Rand Paul’s temporary stopping of the Patriot Act’s bulk metadata collection has spurred a predictable assault from both the mainstream left and the mainstream right. Two particular examples show the strange political mating that can take place when interests align. First, on Sunday night, John McCain grumbled on the Senate floor that Rand Paul was letting the world burn to score political points. Then, on Monday, Salon published an article arguing that the collection of big data is a net positive for people of color and that Paul’s attack on the NSA is a function of his white privilege.
At this point, it appears John McCain has no idea what the hell he’s talking about from day to day. We all saw the writing on the wall when he selected Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. He hasn’t been getting better. This is an old, confused, angry man whose answer to every problem is war and/or authoritarian domestic policies.
As for Salon, whether or not Rand Paul’s opposition is a function of white privilege is irrelevant in this case. The fact that he’s a Senator in the first place is a function of white privilege. Opposing the authoritarian horror show that is the Patriot Act is important enough that this really doesn’t matter. Same thing with the dismissive argument from the mainstream left that Paul is insincere in opposing the Patriot Act. It just doesn’t matter. What’s important is that he’s opposing it.
The alliance between Salon and McCain against Rand Paul is an interesting coming together of political foes. Essentially, their loathing of Paul overcomes their loathing of each other. For McCain, making common cause with a liberal online magazine that spent the entirety of the 2008 Presidential election cycle savaging him must be an odd feeling. And for Salon, allying with the man who gave us the Palins must be similarly odd.
But it makes sense when you think about it.
Salon’s attacks on Rand Paul are at least in large part due to the possibility he may be the opponent to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Add to that the fact that President Obama wants the Patriot Act and data collection renewed and editor in chief Joan Walsh’s particular antipathy to Paul, and you have a perfect storm of political hay making.
And as for McCain, who has no possibility of ever entertaining another run at the presidency, the only thing he has left is his waning influence on a Republican Party that is moving further and further away from his neocon ideology. To McCain, Rand Paul is the most visible representative of this wing taking over his Grand Old Party.
This has produced the odd political bedfellows of Salon and John McCain. Both despise Rand Paul for their own reasons. And both apparently support the collection of bulk data, albeit in distinct variances of enthusiasm. I’m hesitant to assign the blame for Salon taking this position on the fact that it is President Obama asking for the draconian policy, but there’s no denying that when it was George W Bush asking for political support for the Patriot Act, the general mood at the site was different.
As far as McCain goes, he’s a senile crank who hasn’t met a war he doesn’t love or a civil liberty he doesn’t want to take away from the general public in the name of “security” in the last decade and a half.
Until the inevitable reauthorization of the bulk collection of the phone records of the American people, we can expect more of these attacks on Rand Paul from the representatives of the Democratic and Republican party establishments. On the one hand, the bulk collection of metadata is an anti-Constitutional atrocity. On the other hand, it will be nice for people to see the “rare” bipartisanship of the security state’s apologists on the right and the further right joining together against the junior Senator from Kentucky.
Several senior US and French officials, including US Senator John McCain, entered Syria illegally – without proper visas – on separate occasions, thus violating the country’s sovereignty, Syria said in a complaint submitted to the United Nations.
The list of officials also included former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and former US diplomat Peter Galbraith, according to a letter dated December 30 cited by Reuters and AFP.
In the letter, Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Ja’afari urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council to put additional pressure on governments to implement “the necessary measures against their nationals who enter Syrian territory illegally.”
“Such actions are a blatant violation of Syria’s sovereignty and of the resolutions of the Security Council concerning Syria,” Ja’afari said.
The letter included complaints from “certain journalists and prominent figures” entering Syria illegally, pointing out McCain’s visit to the country in June 2013, as well as Kouchner’s visit in November 2014 and Galbraith’s in December 2014, along with other US political and military leaders.
Former Kuwaiti politician Walid Tabtabai is also mentioned as making an illegal visit in September 2013.
At the time, McCain’s spokesperson only confirmed that the former Republican presidential candidate visited Syria in May 2013 to meet with Syrian rebels.
McCain responded to the complaint by downplaying the accusations, and in turn accusing Syrian President Bashar Assad of the “massacre” of his own people.
“It is a sad but unsurprising truth that the Assad regime is less concerned with its massacre of more than 200,000 men, women and children than it is my visit with those brave Syrians fighting for their freedom and dignity,” McCain’s statement said. “The fact that the international community has done virtually nothing to bring down this terrible regime despite its atrocities is a stain on our collective moral conscience.”
According to earlier media reports, McCain crossed into Syria in May 2013 from Turkey with General Salem Idris, who was in charge of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, and stayed there for several hours before returning.
During the visit, the senator met with leaders of Free Syrian Army units in Turkey and Syria.
McCain’s visit created a media storm, especially after a picture surfaced of him posing with allegedly IslamicState-linked jihadists (formerly ISIS/ISIL).
The original claim came from Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, who accused McCain of unknowingly meeting with Islamic State fighters.
Among the Senator’s other controversial visits was a trip to Ukraine in December 2013 amid mass anti-government protests. During the visit, McCain met with Ukrainian opposition leaders in the country’s capital of Kiev, voicing his support for the protests, adding that he saw Ukraine’s future with Europe.
Also, back in 2011, McCain visited Benghazi to meet the Libyan rebels, calling them “my heroes.” McCain boldly stated that the fall of the ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi would inspire people all over world – including in Russia – which raised eyebrows globally.
“We believe very strongly that the people of Libya today are inspiring the people in Tehran, in Damascus, and even in Beijing and Moscow,” said McCain.
McCain’s travel tendencies landed him on Russia’s black list in March, part of Russia’s retaliation against US-led sanctions. The list bans the Senator along with other individuals from traveling to Russia as well as freezes any of his assets there.
The American people got a nasty taste of the danger that can come with false narrative when they were suckered into the Iraq War based on bogus claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction that he planned to share with al-Qaeda.
Nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers died in the conflict along with hundreds thousands of Iraqis. The war’s total financial cost probably exceeded $1 trillion, a vast sum that siphoned off America’s economic vitality and forced cutbacks in everything from education to road repair. Plus, the war ended up creating an Iraqi base for al-Qaeda terrorists that had not existed before.
But perhaps an even more dangerous problem coming out of the Iraq War was that almost no one in Official Washington who pushed the false narrative – whether in politics or in the press – was held accountable in any meaningful way. Many of the same pols and pundits remain in place today, pushing similar false narratives on new crises, from Ukraine to Syria to Iran.
Those false narratives – and their cumulative effect on policy-making – now represent a clear and present danger to the Republic and, indeed, to the world. The United States, after all, is the preeminent superpower with unprecedented means for delivering death and destruction. But almost nothing is being done to address this enduring American crisis of deception.
Today, Official Washington is marching in lockstep just as it did in 2002-03 when it enforced the misguided consensus on Iraq’s WMD. The latest case is Ukraine where Russian President Vladimir Putin is accused of committing “aggression” to expand Russian territory at the expense of noble ”democratic” reformers in Kiev.
Not only is this the dominant storyline in the U.S. media; it is virtually the only narrative permitted in the mainstream press. But the real narrative is that the United States and the European Union provoked this crisis by trying to take Ukraine out of its traditional sphere of influence, Russia, and put it in to a new association with the EU.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with Ukraine joining with the EU or staying with Russia (or a combination of the two) – depending on the will of the people and their elected representatives – this latest U.S./EU plan was motivated, at least in part, by hostility toward Russia.
That attitude was expressed in a Sept. 26, 2013, op-ed in the Washington Post by Carl Gershman, the neoconservative president of the National Endowment for Democracy, which doles out more than $100 million in U.S. funds a year to help organize “activists,” support “journalists” and finance programs that can be used to destabilize targeted governments.
Gershman, whose job amounts to being a neocon paymaster, expressed antagonism toward Russia in the op-ed and identified Ukraine as “the biggest prize,” the capture of which could ultimately lead to the ouster of Putin, who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
The NED, which was founded in 1983 to do in relative openness what the CIA had long done in secret, listed 65 projects that it was financing in Ukraine, using U.S. taxpayers’ money. In other words, Gershman’s op-ed reflected U.S. policy – at least inside the State Department’s still-neocon-dominated bureaucracy – which viewed the EU’s snatching of Ukraine from Russia’s embrace as a way to weaken Russia and hurt Putin.
Later, as the Ukrainian crisis unfolded, another neocon, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, reminded Ukrainian businessmen that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” implying that the U.S. expected something for all this money.
You might wonder why the American taxpayers should spend $5 billion on the “European aspirations” of Ukraine when there are so many needs at home, but a more relevant question may be: Why is the United States spending that much money to stir up trouble on Russia’s border? The Cold War is over but the hostility continues.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates described this thinking in his memoir, Duty, explaining the view of President George H.W. Bush’s Defense Secretary Dick Cheney: “When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991, Dick wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.”
As Vice President, Cheney and the neocons around him pursued a similar strategy during George W. Bush’s presidency, expanding NATO aggressively to the east and backing anti-Russian regimes in the region including the hardline Georgian government, which provoked a military confrontation with Moscow in 2008.
Since President Barack Obama never took full control of his foreign policy apparatus – leaving the Bush Family apparatchik Gates at Defense and naming neocon-leaning Democrat Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State – the bureaucratic momentum toward confronting Russia continued. Indeed, the elevation of operatives like Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, gave new impetus to the anti-Russian strategy.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who got his “dream job” last year with the considerable help of his neocon chum Sen. John McCain, has acted as a kind of sock puppet for this neocon-dominated State Department bureaucracy.
Either because he is overly focused on his legacy-building initiative of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal or because he has long since sold out his anti-war philosophy from the Vietnam War era, Kerry has repeatedly taken the side of the hawks: on Syria, Iran and now Ukraine.
On Syria and Iran, it was largely the behind-the-scenes cooperation between Obama and Putin that tamped down those crises last year and opened a pathway for diplomacy – much to the chagrin of the neocons who favored heightened confrontations, U.S. military strikes and “regime change.” Thus, it became a neocon priority to divide Obama from Putin. Ukraine became the wedge.
The Ukrainian crisis took a decisive turn on Nov. 21, 2013, when President Viktor Yanukovych rebuffed a deal offered by the EU and the International Monetary Fund because it would have imposed harsh austerity on the already suffering Ukrainian people. Yanukovych opted instead for a more generous aid package of $15 billion from Russia, with few strings attached.
But Yanukovych’s turning away from the EU infuriated the U.S. State Department as well as pro-European demonstrators who filled the Maidan square in Kiev. The protests reflected the more anti-Russian attitudes of western Ukraine, where Kiev is located, but not the more pro-Russian feelings of eastern and southern Ukraine, Yanukovych’s strongholds that accounted for his electoral victory in 2010.
Though the Maidan protests involved hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians simply eager for a better life and a less corrupt government, some of the most militant factions came from far-right parties, like Svoboda, and even neo-Nazi militias from the Right Sektor. When protesters seized City Hall, Nazi symbols and a Confederate battle flag were put on display.
As the protests grew angrier, U.S. officials, including Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain, openly sided with the demonstrators despite banners honoring Stepan Bandera, a World War II-era fascist whose paramilitary forces collaborated with the Nazis in the extermination of Poles and Jews. Nuland passed out cookies and McCain stood shoulder to shoulder with right-wing Ukrainian nationalists. [For more on the role of Ukrainian neo-Nazis, watch this report from the BBC.]
On Feb. 20, the violence intensified as mysterious snipers fired on both protesters and police. As police fought back, neo-Nazi militias hurled Molotov cocktails. More than 80 people were killed including more than a dozen police officers, but the U.S. press blamed the Yanukovych government for the violence, portraying the demonstrators as innocent victims.
Official Washington’s narrative was set. Yanukovych, who had been something of a hero when he was moving toward the EU agreement in the early fall, became a villain after he decided that the IMF’s demands were too severe and especially after he accepted the deal from Putin. The Russian president was undergoing his own demonization in the U.S. news media, including an extraordinary denunciation by NBC at the end of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
In the U.S. media’s black-and-white scenario, the “pro-democracy” demonstrators in the Maidan were the good guys who were fired upon by the bad-guy police. The New York Times even stopped reporting that some of those killed were police, instead presenting the more pleasing but phony narrative that “more than 80 protesters were shot to death by the police as an uprising spiraled out of control in mid-February.”
To this day, the identity of the snipers who touched off the conflagration remains in serious doubt. I was told at the time that some U.S. intelligence analysts believed the shooters were associated with the far-right opposition groups, not with the Yanukovych government.
That analysis gained support when a phone call surfaced between Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, Paet reported on a conversation that he had with a doctor in Kiev who said the sniper fire that killed protesters was the same that killed police officers.
As reported by the UK Guardian, “During the conversation, Paet quoted a woman named Olga – who the Russian media identified her as Olga Bogomolets, a doctor – blaming snipers from the opposition shooting the protesters.”
Paet said, “What was quite disturbing, this same Olga told that, well, all the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides.
“So she also showed me some photos, she said that as medical doctor, she can say it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened. … So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition.”
Ashton replied: “I think we do want to investigate. I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh.”
Though this exchange does not prove that the opposition used snipers to provoke the violence, it is relevant information that could have altered how Americans viewed the worsening crisis in Ukraine. However, except for an on-the-scene report from CNN with the same doctor, the Paet-Ashton phone call disappeared into the U.S. media’s black hole reserved for information that doesn’t fit with a preferred narrative.
Black Hats/White Hats
So, with giant black hats glued onto Yanukovych and Putin and white hats on the protesters, the inspiring but false U.S. narrative played out in heroic fashion, with only passing reference to the efforts by Yanukovych to make concessions and satisfy the protesters’ demands.
On Feb. 21, Yanukovych tried to defuse the violence by signing an agreement with three European countries in which he accepted reduced powers, moved up elections so he could be voted out of office, and pulled back the police. That last step, however, opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias to seize government buildings and force Yanukovych to flee for his life.
Then, on Feb. 22, under the watchful eye of these modern-day storm troopers, a rump parliament – in violation of constitutional procedures – voted to impeach Yanukovych, who reemerged in Russia to denounce the actions as a coup.
Despite this highly irregular process, the U.S. government – following the lead of the State Department bureaucracy – immediately recognized the new leadership as Ukraine’s “legitimate” government. Putin later appealed to Obama in support of the Feb. 21 agreement but was told the ouster of Yanukovych and the installation of the U.S.-backed government were a fait accompli.
The rump parliament in Kiev also accused Yanukovych of mass murder in connection with the shootings in the Maidan — an accusation that got widespread play in the U.S. media – although curiously the new regime also decided not to pursue an investigation into the identity of the mysterious snipers, a point that drew no U.S. media interest.
And, a new law was passed in line with the desires of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists to eliminate Russian as one of the country’s official languages. New government leaders also were dispatched to the Russian-ethnic regions to take charge, moves that, in turn, prompted resistance from Russian-ethnic citizens in the east and south.
It was in this context – and with appeals from Yanukovych and ethnic Russians for help – that Putin got permission from the Duma to intervene militarily if necessary. Russian troops, already stationed in bases in Crimea, moved to block the Kiev regime from asserting its authority in that strategic Black Sea peninsula.
Amidst this political chaos, the Crimean parliament voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, putting the question to a popular vote on March 16. Not surprisingly, given the failed Ukrainian state, its inability to pay for basic services, and Crimea’s historic ties to Russia, Crimean voters approved the switch overwhelmingly. Exit polls showed about a 93 percent majority, just three points less than the official results.
Russia then moved to formally reclaim Crimea, which had been part of Russia dating back to the 1700s, while also massing troops along the borders of eastern Ukraine, presumably as a warning to the Kiev regime not to crush popular resistance to the anti-Yanukovych coup.
A Divergent Narrative
So, the factual narrative suggests that the Ukrainian crisis was stoked by elements of the U.S. government, both in the State Department and in Congress, encouraging and exploiting popular resentments in western Ukraine. The goal was to pull Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and put it into the EU’s gravitational pull.
When Yanukovych balked at IMF’s demands, a process of “regime change” was put in motion with the U.S. and EU even turning their backs on the Feb. 21 agreement in which Yanukovych made a series of concessions negotiated by European countries. The deal was cast aside in a matter of hours with no attempt by the West to uphold its terms.
Meanwhile, Putin, who was tied up with the Sochi Olympics and obsessed over fears that it would be targeted by Islamist terrorists, appears to have been caught off-guard by the events in Ukraine. He then reacted to the alarming developments on Russia’s border, including the emergence of neo-Nazis as prominent figures in the coup regime in Kiev.
In other words, a logical – and indeed realistic – way to see the Ukraine-Crimea crisis is that Putin was largely responding to events that were outside his control. And that is important to understand, because that would mean that Putin was not the aggressor spoiling for a fight.
If there was premeditation, it was coming from the West and particularly from the neocons who remain highly influential in Official Washington. The neocons also had motive to go after Putin, since he helped Obama use diplomacy to quiet down dangerous crises with Syria and Iran while the neocons were pushing for more confrontation and U.S. military strikes.
But how did the U.S. news media present the Ukraine story to the American people?
First, there was the simplistic and misleading depiction of the pro-EU demonstrations as “democratic” when they mostly reflected the discontent of the pro-European population of western Ukraine, not the views of the more pro-Russian Ukrainians in the east and south who had pushed Yanukovych to victory in the 2010 election. Last time I checked, “democracy” referred to rule by the majority, not mob rule.
Then, despite the newsworthiness of the neo-Nazi role in the protests, the U.S. news media blacked-out these brown shirts because that ugly reality undercut the pleasing good-guys-vs.-bad-guys storyline. Then, when the snipers opened fire on protesters and policemen, the U.S. news media jumped to the conclusion that the killers were working for Yanukovych because that, too, fit with the desired narrative.
The violent overthrow of the democratically elected Yanukovych was hailed as an expression of “democracy,” again with the crucial role of the neo-Nazi militias largely airbrushed from the picture. The unanimous and near unanimous parliamentary votes that followed – as storm troopers patrolled the halls of government buildings – were further cited as evidence of “democracy” and “reform.”
The anger and fear of Ukrainians in the east and south were dismissed as Russian “propaganda” and Crimea’s move to extract itself from this political chaos was denounced as Russian “aggression.” U.S. news outlets casually denounced Putin as a “thug.” Washington Post columnist George F. Will called Putin “Stalin’s spawn.”
Former Secretary of State Clinton cited the Crimea situation to compare Putin to Hitler and to suggest that Putin was intent on recreating the old Soviet empire, though Crimea is only 10,000 square miles, about one-tenth of one percent the size of the old Soviet Union.
And, it wasn’t just that some or nearly all mainstream U.S. news organizations adopted this one-sided and misguided narrative. It was a consensus throughout all major U.S. news outlets. With a uniformity that one would normally associate with a totalitarian state, no competing narrative was permitted in the Big Media, regardless of the actual facts.
Whenever any of the more complex reality was included in a story, it was presented as Russian claims that were then followed by argumentative challenges. Yet, when U.S. officials made preposterous remarks about how uncivilized it was to violate another country’s sovereignty, the hypocrisy of their points went uncontested.
For instance, Secretary of State Kerry denounced Putin’s intervention in Crimea by declaring, “you just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.” But you had to look on the Internet to find any writer who dared note Kerry’s breathtaking double standard, since he voted in 2002 to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq in pursuit of hidden WMD stockpiles that didn’t exist.
This cognitive dissonance pervaded the U.S. press and the political debate over Ukraine and Crimea. The long history of U.S. interventions in foreign countries – almost always in violation of international law – was forgotten, except for the rare occasion when some Russian “claim” about American hypocrisy was cited and then swatted down. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Staggering Hypocrisy.”]
Having worked many years in the mainstream U.S. news media, I fully understand how this process works and why it happens. Amid the patriotic chest-thumping that usually accompanies a U.S. military operation or American righteous outrage over some other nation’s actions, it is dangerous for your career to go against the flag-waving.
But it’s always been my view that such self-censorship is faux patriotism, as much as the happy story-lines are false narratives. Even if many Americans don’t want the truth, it is still the job of journalists to give them the truth. Otherwise, the U.S. democratic process is distorted and made dangerous.
Propaganda leads to bad policies as politicians – even when they know better – start parroting the errant conventional wisdom. We’ve seen this now with President Obama who – more than anyone – realizes the value of Putin’s cooperation on Syria and Iran but now must join in denouncing the Russian president and demanding sanctions.
Obama also surely knows that Yanukovych’s ouster violated both Ukraine’s constitution and principles of democracy, but he pretends otherwise. And, he knows that Crimea’s secession reflected the will of the people, but he must insist that their vote was illegitimate.
At a March 25 news conference in the Netherlands, Obama toed the line of the hypocritical false narrative. He declared, “we have said consistently throughout this process is that it is up to the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions about how they organize themselves and who they interact with.” He then added that the Crimean referendum was “sloppily organized over the course of two weeks” and thus a sham.
If Obama were telling the truth, he would have noted that Yanukovych – for all his faults – was democratically elected in a process that was deemed fair by international observers. Obama would have acknowledged that Yanukovych agreed on Feb. 21 to a process that would have allowed for an orderly and legal process for his replacement.
Obama would have admitted, too, that the violent coup and the actions of the rump parliament in Kiev were both illegal and, indeed, “sloppily organized” – and that the U.S. government acted hastily in recognizing this coup regime. But double standards seem to be the only standards these days in Official Washington.
What is perhaps tragic about Obama is that he does know better. He is not a stupid man. But he doesn’t dare go against the grain for fear of being denounced as “naïve” about Putin or “weak” in not facing down “Russian aggression.” So, he reads the lines that have been, in effect, dictated by neocons within his own administration.
I’m told that Obama, like Putin, was caught off-guard by the Ukraine crisis. But Obama’s unwillingness or inability to recast the false narrative left him with no political choice but to join in the Putin-bashing. That, in turn, means that Putin won’t be there to help Obama navigate around future U.S. war plans that the neocons have in mind for Syria and Iran.
Indeed, neutralizing the Obama-Putin relationship may have been the chief reason why the neocons were so eager to stoke the Ukrainian fires — and it shows how false narratives can get people killed.
An Israeli military contractor, whose surveillance technology is used along Israel’s apartheid wall constructed in the Palestinian West Bank, has been chosen by the United States to provide similar services on the southern border with Mexico, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
Elbit Systems announced on Sunday that the US Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had awarded its subsidiary a $145 million contract to deploy border surveillance technology in southern Arizona, Reuters reported.
But according to Bloomberg analyst Brian Friel, quoted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the one-year contract could expand to a broader $1 billion deal if the US Congress passes stringent immigration legislation.
Elbit Systems is set to install watch towers along the border with sensors for spotting, tracking, and classifying data, along with command and control centers.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona hailed the deal as a “step in the right direction.”
“Arizonans have been waiting more than a decade for the Department of Homeland Security to place the needed technology along our border to support the Border Patrol and fully secure our southern border,” he said in a statement.
“If this technology is developed, integrated and fielded correctly, these Integrated Fixed Towers in southern Arizona, coupled with the tremendous work of the Border Patrol, will give our agents the ability to detect, evaluate, and respond to all illegal entries crossing our border.”
A government contractor said the choice of an Israeli firm was justified by of its “advanced” experience in maintaining separation barriers.
“It is odd to go offshore for this work, but in extraordinary circumstances, one really wants to employ the best,” Haaretz quoted Mark Amtower, a partner at Amtower & Co, as saying.
Elbit Systems is one of the primary military suppliers of the Israel’s occupation forces. Its Hermes 450 attack drone has been used extensively in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as in Lebanon during the 2006 war.
The company is also responsible for surveillance technology along the apartheid wall erected by Israel within the West Bank. Only 15 percent of the separation barrier is built along the so-called 1949 Green Line, which is recognized by the international community as the border of Israel proper, UN figures show, with most of it jutting into the occupied West Bank.
The 440-kilometer long barrier is considered illegal under international law.
Among its many international contracts, Elbit contributed in 2013 to a $40 million expansive Internet surveillance program for the Nigerian government.
Elbit Systems has officially pledged on its website to “contribute to the enhancement of quality of life and the environment of the communities in which we live and work.”
But this contribution mainly consists of supporting Israeli occupation forces through the “Adopt a Combat Unit” program.
Elbit is targeted by the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for “directly contribut[ing] to violations of international humanitarian law.”
The Stop the Wall campaign has called Elbit a “symbol” which“thrives on and fuels war, repression and control in Palestine and around the globe.”
“Elbit offers its experience in ghettoizing and killing Palestinians to repress other people,” the campaign wrote of the company’s international projects.
“Because Elbit Systems is knowingly participating in and aiding Israeli war crimes and Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people, investors in and partners of the security firm are, by extension, accessories to Israel’s many violations of international law and human rights standards.”
With the predictable failure of the Syrian peace conference, the call for the Obama administration to wage a humanitarian war to save civilians in Syria is once again being championed by some elements of the mainstream media in the U.S. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, since certain powerful voices in the U.S. corporate media have long been in lock-step with some of the most hawkish elements in the Obama administration regarding the use of force in Syria.
A sober, clear-eyed analysis of the logic of the decisions by the Obama administration suggest that the failure of the peace conference was a programmed outcome. The inescapable conclusion as to why the conference was even held, therefore, is that administration hawks saw the failure of the conference as a valuable public relations weapon to move public opinion in favor of more direct military involvement.
Before I am accused of being overly cynical or even conspiratorial, a review of the decisions made in the days and weeks leading up to the conference provides more than adequate evidence to support this contention.
If the Obama administration had been even remotely committed to brokering some kind of diplomatic solution, would it have insisted that all of the parties to the talks be bound by the terms of the Geneva communiqué that called for “regime change” in the form of a transitional government? Would the administration have excluded Iran or been committed to pretending that the “legitimate opposition” was represented by the Syrian National Coalition, a motley crew of slavish opportunist exiles who everyone knows have no real connection to the political and military situation on the ground?
The propaganda value of the talks seems to be the only plausible explanation for why the administration would engineer the elaborate charade in Geneva. The decision to hold the talks knowing that they were going to lead to failure is where the real cynicism lies.
As I have argued since the beginning of this manufactured conflict, peace and particularly the humanity of the Syrian people are the last things on the minds of U.S. policy-makers. The often-invoked concerns for the starving people of Homs and all of the other innocents in this brutal conflict continue to be no more than a crude subterfuge to allow the administration to pursue its broader regional geostrategic objective – the elimination of the Syrian state.
That is why the Islamic fundamentalist groups that U.S. intelligence services helped to arm, train and deploy with destructive efficiency (without much real concern if they were affiliated with al-Qaeda) have targeted all of the institutions of the Syrian state – schools, hospitals, government agencies, electrical stations, water and sanitation facilities, food distribution networks – as part of their strategy. Generalized mayhem, reducing the population to dependence on their networks and territorial dismemberment have all moved the administration toward realization of its strategic objective. But because of the successes of the Syrian armed forces and the uncertainties generated as a result of internal conflicts breaking out among Islamist forces in the country, Washington decision-makers want to make sure that the Syrian government is not able to retake or re-consolidate its influence in contested zones. This can only be assured as a result of more direct military intervention on the part of the U.S. and its allies.
So the next act in this macabre play is now centering on the very real sufferings of the Syrian people. The administration’s man at the U.N., Lakhor Brahimi, set this direction in motion by skillfully moving the peace talks toward the issue of humanitarian concerns. No longer needing the chemical weapons excuse, the administration along with its coterie of collaborationist human rights organizations and media apologists, are now demanding U.N. access to the areas where the Syrian governmental forces have hemmed in the armed groups.
Taking a page from its Libyan playbook on how to manipulate the public to support war, the Obama administration had a draft U.N. Security Council resolution circulated that placed the full blame on the Syrian government for the humanitarian situation in the country.
The language in the resolution was seen as so one-sided and belligerent by some U.N. members that it had no chance of being supported, which of course was the real objective. Orchestrated by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, the resolution appeared aimed at invoking a veto in the Security Council that would set the stage for another illegal NATO-led military assault on the Syrian armed forces. Instead, a resolution was passed over the weekend that some characterized as more balanced because it called on “all sides” to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians and condemned acts of terror. But all of the delegations understand that this compromise resolution is primarily targeting the Syrian government.
This concern for the humanity of the Syrians is comical if it was not so deadly serious. Sen. John McCain – the same Vietnam-era war criminal who was silent on the uprising of the people in Bahrain, the slaughter of innocent civilians in the various military assaults by Israel in Gaza and who supported the illegal war against Iraq that resulted in the deaths of over a million Iraqi’s – loudly condemned the Obama administration for not doing more for people suffering in Syria.
McCain as well as the hawks in the Obama administration and in the media know that they have a powerful weapon with the imperial and racist notion of the U.S. government’s “responsibility to protect.” The New York Times, Washington Post and a number of other major newspapers are now on record suggesting that the “use of force” by the Obama administration to end the starvation of innocents trapped in besieged cities is morally justified.
No one can deny the reality of tens of thousands of innocents suffering from the savage brutality of war. And who can disagree with relieving the sufferings of innocent civilians trapped in the middle of warring factions? U.S. decision-makers are well aware that most polling data suggest that when issues of humanitarian concerns are introduced, public support for more direct involvement in Syria shifts from a majority that is opposed to a slight majority that would support it.
So the U.S. public has been saturated over the last two weeks with stories about the trapped civilians, the cruel al-Assad government opposing humanitarian access and the innocent American administration that only wants to help the suffering Syrian people. The sad part of all of this is that with the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement in shambles, suffering from a combination of institutional weakness, marginalization and the effects of the “liberal virus” that has confused and disarmed U.S. radicals, the administration may very well be successful in maneuvering the public into supporting more direct military involvement.
The consequence of all of this for the people of Syria will be more violent destruction, brutality and displacement. But I am sure that the pro-imperialist and pro-war Democrats in the Obama administration have concluded that for the Syrian people, freedom – as they define it – is “worth the price” in death and destruction. And they will not see any irony in this.
Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist and organizer. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C.
In Ukraine, US-backed rebels seize weapons from a military depot and begin firing on police — killing at least ten. The rebel groups occupy and torch government buildings, trade union headquarters, the central post office, and political party headquarters. They occupy local government facilities in other cities and physically attack local authorities. Their goal is to overthrow the elected government.
Reports of rebel reinforcements arriving, with “bulky backpacks near the scene of the latest protests,” are suspiciously reminiscent of the “Internet in a Suitcase” project funded by the US government to provide tools for “activists” in regime-change candidate countries. The US has similarly trained and equipped the Syrian rebels.
US-backed rebels are photographed all over Ukraine with weapons, sometimes photographed shooting at police. In Syria, the US covertly provided the weapons and approved Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other “friends of Syria” to provide even more. A Russian official has accused the US of arming the Ukrainian opposition.
As in Syria, where US Ambassador Robert Ford adopted the rebels from the beginning of the insurrection, US officials have beat a steady path to the Ukrainian rebels to offer their support and assistance. Senator John McCain has even dined with Svoboda Party president Oleh Tyahnybok, shown here in a rather different pose. US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was recorded plotting the overthrow and replacement of the Ukrainian government with the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
Pyatt, a man surely devoid of any sense of self-reflection, boldly proclaimed that his recorded plotting to overthrow of the Ukrainian government was merely “helping to build bridges between the government and the opposition.” Of course in a strict sense that is true: he is actively engaged in building a bridge to government power for the Ukrainian opposition.
The Syrian rebels are presented as a moderate group of would-be democrats seeking political reform; Ukrainian rebels are presented as a bunch of pro-Western, pro-EU “peaceful demonstrators.” In both cases the real power on the streets has been radical extremists with whom US officials have had considerable contact.
In Syria, President Assad responded early on to the unrest with offers of compromise, including agreeing to hold a constitutional referendum which put an end to generations of one-party rule. In Ukraine, President Yanukovich granted amnesty to violent protesters, rescinded legislation seen as inhibiting protest, fired his government at the request of the opposition and even offered to name opposition leaders to a new interim government. Each move toward compromise and appeasement of the opposition was met with increased violence and escalating demands on the part of the rebels, most recently in Ukraine after opposition leaders met with US and EU officials at a security conference in Munich.
President Obama sternly warns the Ukrainian government against restoring order: “We expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters.” He cryptically hinted at possible US escalation, stating: “We’ll be monitoring very carefully the situation, recognizing that, along with our European partners and the international community, there will be consequences if people step over the line.”
He similarly warned Syrian president Assad against taking action to defend the country against armed rebels fighting for its overthrow.
Another red line drawn? This time on Russia’s doorstep?
Here again is the million dollar question: What would Washington do if rebels intent on overthrowing the Obama regime raided military weapons depots, killed at least ten police officers and wounded dozens of others, set Washington D.C. on fire, occupied key government buildings including the US Capitol complex, and demanded a change in the Constitution favoring their ascendance to power?
Obama warned the Ukraine government to make sure the “Ukrainian military does not step in to resolve issues that could be resolved by civilians.” The US military was called in to quell a far less significant protest in Seattle over the World Trade Organization meeting there in 1999.
The US Capitol area has been on “lockdown” innumerable times over such “threats” as a mentally disturbed woman driving erratically — who was unarmed and shot dead by police.
One need not side with either opposing group in Ukraine to point out the choking hypocrisy of the US position.
But what is truly remarkable are the many similarities between what has been happening in Syria and what is now happening in Ukraine. It almost seems as if the same hand with the same playbook is plotting both regime change operations.
Hawkish US Senator John McCain has called on the Obama administration to employ its already-devised plan of military intervention against the Syrian government.
“The only way to achieve success at Geneva is to change the balance of power on the ground,” McCain said in a statement on Saturday, referring to the failure of the so-called Syria peace talks in Geneva.
“There are options far short of an Iraq-style invasion that can, and should, be employed to change the calculation of the Syrian regime, stem the violence, and ultimately achieve a negotiated political solution,” he added.
The second round of negotiations ended on Saturday without any concrete results about the unrest in Syria.
“The second round of Syria peace talks ended today with no progress toward a negotiated political settlement to the conflict and UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi recognizing that failure is looming,” McCain said.
“After three weeks of talks, we are moving further and further away from a peaceful political solution,” he argued.
The Arizona Republican senator also criticized President Barack Obama for allowing Russia to put pressure on him.
“Russia has recently prevented the passage of a much-needed UN resolution on bringing aid to desperate Syrian civilians,” he said. “Such actions indicate that the Russian government is simply not a partner for peace in Syria and cannot be relied on to help secure a successful outcome.”
During a press conference on Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said there is no military solution for the crisis in Syria.
“The crisis in Syria is a crisis. The circumstances on the ground are horrific that is why we have to bring the parties together to try to compel them towards a negotiated political settlement because there isn’t a military solution here,” Carney said.
Violent protestors last month occupied three cabinet ministry buildings as they sought to overthrow the Ukrainian government. Protestors physically blocked the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament from taking his seat at the speaker’s podium for weeks. Then they blockaded the speaker of parliament in his own office, forcing him to escape out the window.
As the Ukrainian authorities attempted to restore order and evict protestors from government buildings, the US government threatened sanctions and more if the legally-elected government of Ukraine moved against those occupying government buildings.
Senator John McCain last week threatened unspecified “concrete” US action against Ukraine if there is any “brutal repression of the demonstrations.” In other words, if police forcibly remove those who have taken control of cabinet ministry buildings and blocked the main square of the capitol, McCain implies that “all options are on the table.”
Meanwhile in Washington:
A man attempted to climb the fence surrounding the White House today and was immediately apprehended. The White House complex was placed in full lockdown mode. According to press reports, “the area around the White House was shut down and reporters were not allowed to leave through one of the gates because of the incident.”
Last October, a distraught woman traveling with her one year old daughter bumped into a barricade in front of the White House before driving quickly and erratically toward Capitol Hill. She did not attempt to occupy any government buildings, but once she stopped her car, police shot her dead.
If Americans ever assert their real national security and geopolitical interests by “shaking off” the longstanding occupation of Washington — “Israel’s most important occupied territory” — in a long overdue “American Intifada,” those who have engaged “in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort” are helpfully leaving behind an extensive documentary record of their treason:
The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013
Below is a list of senators who have cosponsored or indicated their intention to cosponsor The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013.
47 Members Who Cosponsored
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Mark Begich (D-AK)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Daniel Coats (R-IN)
Thomas Coburn (R-OK)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Deb Fischer (R-NE)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
John McCain (R-AZ)
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Jerry Moran (R=KS)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
James Risch R-ID)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Tim Scott (R-SC)
John Thune (R-SC)
Pat Toomey (R-PA)
David Vitter (R-LA)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @O_Cathail.
WASHINGTON – After three days of non-stop phone calls from hundreds of Colorado constituents opposed to a US military strike on Syria, Rep. Doug Lamborn announced Friday he was “leaning against” a resolution giving US President Barack Obama the authority to take limited action.
Following a long holiday weekend, “Tuesday is when the calls started, they’re still coming in, and I would say fewer than two percent are people who want us to take action,” said Catherine Mortensen, Lamborn’s communications director.
“People say things like, ‘We have problems at home we need to take care of.’ And what was surprising was how quickly people’s opinions had gelled. They’re not lukewarm. Right off the bat on Tuesday it was, ‘We don’t need this.’ It’s been overwhelming,” she added in an interview with RIA Novosti.
While Lamborn was answering questions from listeners during a radio show Friday morning, Mortensen said, “One man phoned in to say, ‘I’m in Afghanistan, and I don’t want this anymore.’”
By the end of the show, Lamborn, a Republican, who previously had said he was gathering facts and hadn’t made up his mind yet, told listeners he was inclined to vote against the resolution.
And Lamborn’s office is not alone.
Other Congressional offices say they have also been bombarded ever since Obama said last Saturday that he would ask Congress to approve a “limited” strike against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack last month.
“I can tell you 99 percent of the calls coming to my office are against it,” said Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland in a televised interview on MSNBC.
Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona who lost the presidency to Obama in 2008, voted to support his old rival during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this week, but took significant heat about it from angry constituents at a town hall meeting in Arizona Thursday.
“This is what I think of Congress,” said one man in the crowd, holding up a bag of marshmallows. “They are a bunch of marshmallows…Why are you not listening to the people and staying out of Syria? It’s not our fight.”
Some of those calls and comments to Congress appear to be having an effect.
After days of discussions with voters, Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, announced late Thursday in a statement on his website that he would vote against the president’s request, saying the situation in Syria is a civil war that America should not be drawn into.
“This is not just my opinion. It is the considered opinion of the people that I represent, expressed not at just one or two town halls, but literally at every public or private meeting and casual encounter I have had since the president decided to put this issue before Congress last Saturday,” he said, adding, “I have heard their opposition loud and clear and will not vote in favor of military intervention in Syria.”
Upon hearing word about a chemical attack that had killed men, women and children, Republican Rep. Michael Grimm from New York said his initial reaction, as a Marine combat veteran, “was to stand by the Commander in Chief and support immediate, targeted strikes.”
Grimm announced Thursday he, too, had changed his mind.
“I have heard from many constituents who strongly oppose unilateral action at a time when we have so many needs here at home. Thus, after much thought, deliberation and prayer, I am no longer convinced that a US strike on Syria will yield a benefit to the United States that will not be greatly outweighed by the extreme cost of war,” he said in a statement on his website.
The Obama Administration thus far has “failed to present a convincing argument that the events in Syria pose a clear threat to America, failed to list a strong coalition of nations willing to support military attacks, and failed to articulate a clear definition of victory,” said Arizona Republican Rep. Matt Salmon in a statement on his website explaining his opposition to a strike.
Salmon told the National Review Online he’s had 500 calls to his office about the crisis in Syria, and only two have been in favor of US intervention. He predicted Obama’s efforts in Congress “will fail by 20 votes.”
But Obama is counting on members of Congress like California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who has viewed classified information about the chemical weapons attack and said Thursday she supports the strike on Syria, despite the lack of public support.
“There’s no question: What’s coming in is overwhelmingly negative,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “But you see, then, they don’t know what I know. They haven’t heard what I’ve heard.”
During a press conference from St. Petersburg soon after the G20 summit wrapped up on Friday, Obama said he would address the nation about the crisis on Tuesday, telling reporters he considers it part of his job to “make the case.”
“It’s conceivable that, at the end of the day, I don’t persuade a majority of the American people that it’s the right thing to do,” Obama said to reporters.
But he added that members of Congress will have to decide for themselves if they think a strike is the right thing for national and global security.
“Ultimately, you listen to your constituents, but you’ve got to make some decisions about what you believe is right for America,” he said.
Obama did not say whether he would still order a strike even without Congressional approval.
- Obama’s Politics of War and US Public Opinion: The Great Divergence (James Petras)
- How to Call Congress About Voting NO on Striking Syria (disclose.tv)
- Report: AIPAC to mount major lobbying blitz for Obama’s Syria strike plan (jpost.com)
- Arizona Voters Heckle John McCain Over Push For Syrian Strike (businessinsider.com)
- Developing: Congress Might Not Even Vote On Obama’s Syria Resolution (undergroundpoliticsdotorg.wordpress.com)
- Fla. members in Congress skeptical of Syria strike (miamiherald.com)
- Will Obama Strike Syria Without Congressional Approval? (dannyvinik.com)
- Obama rejects G20 pressure to abandon Syria air strike plan – Times of India (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
By PAUL GOTTINGER | August 30, 2013
The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate himself, Obama, weighed in on the human rights abuses being carried out by the U.S. trained and funded General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt on August 23 saying “We care deeply about the Egyptian people,” and “We deplore violence against civilians.” These statements came after a vicious attack on protestors on August 14 that Human Rights Watch called, “most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.”
The day of the Egyptian security forces attack on the non-violent protestors John Kerry did his best to conjure up indignation in response to the events. In the stiff and passionless manner of a marionette, which is convincing only in that he is “deeply concerned” with not forgetting his lines, he stated, “The violence is deplorable.”
So one would imagine this peacenik president who is deeply troubled by the violence in Egypt would unleash the hoards of humanitarians to protect the Egyptian civilians he cares so much about. But instead Obama stated, “America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That’s a task for [Egyptians].”
Then on August 19 Chuck Hagel changed the tone slightly (he’s the Secretary of Defense, so he has to sound tough) by focusing on America’s impotence in regards to Egypt. He stated, “[The U.S.’] ability to influence the outcome in Egypt is limited” and that “All nations are limited in their influence in another nation’s internal issues”.
On August 22 the LA Times echoed much the same stating, “Obama’s inability to ease the crisis reflects America’s diminished ability to influence political outcomes in [Egypt].”
The media continued the theme of failing U.S. influence in Egypt by focusing on the fact that the three richest monarchies in the gulf pledged $12 billion in cash and loans to Egypt. The Wall Street Journal wrote, ‘The U.S.’s closest Middle East allies undercut American policy in Egypt by encouraging the military to confront the Muslim Brotherhood rather than reconcile, U.S. and Arab officials said.’
The idea we’re supposed to have about Obama’s policy towards Egypt couldn’t be clearer: Obama would really love to stop all that awful violence in Egypt, but unfortunately America just isn’t powerful enough to save everyone. Come on, Obama isn’t superman.
The consistency with which the mainstream media adhered to this message demonstrates the strict discipline the major newspapers maintain in their role as ideological managers.
But just as the population of most of the planet was about to collectively erupt in simultaneous celebration at the end of American military hegemony, Obama stated he was considering a military strike on Syria.
We’re supposed to swallow that the situation in Egypt is beyond the realm of American power, but Syria, where the U.S. has significantly less influence, is within the capabilities of the U.S.
Apparently the forecast of the decline of American power from the mainstream media was a bit premature. Perhaps there is a lesson here: whatever the mainstream media is saying about U.S. foreign policy, you can be almost certain it’s not true.
However, it is true that U.S. power has been in decline since the end of World War II when it was at its most powerful, but the U.S. still is far and away the most powerful country in the world. This will likely be the case for a long time to come.
In order to understand the cynicism of Obama’s rhetoric, one must be familiar with the U.S.’ long record of support for brutal dictators with awful human rights records. This is especially the case in Egypt where the U.S. supported Anwar El Sadat beginning in the early 1970s, and also supported his successor Hosni Mubarak until nearly the end of the 2011 protests.
If the Peace Laureate president had any sincerity with regards to stopping the human rights abuses in Egypt he could pressure the military government there. With Egypt’s small economy (a GDP of around 260 billion dollars) the military government could be easily bought, or enticed with a long stalled IMF deal and debt forgiveness. This is especially true because the Egyptian economy has suffered serious unemployment and inflation for years.
Even if the U.S. didn’t want to spend a dime on Egypt it could take Turkey’s suggestion and bring the issue of violence against civilians to the UN Security Council and Arab League with the hopes of influencing the military government.
The U.S. could also assert its influence on its close allies the Gulf States and Israel. But the U.S. is fine with the military government in Egypt and allows the aid from the Gulf States to reach Egypt.
Another instructive element to the political crisis in Egypt was the Obama administration’s fake attempts to resolve the situation diplomatically.
The New York Times reported that Chuck Hagel made, “17 personal phone calls” to the Egyptian military government, but they “failed to forestall” the crisis. Perhaps Hagel would have had more luck if he tried contacting the General el-Sisi on Facebook.
The next act in the made for New York Times special was the diplomatic trip of John McCain and Lindsey Graham to Egypt on behalf of Obama. The New York Times reports Graham spoke to John McCain about General el-Sisi saying, “If this guy’s voice is indicative of the attitude, there’s no pulling out of this thing.”
This conjures up the image of the Egyptian military commander as a runaway train and all the bros from Washington are pulling as hard as they can on the break, but somehow the general is just too strong for them.
You see it’s imperative that the media portray the U.S. as powerless to stop the violence of dictators the U.S. likes. However, when the U.S. doesn’t care for the leader, be they democratically elected like Hamas in 2006, or Chavez in 2002, or a dictator like Saddam, Qaddafi, or Assad, then the U.S. is capable of anything, usually devastating violence.
Just when you think there is not a sensible member of the U.S. government John McCain stated that he recommended the U.S. cut aid to Egypt. But the reason he gave for why he recommended this was telling. He said, “[the U.S.] has no credibility. ”We know that the administration called the Egyptians and said, ‘look, if you [have] a coup, we’re going to cut off aid because that’s the law.’ We have to comply with the law. And … this administration did not do that after threatening to do so.”
McCain’s reasoning for supporting a cut to aid has nothing to do with protecting human rights in Egypt, but is solely about American credibility. The logic is this: if the U.S. makes threats, we have to follow threw with them. This is the same logic used when raising a child, which tells us much about how the U.S. views its relationship to Egypt and much of the rest of the world.
When we put aside the dark theatrics of the Obama administration’s rhetoric it is obscenely obvious that el-Sisi and the Egyptian military have very close connections to the U.S. and serve U.S interests.
For decades the Egyptian leaders have played an important role for the U.S. by allowing U.S./Israel to act with impunity against the Palestinians.
The closeness of the ties between the Egyptian military and the U.S. is demonstrated by the fact that General el-Sisi spent a year at the Army War College in Pennsylvania in 2006. The same Army War College trains 500-1000 Egyptian military officers every year.
Since 1979 Egypt has received the 2nd most bilateral aid, behind only Israel, totaling 68 billion dollars. The U.S. buys relationships with the militaries of countries like Egypt to insure influence.
This is why Obama has allowed and will continue to allow the human right abuses to continue in Egypt. Despite his pretty talk and composed outrage, he actually is just fine with protestors being gunned down in the street, the brutal repression of a political party (Muslim Brotherhood), the prevention of freedom of speech, and the destruction of Egypt’s brief experiment with democracy (which resulted from the sacrifice of 800 hundred lives with 6,000 injured and 12,000 hauled before military courts).
Obama is A okay with military curfews and a state of emergency. Obama has no problem with attacks on Christian churches, attacks on journalists, and “Nightmare scenes that Egyptians could never have imagined could take place in [their] country.” Obama sees nothing wrong with tear gas being fired into hospitals, and Islamists being portrayed as terrorists or even animals.
Obama has no problem with any of this because he knows he can count on el-Sisi to follow U.S. orders. Egyptian civil society’s destruction simply makes controlling the country easier for the U.S. […]
Whether or not the U.S. knew about the military coup ahead of time the U.S. seems to be following a predictable PR plan.
1. The Obama administration strongly condemns the violence and calls for a return to democracy. 2. There is a semantic battle waged over whether or not to classify the events as a coup. 3. When it looks bad to support a thug overtly, you engage in superficial detachment from the leader of the coup. (This is the canceling of the joint military operations) 4.Then if necessary, as in the 2009 coup to the somewhat progressive Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, cut some amount of aid as a slap on the wrist, but then quietly restore it later.
Obama’s policies are all predictable. It’s the same story once again: the U.S. destroys yet another country. The revolution in Egypt is back at square one. Morsi is detained and Mubarak has been released from prison. The U.S. has done its best to destroy the progress of the Arab Spring.
But more protests are being called for in Egypt on Friday, August 30. The question is can Egypt regain the spirit of the January 25 revolution and continue to fight for basic rights? Perhaps for us as Americans the more important question is how much longer will Americans tolerate the dark theatrics of our government’s foreign policy? When we witness the immense bravery of the Egyptians challenging their government and getting massacred don’t we have a responsibility to challenge our government when the risks for us are far less? As Americans we must work to protect victims of U.S. violence, and the best way for us to do that is to get off the Internet and get in the street.
Paul Gottinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By JASON HIRTHLER | July 24, 2013
After committing a half dozen acts of war across the Middle East in recent years, we’re now treated to the absurd spectacle of an American general warning us of the dangers of committing an act of war. On Monday, U.S. General Martin Dempsey starkly outlined options for military action in Syria in a letter to the Senate, ruefully adding a few caveats about costs and collateral damage that triggered some chest-thumping histrionics in the Senate. Dempsey’s menu of warmongering druthers included training and advising the opposition (the term ‘nonlethal’ is always excitedly appended to advisory activities); conducting limited missile strikes; establishing a no-fly zone; creating buffer zones; and controlling chemical weapons. These additional options come even as Congress approves arms shipments to Syrian ‘rebels’.
Importantly, though, Dempsey did emphasize that the use of force in any form would be “no less than an act of war”. This may appear to be a given, but it is not within the Washington bubble, hence the need to overstate the obvious. Outraged by this show of good sense, senior Senator John McCain threatened to block General Dempsey’s re-election as America’s top military appointment. McCain has been clamoring for a ‘no-fly zone’ for months, and finds the General insufficiently hostile to Syrian sovereignty. This is itself absurd, since Dempsey had just laid out five ‘acts of war’ for the White House to consider. While the various approaches appear quite different prima facie, they share a common objective—the end of the Bashar al-Assad government. As employed in Libya, a nominal no-fly zone bears little distinction from Dempsey’s “stand-off strikes,” the former providing rhetorical cover for a brutal aerial assault on a country’s military infrastructure, usefully evading Congressional interference and erecting a posture of last-resort humanitarian action.
Much to McCain’s continuing chagrin, Dempsey also usefully detailed some of the exorbitant costs of any of these actions, including the eye-popping $500 million upfront costs for a no-fly zone, followed by a mere billion dollars a month for maintenance. Controlling chemical weapons would run a billion a month, too. (Training unhinged Islamic jihadists came in comparatively cheaper, at just $500 million a year.) After laying out these costs, Dempsey couldn’t resist noting with dutiful trepidation that these expenditures arise even as we “lose readiness due to budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty”. This must have caused some discomfiture even among the most stalwart deficit hawks.
Dempsey also performed the tiresome hand-wringing pantomime, noting grave concerns that weapons or intelligence could fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates (such as those we are backing), as well as reminding us how heavily these decisions weigh upon our noble civilian leaders. (Perhaps we are meant to conjure Obama’s discerning visage, a gentle Caesarean wreath of laurels cresting his pate.) Any of the items on the a-la-carte menu, Dempsey noted, might produce “retaliatory attacks” and “collateral damage”, might inadvertently create “operational zones for extremists” or “unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control,” among a number of other regrettable forms of chaos. One has to wonder whether Dempsey is late arriving to the Syrian conflict, considering it is common knowledge that arming extremist is the cornerstone of our Syrian strategy, or that it is quite possible that the extremists in our employ have already deployed chemical weapons in service to their discredited rebellion. Perhaps Dempsey ought to look back to Libya again for a better sense of what “unintended consequences” really entail—namely, destabilizing delicately balanced communities inside neighboring nations (see Mali) and the indiscriminate diffusion of both weaponry and stateless jihad across the region. It might also behoove McCain to ponder the internal effect of the Libyan no-fly zone, which precipitated not only the aforementioned regional phenomenon, but also left Libya itself reduced to a confection of simmering sectarian strongholds with a cowering and nominally federated government in Tripoli. The only question that remains is whether these consequences are “unintended” or not.
It’s hardly absurd to suggest the possibility that the Pentagon sometimes likes to “trigger” failed states. Once achieved, several fortuitous opportunities emerge: large lending regimes move in, conditioning aid on the chaining of renascent economies to structural reforms designed to refashion the country as an unfettered market for Western multinationals; and also the use of the country as a staging hub for military actions across the region; and other surreptitious designs.
But nothing feels more disingenuous than Dempsey’s pronounced concern over committing an “act of war”. Is funneling cash, weapons, and intelligence to mercenary forces in an effort to unseat a sovereign government not itself an act of war? Are not the pernicious and unsanctioned drone bombings of civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan not acts of war? Is conducting clandestine cyber warfare within Iran an act of war? What about funneling millions to opposition candidates in last year’s Venezuelan election—surely a serious provocation at least?
You’d be hard-pressed to imagine any of the above acts being taken against the United States that didn’t induce an instantaneous and vicious military reply—and a deluge of indignant rhetoric from the White House. Imagine an Iranian computer virus taking down half our Internet servers. Or a Pakistani drone liquidating a ‘threat’ in Iowa. Or Syria funneling arms to Islamist cells in Delaware.
Dempsey should at least be cognizant of the fact that we’ve been launching acts of war on a regular and unrepentant basis. And perhaps that’s why his modestly alarmist message—albeit couched in a freshet of regime-change mechanisms—will likely fall on deaf ears in our effete and enervated Senate.