Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I Worked on the U.S. Drone Program—Here's What Really Happens



Few politicians who brazenly defend drones have a clue about how they actually work.

By Heather Linebaugh
Beaver County Peace Links via The Guardian/UK

Dec 30, 2013 - Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I'd start with: "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?" And: "How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Or even more pointedly: "How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?"

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.

The US and British militaries insist that this is an expert program, but it's curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: "The feed is so pixelated, what if it's a shovel, and not a weapon?" I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian's life all because of a bad image or angle.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Empire Under Obama: America's "Secret Wars" in Over 100 Countries Around the World

Drone aircraft launching an air to ground missile. (Photo: via Shutterstock)

By Andrew Gavin Marshall
The Hampton Institute

Oct 25, 2013 - Obama's global terror campaign is not only dependent upon his drone assassination program, but increasingly it has come to rely upon the deployment of Special Operations forces in countries all over the world, reportedly between 70 and 120 countries at any one time. As Obama has sought to draw down the large-scale ground invasions of countries (as Bush pursued in Afghanistan and Iraq), he has escalated the world of 'covert warfare,' largely outside the oversight of Congress and the public. One of the most important agencies in this global "secret war" is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC for short.

JSOC was established in 1980 following the failed rescue of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran as "an obscure and secretive corner of the military's hierarchy," noted the Atlantic. It experienced a "rapid expansion" under the Bush administration, and since Obama came to power, "appears to be playing an increasingly prominent role in national security" and "counterterrorism," in areas which were "traditionally covered by the CIA."[1] One of the most important differences between these covert warfare operations being conducted by JSOC instead of the CIA is that the CIA has to report to Congress, whereas JSOC only reports its most important activities to the President's National Security Council.[2]

During the Bush administration, JSOC "reported directly" to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (of the New Yorker), who explained that, "It's an executive assassination ring essentially, and it's been going on and on and on." He added: "Under President Bush's authority, they've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That's been going on, in the name of all of us."[3]

In 2005, Dick Cheney referred to U.S. Special Forces as "the silent professionals" representing "the kind of force we want to build for the future... a force that is lighter, more adaptable, more agile, and more lethal in action." And without a hint of irony, Cheney stated: "None of us wants to turn over the future of mankind to tiny groups of fanatics committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large-scale terror."[4] Not unless those "fanatics" happen to be wearing U.S. military uniforms, of course, in which case "committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large-scale terror" is not an issue.

The commander of JSOC during the Bush administration - when it served as Cheney's "executive assassination ring" - was General Stanley McChrystal, whom Obama appointed as the top military commander in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, JSOC began to play a much larger role in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.[5] In early 2009, the new head of JSOC, Vice Admiral William H. McRaven ordered a two-week 'halt' to Special Operations missions inside Afghanistan, after several JSOC raids in previous months killed several women and children, adding to the growing "outrage" within Afghanistan about civilian deaths caused by US raids and airstrikes, which contributed to a surge in civilian deaths over 2008.[6]

JSOC has also been involved in running a "secret war" inside of Pakistan, beginning in 2006 but accelerating rapidly under the Obama administration. The "secret war" was waged in cooperation with the CIA and the infamous private military contractor, Blackwater, made infamous for its massacre of Iraqi civilians, after which it was banned from operating in the country.[7]

Blackwater's founder, Erik Prince, was recruited as a CIA asset in 2004, and in subsequent years acquired over $1.5 billion in contracts from the Pentagon and CIA, and included among its leadership several former top-level CIA officials. Blackwater, which primarily hires former Special Forces soldiers, has largely functioned "as an overseas Praetorian guard for the CIA and State Department officials," who were also "helping to craft, fund, and execute operations," including "assembling hit teams," all outside of any Congressional or public oversight (since it was technically a private corporation).[8]

The CIA hired Blackwater to aid in a secret assassination program which was hidden from Congress for seven years.[9] These operations would be overseen by the CIA or Special Forces personnel.[10] Blackwater has also been contracted to arm drones at secret bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Obama's assassination program, overseen by the CIA.[11] The lines dividing the military, the CIA and Blackwater had become "blurred," as one former CIA official commented, "It became a very brotherly relationship... There was a feeling that Blackwater eventually become an extension of the agency."[12]

The "secret war" in Pakistan may have begun under Bush, but it had rapidly expanded in the following years of the Obama administration. Wikileaks cables confirmed the operation of JSOC forces inside of Pakistan, with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani telling the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson (who would later be appointed as ambassador to Egypt), that, "I don't care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We'll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it."[13]

Saturday, September 28, 2013

American Exceptionalism? Obama’s Argument Deeply Flawed

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

Obama's argument deeply flawedSept 27, 2013- The United States is exceptional, President Barack Obama insisted on Tuesday addressing the United Nations General Assembly, clearly in a bid to refute Russian President Vladmir Putin's criticism of American exceptionalism in a recent article published in The New York Times.

In fact, Obama's speech was exceptional as he tried to lecture the leaders and representatives from countries around the world. He said that next year an international coalition will end its mission in Afghanistan, having achieved its task of dismantling the core of al-Qaida that attacked the US on 9/11.

However, Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation and a former special adviser at US Special Operations Command, has long argued that al-Qaida is far from defeated as there has been a net expansion in the number and geographic scope of al-Qaida affiliates and allies over the past decade. It would be surprising if the US president was not aware of this.

Obama also claimed that the US has limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing imminent threat to the US, where capture is not feasible and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.

But was he admitting that he had not exercised enough caution and apologizing because he had dramatically increased drone attacks in the past years?

Obama has not got the anger at his use of drones. For example, in Pakistan, it is not just the "collateral damage" of innocent civilians that enrage people, it is also the disrespect and violation of their nation's sovereignty. Even if a bad guy is finally killed, they do not want a bomb from another country dropping from the sky and blowing up their villages.

Obama also claimed that the US is transferring detainees to other countries and trying terrorists in courts of law while working diligently to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But for months more than 100 detainees at Guantanamo held a hunger strike, and US military officials said on Monday that a core group of 19 prisoners are still on hunger strike.

Obama said the US has begun to review the way that it gathers intelligence so that it properly balances the legitimate security concerns of its citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share. But he did not address the revelation by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the US is spying on countries all over the world.

At the UN General Assembly session, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff blasted the US' spying, accusing the US of violating international law. Rousseff cancelled a recent trip to the US because the US failed to apologize for eavesdropping on the Brazilian president's phone calls and spying on Brazilian oil companies and citizens. Brazil is just one of the many countries that are waiting for an explanation and apology from Washington.

Obama claimed that the evidence is overwhelming that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in his own country, but the evidence he gave was "these rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood and landed in opposition neighborhoods".

Such logic is deeply flawed, as Obama with his background as a lawyer well knows, and is similar to then US secretary of state Colin Powell holding a model of a vial of anthrax during a presentation to the UN 10 years ago.

Obama was furious that he had not received support both at home and abroad for his planned military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons. "It's an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack."

For Obama to suggest that so many people in the world cannot reason, simply because they reason differently to the exceptional reasoning of the US president, is insulting.

The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

(China Daily 09/27/2013 page8)

Copyright By All rights reserved

Monday, September 9, 2013

Syria War Will Destroy Efforts vs .Austerity at Home

Syria and the Reality at Home in America

By Robert Reich
Sept 9, 2013 - While all eyes are on Syria and America's response, the real economy in which most Americans live is sputtering.
More than four years after the recession officially ended, 11.5 million Americans are unemployed, many of them for years. Nearly 4 million have given up looking for work altogether. If they were actively looking, today's unemployment rate would be 9.5 percent instead of 7.3 percent.
The share of the population working or seeking a job is the lowest in 35 years. The unemployment rate among high-school dropouts is 11 percent; for blacks, 12.6 percent. More than one in five American children face hunger, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And the median wage keeps dropping, adjusted for inflation. Incomes for all but the top 1 percent are below where they were at the start of the economic recovery in 2009.
A decent society would put people to work -- even if this required more government spending on roads, bridges, ports, pipelines, parks and schools.
A decent society would lift the minimum wage, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (a wage subsidy), and provide food stamps and housing assistance, so that no family with a full-time worker has to live in poverty.
We can afford this minimal level of decency.
Deficit hawks in both parties don't want you to know this but the federal deficit as a proportion of the total economy is shrinking fast: It's on track to be only 4 percent by the end of September, when the fiscal year ends. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts it will be only 3.4 percent in the fiscal year starting October 1.
To put this into perspective, consider that the average ratio of the deficit to the GDP over the past 30 years has been 3.3 percent. So the deficit is barely a problem at all. (We're still projected to have large deficits starting 10 years from now because of all the aging boomers needing health care.)
Yet while attention is focused on Syria, food stamps for the nation's poor are being cut. House Republicans would eliminate food stamps for more than 800,000 Americans who now receive them but still do not get enough to eat or have only a barely adequate diet.
Even if the Democrats prevent these draconian cuts, food stamp benefits will still be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires.
While attention is focused on Syria, funds for the nation's poorest schools are being slashed. Teachers are still being let go. Classrooms are more crowded than ever. The sequester will drain even more funds after October 1.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Obama Plan to Bomb Syria Protested in Pittsburgh

Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette: Protesters gather Friday on the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Forbes Avenue in Oakland in disapproval of possible U.S. military action against Syria.

By Amy McConnell Schaarsmith

Beaver County Peace Links via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sept 7, 2013 - Weary of nearly two decades of intermittent wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, protesters met in Oakland on Friday to tell the Obama administration not to bomb Syria in retaliation for its apparent use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb last month.

Chanting slogans such as "more money for jobs, not for war!" and waving signs with slogans such as "Obushma" and "These Colors Don't Run the World," the group of approximately 100 demonstrators organized by the Thomas Merton Center Antiwar Committee clogged the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard and repeatedly crossed the streets in front of stopped vehicles.

Among them, Syrian native Elaine Khalil, 47, said the United States -- and all the other countries trying to influence the outcome of the conflict between Syrian President Bashir Assad and the rebels trying to oust him -- should stop meddling and let the Syrian people make their own peace.

"With [President Barack] Obama supporting this war, our fear is it would actually explode into World War III," Ms. Khalil said, citing the possibility that military strikes might incite retribution by other countries in the region. "If they would pull their hands out of it, the Syrian people would resolve their own problems."

The administration's push to retaliate against Syria stems from an Aug. 21 sarin nerve gas attack in Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, that some reports have said killed as many as 1,700 people, including approximately 400 children.

In 2012, Mr. Obama said Mr. Assad's use of chemical weapons would be "a red line for us" that could prompt military action.

While the United States and several other countries have pointed the finger at Mr. Assad as responsible for the attack, Ms. Khalil said many Syrians, along with officials in Russia and Iran, believe the gas was released by the rebels themselves. (Middle East Associated Press and National Public Radio correspondent Dale Gavlak reported Aug. 30 that rebels had told him they received the chemical weapons from Saudi Arabia, didn't know what the weapons contained or how to use them, and had released the gas accidentally.)

Watching the protest from across the street, 18-year-old Syrian native Laila Al-Soulaiman said the conflict in her home country is too complicated to be the subject of a protest, and that resolving it is not a simple matter of supporting one side over the other.

As a Syrian, she said she supports intervention by the United States, but not military strikes. She doubts that the United States will act at all, though, since the Syrian conflict began two years ago and chemical weapons have been used there for at least a year.

"If the Obama administration had any intention of helping the Syrian people, they would have done that two years ago," said Ms. Al-Soulaiman, a freshman political science major at the University of Pittsburgh. "The 'red line' has been crossed a year ago, and now it's Obama trying to save face."

Daniel Freer, a 20-year-old Pitt bioengineering student from North Carolina, said he attended the demonstration to show he wants the United States to stay away from yet another potential military quagmire. The Obama administration's talk of military strikes as punishment for the sarin gas attack, he said, reminds him of the Bush administration's false claims of "weapons of mass destruction" as justification for going to war in Iraq, however different the circumstances.

"I know if we go in, we'll be there too long, or do it the wrong way, and it will be pointless," Mr. Freer said.

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: or 412-263-1719.
First Published September 7, 2013 12:19 am

Read more:

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Syria: Prevention Better than Being Punitive

By Michael Shank and Rep. Raul Grijalva

Beaver County Peace Links via Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Shank is director of Foreign Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The views expressed are their own.

August 29, 2013 - The Americans don’t want it. The Germans don’t want it. And the Brits don’t want it. The overwhelming consensus of public opinion in the Western world is that a war with Syria would be a bad idea. This now gives President Barack Obama some flexibility to back away from his red line, save political face, and do what’s necessary to prevent further violence in Syria.

But before spelling out ways we can help bring peace to Syria, it’s worth first identifying some problematic trends in America’s tack towards war. This is not unique to President Obama and was visible in past presidents’ penchant for war. There is a precedent here.

First, the idea that America can be “precise” and “limited” and “strategic” while attacking another country is completely misplaced. It inevitably leads to further or escalated violence.  It always has.  We wanted to be brief, precise and strategic in Iraq by bombing Baghdad, thinking “shock and awe” would intimidate the country and its recalcitrant leader into submission. This is not dissimilar to how we are now thinking that a “punitive” strike on Syria would send a stern message that President Bashar al-Assad, one to which he would be responsive.

Never mind the fact that al-Assad has made it clear that he’s not operating from a rational place, and would never respond rationally to punitive measures – there is no way that a strike on Damascus would last only three days, as the Pentagon has predicted. The responsibility for the ensuing chaos – from scores of civilians dead to increased likelihood of chemical weapons use – would fall on the United States.  We would be embroiled in an unraveling that would beckon more missiles, more troops, and more air and sea support. Observe every major U.S. intervention over the last 15 years. This is exactly what happened, despite the rhetoric of precise, limited, strategic and brief action.

More from GPS: All or nothing Syria

Second, the idea in Washington that an attack, strike, or punitive action, is not an “invasion”, is an absolute fallacy. This is a relatively new definition promulgated by Washington’s defense community, and the think tanks that support it.  It’s a convenient semantic reframing so that America is not perceived as the “evil Western invader” – or part of some, to quote President Bush, “crusade” – but rather seen as a short-lived intervener, a savior who will exercise discretion while quickly getting in and getting out.

The problem with this attempt at a reframe is that the rest of the world – especially those being bombed by America – doesn’t consider it anything less than an invasion, whether by air, sea or land. Boots on the ground is not the only kind of invasion. There are air invasions, with air raids (see Iraq) or drone strikes (see Yemen or Pakistan or Somalia).  There are sea invasions, with Tomahawk missiles launched from ship (see Libya and the same plan for Syria).  And there are ground invasions, with massive troops on the ground (see Afghanistan).

Third, the idea that we must act in haste, and bomb quickly without Congressional approval or authorization, is a dangerous undermining of the checks and balances instituted by our founding fathers. Most presidents, when planning for war, impress upon the American people the urgency of now, of invading immediately, because we don’t have time for Congressional oversight. Syria is an excellent example of this. With some 100,000 dead over nearly a two year time span we’ve had plenty of time for talk between the executive and legislative branches.  The estimated 355 dead from the alleged chemical weapons attack, while absolutely deplorable, shouldn’t have created a new urgency that wasn’t already there.  We should have been talking about preventing mass atrocities years ago, not after the house of Syria was nearly burnt down.

So what to do now? Invasion is the wrong course because it merely inflames the violence further, both within Syria and without. We must exhaust the following paths first before seeking a military course of action.  Convene all the stakeholders who have a say with Syria’s al-Assad and who can put pressure on the president. That means more than just Russia, our go-to on the Geneva II peace talks. That means everyone from Iran, Lebanon, and Hezbollah, to the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. These are the entities that have entry into the Syrian president’s inner circle. If we truly want al-Assad to act differently, we have to talk to those who have sway.

Then, if the diplomatic track fails to work, and after it has solidly been exhausted, we must engage the U.N. Security Council in a conversation about the International Criminal Court and an indictment of Assad for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.  This path is consistent with America’s support of international law and the ethical frameworks undergirding the Geneva Conventions.

Throughout this process, we must continue work with the United Nations to not only ensure weapons inspections are executed properly over the coming weeks, and weapons flows and arms trafficking are stopped or slowed, but that we ramp up humanitarian aid for the millions of refugees inside Syria and in neighboring countries. This is essential if we care about saving Syrians.

This is the path we must pursue and the only way forward. It is time for something preventive before we press play on the punitive.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stop US Attacks on Syria!

United for Peace & Justice
Dear Friends,
As UFPJ honors the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, U.S. Navy Ships approach Syria with the threat of an imminent attack. We can’t help but think back to the words of  Dr. Martin Luther King about the travesty of war.  Dr. King stated that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Please take action and make your voice heard.  Let’s stop a US attack in Syria before it starts.
  • Sign this petition and help spread it through social media!  
  • Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or  the Switchboard at 202-456-1414
  • Call your elected Representatives and Senators in their State or District offices (they are on recess) – Demand NO military intervention in Syria. To find the phone number:
  • Organize a peaceful protest, march, vigil at your local communities (city hall, federal building, etc.) anytime this week, call for "NO attacks on Syria!"
  • If the U.S. attacks Syria, organize local actions, after the attack begins, either 6PM on same day if the attacks begin during U.S. day time (local Syria evening time), or 5PM the next day if the attacks begin during U.S. evening time (local Syria day time)
For peace with justice,
Michael McPhearson, Veterans For Peace
Jackie Cabasso, Western States Legal Foundation
Michael Eisenscher, U.S. Labor Against War
Rusti Eisenberg, Brooklyn for Peace
Lisa Fithian, Alliance for Community Trainers (ACT)
Lee Siu Hin, National Immigrant Solidarity Network
Siri Margerin, Civilian Soldier Alliance
Gael Murphy, UFPJ Legislative Working Group
Terry Rockefeller, Peaceful Tomorrows

United for Peace & Justice

Click Here to Donate!

Donations to United for Peace and Justice are tax exempt to the extent permitted by law. The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) is UFPJ's 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor.  If you would like to make a donation by check, please make it payable to "FOR" and write "UFPJ" in the memo line.  Mail to: P.O. Box 607, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What You Need to Know About the Egyptian Crisis

Egypt’s unions join protests.

By Bill Fletcher Jr.

Via The Progressive Magazine

August 24, 2013 - One of the most striking features of the current Egyptian crisis has been the response by most of the US Left and progressives. It is not that US leftists and progressives are ignoring the crisis, but that there has been an utter failure to engage with Egyptian leftists and progressives despite the fact that the latter have been writing regular analyses of events, analyses that frequently differ from that created on this side of the Atlantic.

In a political situation that ranks as among one of the most complicated and contradictory of our lifetime, the points of view of Egyptian leftists and progressives have been largely ignored here in the USA or treated as if they are mouthpieces for the Egyptian military if they have stood against the Morsi government.

In order for us—in the USA—to get a better sense of the complications and tragedies connected with the ongoing struggle in Egypt, one must recognize that there has been an on-oing battle for much of the last century between two distinct “projects.” Those projects, and their progeny, help to set the context for the engagements underway.

National populism vs. Islamism

Beginning with the 1952 Egyptian Revolution, which overthrew the monarchy and ultimately led to the rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser as president, a particular current emerged that has been described by Egyptian Marxist theorist Samir Amin as a “national populist project.” Arising out of the Egyptian anti-monarchist/nationalist movement that had begun much earlier, this project was a nationalist initiative at progressive change that aimed at moving aside classes and formations that were compromised with colonialism and proceeded to engage in progressive and anti-imperialist development. It was not, however, the same thing as socialism. In national populist projects, as witnessed in Egypt under Nasser, there was limited political democracy, capitalism as such went unchallenged, and the process of change was led by a small group. Though Nasser had considerable popular support, there were very restricted means for the grassroots to involve themselves in the change process. Similar change processes were untaken in other states in the global South including in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, the Sudan and much later, Libya.

Operating within the national populist coalitions was generally to be found the political Left, though the relationship was almost always rocky. Nasser, for instance, had a strong relationship with the Soviet Union, but would periodically turn on the domestic Egyptian Left. This tension resulted, throughout the Arab World, in constant debates and struggles within the Left as to how best to relate to nationalist leaders, such as Nasser in Egypt and Qassem in Iraq, who were perceived as anti-imperialists while at the same time being unwilling (and sometimes unable) to advance the domestic change process very far. This tension resulted in historic miscalculations by the Left, including in Iraq and the Sudan where the Left constituted a significant force but held an almost uncritical stand toward nationalist leaders.

Countering the national populist projects were two main forces. The obvious one was external and was represented by the imperial interests of the global North. They and their domestic allies were constantly trying to undermine independent development and turn these various nation-states into neo-colonies.

The other opponents were those forces who came to be known as Islamists. This movement has its origins in the 19th century and early 20th century where an intellectual movement emerged against both Western imperialism and republican-nationalism (and the imperialism of the Ottoman Empire). The Islamists of the 21st century, led by organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, had a very different project. Their project was Pan-Islamist in nature and thoroughly reactionary at its core. It called for a return to a mythical caliphate state.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mideast Wars: Fool Us Once, Shame on You, Fool Us Twice…

Susan Rice at the UN: Deja Vu All Over Again?

By Carl Bloice

Beaver County Peace Links via

June 20, 2013 - Susan Rice and Colin Powell have more than one thing in common, but if things continue to move as they are now, the most historically significant one may be that they both went to the United Nations with “evidence” that got our country involved in a military conflict in a volatile part of the world,  resulting in massive death and destruction – all for no good reason.

On February 5, 2003, then-Secretary of State General Colin Powell told the United Nations Security Council that Iraq possessed dangerous weapons of mass destruction and the country’s then ruler, Saddam Hussein, was hoodwinking U.N. inspectors by hiding them. It was, as Democracy Now! said last week, “a defining moment “in the Bush administration’s push to invade Iraq.

On February 6, 2003, Rice, then a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told NPR Powell “has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don’t think many informed people doubted that.”

What we know now is that what the then highest-ranking African American official in the Bush Administration said was not true. I recall the day NBA great Charles Barkley was asked what was the question of the day and answered “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?”

Turned out there were none.

It was what the New York Times last week termed, “the fiasco of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq”

In the end it didn’t matter much. It was the U.S. public and much of the international community that had been hoodwinked. The U.S. invaded Iraq, overthrew Hussein and set in motion a decade-long war that resulted on 0ver 4,440 U.S. troops deaths, over 32,000 seriously. Over 235 are reported to have taken their own lives while deployed. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians lost their lives and 1.6. million were displaced from their homes. All at the cost of over $I trillion.

Last week, Powell’s former aide, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who prepared the U.N. speech, told Democracy Now!, “I don’t believe the hype about that presentation having been the ultimate presentation... that led us to war with Iraq…George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and others had decided to go to war with Iraq long before Colin Powell gave that presentation.”

“Frankly, we were all wrong,” said Wilkerson. “Was the intelligence politicized in addition to being wrong at its roots? Absolutely.”

When Powell gave his UN presentation there were already serious questions raised, even in the mainstream mass media, about the sources of the evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, including shadowy figures in the world of international intrigue, like Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, aka “Curveball,” who later admitted he lied.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Yes, We Make a Difference. Domestic Dissent Can Change US Foreign Policy for the Better

From the Vietnam era to the Iraq war, it's clear that the moral authority of protest has altered US government behavior

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink protests in Florida where the group says the company Raytheon builds drones. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

By Mark Weisbrot

Beaver County Peace Links via The Guardian UK

June 17, 2013 - Several years ago, I had lunch with a US government official who told me about a trip that I had taken, that almost nobody knew about. I didn't have to ask him where he got the information. For as long as I can remember, our government has been spying on dissidents, especially those who oppose crimes committed in the name of "national security".

When I was a student at the University of Michigan, the FBI took down the license plates numbers of the people who drove to our meetings of the local Latin American Solidarity Committee, which was trying to end the US-sponsored terrorism and wars in Central America. This we learned from documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. The surveillance of our local, peaceful, and law-abiding group – long before the Patriot Act or the "war on terror" – was so extensive that one of our members who wrote a history of the group had to thank the FBI for keeping such a complete and detailed record of our activities.

The current revelations of a vast, secret NSA surveillance program are, of course, a continuation of what our government has been doing for the past century – the main difference being that the dragnet has gotten much larger due to change in communications technology. But there is an often-overlooked political reason for this mass intrusion on our personal communications: the government is gathering actionable intelligence in order to use it against those who oppose unpopular, unjust, and often criminal policies of that same government. And it has good reason to do so, because that opposition can be quite effective.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Can Public Opinion Stop U.S. War in Syria?

Smoke rises over a battle-scarred Saif Al Dawla district in Aleppo, Syria, on October 2, 2012. (Photo: Manu Brabo)

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links

June 14, 2013 - We are edging closer to the neo-conservative dream of total conflagration in the Muslim Middle East. Despite only 11 percent public support for US military intervention in Syria, a reluctant President Barack Obama is being pushed into escalation. 

The given reason is that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons “on a small scale multiple times in the past year,” according to the White House. Intelligence officials say 100-130 people died from the attacks. Even if the chemical testing proves accurate, that can only be a pretext in a conflict, which has claimed at least 93,000 lives and seen barbarism on both sides.

The real reason appears to be that the balance of forces has changed somewhat in Assad’s favor since the recent victory at Qusayr by his troops and their Hezbollah allies. Fearing the collapse of rebel forces, the US is stepping onto the treadmill of escalation. Whatever steps are taken now by the US and NATO, of course, if they choose, can be countered by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. 

Obama’s reluctance is reflected in a statement by his adviser Ben Rhodes, responding to hawks like Senator John McCain:

“People need to understand that not only are there huge costs associated with a no-fly zone, not only would it be difficult to implement, but the notion that you can solve the very deeply rooted challenges on the ground from the air are not immediately apparent.”

Rarely has a call to escalation been so muted.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Obama’s Speech: Tide Turning Against Counterterrorism Secrecy

By Tom Hayden

President Obama speaks about his administration’s drone and counterterrorism policies, as well as the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, at the National Defense University in Washington, May 23, 2013.

President Barack Obama’s speech at the National Defense University on counterterrorism revealed a commander-in-chief increasingly worried about political criticism of his Guantanamo detentions, his penchant for secrecy and his drone warfare policies. Where Obama has shielded his policies on the basis of external terrorist threats, he now is responding to critics who threaten to upset domestic support for those policies abroad.

In past years, Obama has defended himself against attacks from neo-conservative hawks and senators like John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsay Graham, who charged him with being “soft” on terrorism. But today, while defending his military policies as constitutional, the president was promising to wind down the “forever war,” sharply reduce drone attacks, repatriate detainees to Yemen, and move again to close Guantanamo. When disrupted by Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin, Obama spontaneously said that Benjamin was “worth paying attention to,” and was “willing to cut the young lady who interrupted [him] some slack because it’s worth being passionate about.”

Code Pink's Medea Benjamin, center, demonstrates during President Obama's speech at the National Defense University in Washington, May 23, 2013.Such a gesture will hardly pacify Code Pink or the president’s antiwar critics. But their criticisms have become a factor in the national debate. To criticize the president’s speech as “nothing new” is to miss the primary reason for which the speech was given: to explain a careful withdrawal from the Global War on Terrorism paradigm, the heinous impasse at Guantanamo, and the massive secrecy around drones.

The President was cautious in explaining his pivot toward de-escalation, mindful that incidents like Benghazi or the Boston Marathon bombings can block his de-escalation path, or at least complicate it severely. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Novel Idea: Ask an Afghan about Afghanistan

"Now that the SOB is Dead..."
A Novel Idea: Asking an Afghan about Afghanistan

By Greg Palast

Vice Magazine via Beaver County Peace Links

[2] "Now that the sonovabitch is dead, why is the US still angry with us?"

"Us", in this conversation, are the Taliban. The SOB in question is Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban's frustration was relayed to me by Yahya Maroofi, Counsellor to Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai – Karzai's Kissinger, if Kissinger had a soul.

The Silk Road nation of Kazakhstan is an excellent place to encounter the dervishes of the Great Game for control of the camel-and-pipeline routes of the Central Asian steppes. Here we can witness the diplomatic-military idiocies of new empires pathetically attempting to ignore the dried skeletons of the imperial forces that went before them.

Maroofi was spending the day in Kazakhstan's capital on his way to little-noticed peace negotiations – little noticed because neither Uncle Sam nor Great-Uncle Britain were invited. Attendance is limited to those frontline states that will be left holding the grenade when the US and UK pull out the pin with the removal of their troops in 2014. The lineup includes Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan (birthplace of the Boston Bombers) and the big new swinging dick on the block, Turkey, as well as Iran, the nation most feared and despised by the Taliban. The unannounced guests, of course, are the Taliban themselves.

I am moved to recount a bit of my lengthy talk with the Afghan minister after reading reams of meretricious bunkum about Afghanistan from the pens of US propaganda repeaters pretending to be reporters. My favourite is, "[3] Hope Seen for Afghanistan After Coalition Leaves," in the New York Times. To give us an expert view, two American reporters used their 20-column inches to take down the words of General Joseph F Dunford Jr, commander of all "international forces" in Afghanistan.

Dunford just arrived in Afghanistan for the first time about 12 weeks ago. He may not know a Tajik from a camel fart, but he does speak fluent Pashto. (I made that last one up because I'm tired of Europeans making fun of Americans for being ignorant of foreign languages.) Notably, the Times article about the future of Afghanistan includes not one word from an Afghan.

But the General does have lots of medals (see?), so I suppose he's as good a source as any.[4]

I did wonder why the Times flew reporters all the way to Kabul to speak to a bewildered US general when they could have saved time and painful immunisations by just copying the Pentagon press releases in Washington. The Times asked "Fighting Joe", as he's called in his official bio, the only question of concern to the US press: "Will the Afghan troops be able to resume lead responsibility" in killing Taliban? "Yes!" asserted the tourist-general.

So I figured, what the hell, let's ask an Afghan about Afghanistan's future. Maroofi, the minister into whose hands this future falls, takes a different tack entirely. He has no time for the American fixation on whether Afghans will fight the Taliban. He makes it clear that Afghans don't want to fight the Taliban at all. And the Taliban don't want to fight fellow Afghans.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Windmills, Not Weapons! Military Keynesianism Need To Shrink Toward Zero, in Order to Grow Productive Jobs

Military spending is not right way to boost America's economic security

By Michael Shank& Elizabeth Kucinich

Beaver County Blue via Fox News Opinion

May 15, 2013 - That Washington is holding defense cuts responsible for slow economic growth is a specious argument at best. War spending is unproductive and inflationary. Modern defense costs are capital intensive, not labor intensive, making the industry inefficient as a job creator.  

The defense industry has a presence in congressional districts across this country, so cuts affect every member. But every district in the U.S. has pressing infrastructure, education, health and environmental needs, and the return on the taxpayer’s dollar is much higher when invested on these areas.
Instead of concentrating money on capital intensive, military hardware purposed for destruction, and causing long term economic drain, our very limited and valuable economic resources should be invested in building the true strength and capacity of our economy, our nation, and her people.

During the heightened banking crisis in 2009, Rep. James Oberstar, then Chair of House Transportation Committee, called for a massive Eisenhower-level of investment in transportation infrastructure. He was right.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. requires $3.6 trillion in infrastructure investment by 2020 to bring our grade D+ standards to safe standards.  

This is exactly what we need: to put bridge-builders to work rather than funding technology and personnel to destroy bridges, and to take tank-making factories and repurpose them to build high-speed trains.
In prioritizing military spending, Congress is cutting the very programs that can actually strengthen our economy: Cutting federal assistance to the states, forcing them to lay off teachers, firefighters, and social workers; cutting opportunities for job creation, training, and placement programs; and eviscerating funding for children’s programs and assistance for seniors.

These actions make no economic sense.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Congressional Drone Hearings: The Most Compelling Testimony

Organized by the Congressional Progressive Caucus

By George Zornick
Beaver County Peace Links via The Nation
May 9, 2013 - Serious, public explorations of the United States’ drone policy are uncommon in Washington, to say the least—but on Wednesday the Congressional Progressive Caucus held a hearing on Capitol Hill that was remarkable for its breadth and critical approach to current policy. The thrust of the hearing was to ask the administration to both limit the scope of its drone strike policy and be transparent about what it is doing.

Here are four of the most compelling bits of testimony from the proceeding:
(1) In the video above, Yemeni human rights activist Baraa Shiban spoke directly to the very real toll drone strikes are taking in his country. He said:
Another reason strikes are more damaging than the US realizes is that, while the US may not be acknowledging or discussing dead civilians, Yemenis are.…
The farmers from Sabool showed us videos of people pulling charred bodies from the wreckage. They were scarcely recognizable. But besides the horror of it all, one thing struck me about the footage I watched. In it, you could see many Yemeni farmers gathered around the carnage filming exactly the same thing.
This is how stories of US injustice percolate through Yemen. Terrible images like those I saw can take on a life of their own. US aid reaches these areas rarely, if ever.… This is not a pointless popularity contest for America. Every lethal mistake the US makes is kerosene for an insurgency. And it all comes at a critical time for Yemen.

(2) Adam Baron, a freelance journalist based in Yemen, expanded on how civilian casualties from drone strikes are providing a useful recruitment tool for extremist groups, and drew on his reporting there:
For the civilians under the crossfire, anxieties provoked by fears of another ‘mistake’, continue to fuel distrust and resentment against the US and Yemeni governments, rather than against AQAP. In some areas, AQAP has managed to reap the benefits from such sentiments. The situation in al-Baydah is particularly telling. In a recent military offensive, swaths of tribesmen in the area opted to fight the government on the side of Al Qaeda, rather than cooperate with US forces to push the militants out.
“Some tribesmen are fighting the army even more than Al Qaeda is,” a contact from the area told me at the nascence of the winter military push. “People are angry about drone strikes and condemn foreign intervention. Al Qaeda has really been able to build popular sympathy.”
(3) Naureen Shah, the acting director of the Columbia Law School Human Rights clinic, addressed in her testimony the importance of establishing routine investigations of civilian casualties from drone strikes—both to comply with international law but also to dignify the concerns of local communities. She stressed these investigations must be public and transparent:
Moreover, established systems to investigate war crimes and serious violations of the laws of war would build legitimacy into the Administration’s position that drone strikes are conducted in compliance with international humanitarian law. Adequate investigation systems would address some of the concerns of cooperating governments and help allay the international community’s concerns.
Secret or unacknowledged investigations would likely be insufficient to address the moral dimensions I have identified. Secret investigations cannot provide dignity and a sense of justice to communities impacted by drone strikes. Secret investigations do not provide answer to widely publicized reports of particular cases of civilian casualties from drone strikes, which cause the United States to lose credibility on the world stage and appear deaf to criticism. Whereas the results of investigations can ordinarily be aggregated and systematically analyzed to determine the validity of pre-strike estimates and intelligence, secret investigations may not serve this function.
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(4) Eight members of Congress entered into testimony a letter they sent President Barack Obama, demanding further clarification of the legal justifications behind drone strikes. It read, in part:
The information from the Justice Department meme leaked on February 4, 2013, in the context of an increasing devolution of accountability, transparency and Constitutional protections in US counterterrorism operations, leaves us deeply concerned about what appears to constitute overly broad authority language….
These are vague legal boundaries that raise the risk of the executive branch authorizing the deaths of American civilians otherwise protected by the Constitution and appear to effectively vitiate due process of law without meaningful oversight or accountability….
As you state in your recent State of the Union address, “we must enlist our values in the fight.” We ask, therefore, that you follow through with your commitment to engage with Congress to ensure that the ways in which we target, detain, prosecute, and kill suspected terrorist are consistent with the commands of our Constitution, including our system of checks and balances.
We strongly urge you to release the documents requested in this letter for the reasons articulated above.

Read George Zornick on the GOP’s Working Families Act—and why it’s a hoax to attract women voters.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

US Military Expansion in Mali and Syria? A Very Bad Idea…

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Beaver County Peace Links via Atlanta Daily World

The Obama administration is preparing for an expansion of U.S. military involvement into areas from which it should keep its nose clear:  Syria and Mali.  The news reports are unsettling even as there are attempts by the administration to assure the U.S. public that all is well and that there is no intention for a grand military intervention.

In both cases we are witnessing civil wars unfold.  In the case of Syria, it is not only a civil war—that began as peaceful protests—but there has been the active involvement of outside powers, including the states around the Arabian/Persian Gulf such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran.  The brutality being committed by both sides has been widely reported and there remains a grave danger that this conflict will spill over into Lebanon, and perhaps Iraq.

In the case of Mali, an internal ethnic conflict exploded with a combination of a military coup ousting the country’s recognized leadership, along with the active intervention of Muslim jihadists from Algeria and other countries armed to the teeth with weapons that were let loose when the Qaddafi regime collapsed in Libya.  This was compounded by the intervention of French forces to stop the advance of the jihadists.

The Obama administration is suggesting that they will more than likely provide military assistance to the armed opposition in Syria despite the fact that the armed opposition is a mixed bag that includes Al Qaeda elements, and similar such forces.  While it is absolutely the case that the armed opposition are not exclusively jihadists, it is the case that this is a situation that can get very much out of control and is in need of political solution.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Speaking Truth about Violence: The Deeper Reality Behind Terror, Ours and Theirs

By Harry Targ

Progressive America Rising via Diary of a Heartland Radical

Establishing causal connections between “variables” and violence is a form of mystification. The reality of this world is that of grotesque inequalities in wealth, power, respect for humankind and the environment, a world awash in instrumentalities of death, and a global culture that celebrates it. Recent reports from the World Bank and the World Economic Forum (of all places) document the continuing and growing inequalities in wealth and income on a worldwide basis. Could it be a surprise that seemingly indiscriminate acts of violence occur all across the globe? Only a humane global movement for fundamental change can radically transform the world we live in but movements of protest can make constructive changes along the way (Harry Targ, Facebook, April 23, 2013).

Each violent tragedy in the United States brings an outpouring of wrenching and “expert” analyses of what was behind the acts that led to so much pain and suffering. Most of the soul-searching about tragedies from Arizona, to Colorado, to Connecticut, to Boston is about domestic events (the repeated killings of Iraqis, Afghan peoples, Pakistanis, Yemenis and others generate much less empathy). Explanations usually involve deranged “others,” usually poor “others,” “others” of color, and “others with fundamentalist religious beliefs.” Their crimes are described as perpetrated against victims who are the “normal” people. Make no mistake about it, violence against any individuals, communities, and nations must be opposed, even among those, who in the end are the root cause of it. But we need to be clear about the economic, social, political, cultural and military/police context in which violence occurs. And, in no small measure, violence itself is celebrated in the societies where it is most prevalent.

Peace researchers have written about “direct,” “cultural,” and “structural” violence for years. While each of these is seen as having its own characteristics and causes for the most part analysts regard the three as inextricably interconnected. Direct violence refers to physical assault, shooting, bombing, gassing, and torture. It is about killing people. Cultural violence refers to dominant cultures whose apparatuses, such as the media and laws, portray their own institutions and values as superior to others and rituals that seek to honor the violence engaged in by one’s own country or group while demeaning other countries or groups. What is most vicious about cultural violence is its effort to make the victimized groups hate themselves.

Structural violence occurs when economic, political, cultural and military institutions create relationships in which some human beings gain disproportionately from the labor, the talents, and the pain and suffering of others. Structural violence is institutionalized violence most often organized around class exploitation, racism, and patterns of gendered forms of domination and subordination. The key concepts that shape efforts to understand the causes and effects of structural violence are class, race, and gender.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

US Drone War Kills ‘Others,’ Not Just al- Qaida leaders


By Jonathan S. Landay McClatchy Newspapers

April 10, 2013

Contrary to assurances it has deployed U.S. drones only against known senior leaders of al Qaida and allied groups, the Obama administration has targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified “other” militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan’s rugged tribal area, classified U.S. intelligence reports show.

The administration has said that strikes by the CIA’s missile-firing Predator and Reaper drones are authorized only against “specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who are plotting “imminent” violent attacks on Americans.

“It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative,” President Barack Obama said in a Sept. 6, 2012, interview with CNN. “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.”

Copies of the top-secret U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy, however, show that drone strikes in Pakistan over a four-year period didn’t adhere to those standards.

The intelligence reports list killings of alleged Afghan insurgents whose organization wasn’t on the U.S. list of terrorist groups at the time of the 9/11 strikes; of suspected members of a Pakistani extremist group that didn’t exist at the time of 9/11; and of unidentified individuals described as “other militants” and “foreign fighters.”

In a response to questions from McClatchy, the White House defended its targeting policies, pointing to previous public statements by senior administration officials that the missile strikes are aimed at al Qaida and associated forces.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Why We Have No Funds for Clean and Green Energy Jobs

America’s Staggering Defense Budget, in Charts

By Brad Plumer
Beaver County Peace Links via Washington Post
Jan 7, 2013 - On Monday afternoon, President Obama will nominate former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel (R) as secretary of defense. The confirmation hearings are likely to focus on Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran. Yet the biggest headache likely to face the next defense secretary will almost certainly be the U.S. military budget.
The United States spends far more than any other country on defense and security. Since 2001, the base defense budget has soared from $287 billion to $530 billion — and that’s before accounting for the primary costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But now that those wars are ending and austerity is back in vogue, the Pentagon will have to start tightening its belt in 2013 and beyond. If Hagel gets confirmed as secretary of defense, he’ll have to figure out how best to do that.
Below, we’ve provided an overview of the U.S. defense budget — to get a better sense for what we spend on, and where Hagel might have to cut:
1) The United States spent 20 percent of the federal budget on defense in 2011.

All told, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense and international security assistance in 2011 — more than it spent on Medicare. That includes all of the Pentagon’s underlying costs as well as the price tag for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which came to $159 billion in 2011. It also includes arms transfers to foreign governments.
(Note that this figure does not, however, include benefits for veterans, which came to $127 billion in 2011, or about 3.5 percent of the federal budget. If you count those benefits as “defense spending,” then the number goes up significantly.)
U.S. defense spending is expected to have risen in 2012, to about $729 billion, and then is set to fall in 2013 to $716 billion, as spending caps start kicking in.
2) Defense spending has risen dramatically since 9/11.

Here’s a historical chart of U.S. defense spending since World War II in inflation-adjusted dollars. There’s a big spike for the Korean and Vietnam wars. There’s another big ramp-up during the 1980s under President Reagan. Then defense spending got cut significantly during the Clinton years until soaring to historically unprecedented levels after 9/11.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Iraq: 10 Years After, Have We Learned a Thing?

By Michael S Lofgren
Beaver County Peace Links via Huffington Post

March 18, 2013 - On the decennial of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the persons responsible have shown remarkably little guilt over launching an unprovoked war of aggression, even when the lamentable results might be expected to give one pause to rethink the enterprise. Marveling at the complacency about Iraq of America's foreign policy elite as they are fawningly interviewed on the Sunday talk shows, columnist Alex Pareene says that "[p]eople who were integral in the decision to wage that war sat there and opined on what the United States should do about Iran and China and North Korea and no one laughed them out of the room. It was disgusting." Disgusting, but hardly surprising here in the United States of Amnesia.

Are there any lessons to be drawn from the debacle? Here are three tentative conclusions:

American Exceptionalism is a more pernicious drug than crack cocaine.  Almost 50 years ago, J. William Fulbright described American Exceptionalism extremely well in his book The Arrogance of Power:

The causes of the malady are not entirely clear but its recurrence is one of the uniformities of history: power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations -- to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image.

Whatever grubby calculations of realpolitik our political classes harbor -- access to cheap oil, strategic military advantage, appeasement of political lobbies -- they invariably mask them in the doctrines of American Exceptionalism, the idea that a war has a higher moral purpose when the United States is involved in it. The invasion of Iraq was a marquee example of this deception, because the aggression was so naked. What looked like an ordinary cynical land-grab was actually (according to American Exceptionalism) a selfless duty, rather like Rudyard Kipling's white man's burden.

American Exceptionalism's appeal to what H.L. Mencken called the bilge of American idealism was crucial to getting the Iraq war started on a bipartisan basis. That said, the humanitarian arguments of neoconservatives in the Bush administration always struck me as a bit of a pose: while they could weep over Saddam's brutality "to his own people," they were remarkably cynical when the C-Span cameras were turned off (as the insurgency got going, these were the folks who would privately say things like "the only thing Arabs understand is force").

Where the pseudo-idealism of American Exceptionalism really came in handy was in corralling the liberals. It was a convenient escape hatch for tender-minded souls of the New Republic set whose consciences were stricken by the notion of a war for oil or strategic advantage. Their war fever was an expression of a fundamental lack of confidence and a need to impress Republicans and the media with their "political seriousness." From what I witnessed on Capitol Hill, I suspect that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and other Democratic luminaries who voted for war did so less because a plausible case had been presented than to prove they were tough [i.e., bellicose] enough to be respected by the American people.

Never trust so-called national security experts.  The Beltway national security expert, whether in or out of government, is usually a huckster trying to scare up the next foundation grant, Pentagon contract, or resume-building TV appearance by selling the next scary threat. Ten years on, it is hardly worth the effort of denouncing the deceitfulness of Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and the rest of the tub-thumpers. They have been thoroughly discredited, even if they never paid a price for their malfeasance in office.

What is possibly more insidious is the way that Colin Powell, a key figure in putting over the case for war, was able to reinvent himself as a martyr who had somehow been victimized by the administration he served. It was his address before the United Nations on February 5, 2003, which galvanized the movement to war, and it was his credibility that sold the goods. Hearing it, I thought some of his purported findings were patently ridiculous. The idea that a nation could have a serious bio-warfare research and production program operating from trucks scurrying around the desert to avoid surveillance by U.S. aircraft which had a free run of Iraqi airspace, was a stretcher worthy of Baron von Münchhausen. But the editorial boards of the New York Times and Washington Post swooned. Much of Powell's evidence was later shown to have derived from a plagiarized university research paper.

The experts are still at it ten years later, continuing to obfuscate the causes and consequences of the Iraq war and whitewashing their own role. Beltway fixture Michael O'Hanlon, who does his non-combatting from the offices of the Brookings Institution, is typical of the blame-dodging by national security experts who were erstwhile cheerleaders of the war. Five years after the beginning, he claimed to have been "generally proven right" about Iraq. On the eve of the tenth anniversary, on the March 18, 2013 CBS Radio News, O'Hanlon ruefully hoped the "angry edge about the debate will recede." Yes, one supposes there are people angry at having been sold a bill of goods.

The political establishment never learns. Aside from its inordinate fiscal and human cost, deposing Saddam Hussein and installing a Shia-led government has had the effect of strengthening the regional position of Iran. But having built up the Iranian bogey through its own stupidity, the U.S. political establishment is now contemplating how to coerce Teheran. This refusal to see the consequences of one's actions, and then using the disastrous result as an excuse to do the same thing again, is a recurring pattern of American statecraft.

One can hypothesize that our leaders see world events as discrete and unconnected with anything that happened before; like infants, they live in a continuous present. This is nowhere truer than when looking at political reaction to the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that cost the lives of four U.S. personnel. Dismal as the incident was, congressional Republicans contrived to make it worse, and in a manner that ignored their own partial responsibility for the train of events that led to the attack in the first place. For months after the incident, Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham kept up a drumbeat about the horror of the attack and the incompetence of the administration. Yet the year before, they were among the most vociferous proponents of an armed intervention to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi: an action bound to lead to the kind of chaos that would make something like Benghazi not only possible, but probable. And now the insurgents involved in the Libyan fighting, as well as the weapons they seized from Gaddafi's armories, have made their way outside of Libya's borders and are a factor in the insurgency in Mali.

But this kind of myopia can be bipartisan. At a February 7, 2013 Senate hearing on Benghazi, McCain paused from berating the witnesses on that subject long enough to ask why the administration hadn't intervened in the Syrian civil war. One witness, outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, an erstwhile liberal who discovered his hawkish manhood late in his career, actually went out of his way to say he had recommended to the president that the U.S. supply arms to Syrian rebels. Obama didn't take the advice. From his manner, it appeared Panetta took the rare opportunity to publicly expose an internal deliberation in the president's office, and even reveal his disagreement with the president, in order to appease and score points with his Senate interrogators. Essentially, he signaled he was one of them in his desire to intervene in the Middle East. Never mind that his recommendation was fraught with peril, for the same reason overthrowing Gaddafi was fraught with peril, and just as invading Iraq was fraught with peril.

But since most of our policymakers can ignore their own past mistakes, "this time is different."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We Need To Educate Ourselves on the Danger of War with Iran

Iran War Weekly/ March 12, 2013

By Frank Brodhead

United for Peace and Justice

There is no indication coming from Washington that lifting significant sanctions from Iran will be on the agenda soon. The most important question, in my view, is whether the United States is willing and – given its domestic politics – capable of achieving a settlement with Iran that would allow Iran to develop its nuclear program and achieve mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle, even under the most stringent IAEA monitoring conditions. President Obama’s new national security team – centered here in John Kerry and Chuck Hagel – gives no sign of deviating from the well-established line of military threats and economic sanctions. The US Senate (as noted in articles linked below) appears willing to outsource to Israel the decision of whether or not to declare war against Iran; and the House of Representatives is preparing yet another round of economic sanctions. As in so many areas of policy, it may be that President Obama simply wants to kick the nuclear-Iran can down the road for a while and hope, like Dickens’ Mr. Micawber, “that something will turn up.”

Previous “issues” of the Iran War Weekly are posted at If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at



Iran Crisis is More Stable Than it Seems

By Nader Mousavizadeh, Financial Times [March 10, 2013]

---- The long-running crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme has met its moment of truth. This is the year when war or peace will break out – or so at least a remarkable global consensus seems to suggest.

Far more likely, however, is a 2013 defined by another period of sustained stalemate, one driven by an unspoken preference on the part of all the key participants for a pragmatic equilibrium that excludes both war and peace. The see-saw of threats and talks, escalation and negotiation continues, inevitably leading to warnings of showdowns. This is mostly all theatre. The reality is that for each of the principal parties, the status quo – Iran isolated diplomatically, crippled economically, boxed in militarily – is preferable to the available alternatives. An all-out war including weeks of strikes on suspected nuclear installations and widespread Iranian retaliation through conventional and unconventional means is, for most, anathema. It is also true, though unacknowledged by the west, that a genuine peace with Tehran is equally unattractive.

Iran and the United States—What Really Matters to Middle Eastern Publics?

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett Huffington Post March 8, 2013

[FB – Here the Leveretts comment on James Zogy’s new book, Looking at Iran:  How 20 Arab and Muslim Nations View Iran and Its Policies.]

---- While Zogby highlights data from his 2012 survey showing that a majority of respondents now think that Iran’s nuclear program “makes the region less secure” and that there should be a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, he fails to put regional attitudes about Iran’s nuclear activities in a comparative context.  If he had, he might well have gotten results like those obtained by the University of Maryland’s annual Arab Public Opinion Surveys, showing that, by orders of magnitude, Arabs identify Israel and the United States as much bigger threats to them than Iran.  He might also have gotten results like those obtained by Arab researchers, showing that support for a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East is driven by concern over Israel’s nuclear arsenal and that, until Israel foreswears nuclear weapons, regional publics think other countries have the right to pursue them, too.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Light Footprints: The Future of American Military Intervention

Following is an EXECUTIVE SUMMARY of a longer think-piece outlining a new Pentagon policy for the future. It is worth studying by the peace and justice movement, so we know what’s on the rise. The full 44-page document can be downloaded HERE.

By Major Fernando M. Luján, USA

Center for a New American Security

Looming budget cuts, ground forces worn down by years of repeated deployments, and a range of ever evolving security challenges from Mali to Libya and Yemen are quickly making “light footprint” military interventions a central part of American strategy.

Instead of “nation building” with large, traditional military formations, civilian policy- makers are increasingly opting for a combination of air power, special operators, intelligence agents, indigenous armed groups and contractors, often leveraging relationships with allies and enabling partner militaries to take more active roles. Despite the relative appeal of these less costly forms of military intervention, the light footprint is no panacea. Like any policy option, the strategy has risks, costs and benefits that make it ideally suited for certain security challenges and disastrous for others. Moreover, recent media coverage of drone strikes and SEAL raids may also distort public perceptions, creating a “bin Laden effect” – the notion of military action as sterile, instantaneous and pinprick accurate. Yet for these smaller-scale interventions to be an effective instrument of national policy, civilian and military leaders at all levels should make a concerted effort to understand not only their strategic uses and limitations, but also the ways the current defense bureaucracy can undermine their success.

Drones and commando raids are the 'tip of the iceberg.'

Surgical strikes are only the most visible (and extreme) part of a deeper, longer- term strategy that takes many years to develop, cannot be grown after a crisis and relies heavily on human intelligence networks, the training of indigenous forces and close collaboration with civilian diplomats and development workers. While direct, unilateral action can be very effective in the short term, it is best when undertaken sparingly and judiciously, balanced with civilian- led initiatives such as political reconciliation, reintegration or influence campaigns, and phased out over time by efforts undertaken by local police or military units. These indigenous partners are the strategic lynchpin and the only means of producing lasting security outcomes.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

US Senator says 4,700 Killed in Drone Strikes

Revelation by Lindsey Graham marks the first time any US official has given a number for drone fatalities. Graham's office insisted that the senator did not disclose any classified information

From al-Jazeera, Feb 21, 2013

A US senator has said that an estimated 4,700 people have been killed in America's secretive drone war, the first time a government official has offered a total number of fatalities caused by nearly a decade of drone strikes, local media reported.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch supporter of the drone raids, revealed the figure in a speech on Wednesday in his home state of South Carolina.

"We've killed 4,700," Graham was quoted as saying by the Easley Patch, a local website covering the small town of Easley. "Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we're at war, and we've taken out some very senior members of al-Qaeda," he told the local Rotary Club.

Graham's office did not dispute his reported remarks, but said that he had not divulged any classified information.

A spokesman told the AFP news agency that the senator "quoted the figure that has been publicly reported and disseminated on cable news."

US officials have sometimes hinted at estimates of civilian casualties, but never referred to an actual total body count.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Militarism Is Making Us Poor

Next time someone tells you we can’t afford health care, green jobs or decent schools, keep this graphic in mind…

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A 25% Cut for the Pentagon? Think of it as a Stimulus for What’s Really Needed

Key Dems Say Unnecessary Defense Spending Is Crippling the U.S. and Should Be Part of Debt Debate

Liberty Bond Promo from World War Iby Lisa Graves

Beaver County Peace Links via PRWatch

Jan 14, 2013 - The largest Democratic Party organization in the nation has called on Congress to support a 25% cut in Pentagon spending. The California Democratic Party -- which includes more than 2,000 representatives of the state's more than seven million Democrats -- adopted this policy in the past year in the face of threats by Republicans in Congress to refuse to allow the U.S. to increase its credit limit.

That policy provides in part:

[We] support a strong national defense that includes considerations for all aspects of defense, not just defense provided by the Armed Forces. We recognize that our national security depends primarily upon a strong economy, a stable federal budget, a stable environment and our perception in the world as a responsible member of the world community. ... [W]e recognize that the current level of military and security spending -- over $1 trillion per year -- is ... unsustainable and unnecessary, and is crippling our government's ability to deal with our many serious problems, including unemployment, massive debt and looming catastrophic global warming ...

Despite this mandate, the two most powerful Californians in Congress -- Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- have not advocated for what their core constituents have asked that they and the other 38 Democratic members of the California Congressional delegation put on the table: a 25% cut in defense spending.

CSIS DoD Budget Projection

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Although California has a number of military installations and defense contractors, much of the money the Pentagon spends is on foreign bases and foreign wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The billions for the lengthy military actions in the Middle East are put on top of the Pentagon's core budget by calling this spending "Overseas Contingency Operations," which are counted as separate from regular appropriations for defense. The California Democratic Party is urging the 40 Dems in the state's 55-member congressional delegation to support cuts in the Pentagon's overall budget to "ensure that military spending prioritizes defense of the homeland and not the siting of numerous military bases on foreign soil as a substitute for robust diplomatic engagement."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Voice for Peace in Afghanistan: 'Stop This Criminal War'


Malalai Joya pushes back against a decade of war, occupation and propaganda

By Jon Queally
Beaver County Peace Links via Common Dreams

Jan 10, 2013 - Malalai Joya has a simple message for US, NATO, and Afghan leaders: Get out.

'Get out' of her country, she tells those from the US and other western nations. And to the warlords, the Taliban, and the fundamentalists represented in the ruling government, she says 'get out of the way' of a peaceful and prosperous future for regular Afghans.

As Afghan President Hamid Karzai prepares to meet with Barack Obama on Friday and speculation swirls about the future US role as 2014 slowly approaches, one of Afghanistan's leading peace advocates has a message that those in the US—increasingly cited for their war-weariness—rarely hear: Afghans themselves, caught between an occupying power and a corrupt government, are "fed up" with war, death and the destruction of their rights and aspirations.

"We are fed up with the so-called 'helping hand' of the US and NATO that is used to justify occupation," Joya said in an extensive interview with journalist Elsa Rassbach and published by Common Dreams Thursday.

Joya, who rose to international prominence as the youngest female member of the Afghan parliament in 2005, says the US-led war in Afghanistan—"waged under a fake banner of human rights and democracy"—has gone on far too long, and what most Afghans want is the complete withdrawal of US troops so that regular Afghans can reclaim their dignity and solve their own problems.

Responding to the Obama and Karzai meeting, Joya explained to Rassbach that agreements made in Washington between the two will do nothing to improve the lives of most Afghans.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

In Kabul, Widows and Orphans Move Up

By Kathy Kelly
Beaver County Peace Links via Z-Net

Kabul, Jan 8, 2013 -- Yesterday, four young Afghan Peace Volunteer members, Zainab, Umalbanin, Abdulhai, and Ali, guided Martha and me along narrow, primitive roads and crumbling stairs, ascending a mountain slope on the outskirts of Kabul.

The icy, rutted roads twisted and turned. I asked if we could pause as my heart was hammering and I needed to catch my breath. Looking down, we saw a breathtaking view of Kabul. Above us, women in bright clothing were navigating the treacherous roads with heavy water containers on their heads or shoulders. I marveled at their strength and tenacity. “Yes, they make this trip every morning,” Umalbanin said, as she helped me regain my balance after I had slipped on the ice.

About ten minutes later, we arrived at the home of Khoreb, a widow who helped us realize why so many widows and orphans live in the highest ranges of the mountain. Landlords rent one-room homes at the cheapest rates when they are at this isolating height; many of the homes are poorly constructed and have no pipes for running water. This means the occupants, most often women, must fetch water from the bottom of the hill each and every morning. A year ago, piped water began to reach some of the homes, but that only meant the landlords charged higher rent, so women had to move higher up the mountain for housing they can afford. It only made their daily water-carrying longer and more arduous.

Khoreb’s home, like that of each family we visited, was neatly kept. She had formerly shared the one-room dwelling with only her daughter. But when the one-room house next door was rendered unlivable by water damage from a storm, the family of eight that lived there had nowhere to go. On Khoreb's invitation, they now live in her room.

Throughout our visit, she and her daughters cracked open almond nuts, and they didn't throw away the shells: they saved them to feed them into a small heater; the nut shells are needed as fuel. They didn't snack on the almonds; the almonds were shelled for eventual sale in the market place. Cracking and selling almonds is their main source of income. The women have no brothers, sons, or husbands to help them.