Posts Tagged ‘Warfare and Conflict’

WikiLeaks Announces Release 7x the Size of the Iraq War

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Picture of Julian Assange during a talk at 26C3

Picture of Julian Assange during a talk at 26C3


Stan Schroeder

WikiLeaks has announced an important release on its Twitter account, claiming it’ll be seven times bigger than the Iraq war logs, which are widely considered to be the biggest military leak in history.

“Next release is 7x the size of the Iraq War Logs. intense pressure over it for months. Keep us strong” was the message posted to the Wikileaks Twitter account earlier today.

The message was followed by an even bolder statement two hours later: “The coming months will see a new world, where global history is redefined.”

WikiLeaks is an organization that publishes submissions of otherwise unavailable documents, keeping the sources anonymous. It has published nearly 500,000 secret U.S. documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange found himself in the center of a rape scandal. The rape charges against him were initially dropped, but the case still looms over Assange’s head, with the Swedish court recently approving a motion to bring him into custody for questioning.

No details about the upcoming release have been revealed, but the fact that it was mentioned in the same context as the Iraq war logs points to another military-related leak. What do you think Wikileaks will announce? Please, share your opinions in the comments.

Copyright © 2010 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.



In the Case of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Torture Apologists Are Everywhere

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Andy Worthington


“Terror ruling threatens civilian prosecutions,” screamed the Los Angeles Times last Thursday. “Ruling in ’98 East Africa embassy bombings is setback for US,” wailed the Washington Post.

The headline writers were referring to the federal court trial, in New York, of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a former CIA “ghost prisoner” (for two years and two months), who was then held at Guantánamo for two years and eight months before his transfer to the US mainland in May 2009 to face charges of involvement in the 1998 African embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, in which 224 people were killed, including 12 Americans. Pre-trial hearings had proceeded smoothly, as had jury selection two weeks ago, so what on earth happened last Wednesday that could have prompted such a “threat” and a “setback” to his trial?

The answer, sadly, reveals the depths to which both respect for the law and abhorrence of torture have been sidelined or banished in post-9/11 America. The prompt for those shocking headlines was the refusal of the judge in Ghailani’s case, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, to accept information derived through the use of torture, and, specifically, his refusal to allow the government to use its star witness, a man whose identity had only been revealed by Ghailani while he was being tortured in a secret CIA prison.

This is what Judge Kaplan wrote in a three-page order denying the government’s intention to use the testimony of Hussein Abebe, a Tanzanian taxi driver described by prosecutors as a “giant witness,” who, as the Washington Post explained, was “expected to testify that he sold Ghailani the TNT used in the bombing.”

The court has not reached this conclusion lightly. It is acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world we live in. But the Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. To do less would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which we stand.

When I read those words, I was delighted that Judge Kaplan had delivered such a ringing endorsement of the US Constitution, and, specifically, of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” I had, moreover, taken it for granted that people knew that information derived through the use of torture was prohibited in US courts, which was why much of the mainstream media’s response came as such a shock. Were those responsible for coming up with sensational headlines really trying to argue that information obtained through the use of torture should be allowed in a US court?

As it happened, media outlets like the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times were not actually making that argument behind their headlines, but by dwelling on the supposed significance of Judge Kaplan’s ruling for future Guantánamo trials, and by failing to openly acknowledge that he had done nothing more than uphold the law, they failed to present the story fairly.

In the Washington Post, for example, the headline was followed up by a claim that Judge Kaplan’s ruling “could complicate any effort by the Obama administration to revive its plans to put major al-Qaeda figures held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on trial in civilian courts in the United States.” It was not until later in the article that this claim was challenged, and was challenged not by a liberal commentator, but by Charles D. “Cully” Stimson, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs in the Bush administration and now a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, who pointed out that the ruling was not necessarily damaging at all. “It would be dangerous to interpret this ruling as forever foreclosing or damaging the possibility of other cases coming to federal court because each case is sui generis,” Stimson explained.

As well as being irresponsible in terms of respecting the US Constitution, another reason this type of reporting was so inadvisable was because it appeared to give weight to other parties who were all too willing to attack Judge Kaplan in order to advance their own agenda. These commentators, who support trials by Military Commission, are desperate for federal court trials to fail, so that they can justify their insistence that all suspected terrorists should be tried by Military Commission at Guantánamo.

This point of view, which is based on ideology rather than common sense, relies on the false assertion — essential to the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” — that terrorists are “warriors” rather than criminals, and its supporters maintain their point of view in spite of compelling evidence that the Commissions have been an abject failure, securing only four convictions, and permanently blighted by the fact that they have been established to try non-existent “war crimes,” whereas the federal courts have an established track record of successfully convicting terrorists in hundreds of cases.

Moreover, in dealing with these differing points of view, the Washington Post again muddied the waters. Even though “Cully” Stimson explained that “It’s not clear the outcome would have been any different in a commission,” the Post suggested that the rules of the Military Commission “nonetheless appear to contemplate the admission of evidence derived from statements obtained through torture or cruel treatment if a military judge finds that the evidence ‘would have been obtained even if the statement had not been made’ or the ‘use of such evidence would otherwise be consistent with the interests of justice.’”

The Post may technically be correct, although the possibility of torture evidence being allowed has not yet been thoroughly tested in the Military Commissions. More importantly, however, raising these questions unnecessarily diverts attention from what is happening in New York. As Attorney General Eric Holder explained when Judge Kaplan issued his ruling, “We intend to proceed with this trial,” and on Sunday, in a letter from the office of the United States attorney in Manhattan, the government conceded that it would not challenge Judge Kaplan’s ruling, pointing out that, although it “respectfully disagreed with the court’s decision and believes that, under different circumstances, it would merit review by the Court of Appeals,” an appeal would cause “a delay of uncertain, and perhaps significant, length,” which, as the New York Times explained, “could have greatly inconvenienced many foreign witnesses who had already arrived in New York, based on the original starting date, and others who had made plans based on that date.”

More to the point, and largely overlooked in the often overblown reporting of last week, is the fact that, before his two years in secret CIA prisons when he was subjected to the use of torture, Ghailani had already been indicted (back in 1998) for his involvement in the African embassy bombings, and could — and should — have been tried in federal court after he was first captured in Pakistan in 2004.

This, after all, is what happened with four of his alleged co-conspirators, who were tried in federal court in 2001, after a process of interrogation that did not involve the use of secret prisons and torture. After being convicted in May 2001, they were sentenced to life without parole in October 2001, just six weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

With Judge Kaplan’s necessary intervention last week, the way has been paved for Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani also to be tried without use of the fruits of torture, and if — as seems unlikely — the government does not have untainted evidence with which to convict him, then the only just response is for the government to set him free.

This, of course, is another contentious idea, and one that Judge Kaplan acknowledged when, as the Washington Post described it, he stated that Ghailani “could probably continue to be held as ‘something akin to a prisoner of war’ even if he were found not guilty.” If that were to happen, it would, understandably, open up a new seam of bitter controversy, but we are not there yet, and in the meantime, Judge Kaplan’s decision to uphold the Constitution should be celebrated, and those tempted to turn Ghailani’s trial into some sort of circus should focus instead on the previous convictions for the 1998 bombings, which suggest that enough untainted evidence exists to secure a conviction that will validate the federal court approach and cast further doubt on the purpose and viability of the Military Commissions.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

As published exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation, as “Terror and the Ghailani case.”

:: Article nr. 70712 sent on 13-oct-2010 14:47 ECT


Raids on Activists May Indicate FBI Abuse of Power

October 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Yana Kunichoff

(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: mar is sea Y, leslie feinberg)

t r u t h o u t

On the heels of a series of FBI raids on anti-war activists, an FBI whistleblower and constitutional rights groups are calling out the agency for overstepping its bounds, fearing that its increased powers could infringe on First Amendment rights and silence dissent.

Agents searched the homes of anti-war activists in Chicago, Minneapolis, Michigan and Durham, North Carolina in the last two weeks of September, along with the offices of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee, confiscating computers, cell phones, large amounts of paper and financial records, according to the activists and their attorneys.

“The FBI raids seem to reflect the latest actions by a recidivist agency that has lost sight of its mission to protect public safety,” Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and the People’s Campaign for the Constitution told Truthout.

According to the subpoenas, the activists, who were involved in labor causes, the anti-war movement and the Arab American Action Network, are being investigated for contact they may have had with members of Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The spokesman for the FBI in Minneapolis said, “the warrants are seeking evidence in support of an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism.”

All the individuals involved in the raids denied their connections to terrorist organizations, and said any meetings or contact they may have had with the groups were perfectly legal.

Jess Sundin, of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee, noted that when she met FARC rebels in Colombia in 2000, the Colombian government was holding peace talks with the rebels at a public forum, where she met them. Sundin said she has had no contact with FARC since.

The FBI has come under attack recently from a string of reports and investigations that showcase an unfair targeting of activists.

Just days before the raids of activists in the Midwest and North Carolina, the Department of Justice released a report finding that between 2001 and 2006, the FBI kept tabs on activists affiliated with Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), Catholic Workers and Quakers. According to the report, the agency improperly placed these individuals on terrorist watch lists, and gave inaccurate and misleading information to Congress and the public about its activities.

“The Bureau’s standard for undercover activities is known neither by the public nor Congress,” Buttar wrote in an op-ed in Truthout earlier this year. “Intelligence agencies may justifiably pursue clandestine activities, but should not operate according to secret rules – at least not in countries that claim to lead the free world.”

The FBI disclosed part of its policy following a Freedom of Information Act request made by Buttar, but the section on undercover infiltration has remained secret.

A two-year Washington Post investigation, “Top Secret America,” detailed the extent of domestic spying and found that the web it wove was so widespread it had become entirely unwieldy: “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

James R. Clapper, then undersecretary of defense for intelligence and now director of national intelligence, told the investigators in June 2010, “There’s only one entity in the entire universe that has visibility on all SAPs [Special Access Programs] – that’s God.”

Colleen Rowley, a former FBI agent and whistleblower, told Truthout it was “breathtaking to recognize the irony” of the raids on individuals involved in left-leaning, domestic, advocacy groups only days after the flurry of criticism against the agency’s mode of operation.

Rowley, who left the FBI in 2004 after 24 years with the agency, said the blunders were part of a wider change in FBI rules and the ways it evaluates success.

Quantitative rather than qualitative evaluation now means that individual agents are under increased pressure to meet targets, Rowley said, which is evidenced by recent reports of FBI cheating on internal tests.

On September 27, 2010, an internal FBI investigation found widespread cheating on a test related to Bush-era guidelines on justification needed to target a domestic group. The investigators “found test-taking conduct that constituted cheating and abuse, such as the use of answer sheets when taking the exam,” which Rowley considers further justification of the response: “Oh my gosh, how can they be continuing after this!”

The 2001 Patriot Act loosened restrictions on domestic information gathering by law enforcement agencies, but even these powers have been exploited by the FBI, notes Buttar – three separate reports in 2007, 2008 and 2010 document abuse of the powers extended by President George W. Bush after the attacks on 9/11.

Both Buttar and Rowley said that the erosion of FBI constraints reached a new level in 2008 – the Mukasey Guidelines, meant to provide consolidated standards for agents to follow, effectively switched the presumption of one of proving guilt to proving innocence.

FBI Director Robert Mueller testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that FBI agents could not exercise surveillance in the absence of “suspicion,” but later amended his statement in a note to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois). In his note, according to The Associated Press, Mueller said that the FBI “must have a proper purpose before conducting surveillance, but suspicion of wrongdoing is not required.”

Much of the FBI’s abuses have been painted as overhangs of the Bush era, but Rowley notes that current president Barack Obama is a constitutional lawyer, and a Supreme Court case that she calls “the most recent nail in the coffin” was put through under the Obama administration.

The legal prohibitions in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project make it a crime to provide support, including humanitarian aid, literature distribution and political advocacy, to any groups that the United States government has designated as a “terrorist” group. The 12-year case, a challenge to the material support statute, was concluded this summer with the Supreme Court voting 6-to-3 that the statute’s prohibitions on expert advice, training, service and personnel were not vague and did not violate speech rights.

But Buttar, Rowley and William Quigley, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the loose definition of “material support” could criminalize political speech and humanitarian aid, and by extension, the right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Quigley noted that the raids on anti-war activists “would have been thought totally ridiculous before the Supreme Court case.”

“It is still ridiculous, but now also ominous. Whether this is a policy decision by the Department of Justice and the Obama administration or whether this is just a few over-zealous FBI agents we don’t know yet,” Quigley continued, “but unfortunately the people who are targeted are going to be the guinea pigs for the rest of us to find this out.”

At a grand jury hearing held Tuesday in Chicago, the activists who had their homes raided refused to testify and assist the government investigation of their activities.

For Rowley, the focus of the raids on individuals who have been involved with anti-war movements indicates an extreme illogic in American national security policy – “the mentality to believe that if you are against the war on terror that somehow makes you a terrorist.”

The raids on the homes of activists “did signal that the war on terror,” Rowley said, “has now been turned inward on domestic advocacy groups.”

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.


A Senseless War Begins Its 10th Year

October 8, 2010 Leave a comment

…an address to the nation from President Barack Obama (as reported by Michael Moore)

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

My Fellow Americans:

Nine years ago today we invaded the nation of Afghanistan. I’d just turned 40. I had a Discman and an Oldsmobile and had gotten really into LiveJournal. That was a long time ago. It was so long ago, does anybody remember why we’re even there? I think everyone wanted to capture Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. But he got away sometime in the first month or so. He left. We stayed. Looking back now, that makes no sense.

Needing to find a new reason for the mission, we decided to overthrow the religious extremists who were running Afghanistan. Which we did. Sorta. Unlike Osama, they never left. Why not? Well, they were Afghans, it was their country. And, strangely enough, a lot of other Afghans supported them. To this day, the Taliban only have 25,000 armed fighters. Do you really think an army that tiny could control and suppress a nation of 28 million against their will? What’s wrong with this picture? WTF is really going on here?

The truth is, I can’t get an answer. My generals can’t quite tell me what our mission is. If we went in there to rout out al-Qaeda, well, they’re gone too. The CIA tells me there are under 100 of them left in the whole country!

My generals have also admitted the following to me:

1. There is no way we can defeat the Taliban. They enjoy too much popular support in the rural areas, the majority of the country.

2. Even though we’ve been there nine years, the truth is the Taliban, not us, not the Afghan government, control the country. After nine years, we’ve only completely run the Taliban out of 3% of Afghanistan.

3%!! (Just for reference, it took us only ELEVEN MONTHS after D-Day to entirely defeat the Nazis across all of Europe.)

3. Our troops and their commanders are still trying to learn the language, the culture, the customs of Afghanistan. The fact is, our troops are simply not trusted by the average people (especially after they’ve killed numerous civilians, either through recklessness or for sport).

4. The Afghan government we installed is corrupt beyond belief. The public does not trust them. President Karzai is on anti-depressants and our advisors tell us he is erratic and loopy on many days. His brother has a friendly relationship with the Taliban and is believed to be a major poppy (heroin) dealer. Heroin poppies are the #1 contributor to the Afghan economy.

The war in Afghanistan is a mess. The insurgency grows — and why wouldn’t it: foreign troops have invaded and occupied their country! The people responsible for 9/11 are no longer there. So why are we? Why are we offering up the lives of our sons and daughters every single day — for no reason anyone can define.

In fact, the only reason I can see is that this war is putting billions of profits into the pockets of defense contractors. Is that a reason to stay, so Halliburton can post a larger profit this quarter?

It is time for me to bring our troops home — right now. Not one more American needs to die. Their deaths do not make us safer and they do not bring democracy to Afghanistan.

It is not our mission to defeat the Taliban. That is the job of the Afghan people — if that is what they choose to do. There are many groups and leaders of countries in this world who are despicable. We are not going to invade 30 countries and remove their regimes. That is not our job.

I am not going to stay in Afghanistan just because we’re already there and we haven’t “won” yet. There is nothing to win. No one from Genghis Khan to Leonid Brezhnev has been able to win there. So the troops are coming home.

I refuse to participate in scaring the American people with a phony “War on Terror.” Are there terrorists? Yes. Will they strike again? Sadly, yes. But these terrorist acts are few and far between and should not dictate how we live our daily lives or make us ignore our constitutional rights. They should never distract us from what our real priorities are in making our country safe and secure: Everyone with a good job, families able to own a home and send their kids to college, universal health care that’s coordinated by your elected representative government — not by greedy, profit-hungry insurance companies. THAT would be true homeland security.

And what about Osama bin Laden? Nine years and we can’t find a 6’5″ Arab man who apparently is on dialysis? Even after offering $25 million to anyone who will tell us where he is? You don’t think someone would have taken us up on that by now?

Here’s what I know: Osama bin Laden is a multi-millionaire — and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the rich is that they don’t live in caves for 9 years. Bin Laden is either dead or hiding out in a place where his money protects him. Or maybe he just went home.

Just like we should do. Now. My condolences to the families of all who died in this war. Most of them signed up after 9/11 and wanted to do their duty because we were attacked. But we were not attacked by a country. We were attacked by a few religious extremists. And you don’t defeat a few thugs by shipping halfway around the world thousands of armored vehicles and hundreds of thousands of soldiers. That is just sheer idiocy.

And it ends tonight.

God be with you.

I’m not a Muslim.

(End of speech, as transcribed by Michael Moore)

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The Altars of Fear: Wrong Turns on a Long, Dark Road

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

The normal model of asset price movements does...

Image via Wikipedia

By Chris Floyd

All across Europe, thousands of people have been taking to the streets in angry protests against the “austerity measures” being imposed upon them by their governments. A general strike in Spain. Mass protests in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, France, Lithuania, Belgium and several other nations. Legislators in Iceland had to literally run and hide from their own citizens at the opening of the nation’s parliament this week.

Why, ask the outraged crowds, should our lives be degraded in order to pay for the crimes and follies of the financial elite – who are richer, more powerful and more arrogant than ever today, despite having plunged the world into economic catastrophe?

The Europeans, forever cast in American myth as fey, feckless, wine-sipping weaklings, have roused themselves to such an extent that the UN is now warning of years of “social unrest” due to the policies of the austerity zealots — policies which are greatly exacerbating unemployment (with all the inevitable knock-on effects throughout the economy), while severely corroding the physical and social infrastructure of whole nations. Although the European public might be compelled to submit in the end — by brute force, if necessary, as governments call out club-wielding cops to put down dissent — at least they are not going quietly.

The same can’t be said for the big, bold, burly American public, who for years have meekly submitted to the ever-accelerating deterioration of their lives and communities with nary a peep of protest. Trillions of their dollars are spent on murderous, pointless, wasteful rampages of war-profiteering in foreign lands, on obscene handouts and “guarantees” for the silk-suited scamsters of Wall Street, and on the monstrous expansion of a covert security apparatus that is seeking to invade and control every aspect of their lives — but the American people say nothing and do nothing.

But perhaps we are being unfair in such a harsh judgment. After all, it’s not entirely true that Americans have completely eschewed protest, is it? In fact, the news has been filled with stories of mass protests across the United States for months on end, with angry citizens taking to the streets — and the ballot boxes — to register their stern displeasure.

And what has displeased them so, what has moved them from the quiet simmering of discontent to explosions of public protest? Is it those trillions spent on pointless wars? Is it the coddling of the super-rich? Is it the degradation of their daily lives, and the darkening of their children’s future by endless war and lost opportunities in a system skewed sharply — and punitively — toward the needs and greeds of powerful elites? Is it the runaway encroachment of civil liberties? Is it mass unemployment, and the relentless rollback of public services essential to a dignified and civilized life?

No, it is none of these. While the Europeans protest for jobs and dignity, Americans pour out into the streets in angry demonstrations against the very idea of helping the poor and the economically devastated, or putting the slightest restraint on the rapacious super-rich. The Europeans protest actual policies, while our American “dissidents” froth and rant about a fantasy world of “socialist” programs that only benefit shiftless darkies and sneaky, border-crossing ‘Messicans — and, of course, the devil-worshiping Muslims, who are plotting every hour to poison the precious bodily fluids of real Americans and take over the country from within.

The American protesters vociferously denounce the healthcare “reform” bill — not because it is actually a gargantuan corporate boondoggle deliberately crafted to kill off the chance for any genuine reform of the system for generations, but because they believe it is communist Muslim atheist Nazi socialism, and because a few slivers of the boondoggle might possibly trickle down to help a few of those darkies and Messicans. (Although in fact it will imprison them in an inhumane system of corporate control.) They protest against the laughably anemic “financial regulations” that the Administration has meekly proposed for its masters on Wall Street — PR measures, tissue-paper thin, that fall miles short of the kind of mild regulations that operated during America’s greatest periods of growth and broad-based prosperity.

Fantasy is a key component of this elite-funded “protest” movement, which relies strongly on “Big Lies” to stoke the fires of racism, resentment, victimhood and self-righteousness at its proto-fascist core. The primary example of this is of course the entirely manufactured controversy over the “Ground Zero mosque.” The element of complete fabrication in this case has been overlooked to some extent. I think it is more portentous, and dangerous, than many have realized. Obviously, there have been elements of fantasy and/or exaggeration in almost all of the shibboleths that have fueled these right-wing eruptions over the years (not to mention bipartisan state policy: e.g., the Gulf of Tonkin, Saddam’s phantom WMD, etc.); but few have involved lies that can be easily disproved in an instant, with plain, simple, indisputable facts, by anyone, requiring no specialist knowledge, no whistleblown secrets, no expert interpretation.

There is, of course, no mosque being built at the site of the 9/11 attacks. To say otherwise is a complete falsehood; it is a statement without the slightest element of truth or fact in it. It is the precise equivalent of saying that the moon fell down last night and landed on the Washington Monument. Yet this Big Lie has reverberated across the country like few others in recent years. Millions of people believe it, believe it fervently, and what’s more, also believe that the “mosque” is being built there by Islamic extremists as a “trophy” to celebrate the 9/11 attacks.

This radical lie — eagerly propagated by corporate chieftains like Rupert Murdoch and allowed to fester unchallenged for weeks by the establishment media — has roused multitudes to angry protests, to attacks on mosques and Islamic centers, and to outpourings of open, unabashed ethnic hatred against Muslims that, yes, echo the anti-Semitism of Nazi-era Germany. (See the much-feted establishment grandee Martin Peretz for a prime example.) Muslim Americans who have lived happily integrated with their communities for decades now feel cast out, threatened by nationally-amplified voices accusing them of disloyalty, of sinister conspiracies to enslave and oppress their fellow citizens, to destroy America and turn it over to its enemies, etc. — again, tropes which are instantly and alarmingly familiar to anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the febrile hatreds that boiled and churned in Germany between the world wars.

Yet although the main engine currently stoking this hatred is a deliberate and transparent lie, there are people barreling into power on it. In North Carolina, the Republican candidate Ilario Pantano has made the lie a centerpiece of his campaign. As Justin Elliot reports at, Pantano is a former Marine who became a “hero” to the militarist Right for killing two unarmed Iraqis in his charge, filling them with 60 rounds of lead. He boasted that he had intentionally shredded the unarmed men to pieces in order to terrorize Iraqis into compliance with the unprovoked American invasion and occupation of their country. Based on the testimony other Marines who saw the incident and felt the slaughter was unjustified, Pantano faced murder charges. But the top brass came to his rescue and dropped the charges.

Now Patano has seized on the “Ground Zero mosque” to push his campaign against a “conservative” Democrat — the usual timeserver who is in thrall to the corporatism and militarism that his party fully shares with its opponents. In a conservative district, in an anti-incumbent year, Patano has a very good chance of riding the Big Lie — and his thuggish rep for killing the unarmed — into Congress.

These then are the issues — or rather, the resentful fears and hateful fantasies — that bring Americans out into the street these days. The wars that are devouring the lives of their children and the national treasury, and leading to an ever-more unstable world of violence and hatred — such things don’t move them. Torture, spying on citizens, death squads of American killers roaming the world, presidential assertions of a universal license to kill and incarcerate without due process — these provoke no anger, no protest. States shutting down or sharply curtailing schools, parks, road programs, electricity and sewer services, garbage pick-up, aid to the sick and elderly — they don’t care. Greedy corporations utterly befouling the water and the air, poisoning the earth for generations to come — no problem; in fact, we should champion these planet-rapers and protect them from all restraint.

But which, in the end, is worse: proto-fascist fantasy, or the reality of “savvy” progressives in power? Or rather: what, in the end, is the difference? This site has catalogued innumerable crimes committed — knowingly, deliberately, realistically — by the “most progressive administration in a generation”: crimes against humanity, crimes against liberty. Many other sites have done the same, for more comprehensively. To support this administration is to countenance and collude in those crimes. It is to reward those crimes, and guarantee their continuance, no matter which faction of corporate-sponsored militarists and moral lunatics take power.

So what is the answer? I don’t know if there is any “answer” to our plight. I have been following American politics for more than 40 years, and it has been a process of almost unremitting degeneration, punctuated by a very few isolated moments when it seemed a sliver of light was shining in the darkness, pointing toward the possibility of another, different path. But in truth, by the time I first became actively aware of the political process, in the presidential election of 1964, most of the bright, brief flashes had already come and gone, either killed outright or else deeply corrupted.

For example, one of brightest of those lights, the Civil Rights movement, had by then reached its high-water mark and was fragmenting under the covert assault of the national security apparatus, the intransigence of the power structure, the hostility of the white majority, and its own internal contradictions — chiefly the attempt to find justice, equality and peace in a system that was inherently unjust, unequal and violent. Martin Luther King Jr. was coming to recognize those contradictions, broadening his critique of the system to include the elitist economic structure and the murderous violence of empire. He was also becoming a more and more isolated, death-haunted figure, as if he could see the cynosure closing — although until the end he raged against the dying of the light.

The War on Poverty was another flash. Lyndon Johnson’s speeches about lifting “our brothers and sisters” out of the endemic suffering of poverty sound today not only like oratory from another age but also from another planet. His rhetoric assumed a moral imperative of compassion toward our fellow human beings, a value to be placed at the very heart of our collective life and our instruments of governance. But Johnson, not only a product but the very quintessence of a deeply corrupt system of bribes, backroom deals and bullshit, never genuinely challenged the forces that engendered the suffering of poverty in the first place. And his total capitulation to the War Machine meant that even his weak and compromised stabs at building a “Great Society” were starved of funds, left to malfunction and deteriorate, tainting the ideals behind them in the minds of the public. He too ended his days isolated and death-haunted, with the blood of hundreds of thousands of people killed in an imperial war — which he himself admitted to intimates was pointless and unwinnable — hounding him like furies to his grave.

There were other moments — such as the Church Committee, hearing which for a time held out the possibility of reining in the murderous, liberty-devouring “national security” apparatus. But this too was swiftly quashed, and that same apparatus has metastasized into a monstrous cancer that has completely devoured the state, which now serves merely as its withered appendage and dogsbody. The impeachment of Richard Nixon — for petty partisan sneakery, not the high war crimes of which he was manifestly, even proudly guilty — seemed like another potential break in the gloom, but came to nothing; in just a few years time, he was a wealthy, respected elder statesman. And so it has gone with every such moment, although each has left some worthy fragments.

Now, I am no idealist. I don’t long for cleansing fires to scour all evil from society, or for the imposition of grand schemes of human perfection or divine order. Like André Chénier, the poet-journalist who went down in the flood of the French Revolution, I aspire to be one of those “men upright and unvarying in their principles, who want to neither lead nor follow parties, and who abhor all intrigue.” I would much rather not concern myself with politics at all. A well-turned phrase — or a well-turned ankle — holds immensely more meaning for me than the machinations of third-rate wretches splashing in the fetid pool of office-seeking. By “slivers of light” I mean only potential opportunities to arrest the pace of our degeneration, and get us to a place where the ordinary corruption endemic to human nature and every single political system devised by human nature operates on its usual vast scale.

In the face of the truly hideous reality of today, where murder, tyranny, war and injustice are the accepted, defended, lauded tools of the trade for “progressive” power-holders, and the only thing that rouses public outrage are proto-fascist fantasies, I don’t see any glimpse of light anywhere. I can’t even see a way to get to a place where we might see a glimpse of something that might point us to a path toward something different, something better. That could just be a failure of vision, and a lack of knowledge, on my part. I don’t know. I hope so.

But for now, all I know to do is to fall back on the bedrock need to bear witness, to speak for the human and the humane in the midst of what seems to be implacable and unbreakable horror all around. To refuse cooperation with evil, in whatever partisan garb it wears. To shore one fragment after another against the ruins, and wait for a glint of broken light to appear.

UPDATE: A Saturday rally in Washington by unions and other groups did turn out several thousand people, calling for more jobs, tax hikes on the rich, immigration reform and defending public services. This, as they say, is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, although it falls far short of the angry, obstreperous crowds in Europe, who are not wanly supplicating their leaders for a few crumbs but demanding action to preserve their quality of life.

However, one’s heart sinks to see the event’s organizers, and some of the participants, describing it as a get-out-the-vote effort for the Democrats, and a show of support for Obama. Given the horrendous record of the president and his party in prosecuting savage and wasteful wars, overt and covert, all over the world; setting up unaccountable, “extrajudicial” death squads and hit lists; continuing and expanding Bush’s assault on civil liberties; aiding and abetting the ever-widening disparity in wealth and opportunity between the sliverous elite and the collapsing middle class and the already poor — not to mention the president’s clear intent, with his stacked-deck “Catfood Commission,” to gut Social Security, one of the last remaining shreds of America’s never-robust or extensive “safety net,” just as soon as the election is over — what in God’s name do they think the Democrats will actually do to advance the organizers’ stated “core principles” of “jobs, justice and education,” should the party manage to cling to Congressional power in November? There will be no money to support these principles, for one thing; it will all go to the wars, to the burgeoning security apparatus, and to the sacred goal of “deficit reduction.” And Obama and the Democrats have already demonstrated, amply, that they have no will or desire to advance these principles or put them into action in any event.

I don’t want to belittle the efforts and hopes of thousands of poor and working people who showed up at the rally to fight for a better life. In that, I wish them every success. And I’m glad to see some counterblast in the public square to the violent fantasies of the proto-fascists. But I believe that if your ultimate goal is simply to perpetuate the status quo of rule by two scarcely indistinguishable political factions, both deeply dedicated to militarist empire and the crushing dominance of financial elites, then you will not stop the accelerating degradation of American society or light a path to a genuinely new direction. Instead, the war, murder, chaos and decay will go on, breeding more blowback from abroad and instability at home, and thus giving more fuel to the proto-fascists and their paymasters.

Author’s Bio: Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many others. He is the author of Empire Burlesque: High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium, and is co-founder and editor of the “Empire Burlesque” political blog. Original Content at

October 3, 2010


Failed Washington-Sponsored Ecuadorean Coup Attempt

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, in Ri...

The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, in Rio de Janeiro

October 1, 2010

By Stephen Lendman

Failed Washington-Sponsored Ecuadorean Coup Attempt – by Stephen Lendman

Post-9/11, Washington sponsored four coup d’etats. Two succeeded – mostly recently in Honduras in 2009 against Manuel Zelaya, and in Haiti in 2004 deposing Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Two others failed – in Venezuela in 2002 against Hugo Chavez, and on September 30 in Ecuador against Rafael Correa – so far. Two by Bush, two by Obama with plenty of time for more mischief before November 2012.

From his record so far, expect it. He continues imperial Iraq and Afghanistan wars and occupations. In addition, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Lebanon, North Korea, and other countries are targeted, besides deploying CIA and Special Forces armies into at least 75 countries worldwide for targeted assassinations, drone attacks, and other disruptive missions.

More than ever under Bush and Obama, America rampages globally, Ecuador’s Raphael Correa lucky to survive a plot to oust (or perhaps kill) him. September world headlines explained, including by New York Times writer Simon Romero headlining, “Standoff in Ecuador Ends With Leader’s Rescue,” saying:

“Ecuadorean soldiers stormed a police hospital Thursday night in Quito where President Rafael Correa was held by rebellious elements of the police forces, and rescued him amid an exchange of gunfire….”

AlJazeera explained more in an article headlined, “Ecuador declares state of emergency,” saying:

Coup plotters shut down airports, blocked highways, burned tires, and “rough(ed) up the president.” They also took over an airbase, parliament, and Quito streets, the pretext being a law restructuring their benefits, despite Correa doubling police wages.

In fact, Washington’s fingerprints are on another attempt against a Latin leader, some (not all) of whose policies fall short of neoliberal extremism.

A tipoff was State Department spokesman, Phillip Crowley, saying we’re “monitoring (not denouncing) the situation,” much like it refused to condemn Zelaya’s ouster, instead calling on “all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law, and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.” Most other Latin states demanded his “immediate and unconditional return,” whether or not they meant it.

Washington opposes Correa for Ecuador’s ties to Hugo Chavez and Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) membership, a WTO/NAFTA alternative based on principles of:

— complementarity, not competition;

— cooperation, not exploitation; and

— respect for each nation’s sovereignty, free from corporate and outside control.

Though falling short of these goals, ALBA nations, in principle, pledged:

— to benefit and empower their citizens;

— provide essential goods and services; and

— achieve real grassroots economic growth to improve the lives of ordinary people and reduce poverty.

ALBA membership, however, signals opposition to US hegemony, especially its neoliberal model, dominance, dismissiveness, and one-way trade deals for the Global North over the South, the curse Latin states have endured for decades, besides earlier US-sponsored coups and belligerency.

Fast Moving Developments

Before his rescue, police spokesman Richard Ramirez told AP that “the chief of the national police, Gen. Freddy Martinez, presented Correa with his irrevocable resignation because of Thursday’s events.”

On October 1, the Russian Information Agency, Novosti headlined, “Ecuador in chaos as police put president in hospital,” saying:

Correa remained hospitalized….one person was killed and dozens injured during (street) riots.” After Ecuadorean military and special police forces rescued him, Correa told the national radio in a phone interview:

“This is a coup d’etat attempt by opposition forces. They resorted to (violence) because they will not win the election. I call on the citizens to stay calm.”

After being attacked by tear gas, he was hospitalized, then prevented from leaving when rebel police and coup supporters surrounded the building. Inside he said, “It seems that the hospital is under siege….(The) conspiracy (was) planned long ago,” and he knows where. He added, “I will leave (the hospital) as president, or they will have to carry my corpse out of here.”

His government declared a state of emergency. Flights from Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport were suspended, then resumed early October 1. In addition, scattered violence and looting was reported in several Ecuadorean cities, including the capital.

Freed by soldiers, a visibly angry Correa addressed a huge crowd of supporters from the presidential palace, saying:

“Ecuadorean blood, the blood of our brothers has been needlessly spilled. You have mobilized to support the national government….the citizens’ revolution, democracy in our fatherland. When we realized we couldn’t talk and wanted to leave, they attacked the president. They threw tear gas at us, straight at our faces. They had to take me to the police hospital where they held me hostage. They wouldn’t let me leave. They shamed the institution (the police). They will need to leave the ranks.”

While still captive, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino urged supporters to “walk peacefully to the hospital, where the president is blocked by (rebel) police officers.” On arriving, they shouted, “This is not Honduras. Correa is president. Down with the coup, down with the enemies of the people.”

Ecuador remains in flux. As a result, new developments need close monitoring. Writing for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Andres Ochoa said:

Before the coup attempt, “Correa seemed an untouchable figure in Ecuadorian politics. However, his presidency might very well be defined by the outcome of this day, and his political projects may rest on the results.”

A Final Comment

On October 1, AFP writer Alexander Martinez headlined, “Ecuador president rescued from police uprising,” saying:

Correa “made a triumphant return to the presidential palace after loyalist troops rescued him from a police rebellion amid gunfire and street clashes that left at least two dead” and dozens wounded.

“We got him out, we got him out,” Interior Vice Minister Edwin Jarrin told AFP.

“The rescue capped a dramatic day of violence and confusion that began early Thursday” when rebel police assaulted him.

After his rescue, Correa thanked the military and a police special operations unit, saying:

“If not for them, this horde of savages that wanted to kill, that wanted blood, would have entered the hospital to look for the president and I probably wouldn’t (be) telling you this because I would have passed on to a better life.” Supporters are grateful not yet.

Commenting on developments, Latin American expert James Petras explained that Ecuador’s “ELITE MILITARY” put down the coup. In 2008, Interior Minister Gustavo Jahlk “denounced” Washington “for subverting police.”

At the same time, there’s “legitimate protest by trade unions against Correa’s austerity plan, which the right exploited, seeing the pro-Correa forces divided.” In addition, some NGOs and “supposed Indian groups who tacitly supported the coup are on the take from America’s National Endowment of Democracy (NED) and USAID,” the usual suspects with a long disruptive history throughout the region and beyond.

Their operatives weren’t on the streets visibly, but they expressed no opposition to coup plotters. Instead, “Their statement called for the government’s replacement,” meaning it’s Obama administration policy – not for Correa’s domestic policies, says Petras. It’s for his “ties with US arch enemy Chavez and ALBA.”

Events remain fluid and fast moving. Stay tuned for more updates.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Author’s Bio: I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

Original Content at


Former premier says French government is sowing panic on terrorism

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Dominique de Villepin on 18 november 2003.

Image via Wikipedia

Sep 21, 2010, 9:20 GMT

Paris – Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin slammed Tuesday the government’s policy of alerting the public to terrorism threats, claiming it was only sowing ‘panic.’

Following false bomb threats against the Eiffel Tower and a Paris suburban train station on September 14, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux has repeatedly warned the French that they were under an increased terrorist threat.

At the weekend, after French media reported that Algerian intelligence had passed on a tip that a female suicide bomber could attack the Paris metro system, he said, ‘The threat is real, we have increased our vigilance.’

‘What’s important is to take measures, to act,’ Villepin told France Info radio. ‘There is no use in sowing panic throughout the country.’

Villepin, who is considering challenging President Nicolas Sarkozy for the 2012 presidential election, said the government was leading ‘a communication policy that was, at best, inept and sometimes even cynical.’

However, a retired magistrate who had specialized in terrorist crimes, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, told RTL radio Tuesday that it was ‘important to alert people. Terrorism is a reality. Vigilance must be raised.’

Bruguiere said that the terrorist threat against France was currently as high as it was in 1995, when several bombings were carried out in France, primarily in Paris, killing eight people and wounding more than 150.

It is widely believed that that terror group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is behind the current threats. The group is also believed to have carried out last week’s abduction of five French nationals and two others in northern Niger.