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Stage-Managing the War on Terror

Ensnaring Terrorists Demands Creativity

By Stephan Salisbury | TomDispatch | July 6, 2010

Informers have by now become our first line of defense in our battles with the evildoers, the go-to guys in the never-ending domestic war on terror. They regularly do the dirty work — suggesting and encouraging the plots, laboring as bag men to move the money, fashioning the bombs, and eliciting the flamboyant dialogue, even while following the scripts of their handlers to the letter.  They have attended to all the little details that make for the successful and now familiar arrests, criminal complaints, trials, and (for the most part) convictions in the ever-distracting war against… what? Al-Qaeda? Terror? Muslims? The inept? The poor?

The Liberty City Seven, the Fort Dix Six, the Detroit Ummah Conspiracy, the Newburgh Four — each has had their fear-filled day in the sun.  None of these plots ever came close to happening.  How could they? All were bogus from the get-go: money to buy missiles or cell phones or shoes and fancy duds — provided by the authorities; plans for how to use the missiles and bombs and cell phones — provided by authorities; cars for transport and demolition — issued by the authorities; facilities for carrying out the transactions — leased by those same authorities. Played out on landscapes manufactured by federal imagineers, the climax of each drama was foreordained. The failure of the plots would then be touted as the success of the investigations and prosecutions.

A band of virtually homeless and penniless men in Florida, we were told, were planning to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago.  They just needed the right combat boots to pull it off, and a little free money.

A cell of New Jersey roofers, handymen, and cab drivers was scheming to use a laminated pizza delivery map to guide them through a devastating attack on Fort Dix, the enormous military base in Burlington County, south of Trenton.

Ex-cons in Detroit, mostly known for patronizing a weekly soup kitchen to stave off hunger, were also planning to set up their own country in Michigan under Islamic law.

And a band of Orange County New York parolees and former drug peddlers placed bombs at two Bronx synagogues and was preparing to launch missile attacks on military cargo planes at Stewart National Guard Air Base in Newburgh.

In the Liberty City Seven case, which revolved around two informants paid in excess of $130,000 for their services, the government tried the hapless defendants three times before finally wresting a conviction from a jury. One defendant was acquitted at the first trial, another in the third, and five were eventually convicted of at least some terrorism-related charges. In the Fort Dix case, jurors were shown horrific films said to be on a computer owned by one of the defendants, who claimed an FBI informant demanded more and more videos for viewing.

Another defendant actually called the Philadelphia police, mid-plot, and said he was being pressured to commit radical acts by what turned out to be an FBI informer. Prosecutors dismissed this as an obvious decoy maneuver. The key informer in that case — the FBI eventually paid two people to spy on the group — an Egyptian on probation, received $236,000 for his services.

Most recently, this duplicitous landscape of war-on-terror “success” has been illuminated yet again by the case of four alleged Newburgh, New York, conspirators — the Newburgh Four — and in the botched arrest and fatal shooting (a first for federal authorities) of an African American imam in Detroit, leader of the so-called Ummah Conspiracy.  As the details have slowly emerged, these two cases offer vivid examples of how government-scripted many of the terror plots “uncovered” in the U.S. in recent years have turned out to be.  Each case, in fact, offers a window onto a stark world in which nothing is what it seems to be.

The “Un-Terrorism Case”

In the years following 9/11, when I was reporting my book, Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland, many defense and immigration attorneys I interviewed insisted that the mere mention of “terrorism” has often been enough to knock down any and all defenses.  In the Newburgh conspiracy, however, the federal judge, Colleen McMahon, has shown a more questioning attitude toward what, in a May 28, 2010, pre-trial hearing, she took to calling the “un-terrorism case.”

After their May 2009 arrests, the four Newburgh conspirators were portrayed as Jew-hating Muslim converts who intended to blow up synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes based at Stewart Airport in Newburgh. “It’s hard to envision a more chilling plot,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder at the time, describing the defendants as “extremely violent.”

The men were indeed arrested only after placing bogus bombs (courtesy of the FBI) near two Bronx synagogues. New York Police Chief Raymond Kelly said the plotters believed “it would be alright” to kill Jews. The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a statement noting that the uncovered plot cooked up by “the jihadist terrorists” showed “that the dangers from such fanaticism have not passed and that American Jews must maintain their vigilance.” New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg reiterated that vigilance remains a necessity for all concerned.

With their anti-Semitic bona fides established and the men caught in the act, all that seemed left was a perfunctory trial, followed by life in prison for James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams, and Laguerre Payen. A decade earlier, Cromitie had been arrested for dealing drugs behind a school. Payen, a Haitian immigrant, is a crack addict and certified paranoid schizophrenic, often found living on the street; his earlier deportation had been on hold due to his mental instability. Onta and David Williams, not related, had pasts pocked by drug busts and spotty work at minimum wage jobs scrounged from Newburgh’s depressed economy. All four men were black.

Almost immediately, however, questions about the conspiracy began to arise.  For one thing, the FBI informer who broke the case was a Pakistani named Shaheed Hussain, who arrived in Newburgh in the summer of 2008 driving a flashy Mercedes, showing lots of money, and promising jobs to down-and-out African American hangers-on at Masjid al-Ikhlas, Newburgh’s main mosque.  Convicted in a fraudulent driver’s license scheme in 2002, he agreed to work undercover for the FBI shortly afterward to avoid deportation and turned out to have been an informer in a previous terrorism case in Albany in 2004.

The Albany case, in which an imam and a pizza shop owner were convicted of money laundering as part of a phantasmagorical scheme to kill a Pakistani diplomat with a missile, was bitterly contested by defense attorneys.  They claimed that the elaborate plan had been concocted by Hussain himself. The jury didn’t buy it, convicting both imam and pizza shop owner.

The Newburgh case shares much with the Albany case, especially a fondness for baroque plotting, the flashing of great wads of money in front of needy people, and the aggressive use of an informant by the FBI in a house of worship, in this case Masjid al-Ikhlas. The intricate plotting and the use of an informer made it into the criminal complaint, but all that flashing money didn’t. There was no mention of the enticing job offers made by the seemingly well-to-do informer.  Nothing about his offer of a $250,000 payment for carrying out the plot. Nothing about the BMW he pushed on Cromitie, who didn’t even have a driver’s license. Nothing about the $25,000 he was ready to pay anyone willing to act as a “lookout.”

Maybe Cromitie wasn’t the brightest hustler in town, but he was quite capable of grasping the significance of such sums of money in distressed Newburgh. He assured Hussain that dangling cash would lure participants, no matter what. “They will do it for the money,” he said. “They’re not even thinking about the cause.”

Nor did the complaint mention, as the defense now maintains, that even the anti-Semitic talk was triggered by the informant.  He baited the defendants, telling them that Jews were responsible for the U.S. wars in the Middle East and for other acts of violence against Muslims. Cromitie had an unexpected reaction during one of these conversations, according to government transcripts. “I’m not gonna hurt anybody,” he said, after being badgered about possible attacks. “The plane thing… is out of the question.”

On the streets of Newburgh, relatives and neighbors say that they have never heard the four men even mention Jews or jihad, let alone link the two together in murderous rants. Lord McWilliams, the severely ill brother of David Williams, called such a characterization “crazy.” Hussain, he insisted, had promised his brother so much money that he would have been able to pay for the liver transplant that Lord desperately needed.

In fact, more substantial members of the mosque had pegged Shaheed Hussain as an informer almost the moment he arrived, but had no idea what to do about him. “Maybe the mistake we made was that we didn’t report him,” Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, imam at Masjid al-Ikhlas, told congregants shortly after the May 2009 arrests. “But how are we going to report the government agent to the government?”

The Ummah and the Death of an Imam

Money also played a role in the deadly Detroit case involving 53-year-old Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, born Christopher Thomas, and gunned down during a sting operation run by the FBI in a Dearborn, Michigan, warehouse on October 28th of last year. For at least three years, FBI informants had filed copious reports on the conversations and activities of Abdullah, as he ministered to his largely indigent congregation at Masjid al-Haqq, a mosque so poor it could not even pay property taxes in disintegrating Detroit. Al-Haqq was evicted from its long-time home on Michigan Avenue early in 2009 and moved its operation — a soup kitchen and religious services regularly attended by several dozen largely African American families, ex-convicts, former addicts and alcoholics, and homeless men and women — into a house on Clairmount Street on Detroit’s west side.

It is from this pathetic building, surrounded by an increasingly vacant and collapsing neighborhood, that the FBI contends Abdullah was plotting rebellion, hiding weapons, and planning efforts to move stolen goods. A 43-page criminal complaint describes Abdullah as “a highly placed leader of a nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group consisting primarily of African Americans” whose “primary mission is to establish a separate, sovereign Islamic state (‘The Ummah’) within the borders of the United States, governed by Shariah law.”

The complaint opens with page after page of over-the-top political trash talk, provided by three informants listening to (and sometimes recording) Abdullah’s sermons and conversations, tying the imam to H. Rap Brown, a 1960s radical and a former leader in the Black Panther Party now serving life in prison for the shooting deaths of two Georgia state troopers. According to the complaint, Abdullah was rarely without a gun or knife. He daydreamed about cop killing, engaged in elaborate revolutionary plotting, and enthusiastically told anecdotes about past violent encounters, largely with police. In effect, the complaint conjures up an old-time boogeyman: the angry, gun-toting Black Panther given over to “anti-government and anti-law enforcement rhetoric” — now dressed up with sympathy for Osama bin Laden.

But in its efforts to be all-inclusive, the complaint also features an extraordinary section that describes an FBI informant offering Abdullah $5,000 “to pay to have someone ‘do something’ during the 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit.” The imam rejected the offer. “Abdullah said he would not be involved in injuring innocent people for no reason,” the complaint blandly states. So much for entrapment on the political front.

Despite page after page of braggadocio from Abdullah, following the rebuff over Super Bowl violence, no further effort was apparently mounted to entice him into a terrorist “plot.” The complaint outlines no grounds for charges of treason, none for terrorism, and nothing even for a charge of material support for terrorism (that reliable catch-all used to ensnare dozens of American Muslims and institutions and even human-rights groups). Despite the heavy emphasis on descriptions of violent radicalism, the criminal complaint ultimately accuses Abdullah and several congregants of the pettiest of fencing operations — 54 powertools, 46 TVs, and the like — involving small amounts of money ($100, $200, $500).

FBI agents worked out a simple but comprehensive sting. Undercover operatives rented a warehouse and offered the imam and his congregants money for help in moving batches of furs and small electronic items. Money, goods, trucks, warehouse, and plans were all supplied by covert federal agents, and all activities were reported, virtually in real time, by informers close to Abdullah and inside the mosque.

Then, as the sting unfolded on October 28th, Abdullah was gunned down by FBI agents as they sought to round up the purported members of the fencing operation. No one else was harmed. The FBI claimed Abdullah fired first, killing a police dog, which was taken by helicopter to a veterinary hospital. After he was shot, the imam was handcuffed behind the back and dragged from the warehouse into a trailer full of TVs and other “stolen” goods.  Presumably, at this point he was dead, though no information has been released describing his condition or the circumstances of his removal from the warehouse. Abdullah’s body was photographed in the trailer and picked up by the Wayne County medical examiner, who then declined to release autopsy findings. The head of the local FBI office claimed that he was “comfortable with what our agents did” to protect themselves.

This whole murky incident with a still unfolding aftermath has caused deep anxiety and not a little anger in Detroit’s African American and Muslim communities. Why was the imam shot in the back? Why was the dog given emergency medical treatment and the imam handcuffed and dragged around? Was he dead when the shooting ended? Did he even have a gun?

Was Abdullah’s death an instance of score settling for his unrepentant association with Rap Brown, known as Jamil Abdullah al-Amin since the 1970s? In a conversation I had recently with a black leader in Philadelphia, he said that rumors are spreading on the street of nationwide interrogations of African American Muslims who, in the past, associated with al-Amin. (In Philadelphia, a mosque founded by civic-minded entrepreneur Kenny Gamble, well known for his efforts to assist the black community, has been attacked by anti-Islamic groups for its purported association with “The Ummah.”)

Members of Abdullah’s congregation and prominent Muslims in Detroit told me that Abdullah was indeed incensed by the poverty and racism he saw all around him and could indeed deliver harsh attacks on the government — but that hardly distinguished him in a city as ravaged and beaten down as Detroit. Moreover, those who knew Abdullah insist that they never heard him promote any violent separatist effort on behalf of any organization.

National Islamic organizations, such as the Muslim Alliance in North America, insist as well that “The Ummah” is nothing more than an association of largely African American mosques. (“Ummah” is an Arabic term that refers to the Muslim community.) The alliance calls the FBI description of the Ummah “an offensive mischaracterization.”  (Abdullah El-Amin, an imam at the largest African American Detroit mosque, told the New York Times that he had heard Abdullah discuss a separatism that would be “sort of like the Pennsylvania Dutch have their own communities and stuff.” There are similar comments from Abdullah in the criminal complaint.)

In any event, the indictment that followed Abdullah’s death, naming 11 of his congregants and associates, makes no mention of radical politics or the shadowy “Ummah” or “offensive jihad” — all highlighted in the earlier criminal complaint. The 11 were indicted as petty criminals, charged with selling and receiving stolen goods, tampering with vehicle identification numbers, and weapons offenses.

Many officials and organizations, including Congressman John Conyers, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, the local chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil-rights and advocacy organization, the ACLU, and the NAACP, have called for an investigation of the killing — calls unanswered so far by the Obama administration. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is reviewing the case. The state attorney general named a prosecutor to look into the matter after the FBI refused to hand over documents to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office because, the bureau said, the documents were “classified.”

In early June, Cyril Wecht, a well-known forensic pathologist asked by CAIR to review the autopsy findings (they were finally released in February), said Abdullah’s face was pierced by wounds and lacerations consistent with a dog attack. His jaw was fractured. Wecht also said there were two gunshot wounds in Abdullah’s back, not one. This prompted Wayne County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt to defend his findings and accuse Wecht of emotionalism, according to a Detroit Free Press report. “We don’t always say what others would like us to say,” Schmidt commented. “We can only describe what we see.”

As the wait for reviews and investigations and answers drags on, the immediate area served by Abdullah’s mosque —  blighted, black, and destitute — frays further, and is in danger of losing a small but critical social and economic resource. Abdullah ran a well-attended soup kitchen for years, worked to rid the neighborhood of gang violence, and sought to provide support for the poor, the homeless, and ex-convicts. His family and his depleted mosque are now struggling to keep the house of worship and soup kitchen going. Mosque attendance has plummeted and contributions, never robust, have evaporated; law-enforcement investigators continue to fan out through the community.

“People are still scared,” said Omar Regan, one of Abdullah’s 13 children, who makes his living as an actor, comedian, and motivational speaker based in Los Angeles. “They are still interrogating people. The more people push about injustice, the more they harass Muslims in that area [of Detroit]. My father took care of all these people. They leaned on him. He was a reason a lot of them didn’t commit suicide. They came for food. For shelter.”

Regan is incensed that the FBI provided the money to acquire stolen goods, the actual goods as well, and even the warehouses to store them in, while working out plans for moving the goods through informants and undercover employees clustered around Luqman Abdullah and the Masjid al-Haqq mosque. And now Omar Regan’s father is dead.

“It’s the FBI setting the whole thing up,” he lamented. “How can that be legal?”

It’s a question more and more people are asking as the war on terror grinds on, now directed by the Obama administration. If nothing else, the cases of the Newburgh Four and the Detroit Ummah Conspiracy show that street-smart accused conspirator James Cromitie knew what he was talking about when he said that chronically poor people will “do it for the money” and “don’t care about the cause.”

This simple fact underlies both the Detroit and Newburgh cases. The FBI contends that the Detroit sting was not about terror, but about mundane criminal activity. If that’s the case, why was the criminal complaint larded with characterizations of Luqman Abdullah’s supposed violent political views? What relevance does H. Rap Brown, now in prison, have to moving stolen goods in Dearborn?

Beyond that, what justification do federal authorities have for characterizing “the Ummah” as a threatening separatist movement? Many Muslim leaders argue that such a characterization is a fantasy akin to tales spun by the FBI’s most imaginative informers. Both Newburgh and Detroit are, indeed, instances of “unterrorism,” as the Newburgh judge said of the “plot” before her. Yet both are starkly framed by the on-going war on terror, both involve elaborate set-ups arranged by federal informers and covert agents, and both ensnared inept, virtually destitute black people scrambling to get by in post-racial America.

It remains to be asked: How expansive will the stage become for creative informers and their government directors now working the theater of the Great Recession?

Stephan Salisbury is cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His most recent book is Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland (Nation Books).  Catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Salisbury discusses how terror cases are created via entrapment and informers by clicking here, or to download to your iPod, click here.

[Note on sources: The criminal complaint for the Detroit Ummah conspiracy can be found in pdf file format by clicking here.]

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | Comments Off on Stage-Managing the War on Terror

The Fix Is In: Expect Democrats to Buckle

By Stephen Lendman | December 12, 2010

The criminal class in Washington is bipartisan. On core issues, Democrats are no different from Republicans. Expect more bluster before caving like Obama, enacting his deal with the devil worth up to $1 trillion dollars. The lion’s share goes to corporations and America’s wealthy, middle and low income workers getting crumbs. The fix is in. It’ll happen, promoted as stimulus to create jobs and revive economic growth. Not so. More on that below.

Given the makeup of both Houses, their voting records aren’t surprising. Getting reelected counts most. Under a corrupted electoral system, generous funding is needed, but wealthy and corporate donors expect lavish favors in return. They get them and much more.

As a result, Congress capitulates on virtually everything big money wants. Expect it again. Besides more handouts, preserving their tax breaks are key. Most congressional members, in fact, want their own kept. Otherwise, they’ll face big increases they don’t want and can avoid by benefiting from what they give millionaires, their own class. Read on.

Both the House and Senate are infested with millionaires. For some, their net worth exceeds $100 million. House examples include:

— Rep. Darrell Issa (R. CA), his maximum net worth estimated at $451 million;

— Rep. Jane Harman (D. CA), hers is $435 million;

— Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D. CA) up to $124 million; and

— Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D. CT), the House’s 25th richest member with nearly $27 million.

Senate ones include:

— John Kerry (D. MA) – heir through his wife to the HJ Heinz fortune; among their possessions, they own five homes with values well over $1 million each, the most expensive worth more than $9 million; he can afford them with a maximum net worth of $295 million;

— Mark Warner (D. VA), his at $283 million;

— Herb Kohl (D. WI), up to $231 million;

— Jay Rockefeller (D. WVA) at $136 million;

— Diane Feinstein (D. CA) $108 million;

— Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY) a meager $33 million; and

— the Senate’s 25th richest member – Ron Wyden (D-OR) a paltry $7 million.

No wonder the body is called a millionaires club. In fact, a multimillionaire’s one, hardly anyone not rich gets in.

On November 25, 2009, The New York Times Economix section headlined, “Your Senator Is (Probably) a Millionaire,” saying:

In 2008, about “two-thirds of United States senators were millionaires,” according to a Center for Responsive Politics (Open Secrets.org) analysis. In 2009, over half of House and Senate members reported net worth wealth at more than $1 million, 55 $10 million or more, and eight over $100 million.

In 2009, the median net worth of House members was $765,010, up from $645,503 in 2008. In the Senate, it was $2.38 million, compared to $2.27 million the previous year.

Most have considerable wealth. They want it preserved and increased, including by paying no more taxes than necessary, and in some cases, less if they can get away with it. One of Rep. Charles Rangel’s transgressions was not reporting rental income from a Dominican Republic vacation property as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income and assets on his financial disclosure statements. Perhaps also to the IRS, thinking he was too important to audit.

Open Secrets estimates Obama’s 2009 net worth at up to $7.7 million. Expect that figure to grow substantially, especially after leaving office. Estimates put Bill Clinton’s wealth at $200 million, his wife Hillary another $35 million. Who said public service doesn’t pay well?

Obama’s Full Court Press for Passage

Calling Obama an embattled president, Washington Post writer Dan Balz headlined, “Bill Clinton takes the White House stage, again,” saying:

To sell his tax deal, he got center stage, first together, “then solo in the White House briefing room, as Obama slipped away to a holiday party.” On a Friday afternoon, it “was certainly a head-turner,” Clinton “look(ing) like he might never leave, as he fielded questions” from an eager press corp.

His message:

“The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans and to maximize the chances that the economic recovery will accelerate and create more jobs and to minimize the chance that it will slip back.”

Prodding Democrats, he urged setting aside disagreements for the sake of the country and economy. Save your fights for later, he said, when Republicans try repealing other legislation they oppose.

On December 10, it was all Clinton, “still the center of attention and doing what he likes to do best,” trying to get Obama’s deal passed.

The Wall Street Journal was nonplussed, an editorial headlined, “Clinton and Obama for Bush,” said:

“We thought we’d seen everything in politics, but yesterday was truly miraculous: There in the White House press room was none other than former Democratic President Bill Clinton (with Obama) endors(ing) the” Bush era tax cuts, trying to mobilize reluctant Democrats and the party’s base for support.

On December 11, Wall Street Journal writer Jonathan Weisman called it “back to the future in the West Wing,” the “original practitioner of ‘triangulation.’ ” He called it compromise, saying “People do not see principled compromise as weakness. (It’s) an ethical thing to do.”

In fact, it’s a sellout. He won’t say it, nor Obama or supportive Democrats, even Bernie Sanders for eight hours on the Senate floor, performing rhetorically at best. Real filibusters don’t quit without succeeding. According to Senate historian Donald Ritchie, they occur “to prevent the majority from casting a vote.” Sanders spoke on Friday. A Monday vote is scheduled. Doing it then is what counts with others holding the floor nonstop.

Instead, after what he called “a long speech,” he concluded saying:

If “the American people are prepared to stand – and we’re prepared to follow them – I think we can defeat this proposal. I think we can come up with a better (one) which better reflects the needs of the middle class and working families of our country and, to me, most importantly, the children of our country. And with that, Madam President, I would yield the floor.”

No assertion he’ll be back on Monday, staying there with others uncompromisingly to kill the deal for a better one American families deserve. Instead, rhetorical bluster substitutes for resolute action, assuring wealth again defeats popular need. Democrats are as culpable as Republicans, showing not a dime’s worth of difference between them at voting time when it counts.

Another Big Gun for the Deal – David Broder

An earlier article exposed him as a symbol of major media depravity, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/11/david-broder-symbol-of-major-media.html

Called the “dean” of political journalists, he’s distinguished more for supporting power and privilege than delivering real journalism, his December 8 column the most recent example headlined, “Obama takes his case to the independent center,” saying:

“In opting to accommodate reality by acceding to the Republican demand for maintaining all the Bush tax cuts (ones benefitting Broder greatly) and obtaining a better price than many expected for his concessions, Obama (did) almost all that is possible to create a favorable economic environment for the 2012 campaign. (That’s) a winning posture for a president seeking a second term, (placing himself) in the center of the American political spectrum.”

In fact, he’s far to the right of center, even further by his latest deal, proposing more wealth to those already with too much. He’s offering most to fat cats and corporate favorites, chump change by comparison to working Americans.

Broder, however, wants more – “tough love budgetary changes outlined by the presidential commission on deficits,” hitting ordinary American hard while lavishing more benefits on the rich and corporate America. He called it comparable to Clinton signing welfare reform in 1996, stiff-arming the nation’s poor, including many single mothers with children sacrificed to win votes for a second term. “This was (Obama’s) best showing….in many months,” selling out to power and privilege for the same thing.

Broder, so-called pundits, other corporate media writers, and some progressive ones won’t explain it, including Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel. She’s an establishment figure, a regular on corporate TV, a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) member, and unabashed Obama supporter, even when criticizing as she did in her December 7 Washington Post op-ed headlined, “Obama’s disastrous path,” reciting a checklist of objectionable policies, including, saying he’s:

“on the verge of kowtowing to Republican bluster and cutting a deal to extend (Bush era) tax cuts for the rich in exchange (one hopes) for extending unemployment insurance,” implying giving up lots for a little is OK.

Then despite criticizing his current course, while stopping short of condemning and exposing it as hard right, she inflated him unjustly, saying he “has a historic mandate” like Lincoln to end slavery or Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Otherwise, he “risks a failed presidency.” She’s, in fact, clueless how corrupted, lawless, and failed he’s been for nearly two years, a record of shame, assuring his status as one of America’s worst ever leaders, serving power, not loyal constituents who elected him, the same ones again being betrayed.

Vanden Heuvel, other Nation writers, and more from the progressive left think Obama is one of them. Their level of intellectual dishonesty is shocking. Calling it blindness is too kind, including Christopher Hayes in the Nation’s December 27 issue headlined, “Tax Cuts Forever,” criticizing the deal, but saying:

“They know the economy needs more stimulus, and that Republicans are loath to allow them to deliver it. Through this deal they were able to secure some stimulative tax cuts….At this point, the White House will take what it can get,” or in other words bad deals are OK to get something.

“Obama didn’t create this system, but he is making it stronger before our eyes,” for capital, not working Americans, suckered into a bad deal Hayes won’t admit or maybe understand. Economist David Rosenberg does, calling it “a neutral for the economy,” not stimulus to create jobs and revive growth.

Progressive writers, not Obama, have “a historic mandate” to expose a failed president, a servant of wealth and power, an elitist, a corporatist betraying his base. He’s beyond rehabilitation. He and the entire Congress needs replacing for of, by and for the people governance. Try reading that in the Nation or most other left of center publications.

Democrats like Republicans are shameless. Their record belies their rhetoric. They’ll display it again next week, capitulating like always to wealth and power, calling it the best deal for Americans that they could get. For themselves, other rich folks, and their corporate allies for sure.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | 1 Comment

Obama’s beginning of the end

By Eric S. Margolis | Khaleej Times | 12 December 2010

In 1956, Britain, France and Israel colluded to invade Egypt to overthrow its hugely popular nationalist leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. US President Dwight Eisenhower deemed the tripartite Suez aggression immoral and damaging to American interests in the Muslim world. “Ike” ordered the British, French and Israelis to get out of Egypt at once – or else. They got out.

Fast forward to 2010. President Barack Obama demands Israel stop building illegal Jewish settlements around Jerusalem and on the West Bank. Obama rightly concludes the ongoing agony of Palestine has turned the Muslim world against the United States. It is also the primary cause of what Washington calls “terrorism.”

After the Suez invasion, Israel’s American partisans set about building an influence network that would ensure no American president could ever force Israel to do anything against its will. Their brilliant success was again confirmed this week as Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel’s rightist coalition, literally spit in Obama’s face, sneeringly rejecting the president’s pleas to create a viable Palestinian state. The US Congress and rightwing media actually applauded the public humiliation of their president and vice president. How the mighty have fallen. Obama has shown himself utterly without spine, and terrified of the Israel lobby at a time when his political fortunes are plummeting. The White House understands that America’s vital interests in the Mideast are being increasingly undermined by Israel’s adamant refusal to allow a workable Palestinian state instead of apartheid-style Arab Bantustans.

A triumphant Netanyahu made clear Israel would retain all of Jerusalem, settlement blocks around it, water resources, key roads, the West Bank high ground and the Jordan River valley. In short, “useful Palestine.” The rest, waterless scrub and slums, might be left to the Arabs. Nothing was said about Israel’s illegal occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights.

Even Obama’s shameful offer of a multi-billion dollar bribe to Israel of 20 F-35 warplanes and unlimited diplomatic support, in exchange for a flimsy 90-day building freeze, was contemptuously rejected by Netanyahu. He knows the US Congress would give Israel the moon if asked. The US has already given Israel at least $114 billion since its creation in 1947.

What does Obama’s humiliation mean? His chances of being defeated in the next presidential election are growing. Obama’s arch-rival, the pro-Israeli Hillary Clinton, is positioning herself to take over the Democratic Party from Obama.

The US diplomatic, intelligence and military establishment has got the message, loud and clear: don’t mess with Israel. The last US president who tried to restrain Israel’s West Bank colonisation, George H.W. Bush, failed to win re-election; his able secretary of state, James Baker, was slandered as an “anti-Semite.” By caving in to Israel’s hard right over the West Bank, Obama sends a message of profound weakness to the rest of the world. He is signaling that Israel, not the White House, really makes America’s Mideast policy. Israel also increasingly influences US policy towards Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iran and North Korea. The humiliated Palestinian Authority is shown as a helpless puppet of the Americans and Israelis, as rival Hamas has long charged.

Obama’s defeat suggests Israel now has “carte blanche” to move ahead and attack Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah, Syria, and eventually Iran. In fact, Israel now seems to have the power to plunge the US into war against Iran whenever it decides the time is right and the risk worthwhile.

Since the US has become a helpless giant, it’s up to the rest of the world to end the suffering in Palestine. Brazil and Argentina have taken an important step forward by recognising a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 borders. The 2002 Saudi peace plan still offers all parties concerned the fairest, most practical 
road to peace.

The UN General Assembly should again endorse this plan and call for more pressure on Israel. But Netanyahu and his fellow rightwing zealots are determined to hold on to every meter of the West Bank and Golan. Some far rightists want to expand Israel into Lebanon and Syria. Israel’s refusal to compromise over Palestine is at the heart of its increasingly dangerous confrontation 
with Iran.

Obama’s shameful failure will haunt the world 
for decades.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

Justice Department Prepares for Ominous Expansion of “Anti-Terrorism” Law Targeting Activists

By Michael Deutsch | t r u t h o u t | 11 December 2010

In late September, the FBI carried out a series of raids of homes and antiwar offices of public activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Following the raids, the Obama Justice Department subpoenaed 14 activists to a grand jury in Chicago and also subpoenaed the files of several antiwar and community organizations. In carrying out these repressive actions, the Justice Department was taking its lead from the Supreme Court’s 6-3 opinion last June in Holder v. the Humanitarian Law Project, which decided that nonviolent First Amendment speech and advocacy “coordinated with” or “under the direction of” a foreign group listed by the Secretary of State as “terrorist” was a crime.

The search warrants and grand jury subpoenas make it clear that the federal prosecutors are intent on accusing public nonviolent political organizers, many of whom are affiliated with Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), of providing “material support” through their public advocacy for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Secretary of State has determined that both the PLFP and the FARC “threaten US national security, foreign policy or economic interests,” a finding not reviewable by the courts, and listed both groups as foreign terrorist organizations (FTO).

In 1996, Congress made it a crime – then punishable by 10 years, which was later increased to 15 years – to anyone in the US who provides “material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization or attempts or conspires to do so.” The present statute defines “material support or resources” as:

… any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safe houses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel and transportation except medicine or religious materials.

In the Humanitarian Law Project case, human rights workers wanted to teach members of the Kurdistan PKK, which seeks an independent Kurdish state, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which sought an independent state in Sri Lanka, how to use humanitarian and international law to peacefully resolve disputes and obtain relief from the United Nations and other international bodies for human rights abuses by the governments of Turkey and Sri Lanka. Both organizations were designated as FTOs by the Secretary of State in a closed hearing, in which the evidence is heard secretly.

Despite the nonviolent, peacemaking goal of the Humanitarian Law Project’s speech and training, the majority of the Supreme Court nonetheless interpreted the law to make such conduct a crime. Finding a whole new exception to the First Amendment, the Court decided that any support, even if it involves nonviolent efforts towards peace, is illegal under the law since it “frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends,” and also helps lend “legitimacy” to foreign terrorist groups. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts, despite the lack of any evidence, further opined that the FTO could use the human rights law to “intimidate, harass or destruct” its adversaries, and that even peace talks themselves could be used as a cover to re-arm for further attacks. Thus, the Court’s opinion criminalizes efforts by independent groups to work for peace if they in any way cooperate or coordinate with designated FTOs.

The Court distinguishes what it refers to as “independent advocacy,” which it finds is not prohibited by the statute, from “advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization,” which is, for the first time, found to be a crime under the statute. The exact line demarcating where independent advocacy becomes impermissible coordination is left open and vague.

Seizing on this overbroad definition of “material support,” the US government is now moving in on political groups and activists who are clearly exercising fundamental First Amendment rights by vocally opposing the government’s branding of foreign liberation movements as terrorist and supporting their struggles against US-backed repressive regimes and illegal occupations.

Under the new definition of “material support,” the efforts of President Jimmy Carter to monitor the elections in Lebanon and coordinate with the political parties there, including the designated FTO Hezbollah, could well be prosecuted as a crime. Similarly, the publication of op-ed articles by FTO spokesmen from Hamas or other designated groups by The New York Times or The Washington Post, or the filing of amicus briefs by human rights attorneys arguing against a group’s terrorist designation or the statute itself could also now be prosecuted. Of course, the first targets of this draconian expansion of the material support law will not be a former president or the establishment media, but members of a Marxist organization who are vocal opponents of the governments of Israel and Colombia and the US policies supporting these repressive governments.

In his foreword to Nelson Mandela’s recent autobiography “Conversations with Myself,” President Obama wrote that “Mandela’s sacrifice was so great that it called upon people everywhere to do what they could on behalf of human progress. … The first time I became politically active was during my college years, when I joined a campaign on behalf of divestment, and the effort to end apartheid in South Africa.” At the time of Mr. Obama’s First Amendment advocacy, Mr. Mandela and his organization the African National Congress (ANC) were denounced as terrorist by the US government. If the “material support” law had been in effect back then, Mr. Obama would have been subject to potential criminal prosecution. It is ironic – and the height of hypocrisy – that this same man who speaks with such reverence for Mr. Mandela and recalls his own support for the struggle against apartheid now allows the Justice Department under his command to criminalize similar First Amendment advocacy against Israeli apartheid and repressive foreign governments.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | 3 Comments