Monday, December 29, 2014

War by Media and the End of Truth


By John Pilger
Beaver County Peace Links via Asian Times Online

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?

Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what's called the mainstream media is not information, but power?

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war - with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an "invisible government". It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media - a surreal assembly line of obedient cliches and false assumptions.

Friday, December 26, 2014

As U.S. Troops Return to Iraq, More Private Contractors Follow

By Warren Strobel and Phil Stewart

Beaver County Peace Links via Reuters

Dec 24, 2014 - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government is preparing to boost the number of private contractors in Iraq as part of President Barack Obama's growing effort to beat back Islamic State militants threatening the Baghdad government, a senior U.S. official said.

How many contractors will deploy to Iraq - beyond the roughly 1,800 now working there for the U.S. State Department - will depend in part, the official said, on how widely dispersed U.S. troops advising Iraqi security forces are, and how far they are from U.S. diplomatic facilities.

Still, the preparations to increase the number of contractors - who can be responsible for everything from security to vehicle repair and food service - underscores Obama's growing commitment in Iraq. When U.S. troops and diplomats venture into war zones, contractors tend to follow, doing jobs once handled by the military itself.

"It is certain that there will have to be some number of contractors brought in for additional support," said the senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

After Islamic State seized large swaths of Iraqi territory and the major city of Mosul in June, Obama ordered U.S. troops back to Iraq. Last month, he authorized roughly doubling the number of troops, who will be in non-combat roles, to 3,100, but is keen not to let the troop commitment grow too much.

There are now about 1,750 U.S. troops in Iraq, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week ordered deployment of an additional 1,300.

The U.S. military’s reliance on civilians was on display during Hagel's trip to Baghdad this month, when he and his delegation were flown over the Iraqi capital in helicopters operated by State Department contractors.

The problem, the senior U.S. official said, is that as U.S. troops continue flowing into Iraq, the State Department's contractor ranks will no longer be able to support the needs of both diplomats and troops.

After declining since late 2011, State Department contractor numbers in Iraq have risen slightly, by less than 5 percent, since June, a State Department spokesman said.


For example, in July, the State Department boosted from 39 to 57 the number of personnel protecting the U.S. consulate in Erbil that came under threat from Islamic State forces during its June offensive.

That team is provided by Triple Canopy, part of the Constellis Group conglomerate, which is the State Department's largest security contractor. Constellis did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.

The presence of contractors in Iraq, particularly private security firms, has been controversial since a series of violent incidents during the U.S. occupation, culminating in the September 2007 killing of 14 unarmed Iraqis by guards from Blackwater security firm.

Three former guards were convicted in October of voluntary manslaughter charges and a fourth of murder in the case, which prompted reforms in U.S. government oversight of contractors.

U.S. troops in Iraq are not using private contractors to provide them additional security, a second U.S. official said.

Virtually all the U.S. government contractors now in Iraq work for the State Department. The withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 2011 left it little choice but to hire a small army of contractors to help protect diplomatic facilities, and provide other services like food and logistics.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

John Kerry Said What? Welcome to Year 10 of the Long War

By Tom Hayden

Progressive America Rising via

Dec. 9, 2014 - Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be engaging in some double speak this week. (Photo: AP, December 2014)Secretary of State John Kerry today called for a congressional authorization of the New War before he didn't.

Instead Kerry proposed the appearance of an authorization before stripping the idea of real public and congressional accountability. Members of Congress should look carefully at this insult to their constitutional role.

First, Kerry said it was "crystal clear" that the President wants no US troops in combat operations on the ground, but that Congress should not, "preemptively bind the hands of the commander-in-chief to react to changing circumstances."

Second, Kerry said he doesn't want an open-ended timeline for war but that the authorization should run for three years or longer, safely after the 2016 elections.

Third, Kerry promised no wider war beyond Iraq and Syria, but doesn't want any constraint on US going after ISIS militarily in other nations.


This is nothing but an attempt to avoid an embarrassing battlefield defeat during the next two years before handing over the mission of derailing ISIS to the next president. At the same time, it will limit the ability of Congress to question the policy once they have signed on. This is how escalation works.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Hagel’s Departure Should Open Debate on Obama’s Wars

By Medea Benjamin

Nation of Change, Op-Ed

Nov 25, 2014 - Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was supposed to steer the Pentagon away from a decade of war, including bringing US troops home from Afghanistan and paving the way for a reduction in the Pentagon budget. Instead, the Obama administration has opted for remaining in Afghanistan, continuing the disastrous drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen, and dragging our nation into another round of military involvement in Iraq, as well as Syria. The ISIL crises has also been used as a justification for not cutting the Pentagon budget, as required by sequestration.

The issue facing this nation is not who replaces Hagel, but what policy decisions we want to Pentagon to implement.

  1. Troops out of Afghanistan: The public has long soured on US military involvement in Afghanistan. President Obama’s recent executive decision to keep the troops there [1] to confront the Taliban is taking us down the wrong path. After 13 years of occupation, it’s time for the Afghan people to control their own nation.

  1. No US military intervention in Iraq/Syria:  The Obama administration’s move to engage militarily in Iraq and Syria is also the wrong–– and dangerous–– path. US intervention, including over 6600 bombings to date, has already become a recruiting tool [2] for ISIS and has strengthened Syrian resident Assad. And with over 3,000 US troops in Iraq in dangerous missions, President Obama’s promise of “no troops on the ground” is indeed hollow. ISIL must be confronted through political solutions, such as renewed talks between Assad and the Free Syrian Army, more pressure in Saudi Arabia to stop funding extremism, greater efforts by Turkey to stop the flow of recruits and weapons into Syria, and negotiated cooperation from Iran and Russia.

  1. Stop the drone wars: President Obama’s reliance on drone warfare in Pakistan has turned large portions of the population against the United States. It is the Pakistani government, not the US, that must counter the Taliban. In Yemen, the administration’s drone war has put the US in the midst of what has become a bloody sectarian conflict. And US drone strikes have served to increase the number of Yemenis joining Al Qaeda [3] in the Arabian Peninsula to seek revenge.

  1. Cut and audit Pentagon spending: With other issues clamoring for attention and funds — from healthcare and schools to infrastructure and green energy– we need to stop the massively bloated Pentagon budget. The Pentagon can’t account for billions of dollars each year, literally, and is unable to pass an audit. It’s time to demand that the Pentagon rein in its rampant waste, cut its oversized budget, and become accountable to the taxpayers by passing an audit [4].

The talk about resetting President Obama’s security team is misplaced; we should be focusing instead on resetting his bellicose policies. Secretary Chuck Hagel’s resignation should be a time for the nation to step back and reexamine its violent approach to extremism, which has led to an expansion of terrorist groups, and inflated military spending. Let’s put more emphasis on the State Department and political solutions instead of continuing failed wars and starting new ones. We owe it to the youth of our nation who have never lived without war.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why We Lost: Retired US General Calls for Public Inquiry Into Failures of Iraq, Afghan Wars


Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez

Nov 13, 2014 - Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, a retired three-star U.S. general who helped command troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, joins us to discuss his new book, Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Bolger writes: "I am a United States Army general, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism. It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous; step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers. And thanks to our problem, now all of America has a problem, to wit: two lost campaigns and a war gone awry." Bolger is now calling for a public inquiry along the lines of the 9/11 Commission to look into why the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone so poorly.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The United States marked Veterans Day on Tuesday with a series of events nationwide. Speaking at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said honoring the nation’s troops includes questioning the policies that send them to war.

DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL: The wall reminds us to be honest in our telling of history. There is nothing to be gained by glossing over the darker portions of a war, the Vietnam War, that bitterly divided America. We must openly acknowledge past mistakes, and we must learn from past mistakes, because that is how we avoid repeating past mistakes. The wall reminds us that we must never take the security of our country for granted, ever. And we must always question our policies that send our citizens to war, because our nation’s policies must always be worthy, worthy of the sacrifices we ask of the men and women who defend our country.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday. Well, we turn now to a retired three-star U.S. general who helped command troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger has just published a book titled Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. He writes, quote, "I am a United States Army general, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism. It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous; step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers. And thanks to our problem, now all of America has a problem, to wit: two lost campaigns and a war gone awry."

AMY GOODMAN: In a piece published this week in The New York Times headlined "The Truth About [the] Wars," General Bolger called for a public inquiry, along the lines of the 9/11 Commission, to look into why the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone so poorly.

To find out more, we’re joined by General Daniel Bolger, served 35 years in the U.S. Army before retiring last year, commanded the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team in Iraq, 2005 to ’06; the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad, 2009 to ’10; and the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan from 2011 to ’13. His military awards include five Bronze [Star] medals, including one for valor, and the Combat Action Badge.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!

LT. GEN. DANIEL BOLGER: Thanks very much, Amy, Juan.

AMY GOODMAN: How did the U.S. lose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

LT. GEN. DANIEL BOLGER: I think that the simplest way to say it is that we misapplied the forces of our armed forces. We didn’t use them in the way that they’re trained and prepared. You know, Senator, now Secretary, Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, like his brother, served together in the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam. His statement there is a very powerful. You’ve got to have a public debate before you commit American military forces. We did have that after 9/11, but it was very rushed. We had that again in 2002 before going into Iraq. We never continued the debate. The initial phases of both wars went successfully from a military standpoint, but we never followed it up by having a discussion: Is it appropriate to send thousands of young American men and women into foreign countries to go house to house and try to sort out who’s a terrorist, who’s a villager? That’s something we tried in Southeast Asia, and it didn’t work. And yet we repeated it once in Afghanistan and then again in Iraq. And that’s very disturbing, and I think that led directly to our failure in both campaigns.

AMY GOODMAN: The surge in Iraq?

LT. GEN. DANIEL BOLGER: The surge in Iraq was a—the word is what it means: A surge is a temporary measure. And it was a temporary increase in troops. The best way I would sort of use an analogy is if a patient is ill and has a fever, you can give them a lot of aspirin and bring the temperature down, but when you stop giving the aspirin, the underlying fever is still there. So the surge in Iraq gave some temporary relief—and we did a surge in Afghanistan, as well, in 2009, '10, ’11—but it wasn't permanent, and it didn’t solve the underlying problem, which is to say that both countries have an insurgency, and the solution to those insurgencies, if there’s going to be a solution, rests in the hands of the Iraqis and the Afghans.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But the enormous amount not only of casualties that occurred on the U.S. side as well as the Iraqi side in the war, and then this enormous buildup of an Iraqi army trained by the United States that then essentially disintegrated with the rise of ISIS, how did that happen?

LT. GEN. DANIEL BOLGER: Well, we shouldn’t be surprised by that. The old Iraqi army—we had fought them twice, in '91 and 2003—they also disintegrated when we came into contact with them. ISIS had a similar experience. It takes many decades to build a decent army. And a few years of training, a couple days at the rifle range, some marching around is not going to do the trick. We've had experience building armies in other countries—I think particularly the South Koreans, who did not do all that well in the Korean War in 1950 to '53, but now have an army capable of defending their country and, in fact, going around the world and doing United Nations missions. South Korean troops served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and served with distinction. But that was an effort of decades. And it does not require hundreds of thousands of troops. It doesn't require fleets of jet bombers. It requires a small number of trainers and a long-term commitment to a solution that the people of that country, the Afghans and the Iraqis, want.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, you state in your book that the United States military is essentially not prepared to mount counterinsurgency wars. Conventional wars is one thing, but the counterinsurgencies is a whole other world. Could you expand on that?

LT. GEN. DANIEL BOLGER: I could. I think our challenge is—we’re very good at conventional wars. In fact, we were so good at it that myself and other commanders thought, this time we’re going to fight Vietnam and get it right, because our quality young men and women, so brave, so tough, so well supported by the American people with equipment, training and their families—we thought this time we’re going to pull it off.

And we missed the fundamental strategic error of that thought, and it’s an error based in arrogance, hubris, whatever word you want to use. And that is, by their nature, when a country is having a problem with rebels or with insurgents, the solution must lie with the local people. The solution will be partially political in nature. There may be a violent component to it. There may be deals cut. But it’s not something that hundreds of thousands of American or Western troops can solve, no matter how well they’re trained at military skills. So I think we missed a fundamental strategic point there.

And I know I definitely blame myself. I am concerned about my own failings in that area, because I studied Vietnam in the Army War College and in the other Army schools. I knew what we had done wrong there. And in my arrogance, I made the error, along with many of my peers, of thinking, well, this time, because our troops are better, we might pull it off. It doesn’t change the fundamentals on the ground.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola

Cuban health workers in Sierra Leone. Florian Plaucheur / Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


New York Times, October 19, 2014

Cuba is an impoverished island that remains largely cut off from the world and lies about 4,500 miles from the West African nations where Ebola is spreading at an alarming rate. Yet, having pledged to deploy hundreds of medical professionals to the front lines of the pandemic, Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus.

Cuba’s contribution is doubtlessly meant at least in part to bolster its beleaguered international standing. Nonetheless, it should be lauded and emulated.

The global panic over Ebola has not brought forth an adequate response from the nations with the most to offer. While the United States and several other wealthy countries have been happy to pledge funds, only Cuba and a few nongovernmental organizations are offering what is most needed: medical professionals in the field.

Doctors in West Africa desperately need support to establish isolation facilities and mechanisms to detect cases early. More than 400 medical personnel have been infected and about 4,500 patients have died. The virus has shown up in the United States and Europe, raising fears that the epidemic could soon become a global menace.

It is a shame that Washington, the chief donor in the fight against Ebola, is diplomatically estranged from Havana, the boldest contributor. In this case the schism has life-or-death consequences, because American and Cuban officials are not equipped to coordinate global efforts at a high level. This should serve as an urgent reminder to the Obama administration that the benefits of moving swiftly to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba far outweigh the drawbacks.

The Cuban health care workers will be among the most exposed foreigners, and some could very well contract the virus. The World Health Organization is directing the team of Cuban doctors, but it remains unclear how it would treat and evacuate Cubans who become sick. Transporting quarantined patients requires sophisticated teams and specially configured aircraft. Most insurance companies that provide medical evacuation services have said they will not be flying Ebola patients.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday praised “the courage of any health care worker who is undertaking this challenge,” and made a brief acknowledgment of Cuba’s response. As a matter of good sense and compassion, the American military, which now has about 550 troops in West Africa, should commit to giving any sick Cuban access to the treatment center the Pentagon built in Monrovia and to assisting with evacuation.

The work of these Cuban medics benefits the entire global effort and should be recognized for that. But Obama administration officials have callously declined to say what, if any, support they would give them.

The Cuban health sector is aware of the risks of taking on dangerous missions. Cuban doctors assumed the lead role in treating cholera patients in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake in 2010. Some returned home sick, and then the island had its first outbreak of cholera in a century. An outbreak of Ebola on the island could pose a far more dangerous risk and increase the odds of a rapid spread in the Western Hemisphere.

Cuba has a long tradition of dispatching doctors and nurses to disaster areas abroad. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Cuban government created a quick-reaction medical corps and offered to send doctors to New Orleans. The United States, unsurprisingly, didn’t take Havana up on that offer. Yet officials in Washington seemed thrilled to learn in recent weeks that Cuba had activated the medical teams for missions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

With technical support from the World Health Organization, the Cuban government trained 460 doctors and nurses on the stringent precautions that must be taken to treat people with the highly contagious virus. The first group of 165 professionals arrived in Sierra Leone in recent days. José Luis Di Fabio, the World Health Organization’s representative in Havana, said Cuban medics were uniquely suited for the mission because many had already worked in Africa. “Cuba has very competent medical professionals,” said Mr. Di Fabio, who is Uruguayan. Mr. Di Fabio said Cuba’s efforts to aid in health emergencies abroad are stymied by the embargo the United States imposes on the island, which struggles to acquire modern equipment and keep medical shelves adequately stocked.

In a column published over the weekend in Cuba’s state-run newspaper, Granma, Fidel Castro argued that the United States and Cuba must put aside their differences, if only temporarily, to combat a deadly scourge. He’s absolutely right.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pentagon Warns Climate Change Will Intensify Conflict

By Mark Drajem and Mark Chediak

Beaver County Peace Links via Bloomberg News

Oct 14, 2014 - Natural disasters from climate change will intensify global instability, disease, poverty and conflict, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Global warming will worsen many of the challenges the U.S. military already is grappling with, the department said in a report yesterday.

“We refer to climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today -– from infectious disease to terrorism,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a blog post. “While scientists are converging toward consensus on future climate projections, uncertainty remains. But this cannot be an excuse for delaying action.”

The report underscores the seriousness of the risks as seen by the military, which handled flooding and tsunami relief efforts in Asia in recent years and is now responsible for setting up treatments centers for Ebola victims in West Africa.

“The issue of climate change as a national security risk is something that has been of concern and people have been discussing it for a number of years,” said Charles Kolstad, a professor of economics and senior fellow at Stanford University in California, in a telephone interview.

He said climate change damage such as water scarcity are “much more likely to exacerbate regional conflicts, which can be real risks to the United States.”

Planning Process

The report says that climate change will affect the military in four main ways: through rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, increasing intense storms and rising sea levels.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How ISIS Catches the United States With Its Pants Down

A new form of asymmetric warfare against the world’s biggest military

By Stephan Richter

Beaver County Peace Links via The Globalist

Oct 9, 2014 - The sense of outright shock towards ISIS in Washington is becoming ever more palpable. While there still is the temptation to deal with the ISIS phenomenon in the usual fashion, making it a political football match between the two parties, shock is rapidly turning ISIS into a bipartisan issue.

On a daily basis, catastrophic news reports are featured on the front pages of newspapers that demonstrate that the United States as a whole has been caught with its pants down. ISIS is, literally, having fun with the world’s largest military by playing a mean game of strip poker with it.

Despicable as ISIS is, it is putting forth a new dimension of asymmetric warfare. The mighty U.S. Air Force – flying high and terrifically well-resourced – is proving impotent against ISIS’s ground game.

The temptation to blame the Obama Administration or the U.S. intelligence services for their lack of foresight may be irrepressible, but it is way off the mark.

Pants down America

At the core, this is the profound failure of an over-resourced and thoughtless U.S. political establishment that has wrongly played the nation’s cards in a militarized style of foreign policy making.

The failure now witnessed in Iraq and Syria therefore is also a strategic failure – and one for which the U.S. military, with its simplistic can-do mindset, bears profound responsibility. This failure is far worse than the Vietnam War (no lessons learned, after all).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Today's Wars May Signal A Qualitative Change In US Foreign Policy

By Harry Targ
Beaver County Peace Links via Diary of a Heartland Radical

From Wartime Alliance to Deadly Global Conflict

I do not believe history repeats itself but I find myself looking back to the past for lessons which might be relevant today. For example, during World War II an “unnatural alliance” between the United States (the new imperial hegemon), Great Britain (the old one), and the former Soviet Union (the revolutionary challenger to capitalist hegemony) formed to defeat fascism in Europe. It was in the interests of all three nations to do so.

As the war was ending the leaders of the “big three” nations--President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin--met at Yalta in the Crimea to plan for a post-war world order. They made agreements on Eastern European borders, facilitating elections in Poland, administering a defeated Germany, defeating Japan in the Asian war, and planning for the first meeting of the United Nations. The three leaders returned to their respective countries declaring that a peaceful post-war world order would be established. “The spirit of Yalta” brought hope to millions of North Americans and Europeans, West and East.

In April, President Roosevelt died and a new more bellicose administration had come to power in Washington. Within three months the United States had successfully tested its new atomic bomb and dropped two of them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By the fall, 1945 US and Soviet disputes over treaties ending the status of war with former fascist regimes in Eastern Europe began to destroy the comity that had been built over the course of the war and codified at Yalta. In 1946 crises occurred between East and West over Iran and Greece. It is clear in retrospect that ever since its ascendency to power the new Truman administration had been working to achieve global hegemony in the post-war period, using its military and economic superiority as tools.

In the spring of 1947, the US decided to replace the British in Greece as the latter worked to crush a leftwing insurgency in that country’s civil war. President Truman was warned by the Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he, Truman, better “scare hell out of the American people.” This was so because most Americans favored peace over more conflict in world affairs and many still perceived the former wartime ally, the Soviet Union, positively.

The announcement of the new global threat and the need to mobilize resources over the next several years to “defend” against the demonic Soviet Union led to the recommendations for action in the famous Truman Doctrine speech to Congress in March, 1947. These put the US on a war path that would cost more than 10 million lives, international and American, and at least $5 trillion by the twenty-first century.

So the decisions made between 1945 and 1947 presaged a dramatic shift in United States foreign policy that had enormous consequences for both its own citizens and the world. Decision-makers in the Truman administration who favored maintaining some semblance of cooperation with the former Soviet Union lost their influence. Even some of Truman’s hardline advisors like George Kennan felt the evolving policies went too far in terms of bellicosity.

From Global Conflict Management to Renewed Global Military Madness

Fast-forward some 65 years. President Obama, from 2008 to 2013, continued the Bush war in Afghanistan, ordered drone attacks on alleged terrorist targets in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and authorized covert support for destabilization of populist regimes in Latin America. In contrast, at the same time, he has tried to create a more “realist” panoply of policies based on diplomacy and modest recognition that there were limits to US power. During the President’s second term, the United States partnered with Russia to curb Syria’s brutal war on its citizens and Russia, Iran, and the United States began to make progress in arms negotiations.

But then, with the aid of undercover US operatives, rebels overthrew a Ukraine government in February 2014 that had close ties with Russia.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Obama’s Long War in the Middle East

By William Greider

The Nation via Portside

Sept 23, 3014 - Do not be misled by White House double-talk: the United States is embarking on another Long War in the Middle East.

This one will belong to Barack Obama, and it may extend beyond his presidency. Secretary of State John Kerry said as much. “It may take a year. It may take two years. It may take three years. But we’re determined it has to happen,” Kerry vowed.

Actually, it may take ten years, or longer. Americans have heard this bold, brave talk before. It has led to costly failure for our country and horrendous losses for humanity.

The United States went to war in Afghanistan  in 2001 and finally intends to withdraw in 2016—making it the longest war in US history. The Taliban, though, are almost as strong as ever, merely waiting for US troops to leave. Washington launched its unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq in 2003, conquered the country and installed a new government, but troops were not withdrawn until the end of 2011. Now Iraq’s civil war has reignited, only on a much broader front that includes the devastating civil war next door in Syria. Fight we must, Obama says. It’s as if we’ve learned nothing from our post-9/11 failures.

If Americans step back from bitter recriminations, they may be able to recognize an impossible pattern, in which we are caught in a trap of our own making.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Bennis Plan: Here Is a Real Strategy for Dealing With ISIS


By Sharmini Peries,

The Real News Network | Video Interview

TRANSCRIPT: Sept 15. 2014

SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. This is an edition of the Phyllis Bennis report.

President Obama on Wednesday laid out a four-point plan to deal with the Islamic State. Here is some of what he had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists.

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground.

Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance.


NOOR: Now joining us to unpack the speech is Phyllis Bennis. Phyllis is a fellow directing the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. She is also a writer, analyst, and an activist on Middle East and UN issues.

Thank you so much for joining us, Phyllis.

President Obama outlined four key strategies to eliminate ISIL. The U.S. has tried these strategies before. Phyllis, what do you think of these strategies? And will they work this time?

PHYLLIS BENNIS, FELLOW, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: I think what President Obama outlined last night was a four-part military strategy. Only the last one, which had to do with humanitarian support, about which he said virtually nothing, was not military. All the others were various aspects of military responses. And as he has said himself so many times, there is no military solution to this crisis. So, acting as if we can have a military victory is guaranteeing failure.

What we should have heard from President Obama last night would have been a four-part diplomatic proposal. You know, there's at least four diplomatic things that should be done, but we didn't, unfortunately, hear any real emphasis on that.

PERIES: Can you elaborate on what those four points might have been?

BENNIS: Well, we could start with looking seriously at what is it going to take to change the dynamic of sectarianism in Iraq that creates support for ISIS. The reason ISIS is so powerful is because they have support on the ground, particularly from Iraqi Sunnis, particularly Sunni tribal leaders and their militias, Sunni generals from the former regime that are providing the kind of military strategy and training for ISIS. So we need to talk seriously about that and figure out what's it going to take to pressure the new government to reverse that. It's not going to happen on its own. And the U.S. doesn't have that much power.

So this is a moment when the U.S. needs to engage with Iran, the other influential player in Baghdad. The U.S. and Iran right now are on the same side. Both want a newly inclusive government in Baghdad. So this is a moment for real negotiations, real diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran. That could be number one. Number two--.

PERIES: And can I just interrupt you for a second? There are murmurs that these discussions are going on in secret with the Iranians. Do you know any more on that?

BENNIS: I don't have any information. I think there probably are some very small tactical, low-level negotiations underway that probably have something to do with not getting in each other's way in Iraq, something like that. But I'm talking about something bigger than that. The nuclear talks are going very well. Perhaps this should be a moment to try to expand those talks, to really look at the idea of a grand bargain with Iran that would take up the question of the regional crises and Iran's role legitimizing Iran's role as a regional power. That's perhaps not in the immediate agenda, but that's the kind of diplomacy we should be thinking about.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Clinton vs. Obama, Iraq and ‘The Long War’ Theory

This photo is believed to be the ISIS forces moving into the Anbar province of Iraq in January 2014. (Photo: Associated Press, 2014)This article was republished by The Nation on August 13, 2014.

Tom Hayden on the Alternatives in Iraq

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links via The Nation

Aug 12, 2014 - Hillary Clinton's flapping of her hawkish wings only intensifies the pressure on President Barack Obama to escalate US military involvement in the sectarian wars of Iraq and Syria. Domestic political considerations already are a major factor in forcing Obama to "do something" to save the Yazidis, avert "another Benghazi," and double down in the undeclared Long War against Islamic fundamentalism.

Clinton certainly was correct in arguing that Obama's statement "don't do stupid stuff" is not an organizing principle of US foreign policy. Instead of offering a new foreign policy, based for example on democracy, economic development and renewable energy however, Clinton lapsed into the very Cold War thinking she once questioned in the Sixties.

America's long war on jihadi terrorism should be modeled on the earlier Cold War against communism, Clinton said. We made "mistakes", supported many "nasty guys", did "some things we're not proud of", but the Cold War ended in American triumph with, "The defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism."

Ignoring the new Cold Wars with Russia and China, Clinton's nostalgic vision is sure to be widely accepted among Americans, including many Democrats. She ignores, or may not even be familiar with, the actual Long War doctrine quietly promulgated during the past eight years by national security gurus like David Kilcullen, the top counterinsurgency adviser to General David Petraeus in Iraq.

Put simply, the Long War theorists have projected an eighty-year military conflict with militant Islam over an "arc of crisis" spanning multiple Muslim countries. Starting with 9/11, the Long War would continue through twenty presidential terms. In Kilcullen's thesis, Iraq is only a "small war" within a larger one. Since a war of such duration could never be declared officially, the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force [AUMF] stands as its feeble underlying justification.

Obama has made cautious attempts to separate himself from the Long War doctrine and even seeks to narrow or revisit the AUMF. But Obama has never named and or criticized the doctrine, presumably for fear of being accused of going soft in the War on Terrorism. Obama's true foreign policy leaning is revealed in his repeated desire to "do some nation building here at home", which many hawks view as a retreat from America's imperial role. They prefer, in Clinton's words, the posture of "aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward," rather than being, "down on yourself."

While expanding US drone attacks, intervening in Libya and Yemen, and now escalating again in Iraq, Obama has emphasized another foreign policy direction that is disturbing to hawks. Obama repeatedly argues, “There is no military solution…" to the very wars he has engaged in, or tried to disengage from. That rational observation apparently is too "radical" for a government with the largest military in the world.

Clinton thinks the better approach is a little more muscular intervention - arming the Syrian rebels, for example, combined with some "soft power" on the ground.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Against U.S. Escalation in Iraq

Kurdish fighters, including women, dig in to take on ISIS theocrats

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links via

August 7, 2014 - The Obama administration seems poised to bomb insurgent-controlled areas of Iraq in another escalation of the deepening quagmire. The administration's reason is "humanitarian", a rationale which could have been given countless times before. Air strikes are unlikely to block the offensive by the extremists of ISIS who are bent on forming a sectarian Sunni Caliphata in the territory they have seized in Syria and Iraq.

If Obama uses U.S air power he will be rejecting a war powers resolution passed by 300 House of Representative members last week which requires a report to Congress and a limited timetable before an authorizing vote is required. Obama already has dispatched several hundred U.S troops as "advisers" to the faltering Baghdad army already trained and financed by US taxpayers. A majority of Democrats oppose executive action without congressional hearings and approval. Rep. Jim McGovern, primary author of the House resolution, predicted that military action might take place during the congressional recess.

The alternative is not "surrendering to terrorism", as the War Lobby claims. In Obama's calculation, apparently, it is simpler to fire bombs and missiles at the war zone than to threaten the authoritarian al-Maliki regime in Baghdad with a cutoff in funds unless they reach a power-sharing accommodation with the Sunni and Kurdish minority communities. Al-Maliki's stubborn insistence on disenfranchising and rounding up thousands of Sunnis in Iraq drove many of them into their present alliance with ISIS in the vast swath of territory linking southern Syria and northern Iraq. As long as al-Maliki remains in power, Iraq's Sunnis will have no incentive to rebuild a power-sharing state

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Unwavering Support of Israel Harms U.S. Interests, Encourages Extremism

By Rashid Khalidi

New York Times Op-Ed

Aug 6, 2014 – The blatant partiality of the United States in favor of Israel has already turned the words “peace process” into a bitter joke. Over many decades, American indulgence of Israel has blighted prospects of any resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians. Consequently, occupation has been entrenched and Israeli colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has metastasized, going from under 200,000 illegal settlers in 1991 to over 600,000 today.

This partiality only increases when Israel goes to war. By guaranteeing Israel impunity in its military actions, the United States has contributed massively to the bloodshed in Gaza in recent years and in Lebanon in 2006. With $3.1 billion in military aid annually, Israel already has overwhelming superiority in firepower, thanks to top-of-the-line U.S. weapons, such as F-16 fighter-bombers, Apache helicopters and Patriot missiles. Beyond this, it enjoys U.S. intelligence support, as is shown by the latest revelation in the Edward Snowden documents of high-level cooperation between U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies against “Palestinian terrorism,” U.S. arms resupply during battle (spare parts for missiles and 120-millimeter mortar rounds and 40-millimeter grenades were delivered immediately last week) and wall-to-wall diplomatic backing, such that the Security Council has been virtually immobilized for weeks.

The United States is so closely aligned with Israel as to be effectively a co-belligerent. It is thus not fit to serve as a peacemaker. One is sorely needed to end the human tragedy for the 1.8 million Palestinians of Gaza, who have been besieged and blockaded for nearly eight years, and many of whom have seen their homes destroyed three times since 2008 by massive Israeli firepower. This firepower is either used indiscriminately, or to purposely inflict suffering on civilian populations and infrastructure, along the lines of the “Dahiya doctrine” enunciated by Gen. Gadi Eiszenkot (currently Israeli deputy chief of staff) after Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon.

The United States has shown time and again that it does not care about Palestinian rights. But if the United States cares about Israel, it should realize that supporting its subjugation of the Palestinians will be disastrous not only for the victims of this oppression, the rule of law and for vital U.S. interests, but also for the Israeli people.

Continued U.S. encouragement of Israeli violations of international humanitarian law will further embolden the brazen currents of far-right ethnocentric racism permeating Israeli society, and encourage more brutal military actions like those just inflicted on Gaza. This in turn can only inflame extreme and reprehensible reactions, whether in the form of international jihadi militancy, crude anti-Semitism or blind terrorism against civilians.

This is why the United States must decide if it wants to be on the right side of history on one of the 21st century’s most important moral and legal issues.

 Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University and editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, is the author of “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Investing in Weapons, War, and Obama


By Nicolas J.S. Davies

Beaver County Peace Links via Z-Net

April 17, 2012 - Americans who went to the polls in 2008 believing that a vote for Barack Obama was a vote for peace, now face the prospect of a presidential election in which both major party candidates will be openly wedded to endless war, cold-blooded “targeted killings,” record military budgets, and the systematic violation of U.S. and international law.

The only gains people of conscience can make in national elections this year will be to elect more real progressives to Congress, people like veteran journalist and activist Norman Solomon in California and Wenona Baldenegro in Arizona, a Navajo who would be the first Native American woman in Congress. The corporate media have made sure that the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) remains the best kept secret in American politics as it has quietly grown from 6 members in 1991 to 76 members today. CPC co-chair Raul Grijalva was even named the “most valuable representative” in Congress in 2011 by the Nation magazine.

But no grass-roots movement can challenge the auction of the highest public office in the land in 2012. Since Lewis Powell wrote his infamous “Powell Memo” in 1971, big business has consolidated and expanded its control of American politics exactly as he urged it to do. American corporations divert small portions of their profits to public relations and advertising firms to apply the same techniques to politics that they use to sell the products of their commercial monopolies to the public, while Democratic and Republican Party leaders enthusiastically embrace their privileged role in a system that former President Carter has described as “legalized bribery.”

The Republican primaries have shed light on Mitt Romney’s vulture fund background and Sheldon Adelson’s legalized bribery of Newt Gingrich. On the other hand, there has been little scrutiny of the interests behind the person who is already governing the United States.

In 2008, Senator Obama out-solicited Senator McCain by more than two to one: $748 million to $354 million. Less than 10 percent of Obama’s funds were raised by trade unions and only 24 percent came from donors who gave $200 or less, compared with Ron Paul’s 39 percent and Dennis Kucinich’s 56 percent. Even George Bush raised 26 percent of his funds from small donors in 2004, so Obama’s much-vaunted reliance on small donors was a deceptive PR stunt, not a new paradigm in grass-roots democracy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

America's Massive National Security State Is the 4th Branch of Government


Who rules Washington?

By Tom Englehardt

Beaver County Peace Links via Tom Dispatch

August 3, 2014 |   As every schoolchild knows, there are three check-and-balance branches of the U.S. government: the executive, Congress, and the judiciary.  That’s bedrock Americanism and the most basic high school civics material.  Only one problem: it’s just not so.

During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved.  It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach.  Admittedly, it still lacks certain formal prerogatives of governmental power.  Nonetheless, at a time when Congress and the presidency are in a check-and-balance ballet of inactivity that would have been unimaginable to Americans of earlier eras, the Fourth Branch is an ever more unchecked and unbalanced power center in Washington.  Curtained off from accountability by a penumbra of secrecy, its leaders increasingly are making nitty-gritty policy decisions and largely doing what they want, a situation illuminated by a recent controversy over the possible release of a Senate report on CIA rendition and torture practices.

All of this is or should be obvious, but remains surprisingly unacknowledged in our American world. The rise of the Fourth Branch began at a moment of mobilization for a global conflict, World War II.  It gained heft and staying power in the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century, when that other superpower, the Soviet Union, provided the excuse for expansion of every sort. 

Its officials bided their time in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when “terrorism” had yet to claim the landscape and enemies were in short supply.  In the post-9/11 era, in a phony “wartime” atmosphere, fed by trillions of taxpayer dollars, and under the banner of American “safety,” it has grown to unparalleled size and power.  So much so that it sparked a building boom in and around the national capital (as well as elsewhere in the country).  In their 2010 Washington Post series “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William Arkin offered this thumbnail summary of the extent of that boom for the U.S. Intelligence Community: “In Washington and the surrounding area,” they wrote, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings -- about 17 million square feet of space.”  And in 2014, the expansion is ongoing.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stop the Massacre on Gaza! Vigil at the Courthouse, Saturday, Aug.2, Noon

The Steering Committee of Beaver County Peace Links

has decided to again gather at the Courthouse for a public vigil

for Peace in the Occupied Territories and Israel.

at 12 NOON

Please make signs:

“Stop Supporting Israel”


"Stop the Massacre on Gaza"

"Sovereignty for Palestine"

"Self-determination for Palestinians"

"Justice for Gaza"

"Cease Fire!"

"Stop the Violence"

"Peace is the only Solution"

Rep Keith Ellison, End the Blockade of Gaza!
Collective Punishment in Gaza

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Interventionist Starved Neo-Con Hawks Are Trying to Drag Us Back Into More War


Amid the crises in Iraq, Gaza and Ukraine, hawks are calling for U.S. military intervention.

By William Greider

Beaver County Peace Links via The Nation

July 25, 2014 |   The War Party in American politics is beating its drum and once again, mobilizing hawkish politicians and policy experts of both parties to wage a high-minded war of words.

Hawks are salivating because they see the world’s current turmoil as a chance to rehabilitate themselves and the virtues of US military intervention. Three hot wars are underway and the United States has a client state in each of them. Civil wars in the Ukraine and Iraq plus Israel’s invasion of Gaza give Washington’s armchair generals fresh opportunity to scold President Obama for his reluctance to fight harder. They are not exactly demanding US invasions—not yet anyway—but they want the dovish president and Congress to recognize war as a worthy road to peace.

“In my view, the willingness of the United States to use force and to threaten to use force to defend its interests and the liberal world order has been an essential and unavoidable part of sustaining the world order since the end of World War II,” historian Robert Kagan wrote in The Washington Post.“Perhaps we can move away from the current faux Manichaean struggle between straw men and return to a reasoned discussion of when force is the right tool.”

“Reasoned discussion,” that’s the ticket. By all means, we should have more of it. But please don’t count on it from Professor Kagan. What he neglected to mention in his stately defense of American war-making is that he himself was a leading champion fifteen years ago in stirring up the political hysteria for the US invasion of Iraq. Why isn’t this mentioned by The Washington Post when it publishes Kagan’s monthly column on its op-ed page? Or by The New York Times in its adoring profile of the professor? Why doesn’t the Brookings Institution, the Washington think tank that employs Kagan as a senior thinker?

Kagan was the co-founder of the Committee to Liberate Iraq, the neocon front group that heavily promoted pre-emptive aggression and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. You might assume Kagan was reacting to 9/11, but his role as propagandist for war actually preceded the terror attack by three years. Back then, Kagan and William Kristol also co-founded the Committee for a New American Century that was meant to restore American greatness through military power. They attacked the United Nations and warned that “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by misguided insistence on unanimity at the UN Security Council.” To Iraq’s lasting sorrow, George W. Bush took their advice.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Peace Rally in Pittsburgh

Rallying in suppport of Palestinians in Gaza Rallying in suppport of Palestinians in Gaza, protestors including Tavia LaFollette of Shadyside, left, and Susanne Slavick of Ross Township, right, cradling sheets wrapped to look like dead children

Rallying in suppport of Palestinians in Gaza, protestors including Tavia LaFollette of Shadyside, left, and Susanne Slavick of Ross Township, right, cradling sheets wrapped to look like dead children. Bill Wade/Post-Gazette

Oakland protesters rally for Palestinians against Israeli attacks in Gaza

By Amy McConnell Schaarsmith

Beaver County Blue via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

July 19, 2014 - Protesters cradling sheets wrapped to look like dead children rallied in Oakland on Friday to call on the United States to withdraw financial support for Israel over that country‘‍s military assault in the Gaza Strip.

The group of about 100 protesters waved signs and Palestinian flags, and chanted slogans such as, “Make a choice, Obama, human rights or apartheid!” in front of the University of Pittsburgh’‍s Hillman Library on Forbes Avenue as evening traffic rushed by, with some cars honking in support. Holding the sheet-wrapped figures -- one of which included what looked like the dangling legs and shoes of a young girl -- the group then marched along Forbes and Fifth avenues to draw attention to their cause.

“Residents of Gaza have been under siege for such a long time, they‘‍re barely living to begin with,” said 21-year-old Pitt senior Hadeed Salaameh, a native Palestinian who said she helped organize the protest. “We as humans, we have to speak out, it’‍s our responsibility, and as Americans have to speak out because our tax dollars are funding this.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Memo to Obama: Avoid Splinters in Iraq, Syria


Jim McGovern (D-MA) pushing war powers vote

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links

July 15, 2014 - Congressional support for a War Powers authorization looms as the only opportunity for the US to avoid another self-inflicted wound in Iraq and Syria.

The fifteen-day deadline provides an opportunity for anti-war groups to exert public pressure against any escalation, and a wrenching deadline for Congress to end its dickering and denial.

The best that can be expected is a face-saving bipartisan formula for avoiding a quagmire while minimizing the political cycle of blame. The difficulty will be defining a formula that might yet patch together the Sunni "humpty" with the Shiite "dumpty". If that is possible at all, the interim solution will take the same threat by John Kerry and the Western alliance to stop funding sectarianism, which has worked for the moment in Afghanistan. A no-fault divorce of Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites seems out of the question, meaning an expansion of war.

The most important advice President Barack Obama should heed in Iraq and Syria is to avoid splinters. When these tiny barbed slivers cut into flesh, they can be painful to remove completely. Patience and soapy warm water are recommended, which translates into diplomacy as the equivalent of medicine.

ISIS is an Islamic splinter ready to pierce American flesh. The responsible US approach should be hands-off. As predicted here, the ISIS offensive will stall as it approaches Shiite strongholds in Baghdad and further south. Tensions within ISIS will increase. Instead of funding and arming the sectarian al-Maliki regime, the best American approach is to threaten a cutoff in funding unless al-Maliki abides by a genuine power-sharing arrangement, presumably including his resignation. As frequently occurs, America's "client" (in this case al-Maliki) turns the tables (on his "master") with confidence that the US will not pull the plug. 

ISIS is only the latest example of how wrongheaded US military intervention often creates exactly the enemies they claim to be preventing. It is established fact, except among the neo-con crackpots, that al-Qaeda did not even exist in Iraq until the US invasion created the conditions for its birth. Then US Special Ops went to war in Iraq against al-Qaeda in league with Sunni "Awakening" forces in 2007, when that version of AQ was considered too extreme even for the disenfranchised Sunni tribes in Anbar Province. The apparent "defeat" of that al-Qaeda by the US and the tribes spawned a splinter insurgency, which has become ISIS in Iraq.

Meanwhile, other splinters were breaking loose within the Syrian Sunni insurgency against Assad. While the US tried to pick and choose among competing "free Syria" contenders, the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was expelling the splinter group which became ISIS. The grounds for the split were two-fold: that the ISIS violence was too extreme and indiscriminate, and Zawahiri wanted ISIS to focus on Iraq and leave the Nusra Front to deal with Syria. The splintering continued with the formation of the Army of Islam, whose thousands of fighters have been battling ISIS on the same issues of excessive brutality. By one estimate, seven thousand fighters have been killed in clashes between these Syrian splinter groups since January.

Air strikes by the US, combined with any escalation of ground forces, under whatever label, would be a key factor in unifying these insurgent splinters who otherwise are at each other's throats. The splinters thus lodged in America's flesh will be hard to remove any time soon.


McGovern Demands War Powers Vote in Two Weeks

July 11 - Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) today introduced a measure requiring a House vote on Iraq under the War Powers Resolution, forcing the Republican leadership to take action within fifteen days or face an up-or-down vote, which might curb the administration's escalating military intervention in the civil war. 

"We are trying to signal to the House leadership that we have a constitutional responsibility on questions of war and peace," McGovern said this morning. "It's all to easy to let things drift. When Congress goes on recess in August, there could be more American troops authorized, or a US bombing. John Boehner doesn't want a debate on Iraq. He's rather sit back. There's a fear that a majority will say they don't want a war."

McGovern's measure is co-authored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). Lee has been circulating a House letter calling for application of the War Powers Resolution. The new measure contains a trigger that is hard to avoid. McGovern is seeking co-authors on his proposal while the clock is running. Lee, along with Republican Rep. Scott Rigell, has gathered nearly one hundred signers on a House letter urging compliance with the War Powers Resolution



McGovern's House Floor Speech:

The Resolution:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Don’t Go Back to Iraq! Five Steps the U.S. Can Take in Iraq Without Going Back to War

There is no military solution in Iraq—so end the threats of U.S. airstrikes, bring home the Special Forces, and turn the aircraft carrier around. (Photo: Jayel Aheram / Flickr)

By Phyllis Bennis

Beaver County Peace Links via Common Dreams

This is how wars begin.

Barack Obama says we’re not going back to Iraq. “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq,” he said on June 19th, “but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.”

The White House says it’s “only” sending 275 soldiers to protect the embassy, it’s only sending 300 Special Forces, they’re only “advisers.” There’s only one aircraft carrier in the region, they say, and a few other warships. They’re considering missile strikes but they’re not going to send ground troops.

Iraq isn’t a start-up war for the United States—we’ve been there before. And these actions increase the danger we could be heading there again. We thought we had a president who learned the lesson, at least about Iraq—he even repeats it every chance he gets: “There is no military solution.”

This is a very dangerous move. President Obama’s words are right: there is no military solution.But his actions are wrong. When there is no military solution, airstrikes, Special Forces, arms deals, and aircraft carriers will only make it worse.

We need to stop it now. Before the first Special Forces guy gets captured and suddenly there are boots on the ground to find him. Before the first surveillance plane gets shot down and suddenly there are helicopter crews and more boots on the ground to rescue the pilot. Before the first missile hits a wedding party that some faulty intel guy thought looked like a truckload of terrorists—we seem to be good at that. And before we’re fully back at war.

Iraq is on the verge of full-scale civil war along the fault lines set in place when U.S. troops invaded and occupied the country more than a decade ago. We need to demand that our government do five things right away:

First, do no harm. There is no military solution in Iraq—so end the threats of airstrikes, bring home the evac troops and Special Forces, and turn the aircraft carrier around.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Warning: Military Advisers also Fight, History Tells Us


Beaver County Peace Links via AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's announcement that he's sending military advisers to Iraq raises questions — in some quarters, red flags — about whether that could mean a return to warfare under another name.

Obama says flatly: "American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again." Yet the mission as he's defined it — sending up to 300 military advisers "to assess how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces" — is open-ended enough to chance putting at least a limited number of Americans back into the thick of battle.

Modern American history has examples of military advisers limiting themselves to just that job, such as times during the Cold War when the U.S. helped arm and train military forces in developing countries aligned with Washington. It also has examples of mission creep, most infamously in Vietnam.

A glance at some missions, past and present:

Post-World War II: U.S. military officers at the highest level led the restructuring of the German and Japanese governments after World War II. The use of senior military advisers to work alongside foreign political leaders and government officials, not just armed forces, has been seen in Korea, Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan and other countries.

Vietnam: U.S. involvement began with the deployment of fewer than 1,000 military advisers by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and mushroomed. U.S. personnel grew to more than 16,000 in 1963 and 23,000 in 1964, according to CQ's Guide to the Presidency and the Executive Branch. And while they were still called advisers at that point, they were in combat. More than 500,000 Americans were fighting in Vietnam by 1968 in a conflict that became known as America's quagmire.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Madness in Iraq and the Comeback of the Neocons


Iraqi tribesmen gather to join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Jihadist militants. Photo from AFP / Getty Images.

The original blame for this disaster is on the Bush administration, but also on all those who succumbed to a Superpower Syndrome, which claimed we could redesign the Middle East.

By Tom Hayden |

Beaver County Peace Links via The Rag Blog

June 17, 2014 - American activist anti-war networks are perfectly right in standing against renewed U.S. intervention in Iraq. So far Obama has been forced by events to send some 275 U.S. troops for embassy protection, while a decision on bombing is being mulled. The confused Congress needs to be called upon to be a counterweight against the hawks who want nothing more than to blame Obama instead of themselves for “losing” Iraq.

But there is far more to do. We are deep into the battle over memory.

Wars start and end on the battlefields of memory. The “loss” of China, for example, presaged the McCarthy era of the Fifties. Thousands on the left lost their jobs and were discredited and demonized as enemies of the state. As a result, the Vietnam War began with a climate of anti-communism as its rationale, allowing the administration to babble about “falling dominoes.” That war ended in predictable military defeat after hundreds of thousands of American soldiers were killed, maimed or sentenced to lifetime trauma. The dead in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were uncountable but in the millions.

According to President George H. W. Bush, the early Iraq war was fought to purge what he called the “Vietnam syndrome” because he feared that Americans would turn skeptical towards unwinnable, unaffordable wars. Even today, to cover its Vietnam defeat and shame, our government is poised to be spending millions of dollars on sanitizing our Vietnam memory.

In its fabricated origin, the invasion of Iraq was described as a response to the War on Terrorism, a latter-day Cold War against the sinister new global conspiracy of international terrorism. As in Vietnam, the fate of Iraqi women, children, and religious minorities was offered as propaganda for sadly gullible liberal humanitarians.

Now that Iraq is on the verge of its unexpected collapse, the newly-manufactured myth is that American air strikes, guided by on-the-ground special intelligence units, are desperately needed to stave off the defeat of the corrupt Shiite regime, which thousands of young Americans died to install. The political effect of the myth is to pin the blame on Obama for withdrawing our troops as he promised.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Overview from China: Iraq – Failure of US Policy

By Zhao Jinglun

Beaver County Peace Links via

June 16, 2014 - All eyes are on Iraq, as the situation there is deteriorating fast.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaeda offshoot, captured Mosul, Iraq's second largest city with a population of 1.5-2 million, and is pushing toward Baghdad.

Why has ISIL been successful so far despite the fact that it was outnumbered by Iraqi government's security forces 15 to one in the fight for Mosul.

Al-Maliki's Shiite dominated government pursues a repressive sectarian policy that has alienated the Sunni population, so Sunni tribes and townspeople support ISIL and join in the attacks on the Iraqi military, which is green, corrupt and demoralized. It just melted away under pressure of fierce fighting.

In contrast, ISIL led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi since 2010, is battle-hardened as it has been involved in guerrilla war for two years. And it is way ahead on tactics. It keeps Iraqi security forces dispersed and under pressure by striking where security forces are weak and withdrawing where the government has concentrated its combat power.

Veteran journalist Robert Fisk reported that ISIL is bankrolled by Saudi Wahabis and Kuwaiti oligarchs. So far, the Saudis are keeping quiet, for a reason.

But in the last analysis it was the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, which instead of bringing about democracy and the rule of law, greatly intensified sectarian conflicts.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Behind the Madness in Iraq


By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via HuffPost

June 13, 2014 - The U.S. had no business invading Iraq. We toppled a dictatorship on a false 9/11 rationale, which plunged Iraq into a sectarian civil war inside a war with the United States. We left behind a vengeance-driven Shiite regime aligned with Iran. Now the sectarian war in Syria is enlarging into a regional one. The primary blame for this disaster is on the Bush administration, but also on all those who succumbed to a Superpower Syndrome, which said we could redesign the Middle East. There is no reason whatsoever to justify further loss of American lives or tax dollars on a conflict that we do not understand and that started before the United States was born.

Anti-war networks already are sending online messages to Congress opposing any U.S. military re-intervention in Iraq. Representative Nancy Pelosi already is there. Those voices need to be amplified to help President Barack Obama stave off the most irrational forces during this crisis.

Then we need to construct a narrative that blocks the hawks from blaming Obama for "losing" Iraq, and turns the focus on the neo-conservatives, Republicans, and Democratic hawks who took this country into a sea of blood. Most of them remain in power, unscathed and immune, even occupying high positions in this administration. What they fear most is not an Iraqi insurgency, but the risen families of the dead and wounded, on all sides, that increasingly ask who led them into an unwinnable, unaffordable war. The duty-driven bravery of their lost sons and daughters stands in direct contrast to shameless privilege of those who sent them into harm's way.

As this immediate crisis unfolds, we must act to strip away certain delusions. The least of these, though still irritating, is the view of many visible anti-war "radicals" that says the United States never really withdrew from Iraq, but instead secretly left behind tens of thousands of Special Forces in disguise. This silly notion was meant to refute the belief that Obama had "ended" the war.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Americans Welcome Sgt. Bergdahl Home

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links

June 3, 2014 - A still from a video released by the Taliban of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive since 2009. (Photo: 2014)After the negotiated release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, I called an old friend who spent years as a POW in Vietnam's prison camps to ask for his response. Preferring to keep his name out of the papers for the moment, he was following the situation closely. In summary though, what he said was as follows:

First, the Pentagon will debrief Bergdahl for as long as two weeks, eight hours per day, assuming they follow protocols used in Vietnam.

Second, after debriefing, the Pentagon team will take on crisis management, how to shape and control Bergdahl's narrative, whether to ignore criticism about his anti-war statements made in captivity or even to blame Bergdahl. "They did the same kind of thing with us."

Third, "so far, they are not into punishing him."

Fourth, that is because, "Public opinion so far is solidly behind him,” and therefore, "It won't help to play that card." My POW friend thinks most Americans will be supportive of him whatever the facts turn out to be because, "People are sick of the war."

If the political right "tries anything, people will need to speak out" he added. 

Already there is grumbling among Republicans, neo-conservatives, and within the armed forces about Bergdahl's statements, and rumors that he went AWOL. It is likely that Fox News will fan the flames.

Before a storm gathers against Bergdahl, some facts are in order.

Bergdahl could have been released in the same prisoner swap nearly three years ago, but the Republican-led opposition scuttled the deal by opposing, "negotiating with terrorists." See the New York Times account of the suspension of secret talks between the US and the Taliban in March 2012, published December 20, 2012. Those talks held in Paris included US and French officials, a Taliban delegation and Abdullah Abdullah, then a CIA-supported leader of the Northern Alliance, who currently is poised to become Afghanistan's new president.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Endless War! 5 Disturbing Things in America's Military Budget

By Alex Kane

Beaver County Peace Links via Alternet

May 27, 2014 - It’s Pentagon budget time.  And once again, Congress and the White House are haggling over the fine print of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  But what has stayed constant over the years is the massive spending on the defense budget, which points to the American political establishment’s appetite for militarism.

Congress’ proposed Pentagon budget this year is for $601 billion, a sum that dwarfs spending during the Vietnam War. [3] There have been predictable howls from conservative lawmakers over some proposed cuts to the defense budget advocated by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Congress has resisted the military’s attempts to cut spending. But even if Hagel’s cuts are implemented, the budget would amount to $495 billion- [4]-not a paltry sum.

The House of Representatives this month passed its $601 billion version of the NDAA, though the Senate still has to vote on it.

Despite the back-and-forth over the exact budget amount, it’s clear that once again, the U.S. will be spending a ton of cash on the military.  In addition to spending money on weapons and other military items, the NDAA for 2015 also includes provisions on indefinite detention and authorization to wage war.  Here are 5 aspects of the budget you should know about.

1. More Special Forces

President Obama has wound down the Iraq War and plans to reduce troops levels in Afghanistan, though he’s also attempting to negotiate a prolonged troops presence in the latter country. At the same time, he has presided over an expansion [5] of elite military units known as special operations forces, which operate secretly around the globe and have become crucial to the endless “war on terror.”  Special Operations Forces, like the Navy SEALs, are used to train foreign militaries in counter-terrorism and execute raids like the operation that killed bin Laden.

Defense Secretary Hagel has called for more Special Operations forces to be added in the coming years.  He wants 4,000 extra personnel to be added to a force [6] that already has 69,700 troops, which would mean spending $7.7 billion--an increase of $729 million from last year. [7]A Senate subcommittee has approved Hagel’s request for the NDAA.

These forces will be helping the U.S. expand its “war on terror” even further in Africa.  The New York Times reported today [8] that Special Operations Forces are forming more counter-terror units in Africa to battle threats like Boko Haram in Nigeria.

2.  The Drone War Continues

In addition to deploying Special Operations Forces, the other key aspect of the Obama administration’s approach to war has been drones.  The U.S. has waged a relentless war via drone in Pakistan and Yemen, as well as other countries, though drone strikes have decreased in recent months.  Still, the impact of drones on civilians has not lessened, as a December strike in Yemen that killed at least a dozen people, many of them civilians, showed.

The NDAA reflects the emphasis on the use of drones.  As Defense News reports [9], “House version of the NDAA includes $120 million” for Reaper drones.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pilots Come Clean: Drone Warfare Is Riddled with Tragic, Bloody Errors

By Pratap Chatterjee

Beaver County Peace Links via Tom Dispatch

May 11, 2014 - Enemies, innocent victims, and soldiers have always made up the three faces of war. With war growing more distant, with drones capable of performing on the battlefield while their “pilots” remain thousands of miles away, two of those faces have, however, faded into the background in recent years.

Today, we are left with just the reassuring “face” of the terrorist enemy, killed clinically by remote control while we go about our lives, apparently without any “collateral damage” or danger to our soldiers. Now, however, that may slowly be changing, bringing the true face of the drone campaigns Washington has pursued since 9/11 into far greater focus.

Imagine if those drone wars going on in Pakistan and Yemen (as well as the United States) had a human face all the time, so that we could understand what it was like to live constantly, in and out of those distant battle zones, with the specter of death. In addition to images of the "al-Qaeda" operatives who the White House wants us to believe are the sole targets of its drone campaigns, we would regularly see photos of innocent victims of drone attacks gathered by human rights groups from their relatives and neighbors. And what about the third group -- the military personnel whose lives revolve around killing fields so far away -- whose stories, in these years of Washington’s drone assassination campaigns, we’ve just about never heard?

After all, soldiers no longer set sail on ships to journey to distant battlefields for months at a time. Instead, every day, thousands of men and women sign onto their computers at desks on military bases in the continental United States and abroad where they spend hours glued to screens watching the daily lives of people often on the other side of the planet. Occasionally, they get an order from Washington to push a button and vaporize their subjects. It sounds just like -- and the comparison has been made often enough -- a video game, which can be switched off at the end of a shift, after which those pilots return home to families and everyday life.

And if you believed what little we normally see of them -- what, that is, the Air Force has let us see (the CIA part of the drone program being off-limits to news reporting) -- that would indeed seem to be the straightforward story of life for our drone warriors. Take Rene Lopez, who in shots of a recent homecoming welcome at Fort Gordon in Georgia appears to be a doting father. Photographed for the local papers on his return from a tour in Afghanistan, the young soldier is seen holding and kissing his infant daughter dressed in a bright pink top. He smiles with delight as the wide-eyed child tries on his military hat.

From an online profile posted to LinkedIn by Lopez last year, we learn that the clean-cut U.S. Army signals intelligence specialist claims to be an actor in the drone war in addition to being a proud parent. To be specific, he says he has been working in the dark arts of hunting and killing “high value targets” using a National Security Agency (NSA) tool known as Gilgamesh.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Agent Orange as Chemical Warfare: War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

By Marianne Brown

Beaver County Peace Links via Voice of America

April 19, 2014 - Government officials from the U.S. and Vietnam attended a ceremony Saturday marking the next stage in the cleanup process of one of the Vietnam War's deadliest legacies - Agent Orange.

The herbicide was sprayed by the U.S. military as a defoliant to destroy jungle cover for communist troops. Its highly toxic byproduct, dioxin, has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, cancer and birth defects.

The $84 million project, officially launched in 2012, aims to clean up contaminated soil by cooking it at high temperatures.

On Saturday, a group of visiting U.S. senators and congressmen crowded together at one of 28 so-called dioxin “hotspots” in the country, the former U.S. air base at Da Nang, in central Vietnam, where Agent Orange was stored. They hit a giant start button to initiate the clean up.

"We built a containment structure roughly the size of a football field and filled it with 45,000 cubic meters of dioxin-contaminated soil," said U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear.

"Beginning today the contaminated soil will be heated to extremely high temperatures to destroy dioxin. After approximately four months the soil will be tested to confirm that the project cleanup goals have been achieved," he said.
Healing the wounds of war has been an important issue for the two countries since diplomatic relations were normalized nearly two decades ago. The cleanup has become a symbol of progress and cooperation between the two governments.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nato's Action Plan in Ukraine is Right Out of Dr Strangelove

Men wearing military fatigues in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk

From China to Ukraine, the US is pursuing its longstanding ambition to dominate the Eurasian landmass

By John Pilger

Beaver County Peace Links via The Guardian

I watched Dr Strangelove the other day. I have seen it perhaps a dozen times; it makes sense of senseless news. When Major TJ "King" Kong goes "toe to toe with the Rooskies" and flies his rogue B52 nuclear bomber to a target in Russia, it's left to General "Buck" Turgidson to reassure the president. Strike first, says the general, and "you got no more than 10-20 million killed, tops". President Merkin Muffley: "I will not go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler." General Turgidson: "Perhaps it might be better, Mr President, if you were more concerned with the American people than with your image in the history books."

The genius of Stanley Kubrick's film is that it accurately represents the cold war's lunacy and dangers. Most of the characters are based on real people and real maniacs. There is no equivalent to Strangelove today because popular culture is directed almost entirely at our interior lives, as if identity is the moral zeitgeist and true satire is redundant, yet the dangers are the same. The nuclear clock has remained at five minutes to midnight; the same false flags are hoisted above the same targets by the same "invisible government", as Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations, described modern propaganda.

In 1964, the year Dr Strangelove was made, "the missile gap" was the false flag. To build more and bigger nuclear weapons and pursue an undeclared policy of domination, President John F Kennedy approved the CIA's propaganda that the Soviet Union was well ahead of the US in the production of intercontinental ballistic missiles. This filled front pages as the "Russian threat". In fact, the Americans were so far ahead in production of the missiles, the Russians never approached them. The cold war was based largely on this lie.

Strategic nuclear missiles Cold War National Museum of the US Air Force Strategic nuclear missiles from the cold war. Photograph: Alamy

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its Nato enlargement project. Reneging on the Reagan administration's promise to the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand "one inch to the east", Nato has all but taken over eastern Europe. In the former Soviet caucuses, Nato's military build-up is the most extensive since the second world war.

In February, the US mounted one of its proxy "colour" coups against the elected government of Ukraine; the shock troops were fascists. For the first time since 1945, a pro-Nazi, openly antisemitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital.