Israel’s frantic cocoon-weaving entered a new phase last week, as Benjamin Netanyahu’s government stepped up efforts to stifle the last vestiges of dissent.
The military censor’s office, a draconian 70-year-old hangover from British rule in Palestine, extended its powers over Israeli press and TV to prominent blogs and social media.
The government has also threatened to revoke the press cards of “journalists and editors who are negligent in their work” – aimed at those who depart too obviously from the official line.
These moves follow culture minister Miri Regev’s announcement of a “loyalty law” that will deny state funding to artists and cultural institutions that are not sufficiently patriotic.
The education minister, settler leader Naftali Bennett, meanwhile, is reportedly preparing a raft of measures: a ban on access for pupils to literature and theatre not in line with government thinking, cuts to already very limited pluralism education and a new civics textbook vilifying the Palestinian minority.
In this atmosphere of inculcated ignorance and prejudice, it is easy for Mr Netanyahu to persuade public opinion that the recent wave of Palestinian protests and attacks, which have left more than 160 Palestinians and 29 Israelis dead, is solely the result of “incitement” from Palestinian officials and media. The Israeli right suggests that Palestinians who stab or drive cars at their oppressors, most often soldiers and settlers, are easily inflamed into action by words that appeal to ancient prejudice.
As the Israeli public discourse grows ever more detached from reality, Israel’s military commanders sound like an oasis of sanity – at least, by comparison.
The Israeli army actually has an operational interest in understanding what drives the Palestinian attacks – both to better counter them and to quieten growing government pressure for drastic responses, ones that could trigger the collapse of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.
The military have sent intelligence officials into Israeli prisons to interview Palestinians who were not killed during their attacks, including children as young as 13.
What the army has found should surprise no one. Palestinians feel desperate and hopeless about a situation in which their own and their families’ freedoms are tightly restricted by a seemingly endless Israeli occupation.
The Palestinians behind the attacks – “lone wolves”, as Israelis call them – are often also facing extreme personal crises: suicidal thoughts, financial troubles or grief from a relative or friend’s death at Israel’s hands.
Few have had any experience of Israelis beyond the soldiers who mistreat them at checkpoints and during raids on their villages, and the settlers who lord it over them.
These findings have provoked a widening rift between the government and military.
Mr Netanyahu and his allies, drawing on the Israeli right’s traditional “iron wall” philosophy of ruthlessly crushing Palestinian dissent, have demanded greater privations for those under occupation to make them submit.
Last week, the government responded to an attack on a checkpoint by a Palestinian security official that injured three Israeli soldiers by locking down Ramallah, the Palestinians’ current economic and political capital.
The army effectively overruled that decision the next day. Gadi Eisenkott, the chief of general staff, has repeatedly warned that collective punishment will only fuel Palestinian anger and increase attacks.
He argues that more permits for Palestinian labourers to work in Israel, improving the Palestinian economy, is “an Israeli interest and a restraining factor”. He also prefers nurturing existing ties with the Palestinian security forces.
The military doves, however, are no less deluded than the political hawks.
The politicians want a collective stick to beat the Palestinians, one that will only intensify the conflict. The military, on the other hand, want individual perks for good behaviour to perpetuate the status quo a little longer.
What neither side wishes to talk about is the framework that creates Palestinian despair and anger: the occupation.
The personal crises identified by the military that spur Palestinians to violence – debt, depression and the killing of a friend or relative – are not a stroke of bad luck befalling individuals. They are an inevitable by-product of the systematic abuses inflicted on an entire occupied population.
Lawlessness from land-hungry Jewish settlers, severe movement restrictions, home demolitions and “policing” by a hostile army ensure Palestinians live as a subjugated people, slaves to ever harsher repression.
Anyone who challenges Israelis’ bubble of illusions faces the Israeli government’s wrath, as UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon found last month. When he pointed out the obvious – that it was “human nature to react to occupation” – Mr Netanyahu accused him of “stoking terror”.
Worse vitriol rained down on Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, when she made much the same point – and urged an investigation into the apparent executions of some of the Palestinians recently killed by the army. She was accused of “defamation” and officially barred from visiting Israel.
The blinkered assumptions of both Israel’s politicians and its generals mean neither can find a way out of the current mire.
Those who wish simply to perpetuate Palestinian suffering may triumph over those who would prefer to intensify it. Either way, Palestinians will continue to resist.
April 16, 2015
In INHUMAN KIND, Motherboard gains exclusive access to a small fleet of US Army bomb disposal robots—the same platforms the military has weaponized—and to a pair of DARPA’s six-foot-tall bipedal humanoid robots. We also meet Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, renowned physicist Max Tegmark, and others who grapple with the specter of artificial intelligence, killer robots, and a technological precedent forged in the atomic age. It’s a story about the evolving relationship between humans and robots, and what AI in machines bodes for the future of war and the human race.
Read: The Evil ‘Star Wars’ Robot Who Owns the Term ‘Meatbag’ – http://bit.ly/1Hy6KLU
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Former cabinet ministers have urged the government to set up an inquiry into the way UK counter-terror laws are affecting the humanitarian work of Islamic charities, many of which operate in Syria.
Two former international development secretaries have discussed the issue with parliamentary officials and have written to the Commons International Development Select Committee to call for an inquiry into complaints that Islamic charities are being treated unfairly.
Clare Short, who was international development secretary from 1997 to 2003, and Andrew Mitchell, who served in the same job from 2010 to 2012, have responded to concerns that Muslim charities are being discriminated against by banks or members of the authorities who worry funding could make its way to extremist organizations.
Almost one-fifth of government development aid goes to charities, and Islamic charities are some of the few British aid organizations that can operate in Syria.
Short wrote that the issue needed examining.
“This is an issue that needs clarifying and sorting out. It has been around as a problem for some time, but it has been getting worse and worse. We have got this enormous capacity in the UK of these Muslim humanitarian charities, yet they are struggling with one hand behind their back. We need a proper scrutiny and examination bringing all this out. It is preventing efficiency.”
Mitchell said: “These are some of the few charities that can get into Syria and help the benighted people of that country, yet they are being held back due to misunderstandings and banking bureaucracy.”
Commons International Development Committee chair Stephen Twigg said he would examine the request “very sympathetically.”
One charity which has complained of discrimination is Islamic Relief, one of the largest Muslim charities, who say their work is being hampered. The charity is funded by the Department for International Development, yet has had one of its bank accounts closed by HSBC.
Other charities have reported the closure of bank accounts, Pay Pal accounts and the blocking of financial transactions.
The government set up a working party to examine any issues after the complaints were made.
Short and Mitchell also travelled to Turkey to see some of the charity work by the Muslim Charities Forum, an umbrella organization for nine charities, being done to get aid into Syria. They returned with praise for the organization and its work.
Omayma El Ella, the operations manager of the Muslim Charities Forum, explained that there was no one to hold to account for the problem.
“No one is accountable for what is going on right now. Every time we speak to the government about this, they say it is a private sector issue and they cannot get involved. That is not good enough anymore. We are told no one will be prosecuted for ‘benign engagement’, but what is ‘benign engagement’? That has not been clarified.”
The recently released minutes from a November meeting between Erdogan and the EU prove that the Turkish strongman is manipulating the immigrant flow into Europe for strategic ends.
The Greek financial website euro2day.gr published the shocking record of what transpired at a November meeting between Erdogan, Tusk, and Juncker in Antalya. In attempting to squeeze more money out of Brussels for his cooperation in halting the refugee flow, the Turkish leader thuggishly threatened that “We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and we can put the refugees on buses”, snarling to the EU leaders and rhetorically taunting them by asking “how will you deal with refugees if you don’t get a deal? Kill the refugees?”
€3 billion later, Erdogan shut up but he didn’t shut his borders, and the human wave continues to crash into Europe.
Now that the cat’s out of the bag and there’s a smoking gun to prove what most Europeans had already figured out by now — that the immigrant crisis is a strategically engineered weapon against them — the US has gone into full spin mode by doing what it does best, blaming Russia.
A day before the minutes were leaked, Carnegie Europe published a mudslinging piece which alleges in its title that “Putin Uses The Refugee Crisis To Weaken Merkel“, and a day after the Erdogan bombshell was made public, George Soros followed up with one of his famous speculative attacks (albeit this time non-financial) in which he ludicrously proclaimed that “Putin’s current aim is to foster the EU’s disintegration, and the best way to do so is to flood the EU with Syrian refugees.”
Ironically, but as is the established pattern, every time that the US is caught doing something unsavory, they always reflexively resort to blaming Russia for their own sins, and the immigrant crisis is no different. What’s new this time around, however, are the strange “anti-imperialist” bedfellows that they’ve aligned with in doing so.
‘Weapons Of Mass Migration’
The first thing to understand about the immigrant crisis is that the on-the-ground conditions for it were created by the US’ aggressive unipolar wars on the Mideast and North Africa, and that the resultant humanitarian catastrophe has been strategically weaponized by Washington and its allies for various geopolitical and economic ends.
Kelly M. Greenhill, an Associate Professor at Tufts University and Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, published a groundbreaking 2010 book about “Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy” in which she proved that there are at least 56 instances in which states have purposefully generated, provoked, and exploited massive waves of human migrations as an instrument to further their respective policies. Excerpts from her book were culled to form a summarized article that’s available for free at the Naval Postgraduate School’s website.
In terms of the present application of “Weapons Of Mass Migration”, the US and Turkey have a few overlapping goals in mind. Ghassan Kadi brilliantly explained that Erdogan wants to use the immigrants as leverage in order to extract financial and institutional concessions from the EU, while concomitantly flooding the West with Islamist-sympathizing individuals that can act as a fifth column of support for his expansionist policy of Neo-Ottomanism.
The latter goal segues in nicely with what the US wants to do, which is to kaleidoscopically fracture hitherto largely homogeneous European societies via provoked and prolonged Hobbesian conflict between the locals, refugees, and host governments. It’s aware that the civilizational dissimilarity between the native Europeans and the migrating Muslim masses will inevitably lead to multifaceted tension, and it aims to perpetually exploit the resultant identity cleavages in order to conveniently craft various Color Revolution scenarios in keeping certain governments in check and away from pragmatic cooperation with Russia and China (e.g. Nord Stream II, Turkish/Balkan Stream, and the Balkan Silk Road).
Qualifying Caveats And The Smoking Gun Pattern
It’s useful at this moment to point out that while there definitely are some legitimate refugees reaching Europe’s shores, many of the newcomers are economic migrants that aren’t even from Syria, and that a highly disproportionate number of the people who have come to the continent are draft-age young males. This is why the author collectively and more accurately refers to these people as immigrants and not “refugees”. Russian Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov, American Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian have all recently warned that Daesh terrorists are actively infiltrating borders under the guise of being “refugees”, so there are absolutely some legitimate concerns about the types of people getting into Europe undetected.
Another thing is that “Islamist” isn’t a synonym for Muslim (as it’s commonly mistaken to be), but rather a label in referring to those that seek to impose Islam on others, such as Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabi sympathizers. These individuals don’t have to be instructed on how to stir up problems in their host countries because their Islamist ideology naturally inspires them to clash with the locals, which thus organically satisfies the US’ 21st-century “Operation Gladio” plans. Regrettably, the sexual terrorist attacks in Cologne and other cities leave no doubt that many of these undesirable immigrants have already gotten into the EU, confirming that the US and Turkey’s destabilizing geopolitical plans are already in full swing.
Most Europeans figured out on their own that something was amiss about the whole immigrant crisis, questioning why so many of the new arrivals, if they were genuine refugees, would behave with such arrogant, ungrateful, and callous disregard for the host population that literally (as they were led to believe) saved their lives. The smoking gun of Erdogan’s transcribed threat, proving the degree of control that he has over the floodgates and his willingness to leverage this in as self-interested of a manner as possible, showed many Europeans that they weren’t wrong for questioning the mainstream media’s narrative on this whole matter.
Similar smoking guns have dispelled the Western myth about other high-profile crises as well. The Nuland-Pyatt recording proved that the US was scheming for regime change in Ukraine, and a 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency memo explicitly states that the Syrian “opposition” was full of terrorists from the beginning and that a “declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria”, which later turned out to be Daesh, was “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want”. The latest revelation validates many people’s prior fears that the immigrant crisis had been strategically engineered, and it casts a damning light on the US’ role and intended agenda behind it. Tellingly, the faked hysteria that Putin is “flooding the EU with Syrian refugees” to “weaken Merkel” seems to imply that the German Chancellor’s days are numbered, but the US wants to cover its tracks and clumsily pretend that it’s Moscow which actually has something to gain by deposing its strategic Nord Stream II partner and not Washington like is actually the case.
Up until the point where the US had to begrudgingly acknowledge that strategically engineered “Weapons of Mass Migration” were being used against the EU and predictably blame it all on Russia, its allied “NGOs” and information outlets had categorically denied that such a planned phenomenon was taking place, slurring anyone who dared to even infer this possibility as being “racist”, “fascist”, and “white supremacist”. Astonishingly, this mainstream media-imposed “political correctness” and ideological intimidation was aggressively repeated by social and alternative media “activists” who fashioned themselves as (militant) far-left “anti-imperialists” — typically the sort of individuals who speak out against the US’ “thought police” or at least respect others’ right to do so.
These “anti-imperialists” claim to support Russia’s role in the world, yet state that border controls and assimilative & integrational immigration policies are some kind of “new fascism”. Apparently they never read President Putin’s 2012 manifesto on the topic, otherwise they would know that the Russian leader has a very firm and publicly declared stance against open borders and the Western conception of “multiculturalism”. By attacking concerned individuals that espouse these exact same principles as “racist”, “fascist”, and “white supremacist”, they’re indirectly attacking Russia and associating it with those slurs. It’s a documented fact that the tentacles of unipolar influence are long and deeply embedded in all sorts of social and political movements, so it’s reasonable to question whether these “anti-imperialist” voices are just “misguided activists” or if they’re really just anti-Russian provocateurs with an ideological ax to grind.
One could hardly find a person both within the UK or outside it that would look positively at the steps that have been taken by David Cameron and his government if, of course, we’re not talking about members of the Conservative Party and certain military circles. The reasons are plenty, but the most obvious ones are the crimes against humanity committed by this government, along with a total disregard for the social needs of UK citizens and the revanchist policies it pursued in the Middle East and Africa.
It will suffice to note that Cameron’s government is going to cut its social spending to the lowest possible level to be able to carry on foreign military campaigns. The Guardian notes:
Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the all-party Commons select committee on health, is calling for the government to act, saying that social care providers are reeling from rising costs and declining fees from cash-strapped local authorities.
As a direct result of the steps that are being taken by British government, those citizens that are facing retirement today will lose all means to pay their expenses in the next 10 years.
The benefits cuts on sheltered housing that have been recently announced by the UK government will literally make tens of thousands of those in dire need homeless. Those that are forced to experience the consequences of the shortsighted policies of London are to be the most vulnerable, namely older residents, domestic violence victims and people with mental illness. Those caps were first announced last autumn by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
However, the Guardian refuses to mention that the army is still enjoying substantial budgets just as it always has, to the benefit of countless military contractors and those politicians who represent them in the parliament. It is therefore not surprising that these lobbyists are among the most ardent supporters of David Cameron’s plan of the possible British military engagement in Syria, despite attempts of some sane politicians to put an end to airstrikes that the UK is carrying out in this Arab country, calling them “infanticide“
The above mentioned activities predictably result in an ever growing body count that British troops are producing with their “fire and sword” across the world in the name of vague “democratic principles”, while actually protecting the interests of the City of London.
Therefore, the British political elite are putting every effort into a bid to prevent the investigation of their criminal policies in the Middle East, Africa and other regions around the world. For instance every possible step has been taken to derail an inquiry of the commission headed by Sir John Chilcot that was entrusted back in 2009 to give an answer on how justified Tony Blair’s decision was to go to war against Iraq, which resulted in 179 British soldiers killed and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis left suffering in lawlessness and bitter misery to this date. Moreover, a few days ago it was announced that the British Ministry of Defense was going to close the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) that was created in 2010 to study at least 58 allegations against British servicemen allegedly involved in murder cases in Iraq. And although the IHAT was investigating the deaths of 1,500 possible victims, out of which 280 were allegedly unlawfully killed, there’s every reason to believe that it won’t be funded up to 2019 as originally intended.
David Cameron is anticipating complete impunity for his actions, therefore refusing to launch an investigation of war crimes that were carried out with the use of British weapons, especially those supplied by the British to Saudi Arabia. Cameron excused himself for this decision by announcing that arms exports are being “closely monitored”.
Lately Amnesty International has been vocal in condemning the UK role in the Yemeni conflict, while directly pointing to the shameful support of routine brutality that the Saudi regime has been exhibiting. At the same time The Independent published an article that stated a member of the British government, while staying in Riyadh, praised Saudi authorities for the “remarkable progress” in the field of human rights, a month after the public execution of 47 people!
As for the British responsibility in the massive civilian killings in Yemen, it is necessary to recall that during the first nine months of 2015 the United Kingdom supplied Saudi Arabia with 2.95 billion pounds worth of arms, which were used to launch airstrikes against heavily populated urban areas. The total worth of weapons sold to Saudi Arabia throughout all of Cameron’s premiership amounts to 7 billion pounds, including a contract to supply the regime with 72 Eurofighter Typhoons. Numerous media sources have been calling repeatedly to bring to justice those responsible in the bloody conflict in Yemen. So there’s little wonder that the UN Security Council decided to form a special committee to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law by all the parties of the Yemeni conflict to identify those responsible. And the UK is not particularly happy about that fact.
As it was reported by The Independent :
An influential joint committee of MPs is set to investigate claims that British-made weapons may have been used for strikes against civilian targets. The Committee on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), made up of members of the Foreign Affairs, International Development, Defence and Business select committees, has not sat so far this Parliament, but will be re-established.
Crispin Blunt, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Stephen Twigg, chair of the International Development committee, have both indicated that they want the CAEC to investigate whether UK arms have been used for military strikes against civilians, and also to scrutinise the role of UK personnel working in Saudi command and control centres orchestrating airstrikes.
Taking into account the steps that David Cameron has made to hide numerous crimes committed by him and his government both in the UK and abroad, it’s about time for the international community to take such investigations into its own hands, to ensure that no felon, whether a politician or not, escapes justice.
Martin Berger is a Czech-based freelance journalist and analyst.
Documents obtained by Muckrock under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that chemical leaks at the US Kadena Air Base in Okinawa may be the culprit behind the contamination of local drinking water.
Not content with poisoning just their own citizens with contaminated water, it seems that an array of accidents and acts of “vandalism” at the US base over the past 15 years have deployed at least 21,000 liters of fire extinguishing agents — some of which are toxic.
The Okinawa Prefectural Enterprise Bureau announced last month that from February 2014 through November 2015, high levels of toxic Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) — an ingredient found in many fire extinguishing agents — was found in waterways that supply drinking water to seven municipalities. They reported finding levels of 80 nanograms per liter (ng/L) at its Chatan Purification Plant and 1,320 ng/L in the Dakujaku River.
PFOS have a half-life of up to nine years and is easily absorbed orally and accumulates in the blood, kidneys, and liver.
Last May, a drunk US Marine reportedly activated a fire fighting system, filling a hangar with 1,500 liters of JET-X 2.75 percent — a foam classified by the U.S. government as hazardous, the Japan Times reports. Despite the fact that the agent ran into waterways, officials mistakenly labeled the chemical as nontoxic and the military did not report the incident to residents or the Japanese government.
“Okinawa Prefecture and municipalities near the base should conduct an independent investigation into the leaks. Moreover the Japanese government should require the U.S. military to notify it of any potentially harmful leakage — regardless of the amount. To decide the significance of a leak should not be left up to the U.S. military,” Manabu Sato, a political science professor at Okinawa International University, told the Japan Times.
Despite reports that state repression in Egypt is taking place on a greater scale than it has been for generations, the Obama administration is seeking to roll back human rights conditions Congress had placed on foreign aid to Egypt’s military.
The request, which was tucked into the Obama administration’s 182-page budget proposal, seeks foreign aid to Egypt’s military regime and “the sale of crowd control weapons to ‘emerging democracies.’” The discovery was made by The Intercept.
If the new proposal, which was released on Tuesday, is adopted, it would end a Congressional restriction stipulating “that 15 percent of aid to Egypt is subject to being withheld based on human rights conditions.”
Interestingly, Congress was able to temporarily waive those restrictions in a foreign aid bill in June of 2015, arguing it was in the national security interest of the United Station, according to Al-Monitor. The conditions were that Egypt would have to hold “free and fair” parliamentary elections and take steps to foster democracy and protect human rights for an additional $1.3 billion in military aid to be released.
The US State Department issued a scathing report in May of 2015, arguing that “while Egypt had implemented parts of its ‘democracy roadmap’ the overall trajectory of rights and democracy had been negative.”
It pinpointed restrictions on freedom of expression, the press, and freedom of association, as well as lack of due process. It further said that “impunity remains a serious problem in Egypt.”
It was well known at the time the Egyptians were “infuriated” by the report.
Cole Bockenfeld, deputy director for policy at the Project on Middle East Democracy, told The Intercept that the White House probably didn’t want to explain why it had to waive restrictions this year.
“They had to basically do an assessment. … Here’s how they’re doing on political prisoners, here’s how they’re doing on freedom of assembly, and so on,” Bockenfeld said.
The Guardian reported in January that Egypt has jailed more journalists than any other country on earth except China under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Three reporters were imprisoned, one forcibly “disappeared” and was later charged with being a member of a banned organization, and six were referred to judicial hearings because of their work.
Also in January, Italian academic Giulio Regeni, who was researching labor unrest and independent trade unions in Egypt, went missing during a security crackdown on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of Egypt’s revolution. His body was discovered nine days later by the side of the road marked with cigarette burns, bruising, and multiple stab wounds. The Guardian reported more than 4,600 academics worldwide have signed an open letter protesting his death and demanding an investigation into the growing number of forced disappearances. Egyptian officials appear to be cooperating with the investigation, according to the Italian foreign minister.
The budget also contains a request that would remove a provision from a law passed in 2012 in reaction to the Arab Spring protests that prohibits the transfer of tear gas and other crowd control weapons to countries that are “undergoing democratic transition.”
“It’s basically going to be free for all,” Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, told the Intercept when speculating on the results of the administration rolling back that provision.
Among the Middle Eastern countries seeking this equipment are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain – all of which are simmering with pro-democracy challenges.
Turkey’s embattled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is resurrecting the “deep state” alliance of secret intelligence operatives and extreme rightists that he so notably challenged just a few years ago while putting hundreds of military officers and other opponents on trial for conspiring against Turkish democracy. In a remarkable about-face, Erdogan is now emulating the ruthless tactics of previous authoritarian rulers at the expense of Turkey’s evolution as a liberal state.
Like many of his secular predecessors, Erdogan has reverted to waging an all-out war against radical Kurdish separatists, the PKK. He is dramatically expanding the once discredited National Intelligence Agency, which in years past recruited Mafia criminals and right-wing terrorists to murder Kurdish leaders, left-wing activists and intellectuals. And he appears to be forging an alliance with ultranationalist members of the National Action Party (MHP), who supplied many of the ruthless killers for those murderous operations.
These developments should alarm U.S. and European leaders. They are ominously anti-democratic trends in a country that once promised to meld the best of Western and Near Eastern traditions. They are also helping to drive Turkey’s secret alliances with Islamist extremists in Syria and its violent opposition to Kurdish groups that are leading the resistance to ISIS in that country.
Erdogan successfully cultivated a democratic image after his moderate Islamic party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), gained a two-thirds parliamentary majority in the November 2002 elections. Then in 2008, with public support for his party sagging, Erdogan oversaw the mass indictment of more than 200 former military officers, academics, journalists, businessmen and other opponents of the AKP.
The 2,455-page indictment alleged a vast conspiracy by members of an alleged “Ergenekon terrorist organization,” named after a mythical place in the Altay Mountains, to destabilize Turkish society and overthrow the government.
The alleged Ergenekon plot drew credibility from an all-too-real alliance of intelligence operatives, criminals and rightist terrorists exposed in the aftermath of the so-called “Susurluk Incident.” A car crash in the Turkish town of Susurluk in 1996 connected one of the country’s leading heroin traffickers and terrorists with a member of the conservative ruling party, the head of the counterinsurgency police, and the Minister of Interior.
Subsequent investigations linked this “deep state” network to a former NATO program — sometimes known by the name of its Italian version, “Operation Gladio” — to foment guerrilla resistance in case of a Soviet occupation of Turkey.
In contrast to the legitimate revelations that grew out of the Susurluk affair, the Ergenekon proceeding at times resembled a Soviet show trial. A court handed down life sentences to a former head of the Turkish military and several top generals, the heads of various intelligence organizations, a prominent secular ultranationalist, secular journalists, and a prominent deputy from a secular opposition party, among others.
A separate proceeding, known as “Sledgehammer,” convicted more than 300 secular military officers of involvement in an alleged coup plot against the AKP government in 2003.
Critics accused the Erdogan regime of using the cases to neutralize its potential rivals as part of its broader suppression of political dissent.
“The intimidation and the number of arrests have steadily risen in the last 10 years,” Der Spiegel observed in 2013. “Many journalists no longer dare to report what’s really happening, authors avoid making public appearances and government critics need bodyguards. The anti-terrorism law is an effective instrument of power for the government as the supposed terrorist threat is an accusation that’s hard to disprove. It plays on a deep-rooted fear among Turks that someone is trying to destabilize and damage the nation.”
The two big trials that fanned that fear were based on falsified evidence and a politicized judicial system. The injustice was effectively recognized by Istanbul’s high criminal court in 2014 when it freed the former army chief of staff convicted in the Ergenekon case. In March 2015, a prosecutor admitted that evidence submitted in the Sledgehammer case was “fake” and 236 convicted suspects were acquitted.
However, just as Erdogan had used those two cases to purge the Turkish power structure of his secular critics, so he used the discrediting of those cases as an excuse to purge supporters of another rival, the exiled moderate Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. Erdogan accused them of terrorism and of creating a “parallel state” to challenge his rule. The crackdown followed judicial actions and news leaks, attributed to Gülen followers, that implicated Erdogan’s family and supporters in high-level corruption. As the New York Times observed, Erdogan turned his back on those show trials “for the simple reason that the same prosecutors who targeted the military with fake evidence are now going after him.”
Now, in a complete reversal of his previous warnings about the dangers of the deep state, Erdogan is actively cultivating the very institutions that were at its core.
For example, the government is planning a 48 percent increase in spending for the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) in 2016, on top of a 419 percent increase over the past decade. The new money is slated to pay for construction of a big new headquarters building and to expand the agency’s operations.
According to Turkish expert Pinar Tremblay, “What we are observing here is a national intelligence agency that has become a prominent player in the decision-making process for Turkish politics. … [MIT head Hakan] Fidan acts as a shadow foreign minister. He is present in almost all high-level meetings with the president and prime minister. It is an open secret that both the president and the prime minister trust Fidan more than any other bureaucrat.”
After MIT trucks were caught in 2013 and 2014 smuggling ammunition, rocket parts, and mortar shells to radical Islamic groups in Syria, Erdogan’s allies put police and other officials involved in the raids on trial for allegedly conspiring with Gülen against the government.
A recent report also suggest that Erdogan is also seeking support for his Syrian adventures from members of the National Action Party (MHP), sometimes known as the Grey Wolves. Once openly neo-fascist in ideology, the party figured prominently in terrorist violence in the 1970s and 1980s with backing from military and police officials. Mehmet Ali Agca, the terrorist who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, was a member of the Grey Wolves.
Members of a youth branch of the MHP are reportedly now fighting in Syria to support that country’s Turkish ethnic minority, the Turkmen, against Syrian Kurds. (The Turkmen are also being armed by the MIT.) At least one MHP notable was killed recently by a Russian bombing raid; one of the mourners at his funeral was the Turkish gunman who murdered the pilot of the Russian jet shot down by Turkey in November.
A leading Turkish expert on the Grey Wolves, journalist Kemal Can, says they are drawn to supporting the Turkmen less for ideological reasons than because of state recruitment. “I think that, directly or indirectly, the state link is the decisive one,” he said. “The ultranationalists are the most fertile pool for secret operations.”
Many members of the MHP are also drawn to the cause by their violent opposition to the Kurds and other non-Turkish minority groups.
After PKK militants attacked Turkish soldiers and police last summer and fall, Grey Wolves attacked 140 offices of the HDP, the Peoples’ Democratic Party which supports the rights of Kurds and other minorities, according to the leftist Turkish journalist Sungur Savran, setting many offices on fire:
“Ordinary Kurds were hunted on the streets of the cities and towns of the Turkish-dominated western parts of the country, intercity buses stopped and stoned, and Kurdish seasonal workers attacked collectively, their houses and cars burnt down, and they themselves driven away en masse.”
Such polarizing violence suited the needs of Erdogan’s AKP party, which wants to eliminate the HDP from parliament in order to gain the super-majority it needs to revise the constitution to enhance Erdogan’s powers as president.
Last September, intriguingly, one leader of the ultranationalist MHP urged restraint against ordinary Kurds, saying that “equating the PKK and our Kurdish-origin siblings is a blind trap” that would ensure wider ethnic conflict. Further, he claimed that groups acting in the name of the Grey Wolves to attack Kurds were actually “Mafia” fronts for President Erdogan.
His claim about the “Mafia” may have been more than metaphorical. Following Erdogan’s recent denunciation of hundreds of Turkish academics as “traitors” for protesting the government’s vicious crackdown on Kurdish communities, an ultranationalist organized crime boss – who was briefly imprisoned for his alleged role in the Ergenekon conspiracy but is today chummy with Erdogan – promised to “take a shower” in “the blood of those so-called intellectuals.”
So there you have it: The Erdogan regime has revived an alliance of intelligence officials, right-wing ultranationalists and even organized criminals to crush Kurdish extremism, to cow political critics, and to support radical Islamists in Syria.
The Erdogan regime, once the great scourge of alleged anti-democratic conspirators, has recreated the Turkish deep state as part of a menacing power grab. It represents a direct threat not only to Turkish democracy, but to Turkey’s neighbors and NATO allies, who will bear the consequences of Erdogan’s ever-more risky, erratic and self-serving policies.
Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012).
The Obama administration is pushing ahead with its plans to slash pension benefits for up to one million participants in “underfunded” multi-employer pension funds as part of its drive to make defined-benefit pensions a thing of the past for all US workers.
The White House campaign, carried out in a conspiracy with the major trade unions and multinational corporations, takes place in the wake of the 2013–2014 bankruptcy of Detroit, which set a precedent for slashing the legally protected pension benefits of retirees.
Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration’s appointee to oversee the pension cuts, held a hearing on behalf of the Treasury Department in Detroit Monday to hear objections to the plan to slash the pension benefits of some 270,000 retired truck drivers, package handlers and other members of the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.
The hearing, which took place at Wayne State University, drew an overflow crowd at a 500-seat lecture hall, with up to 1,000 people participating in total. With the exception of the World Socialist Web Site, the media ignored the event, with no US video crews present.
Although retirees had initially been told that the cuts to their benefits would average less than 30 percent, nearly all of those who spoke at the hearing said they had been notified over the Christmas holiday that they would lose between 50 and 80 percent of their pension benefits.
During the two-hour hearing, not a single one of some two dozen pre-selected speakers spoke in favor of the plan to slash pensions. Instead, retirees voiced scathing denunciations of the managers of the Central States Pension Fund, who have received six-figure annual payouts even as they have moved to impose massive benefit cuts. Many made pointed criticisms of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union that jointly administers the fund.
“I suffered the loss of my first marriage, twisted ankles, and a damaged back, 21 dog bites, and all for that pension,” said one retired UPS delivery driver.
This overwhelming opposition by pensioners does not matter, according to Feinberg. When asked by the World Socialist Web Site after the hearing what would happen if workers voted down the proposed pension cuts, Feinberg said he had the prerogative to impose pension cuts regardless.
“The law says that I must impose it over their objections” Feinberg said. “So if I accept the plan and it’s rejected by a vote, the law requires me in that situation to overrule the vote.”
The law Feinberg was referring to is the Multi-employer Pension Reform Act of 2014, passed by Congress in December 2014 with virtually no public discussion as part of an omnibus appropriations bill. Acting on this law, in October 2015 the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund unveiled its plans to cut the benefits of workers it covers.
That law is itself the outcome of a February 2013 proposal, entitled “Solutions not Bailouts,” from the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, composed of major corporations and unions. The document lists among its signatories the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), both of which have since sought to publicly distance themselves from the pension-cutting bill.
Workers denounced the Teamsters’ lobbying on behalf of the bill, as well as the decision by the union to allow shipping company United Parcel Service (UPS) to exit the fund in 2007. This removed the largest base of active employees in the fund in exchange for allowing the Teamsters to extract union dues from the company’s freight division workers. As a result, UPS retirees said at the meeting that they are facing pension cuts of more than 50 percent, despite the fact that UPS earned record profits in the fourth quarter of 2015.
“Why on Earth would you let UPS leave the fund?” asked Debra Bakus, the daughter of Dennis Siecienski, a member of Teamsters Local 51 who worked for Entenmann’s for 41 years. She added, “I find it appalling that the trustees of this fund would pay millions to lobbyists out of your fund to get [the Multi-employer Pension Reform Act] passed.”
“I have to move in with my daughter if they cut my pension,” said Mr. Siecienski, who faces a reduction of 51 percent. “His employer is still contributing to the fund,” added Ms. Bakus.
Nationwide, there are some 10 million beneficiaries of multi-employer pension funds, of whom about 1 million receive benefits from “underfunded” plans.
As the Obama administration’s “special master” of executive compensation during the 2008 bank bailout, Feinberg rubber-stamped multi-million-dollar bonuses for executives at companies whose activities helped cause the financial crash.
Now, as the official responsible for imposing sweeping benefit cuts on hundreds of thousands of workers, Feinberg is working diligently to ensure that the transfer of social resources from working people to Wall Street continues unimpeded.
In 2009, the Obama administration justified giving multi-million-dollar bonuses to executives at American International Group, which had received a $185 billion bailout from the federal government, on the grounds that contractual obligations were sacrosanct and could not be abridged by the government.
Asked by the World Socialist Web Site whether he would use a similar approach with regard to workers’ pensions, Feinberg declared that he never approved multi-million-dollar bonuses to Wall Street executives.
Retiree Richard Fairley asked Feinberg, “can you fix my ignition switch?” in reference to his kid glove treatment of General Motors in the deaths of over a hundred people due to defective ignition switches.
But a 2012 report by Neil Barofsky, the inspector general for the TARP bank bailout, exposes Feinberg’s statement as a lie. Barofsky found that Feinberg “approved total compensation packages in the millions” and did not “effectively rein in excessive compensation.”
Barofsky’s report added, “In 2009, OSM [Office of the Special Master, i.e., Feinberg] approved total compensation of cash and stock of more than $1 million each for five AIG employees including a $10.5 million pay package for AIG’s new CEO that included a $3 million cash salary.” Barofsky added that Feinberg “approved compensation ranging from $4.3 million to $7.1 million each for four AIG employees who that year were also scheduled to receive cash retention awards of up to $2.4 million.”
At the hearing, speaker after speaker described how the proposed pension cuts would financially devastate them and their families. They appealed for Feinberg to see reason and deny the proposal by the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.
But far from being an independent arbiter, Feinberg is a bag-man for Wall Street and its representatives in the Obama administration. His role is not to arbitrate an equitable solution to the chronic de-funding of employee pensions in the United States, but rather to facilitate the outcome most favorable to the banks and major corporations.
Monday’s meeting took place in the context of a growing resistance and opposition by the working class. Over the past month, Detroit teachers and students have defied the Detroit Federation of Teachers to stage sick-outs at over eighty schools. Teachers in Chicago, Illinois have launched protests against efforts to further starve public schools and slash wages and benefits.
Meanwhile, protests in Flint, Michigan have made the lead poisoning of residents by officials at the state, local, and federal level a national and international issue. These actions follow the eruption of opposition among US autoworkers last year against efforts by the United Auto Workers to ram through contracts that further undermine jobs and benefits.
In each case, workers are being drawn into conflict with both big business parties, along with the trade unions, which defend the capitalist system and are collaborating with the corporations in driving down the conditions of the working class.
The task now is to unify these struggles in a common working class movement, armed with a socialist perspective of breaking the power of the financial oligarchy and reorganizing society in the interest of social need, not private profit.
A petition accusing Barack Obama of war crimes and demanding he be prosecuted has been published on the White House website. It has already gained about 4,000 signatures.
“We demand conviction of a war criminal Barack Obama and trial in the International Criminal Court in [The] Hague. He is guilty of crimes not only against the USA citizens, but against the whole world,” the petition states.
The authors also note that “one of the most dreadful prisons in history – Guantanamo – continues to function.”
The US added to the de-stabilization of the situation in the Middle East, too, the petition’s authors state.
“Libya was destroyed as a result of Obama’s aggression. In Syria, Obama’s agents train, fund and organize terrorist groups, deceitfully naming them ‘moderate opposition,’ who, among other things, bear a relation to Al-Qaeda, implicated in crimes against the American people.”
Last but not least, the petition accuses the US government of constant illegal surveillance.
“Secret services collect the Americans’ personal data information on a 24-hour basis under the canopy battling terrorism, using electronic surveillance tools on political undesirables, effectively stomping on the Americans’ right for privacy.”
If the petition – published on Monday – gets 100,000 votes by March 9, the White House administration will have to respond to it.
Reprieve – February 10, 2016
The Egyptian Foreign Minister has defended his government’s mass imprisonment of political activists, and the use of lengthy pre-trial detention periods, during a visit to Washington DC to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry among other officials.
In an interview with NPR that aired today, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry defended the detention without trial of activists and others arrested at protests in 2013, saying that arrests only took place where protestors didn’t have ‘permits’. Asked why many protestors were still imprisoned and awaiting trial two years later, he said: “It is a long time, but I believe justice has to be given the opportunity, within the impartiality of the judicial system, to ascertain all of the facts and to pass a verdict”.
Mr Shoukry added that “no country” has a perfect human rights record, and that “there will always be ups and downs.” He said that “it is our intention to do everything possible to live up to those [human rights] standards and provide the rights of all individuals.”
Since taking power in July 2013, the Sisi government has overseen thousands of arrests of protestors, journalists and others, many of whom have been put through mass trials that fail to meet international standards. International human rights group Reprieve, which assists several prisoners in Egypt, recently established that between 2014 and the end of 2015, nearly 600 death sentences were handed down, the majority in relation to political charges.
Hundreds of other prisoners are enduring lengthy periods of pre-trial imprisonment; one trial involving 494 people has been postponed 12 times since it began in 2014. The defendants, including Ibrahim Halawa – an Irish student, who is being assisted by Reprieve – are currently understood to be undergoing torture, including forms of ‘crucifixion’ and electrocution. Mr Halawa is one of several prisoners in the trial who were arrested as juveniles, and who are being tried as adults in violation of Egypt’s Child Law.
Reprieve has previously written to Secretary Kerry, asking him to press the Egyptian government to end the use of mass trials and release prisoners who were arrested as juveniles.
“I have looked through the report, it has all the characteristics of previous UN Human Rights reports on Syria. The timing is extremely suspect – released just as the Syrian army closes in on Aleppo.We have seen a great spike in propaganda in the past few days, against Russian air strikes and over the number of civilians building up on the Syrian border, said to be 35,000, but 70,000 are said to be coming and yesterday the Turkish deputy PM spoke of 600,000 on the way. All this can be seen as the possible prelude to establishing a buffer zone – we can’t look after any more in Turkey, so the only answer is to look after them inside Syria ….The UN Human Rights Council speaks of 500 interviews. There is no mention of who these people are, how the UN HRC got their names and where they were interviewed. The HRC’s answer is that names cannot be released but at the same time we cannot accept as credible any report that does not/will not provide such information.There is absolutely no means of verifying it and given the HRC’s previous record, its word cannot be trusted. You might remember Navi Pillai’s hysterical statements about Syria when she was head of this council . I had a run-in with one of the committee members when i criticised a report on Syria for the same reasons I am giving here. It made many lurid accusations without providing a skerrick of reliable information. In a very heated discussion she admitted what was not in the report, that most of the people interviewed were in Turkey or Jordan, and, I would imagine, in the refugee camps.I have no doubt that being in a Syrian prison is very unpleasant experience, perhaps as unpleasant as being in prison at Abu Ghraib, but extermination is an extremely powerful word and to make an accusation of a policy of extermination without providing the evidence anyone would need to know to back it up, exposes, I think, the true agenda of this group of people.Watch how its now going to be used by governments and groups like HRW. ” ~ Jeremy Salt