” or simply put forward unsupported statements on Iran’s capabilities and intentions: the Big Lie. While Bush was humiliated by facts supplied by his own intelligence experts, Obama has escalated the confrontation with Iran, applying crippling sanctions and the whole range of low-level warfare, in close collaboration with Israel – proving, once again, that Obama is the “more effective evil.”
Obama has nearly completed knocking off victims on the “hit list” of countries that George Bush was working on when General Wesley Clark ran across it in 2002. Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Somalia have been invaded since then, and Sudan was stripped of a third of its territory. Only Iran and Lebanon remain intact and outside the U.S. imperial umbrella.
The Republican-Democratic duopoly plays tag-team in promoting the Project for a New American Century – a doctrine promulgated by neo-conservatives in 1997 that has served as the guiding light of both the Bush and Obama administrations. The differences between the two teams are merely rhetorical. The Bush regime is described as “unilateralist,” although it employed the same “Coalition of the Willing” approach to aggressive war as does the Obama administration. President Obama claims the right to disregard and methodically undermine international law through “humanitarian” military intervention, whereas Bush claimed to be “spreading democracy.” Same weapons systems, same mass murder, same objective: U.S. domination of the planet.
There’s nothing democratic or humanitarian about the U.S. imperial project. Therefore, its maintenance requires the deployment of 24-7 psychological operations worldwide, but directed primarily against the U.S. public.
Republican strategist Karl Rove was far more honest than his Democratic counterparts when he explained to a reporter, back in 2004:
We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
Election seasons are reality-creation festivals, during which the two corporate parties pretend to put forward different visions of the national and global destiny – when, in fact, they answer to the same master and must pursue the same general strategy.
The continuity of GOP-Democratic rule – the near-identical depravity – is horrifically evident in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where six million people have been slaughtered by U.S. surrogates since 1996: the largest genocide since World War II. Successive U.S. administrations – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, assisted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, the high U.S. official most deeply implicated in the entirety of the genocide – have armed, financed, and covered up the Congolese holocaust. Each administration has collaborated with its predecessor to hide the crime and obscure the question of guilt – and then to continue the killing.
Decent people do not vote for political parties that produce such fiends, who deserve Nuremburg justice of the capital kind. Any talk of “lesser evils” is both stupid and obscene.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
“The murder of three Irish citizens at a tourist resort in north Africa has brought Islamic terrorism much closer to home,” Cormac O’Keefe observes in the Irish Examiner. “Until now we have looked on in shock, and revulsion, at terror attacks targeting other Europeans, either across the Middle East and North Africa, or on European soil. However, with the slaughter on the beaches of Tunisia of Lorna Carty, and Laurence and Martina Hayes, this is a landmark moment for this country.”
The report continues:
Martina’s brother Billy Kelly told the media: “We feel bitter. Irish people have nothing to do with these terrorists. The people who did this are evil rats.”
He said the couple’s daughter, Sinead, had lost two parents in an instant: “The sadness is terrible. It’s a nightmare.”
“Ireland has now been dragged into a terrible reality, one that much of Europe — Spain, Britain, and France among them — has had to live with for more than a decade,” O’Keefe adds.
Although the Irish Examiner reporter appears to be merely stating the obvious, Ireland had been close to Islamic terrorism long before the Tunisia massacre. And contrary to the bereaved Mr. Kelly’s sincere belief that the Irish have nothing to do with these evil rats, some Irish people have had quite a lot to do with these terrorists.
But one would need to turn to a much keener Irish examiner of terrorism to know these things. In a Facebook post three days earlier, Al Lonergan connected the dots:
The following image provides information regarding an Irish citizen’s connection to an alleged leader of ISIS in North Africa and a terror funder in Syria. However it is unlikely that the Irish media will want to mention this fact as they promoted this guy as a “freedom fighter” while he was serving the NATO agenda in destroying Libya and Syria, but the chickens are coming home to roost.
Moreover, not only did Mahdi al-Harati serve the NATO agenda in Libya and Syria, an Irish tabloid in 2011 had outed “the gentle Irishman” as an asset of American intelligence. According to a “you couldn’t make this up” Sunday World report,
A gang of Irish traveller thieves are in the middle of a holy war – after liberating €200,000 cash destined for Libyan rebels. In a tale worthy of the John le Carre thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the scam artists from Rathkeale in Co Limerick hit the jackpot when they robbed a home in Dublin’s Firhouse.
As well as a haul of family jewels, they stumbled upon €200,000 in €500 bills hidden in the hot press. But the homeowner was well-known Irish Libyan freedom fighter Mahdi al-Harati, who was one of the leaders of the bloody revolt against Gaddafi.
He has told cops that the cash was a gift from US secret agents to aid the war effort in Libya. Now the money trail has led to the traveller strongholds in Rathkeale, where €500 notes have been popping up all over the place.
A gang of rogue Irish travellers is in the frame for the bizarre robbery of €200,000 in cash donated by US spies to Libyan freedom fighters. In an astonishing tale worthy of the John le Carre novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the cash that was destined for rebels fighting Colonel Gaddafi’s forces was stolen from a hot press in a Dublin house.
Gardai are now investigating the extraordinary robbery which is being blamed on a traveller gang from the Limerick town of Rathkeale. An Irish freedom fighter who helped bring down Gaddafi’s hated regime in Libya has claimed that €200,000 cash stolen from his Dublin home was given to him by an American intelligence agency.
The Sunday World can reveal that gardai are investigating the robbery of two envelopes containing €200,000 in €500 notes from the home of Mahdi al-Harati in Firhouse, south Dublin, and that the money trail is leading to the Rathkealers. Al-Harati was in Libya following the successful campaign that toppled Gaddafi when the rebel’s house was broken into on October 6.
The incredible curriculum vitae of the “soft-spoken Libyan-born Irish citizen” doesn’t end there either. Four days later, Indymedia Ireland reported:
Mahdi al-Harati has been well-known in antiwar and Palestine solidarity circles in Dublin over the years . He had been a passenger in the Challenger 1 ship last year when it attempted to break the seige of Gaza as part of the Free Gaza Flotilla . He was the last Irish member of the flotilla to arrive home after the Israeli raid and was given a hero’s reception at Dublin Airport by members of the IPSC and the IAWM [Irish Anti-War Movement]. According to an Indymedia comment from last year written by Kev from the IPSC :
“Freda Hughes of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign welcomed his safe return and saluted his bravery: “Al Mahdi, like all of the Freedom Flotilla participants, is deserving of our praise for his courage in attempting to break the illegal siege of Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged people there. We are all relieved that he is safely back in Ireland. We hope that his family, who we know were extremely worried about his health, can rest easy now and celebrate his return..”
It appears that at least on this occasion Israel’s propaganda was right in claiming that some of those on board the Free Gaza Flotilla had ties to terrorism networks. They just forgot to mention that at least one of them was on the payroll of U.S. intelligence.
The NATO military alliance is preparing to implement a more aggressive nuclear weapons strategy in response to alleged “Russian aggression,” according to NATO sources cited by the Guardian Wednesday evening.
Proposed changes include provisions for greater involvement of nuclear forces in ongoing NATO military exercises along Russia’s borders and new guidelines for nuclear escalation against Russia, according to the NATO officials.
The alliance’s nuclear doctrine has been the subject of quiet, informal discussions “on the sidelines” of the ongoing NATO summit. The new policies will be formally articulated and confirmed at an upcoming conference of the alliance’s Nuclear Planning Group, which was rescheduled for an earlier date this week as word got around about the secretive planning.
“There is very real concern about the way in which Russia publicly bandies around nuclear stuff. So there are quite a lot of deliberations in the alliance about nuclear weapons,” an unnamed NATO diplomat told the Guardian.
The claim that discussion about a revision of nuclear weapons policy is in response to Russian aggression turns reality on its head. In the aftermath of the US and NATO-backed coup in Ukraine last year, the major imperialist powers have engaged in a relentless militarization of Eastern Europe, including the establishment of a rapid reaction force of 40,000 troops.
This week, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the US would permanently deploy tanks, military vehicles and other equipment to countries bordering Russia. There are also ongoing discussions about directly arming Ukraine, beyond the extensive assistance the right-wing government already receives.
NATO is now planning to respond to any attempt by Russia to maintain or counter US imperialism’s aggressive moves in Eastern Europe with even more massive military response, including nuclear weapons.
An indication of the thinking of NATO strategists was provided by a report in the Financial Times. In the event of a conflict involving one of the Baltic countries, “Russia might… accuse the alliance of escalating the conflict and threaten to use intermediate range nuclear weapons.” The Times quotes Elbridge Colby, of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS): “NATO does not need a total nuclear rethink. But it needs to be realistic about how it would respond and willing to show Putin that he would not get away with it.”
This scenario builds on allegations from the US that Russia has violated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), allegations that the Russian government has denied. US officials have stated that the Pentagon is preparing to launch preemptive attacks against missiles or other targets in Russia, including with nuclear weapons, in response to Moscow’s alleged violation of the treaty.
The announcement of major revisions to NATO’s nuclear strategy came just days after the publication of an extensive report, “Project Atom: Defining US Nuclear Strategy and Posture for 2025-2050,” by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The main portions of the report were authored by a career US government strategist and senior CSIS analyst, Clark Murdock, a man who previously worked in high-level strategy jobs at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the US Air Force and the National War College. The report included contributions from a large team of researchers and experts, including panels from the CNAS and the National Institution for Public Policy (NIPP).
The thrust of the CSIS analysis is that the US must make its nuclear arsenal easier to use in a war with Russia, China or some other power. The military must adopt “a US nuclear strategy designed for twenty-first century realities,” based on new generations of tactical warheads and delivery systems.
More advanced tactical nuclear weapons will enable Washington to threaten and launch small nuclear wars, without being “self-deterred” by concerns that its actions would lead to a nuclear holocaust, the CSIS report argues.
“The United States needs to develop and deploy more employable nuclear weapons,” the CSIS wrote, including “low collateral damage, enhanced radiation, earth penetration, electromagnetic pulse, and others as technology advances.”
Such advances, the report argues, are the only way to counter the erosion of American technological superiority by the growth of the Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals, together with the addition of as many as nine new governments to the “nuclear club.”
Under the “Measured Response” theory advocated by the CSIS and Murdock, these types of highly mobile nuclear strike forces could engage in “controlled nuclear operations,” firing “low yield, accurate, special effects” nukes against enemy targets without leading to a full-scale nuclear war.
By “forward deploying a robust set of discriminate nuclear response options,” the US could launch tactical nuclear strikes “at all rungs of the nuclear escalation ladder,” Murdock wrote.
Such “small-scale” nuclear conflicts would inevitably claim tens, if not hundreds of millions of lives, even assuming they did not escalate into a global nuclear war.
The continental US, according to this theory, would be protected from the consequences of regional-scale nuclear warfare by the deterrent effect of Washington’s huge arsenal of high-yield strategic weapons. Any “controlled” nuclear conflicts started by the US government, moreover, would not involve nuclear operations targeting or launched from North America.
“The US homeland would not be engaged in the US response to a nuclear attack on a regional ally,” the CSIS wrote.
In barely veiled language, CSIS is suggesting that the US should utilize allied and client governments as staging areas and arenas for “controlled” atomic warfare.
As the product of collaboration between an extensive network of ruling-class policy theorists, such proposals are extremely ominous and represent a grave warning to the international working class.
There have been other calls for a significant expansion of US nuclear weapons capacity. In comments to the Atlantic Council earlier this week, US Congressman Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called for a “national conversation about building new nuclear weapons.”
“That’s something we haven’t been able to even have a conversation about for a while, but I think we’re going to have to,” Thornberry declared.
Late last year, the Obama administration announced plans for a $1 trillion, three-decades-long upgrade of nuclear weapons capability.
In the writings of the CSIS and the other discussions within the state apparatus, there is a degree of insanity. The strategists of American imperialism are coldly calculating the best tactics for waging and winning nuclear war. Yet this insanity flows from the logic of American imperialism and the drive by the financial aristocracy to control—ever more directly through the use of military force—the entire world.
This week, one government intelligence agency, after patiently and methodically tracking a terrorist leader for months through precise electronic surveillance, successfully targeted him for death by drone. Also this week, a government intelligence agency eliminated a terrorist leader through a drone strike without even knowing the leader was present, basing its decision to use lethal force on sophisticated analysis of militants’ patterns of life.
Bizarrely, this was the same agency, and this was the same terrorist leader.
On Tuesday, hardly before the dust in Yemen had settled, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake and Josh Rogin, relying on information provided by anonymous sources, supplied the public with the first narrative. In this version, the CIA killed Nasir al-Wuhayshi, “general manager” of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, “by building a methodical case on his whereabouts over months from information collected through technical means.”
On Thursday, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller, also relying on information provided by anonymous officials, supplied the second narrative. In this version, al-Wuhayshi was dead not because the CIA had tracked him down but because the Obama administration had “eased” certain drone-strike guidelines in Yemen and permitted the CIA to carry out “signature strikes” — strikes that take place without the agency’s specific knowledge of the identities of the individuals marked for death.
Rarely do the rival motives of anonymous officials come so nakedly into view, and conflict, around a single event. One faction immediately tries to capitalize on the al-Wuhayshi strike as evidence of the CIA’s other-worldly tracking abilities, even in the fog of a confusing and fraught war in Yemen. At the same time, another faction exploits the same strike to make a public case for expanding the use of a controversial targeting technique that the Obama administration earlier said, in an effort to assuage public concerns about the lawfulness of the drone program, it would retire.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function,” is the “test of a first-rate intelligence.” Here, though, the government’s conflicting stories seem something less than first-rate or intelligent — they seem amateurish and ham-handed. They also seem to suggest a total lack of concern for the possibility that anyone will ever hold officials accountable for their statements.
Lake, Rogin, and Miller work in a field in which reliance on anonymous sources is probably unavoidable and sometimes even illuminating. In this instance, though, they can’t all be right, and their competing stories serve as another reminder — in case any were needed — that the statements of anonymous intelligence officials are often efforts to mislead and manipulate, and that much of the “information” the government has provided the public about the drone program is merely propaganda.
Regrettably, this is unlikely to change anytime soon. A federal district court judge — the same judge who earlier dismissed a constitutional case relating to the government’s killing of four Americans in Yemen — ruled on Thursday that the CIA isn’t legally obliged to release any information about the drone program it hasn’t already released. For the time being at least, the CIA will continue to decide what the public knows about the CIA’s activities — even if it can’t keep its own story straight.
About the Authors
By Sherwood Ross | Aletho News | June 20, 2015
President Obama was, of course, right to denounce the massacre in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and to call for an end to such violence.
But this begs the question of whether he will stop his own illegal drone strikes in the Middle East that are just as deadly and a hundred times more numerous than the attack in South Carolina.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism(BIJ), London, just since Mr. Obama came to power, at least several thousand innocent persons (all are presumed innocent unless proven guilty by trial) in Pakistan alone have been murdered by his agents in the CIA and Pentagon. Among the dead are several hundred children. Here are BIJ’s distressing figures for that nation:
All actions 2004 – January 31 2015
Total Obama strikes: 362
Total US strikes since 2004: 413
Total reported killed: 2,438-3,942
Civilians reported killed: 416-959
Children reported killed: 168-204
Total reported injured: 1,142
The Bureau’s reports regarding covert US drone attacks cover both the missions of the CIA and the Pentagon’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
If nothing else, the horror of Charleston should inform the American public of the shock and awe their president is inflicting with grim regularity in the Middle East. His is a campaign that, to our shame and sorrow, is creating immense blowback against America.
Mr. Obama has maintained U.S. forces take great care that only terrorists are killed but an April 26th article in The Wall Street Journal by Adam Entous reports “he secretly approved a waiver giving the Central Intelligence Agency more flexibility in Pakistan than anywhere else to strike suspected militants…”
Entous continued, “The rules were designed to reduce the risk of civilian casualties. Mr. Obama also required that proposed targets pose an imminent threat to the U.S.—but the waiver exempted the CIA from this standard in Pakistan.” Why, you ask?
Mr. Obama, (who is reputed to be a former CIA employee,) according to RealClearPolitics is “In Thrall to CIA Killing Machine.” Writer Toby Harnden wrote of him on April 16, 2013: “The man who ran as a liberal, anti-war candidate has brushed away concerns about the (drone) attacks. During one meeting he responded to a request for an expansion of America’s drone fleet by saying: ‘The CIA gets what the CIA wants!'”
In his comments about the church murders, Mr. Obama said, “once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.” (Much less directing America’s trillion-dollar-a-year killing machine!)
Mr. Obama said further, “let’s be clear… It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency, and it is in our power to do something about it.” (Oh, yes it does! It happens far more often in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, among other places, and the man who is responsible for them and who can do something about it is the same man wearing the long face in the White House.)
With reference to this article, the eminent Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign, commented:
As the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior said a generation ago, the United States government is ‘the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.’
It is a terrible tragedy and a great shame that nothing has changed today under our first African American President and my fellow graduate of the Harvard Law School who knows better. The massive violence that America perpetrates abroad brutalizes the American People at home. President Obama has taught the world that in his opinion ‘violence works.’ Doctor King is now crying in Heaven.
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW how sausages are made, don’t start reading Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World by Michael Springmann. The sausages in this case: the string of too-easily-swallowed accounts of bloody events in the “global war on terror,” served up daily with relish by the mainstream media. In reality these sausages are filled with tainted meat that’s making everyone sick.
Springmann is a brave whistle blower living in Washington, D.C. He’s written an accessible book, safe to digest, highlighting details of the corruption of the American Empire (and its accomplices, including Canada) as he experienced them from the inside during his years with the U.S. State Department.
While he served as a visa officer in the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for instance, he was obliged under threat of dismissal to issue visas to persons hired clandestinely by the CIA to become trained-in-the-USA terrorists. Most of these psychopathic thugs were clearly and legally unqualified to be issued visas. There is every reason to believe the “Visas for Terrorists” program remains fully operative today. It takes a lot of expendable terrorists to run a global terrorism op.
Springmann places his experiences both within the context of the historical roots of the U.S. Empire and within its current ongoing global destabilization project.
“This tale,” the author states near the beginning, “is a sordid sketch of backstabbing, disloyalty, double crosses, faithlessness, falsity, perfidy, sellouts, treachery, and betrayal.”
And that only covers the bureaucratic aspect. Even more sobering is his sketch of human rights violations: torture, assassinations, massacres including bombings of markets, invasions and occupations of countries, destabilization of nations and regions.
Then there’s the financial side: widespread criminality, resource theft, bribery, diversion of funds, illicit drug dealing and more.
Not to mention the flouting of international laws. This dimension includes gross infringements on national sovereignty, the casual violation of treaties and ho-hum everyday general lawlessness, risking even the threat of nuclear annihilation.
All this before taking into account the moral dimension, in which trashing the Ten Commandments is just an opening trifle.
“My story shows how things really work,” Springmann writes, correctly. In the book’s 250 pages he names names, dates, times and places – presumably opening himself up to lawsuits, should there be anything here that the individuals named deem libelous. They might think twice, however, since Springmann is a lawyer by profession and knows his way around the Empire’s capital – as well as some of its outlying ramparts such as Stuttgart, New Delhi and especially Jeddah.
Stinging in itself, Springmann’s book also can be read as an authenticating companion to Michel Chossudovsky’s Towards a World War III Scenario (2012) and The Globalization of War: America’s “Long War” Against Humanity (2015). Along the way, both authors deal, to one extent or another, with the ideological, hubristic and increasingly bellicose role of the Harper government as handmaiden to the American Empire, including military involvements in Libya, Serbia and the Ukraine. Springmann necessarily refers very little to Canada, but to read his account of the cowardly and unnecessary rain of death inflicted on Libya, for instance, is to be obliged as a Canadian to think of Harper’s enthusiasm and pride in having this country share in the slaughter and destabilization carried out under the Orwellian “responsibility to protect” notion.
Springmann quotes Maximilian C. Forte who notes that before the attack Libya enjoyed the highest Human Development Index (a UN measurement of well-being) in all Africa. “After Western military forces destroyed the country the Index only records the steep collapse of all indicators of well-being. More Libyans were killed with intervention than without. It was about control, about militarizing Africa,” Forte argues.
What Springmann brings uniquely to the table is his firsthand knowledge of precisely how the USA recruits terrorists (no quotation marks needed), sends them to the USA for training and then deploys them to carry out murders, torture, bombings and more. The bloody mayhem carried out by these thousands of paid mercenaries – ostensibly beheading-habituated “jihadists” fighting against democracy, decency and the USA and its “allies – is planned, organized and funded by none other than the same USA and its allies. It’s a global false flag operation – the largest by far in history.
As Springmann on page 65 writes of the “Visas for Terrorists Program:”
This was not an ad hoc operation, conceived and carried out in response to a specific foreign policy issue. Rather, it was another of too many CIA efforts to destroy governments, countries, and politicians disfavored by the American “establishment” in its “bipartisan” approach to matters abroad. Whether it was opposing the imaginary evils of communism, the fictitious malevolence of Islam, or the invented wickedness of Iran, America and its intelligence services, brave defenders of “The City Upon A Hill,” sought out and created fear and loathing of peoples and countries essentially engaged in efforts to better their lives and improve their political world. Along the way, Agency-sponsored murders, war crimes, and human rights violations proved to be good business. Jobs for the Clandestine Service (people who recruit and run spies), sales of weapons and aircraft, as well as the myriad items needed to control banks, countries and peoples all provided income for and benefits to American companies.
That the American Empire has been able to carry out such a massive illegal program for so long is the saddest of commentaries on how deep the rot is, how effective the secrecy, how complicit the media.
As to the span of dangerous widespread deception, Springmann notes that Rahul Bedi wrote in Jane’s Defence Weekly on September 14, 2001 that beginning in 1980 “thousands [of mujahideen] were … brought to America and made competent in terrorism by Green Berets and SEALS at US government East Coast facilities, trained in guerilla warfare and armed with sophisticated weapons.”
The point is made repeatedly that Al Qaeda and now ISIS/ISIL/the Islamic State are essentially “Made in USA” entities, brought into being and organized for the Empire’s purposes. Among the elements that make possible such a vast fraud are deception, compartmentalization and secrecy. Springmann quotes attorney Pat Frascogna, “a man with FOIA expertise,” about secrecy and its purpose:
Thus whether it be learning the dirty and unethical business practices of a company or the secrets of our government, the same deployment of denials and feigning ignorance about what is really going on are the all-too-common methods used to keep the truth from the light of day.
Langley recruited the Arab-Afghans so clandestinely that the terrorists didn’t know they had been recruited. They thought that they had found a battlefield on their own, or through the Internet or through Twitter or through television…
Frascogna’s observation intersects with Springmann’s on-the-job experiences as a visa officer in Jeddah starting in 1987. Springmann was repeatedly overruled when he turned down disqualified applicants for U.S. visas. He writes:
As I later learned to my dismay, the visa applicants were recruits for the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union’s armed forces. Further, as time went by, the fighters, trained in the United States, went on to other battlefields: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. They worked with the American intelligence services and the State Department to destabilize governments the United States opposed. While it’s no secret, most knowledgeable people still refuse to talk about this agenda.
As Springmann learned, “the average percentage of intelligence officers to real diplomats at a given Foreign Service post is about one in three. My experience in Jeddah, Stuttgart, and New Delhi might place it higher—at least 50 percent, if not more.” According to the Anti-CIA Club of Diplomats: Spooks in U.S. Foreign Service [sic], a twelve-page, 1983 Canadian publication (see namebase.org), the percentage is 60 percent.
“At Jeddah,” Springmann writes, “to the best of my knowledge, out of some twenty US citizens assigned to the consulate, only three people, including myself, worked for the Department of State. The rest were CIA or NSA officials or their spouses.” Elsewhere Springmann suggests that essentially the CIA runs the State Department, and that this is true of many other U.S. government departments and agencies as well. It seems that it’s almost impossible to over-estimate the reach of the CIA’s tentacles or the overweening treason of its nonstop black ops and unconstitutional operations domestically.
Springmann toward the end of the book refers to the beginnings of the CIA. It’s interesting for this reviewer to think that he was 13 years of age in 1947 when U.S. president Harry Truman agreed with the National Security Council (NSC) to secretly create the CIA and NSA. I remember that in my teenage years a few of my peers said there “was something” called “the CIA.” This was around the time a few people also said there “was something” called “the Mafia.” The consensus was that both ideas were very far-fetched.
In 1948 Truman approved yet another NSC initiative, providing for “propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, antisabotage,
demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerillas, and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.” That’s a tabula rasa if there ever was one: a license for lawlessness.
The CIA’s twisted hits have just kept coming. It’s worth noting that Truman didn’t singlehandedly initiate this monstrosity. The dark recesses of the Deep State, as Peter Dale Scott calls it, are where the demonic entity was spawned. Ever since, Frankenstein’s monster has been a harmless schoolboy by comparison.
To read of the rape of Libya with active Canadian military complicity makes for difficult reading. The lies are piled as high as the bodies, and these two categories are insuperably paired.
Equally sordid, especially in light of Stephen Harper’s enthusiasm for expanding the war on Russia (the economic sanctions and the diplomatic exclusion of Russia from the G8 are forms of warfare, not to mention decades of covert* military incursion by the West onto the territory of the former USSR and now the Russian Federation, as described in Visas for Al Qaeda) is to read some of the history of the Ukraine. “The West’s” meddling in the Ukraine has a long illicit pedigree. As Springmann writes:
It seems that the CIA had problems [in the immediate post World War II period] distinguishing between underground groups and above-ground armies. Langley used Marshall Plan money to support a guerrilla force in the Ukraine, called “Nightingale.” Originally established in 1941 by Nazi Germany’s occupation forces, and working on their behalf, “Nightingale” and its terrorist arm (made up of ultranationalist Ukrainians as well as Nazi collaborators) murdered thousands of Jews, Soviet Union supporters, and Poles.
Even relatively recently, since the so-called Orange revolution in the Ukraine made events there eminently newsworthy, I can’t remember seeing in the mainstream media a single substantial article dealing with the historical relationships between the Ukraine and Russia going back to World War II, nor such an article laying out the history of the involvement –overt or covert – of “the West” in the Ukraine.
Instead, we see the surreal ahistorical likes of the top headline in The New York Times International Weekly for June 13-14, “Russia is Sowing Disunity,” by Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger. They report breathlessly in the lead paragraph: “Moscow is leveraging its economic power, financing European political parties and movements, and spreading alternative accounts of the Ukraine conflict, according the American and European officials.
True to the narrative of “the West” as a pitiful giant facing a powerful and expansionist Russia, the writers posit that the “consensus against Russian aggression” is “fragile.
The drift of this NYT yarn, typical of Western propaganda across the board, is that there remains in effect a behemoth “Soviet empire” surreptitiously shipping “Moscow gold” to dupes in “green movements” and so on. Even a former American national intelligence officer on Russia, Fiona Hill, now at the Brookings Institution, told the writers: “The question is how much hard evidence does anyone have?
Maybe this NYT propaganda, like its clones across the mainstream media, is not ahistorical after all. The story comes across rather as an historical relic of the Cold War – found in a time capsule in a fallout shelter – that the NYT editors decided to publish as a prank. A sausage.
* Military action by “the West” has not always been covert. Springmann notes that American and Japanese soldiers were dispatched to Russia in 1917 to squelch the fledgling Russian revolution. The soldiers were part of what was called the Allied Expeditionary Force. Winston Churchill for his part said: “We must strangle the Bolshevik baby in its crib.” Springmann might have noted that Canadian soldiers were part of the AEF.
The Guardian on Monday made public a CIA document allowing the agency’s director to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research.”
At Guantanamo, the CIA gave huge doses of the terror-inducing drug mefloquine to prisoners without their consent, as well as the supposed truth serum scopolamine. Former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman has documented the CIA’s torturing people, sometimes to death, and can find no explanation other than research:
“[Why] were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they’d been taken into custody? Even if they’d had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it ‘America’s battle lab.’”
Non-consensual experimentation on institutionalized children and adults was common in the United States before, during, and even more so after the U.S. and its allies prosecuted Nazis for the practice in 1947, sentencing many to prison and seven to be hanged. The tribunal created the Nuremberg Code, standards for medical practice that were immediately ignored back home. Some American doctors considered it “a good code for barbarians.”
The code begins: “Required is the voluntary, well-informed, understanding consent of the human subject in a full legal capacity.” A similar requirement is included in the CIA’s rules, but has not been followed, even as doctors have assisted with such torture techniques as waterboarding.
Thus far, the United States has never really accepted the Nuremberg Code. While the code was being created, the U.S. was giving people syphilis in Guatemala. It did the same at Tuskegee. Also during the Nuremberg trial, children at the Pennhurst school in southeastern Pennsylvania were given hepatitis-laced feces to eat.
Other sites of experimentation scandals have included the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, and Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia. And, of course, the CIA’s Project MKUltra (1953-1973) was a smorgasbord of human experimentation. Forced sterilizations of women in California prisons have not ended. Torture by Chicago police has for the first time just resulted in compensation for victims.
If we are, at long last, to put such contemptible behavior behind us, it will require breaking some bad habits.
Congress has busily re-banned torture a number of times in recent years. Now it must drop that charade and instead demand that the Attorney General enforce the anti-torture statute, which made torture a felony before George W. Bush ever became president.
It’s good of John Oliver to denounce torture. And he’s right to go after the lies told about torture in popular entertainment. But he’s also spreading the false idea that it’s legal. “We checked,” he says, reporting that his crack team of investigators discovered that the only ban on torture is found in an executive order written by President Obama. This is dangerous nonsense. The U.S. was a party to the Anti-Torture Convention and had made torture a felony under the anti-torture statute and the war-crimes statute before George W. Bush ever became president.
Since then, Congress has repeatedly “banned” torture. But, just as the U.N. Charter’s ban on war actually legalized certain wars, purporting to replace the total ban in the Kellogg-Briand Pact with a partial ban, these Congressional efforts (such as the Military Commissions Act of 2006) have actually legalized certain cases of torture, replacing (at least in everyone’s mind) the total ban already existing in the U.S. Code and in a treaty to which the U.S. is party.
The latest “ban” proposal from Senator McCain and friends, would create exceptions in the form of those in the Army Field Manual, and advocates maintain that step number two would be to reform that manual. But if you skip both steps and acknowledge the existence of the anti-torture statute in the U.S. Code, you’re done. The proper task is to press for its enforcement.
Oliver’s mistake, like virtually everyone else’s, is based on two myths. One, torture began with Bush. Two, torture ended with Bush. On the contrary, torture has been around in the United States and elsewhere for a very long time. So has the practice of banning it. Torture is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In fact, under international law, torture can never be legalized and is always banned.
Myth number two is also wrong. Torture has not ended and won’t as long as it’s not punished.
An attorney general can be questioned and threatened with impeachment until our laws are enforced. A new website created Monday let’s you email Congress to demand that it do just that.
Last year, it was discovered that the FBI had attempted to infiltrate the legal defense team of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner. The defendant is charged, along with four others including Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. As a result, the military trial was moved out for approximately one year to allow for an investigation into the FBI’s offense. Recently, Al-Jazeera reported that the trial has been moved out yet again because the Department of Justice team leading the investigation (of its own bureau) needs more time to complete its secret report. These delays highlight the absurdity of the case against these men and the contemptible abuse of justice that the military trial represents.
Apparently, it has been difficult for the Justice Department to explain why the FBI approached a member of defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s legal team to “create a relationship with him that he was forbidden from disclosing.” That explanation became more difficult when it was learned that another member of Bin al-Shibh’s defense team had been cooperating with the FBI since late 2013.
The FBI infiltration of the Bin Al-Shibh defense team is just the tip of this anti-justice iceberg, however. In February, it was revealed that a translator assigned to help defend the accused was a CIA operative. That’s one way to ensure that the official account of 9/11, created entirely through torture testimony and secret evidence provided by the CIA ad FBI, would not be contradicted by defendant testimony. More was needed, however, as previous disclosures showed that the CIA was controlling audio feeds from the courtroom, bugging the rooms where the accused met with their lawyers, and censoring the lawyers. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of confidential defense team emails were provided to the prosecutors.
The military trial of these men was never expected to bring justice. But the absurd actions taken by the CIA and FBI have made the whole thing seem ludicrous, mocking the U.S. justice system. Why would these measures be needed and tolerated if the defendants were actually involved in 9/11? The reasons include that:
- The charges against the defendants were largely established based on torture testimony, the records of which were destroyed by the CIA. That was after the agency misled the 9/11 Commission about the existence of the records.
- Bin al-Shibh and KSM were both originally identified by the first torture victim, Abu Zubaydah. However, the government now says that Zubaydah was never associated with al Qaeda at all and therefore he could not have known what the government previously said he knew. In other words, the arrest and torture of Bin al-Shibh and KSM were initiated by way of a fictional account attributed to Zubaydah.
- 9/11 Commission leader Lee Hamilton suddenly can’t recall anything about these torture victims or his use of their testimony (441 times) in the 9/11 Commission Report.
- KSM’s behavior prior to 9/11 was reported to be very different from that of a Muslim. He enjoyed go-go dancers and drinking parties and was said to be dangerous to nothing but his own bank account. The playboy lifestyle of KSM was similar to that of alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta, who seemed to be protected by U.S. authorities and might have been an intelligence asset.
- One of the defense team lawyers resigned from the Army in protest of what was happening. He accused the U.S. government of “stacking the deck against the defense” and conducting a “show trial.”
One reasonable explanation for why the CIA and FBI have gone to such great lengths to control this trial is that the agencies are trying to cover-up their own role in 9/11. Much has been learned that suggests the CIA and FBI were involved. For example:
- There are many examples of (admitted) government-sponsored terrorism.
- It is known that the FBI manufactures terrorism.
- FBI director Louis Freeh is a 9/11 suspect.
- CIA director George Tenet facilitated the 9/11 crimes.
- U.S. intelligence agencies continue to lie about their “response” to 9/11.
Whatever the reason for the antics, the military trial of these men has become an absolute farce leading American society farther down a path of tyranny. It sets a precedent in which the CIA and FBI can be suspected of crimes against the nation and then charge others with those crimes using secret evidence. The accused can be held in seclusion for thirteen years until agents of the CIA and FBI insert themselves as defense team members, ensuring total control from start to end.
At the same time, the press never notices that such an obviously fake trial would not be needed if there were actually any legitimate evidence against the accused. All things considered, this trial is not only a travesty of justice, it makes a mockery of 9/11 and brings shame upon the American people.
Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s “you’re no Jack Kennedy” put-down of Republican Sen. Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate springs to mind on a day on which I cannot help but compare the character of President Barack Obama to that of John Kennedy, the first President under whom I served in the Army and CIA.
On this day 52 years ago, President John Kennedy gave a landmark speech at American University, appealing for cooperation instead of confrontation with the Soviet Union. Kennedy knew all too well that he was breaking the omerta-like code that dictated demonization of the Soviet leaders. But the stakes could not have been higher – a choice of an endless arms race (with the attendant risk of nuclear conflagration) or bilateral cooperation to curb the most dangerous weapons that jeopardized the future of humankind.
Forgoing the anti-Soviet rhetoric that was de rigueur at the time, Kennedy made an urgent appeal to slow down the arms race, and then backed up the rhetoric with a surprise announcement that the U.S. was halting nuclear testing. This daring step terrified those sitting atop the military-industrial complex and, in my opinion, was among the main reasons behind Kennedy’s assassination some five months later.
At American University, John Kennedy broke new ground in telling the world in no uncertain terms that he would strive to work out a genuine, lasting peace with the Soviet Union. And to underscore his seriousness, Kennedy announced a unilateral cessation of nuclear testing, but also the beginning of high-level discussions in Moscow aimed at concluding a comprehensive test ban treaty.
In tightly held conversations with speechwriter Ted Sorensen and a handful of other clued-in advisers, Kennedy labeled his address “the peace speech.” He managed to hide it from the military advisers who just eight months before had pressed hard for an attack on the Soviet nuclear missiles sent to Cuba in 1962.
It was then that Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, his Soviet counterpart, stood on the brink of ordering the incineration of possibly hundreds of millions of people, before the two worked out a face-saving compromise and thus thwarted the generals of both sides who were pressing for Armageddon.
Kennedy’s resistance to relentless pressure – from military and civilian advisers alike – for a military strike, combined with Khrushchev’s understanding of the stakes involved, saved perhaps the very life of the planet. And here’s the kicker: What neither Kennedy nor his advisers knew at the time was that on Oct. 26, 1962, just one day before the U.S.-Soviet compromise was reached, the nuclear warheads on the missiles in Cuba had been readied for launch.
This alarming fact was learned only 30 years later, prompting Robert McNamara, Kennedy’s defense secretary to write:
“Clearly there was a high risk that, in the face of a U.S. attack – which, as I have said, many were prepared to recommend to President Kennedy – the Soviet forces in Cuba would have decided to use their nuclear weapons rather than lose them. …
“We need not speculate about what would have happened in that event. We can predict the results with certainty. … And where would it have ended? In utter disaster.”
It was that searing experience and the confidential exchange of letters between Kennedy and Khrushchev that convinced them both that they needed to commit to working out ways to lessen the chance of another such near-catastrophe in the future.
American University Speech
Kennedy’s “peace speech” was a definitive break with the past. Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins wrote simply: “At American University on June 10, 1963, President Kennedy proposed an end to the Cold War.”
Kennedy told those assembled that he had chosen…
“this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived … world peace.”
“What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. … I am talking about genuine peace – the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living – the kind that enables man and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. …
“Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles – which can only destroy and never create – is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. …
“So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable – and war need not be inevitable. … No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. … We can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements – in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.
“Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost unique among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory … was turned into a wasteland – a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.
“Today, should total war ever break out again … all we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours. And even in the Cold War … our two countries … are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons, which could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease.
“So, let us not be blind to our differences – but let us direct attention to our common interests and to means by which those differences can be resolved. … For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. …
“Above all, while defending our vital interest, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy – or of a collective death wish for the world. …
“Finally, let us examine our attitude toward peace and freedom here at home. … In too many of our cities today, the peace is not secure because freedom is incomplete. … We shall do our part to build a world of peace, where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on … toward a strategy of peace.”
As mentioned above, Kennedy backed up his words by announcing the unilateral halt to nuclear testing and the start of negotiations on a comprehensive test ban treaty. In a sharp break from precedent, the Soviets published the full text of Kennedy’s speech and let it be broadcast throughout the U.S.S.R. without the usual jamming.
Khrushchev told test-ban negotiator Averell Harriman that Kennedy had given “the greatest speech by any American president since Roosevelt.” The Soviet leader responded by proposing to Kennedy that they consider a limited test ban encompassing the atmosphere, outer space and water, as a way to get around the thorny issue of inspections.
In contrast, Kennedy’s AU speech was greeted with condescension and skepticism by the New York Times, which reported: “Generally there was not much optimism in official Washington that the President’s conciliation address at American University would produce agreement on a test ban treaty or anything else.”
In giving pride of place to his rejection of “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war,” Kennedy threw down the gauntlet to the “military-industrial complex” against which President Dwight Eisenhower had pointedly warned in his Farewell Address:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, but the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Ike got that right. Then, as now, the military-industrial complex was totally dependent on a “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” It was policed by the Pentagon and was/is a hugely profitable enterprise.
Opposition coalesced around the negotiations toward a test ban treaty, with strong opponents in Congress, the media, and (surprise, surprise!) the military-industrial complex. Kennedy courageously kept his warmongering senior military out of the loop, and rushed Harriman through the talks in Moscow.
On July 25, 1963, Harriman initialed the final text of a Limited Test Ban Treaty outlawing nuclear tests “in the atmosphere, beyond its limits, including outer space, or under water, including territorial waters or high seas.”
The next evening, Kennedy went on TV, using his bully pulpit to appeal for support for ratification of the treaty. In a swipe at the various players in the formidable anti-treaty lobby, the President stressed that the vulnerability of children was a strong impetus to his determination to fight against all odds: “This is for our children and our grandchildren, and they have no lobby here in Washington.”
But the Establishment was not moved; and seldom have its anxieties been more transparent. It is axiomatic that peace is not good for business, but seldom do you see that in a headline. But the plaintive title of a U.S. News and World Report on Aug. 12, 1963, was “If Peace Does Come – What Happens to Business?” The article asked, “Will the bottom drop out if defense spending is cut?”
Kennedy circumvented the military-industrial complex by enlisting the Citizens Committee led by Norman Cousins, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and prominent religious leaders – among others – to appeal for ratification. In early August, Kennedy told his advisers he believed it would take a near-miracle to get the two-thirds Senate vote needed. On Sept. 24, the Senate ratified the treaty by a vote of 80 to 19.
I am indebted to James Douglass and his masterful JFK and the Unspeakable; Why He Died & Why It Matters, for much of the play-by-play in that whirlwind rush to ratification. Douglass argues persuasively, in my view, that Kennedy’s bold move toward carving out a more peaceful strategic relationship with the Soviet Union, first announced on June 10 at American University, was one of the main factors that sealed his fate.
An Obama Complex
While it’s true that comparisons can be invidious, they can also be instructive. Will President Obama ever be able to summon the courage to face down the military-industrial complex and other powerful Establishment forces? Or is it simply (and sadly) the case that he simply does not have it in him?
Referring to Obama’s anemic flip-flopping on Ukraine, journalist Robert Parry wrote that Obama’s policy on Ukraine suggests that he (1) believes his own propaganda, (2) is a conscious liar, or (3) has completely lost his bearings, and simply adopts the position of the last person he talks to.
I see as the primary factor a toxic, enervating mix of fear and cowardice. Former Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who quit his job as chief prosecutor at Guantanamo when ordered to accept testimony based on waterboarding under the Bush administration, may have come close with his unusual burst of military-style candor.
Davis told an interviewer: “There’s a pair of testicles somewhere between the Capitol Building and the White House that fell off the President after Election Day .”
Shortly before his re-election in 2012, Obama reportedly was braced at a small dinner party by wealthy donors who wanted to know whatever happened to the “progressive Obama.” The President did not take kindly to the criticism, rose from the table, and said, “Don’t you remember what happened to Dr. King?”
It is, of course, a fair question as to whether Obama should have run for President if he knew such fears might impinge on his freedom of decision. But let’s ask the other question: What did happen to Martin Luther King Jr.? Would you believe that the vast majority of Americans know only that he was killed and have no idea as to who killed him and why?
In late 1999, a trial took place in Memphis not far from where King was murdered. In a wrongful death lawsuit initiated by the King family, 70 witnesses testified over a six-week period. They described a sophisticated government plot that involved the FBI, the CIA, the Memphis Police, Mafia intermediaries, and an Army Special Forces sniper team. The 12 jurors, six black and six white, returned after 2 ½ hours of deliberation with a verdict that Dr. King has been assassinated by a conspiracy that included agencies of his own government.
My hunch is that Obama walks around afraid, and that this helps explain why he feels he has to kowtow to the worst kind of thugs and liars lingering in his own administration – the torturers, the perjurers, and the legerdemain lawyers who can even make waterboarding, which Obama publicly condemned as torture, magically legal. So far at least, Obama has been no profile in courage – and he’s nearly 6 ½ years into his presidency.
I have two suggestions for him today. Let him take a few minutes to read and reflect on President Kennedy’s American University speech of 52 years ago. And let him also reflect on the words of Fannie Lou Hamer – the diminutive but gutsy civil rights organizer of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and of Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964:
“Sometimes it seems like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom.”
Obama has a nine-inch height advantage over Fannie Lou Hamer; he needs somehow to assimilate a bit of her courage.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Can Obama Speak Strongly for Peace?”]
Senator McCain and friends have a new push on to once again ban torture (except for exceptions in the Army Field Manual) that is being presented as an effort to preempt future Republican presidents’ torturing. This reinforces two false beliefs. One is that torture is not ongoing today under President Peace Prize. The other is that torture wasn’t banned before George W. Bush was ever selected by the Supreme Court.
Last December, Senator Ron Wyden had a petition up at MoveOn.org that read “Right now, torture is banned because of President Obama’s executive order. It’s time for Congress to pass a law banning torture, by all agencies, so that a future president can never revoke the ban.” This is the same mythology being pushed by McCain yet again. Wyden went on to explain:
“We live in a dangerous world. But when CIA operatives and contractors torture terrorist suspects, it doesn’t make us safer — and it doesn’t work. The recent CIA torture report made that abundantly clear. Right now, the federal law that bans torture only applies to the U.S. military — not our intelligence agencies. President Obama’s executive order barring all agencies from using torture could be reversed, even in secret, by a future president. That’s why it’s critical that Congress act swiftly to pass a law barring all agencies of the U.S. government, and contractors acting on our behalf, from engaging in torture. Without legislation, the door on torture is still open. It’s time for Congress to slam that door shut once and for all.”
Why in the world would anybody object to this unless they supported torture? Well, let me explain.
Torture and complicity in torture were felonies under U.S. law before George W. Bush moved into the White House, under both the torture statute and the war crimes statute. Nothing has fundamentally changed about that, other than the blatant lack of enforcement for several years running. Nothing in those two sections of the U.S. code limits the law to members of the U.S. military or excludes employees or contractors or subcontractors of so-called intelligence agencies. I emailed a dozen legal experts about that claim in the above petition. Michael Ratner replied “I don’t see where they get that from.” Kevin Zeese said simply “They’re wrong.” If anyone replies to me with any explanation, I’ll post it as an update at the top of this article on davidswanson.org — where I can be contacted if you have an explanation.
For the past several years, the U.S. Congress, White House, Justice Department, and media have gone out of their way to ignore the existence of U.S. laws banning torture. When silence hasn’t worked, the primary technique has been proposing over and over and over again to ban torture, as if it were not already banned. In fact, Congress has followed through and banned it a number of times, and done so with new exceptions that by some interpretations have in fact weakened the war crimes statute. This is my best guess where the nonsense about applying only to “intelligence agencies” comes from: laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that claimed to pick and choose which types of torture to ban for whom.
When President Obama took President Bush’s place he produced an executive order purporting to ban torture (again), even while publicly telling the Justice Department not to enforce any existing laws. But an executive order, as Wyden seems to recognize, is not a law. Neither can it ban torture, nor can it give legal weight to the pretense that torture wasn’t already banned. In fact the order itself states: “Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441 . . . .”
Senator Wyden said he would introduce yet another bill to “ban torture.” Here’s how the Washington Post was spinning, and explaining, that:
“Torture is already illegal, but Wyden notes that protections can be strengthened. To oversimplify, the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in which participating states agreed to outlaw intentionally inflicting severe pain for specific purposes. The Bush administration obviously found a (supposedly) legal route around that.”
In other words, because it was done by a president, it was legal — the worldview of the Post’s old buddy Richard Nixon.
“After the Abu Graib revelations, John McCain helped pass a 2005 amendment that would restrict the military from using specific brutal interrogation tactics — those not in the Army Field Manual. (This didn’t preclude intel services from using these techniques, which might explain why CIA director John Brennan felt free to say the other day that future policymakers might revert to using them). In 2008, Congress passed a measure specifically applying those restrictions to intelligence services, too, but then-President Bush vetoed it. Senator Wyden would revive a version of that 2008 bill as a starting point, with the goal of codifying in law President Obama’s executive order banning the use of those specific techniques for all government employees, those in intelligence services included.”
But let’s back up a minute. When a president violates a law, that president — at least once out of office — should be prosecuted for violating the law. The law can’t be declared void because it was violated. Loopholes can’t be created for the CIA. Reliance on the Army Field Manual can’t sneak into law the loopholes built into that document. Presidents can’t order and un-order things illegal. Here’s how the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson responded to the release of the Senate’s report summary:
“The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the U.S. Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability. International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the U.S. Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes. As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.”
Now, one could try to spin the endless re-banning of torture as part of the process of enforcing an international treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. But banning a practice going forward, even when you ban it better, or ban it more emphatically for the 8th time, does absolutely nothing to fulfill the legal obligation to prosecute those crimes already committed. And here we are dealing with crimes openly confessed to by past officials who assert that they would “do it again” — crimes that resulted in deaths, thus eliminating any attempt at an argument that statutes of limitations have run out.
Here’s a different sort of petition that we’ve set up at RootsAction.org along with Witness Against Torture and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee: ” We call on President Obama to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce our laws, and to immediately appoint a special prosecutor. As torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, we call on any willing court system in the world to enforce our laws if our own courts will not do so.”
The purpose of such a petition is not vengeance or partisanship or a fetish with history. The purpose is to end torture, which is not done by looking forward or even by pardoning the crimes, as the ACLU has proposed — to its credit recognizing that the crimes exist. That should be a first step for anyone confused by the endless drumbeat to “ban torture.”
The Obama administration is trying to tack 20 years onto a Florida man’s tax fraud sentence for the supposed crime of possessing books the government doesn’t like. The Intercept reports:
Now, to demonstrate that Robertson’s tax charges merit a terrorism enhancement, the government has cited a number of books owned by Robertson that allegedly extol extremist beliefs. Robertson, who is recognized as an Islamic scholar, owned a library which included roughly 10,000 e-books, a small number of which are alleged by the government to have contained passages deemed controversial.
The government hasn’t provided any evidence to demonstrate that Robertson endorsed, let alone acted upon, any of the passages cited in these books, the defense counters. “There is nothing contained in the prosecution’s memorandum which connects Mr. Robertson to any actual conspiracy to commit terrorism,” Robertson’s attorney, Daniel Broderson, said. “He is an Islamic scholar who owned thousands of books, and they are trying to pull select passages from a handful of books he owned to try and make the case that he’s an extremist.”
Robertson, who says he’s worked for the FBI and CIA as an asset in the past, alleges that the government is retaliating against him for “refusing to conduct an overseas operation requested by the CIA.”
“The government is trying to use my case to establish a legal precedent, where even if a person is not charged with actual terrorism offenses they can still try them as a ‘terrorist’ using the sentencing adjustment,” Robertson told The Intercept. “This is not just about prosecuting my case specifically, it’s about creating a precedent whereby the government can simply go through the books you own and use them to frighten people into believing that you’re a terrorist.”