Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

NZ journalist spied on after ‘inconvenient, embarrassing’ Afghanistan report

RT :: July 29, 2013

New Zealand faces allegations of spying on a journalist in Afghanistan with the help of US agencies over his coverage of NZ’s treatment of prisoners. Defense denies the allegations, while the PM says reporters can get caught in surveillance nets.

The New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) has reportedly put freelance journalist Jon Stephenson under surveillance and collected phone metadata while he was working for US news organization McClatchy in Afghanistan last year, Nicky Hager with the Sunday Star-Times newspaper revealed.

Metadata can reveal information such as the location of the caller and the length of the call.

New Zealand opened a probe into the allegations.

Allegedly NZDF was able to track who Stephenson had called and who the people he talked to subsequently called, which created what is known as a ‘tree’ of the journalist’s associates. The goal was to identify Stephenson’s contacts and sources within the Afghan government and military.

The surveillance was reportedly put in place after the government became unhappy with his reporting about New Zealand’s treatment of Afghan prisoners.

Hager revealed that it was most likely the NZ’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) that monitored Stephenson, as it had posted staff to the US’ main intelligence center north of Kabul at Bagram and was capable of such monitoring.

Stephenson told Sunday Star-Times that there is “a world of difference between investigating a genuine security threat and monitoring a journalist because his reporting is inconvenient or embarrassing to politicians and defense officials.”

NZ Prime Minister John Key denied allegations on Monday stating that his country does not spy on journalists, but said there is a chance reporters could get caught in surveillance nets when the US spies on enemy combatants.

Key said that it is theoretically possible that if a journalist called a member of the Taliban who was being watched by the US, he or she could end up in surveillance records.

NZDF added that there is no evidence that its military or the US had spied on Stephenson.

“We have identified no information at this time that supports [these] claims,” acting Defense Force Chief Maj. Gen. Tim Keating said in a statement.

This is not the first run-in the journalist has had with the NZ’s government. NZDF earlier implied that one of the interviews Stephenson published with Afghanistan’s unit commander about mishandling of prisoners was fabricated.

Stephenson sued for defamation. During this month’s trial, the NZDF confirmed that the interview may have taken place. The trial ended with the hung jury.

Advocate groups were outraged by what has unfolded. The Human Rights Foundation told Sunday Star-Times it was an abuse of fundamental human rights.

“Don’t they understand the vital importance of freedom of the press?” spokesman Tim McBride stated. “Independent journalism is especially important in a controversial war zone where the public has a right to know what really happens and not just get military public relations.”

In the meantime, the NZ government admitted to the existence of a secret order that lists investigative journalists as potential threats to security and puts them alongside other spies and terrorists.

The confidential order, which was leaked to Hager, stated that investigative journalists “may try to acquire classified information, not necessarily to give to a potential enemy, but because its use may bring the government into disrepute.”

The order was first issued a decade ago and reissued in 2005.

The US National Security Agency (NSA) sometime shares information with NZ, as part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which also includes the UK, Australia and Canada.

The news comes as thousands of people marched to protest a new bill on Sunday that would grant the New Zealand government sweeping spy powers, giving  the GCSB free rein to listen in on citizens’ phone conversations.

John Key has been playing down the nationwide protests, arguing that those involved in the mass demonstrations are ill-informed or have a political agenda.

The US involvement with global spying has grabbed the world’s attention after the whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked information the extent of US spy programs.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arabs, Beware the “Small States” Option

By Sharmine Narwani | Al-Akhbar | 2013-07-29

At the heart of all politics lies cold, hard opportunism. New circumstances, changed alliances and unexpected events will always conspire to alter one’s calculations to benefit a core agenda.

In the Middle East today, those calculations are being adjusted with a frequency unseen for decades.

In Egypt and Syria, for instance, popular sentiment is genuinely divided on where alliances and interests lie. Half of Egyptians seem convinced that deposed President Mohammed Mursi is the resident US-Israeli stooge, while the other half believe it is Egypt’s military that is carrying out those foreign agendas.

In Syria the same can be said for Syrians conflicted on whether President Bashar al-Assad or the external-based Syrian National Council (SNC) most benefits Israeli and American hegemonic interests in the region.

But Egyptians and Syrians, who point alternating fingers at Islamists or the state as being tools of imperialism, have this wrong: Empire is opportunistic. It has ways to benefit from both.

There is another vastly more destructive scenario being missed while Arabs busy themselves with conspiracies and speculative minutiae: A third option far more damaging to all.

Balkanization of Key Mideast States

At a June 19 event at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger touched upon an alarming new refrain in western discourse on Mideast outcomes; a third strategy, if all else fails, of redrawn borders along sectarian, ethnic, tribal or national lines that will shrink the political/military reach of key Arab states and enable the west to reassert its rapidly-diminishing control over the region. Says Kissinger about two such nations:

“There are three possible outcomes (in Syria). An Assad victory. A Sunni victory. Or an outcome in which the various nationalities agree to co-exist together but in more or less autonomous regions, so that they can’t oppress each other. That’s the outcome I would prefer to see. But that’s not the popular view…First of all, Syria is not a historic state. It was created in its present shape in 1920, and it was given that shape in order to facilitate the control of the country by France, which happened to be after UN mandate…The neighboring country Iraq was also given an odd shape, that was to facilitate control by England. And the shape of both of the countries was designed to make it hard for either of them to dominate the region.”

While Kissinger frankly acknowledges his preferred option of “autonomous regions,” most western government statements actually pretend their interest lies in preventing territorial splits. Don’t be fooled. This is narrative-building and scene-setting all the same. Repeat something enough – i.e., the idea that these countries could be carved up – and audiences will not remember whether you like it or not. They will retain the message that these states can be divided.

It is the same with sectarian discourse. Western governments are always warning against the escalation of a Sunni-Shia divide. Yet they are knee-deep in deliberately fueling Shia-Sunni conflicts throughout the region, particularly in states where Iran enjoys significant influence (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq) or may begin to gain some (Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen).

“Seeding” Sectarianism to Break Up States

If ever a conspiracy had legs, this one is it. Stirring Iranian-Arab and Sunni-Shiite strife to its advantage has been a major US policy objective since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Wikileaks helped shed light on some of Washington’s machinations just as Arab uprisings started to hit our TV screens.

A 2006 State Department cable that bemoans Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s strengthened position in Syria outlines actionable plans to sow discord within the state, with the goal of disrupting Syrian ties with Iran. The theme? “Exploiting” all “vulnerabilities”:

“PLAY ON SUNNI FEARS OF IRANIAN INFLUENCE: There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis. Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business. Both the local Egyptian and Saudi missions here, (as well as prominent Syrian Sunni religious leaders), are giving increasing attention to the matter and we should coordinate more closely with their governments on ways to better publicize and focus regional attention on the issue.”

Makes one question whether similar accusations about the “spread of Shiism” in Egypt held any truth whatsoever, other than to sow anti-Shia and anti-Iran sentiment in a country until this month led by the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.

A 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia continues this theme. Mohammad
 Naji al-Shaif, a tribal leader with close personal ties to then-Yemeni President Ali Abdallah 
Saleh and his inner circle says that key figures “are privately very skeptical of Saleh’s
 claims regarding Iranian assistance for the Houthi rebels”:

Shaif told
 EconOff on December 14 that (Saudi Government’s Special Office for
 Yemen Affairs) committee members privately shared his view that Saleh was providing false or exaggerated
 information on Iranian assistance to the Houthis in order to
 enlist direct Saudi involvement and regionalize the conflict. Shaif said that one committee member told him that “we know
 Saleh is lying about Iran, but there’s nothing we can do 
about it now.”

That didn’t stop Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lying through her teeth to a Senate Committee a few short years later: “We know that they – the Iranians are very much involved in the opposition movements in Yemen.”

US embassy cables from Manama, Bahrain in 2008 continue in the same vein:

“Bahraini government officials sometimes privately tell U.S. official visitors that some Shi’a oppositionists are backed by Iran. Each time this claim is raised, we ask the GOB to share its evidence. To date, we have seen no convincing evidence of Iranian weapons or government money here since at least the mid-1990s… In post’s assessment, if the GOB had convincing evidence of more recent Iranian subversion, it would quickly share it with us.”

Yet as Bahraini rulers continue to violently repress peaceful protest in the Shia-majority state two years into that country’s popular uprising, their convenient public bogeyman mirrors that of Washington: Iranian interference.

Washington was extremely quick to activate anti-Shia and anti-Iran narratives as the Arab uprisings kicked off. Barely three months into 2011, the US military ran a secret exercise to fine-tune a “storyline” that perpetuates differences between Arabs and Iranian, Sunni and Shia.

Here are some of the premises and questions included in CENTCOM’s Arabs versus Iranians exercise. (Note: The exercise refers to Iranians as “Persians.”)

Premise: “The Arab-Persian dynamic is a divide. History, religion, language and culture simply pose too many obstacles to overcome.”

Premise: “A general Arab inferiority complex relative to Persians means that many Arabs are fearful of Persian expansion and hegemony throughout the Middle East. In their minds, the Persian Empire has never gone away and it is more self-sufficient than most Arab states.”

Premise: “Barring a “clash of civilizations” – i.e., a modern crusades, Islam vs Judeo-Christians, warfare between the West/Israel vs Arabs/Persians – there does not appear to be a scenario where Arabs and Persians will join forces against the US/West.”

Question: “Is it appropriate to frame the discussion as Arab-Persian or is Sunni-Shia a more appropriate framework?”

Question: “Assuming a schism, what could unite Arabs and Persians, even temporarily?”

These narratives assume two things: that the division between Iranians and Arabs is a fact and that the greater unity of the two groups in the wake of the Arab uprisings is a potential threat to U.S. interests. Hence the worried question: What could unite them, even temporarily?

“Small States” Weaken Arabs

As manufactured conflict increases in the region, options too diminish. Because of the strategic importance of the Middle East and its vital oil and gas reserves…because of the desire to maintain stability in key states that safeguard US interests like Israel, Jordan, NATO-member Turkey, Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf…open-ended conflict in multiple states is, simply put, undesirable.

Over the course of the Syrian conflict – and certainly in the past year when Assad’s departure looked less likely – the West, through media and “pundit” intermediaries, has often floated the idea of dividing the state into several smaller parts along sectarian and ethnic lines. While framed as a means to “prevent further conflict,” this idea actually follows the American experiment of Iraqi federalism that effectively sought to carve Iraq into three distinct Sunni, Shia and Kurdish zones.

Forget that you cannot find five non-Kurdish Syrians or Iraqis of credible national renown who would back the idea of fragmenting their nation. This is distinctly a Washington vision. Or rather, a western one, with Israeli fingerprints all over it.

Israel’s vision of “Small States”

In 1982, as Israel warmed up its operation to invade multi-sect Lebanon, Israeli foreign ministry strategician Oded Yinon inked a master plan to redraw the Mideast into small warring cantons that would never again be able to threaten the Jewish state’s regional primacy:

“Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan.”

“Egypt is divided and torn apart into many foci of authority. If Egypt falls apart, countries like Libya, Sudan or even the more distant states will not continue to exist in their present form and will join the downfall and dissolution of Egypt. The vision of a Christian Coptic State in Upper Egypt alongside a number of weak states with very localized power and without a centralized government as to date, is the key to a historical development which was only set back by the peace agreement but which seems inevitable in the long run.”

“Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization.”

“There is no chance that Jordan will continue to exist in its present structure for a long time, and Israel’s policy, both in war and in peace, ought to be directed at the liquidation of Jordan under the present regime and the transfer of power to the Palestinian majority.”

Beware the Artificial Break-up of States

As opposed to western narratives about Arab “revolutions” heralding the arrival of “freedom and democracy,” the Russians took a more cautious view of events.

As early as February 2011, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that revolutions across the Arab world could see fanatics coming to power, leading to “fires for years and the spread of extremism in the future.” The breaking up of states in the aftermath of these events, he says, is a distinct possibility:

“The situation is tough. We could be talking about the disintegration of large, densely-populated states, talking about them breaking up into little pieces.”

The Russians were right. The Americans – dangerously wrong.

The Mideast will one day need to make region-wide border corrections, but to be successful, it must do so entirely within an indigenously determined process. The battles heating up in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere are a manifestation of a larger fight between two “blocs” that seek entirely different regional outcomes – one of these being the borders of a new Middle East.

The first group, a US-led bloc aggressive in its pursuit of maintaining regional hegemony any which way, is using fiction and carefully-spun divisive narratives to sway populations into accepting “cause” for new western-backed borders. These borders will divide nations along sectarian, ethnic and tribal lines to ensure ongoing conflict between the newly minted states, and “redirecting” them from the vastly bigger imperial threat. A unified Mideast, after all, would naturally turn against the universally reviled Empire, with Israel’s borders being the first on the chopping board. And in this climate, western-fomented border revisions will be dramatically more chaotic than Sykes-Picot ever was.

The second bloc (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia, China and a smattering of independent groups/states) which opposes western-Israeli hegemony does not have the means or ability to impose border solutions except in their own direct geographical base, which looks increasingly like a line drawn from Lebanon to Iraq (and not accidentally, where most of the chaos is currently channeled). Theirs is a defensive strategy, based largely on unwinding divisive plots, minimizing strife and warding off foreign-backed insurgencies, through military means if necessary.

In this bloc’s view, Sykes Picot will be undone, but within an organic process of border corrections based on regional consensus and rational considerations. In truth, this bloc is focused less on redrawn borders than it is on dousing the fires that seek to create the harmful divides.

Arabs and Muslims need to start becoming keenly aware of this “small state” third option, else they will fall into the dangerous trap of being distracted by detail while larger games carve up their nations and plunge them into perpetual conflict.

~

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 4 Comments

Holder’s desperate letter proves Mr. Snowden is in grave danger

By John Robles | The Voice Of Russia | July 28, 2013

The Attorney General of the United States of America Eric Holder has taken the unusual step of writing a letter to the Russian Federation essentially making promises that United States will do nothing unusual or in any way against U.S. law if the Russian Federation will just put aside its own norms, the Russian Constitution, international law and conventions and just, as the U.S. Ambassador put it, “return” Mr. Edward Snowden to the United States.

The Attorney General begins his letter by listing the “crimes” that Mr. Snowden is charged with ignoring the fact that the laws that Mr. Snowden is said to have broken are not crimes in the Russian Federation, or perhaps Mr. General is under the assumption that U.S. law somehow is something that the rest of the world must abide by and follow.

Judging from the real and documented history of the United States, the country possesses a total lack of respect or regard for international law and the laws of other sovereign nations, especially the Russian Federation. This is evident from the illegal invasions of sovereign nations, illegal torture programs, extra-judicial executions by drone and other means and with regard to Russia, the continuous illegal kidnapping and rendition of Russian citizens back to the United States.

I have been documenting these crimes for over a decade and have been the victim of similar U.S. ‘retribution”, so hearing the Attorney General preach to Russia about U.S. law as it is engaging in asking Russia to also set aside its Constitution, as the U.S. does, and engage in double standards and hypocrisy, is something nauseating to say the least.

The sheer hypocrisy that is evident in the U.S. actions surrounding Mr. Snowden and the level of desperation that the U.S. has shown are simply mind boggling in their breadth and scope.

Mr. Holder writes:

“Mr. Snowden believes that he is unable to travel out of Russia and must therefore take steps to legalize his status. That is not accurate; he is able to travel. Despite the revocation of his passport on June 22, 2013, Mr. Snowden remains a U.S. citizen. He is eligible for a limited validity passport good for direct return to the United States. The United States is willing to immediately issue such a passport to Mr. Snowden.”

The whole point, in case Mr. Holder has missed it, which it is obvious he has, is that Mr. Snowden has been granted political asylum in several countries and had wanted to travel to those countries. Not face death or torture at the hands of a government that has secret torture prisons, launches wars of aggression at every political whim, has off-shore indefinite detention facilities and engages in regular extra-judicial executions, just to name a few of the continuing violations of international norms that the U.S. is guilty of.

Such a government can and must never be trusted and that is a fact that can in no way be known better than by someone like Mr. Snowden who worked for the CIA and the NSA. So a one way ticket to America is not an option Mr. Holder. No one in their right mind would trust any of the assurances given by Holder, and Mr. Snowden is right, and moreover, has the right, to seek asylum and be protected.

Holder:

“We also understand from press reports that Mr. Snowden has filed papers seeking temporary asylum in Russia on the grounds that if he were returned to the United States, he would be tortured and would face the death penalty. These claims are entirely without merit.”

Again are we supposed to forget the last several decades of world history? Are we supposed to forget Manning who has been tortured, are we to forget Abu-Ghraib, Guantanamo and even ex Vice President Richard Chaney signing off on such torture techniques as “puncturing an eye” and “slicing a testicle”? Are we to forget case after case after case and report after report of other instances of torture, extra-judicial executions and even innocent men and women being executed when there was evidence that exonerated them?

Mr. Holder insults our intelligence.

“Second, Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States…”

It is interesting to note that he says “unlawful” and not “illegal” and this whole argument is absurd regardless of the wording because we know the U.S. renditions people all the time to countries where torture is legal and we know the U.S. has its own special off-shore torture prison at Guantanamo. Simply unbelievable.

The rest of the letter goes on to say that Mr. Snowden would be granted a fair trial blah blah blah… Yeah good one Mr. Holder, just like the NATO 5, Jeremy Hammond, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, everyone who has ever been droned, the hundreds of men at Guantanamo and let’s not forget how Trayvon Martin’s family got justice, etc. ad-nauseum.

The United States has become a rogue illegal nation and the continued persecution of Mr. Edward Snowden, a young man who exposed that rogue nation’s illegality against the world and its own citizens and more importantly Mr. Holder, against the very Constitution you are sworn to uphold, prove beyond all doubt that Mr. Snowden is in very grave and imminent danger.

Please don’t insult the intelligence of the world and the Russian Government by engaging in such ridiculous letter writing Mr. Holder. We all know that once Mr. Snowden is in your hands, and I pray for him that never happens, he will be interrogated using your “enhanced interrogation techniques” until he goes insane or kills himself and if he does survive he will be locked in solitary confinement under special observation until the day he dies, that is of course if he is not executed, as nothing will stop you from executing him once he is in your hands.

Will a letter from the Russian Government saying execution is illegal stop you if there comes a day when the switch is about to be pulled on Mr. Snowden? No. So why should your false guarantees force Russia to violate its own Constitution?

By the way Mr. Holder, how are Mr. Bout and Mr. Yaroshenko faring after you illegally renditioned them from third countries? Rule of law? Only when it is convenient for you and those in power. Mr. Snowden exposed your illegality, as did I and we know what happens to those who expose the illegality of the Imperial United States of America. Just ask Julian Assange.

And lastly, just in case Mr. Holder was not aware: The Russian Government knows what you are up to better than you think Mr. Holder, Russian officials and the Russian Government are not fools, after all Mr. Snowden won’t be the first American who has received asylum in Russia due to the illegality of the American state. He won’t be the first, because actually, I was.

The opinions and views expressed here are my own I can be reached at robles@ruvr.ru.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

The Problematic: Penny Lewis Repairs Some Misconceptions About the Vietnam War

By Michael Uhl | In the Mind Field | July 21, 2013

The Vietnam War seems to be drawing attention increasingly from researchers born during or after the tumultuous decade in which that deadly drama played out.  One sees mostly this generation’s higher profile works, like Fredrik Logevall’s Embers of War; The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for History, and Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.  More in the academic shadows, but perhaps suggestive of a wider trend in the making, is a new study by Penny Lewis, Hardhats, Hippies and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory, rich in the vistas it surveys, and a seed bed for future scholars to expand on.

A reader will scan this book’s quirky title in vain for a quick fix on what the work undertakes to present.  Lewis, an assistant professor at City University in New York, and active in contemporary Labor and antiwar movements, devotes much of her book’s narrative to the project of sharpening an outmoded analysis of the American working class, accomplished in part by locating the class historically within what the late New York Times columnist Tom Whicker once called “a very broad spectrum” of public opposition to the Vietnam War, some of it organized, some of it not.

The distinction is critical, with the organized spheres of Vietnam War opposition, as highlighted in the book’s subtitle, easier to pin down and label.  Lewis comes to her interest in the Vietnam antiwar narrative through disappointing efforts in the last decade to mobilize public opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a movement that promised much in its early stages, then, she dryly notes, “faded.”  Serving as a representative of her union within a Labor movement far more sympathetic to an antiwar message in 2003 than it was in 1965, Lewis, “staffing tables, working on resolutions, organizing protests… spoke with fellow labor activists about their experiences within the Vietnam antiwar movement.”

Digging through this “buried history,” the author subsequently confirmed that antiwar forces in the US during Vietnam were every bit as “massive” and “dynamic” as the accounts she was hearing from her older comrades.  How, then, could a post-Vietnam generation individual with Penny Lewis’ credentials, a committed peace activist, a leader in her union, a solidly grounded career-bound academic, have missed that story?  Apparently because, growing up, what she had absorbed about that war and those times, as “fleshed out in numerous movies, TV shows, textbooks, journalist’s renderings, histories, memoirs, political speeches, and personal recollections,” exposed her to what she now accurately identifies as “half truths and, overall … is a falsehood.”

Myth holds sway in the “renderings” of this history earmarked for storage in the “collective memory,” and doled out with the greatest damage, as Lewis chillingly demonstrates, in the vast majority of text books that feed young minds through mainstream scholastic channels with “[h]ostile treatments of the movement… focused on the elite and out-of-touch nature of the protestors… as ‘spitters’ and ‘haters.’”  In contrast, “war supporters” during that period “are often imagined as ordinary… people from Middle America… who supported God, country and our boys in Nam.”

Lewis sets about restoring some of the nuance to the record, framed by the sociological ground rules in force where such discussions occur in her branch of the scholarly manufactory.  Fortunately she is sufficiently clear headed and graceful in expression, that the speed bumps of jargon, and occasional quoted infomercials from esteemed mentors and colleagues, shouldn’t deter a general reader drawn to this subject from reaping insight and satisfaction from Lewis’ summary, but deft, treatment of the twin themes she brings under investigation, class and protest.

Lewis frames correctly a chronology – too obvious to have been so often overlooked – that recognizes much attributed culturally and politically to the Sixties to have occurred or spread into the Seventies, a point of some significance when Lewis explores the demographic makeup of the opposition farther on.  But the most spectacular relic rescued here by Lewis is a shining image of the Vietnam movement’s voluminous mobilization of “6 million” antiwar activists… with another 25 million close sympathizers.”  Imagined visually, it’s a perfect snapshot of what sustained mass organizing looks like, and it cannot be over-emphasized by interested parties seeking to defend and replicate this history in the present.  Let me put it this way, there wasn’t a corner of the land for a decade where an organizer couldn’t find a welcome crash pad, and a public forum for whatever on-going or up-coming antiwar action he or she had come to herald.

Examining the evolving Vietnam era antiwar movement over time, Lewis could see that, until the mid-60s, when the public was finally being drawn into the debate, most of the vocal opposition had been limited to well-known figures from the Fifties’ ban-the-bomb’ network, like Dr. Ben Spock and A.J. Muste, a leading pacifist.  As the American combat role in Vietnam rapidly expanded, opposition soon spread to a vanguard of precocious students on several of the nation’s top campuses, and included, as well, their less privileged counterparts among young black civil rights workers in the South.

Initially, preoccupation with the war on campus was tangential to a rise in student involvement with civil rights, and demands for academic freedom.  The Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in 1964 was an act of defiance against in loco parentis that shocked college administrators who for years had expected nothing more rambunctious from their student bodies than cafeteria food fights and panty raids.  Student leader Mario Savio’s name became a house hold word overnight, and the actions of the Berkeley students ignited a political charge throughout a budding youth culture that spawned a collective resistance to the draft, and militant opposition to an escalating war.

At the University of Michigan, where it had been discovered that a program to advise the South Vietnamese government served as a front for the CIA, a handful of leftwing students affiliated with the League For Industrial Democracy, broke with their timid work-within-the-system and red-baiting elders, and, in 1962, formed Students for a Democratic Society.  Their impulse had a domestic focus, a desire to explore possibilities for what they called participatory democracy, which might in turn help strip some aggression from the nation’s foreign policy.  Then, in 1965, SDS organized the first mass anti-Vietnam war demonstration, bringing 25 thousand protestors to Washington, D.C., and, till the end of the decade, the organization inspired independent political action for a draft age generation, mostly white, middle class college students, female and male, who, as a demographic, remained the backbone of the protest movement until the war’s end.

But where were working class youths not bound for college with its privileged four year deferment from conscription in this generational upheaval?   The boys at least, or “proles,” as James Fallows once infamously described them, overwhelmingly filled the ranks of the armed services, where their own rebellion, in Lewis’ astute observation, “had as great, if not greater, an effect on the US military’s ability to fight the war than did the more typical protest actions” on the home front.

Lewis is understandably perplexed that an event of such powerful impact like the GI rebellion receives almost no attention in even the best historical accounts of the movement, like Charles DeBeneditti’s An American Ordeal.  Lewis has to provide an academic explanation for this mysterious oversight, arguing that studies of “social movements” are too narrowly defined to accommodate anomalous structures that don’t fit this or that discipline’s analytic criteria, and so forth and so on.  Lewis, of course, wants to expand the scholarly strike zone.  But the fact remains that the bibliography of works addressing the GI movement is so tiny and obscure that even in the heat of the hunt Lewis has failed to cite among the rare treatments two contributions of seminal importance, Matthew Rinaldi’s 1974 essay for Radical America, “The Olive Drab Rebels,” and James Lewes’ Protest and Survive, a book length survey of the scores of underground GI newspapers that circulated during the war.

The GI Resistance combusted from many acts of spontaneous, individual defiance, although civilian organizers who recognized the importance of working with GIs provided indispensable political and logistical leadership through a network of GI coffee houses and counseling centers that sprang up outside virtually every major US military installation at home, and near many bases overseas as well.  The movement in the military paralleled the civilian movement, but was in many ways dissimilar, not least in having erupted under the authoritarian environment of military discipline, and in the rice paddies of Vietnam.

Then, home from the war and discharged from the service, ex-GIs rose up en mass in 1970, energized a flagging movement, and helped to further erode whatever lukewarm public support remained for the war.  Never before had veterans anywhere opposed war in such numbers, and, even more unprecedented, did so while their war remained very much in progress, its outcome still in the balance.  The antiwar veterans have been only slightly less studied by movement historians, Lewis comments, than the GI resisters.

What about the working class as a whole?  Where did Middle America stand on the war?  Stored in the distorted memory bank described by Lewis, a white male worker stands upon a pedestal on which the word “hardhat, ”is engraved.  An unabashed flag waver and pro-war patriot, he appeared briefly in May 1970, and beat up some long hairs demonstrating against the war in the vicinity of Wall Street.

It does not matter that this prevailing caricature obscures the existence of female and minority workers, and fails to sum up fairly where white male production workers stood on the war overall – the antiwar vets and GIs providing the most glaring rebuttal of the hardhat thesis.  The bullying behavior of a battalion of jerks from the pampered and manipulated New York building trades is held up as evidence of a false and inverted reality where only elites of a leisured middle class with too much time on their hands opposed the war, while tradition-bound Archie Bunkers expected their sons to serve when called, even at the cost of coming back from Nam in a body bag.

There’s no doubt that class polarization on the war existed, but leaving aside large segments of rebellious middle and upper middle class young people, the well-heeled parents who paid their college tuitions were more likely to support the war than their opposite numbers among the Greatest Generation in the blue collar neighborhoods.  According to one comprehensive survey Lewis cites, “Opposition to the war was in fact higher among lower income than among higher income Americans.”  By using the term “in-fact,” Lewis explains, this study’s author “acknowledges the common misconception that the opposite was true.”  And yet, she muses, “no account… explains why such a misconception exists…”

Grappling with that conundrum, Lewis says, is the essential project of her book, and she casts the net widely.  Her extensive exploration of the inadequacy of the tools of contemporary social science to distinguish the structural conditions that define working class realities from contingent forces that contradict leftist notions of objective class interests, and are often manifest by workers in conservative and individualist political behavior, is easier to read than to review.  As the Dude would say, it’s complicated… lotta ins, lotta outs.  So, around that task I invite the reader to follow Lewis first hand.

But to the degree that misconception erases the rejection of the Vietnam War by a majority of low income Americans, suffice it say that, generational differences notwithstanding, bluecollar opposition was seldom expressed or politicized in any manner resembling movement activism.  Much working class skepticism of US military policy in SE Asia centered around the inability of the nation’s leaders to justify the burden in blood and treasure extracted disproportionately from their communities in pursuit of war objectives that could never be adequately explained to their satisfaction.  Such attitudes in Middle America, communicated as vox populi, seldom translated into sympathy for the more flamboyant aspects of the protest movement.

In fact, “[t]he countercultural expression of many parts of the movement challenged core values of many workers,” Lewis acknowledges.  Or as Notre Dame sociologist, Andrew Greeley, once quipped, “If the white ethnic is told in effect that to support peace he must also support the Black Panthers, women’s liberation, widespread use of drugs, free love, campus radicals, Dr. Spock, long hair and picketing clergymen,” you’re unlikely to find him in the peace movement.

Greeley’s observation, which echoes the witty pen of George Orwell describing eccentric Brit peaceniks of the Thirties, is likewise more parody than picture of a movement that was as eclectic as the society from which it was formed.  But you don’t have to be intolerant of cultural diversity to share in a critique of the infinite contradictions that riddled the organized Vietnam antiwar opposition, those which apply personally being currently under display in my work-in-progress. “Useful knowledge,” Lewis proclaims , can be gained by those carrying a “desire for social change” into the future, who study the Vietnam antiwar movement for its “shortcomings” as well as its “achievements.”

In Hardhats, Hippies and Hawks Lewis underscores two constants that link the Vietnam conflict with contemporary US military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.  All are or were driven by similar “economic and political imperatives.”  And, ultimately, all three were or are rejected by the overwhelming majority of Americans.  Only during Vietnam, however, did a people mobilized by an explicit antiwar agenda exercise a strong hand in bringing the war to an end. Obviously conditions differ from one epoch to the next, but it is still useful to emphasize what distinguishes a “faded” movement from a “dynamic” one.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Boycott of Israel Eight Years In – An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson | July 28, 2013

Part I – Happy Birthday, BDS

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement directed toward Israel is eight years old. It was started back in 2005, when a coalition of Palestine-based social and economic organizations called for such a comprehensive effort.

At first the BDS movement appeared to be a long shot. Israel, with its worldwide coterie of Zionist supporters, both Jewish and Christian, seemed invincible. Particularly in the Western world, the belief in Israel’s legitimacy had reached the status of sacred tradition. The Zionists worked very hard to achieve this status by controlling the historical interpretation of events that had led from World War I and the Balfour Declaration to the creation of Israel in 1948, and beyond. They might well have been able to maintain control of Israel’s past, present and future if the Zionist leadership had not succumbed to the sin of hubris. They became so ideologically self-righteous and militarily muscle-bound that they believed their place in the world to be untouchable. Thus, as they built a country based on discrimination and colonial expansion in an age increasingly critical of such societies, they refused all compromise with the Palestinians and treated criticism of their behavior and policies as at once anti-Semitic and irrelevant. They therefore failed to notice that their stubbornness was allowing others to erode the Zionist version of the history of modern Palestine/Israel.

Eight years is not a very long time, but a surprising amount has been accomplished. Increasing numbers of people, particularly in the Western world, have been made aware of the plight of the Palestinians as well as their version of the history of Palestine/Israel. With this change in historical perspective, BDS established a foothold and started to grow. The movement has spent most of its time since 2005 coordinating a series of efforts to convince private-sector consumers, businesses, academics and artists to cut their ties with the Zionist State and its colonies. The latest success in this effort came just recently, when two of the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands announced they would no longer sell Israeli merchandise manufactured or grown in the Occupied Territories (OT). Indeed, so successful has BDS been that the Israeli government has established an official task force to counteract it.

Part II – The European Union Makes a Move

Another recent event may be even more significant, because it suggests the potential for expanding BDS from the private to the public sphere. This was signaled when the European Union (EU) issued new rules for implementing certain categories of funding agreements with Israel. Funding of grants, prizes, loans and other financial cooperative ventures will now exclude Israeli institutions located in or doing business with the OT.

I want to emphasize the notion of “potential” because the EU move is not a boycott action as such. It is a signal to Israel that the EU will not recognize Israel’s claim to any part of the Occupied Territories without a peace settlement, and therefore this move serves as a point of pressure on the Israeli government to give up its hubris and negotiate with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). By the way, the PNA as presently constituted is not a representative body and therefore has no legal authority to negotiate anything. However, the EU (along with the Israelis and the United States) persistently ignores this fact.

Nonetheless, this EU ruling is a step in the right direction, and some important Israelis understand the message. For instance, the Israeli peace organization Gush Shalom released a statement that said that the “EU has started to confront the government of Israel – and every citizen of Israel – with a road sign that cannot be ignored.” At least not without moving Israel toward “being an international pariah.” The renowned columnist and reporter for Israel’s newspaper Haaretz, Gideon Levy, has declared “The change [Israel needs] won’t come from within. . . . Change will only come from the outside.” Therefore, “Anyone who really fears for the future of the country needs to be in favor of boycotting it economically.” And, Israel’s justice minister, Tzipi Livni, the present government’s only minister publicly in favor of negotiations with the Palestinians, has warned that the threat of European economic sanctions extends beyond the OT. “It’s true that it will begin with the settlements,” she stated. “But their [a growing number of Europeans’] problem is with Israel, which is perceived as a colonialist country, so it won’t stop with the settlements and will reach all of Israel.”

Livni is correct. Israel’s version of history notwithstanding, the country’s origin is as a colonial settler state. As suggested above, the result was an inherently discriminatory society. This is not because most Israeli citizens are Jewish. It is because most are Zionists. Modern Zionism, which still reflects the colonial outlook of nineteenth-century imperial Europe, is the guiding ideology of Israel, and it proclaims that the country must be a Jewish State. Unfortunately, you can’t design a country for one group only, in a land where there also exists other sizable groups, and not end up with a discriminatory and oppressive society. Therefore, even if, by some miracle, the Israelis see the light and withdraw from the OT, there will still be a BDS movement agitating for an end to discrimination against non-Jews within the 1948 borders.

Part III – Israel’s Negative Reaction

Becoming a real democracy, where all citizens enjoy genuine political equality, is Israel’s only way of escaping the inevitable isolation that comes with the growing BDS movement. Yet, there is no reason to believe that the ideologues who now control the Israeli political and religious power structures are going to move in this direction. One can see this not only from the growing effort the Israeli government is putting into countering BDS, but also from the angry reaction of its political leaders to the EU decision.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the EU decision with the temperament of a monarch. “We will not accept any external edicts on our borders.” That was, perhaps, the royal “we” he used. Then it was back to the first-person singular: “I will not let anyone harm the hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria, in the Golan Heights, or in Jerusalem – our united capital.” The prime minister was quite off base in his pronouncements. He is the head of a country that has meticulously avoided setting borders for decades just so Israel could expand at opportune moments. That sort of imperial behavior is not well accepted in today’s world. Also, unless he can greatly increase Zionist lobby leverage on the EU, he has no way to prevent the “harm” that may finally befall his compatriots for naively assuming the whole world will accept their criminal behavior forever.

The entire episode points to the fact that, both in the private and public sectors of Western society, greater numbers of people no longer follow the line of historical interpretation set down by the Zionists. This is a major shift. Many Zionists might see this as a sign of growing anti-Semitism, but it really is nothing of the sort. There is nothing inherently Jewish about discrimination and colonialism. However, the same cannot be said for modern Zionism.

Part IV – Conclusion

Again, the BDS movement is only 8 years old. We can compare this to the more than 30 years it took the boycott of South Africa to end apartheid. So, comparatively, BDS is only at the beginning of its trek. Its fast start and ongoing achievements should bring hope and pride to those involved in the movement. They should also raise some serious second thoughts in the minds of those Israelis who think Netanyahu and his government of ideologues can prevent their country’s increasing isolation.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli settlers torch Hebron family’s property for eighth time

International Solidarity Movement | July 29, 2013

Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On Sunday, July 28, Israeli settlers severely burned land belonging to Hani Abu Haikel and his family in Hebron. Occupation soldiers, though at first trying to help stop the fire, ended up blocking the road so that Palestinian firefighters were delayed in reaching the scene. Several very old olive trees were destroyed in the fire which swept over immense swathes of land very quickly. In the video below, Hani Abu Haikel speaks about the incident and how Israeli settlers, soldiers and police work together to pressure Palestinian families to leave the Israeli-controlled H2 district of occupied Hebron.

The previous evening, July 27th, Israeli police came to Hani Abu Haikel’s house and questioned him about a variety of subjects including whether he has any plans of leaving the area, to whicb he answered in the negative. Apparently this questioning is a regular occurrence. Israeli soldiers have also arrested Abu Haikel and his children on spurious charges, later releasing them without charge. The soldiers continue to regularly detain and interrogate members of the family.

Yesterday afternoon Abu Haikel saw settlers present in the area of the Israeli military base. As this is a common thing for them to do, he thought nothing of it at first. However, after this Abu Haikel saw the settlers spray water all over the small plot they have illegally cultivated on his land, right beneath the military base. He then saw them spray another, apparently flammable chemical over his land – soon after this, his land was on fire. Observers noted that Israeli soldiers were obstructing people from reaching the scene to help. Palestinian fire engines were prevented from reaching the scene for at least half an hour, allowing the fire to spread rapidly and scorch the land, despite volunteers passing buckets of water between them to try to quell the flames.

The only part of the Abu Haikel land that wasn’t completely scorched was the small plot cultivated by Israeli settlers. Hani Abu Haikel explained that this is the eighth time settlers have burned his property, including an incident ten years ago when they burned all of his trees, meaning that many of the trees that were burnt this time were very young. It has taken him these ten years to effectively replant his land again and now, again it will be years before his land is as it was before this crime.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Video | , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Low-level NSA analysts can spy on Americans’

RT :: July 28, 2013

NSA spying programs give access to US citizens’ private data to low-level analysts with little court approval or supervision, says Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story on Washington’s PRISM surveillance system.

“[PRISM] is an incredibly powerful and invasive tool,” Greenwald told ABC’s ‘This Week.’ The NSA programs are “exactly the type that Mr. Snowden described. NSA officials are going to be testifying before the Senate on Wednesday, and I defy them to deny that these programs work exactly as I’ve said.”

The NSA keeps trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases which they can access anytime with simple screen programs, he said.

“And what these programs are, are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things.” 

“It searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered, and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or that IP address do in the future.”

While the program conducts wiretapping with little court approval or supervision, there are “legal constraints” on surveillance that require approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, in which court judges can secretly review the government’s plans to track suspected terrorists in advance.

“You can’t target [Americans] without going to the FISA court,” Greenwald stressed. “But these systems allow analysts to listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents.”

“And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst,” he added.

Greenwald will testify before a Congressional committee on Wednesday, along with NSA officials who have previously downplayed Snowden’s claims about the agency’s easy-access data.

PRISM is a mass electronic surveillance data mining program operated by the NSA since 2007. The program was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden earlier this summer. Snowden leaked information about the program to the media, warning of a far greater extent of mass data collection than the public knew existed. The disclosures were published by The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 6.

Snowden later leaked further information to Greenwald which pertained to mass security operations carried out across the world. He spoke of British spy agency GCHQ, which uses the Tempora surveillance program. The whistleblower also shared information regarding Germany’s cooperation with US intelligence, which reportedly combs through half a billion German phone calls, emails, and text messages on a daily basis.

A call for transparency on surveillance programs

The call for increased oversight and transparency for surveillance programs has been growing, even among supporters of the NSA.

“I do think that we’re going to have to make some change to make things more transparent,” Senator Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ABC.

Former federal judge James Robertson, who used to grant surveillance orders, said he was shocked to hear of changes to allow broader authorization of NSA programs – such as the monitoring of US phone records. He urged for a reform which would to allow counter-arguments to be heard.

“What FISA does is not adjudication, but approval,” Robertson said, speaking as a witness during the first public hearings into the Snowden revelations. “This works just fine when it deals with individual applications for warrants, but the 2008 amendment has turned the FISA court into an administrative agency making rules for others to follow.”

However, government officials have defended the surveillance initiatives as authorized under law, claiming they are necessary in order to guard the country against terrorist threats.

Following Snowden’s revelations on NSA surveillance, President Barack Obama assured US citizens in June that “nobody is listening to [their] telephone calls.”

He said the surveillance programs monitor phone numbers and the durations of calls, adding that if there are any suspicions and “if the intelligence community then actually wants to listen to a phone call, they’ve got to go back to a federal judge, just like they would in a criminal investigation.”

President Obama added that America is “going to have to make some choices” between privacy and security, warning that the highly publicized programs will make it harder to target terrorists.

Meanwhile, deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce said that the “program is not intentionally used to target any US citizens” and is “key in our counter-terrorism efforts.”

Testifying on Capitol Hill before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in June, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander claimed that the NSA’s storage of millions of phone records has thwarted more than 50 terror attacks in more than 20 countries since September 11, 2001. However, evidence of the prevented attacks has not been revealed.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Prison Population Shrinking; States Ready to Sell Extra Prisons

By Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky | AllGov | July 28, 2013

In what some experts say may be the beginning of the end for mass incarceration, the U.S. prison population declined for the third year in a row last year.

In 2012, the prison population shrunk by 1.7% (or 27,770 inmates), according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

The third consecutive yearly drop in prisoner numbers has been the result of fewer crimes and changes in state correctional policies. Many states are now relying more on probation and parole instead of locking people up.

Although the percentage decline might seem small, the fact that it followed decreases in 2011 and 2010 indicated the country is undergoing a “sea change” in criminal justice policy.

“This is the beginning of the end of mass incarceration,” Natasha Frost, associate dean of Northeastern University’s school of criminology and criminal justice, told The New York Times.

Before 2010, the U.S. prison population increased every year for 30 years, from 307,276 in 1978 to a high of 1,615,487 in 2009.

The decline has not affected federal prisons, which are seeing record numbers of prisoners.

At least 17 states are selling or are considering selling some of their underutilized prisons. For example, in Pennsylvania, the state is looking to sell off two prisons that were recently emptied and shut down. A 40-building prison in Cambria County and a 32-building correctional facility in Westmoreland County are among 37 surplus state properties listed for sale.

According to BJS, 47% of prisoners have been incarcerated for non-violent crimes, such as property offenses, drug offenses and public order offenses.

Louisiana had the highest percentage of its population in prison last year, 893 per 100,000 state residents. In second place was Mississippi (717 per 100,000 state residents), followed by Alabama (650 per 100,000 state residents), Oklahoma (648 per 100,000 state residents), and Texas (601 per 100,000 state residents).

Maine had the lowest imprisonment rate (145 per 100,000 state residents), followed by Minnesota (184 per 100,000 state residents), and Rhode Island (190 per 100,000 state residents).

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment