"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Don’t Believe Everything You See And Read: The Demonization Of Gaddafi

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

US President Barack Obama, right,and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi pictured during the G8/G5 summit in L'Aquila, Italy Thursday July 9, 2009. (AP Photo/ Michael Gottschalk/Pool)

Oldspeak:“Don’t get me wrong, Gaddafi is kind of a dick. He’s a very bad man. He needs to step down and work toward real democracy in Libya. But why is the U.S. trying to kill him? Last I checked he hasn’t launched/ been behind any terrorist strikes against the U.S. or NATO. (Unless you consider planning to introduce an African gold backed Dinar that would challenge the U.S. Dollar terrorism.)  He’s doing basically the same shit that Dictators in U.S. client states Syria, Bahrain and Egypt have done for decades but that qualifies as pretext for invading his country, dropping radioactive uranium bombs on civilian structures, homes, hotels and hospitals, and repeatedly killing the innocents the U.N. mandate declares the U.S. and NATO are allegedly there to protect? Add to that a recent report by Amnesty International that questions the veracity of claims levied against Gaddafi that constituted U.S./NATO pretext for invasion and what is now obviously a regime change and assassination campaign? These vital details are given little to no coverage in Corporate Media. It seems as though Corporate Media is entirely to eager to parrot the sound bites of the official story.  Bottom line, there are waaay to many holes and shady unreported dealings going on for me to believe this “Revolution” is organic and indigenous. “Ignorance Is Strength”.

By Patrick Cockburn @ Counterpunch:

In the first months of the Arab Spring, foreign journalists got well-merited credit for helping to foment and publicize popular uprisings against the region’s despots. Satellite TV stations such as Al Jazeera Arabic, in particular, struck at the roots of power in Arab police states, by making official censorship irrelevant and by competing successfully against government propaganda.

Regimes threatened by change have, since those early days, paid backhanded compliments to the foreign media by throwing correspondents out of countries where they would like to report and by denying them visas to come back in. Trying to visit Yemen earlier this year, I was told that not only was there no chance of my being granted a journalist’s visa, but that real tourists – amazingly there is a trickle of such people wanting to see the wonders of Yemen – were being turned back at Sanaa airport on the grounds that they must secretly be journalists. The Bahrain government has an even meaner trick: give a visa to a journalist at a Bahraini embassy abroad and deny him entry when his plane lands.

It has taken time for this policy of near total exclusion to take hold, but it means that, today, foreign journalistic coverage of Syria, Yemen and, to a lesser extent, Bahrain is usually long-distance, reliant on cellphone film of demonstrations and riots which cannot be verified.

I was in Tehran earlier this year and failed to see any demonstrations in the centre of the city, though there were plenty of riot police standing about. I was therefore amazed to find a dramatic video on YouTube dated, so far as I recall, February 27, showing a violent demonstration. Then I noticed the protesters in the video were wearing only shirts though it was wet and freezing in Tehran and the men I could see in the streets were in jackets.

Presumably somebody had redated a video shot in the summer of 2009 when there were prolonged riots.

With so many countries out of bounds, journalists have flocked to Benghazi, in Libya, which can be reached from Egypt without a visa. Alternatively they go to Tripoli, where the government allows a carefully monitored press corps to operate under strict supervision. Having arrived in these two cities, the ways in which the journalists report diverge sharply. Everybody reporting out of Tripoli expresses understandable scepticism about what government minders seek to show them as regards civilian casualties caused by Nato air strikes or demonstrations of support for Gaddafi. By way of contrast, the foreign press corps in Benghazi, capital of the rebel-held territory, shows surprising credulity towards more subtle but equally self-serving stories from the rebel government or its sympathizers.

Ever since the Libyan uprising started on February 15, the foreign media have regurgitated stories of atrocities carried out by Gaddafi’s forces. It is now becoming clear that reputable human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been unable to find evidence for the worst of these. For instance, they could find no credible witnesses to the mass rapes said to have been ordered by Gaddafi. Foreign mercenaries supposedly recruited by Gaddafi and shown off to the press were later quietly released when they turned out to be undocumented laborers from central and west Africa.

The crimes for which there is proof against Gaddafi are more prosaic, such as the bombardment of civilians in Misrata who have no way to escape. There is also proof of the shooting of unarmed protesters and people at funerals early on in the uprising. Amnesty estimates that some 100-110 people were killed in Benghazi and 59-64 in Baida, though it warns that some of the dead may have been government supporters.

The Libyan insurgents were adept at dealing with the press from an early stage and this included skilful propaganda to put the blame for unexplained killings on the other side. One story, to which credence was given by the foreign media early on in Benghazi, was that eight to 10 government troops who refused to shoot protesters were executed by their own side. Their bodies were shown on TV. But Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty International, says there is strong evidence for a different explanation. She says amateur video shows them alive after they had been captured, suggesting it was the rebels who killed them.

It is a weakness of journalists that they give wide publicity to atrocities, evidence for which may be shaky when first revealed. But when the stories turn out to be untrue or exaggerated, they rate scarcely a mention.

But atrocity stories develop a life of their own and have real, and sometimes fatal, consequences long after the basis for them is deflated. Earlier in the year in Benghazi I spoke to refugees, mostly oil workers from Brega, an oil port in the Gulf of Sirte which had been captured by Gaddafi forces. One of the reasons they had fled was that they believed their wives and daughters were in danger of being raped by foreign mercenaries. They knew about this threat from watching satellite TV.

It is all credit to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that they have taken a sceptical attitude to atrocities until proven. Contrast this responsible attitude with that of Hillary Clinton or the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who blithely suggested that Gaddafi was using rape as a weapon of war to punish the rebels. Equally irresponsible would be a decision by the ICC to prosecute Gaddafi and his lieutenants, thus making it far less likely that Gaddafi can be eased out of power without a fight to the finish. This systematic demonization of Gaddafi – a brutal despot he may be, but not a monster on the scale of Saddam Hussein – also makes it difficult to negotiate a ceasefire with him, though he is the only man who can deliver one.

There is nothing particularly surprising about the rebels in Benghazi making things up or producing dubious witnesses to Gaddafi’s crimes. They are fighting a war against a despot whom they fear and hate and they will understandably use propaganda as a weapon of war. But it does show naivety on the part of the foreign media, who almost universally sympathize with the rebels, that they swallow whole so many atrocity stories fed to them by the rebel authorities and their sympathizers.
Patrick Cockburn is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

U.S. Conducts Targeted Killings With Predator Drones In Somalia

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 at 11:28 am

Oldspeak: “U.S. War of Aggression #5 being waged by remote-controlled death dealers in yet another Muslim nation. As Marvin Gaye once said “War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate…” I have to believe MLK would be appalled to know that the first Black president won a Nobel Prize for Peace as he did and is one the most warmongering presidents in U.S. history. Instead of bombing the shit of mostly civilians in the Arab world hunting ‘suspected terrorists’ and pouring trillions down the drain while causing death and destruction, why not devote more time energy and resources to understanding why less than 1% of  over 1 billion Muslims are determined to sacrifice their lives to commit acts of terrorism against the U.S.? Why not try to understand the conditions that exist which are creating these disturbed people, and work to eliminate those conditions? Probably because we’d not like what we find. But the fact remains it’s much wiser to treat the causes, not the symptoms.”

By PressTV:

The US military is reportedly making use of remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles in Somalia in order to conduct targeted killings in the Horn of Africa nation.

An unnamed senior US military official said on Wednesday that the United States carried out a drone attack in Somalia last week, The Washington Post reported.

The drone strike reportedly targeted two high-ranking members of al-Shabab group that allegedly had “direct ties” to ‘anti-American cleric’ Anwar Al Awlaki, who is on the CIA’s list of ‘suspected terrorists’ and is reportedly hiding in Yemen.

In October 2009, al-Shabab fighters claimed they had shot down a US drone aircraft flying over Kismayo, a port town located some 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Last week’s drone strike in Somalia makes the lawless state the sixth country where the US military has used drone aircraft to conduct lethal attacks.

The United States has now employed drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen to launch aerial bomibings.

Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Strategically located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia remains one of the countries generating the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP) in the world.

According to an annual account by the Foreign Policy magazine, Somalia tops the most ‘failed’ states on the ‘Failed States Index.’

An estimated 1.4 million Somalis are displaced within the country while another 680,000 live as refugees in neighboring countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UNHCR reported in April that the number of Somali refugees arriving to neighboring countries during the first quarter of 2011 has more than doubled in comparison to the same period in 2010.

MP/GHN/MB

U.S. Casualties At 2 Year High In Iraq, Will Spike If Administration Pledges To Stay Longer

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2011 at 10:32 am

Oldspeak: Curious. In the wake of last weeks exhalations of troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, and the “receding tide of war” we can safely say we’ve seen this movie before. President Obama announced last year the U.S. had ended hostilities in Iraq and that the combat mission in Iraq was over. Yet today we find that more U.S. troops are being killed in Iraq now than at any point in the past 2 years. Couple that with the facts that the U.S. is the worlds biggest military spender and arms dealer and  a recent report that HALF of the World’s refugees are running from U.S. wars, and you have to ask yourself if the flowery words about bringing peace, ‘stability’ security, democracy & ‘protecting innocents’ in wayward nations really, in objective reality match this administration’s actions. I mean come on people the U.S. is in 5 count em 5 WARS, that we know of  (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya). The U.S. is actively hunting and trying to kill another leader of an Islamic nation, Muammar al-Qaddafi for reasons unknown, and has already killed one of his sons and 2 of his grandchildren in that effort. Moral of the story? War is not helping, it’s exacerbating the problem. It’s killing it U.S. financially and causing chaos in occupied countries. One would be wise to pay less attention to Obama’s words and more attention to his actions, they’re considerably less flowery and significantly more dangerous. Brimg ‘em home Obama. Like for real for real. ‘War is Peace’. 0_O

By Ben Armbruster @ Think Progress:

Two American troops were killed in northern Iraq yesterday while “conducting operations.” The New York Times reports that the military “did not elaborate, but that terminology is usually meant to indicate the deaths were caused by enemy attack.” And earlier this month, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia group attacked and killed six U.S. soldiers. Now, total U.S. combat deaths in Iraq in June has reached 11, the most since May 2009. But despite the fact that Americans are still dying combat related deaths in Iraq, President Obama announced last year that the U.S ended hostilities in Iraq and said as recently as last week in his speech that America’s combat mission there was already over:

Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way. We have ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country.

This simply isn’t the reality that troops on the ground are facing. Putting the number of recent U.S. combat deaths in Iraq aside, militants there are still attacking U.S. forces there with continuing regularity even though the Americans are relegated to their bases and cannot conduct combat operations without permission from the Iraqis. U.S. forces are facing “an increasingly dangerous environment in southern Iraq,” the AP reported last month, “where Shiite militias trying to claim they are driving out the U.S. occupiers have stepped up attacks against bases and troops.”

Indeed, the Irainian-backed group Kataib Hezbollah, which claimed responsibility for the attack earlier this month, said its attacks on U.S. troops were aimed at stopping the “occupation interference” in Iraq’s affairs and forcing the U.S. to abide by the withdrawal deadline. And while it’s unclear how much Muqtada al-Sadr’s supporters are participating in attacks on U.S. forces, he has pledged to unleash his Mehdi Army if the Americans stay past 2011.

One analyst has also said that he has seen an increase in the use of armor piercing IEDs called explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs. “The increase in attacks shows that Iranian-backed cells enjoy greater freedom of movement than they have in the past,” said Michael Knights, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

At the same time, top U.S. officials like incoming Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have said that if the Iraqis ask, the U.S. will keep an unspecified number of troops (some have estimated around 10,000) past the Dec. 31 total withdrawal deadline. Some have cited increased sectarian tensions as one reason for the Americans to stay, but as journalist Mark Kukis noted recently, a prolonged American presence there will only exacerbate the problem:

Secular, nonsectarian Sunni militants, men who consider themselves Iraqi nationalists for resisting a foreign military presence, drift into the company of Iraq’s al-Qaeda contingent when seeking help to lash out at U.S. forces. This drift in effect bolsters al-Qaeda radicals, allowing them to pursue more easily sectarian violence against Shi’ites. Increased sectarian aggression on the part of al-Qaeda produces a violent response from Shi’ite militias such as the Mahdi Army and the Iraqi government, whose security forces are quick to indulge in brutal crackdowns against Sunni communities where militants are thought to be active.

Whether sectarian tensions in Iraq will rise to level of the civil war days of 2006 and 2007 if the Americans leave is uncertain but unlikely. However, there is one certainty if U.S. troops withdraw on time: After Dec. 31, 2011, Iraqi militants will no longer launch attacks on and kill American soldiers.

State Department Travel Warning: If You Try To Sail To Gaza, Israel May Kill You

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Oldspeak:”What a sad irony it is that an Administration that WOULD NOT HAVE EVEN BEEN POSSIBLE without citizen protest, sacrifice, struggle, and eventual elimination of state-sanctioned discrimination and apartheid right here in the USA is discouraging Americans’ practice of  citizen protest, sacrifice, struggle, with the goal eventual elimination of state-sanctioned discrimination and apartheid in Israel? Where would African-Americans be in this country today if our elders accepted their governments centuries old refusals to recognize their human and civil rights? 3/4ths human? Second class citizens? Freedom and dignity are birthrights, not conditions to be negotiated in some “peace treaty”. Those brave souls should have named their ship “The Audacity of Nope.” Free Gaza.

By Ali Gharib @ Think Progress:

The State Department today released an updated travel warning for Israel and the Occupied Territories. The update signified that it was issued “to warn against participation in any attempt to reach Gaza by sea.” The warning is likely in light of the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” of humanitarian activists setting out any day now to break the blockade of Gaza enforced by the Israeli military.

Last year, a similar attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine people, including an American.

The State Department warning said:

The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel. [...] On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S. citizen, in such an attempt.

The U.S. citizen killed was Furkan Doğan, a 19 year old permanent resident of Turkey who witnesses said was shot five times by Israeli commandos that made an early morning raid against the ship he was aboard. (Eight others, all Turkish nationals, were also killed.) The U.S. did not undertake or ask for any special investigations and seemed to accept the validity of Israel’s own investigations, which cleared the Jewish State’s armed forces of any wrong doing.

Both the blockade of Gaza and the raid on ships in international waters have had their legality questioned. Yesterday, the Israeli military attacked two Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza coast, but within the limits Israel set for them.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner recently said U.S. citizens who partook in the flotilla to break the Gaza blockade were putting themselves at risk:

We have made clear through the past year that groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that entail a risk to their safety.

During his recent visit to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked that “America has no better friend than Israel.” As Matthew Yglesias pointed out, the statement is “absurd.” This seems borne out by a travel warning that tells citizens not to try to get to Gaza by sea so that they don’t risk getting shot by their country’s “best friend.”

Free Speech Under Siege In The “West”

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Oldspeak:“Democracies stand for free speech; dictatorships suppress it….The censorship of memory, which we once fondly imagined to be the mark of dictatorship, is now a major growth industry in the “free” West. Indeed, official censorship is only the tip of an iceberg of cultural censorship. A public person must be on constant guard against causing offense, whether intentionally or not.” - Robert Skidelsky. How can knowledge, discovery, and intellectual advancement be achieved without free, unfettered inquiry and constant and rigorous questioning of “accepted truths” based in religion, science or cultural memory?  Political correctness cannot ever usurp freedom of speech, to do so opens the door to authoritarianism, totalitarianism, rigidity of thought and society. There should be no such thing as accepted ways of thinking in a free society. The frightening thing is in the supposedly “free” U.S. much of the population self-censors and acts as thought police to those who think outside the politically correct and accepted spheres of thought. Phrases like “Conspiracy Theorist”, “Radical” “Fringe Elements” or ” ‘Your name here’ Extremists” are used to dismiss un-PC thought and speech as not worthy of serious, critical consideration, as they fly in the face of generally “accepted truths”  There are fewer and fewer public spheres one can introduce ideas which challenge people to actually think and consider facts that don’t jive with what they see in corporate media networks and learn from commodified, corporate controlled for-profit education systems. This has a chilling effect on those interested in engaging in political protest movements, dissent, and challenging and questioning the official narrative of history and objective reality. It’s what leads the Department of Justice to think it’s ok to surveil harass and violate the civil liberties of  law abiding citizens who dare dissent. It that that much different than what goes on in China, Iran, or Israel? If people are discouraged or afraid to engage politically in any way that they wish, state-sanctioned or not, democracy dies.”

By Robert Skidelsky @ Project Syndicate:

Recently, at a literary festival in Britain, I found myself on a panel discussing free speech. For liberals, free speech is a key index of freedom. Democracies stand for free speech; dictatorships suppress it.

When we in the West look outward, this remains our view. We condemn governments that silence, imprison, and even kill writers and journalists. Reporters Sans Frontièreskeeps a list: 24 journalists have been killed, and 148 imprisoned, just this year. Part of the promise we see in the “Arab Spring” is the liberation of the media from the dictator’s grasp.

Yet freedom of speech in the West is under strain. Traditionally, British law imposed two main limitations on the “right to free speech.” The first prohibited the use of words or expressions likely to disrupt public order; the second was the law against libel. There are good grounds for both – to preserve the peace, and to protect individuals’ reputations from lies. Most free societies accept such limits as reasonable.

But the law has recently become more restrictive. “Incitement to religious and racial hatred” and “incitement to hatred on the basis of sexual orientation” are now illegal in most European countries, independent of any threat to public order. The law has shifted from proscribing language likely to cause violence to prohibiting language intended to give offense.

A blatant example of this is the law against Holocaust denial. To deny or minimize the Holocaust is a crime in 15 European countries and Israel. It may be argued that the Holocaust was a crime so uniquely abhorrent as to qualify as a special case. But special cases have a habit of multiplying.

France has made it illegal to deny any “internationally recognized crimes against humanity.” Whereas in Muslim countries it is illegal to call the Armenian massacres of 1915-1917 “genocide,” in some Western countries it is illegal to say that they were not. Some East European countries specifically prohibit the denial of communist “genocides.”

The censorship of memory, which we once fondly imagined to be the mark of dictatorship, is now a major growth industry in the “free” West. Indeed, official censorship is only the tip of an iceberg of cultural censorship. A public person must be on constant guard against causing offense, whether intentionally or not.

Breaking the cultural code damages a person’s reputation, and perhaps one’s career. Britain’s Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke recently had to apologize for saying that some rapes were less serious than others, implying the need for legal discrimination. The parade of gaffes and subsequent groveling apologies has become a regular feature of public life.

In his classic essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill defended free speech on the ground that free inquiry was necessary to advance knowledge. Restrictions on certain areas of historical inquiry are based on the opposite premise: the truth is known, and it is impious to question it. This is absurd; every historian knows that there is no such thing as final historical truth.

It is not the task of history to defend public order or morals, but to establish what happened. Legally protected history ensures that historians will play safe. To be sure, living by Mill’s principle often requires protecting the rights of unsavory characters. David Irving writes mendacious history, but his prosecution and imprisonment in Austria for “Holocaust denial” would have horrified Mill.

By contrast, the pressure for “political correctness” rests on the argument that the truth is unknowable. Statements about the human condition are essentially matters of opinion.  Because a statement of opinion by some individuals is almost certain to offend others, and since such statements make no contribution to the discovery of truth, their degree of offensiveness becomes the sole criterion for judging their admissibility. Hence the taboo on certain words, phrases, and arguments that imply that certain individuals, groups, or practices are superior or inferior, normal or abnormal; hence the search for ever more neutral ways to label social phenomena, thereby draining language of its vigor and interest.

A classic example is the way that “family” has replaced “marriage” in public discourse, with the implication that all “lifestyles” are equally valuable, despite the fact that most people persist in wanting to get married. It has become taboo to describe homosexuality as a “perversion,” though this was precisely the word used in the 1960’s by the radical philosopher Herbert Marcuse (who was praising homosexuality as an expression of dissent). In today’s atmosphere of what Marcuse would call “repressive tolerance,” such language would be considered “stigmatizing.”

The sociological imperative behind the spread of “political correctness” is the fact that we no longer live in patriarchal, hierarchical, mono-cultural societies, which exhibit general, if unreflective, agreement on basic values. The pathetic efforts to inculcate a common sense of “Britishness” or “Dutchness” in multi-cultural societies, however well-intentioned, attest to the breakdown of a common identity.

Public language has thus become the common currency of cultural exchange, and everyone is on notice to mind one’s manners. The result is a multiplication of weasel words that chill political and moral debate, and that create a widening gap between public language and what many ordinary people think.

The defense of free speech is made no easier by the abuses of the popular press. We need free media to expose abuses of power. But investigative journalism becomes discredited when it is suborned to “expose” the private lives of the famous when no issue of public interest is involved. Entertaining gossip has mutated into an assault on privacy, with newspapers claiming that any attempt to keep them out of people’s bedrooms is an assault on free speech.

You know that a doctrine is in trouble when not even those claiming to defend it understand what it means. By that standard, the classic doctrine of free speech is in crisis. We had better sort it out quickly – legally, morally, and culturally – if we are to retain a proper sense of what it means to live in a free society.

Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, is Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University.

 

What Would It Look Like?

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Oldspeak:”We have systems and structures that condone agression and violence, as long as it’s santioned by the state and government. We have systems and structures that create and engender furthur and deeper separation and give it some kind of platform for being resonable rather than engendering and supporting deeper mutuality and oneness. So until those systems and strutures are also undermined and pulled apart then we will only see change, but not transformation. Until the systems and structures are no longer able to support those social sensibilites that are damaging to humanity, we will not be transformed as a society. Those systems and structures were created and maintained by individuals. So it’s a cycle, a cirle that loops itself back on itself” -Angel Kyodo Williams

Obama Plan For Afghan War Withdrawal Will Leave Troop Numbers At Pre-Surge Levels

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Oldspeak:”Mission Accomplished: REDUX. Obama gave an awesome speech the other day but here’s the reality check- ‘US taxpayer dollars are still funding the Taliban. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban government was funded by the US taxpayer. In fact, the Taliban still receives a significant portion of their funding courtesy of the US taxpayer. As The Nation recently reported: “It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban. ‘It’s a big part of their income,’ one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts–hundreds of millions of dollars–consists of payments to insurgents.” In a ‘war’ where American taxpayers are funding both sides, where “our” side is paying 1 million dollars for every soldier deployed, $400 dollars for every gallon of gas consumed, and paying thousands of rarely mentioned in corporate media mercenaries (much more than regular army soldiers) who have a vested financial interest in perpetuating the war- bankers oil companies and military contractors are winning and America is losing. ‘Ignorance is Strength’

By Amy Goodman & Juan Gonzalez @ Democracy Now:

President Obama’s plan to draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan still leaves more in the country than when he came into office. In a televised address, Obama said he will also bring home another 23,000 troops by the end of summer in 2012, leaving around 70,000 military forces, plus thousands of contractors. We discuss the longest war in U.S. history with Gareth Porter, an investigative journalist and historian specializing in U.S. national security policy. “There is an effort here to create a narrative that, as he put it, the war is receding, the tide of war is receding, when in fact nothing of the sort is happening,” says Porter. “Clearly, the Taliban are carrying out counterattacks this year and will do so again next year. That’s not going to come to an end.”

Guest:
Gareth Porter, historian and investigative journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We begin today’s show on the nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan. It is already the longest war in U.S. history. On Wednesday night, President Obama announced a plan to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year and bring another 23,000 home by the end of the summer in 2012.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

We’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al-Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al-Qaeda’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al-Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama’s plan would leave around 68,000 military personnel, plus thousands of contractors, still in the country—the same size as before the troop surge last year. Along with emphasizing what the U.S. and its allies had achieved since the surge, Obama acknowledged that work remained to be done.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country. Afghan security forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we’ve already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people. In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.

Of course, huge challenges remain. This is the beginning, but not the end, of our effort to wind down this war. We’ll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we’ve made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government. And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama concluded his speech by saying that Americans can take solace in the fact that two long conflicts were being brought to an end.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way. We’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.

AMY GOODMAN: To discuss the President’s remarks, we go to Washington, D.C., to Gareth Porter, historian, investigative journalist, specializing in U.S. national security policy.

Your assessment of President Obama’s announcement last night?

GARETH PORTER: Oh, I think there are two major storylines here about his speech. First, he made it clear that he had leaned very sharply in favor of the interests of the Pentagon and the military, as opposed to the interests or the views of those in his own administration who believe that we needed to save a lot more money from this war by withdrawing troops much faster, particularly the increment called the surge starting in 2010. He basically gave General Petraeus most of what he wanted, despite the fact that you’re going to hear cries of pain from supporters of the military that he didn’t get everything. He wanted two full years of combat against the Taliban with the vast majority of the surge troops. He got one year and eight months, which, obviously, is roughly 80 percent of what he asked for. On the other hand, I think the—what I call the domestic faction of the Obama administration really lost out. They had hoped that the full increment, the surge increment of troops, 33,000, would be withdrawn this year, before the end of the year. And that was clearly a very major disappointment.

I think the second storyline is equally important, and that is that Obama likened the—what he called the “responsible” withdrawal from Afghanistan to what has been done in Iraq. And of course, that reminds us that what the President did in Iraq was to promise to withdraw combat troops, combat brigades, while in fact leaving them there well beyond the date that they were supposed to be withdrawn. So, I think we can look forward to, you know, beyond 2012, having combat troops continue to carry out the war, while the President is talking about withdrawing them. I think we’re in for a repeat of the Iraq experience there.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Gareth Porter, isn’t this an attempt by the President basically to control the narrative on this, to declare “mission accomplished” when the reality is that Afghanistan still is an extremely dangerous place and that the efforts of the administration to, quote, “pacify” the country have not succeeded, and then, two, to claim that the troops have been withdrawn, when they are going to be leaving a significant number of troops there for years to come?

GARETH PORTER: Well, absolutely. There is an effort here to create a narrative that, as he put it, the war is receding, the tide of war is receding, when in fact nothing of the sort is happening. I mean, clearly, the Taliban are carrying out counterattacks this year and will do so again next year. That’s not going to come to an end. His vague language in this regard is, I’m afraid, going to come back to bite him, because it’s going to become clear that he couldn’t deliver on that promise of sort of an ebbing of the tide of war.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And you’ve done research into the claims of General Petraeus back late last year about the number of Taliban killed or captured. Could you talk about that?

GARETH PORTER: Yes, this is really an important part of the narrative that General Petraeus has been very successful in creating about the success of the Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan, in which he claimed that over a 90-day period—this was the claim in August of 2010—that over a 90-day period, the Special Operations Forces had actually captured 1,355 rank-and-file Taliban. Now, that was in addition to claims of killing more than 1,000 Taliban rank and file, and capturing and killing 356 middle- and high-ranking Taliban.

Now, most of those claims, the claims about killing of Taliban, could not be fact-checked, but there was a way to fact-check the claim of capturing that many Taliban. And what I did was to obtain an unclassified paper from the task force responsible for detention affairs in Afghanistan, Task Force 435, which showed the monthly intake and release of prisoners to and from the main detention center at the Bagram Air Base called Parwan. And what it showed was that only 270 Afghans were admitted as supposed Taliban into the detention facility during those 90 days. And so, this is roughly 20 percent of the 1,355 claimed Taliban captives who turned out to be—who were not found to be civilians just in the first few days. But then, in subsequent months, another couple of hundred were released from the detention facility, and in the end, about 90 percent of those claimed to be captive Taliban were in fact found to be civilians.

AMY GOODMAN: Gareth Porter, we’ve been reporting for quite a while that the U.S. is talking with the Taliban. Well, in his speech, President Obama indicated the U.S. might negotiate with the Taliban to enable a lasting solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We do know peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement. So as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban. Our position on these talks is clear: they must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al-Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution. But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.

AMY GOODMAN: Gareth Porter, your quick response?

GARETH PORTER: Yeah, this is a statement of policy that essentially puts forward totally unrealistic negotiating aims. No one—no independent analyst of the Taliban really believes that they are going to cave in to pressure from the U.S. military to sit down and negotiate an agreement without a commitment by the United States in advance to a timetable for withdrawal. This, of course, is exactly what the Obama administration refuses to provide. So, this really reminds me, more than anything else, of the Lyndon Johnson administration’s position on negotiations in the spring of 1965, before there was any realism in the U.S. position at all.

Paving The Road To A Hungrier, Unhealthier, And Less-Educated Nation

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2011 at 11:35 am

Oldspeak:” More Change I Can’t Believe In. ‘Austerity Meaures’ ” have come home too roost. The same harsh and counter-productive cuts to education, social programs, public sector institutions/services/workers/jobs, we’ve seen undertaken in foreign countries via “Structural Adjustment Programs” implemented by U.S. backed “lending institutions” like the IMF, The World Bank, and USAID, that usually hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest, are being proposed by politricians right here in the U.S. of A. When President Obama starts proposing cuts to community organizing in poor neighborhoods, it tells you all you need to know. The rich matter most, the poor and everyone in between matter least. Witness the sad fact that income inequality in America is at Great Depression Era levels. The number children living in poverty is at an all time high. if it’s true that “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” , America’s greatness doesn’t amount to very much atal. Meanwhile, the financial-military-industrial complex is doing just GRAND!

By Deborah Weinstein @ Other Words:

The number of poor children had already grown by 2.1 million in 2009 over pre-recession levels, with continuing high joblessness among parents raising concerns that poverty will continue to worsen for some time. Since kids who spend more than half their childhood in poverty earn on average 39 percent less than median income as adults, we can expect lasting costs that will hurt the nation’s future economic growth.

And yet, a majority of House lawmakers want to narrow the deficit by making things worse for today’s kids.

If House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposal takes effect, or the even more extreme House Republican Study Committee’s budget plan prevails, the nation’s economic future will inevitably get bleaker. Those proposals would reduce the food assistance, medical care, and education available to poor children. When children don’t get adequate nutrition, research shows that they are more likely to suffer illnesses and hospitalizations. Poor health can trigger developmental problems that take a toll on school performance.

The House passed Ryan’s proposal in April along party lines. Not one Democrat supported it and all but four Republicans voted in favor of it. In the Senate, five Republicans joined every member of the chamber’s Democratic majority in rejecting it.

The House budget, best known for Ryan’s proposal to radically change and mostly privatize Medicare, would also reduce spending on food stamps by 20 percent over the next decade. If such a deep cut were implemented through caseload reductions, it would mean 8 million fewer people receiving food stamps, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. If instead the cuts took effect by reducing the amount of assistance each family receives, a family of four would lose $147 a month.

Since about half of food stamp recipients are children, such cuts would hurt the chances that those kids will graduate from high school or college, increasing the likelihood of lifelong poverty. The Republican Study Committee’s cuts are far deeper. They would cut food stamps in half over 10 years.

These proposals would have similarly harsh impacts on medical care. The House budget cuts, if implemented solely by reducing eligibility, would deny Medicaid to nearly half the people who rely on it now, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. More likely, there would be some combination of denying people altogether and reducing the care or increasing the costs for those who remain eligible. Either way, the impact would be severe. Again, the Republican Study Committee proposal would inflict even deeper cuts. That proposal calls for halving Medicaid spending by 2021.

How would these plans handle education spending? They’d cut it. We know that the House budget would cut education by nearly one-fifth next year and by a quarter by the end of the decade, with 1.7 million fewer low-income college students qualifying for Pell Grant scholarships. U.S. military spending, which nearly totals the combined military expenditures of every other nation on earth, wouldn’t be cut at all. The Republican Study Committee doesn’t spell out most of its education cuts, but it would cut all appropriations except for military spending by about 70 percent by 2021. Education funding would be slashed from preschool through college.

The GOP deficit reduction plans rely solely on massive domestic spending cuts that would heap more trouble on the recession generation’s already grim prospects. That’s counterproductive. Slower economic growth will cut tax revenue and make it harder to nix the government’s persistent budget deficit problem. Balanced-budget amendments and other proposals to place drastic limits on total federal spending would result in cuts at least as deep as the Ryan and Republican Study Committee budget plans.

There’s a better way. We can take a more responsible and effective approach that would gradually narrow the deficit and spare the programs that low-income Americans rely on through a combination of fair revenue increases and spending cuts that don’t exempt the military. Otherwise, we’ll wind up denying opportunities for a middle-class life to millions of our children.

Deborah Weinstein is the executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies that address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations. www.chn.org

Terrorist ‘Pre-Crime’ Detector Field Tested In United States

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2011 at 9:51 am

Oldspeak:”Apparently maximally invasive airport body scanners weren’t enough. They want know the contents of your brain as well, your “malintent”. O_0 WOW. If that’s not a “Newspeak” word I don’t know what is.  You can bet your sweet ass this technology won’t be confined to ‘terrorist screening’ for long.”

By Sharon Weinberger @ Nature News:

Planning a sojourn in the northeastern United States? You could soon be taking part in a novel security programme that can supposedly ‘sense’ whether you are planning to commit a crime.

Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) programme designed to spot people who are intending to commit a terrorist act, has in the past few months completed its first round of field tests at an undisclosed location in the northeast, Nature has learned.

Like a lie detector, FAST measures a variety of physiological indicators, ranging from heart rate to the steadiness of a person’s gaze, to judge a subject’s state of mind. But there are major differences from the polygraph. FAST relies on non-contact sensors, so it can measure indicators as someone walks through a corridor at an airport, and it does not depend on active questioning of the subject.

The tactic has drawn comparisons with the science-fiction concept of ‘pre-crime’, popularized by the film Minority Report, in which security services can detect someone’s intention to commit a crime. Unlike the system in the film, FAST does not rely on a trio of human mutants who can see the future. But the programme has attracted copious criticism from researchers who question the science behind it (see Airport security: Intent to deceive?).

From fiction to fact

So far, FAST has only been tested in the lab, so successful field tests could lend some much-needed data to support the technology. “It is encouraging to see an effort to develop a real empirical base for new technologies before any policy commitments are made,” says Tom Ormerod, a psychologist in the Investigative Expertise Unit at Lancaster University, UK. Such testing, he adds, could lay the groundwork for a more rigorous randomized, controlled, double-blind study.

According to a privacy-impact statement previously released by the DHS, tests of FAST involve instructing some people passing through the system to carry out a “disruptive act”. Ormerod questions whether such role-playing is representative of real terrorists, and also worries that both passengers and screeners will react differently when they know they’re being tested. “Fill the place with machines that go ping, and both screeners and passengers start doing things differently.”

In lab tests, the DHS has claimed accuracy rates of around 70%, but it remains unclear whether the system will perform better or worse in field trials. “The results are still being analysed, so we cannot yet comment on performance,” says John Verrico, a spokesman for the DHS. “Since this is an ongoing scientific study, tests will continue throughout coming months.”

Some scientists question whether there really are unique signatures for ‘malintent’ — the agency’s term for the intention to cause harm — that can be differentiated from the normal anxieties of travel. “Even having an iris scan or fingerprint read at immigration is enough to raise the heart rate of most legitimate travellers,” says Ormerod.

Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, a think-tank based in Washington DC that promotes the use of science in policy-making, is pessimistic about the FAST tests. He thinks that they will produce a large proportion of false positives, frequently tagging innocent people as potential terrorists and making the system unworkable in a busy airport. “I believe that the premise of this approach — that there is an identifiable physiological signature uniquely associated with malicious intent — is mistaken. To my knowledge, it has not been demonstrated,” he says. “Without it, the whole thing seems like a charade.”

As for where precisely FAST is being tested, that for now remains a closely guarded secret. The DHS says that although the first round was completed at the end of March, more testing is in the works, and the agency is concerned that letting people know where the tests are taking place could affect the outcome. “I can tell you that it is not an airport, but it is a large venue that is a suitable substitute for an operational setting,” says Verrico.

WikiLeaks Cables: Shows U.S. Opposed Minimum Wage Rise, Despite Rampant Hunger & Poverty In Haiti

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2011 at 11:33 am

Oldspeak: Levi’s, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Dockers and Nautica’s public face: Fun, hip, fashionable, comfortable, sturdy, friendly fruits & Michael Jordan. Private face: ruthless, Anti-humanist, Anti-democratic, exploitative, manipulative poverty & hunger promoting, cost externalizing profit internalizing machines who operate with impunity in poor countries with the assistance of the U.S. Government. All so we can continue mindlessly consuming “cheaply” made goods, which is of course good for the “economy”. Never mind that 2 billion languish in squalor, poverty & despair. “2+2=5″. Meanwhile “Today, 16 months after the quake, only about 37% of US $4.6 billion in support pledges have actually been disbursed – a crucial issue given the dominant role that the international community plays in Haiti.” -Dan Coughlin

By Kim Ives & Dan Coughlin @ Green Left:

The United States embassy in Haiti worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi’s, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to aggressively block a paltry minimum wage rise for Haitian assembly zone workers.

The moves to block a wage rise for the lowest paid in the western hemisphere were revealed by secret US State Department cables obtained by Haiti Liberte and The Nation magazine.

The factory owners refused to pay $0.62 an hour, or $5 per eight-hour day, as mandated by a measure unanimously passed by Haiti’s parliament in June 2009.

The cables, provided by WikiLeaks, show that behind the scenes, factory owners were vigorously backed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US embassy.

Before the rise, the minimum daily wage was $1.75 a day.

The factory owners told parliament they were willing to give workers a mere nine cent per hour pay rise — to $0.31 an hour — to make T-shirts, bras and underwear for US clothing giants such as Dockers and Nautica.

To resolve the impasse, the State Department urged then-Haitian president Rene Preval to intervene.

US ambassador Janet Sanderson said in a June 10, 2009 cable to Washington: “A more visible and active engagement by Preval may be critical to resolving the issue of the minimum wage and its protest ‘spin-off’ — or risk the political environment spiraling out of control.”

Two months later, Preval negotiated a deal with parliament to create a two-tiered minimum wage rise — one for the textile industry at $3.13 a day and another for all other industrial and commercial sectors at $5 a day.

The US embassy was still not pleased. Deputy chief of mission David Lindwall said the $5 a day minimum wage “did not take economic reality into account”, but was a populist measure aimed at appealing to “the unemployed and underpaid masses”.

Haitian supporters of the minimum wage rise said that it was needed to keep pace with inflation and alleviate the rising cost of living.

Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere. The World Food Program estimates that about 3.3 million people in Haiti, a third of the population, are food insecure.

Haiti was rocked by the “clorox” food riots of April 2008, named after hunger so painful that it felt like bleach in your stomach.

A 2008 Worker Rights Consortium study found a working-class family with one working member and two dependents needed a daily wage of at least $13.75 to meet normal living expenses.

US opposition to the minimum wage rise was revealed in 1918 cables provided by WikiLeaks.

In response to a request for a statement, the US embassy’s information officer Jon Piechowski told Haiti Liberte: “As a matter of policy, the Department of State does not comment on documents that purport to contain classified information and strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of such information.

“In Haiti, approximately 80% of the population is unemployed and 78% earns less than $1 a day — the US government is working with the Government of Haiti and international partners to help create jobs, support economic growth, promote foreign direct investment that meets [International Labor Orgainsation] labor standards in the apparel industry, and invest in agriculture and beyond.”

For a 20-month period between early February 2008 and October 2009, US embassy officials closely monitored and reported on the minimum wage issue. The cables show that the embassy fully understood how popular the measure was in Haiti.

The cables said that the new minimum wage even had support from most of the Haitian business community “based on reports that wages in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua (competitors in the garment industry) will increase also”.

But the proposal faced fierce opposition from Haiti’s tiny assembly zone elite, which Washington had long been supporting with direct financial aid and free trade deals.

In 2006, the US Congress passed the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) bill. This gave Haitian assembly zone manufacturers preferential trade incentives

Two years later, Congress passed an even more generous bill called HOPE II. USAID provided technical assistance and training programs to factories to help them expand and take advantage of the new law.

US embassy cables claimed these efforts were threatened by parliamentary demands for a wage hike to keep pace with soaring inflation and high food prices.

A June 17, 2009, confidential cable from charge d’affairs Thomas C Tighe to Washington said: “Textile industry representatives, led by the Association of Haitian Industry (ADIH), objected to the immediate ($3.25) per day wage increase in the assembly sector, saying it would devastate the industry and negatively impact the benefits of … HOPE II.”

Ironically, Tighe’s confidential cable one week earlier, said the ADIH study had found that “overall, the average salary for workers in the [garment assembly] sector is $4.33” — only 67 cents a day less than the proposed minimum wage.

Nonetheless, the study urged opposing any rise in the minimum wage because “the current salary structure promotes productivity and serves as a competitive wage in the region”.

Tighe noted, however, that the “minimum salary for workers in the Free Trade Zone on the [Haiti-Dominican Republic] border is approximately $6.00”, a dollar more than the $5 demanded.

Still, the ADIH report concluded somehow that the minimum daily being demanded would cause “the loss of 10,000 workers”, more than one third of Haiti’s 27,000 garment workers at that time.

Tighe said the ADIH and USAID “funded studies on the impact of near tripling of the minimum wage on the textile sector found that [the proposed] minimum wage would make the sector economically unviable and consequently force factories to shut down”.

Bolstered by the USAID study, factory owners lobbied heavily against the rise, the cables said.

The cables reveal how closely the US embassy monitored widespread pro-wage rise protests and openly worried about the political impact of the minimum wage battle.

United Nations troops were called in to quell student protests, sparking further demands for the end of the UN military occupation of Haiti.

On August 10, 2009, garment workers, students and other activists protested at the Industrial Park near Port-au-Prince airport. The police arrested two students, Guerchang Bastia and Patrick Joseph, on the charge of inciting the workers.

Demanding their immediate release, protesters marched to the Delmas 33 police station, where the police fired tear-gas and the throng replied with rock-throwing.

In the course of the demonstration, the windshield of Tighe’s vehicle was smashed, and he took refuge in the police station.

Due to the fierce protests of workers and students, sweatshop owners and Washington won only a partial victory in the minimum wage battle, delaying the $5 a day minimum for one year and keeping the assembly sector’s minimum wage a notch below all other sectors.

In October 2010, assembly workers’ minimum wage rose to $5 a day, while in all other sectors it went to $6.25.

The Haitian Platform for Development Alternatives said in June 2009: “Every time the minimum wage has been discussed, [the assembly industry bourgeoisie in] ADIH has cried wolf to scare the government against its passage: that raising the minimum wage would mean the certain and immediate closure of industry in Haiti and the cause of a sudden loss of jobs.

“In every case, it was a lie.”

[Abridged from www.haiti-liberte.com .]

 

 

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