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Why The NSA Must Be Reined In — For Democracy’s Sake

By Glyn Moody | Techdirt | September 13, 2013

In the wake of the continuing leaks about the NSA’s activities, most commentators are understandably still trying to get to grips with the enormity of what has been happening. But John Naughton, professor of the public understanding of technology at the UK’s Open University, tackles a very different question on his blog: what is likely to happen in the future, if things carry on as they are?

Naughton notes that the NSA’s mission statement includes the following phrase: “to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances.” “Under all circumstances” means that as the Internet grows — and as we know, it is currently growing rapidly — so the NSA will naturally ask for resources to allow it to do tomorrow what it is doing today: monitoring more or less everything that happens online. Naughton then asks where that might lead if the political climate in the US remains sufficiently favorable to the NSA that it does, indeed, get those resources:

The obvious conclusion therefore, is that unless some constraints on its growth materialise, the NSA will continue to expand. It currently has 35,000 employees. How many will it have in ten years’ time? Who can say: 50,000, maybe? Maybe even more? So we’re confronted with the likelihood of the growth of a bureaucratic monster.

How will such a body be subjected to democratic oversight and control? Let me rephrase that: can such a monster be subjected to democratic control?

Although optimists might answer ‘yes’, Naughton points to the FBI as an example of what has already happened in this area:

those with long memories recall the fear and loathing that J. Edgar Hoover, the founder — and long-term (48 years) Director — of the FBI aroused in important segments of the American polity. The relatively restrained Wikipedia entry for him claims that even US presidents feared him and quotes Harry Truman as saying that “Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force”. “We want no Gestapo or secret police”, Truman is reported as saying. “FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.”

He then goes on to draw the obvious parallel with a possible tomorrow:

Now spool forward a decade or so and imagine a Director of the NSA, a charismatic ‘securocrat’ imbued with a mission to protect the United States from terrorists and whatever other threats happen to be current at the time. He (or she) has 50,000+ operatives who have access to every email, clickstream log, text message, phone call and social-networking post that every legislator has ever made. S/he is a keystroke away from summoning up cellphone location logs showing every trip a lawmaker has made, from teenager-hood onwards, every credit- and debit-card payment. Everything.

And then tell me that lawmakers will not be as scared of that person as their predecessors were of Hoover.

Think that could never happen? Are we sure…?Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

NYC Tracking E-ZPass Tags All Over The City, Without Telling Drivers

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | September 13, 2013

New York, and many states in the northeast and midwest, use an RFID toll-paying solution called E-ZPass (the system works in multiple states — but not all, which is why, for example, you can’t use the E-ZPass on California’s Fastrak system). Ever since E-ZPass came into existence, some have expressed concerns that the tags would be used for tracking, rather than just for more convenient and efficient toll-paying. And, in fact, the toll-paying records have been used in a variety of legal cases, from catching an official who falsified time sheets to being used as evidence in divorce cases. But all of those still involved using the records at the actual tolls, where everyone knows the tags are being read.

However, it turns out that New York City has had an ongoing program to surreptitiously scan the tags in a variety of places supposedly for monitoring traffic. Indeed, you could see how that sort of traffic information might be useful, though these days with many other forms of traffic monitoring systems out there, it’s probably a lot less necessary than before. But this was only discovered because a hacker going by the name Puking Monkey (one assumes this was not his given name) got suspicious and hacked up an E-ZPass to light up and make a sound whenever it was read. Then he drove around Manhattan, and voila, the tag kept going off.

As Kash Hill’s article at Forbes notes, this has been going on for years, though, the various agencies involved have been rather quiet about it, and (perhaps most importantly) this type of usage does not appear to be disclosed in the terms and conditions for the E-ZPass. Oops.

The technology company that makes the devices insists that it’s not being used for any surveillance:

“The tag ID is scrambled to make it anonymous. The scrambled ID is held in dynamic memory for several minutes to compare with other sightings from other readers strategically placed for the purpose of measuring travel times which are then averaged to develop an understanding of traffic conditions,” says TransCore spokesperson Barbara Catlin by email. “Travel times are used to estimate average speeds for general traveler information and performance metrics. Tag sightings (reads) age off the system after several minutes or after they are paired and are not stored because they are of no value. Hence the system cannot identify the tag user and does not keep any record of the tag sightings.”

Of course, even if that is true today, that doesn’t mean it will always be true. We’re already well aware of how the NYPD is known for the extreme lengths it will go in terms of surveillance, including the fact that it’s set up its own intelligence division that many say rivals the intelligence operations of entire nations. Since the folks behind E-ZPass didn’t seem to think it was necessary to tell people that their devices would be used for traffic monitoring, how likely is it that anyone would be told if it was used for surveillance as well?

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

NSA masqueraded as Google to spy on web users – report

google.si

RT | September 13, 2013

The NSA used ‘man in the middle’ hack attacks to impersonate Google and fool web users, leaks have revealed. The technique circumvents encryption by redirecting users to a copycat site which relays all the data entered to NSA data banks.

Brazilian television network Globo News released a report based on classified data divulged by former CIA worker Edward Snowden on Sunday. The report itself blew the whistle on US government spying on Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, but hidden in amongst the data was information the NSA had impersonated Google to get its hands on user data.

Globo TV showed slides from a 2012 NSA presentation explaining how the organization intercepts data and re-routes it to NSA central. One of the convert techniques the NSA uses to do this is a ‘man in the middle’ (MITM) hack attack.

This particular method of intercepting internet communications is quite common among expert hackers as it avoids having to break through encryption. Essentially, NSA operatives log into a router used by an internet service provider and divert ‘target traffic’ to a copycat MITM site, whereupon all the data entered is relayed to the NSA. The data released by Edward Snowden and reported on by Globo News suggests the NSA carried out these attacks disguised as Google.

When the news broke about the NSA gathering information through internet browsers, tech giants such as Google and Yahoo denied complicity, maintaining they only handover data if a formal request is issued by the government.

“As for recent reports that the US government has found ways to circumvent our security systems, we have no evidence of any such thing ever occurring. We provide our user data to governments only in accordance with the law,” said Google spokesperson Jay Nancarrow to news site Mother Jones.

Google, along with Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo, has filed a lawsuit against the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to allow them to make public all the data requests made by the NSA.

“Given the important public policy issues at stake, we have also asked the court to hold its hearing in open rather than behind closed doors. It’s time for more transparency,” Google’s director of law enforcement and information security, Richard Salgado, and the director of public policy and government affairs, Pablo Chavez, wrote in a blog post on Monday.

The tech giants implicated in NSA’s global spying program have denied criticism that they could have done more to resist NSA spying. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, claimed that speaking out about the NSA’s activities would have amounted to ‘treason’ at a press conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

In Yahoo’s defense, she argued that the company had been very skeptical of the NSA’s requests to disclose user data and had resisted whenever possible. Mayer concluded that it was more realistic to work within the system,” rather than fight against it.

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blaming the Victims: U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Doubles Down Regarding Ahuas Shootings

By Dan Beeton | CEPR Americas Blog | September 13, 2013

Earlier this week, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske gave a talk at the Institute of the Americas in San Diego. During the Q and A, audience member Aaron Montenegro asked her about the May 11, 2012 DEA-related shooting incident in Ahuas, in Honduras’ Mosquitia region in which four local, unarmed villagers were killed and several others wounded. (As Americas Blog readers know, CEPR has co-authored two in-depth reports on the incident with Rights Action, based on evidence and interviews with survivors, witnesses, and various U.S. and Honduran officials; and on a review of official investigations.  And we have blogged about ongoing developments regarding the case as well.)

A recording of the revealing exchange is posted here, and a full transcript follows:

Question:  I’d like to mention something that you didn’t talk about, and that’s the Ahuas case in Mosquitia and the lack of cooperation coming from the U.S. Embassy.  For those of you who don’t know, in indigenous territory, the Mosquitia, there was a massacre that took place in the name of fighting narcotráfico, and this was taking place with U.S. State Department helicopters, with DEA agents and subcontracted Guatemalan pilots. And there has been a refusal to participate within this investigation as far as the ballistic tests are concerned.  So I would just like for you to maybe address that and why there hasn’t been so much forward participation with that if you are talking about impunity. And then, another question I would like to

Moderator: Wait a minute, let’s do that one…

Question: OK.

Kubiske: OK, Ahuas.  I don’t share that characterization that you just gave.  There was a program.  It ran for a very short period of time, called “Operation Anvil” or yunque in Spanish, and it was, it was part of a regional aviation air interdiction program – so drug interdiction program by air.  In that program, which was basically a program that was lending U.S. helicopters to Hondurans as they learned to do aerial interdiction — so it was a capacity building thing — they had one incident in Ahuas in which the Honduran people on board, Honduran police, in self-defense, shot at people on the ground.  And in that back and forth four people — they didn’t shoot from the air, they shot down on the ground — when people were coming at them in a way that looked like the people were trying to recover drugs that had been delivered illegally into Honduran airspace and down into Ahuas.  The goal was not to have anybody killed, obviously.  People were killed, and it was a tragedy.  And in looking at that program there are lessons learned about how to do that program if it were to happen in the future so that it would be safer, but it was a case in which there were investigations both in Honduras and in the United States.  Those reports– at least one of those reports, is circulating in Washington, and it should be available from your congressman, probably. It’s not a case of impunity.  It was a case in which there was a perceived threat.

There was — I’m going to go a little further and say it was not at all clear what was going on with the people.  There was a boat coming at the boat that had the authorities.  It was not at all clear that the people in the other boat were innocent or not innocent — still not clear — and it was very unfortunate.  It happened in a community that was well armed, which people can see from the videos that exist of the event.  So it was actually quite a dangerous interdiction as it happened.

And so one thing we learned is that when those drugs arrive in Gracias a Diós, which is a relatively unpopulated place — Ahuas has about 60…600 people I think — that these are not innocent communities.  These are communities in which a lot of people find it not dangerous, perhaps, to help the drug traffickers who live there.  And afterwards I think we know that many more people began to think that it was dangerous.  We’ve seen some changes in behavior.  That’s not to justify what happened.  It’s a tragedy that four people died.

Ambassador Kubiske’s comments are disturbing for several reasons. Despite interviews with survivors and deceased victims’ relatives in The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Real News and other outlets – and despite several reports on the incident (including ours), she again presents a version of the events first made by U.S. officials immediately after the shootings, but the veracity of which has been called into question by both official and unofficial investigations. As we have described previously, these accounts have been contradicted by the National Commission of Human Rights (a Honduran government agency), by the Honduran officers involved, and even by DEA and other U.S. officials.

Kubiske states that “Honduran police, in self-defense, shot at people on the ground,” but then adds the qualification that “they didn’t shoot from the air, they shot down on the ground…” Yet the forensic evidence – bullet holes in the villager’s boat and gunshot wounds suffered by victims – is consistent not with a horizontal (and two-sided) fire-fight, but with shots fired from above. The survivors and other witnesses as well as the Honduran police officers, former DEA chief in Honduras Jim Kenney, and an unnamed U.S. official (speaking to the New York Times just days after the incident) have said that the boat passengers were also fired on from the helicopter.

To bolster her version of what happened, Kubiske cites secret evidence – a video, supposedly taken by a Customs and Border Protection P-3 surveillance plane (also previously described in our “Collateral Damage of a Drug War” report). Although she says that “people can see from the videos that exist of the event” that the “community [was] well armed” and that it was “a dangerous interdiction,” in fact “people” have been unable to see this supposed video evidence. It has, to our knowledge, been seen by few outside of certain congressional offices and a few journalists. (Other journalists – from major media outlets – who have requested to see the video have had their requests denied.)

Kubiske’s description of a “well-armed” community is part of what is most disturbing about her response to the question: she again blames the victims, people who the evidence suggests have nothing to do with drug trafficking but who were returning home that night along a major traffic route in the area – the Patuca river – as is common. She comes back to this theme, to reiterate that the shooting victims may have been partly to blame, at least: “It was not at all clear that the people in the other boat were innocent or not innocent — still not clear,” and even more chillingly says

…these are not innocent communities.  These are communities in which a lot of people find it not dangerous, perhaps, to help the drug traffickers who live there.  And afterwards I think we know that many more people began to think that it was dangerous.  We’ve seen some changes in behavior.  That’s not to justify what happened.

Kubiske never notes, of course, that one of those shot dead in the operation was Juana Jackson, who was pregnant, and that another was Hasked Brooks Wood, a 14-year-old boy, and whether, therefore, the State Department and/or DEA wouldn’t find it strange for pregnant women and children to be involved in the drug trade. Kubiske has previously denied that any of the shooting victims were pregnant, even though a doctor’s report and statements by numerous individuals in the community – as well as eyewitnesses to her (unprofessional and insensitive) open-air autopsy — attest to the fact that Jackson was pregnant.

As we have previously noted, in addition to obstructing Honduran investigations into the incident, the U.S. government has failed to provide any assistance to the surviving victims of the incident — some of whom needed significant medical attention – nor the families of the deceased victims.

Kubiske also states that this “was a case in which there were investigations both in Honduras and in the United States.  Those reports– at least one of those reports, is circulating in Washington, and it should be available from your congressman, probably.” But as we have previously demonstrated, these reports themselves contain inconsistencies, and were based on improper investigations (as some authorities involved in the investigations have come forward to reveal). The public report to which Kubiske is referring is probably the Honduran Attorney General’s report, which has been sent to the U.S. State Department and congressional offices. It is this investigation that was the focus of our “Still Waiting for Justice” report released earlier this year, co-authored with Rights Action, and which we found had “serious flaws including major omissions of key testimony and forensic exams, a one-sided description and analysis of events, and ‘observations’ (in lieu of conclusions) that aren’t supported by the evidence that is cited.”

The U.S. report that Kubiske mentions is likely the DEA’s internal report on the incident, which has not been made public, and which has not been shared with Congress. Unfortunately, this remains the only U.S. probe into the shootings to have been conducted, as the State and Justice departments have refused to conduct an independent investigation despite calls from members of Congress for them to do so.

It is also worth noting that Kubiske never addressed Montenegro’s actual question regarding the reports that the U.S. didn’t cooperate with Honduran Public Ministry officials who carried out the official investigation of the Ahuas killings.  Indeed, though Kubiske cites the Honduran investigation to support her version of events, the U.S. government hasn’t allowed the Public Ministry to question the ten DEA agents and various State Department contractors involved in the Ahuas operation, nor allowed them to perform ballistic tests on these agents’ firearms.  The irony would be laughable if four lives hadn’t been lost:  the State Department and the DEA have themselves severely undermined the very investigation that they rely on to defend their deadly operation in Ahuas.

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The People Against the 800 Pound Gorilla

By Jean Bricmont and Diana Johnstone | Dissident Voice | September 13, 2013

The past ten days have seen what could be the start of an historic turning point away from endless war in the Middle East. Public opinion in the United States, in harmony with the majority of people in the world, has clearly rejected U.S. military intervention in Syria.

But for this turn away from war to be complete and lasting, greater awareness is needed of the forces that have been pushing the United States into these wars, and will surely continue to do so until they are clearly and openly rejected.

An American friend who knows Washington well recently told us that “everybody” there knows that, as far as the drive to war with Syria is concerned, it is Israel that directs U.S. policy. Why then, we replied, don’t opponents of war say it out loud, since, if the American public knew that, support for the war would collapse? Of course, we knew the answer to that question. They are afraid to say all they know, because if you blame the pro-Israel lobby, you are branded an anti-Semite in the media and your career is destroyed.

One who had that experience is James Abourezk, former Senator from South Dakota, who has testified:  “I can tell you from personal experience that, at least in the Congress, the support Israel has in that body is based completely on political fear – fear of defeat by anyone who does not do what Israel wants done. I can also tell you that very few members of Congress–at least when I served there – have any affection for Israel or for its lobby. What they have is contempt, but it is silenced by fear of being found out exactly how they feel. I’ve heard too many cloakroom conversations in which members of the Senate will voice their bitter feelings about how they’re pushed around by the lobby to think otherwise. In private one hears the dislike of Israel and the tactics of the lobby, but not one of them is willing to risk the lobby’s animosity by making their feelings public.”
Abourezk added : “The only exceptions to that rule are the feelings of Jewish members, who, I believe, are sincere in their efforts to keep U.S. money flowing to Israel. But that minority does not a U.S. imperial policy make.”[1]

Since we do not have to run for Congress, we feel free to take a close look at that highly delicate question. First, we’ll review the evidence for the crucial role of the pro-Israel lobby, then we’ll discuss some objections.

For evidence, it should be enough to quote some recent headlines from the American and Israeli press.

First, according to the Times of Israel (not exactly an anti-Zionist rag): “Israel intelligence seen as central to U.S. case against Syria.”[2] (Perhaps the fact that it is “central” also explains why it is so dubious[3].)

Then, in Haaretz[4]: “AIPAC to deploy hundreds of lobbyists to push for Syria action”. Or, in U.S. News and World Report[5]: “Pro-Israel lobby Seeks to Turn Tide on Syria Debate in Congress”. According to Bloomberg[6]: “Adelson New Obama Ally as Jewish Groups Back Syria Strike”. The worst enemies of Obama become his allies, provided he does what “Jewish groups” want. Even rabbis enter the dance: according to the Times of Israel[7], “U.S. rabbis urge Congress to back Obama on Syria”.

The New York Times explained some of the logic behind the pressure: “Administration officials said the influential pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Mr. Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel. … One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called AIPAC ‘the 800-pound gorilla in the room,’ and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, ‘If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line’ against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, ‘we’re in trouble’.”

Even more interesting, this part of the story was deleted by the New York Times, according to M.J. Rosenberg[8], which is consistent with the fact that the lobby prefers to act discreetly.

Now, to the objections:

There are indeed forces other than the Israel lobby pushing for war.  It is true that some neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia or Turkey also want to destroy Syria, for their own reasons. But they have nowhere near the political influence on the United States of the Israel lobby. If Saudi princes use their money to try to corrupt a few U.S. politicians, that can easily be denounced as interference by a foreign power in the internal affairs of the United States. But no similar charge can be raised against Israeli influence because of the golden gag rule: any mention of such influence can be immediately denounced as a typical anti-Semitic slur against a nonexistent “Jewish power”. Referring to the perfectly obvious, public activities of the Israel lobby may even be likened to peddling a “conspiracy theory”.

But many of our friends insist that every war is driven by economic interests. Isn’t this latest war to be waged because big bad capitalists want to exploit Syrian gas, or use Syrian territory for a gas pipeline, or open up the Syrian economy to foreign investments?

There is a widespread tendency, shared by much of the left, especially among people who think of themselves as Marxists (Marx himself was far more nuanced on this issue), to think that wars must be due to cynically rational calculations by capitalists. If this were so, these wars “for oil” might be seen as “in the national interest”. But this view sees “capitalism” as a unified actor issuing orders to obedient politicians on the basis of careful calculations.   As Bertrand Russell put it, this putative rationality ignores “the ocean of human folly upon which the fragile barque of human reason insecurely floats”.  Wars have been waged for all kinds of non-economic reasons, such as religion or revenge, or simply to display power.

People who think that capitalists want wars to make profits should spend time observing the board of directors of any big corporation: capitalists need stability, not chaos, and the recent wars only bring more chaos. American capitalists are making fortunes in China and Vietnam now that there is peace between the U.S. and those countries, which was not possible during hostilities. As for the argument that they need wars to loot resources, one may observe that the U.S. is buying oil from Iraq now, and so does China, but China did not have to ruin itself in a costly war.  Like Iraq, Iran or Syria are perfectly willing to sell their resources, and it is the political embargoes imposed by the U.S. that prevent such trade. As for the “war for oil” thesis in the case of Libya, the Guardian recently reported that “Libya is facing its most critical moment since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi with armed groups blockading oil fields and terminals, choking output to a 10th of normal levels and threatening economic disaster.”[9]As for Iraq, Stephen Sniegoski has shown, in The Transparent Cabal, The Neoconsevative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, that the war was only due to the neoconservatives and that the oil companies had no desire whatsoever to go to war. Indeed, there is no evidence of an “oil lobby” sending its agents to urge Members of Congress to vote for war, as AIPAC is doing.

And how does one explain that many of the most determined opponents of war are found on the right of the political spectrum? Do the Tea Party, Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Justin Raimundo and antiwar.com, Paul Craig Roberts, among others, fail to see the wonderful profits to be made by capitalists in a devastated Syria?

The fact is that in the post-colonial period, wherever profits can be made through war, they can be made much more reliably in peaceful conditions, and most capitalists seem to have understood that. There is no need to conquer countries in order to purchase their resources, invest in their economies or sell them our products.  Most countries are in fact eager for legitimate trade.

On the other hand, it can be argued that the huge military-industrial complex (MIC) benefits from wars. Doesn’t the MIC need wars to maintain the lifeblood of military appropriations? Here the matter is complex. The MIC benefits above all from various hyped-up threats of war, most notably the Soviet threat during the Cold War, which kept the credits and contracts flowing through the Pentagon. But long, botched wars such as in Afghanistan or Iraq tend to give war a bad name, are economically ruinous and lead to questioning the need for the huge U.S. military. The MIC doesn’t need another one in Syria. Many military officers are openly hostile to mounting at attack against Syria.

The interests that profit directly from recent U.S. wars – and not from mere “threats” – are very few. They are above all the giant construction firms, Bechtel, Halliburton and their subsidiaries, which, through their connections with officials such as Dick Cheney, win contracts to build U.S. military bases abroad and sometimes to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by the U.S. Air Force. This amounts to a recycling of American taxpayers’ money, which in no way “profits” the United States, or American capitalism in general; besides, those construction firms are not big compared to major U.S. corporations. These profiteers could never pose as a “justification” for wars, but are the mere vultures feeding off conflicts.

The basic responsibility for war of the U.S. military-industrial complex is simply that it is there. And as Madeleine Albright famously said, “what is the use of having that splendid military if we don’t use it?” In fact, ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union (and indeed arguably ever since the end of World War II), there is no obviously good reason to use it, and it might well be dismantled and resources redirected toward modernizing U.S. infrastructure and other useful and profitable activities. However, an intellectual industry called “think tanks” has developed in Washington devoted to justifying the perpetuation of the MIC.  It specializes in identifying potential “threats”.  Over the years, these think tanks have increasingly come under the influence of billionaire benefactors of Israel such as Haim Saban (founder of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution). Since there are in reality virtually no serious threats to the United States calling for such colossal military strength, alleged “threats to U.S. interests” in the Middle East are invented by adopting supposed threats to Israel as threats to the United States. Example number one: Iran.

People on the left are not wrong in supposing that Washington would want to defend “American geo-strategic interests”. Those certainly exist, and are a proper object of controversy. But the crucial question here is whether support for Israeli policy aims in the Middle East is among them.  Indeed, there is a sector of the U.S. foreign policy establishment that promotes an aggressive global foreign policy that amounts to a sort of world conquest, with U.S. military bases and military exercises surrounding Russia and China, as if in preparation for some final showdown. But the fact is that the most active advocates of this aggressive policy are the pro-Israel neoconservatives of the Project for the New American Century that pushed the Bush II presidency into war against Iraq, and now, as the Foreign Policy Initiative, are pushing Obama toward war against Syria. Their general line is that U.S. and Israeli interests are identical, and that U.S. world domination is good, or even necessary, for Israel. Such close identification with Israel has caused the United States to be intensely hated throughout the Muslim world, which is not good for the United States in the long run.

Perhaps because genuine, material or economic U.S. interests in going to war are so hard to find, the emphasis has shifted in the past decade to alleged “moral” concerns, such as “the responsibility to protect”, packaged with a catchy brand name, “R2P”. Today, the strongest advocates of going to war are the various humanitarian imperialists or liberal interventionists, who argue on the basis of R2P, or “justice for victims”, or alleged “genocide prevention”.

There is a large overlap between humanitarian interventionism and support for Israel. In France, Bernard Kouchner, who first invented and promoted the concept of the “right to intervene”, stated in a recent interview that “Israel is like no other country. It is the result of the terrifying massacre of the Holocaust.” It is therefore “our duty” to protect it. Bernard-Henry Lévy prodded the French government to start the war against Libya, making no secret that he considered he was acting as a Jew for the interests of Israel; he is now the foremost and fiercest advocate of bombing Syria. In both France and the United States, advocates of “humanitarian” intervention justify bombing Syria by referring to the Holocaust in the past and to a hypothetical, and totally unsubstantiated, intention by Iran to risk national suicide by attacking Israel in the future.

In the United States, these concerns of the Israel lobby are given ideological and institutional expression by such influential advisors as Samantha Power, Madeleine Albright and the two Abramowitz’s (Morton the father and Michael the son, in charge of “genocide prevention efforts” at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum). The argument is used repeatedly that because “we” did not intervene quickly enough against Auschwitz, we have an obligation to intervene militarily to prevent other possible slaughters.

On September 6, the Cleveland Jewish News published a letter from “leading rabbis” urging Congress to support President Obama’s plans to strike Syria. “We write you as descendants of Holocaust survivors and refugees, whose ancestors were gassed to death in concentration camps,” the letter said. By authorizing bombing raids, the rabbis said, “Congress has the capacity to save thousands of lives”…

Without such dramatization, obscuring the reality of each new crisis with images of the Holocaust, the whole notion that the best way to promote human rights and protect populations is to wage unilateral wars, destroy what is left of the international legal order and spread chaos would be seen for the absurdity it is.  Only the fervor of the champions of Israel enables such emotional arguments to swamp reasonable discussion.

But one may reasonably ask what are the interests of Israel itself in inciting the United States to fight in Syria? Israelis seem to have frightened themselves into believing that the very existence of another power in the region, namely Iran, amounts to an existential threat. But the mere fact that a policy is pursued does not mean that it is necessarily in the interests of those who pursue it. That is again ignoring the “ocean of human folly”. Napoleon and Hitler had no interest or desire in bringing Russian troops to Paris or Berlin, but their policies led to precisely that. The emperors of Germany, Austria and Russia had no interest in launching the First World War, since, in the end, they all lost their thrones as a result of the war. But launch it they did. The future is unpredictable, and that is why it is difficult to deduce intentions from consequences. Israel’s hostile policy toward its neighbors can reasonably be seen as self-defeating in the long run.

Oddly enough, some observers deny the obvious, arguing that Bashar al Assad has allowed Israel to occupy Syrian territory on the Golan Heights and has kept the border quiet (without explaining what else he could have done, given the relationship of forces) and concluding that Israel has no interest in toppling him. But what matters is that Assad is allied with Hezbollah and with Iran. Israel hates Hezbollah for its successful resistance to Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and sees Iran as the only potential challenge to Israeli military supremacy in the region.

Even so, it is not certain that Israel’s war aim would be to overthrow Assad. A clue to Israel’s strategy is provided by a September 5 article in the New York Times[10]: “Israeli officials have consistently made the case that enforcing Mr. Obama’s narrow ‘red line’ on Syria is essential to halting the nuclear ambitions of Israel’s archenemy, Iran. More quietly, Israelis have increasingly argued that the best outcome for Syria’s two-and-a-half-year-old civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome. For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.”

“This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.”

So, the real goal of the limited strikes (and the reason why they ought to be limited) would be to send a message to Iran, about its nonexistent nuclear arms program and, in Syria, let both sides “bleed to death”. How nice! Waging a war based on the flimsiest of evidence only to prolong a bloody conflict may not be a very moral endeavor for all those who claim to act out of passion for “our values” and for deep concern over the “suffering of the Syrian people”.

In its zeal to serve what it considers Israel’s interests, AIPAC and its affiliates practice deception concerning the issues at stake. The lobby misrepresents the interests of the United States, and even ignores the long term interests of the Jewish people whom it often claims to represent. It is pure folly for a minority, however powerful and respected, to try to impose an unpopular war on the majority. Since Israel often claims to represent the Jewish people as a whole, if the majority of Americans are forced to pay an unacceptable price for “defending Israel”, sooner or later voices will be raised blaming “the Jews”. Indeed, this can be seen by a brief look at what already gets written, anonymously of course, on social media, ranging from various conspiracy theories to outright Jew-bashing.

We, who are totally opposed to the notion of collective guilt, wish to avoid such an outcome. Far from being anti-Semitic, we deplore all forms of “identity politics” that ignore the diversity within every human group. We simply want to be able to say “no” openly to the pro-Israel lobby without being subjected to moral intimidation. This has nothing to do with Jewish religion or identity or culture: it is entirely political. We claim our right to refuse to be drawn into somebody else’s war. We believe that these endless wars are not “good for the Jews” – or for anyone else. We want to contribute to efforts at mutual understanding, diplomacy, compromise and disarmament. In short, to strengthen “the fragile barque of human reason” adrift on the ocean of human folly.  Otherwise, that folly may drown us all.

For now, the threat of war has been avoided, or at least “postponed”. Let us not forget that Iraq and Libya also gave up their weapons of mass destruction, only to be attacked later. Syria is likely to abandon its chemical weapons, but without any guarantee that the rebels, much less Israel, won’t retain such weapons. The popular mobilization against the war, probably the first one in history to stop a war before it starts, has been intense but may be short-lived. Those whose war plans have been interrupted can be expected to come up with new maneuvers to regain the initiative. These past days have given a glimpse of what can be accomplished when people wake up and say no to war. This must be an inspiration for continued efforts to make diplomacy prevail over bullying, and mutual disarmament over endless war. If people really want peace, it can be possible.

JEAN BRICMONTteaches physics at the University of Louvain in Belgium. He is author of Humanitarian Imperialism.  He can be reached at Jean.Bricmont@uclouvain.be

DIANA JOHNSTONE is author of Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions.  She lives in Paris and can be reached at diana.josto@yahoo.fr

Notes

[1]  http://www.uruknet.de/?p=m28769

[2] http://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-intelligence-seen-as-central-to-us-case-against-syria/

http://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-intelligence-seen-as-central-to-us-case-against-syria/

[3] For a discussion of the “evidence,” see, for example, Gareth Porter: How Intelligence Was to Support an Attack on Syria, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/18559-how-intelligence-was-twisted-to-support-an-attack-on-syria.

[4]  http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.545661

[5] http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/09/06/jewish-lobby-seeks-to-turn-tide-on-syria-debate-in-congress

[6]  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-04/adelson-new-obama-ally-as-jewish-groups-back-syria-strike.html

[7] http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-rabbis-urge-congress-to-back-obama-on-syria/

[8] http://mjayrosenberg.com/2013/09/03/new-york-times-deletes-this-paragraph-in-which-white-house-says-aipac-is-key-to-war/

[9] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/03/libya-oil-supplies-tripoli

[10] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/world/middleeast/israel-backs-limited-strike-against-syria.html?_r=0

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holland apologizes for Indonesia killings

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A mural at the Rawagede monument in West Java province depicts a 1947 massacre by Dutch troops
Press TV – September 13, 2013

The Netherlands has publicly apologized for mass killings carried out by Dutch troops in its former colony of Indonesia.

Dutch ambassador to Indonesia Tjeerd de Zwaan offered a state apology during a ceremony held at the Netherlands’s embassy in Jakarta on Thursday for the “excesses committed by Dutch forces” in the 1940s war of independence.

Several relatives of the victims also attended the ceremony.

Dutch troops carried out thousands of summary executions between 1945 and 1949 in Indonesia.

The Netherlands had previously apologized to the people of Indonesia for the colonial-era atrocities, but it had never before offered a public apology for all the summary executions.

“On behalf of the Dutch government, I apologize for these excesses,” said the Dutch ambassador.

“The Dutch government hopes that this apology will help close a difficult chapter for those whose lives were impacted so directly by the violent excesses that took place between 1945 and 1949,” he added.

No Dutch officials or soldiers went on trial over the executions.

Indonesia was under the Dutch occupation from the 19th century until World War II, when the Japanese army forced the Netherlands out.

After the defeat of Japan in 1945, the Dutch attempted to recapture Indonesia, but met fierce resistance from the people of the sprawling archipelago.

Finally, the Dutch recognized Indonesia’s independence in 1949.

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

WHO Refuses to Publish Report on Cancers and Birth Defects in Iraq Caused by Depleted Uranium Ammunition

By Denis Halliday | Global Research | September 13, 2013

The World Health Organisation (WHO)  has categorically refused in defiance of its own mandate to share evidence uncovered in Iraq that US military use of Depleted Uranium and other weapons have not only killed many civilians, but continue to result in the birth of deformed babies.

This issue was first brought to light in 2004 in a WHO expert report “on the long-term health of Iraq’s civilian population resulting from depleted uranium (DU) weapons”. This earlier report was “held secret”, namely suppressed by the WHO:

The study by three leading radiation scientists cautioned that children and adults could contract cancer after breathing in dust containing DU, which is radioactive and chemically toxic. But it was blocked from publication by the World Health Organization (WHO), which employed the main author, Dr Keith Baverstock, as a senior radiation advisor. He alleges that it was deliberately suppressed, though this is denied by WHO. (See Rob Edwards, WHO ‘Suppressed’ Scientific Study Into Depleted Uranium Cancer Fears in Iraq,  The Sunday Herald, February 24, 2004)

Almost nine years later,  a joint WHO- Iraqi Ministry of Health Report on cancers and birth defect in Iraq was to be released in November 2012. “It has been delayed repeatedly and now has no release date whatsoever.”

To this date the WHO study remains “classified”.

According to Hans von Sponeck, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations,

“The US government sought to prevent the WHO from surveying areas in southern Iraq where depleted uranium had been used and caused serious health and environmental dangers.” (quoted in Mozhgan Savabieasfahani Rise of Cancers and Birth Defects in Iraq: World Health Organization Refuses to Release Data, Global Research, July 31, 2013

This tragedy in Iraq reminds one of US Chemical Weapons used in Vietnam. And that the US has failed to acknowledge or pay compensation or provide medical assistance to thousands of deformed children born and still being born due to American military use of Agent Orange throughout the country.

The millions of gallons of this chemical dumped on rural Vietnam were eagerly manufactured and sold to the Pentagon by companies Dupont, Monsanto and others greedy for huge profits.

Given the US record of failing to acknowledge its atrocities in warfare, I fear those mothers in Najaf and other Iraqi cities and towns advised not to attempt the birth of more children will never receive solace or help.

A United Nations that is no longer corrupted by the five Permanent Members of the Security Council is what is needed.

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Assad Ready to Give Up Chemical Weapons If US Stops ‘Threats’

RIA Novosti | September 12, 2013

MOSCOW – Syrian President Bashar Assad said Thursday that his government would put its chemical weapons under international supervision within a month after it signs the UN Chemical Weapons Convention, but only if the United States stops its “policy of threats.”

“Syria will send an appeal to the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in a few days. [The appeal] will have the technical documents necessary to sign the agreement,” Assad said in an interview with Rossiya-24 television.

“These are standard procedures, and we will follow them,” he added, speaking in Arabic with a Russian translation.

Assad emphasized, however, that Syria would not follow such procedures unilaterally while facing US threats and international support of rebel forces.

“When we see that the US genuinely stands for stability in our region, stops threatening us with military intervention and stops supplying terrorists with weapons, then we will consider it possible to finalize all necessary procedures and they will become legitimate and acceptable for Syria,” he said.

Assad warned that an attack on Syria would destroy the whole Middle East, and he called on other countries in the region, especially Israel, to destroy their stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

“I think any war against Syria will turn into a war that would destroy the whole region and the Middle East will enter the stretch of troubles and instability that would last for dozens of years, affecting future generations,” he said.

“If we really want stability in the Middle East, all the countries [in the region] must honor the agreements. And the first country to do so is Israel because it possesses nuclear, chemical and biological weapons – all types of weapons of mass destruction,” Assad stressed.

The Syrian president also praised Russia for its efforts aimed at finding a diplomatic solution for the Syrian crisis.

“Russia plays an extremely important role in this process because we do not trust Americans and we do not have contacts with the US,” he said, adding that Russia is the only country capable of ensuring the success of the Syrian peace settlement.

Assad’s interview comes as Russian and US chemical weapons experts and diplomats prepare to attend a series of bilateral meetings on the Syrian crisis later Thursday and Friday in Switzerland.

The hastily organized talks are meant to discuss Moscow’s plan, proposed Monday, to avert a US attack on Syria by placing Damascus’ chemical weapons under international control.

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment