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Adobe suspected of spying on eBook users

RT | October 8, 2014

Software giant Adobe has been accused of spying on individuals who use its Digital Editions e-book and PDF reader. The practice allegedly includes mining for data on users PCs, yet Adobe has denied acting beyond the user license agreement.

On Tuesday, the allegation that Digital Edition (DE) software logs and uploads user data to its servers was verified by Ars Technica and a competing software developer at Safari Books. This process is also notable because it’s done transparently over the internet, meaning individuals, internet corporations, and government departments like the National Security Agency can easily intercept the information.

Whether or not the company also monitors user hard drives in general has yet to be confirmed.

“It’s not clear how the data collected by Adobe is stored, but it is associated with a unique identifier for each Digital Editions installation that can be associated with an Internet Protocol address when logged,” Sean Gallagher wrote at Ars Technica. “And the fact that the data is broadcast in the clear by Digital Editions is directly in conflict with the privacy guidelines of many library systems, which closely guard readers’ book loan data.”

Originally, Adobe was flagged by the Digital Reader for tracking and uploading data related to various books opened in DE, such as how long a book has been activated or opened, or what pages have been read.

“Adobe is gathering data on the eBooks that have been opened, which pages were read, and in what order,” Nate Hoffelder wrote at the website. “All of this data, including the title, publisher, and other metadata for the book is being sent to Adobe’s server in clear text.”

“Adobe is not only logging what users are doing,” he continued, “they’re also sending those logs to their servers in such a way that anyone running one of the servers in between can listen in and know everything.”

If that wasn’t enough, Hoffelder claimed that Adobe’s tracking systems are exploring data even beyond the DE reader, scanning users’ computer hard drives and collecting and uploading metadata related to every e-book in the system – whether they were opened in DE or not.

As previously mentioned, this last accusation has not been verified.

“Adobe Digital Editions does not scan your entire computer looking for files that it knows how to open, it needs to be explicitly told about EPUB or PDF files that you would like it to know about,” an Adobe tech support employee wrote earlier this year in response to a question on the community forum.

Utilized by thousands of libraries in order to lend out books digitally, DE’s tracking of activation times would allow libraries to know when a particular lending period has run its course. However, DE is not just tracking borrowed books. It’s also keeping tabs on purchased titles as well.

“We are looking at this, and very concerned about this,” said Deorah Caldwell-Stone, the deputy director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, to Ars Technica. If the data being uploaded over the internet is related to library lending, “we would want this information encrypted and private,” she added.

Meanwhile, Adobe said that “all information collected from the user is collected solely for purposes such as license validation and to facilitate the implementation of different licensing models by publishers.”

“Additionally, this information is solely collected for the eBook currently being read by the user and not for any other eBook in the user’s library or read/available in any other reader. User privacy is very important to Adobe, and all data collection in Adobe Digital Editions is in line with the end user license agreement and the Adobe Privacy Policy.”

“In terms of the unsecure transmission of the collected data, Adobe is in the process of working on an update to address this issue,” the spokesperson said in an email to Ars Technica. “We will notify you when a date for this update has been determined.”

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Boy Records Cops Smashing Car Window, Dragging out Father, for Seat Belt Violation

By Carlos Miller | PINAC | October 7, 2014

The division between police and citizens in this country continues to deepen with an incident out of Indiana caught on video showing a group of cops shattering a car window to pull out a passenger because he did not have identification.

Hammond police had pulled over the man’s girlfriend because she had not been wearing a seatbelt, which as we saw in South Carolina, can lead to a cop opening fire on a driver trying to comply with their orders.

Hammond lawsuit

They then asked her boyfriend, Jamal Jones, for his identification, which she should not have been under any legal obligation to provide considering he wasn’t driving.

Nevertheless, he explained that he did not have it because he was not driving, but offered to show them a ticket he had recently received, which would have given them the information they were looking for. He even reached for a backpack to show them the ticket.

However, that caused them to fear for their lives, so they drew their guns, another example of how complying with a cop’s orders can get you killed.

And that caused Johnson’s girlfriend, Lisa Mahone, to call 911, telling the dispatcher that she was in fear for her life.

She was also concerned that she would not make it to a Chicago hospital to see her dying mother before she lost her life.

But police apologists will be quick to fault her for not wearing a seatbelt. After all, the law is the law and the only people who are allowed to break it are those paid to enforce it.

Meanwhile, the couple’s 14-year-old son, who was sitting in the back with his seven-year-old sister, had begun recording after the cops drew their weapons, which is the only reason the couple is able to file a lawsuit for last month’s incident, which they did this week (click here to read lawsuit).

Otherwise, it would have been written off as another example of police trying to keep everybody safe, only to have to deal with dangerous citizens who refuse to wear seat belts or whatever.

In fact, Hammond police justified their aggression actions in a statement, pointing out that Johnson was also not wearing a seatbelt, so there you have it.

After all, as they proclaim on their website, they are only trying to provide “citizens the safest living environment possible.”

The chief can be reached at 219-852-2900.

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

The myth of Assad, ISIL and extremism

By Sharmine Narwani | RT | October 7, 2014

Who is to blame for the proliferation of extremist groups in Syria? The West often points a finger at Assad and his allies, but two secret US documents tell a different story.

It is difficult to find US officials directly claiming that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in league with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but you will find plenty who will allude to it using specious reasoning:

US Secretary of State John Kerry is one of many who have sought to encourage this narrative:

“There is evidence that Assad has played footsie with them (ISIL), and he has used them as a tool of weakening the opposition. He never took on their headquarters, which were there and obvious, and other assets that they have. So we have no confidence that Assad is either capable of or willing to take on ISIL.”

That logic forms the basis of several key arguments used by Syria’s opponents to suggest a covert and symbiotic relationship between the Syrian government and Islamist extremists. They go something like this:

• Assad encouraged the growth of militants to create an either-or dilemma for Syrians who want him deposed, but who fear “what comes next.”

• Assad released militants from prison in 2011 so that they would overwhelm secular moderates.

• Proof of this is that the Syrian Army does not attack ISIL targets.

• Assad has a close history with militants – he sent hundreds over the border into Iraq to join the insurgency against US forces and is now suffering blowback.

But as a global confrontation with ISIL mounts, an entirely different picture has begun to emerge. The US-led coalition’s five Arab Sunni partners are providing little less than fig-leaf cover for airstrike operations. NATO has been unable to wrest – to date – a commitment from Turkey to enforce serious border security to stop militants from crossing over into Iraq and Syria. In recent weeks, Western media has unleashed a flurry of articles pointing to Qatar’s role in funding extremists.

Clearly, America’s Sunni Arab and Turkish allies are approaching the “ISIL Project”’ with something less than enthusiasm.

On Thursday, US Vice President Joe Biden let the cat out of the bag. During a speech at Harvard University, Biden told his audience:

“Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks… the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world … we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them.”

He, of course, failed to mention Washington’s own arming, training and funding activities coordinated with these very same allies. Predictably, Biden was forced to “apologize” for his undiplomatic comments over the weekend.

But just last month, during a hearing in the US Senate for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, Senator Lindsey Graham asked: “Do you know of any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL?”

To the surprise of many, Dempsey countered: “I know of major Arab allies who fund them.”

The revelations keep flowing from once tight-lipped Western sources. According to US news reports, current and former officials now say wealthy Gulf donors are the source of early funding:

“These rich individuals have long served as ‘angel investors’ for the most violent militants in the region, providing the ‘seed money’ that helped launch ISIS and other jihadi groups… Former U.S. Navy Admiral and NATO Supreme Commander James Stavridis says the cash flow from private donors is significant now and was even more significant in the early fund-raising done by ISIS and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front,” NBC’s Robert Windrem wrote in an article.

And on Saturday, the UK’s former Assistant Chief of the Defense Staff General Jonathan Shaw, who specialized in counter-terrorism and security policy and retired in 2012, told The Telegraph :

“This is a time bomb that, under the guise of education, Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money and that must stop.”

The ‘Assad-has-encouraged-extremism’ argument

Has the Syrian government exploited extremism while at the same time fighting a three-year nationwide military campaign to thwart it? Perhaps. Politics are opportunistic by nature.

But the narrative about Assad encouraging Islamist militancy has always failed to note the historic role of armed Islamists in Syrian “rebellions.”

A US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document that was declassified in 2012 provides a starkly different reading of events leading up to the controversial “Hama massacre” of 1982. It tells a story remarkably similar to events in Syria beginning in early 2011. Here is a montage of quotes from the document:

“In early 1979, encouraged by the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood developed a plan to trigger a similar popular revolution in Syria to oust (Hafez) Assad. The massacre of 50 Alawite cadets, on 16 June 1979 at the Artillery School in Aleppo, signaled the start of the MB offensive.”

The Syrian MB regroups for a “new round of fighting” in late 1980, announces the formation of an “Islamic Front”’ and increases cooperation with the Sunni (Baathist) government of Iraq which had helped the MB covertly in 1979-80 to oust Assad.

“The plan, apparently developed by the leadership of the Syrian MB and probably coordinated with Iraq, centered on two complementary actions. The first was a full-scale revolt by the city of Hama, a traditional Brotherhood stronghold and the location of its covert headquarters in Syria. Once this rebellion was unleashed, similar uprisings were to take place in Aleppo, Damascus and other major cities, accompanied by a general strike designed to paralyze Syria…”

“Simultaneously, a sophisticated worldwide propaganda campaign was to be launched supporting the rebellion and emphasizing its victories and the wholesale desertion of Army units to the rebel side. Press releases were to be made in Europe and the US, while propaganda broadcasts against Syria were to be carried by the Phalange-controlled Voice of Lebanon and the Iraqi-controlled Voice of Arab Syria.”

“At least 100 militants were transported from Jordan, where they had taken refuge, into Iraq where they probably received training prior to their movement into Syria… Sometime after this, the infiltration of ‘Secret Apparatus’ militants began from staging areas in Iraq, and to a lesser degree from Turkey, where others had fled. During the interim period, a number of terrorist bombings and shootings took place in Syria to demonstrate the Brotherhood/dissident Alawites ability to strike at the government.”

“As a result of Syrian security actions, the MB was forced to prematurely unleash the Hama rebellion with the hope that it might spark widespread fighting in other cities… The rebellion would also force the Damascus government to become even more oppressive. The Brotherhood leadership believed this would, in turn, cause greater alienation of the Assad government from the Sunni Muslim majority and within the Alawite community.”

“On February 2, following a clash between the MB and Syrian security forces, the loudspeakers atop the mosque minarets in Hama called on the people to begin a Jihad (Holy Struggle) against the government. The appeal also told the people that arms were available at specified mosques. At about the same time, teams of the MB’s ‘Secret Apparatus,’ some in army uniforms, moved to attack preselected government targets in the city.”

“Despite the propaganda reporting, the uprising in Syria had never spread outside of Hama, although some limited bombings had taken place in Damascus and elsewhere… The total casualties for the Hama incident probably number about 2,000. This includes an estimated 300-400 of the Muslim Brotherhood’s elite ‘Secret Apparatus’… The Syrian dissidents’ modus operandi will continue to be terrorism, particularly bombings and assassinations.”

WikiLeaks: Syria’s government and terrorism

On February 24, 2010, a Cable classified as ‘Secret’ was dispatched from the US Embassy in Damascus to the CIA, DIA, National Security Council, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of Homeland Security and a smattering of key US embassies in the Middle East and Europe.

It details the communications between Syria’s General Intelligence Director (GID) Ali Mamlouk who dropped in on a meeting between Syria’s Vice Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad and a US delegation, headed by State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin.

The participants discuss possible future security and intelligence cooperation on issues related to terrorism, particularly on the Syria-Iraq border.

What is notable about this US-framed communiqué is that the American delegation does not take any of the Syrian officials in the room to task for “encouraging and coordinating” the passage of extremist fighters from Syria into Iraq to participate in an insurgency against US forces. This accusation has become a key narrative advanced by Washington in recent years, so why not challenge the Syrians face-to-face when the opportunity is there?

According to the Cable, Benjamin says “the two countries should still work to cooperate on immediate threats facing both the U.S. and Syria, including the proliferation of takfiri groups in the region, such as al-Qaeda, and stopping the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.”

The Syrian response? According to the US Cable:

“Mamlouk said the foreign fighters come from a large number of Arab and Muslim countries and that the Syrians detain ‘large numbers plus their local facilitators.’ As an example, Mamlouk said he handed over 23 Saudis detained in Syria to Saudi Prince Muqrin last year.”

The US delegation even acknowledges the fact that the Syrians have been helpful:

“Benjamin commended Mamlouk on reducing the flow of foreign fighters, while encouraging further progress.”

And the Syrians offer additional cooperation, provided that Damascus takes the lead in these efforts:

“Miqdad interjected that the issue of foreign fighters using Syrian soil is a matter of national security for Syria. ‘We have zero tolerance,’ he said. Miqdad said Syria needs the cooperation of other countries, namely those from which the terrorists are coming. ‘If we can close this circle – with us, you, and other countries – we will succeed,’ he concluded.”

The Cable does reveal some interesting information about Syrian strategies in dealing with terrorism, which Mamlouk says differs considerably from the American approach:

“The GID Director said Syria had been more successful than the U.S. and other countries in the region in fighting terrorist groups because ‘we are practical and not theoretical.’ He stated Syria’s success is due to its penetration of terrorist groups. ‘In principle, we don’t attack or kill them immediately. Instead, we embed ourselves in them and only at the opportune moment do we move.’ Describing the process of planting embeds in terrorist organizations as ‘complex,’ Mamlouk said the result had yielded been the detention of scores of terrorists, stamping out terror cells, and stopping hundreds of terrorists from entering Iraq.

Mamlouk acknowledged some terrorists were still slipping into Iraq from Syria. ‘By all means we will continue to do all this, but if we start cooperation with you it will lead to better results and we can better protect our interests,’ he concluded.”

War of words

The tactics described by Mamlouk explain, in part, why Syrian forces today do not typically launch assaults on terrorist groups unless there is an immediate and direct threat to its military strategy of maintaining control over key areas and disrupting rebel supply lines.

While groups like ISIL are viewed as a security threat, they have not always posed an imminent one.

For the better part of the Syrian conflict, ISIL has not controlled the “priority zones” of the Syrian Army.

Those areas have always been Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and their surrounding countryside (Rif), with Quseir and Qalamoun, Daraa, Tal Kalakh and other border towns playing an important role. When ISIL fighters have been present in those areas, the Syrian Army has fought them – as in Qalamoun and the Damascus suburbs.

In early 2014, pro-opposition writer and researcher A.J. Tamimi questioned in detail accusations of collaboration between the Syrian government and ISIL/al Nusra. Among his many points, Tamimi notes:

“One must ask what the regime would gain strategically by constantly bombing ISIS strongholds in Raqqa province, or ISIS strongholds elsewhere, for that matter, located far beyond the frontlines. As in the wider east of Syria, the regime lacks ground forces to launch an offensive to retake any territory in Raqqa province, and must depend on airlifts from elsewhere to maintain its remaining airbases. Hence, the regime is focusing its airstrikes where it has some real expectations of advancing: most notably in Aleppo city.”

Nevertheless, the Syrian air force did take immediate action when ISIL escalated in Mosul in June, which changed the geopolitical dynamic well beyond the Syrian-Iraqi border. Kerry is misleading when he suggests that Assad will not strike ISIL headquarters: this is about timing and gains from both a military and political perspective – not necessarily a response that trigger-happy Americans can understand.

As for accusations that the Syrians have released militants from their prisons to “populate” ideologically extremist rebel groups that will make Assad look like an angel… You can’t have it both ways – political prisoner releases were initiated to defuse conflict and demonstrate leniency. Were some of these prisoners “extremists” of the variety that man Islamist rebel groups? Almost certainly. But that was the Sunni constituency that the Syrian government was also trying to placate in the early days.

Even today, after grueling “reconciliation” negotiations, the Syrian government is allowing these very rebels to “go free” after they lay down their arms – this, according to volunteers involved in negotiations from Homs to Rif Damascus. What is to stop these same “reformed rebels” from hopping over to al-Raqqa and taking up bigger arms? Should the Syrian government kill them instead? How does one win in a situation like this?

Critics of Syria’s prisoner releases should be reminded of the “Big One” carried out by the Americans in 2009 when they allegedly freed future ISIL ‘Caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from an Iraqi prison.

Does anyone have the right to point fingers after that monumental gaff? The fact is – from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, from Turkey to the United States, from Iraq to France – there appears to be plenty of complicity in fueling ISIL and the jihadi phenomenon. Is Syria complicit too? It depends who is asking – and why.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She tweets @snarwani

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Longest in US history: Afghan War turns 13, US military deaths grow 4-fold under Obama

RT | October 7, 2014

Tuesday this week commemorates 13 years since the start of the Afghan War — America’s longest running campaign of its kind — yet an end to the operation is hardly on the horizon.

Under the terms of the Bilateral Security Agreement, the pact signed last week by representatives for both the United States and Afghanistan, the US will significantly reduce the number of soldiers involved in its post-9/11 Operation Enduring Freedom at the end of this year. Troop numbers will shrink to 10,000, signaling indeed a major step towards ending the war in Afghanistan — a campaign promise made by US President Barack Obama during the lead-up to his re-election in 2012. With this week’s anniversary, however, the costs incurred already appear more evident than ever, and the length of the operation may be endless.

Combined with the only recently concluded war in Iraq, the financial toll of the Afghan war on Uncle Sam’s pocketbook could range in $4 trillion to $6 trillion, according to research published last year out of Harvard University. Additionally, the iCasualties website claims the US military has suffered 2,349 deaths during Operation Enduring Freedom — including 48 this year, or as many lives lost in that war in 2003 when it was still relatively new. Of that tally, Breitbart News recently reported, 1,649 deaths or about 75 percent, have occurred since the start Pres. Obama’s first term in early 2009.

Even with last week’s agreement, however, the Afghan War will only end in name, if at all. Under the terms of the pact, the roughly 9,800 US troops that will remain in Afghanistan past the end of this year will be cut in half by the end of the next, with a full-scale withdrawal tentatively slated for the end of 2016. By keeping US troops overseas for now, the State Department said recently, Afghanistan, the US and international community at large will “maintain the partnership we’ve established to ensure Afghanistan maintains and extends the gains of the past decade.” Once the last of the US forces leave, the Afghan army will again be tasked with preserving national security, and for the first time without American troops since 2001.

When those troops actually will exit Afghan for good, however, remains up in the air. Under the terms of the BSA, US and NATO troops have already been cleared to stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond,” suggesting Operation Enduring Freedom could extend for another decade even after already being America’s longest running war.

Thirteen years ago this Tuesday, George W Bush, then the president of the United States, said the Pentagon had officially begun a mission “designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.”

“This military action is a part of our campaign against terrorism, another front in a war that has already been joined through diplomacy, intelligence, the freezing of financial assets and the arrests of known terrorists by law enforcement agents in 38 countries,” Bush said from the White House. “Given the nature and reach of our enemies, we will win this conflict by the patient accumulation of successes, by meeting a series of challenges with determination and will and purpose.”

That patience is still at play today, however, and has led Operation Enduring Freedom into the record books of being the longest-running US war ever. Now despite campaign promises made by Obama, even Bush’s successor might not see the end of a war in Afghanistan anytime soon: 13 years after Bush announced the start of a military operation against terrorists, the US and its allies are now in the midst of conducting an aerial campaign against the so-called Islamic State, a terrorist organization that even Al-Qaeda has distanced itself from over concerns involving the group’s violent practices. According to new research published last month by USA Today, Washington is investing roughly $10 million a day on fighting a campaign against that group. If the Pentagon’s numbers don’t change drastically over time, then the cost of fighting that war could come to over $3 billion annually — a fraction of the $77.7 billion spent during the last fiscal year on Operation Enduring Freedom, but costly nonetheless.

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Foreign Policy by Ted Cruz

Bible thumping and carpet bombing

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • October 7, 2014

The really interesting thing about the Junior Senator from Texas is the fact that he demonstrates that anyone who wants it badly enough can become president. It is, of course, something for which there is a precedent, when voters elected an inexperienced and largely unknown Barack Obama. Cruz shares Obama’s lack of preparation for the highest office while he is also something of a throwback to fellow Texan George W. Bush’s tradition of anti-intellectualism and lack of curiosity about how the rest of the world interacts with the United States. This is particularly unfortunate as Cruz, a conventional Republican conservative on all social issues, ironically has chosen to identify differences in foreign policy to distinguish himself from the rest of the Republican pack.

Cruz might rightly be seen by some as a nightmarish incarnation of a narrow minded conservative Christian vision of what the United States is all about, aggressively embracing a world view based on ignorance coupled with the license granted by God endowed “American exceptionalism” from sea to shining sea. His father is an Evangelical preacher and the son has successfully absorbed much of both the blinkered notions of right and wrong as well as the Elmer Gantry style, but that is not to suggest that he is stupid. By all accounts Cruz, a graduate of Princeton and of Harvard Law School, is extremely intelligent and by some accounts endowed with both extraordinary cunning and ambition. He is possessed of excellent political instincts when it comes to appealing to the constituencies in the GOP that he believes to be essential to his success.

Washington has seen presidents who were truly religious in the past but it has rarely experienced the Cruz mixture of demagoguery combined with a Biblically infused sense of righteousness which admits to no error. His Manichean sense of good and evil is constantly on display, but he is most on fire when he is speaking to his fellow conservative Christians, most recently at the gathering of the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Iowa. Cruz was one of a number of GOP speakers, which included potential presidential hopefuls Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan, who were received tepidly while Cruz was greeted with cheering and a standing ovation before launching into his most recent theme, blaming the White House for not pressuring foreign governments to protect their Christian minorities. The enthusiastic reception was not surprising as Cruz is, after all, the “real thing” speaking “their language” fluently and the Evangelicals know it.

Cruz is intelligent enough to realize that what he is peddling is a type of narrative designed to make himself electable. What he actually believes is somewhat irrelevant except that if he is an actual zealot he might well be immune to viewpoints that run counter to his biases, dangerous in a president. A year ago Cruz grandstanded in leading the GOP dissidents’ attempt to shut down the government over the issue of Obamacare, a move that the party leadership regarded as a major “tactical error.” He was widely condemned for his performance in the media and within his own party but he made points with the constituency he was courting, the Tea Partiers.

The disturbing thing about Cruz is that his foreign policy statements are awash in what must be a willful disregard of reality, but, as with the threatened government shutdown, he apparently knows what will sell with the Bible thumping America first crowd that he is primarily targeting. His latest leitmotif which he has been hammering relentlessly is the worldwide persecution of Christians, with the clear implication that it is uniquely a Muslim problem. It is also a line that is being pursued by the Israeli government and American Jewish groups, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is somehow a protector of Christianity. He opposes negotiations with Iran, for example, because a Christian pastor is in prison there. That several other Americans are also being held by the government in Tehran, including a former US Marine, appears to be of secondary importance and US broader regional interests do not enter into the discussion at all.

As part of his strategy to outflank his competition in the GOP, Cruz is shameless in his promotion of Israel and its interests. He did so recently by telling an audience of beleaguered Middle Eastern Christians that they had “no greater ally than Israel,” a statement so palpably out of sync with the actual experiences of those in the audience that he was booed of the stage. His response: “Those who hate Israel hate America.” Countering conservative critics of his performance Cruz subsequently wrote that “… the only time at least some of these writers seem to care about persecuted Christians is when it furthers an anti-Israel narrative for them.”

Cruz will, of course, find Israel haters wherever he looks as it constitutes a convenient way to dismiss critics without affording them a hearing. He will never concede that Israel discriminates against its Christian minority in spite of the considerable evidence that it does so. That Israel chooses to describe itself as a Jewish State, a designation that Cruz enthusiastically supports, does not ring any bells for him though he is quick to pounce on Iran for calling itself the Islamic Republic.

This willful blindness derives from the fact that Israel is central to Cruz’s foreign policy thinking. He has visited the country three times since becoming Senator. In Des Moines last week he spoke about Israel and he has referred to it from the Senate floor literally thousands of times, according to the Congressional Record. His private Senate office features a large framed photo of himself with Netanyahu. Nearly every speech Cruz makes sooner or later comes around to the issue of “standing for Israel” even when there is no logical reason to make that connection. At the recent Values Voters Summit in Washington he brought the cheering crowd to its feet by shouting “We stand for life. We stand for marriage. We stand for Israel.”

To be sure, part of the Cruz strategy comes from his recognition that no Republican can become a presidential candidate without the endorsement of Israel’s supporters. Cruz has met privately with the leaders of Jewish organizations, including Bill Kristol, editor of the neocon Weekly Standard and founder or board member of the multitude of pro-Israel alphabet soup organizations that seem to spring up spontaneously. The Weekly Standard has, not surprisingly, promoted the Cruz candidacy. Cruz also has his eye on Jewish money. He is seeking the support of Las Vegas casino mega-billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who could single handedly fund his campaign if he should choose to do so, as well as with other potential donors.

Cruz, who apparently believes he has learned something from the Vietnam and Iraq fiascos, describes his foreign policy in simple terms: have a clearly defined objective, use overwhelming force, and then get out. If viewed at face value, the formula is an antidote for prolonged and unsuccessful nation building, which would be good, but it has to be taken in the context of Cruz’s other pronouncements. He describes the world as being “on fire” and his rhetoric is uniformly belligerent. He sees “overwhelming” military intervention by the US as a God given right whenever the policy makers in Washington feel threatened and he also regards the military option as a first resort without any regard for what is going on in the country that is the target. Making a mess and leaving it is a recipe for international anarchy.

In a recent speech Cruz denounced the Administration for talking with Iranian representatives at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York. He characterized the event as “swilling chardonnay with the Iranian government.” That the United States has very compelling interests to be working with Iran both on ISIS and on nuclear proliferation apparently escaped Cruz’s grasp, so he was left with little more than a cheap shot joke to explain his unwillingness to negotiate with a government that he and Israel have repeatedly demonized.

Regarding Russia, Cruz has called for an expansion of NATO and more sanctions without any explanation of what the strategy might be or any curiosity about where increasing pressure on Moscow might lead. As a Cuban American he is inevitably hostile towards the government in Havana. Regarding Iran, Cruz supports harsher sanctions even though it would mean an end to negotiations over that country’s nuclear program.

Cruz’s foreign policy vision has been reported to be finding a “sweet spot” between the nation building of the Democrats and the reflexive belligerency of some Republican Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have not apparently realized that the country is weary of war. In reality however, Cruz veers strongly towards McCain-like solutions, accepting military interventions while eschewing the occupation and rebuilding bits only because they are too expensive and prone to misadventure to entertain. Sadly, like other GOP hawks, Cruz does not recognize that Washington has caused many if not most international problems, that foreign nations actually have interests that should be respected or at least considered, that military solutions are rarely sustainable, and that inextricably linking the United States to a rogue nation like Israel might not actually be good policy. But such considerations count for little when a man with a mission is on his way to become President of the United States.

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Civil War and 150 Years of Forgotten US Military Atrocities

By James Bovard | CounterPunch | October 7, 2014

George Orwell wrote in 1945 that “the nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” The same moral myopia has carried over to most Americans’ understanding of the Civil War. While popular historians have recently canonized the war as a practically holy crusade to free the slaves, in reality civilians were intentionally targeted and brutalized in the final year of the war.

The most dramatic forgotten atrocity in the Civil War occurred 150 years ago when Union Gen. Philip Sheridan unleashed a hundred mile swath of flames in the Shenandoah Valley that left vast numbers of women and childrens tottering towards starvation.  Unfortunately, the burning of the Shenandoah Valley has been largely forgotten, foreshadowing how subsequent brutal military operations  would also vanish into the Memory Hole.

In August 1864, supreme Union commander Ulysses S. Grant ordered Sheridan to “do all the damage to railroads and crops you can… If the war is to last another year, we want the Shenandoah Valley to remain a barren waste.”  Sheridan set to the task with vehemence, declaring that “the people must be left nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war” and promised that, when he was finished, the valley “from Winchester to Staunton will have but little in it for man or beast.”

Because people lived in a state that had seceded from the Union, Sheridan acted as if they had automatically forfeited their property, if not their lives.    Some Union soldiers were aghast at their marching orders. A Pennsylvania cavalryman lamented at the end of the fiery spree: “We burnt some sixty houses and all most of the barns, hay, grain and corn in the shocks for fifty miles [south of] Strasburg… It was a hard-looking sight to see the women and children turned out of doors at this season of the year.” An Ohio major wrote in his diary that the burning “does not seem real soldierly work. We ought to enlist a force of scoundrels for such work.” A newspaper correspondent embedded with Sheridan’s army reported: “Hundreds of nearly starving people are going North . . . not half the inhabitants of the valley can subsist on it in its present condition.”

After one of Sheridan’s favorite aides was shot by Confederate soldiers, Sheridan ordered his troops to burn all houses within a five mile radius. After many outlying houses had been torched, the small town at the center – Dayton –  was spared after a federal officer disobeyed Sheridan’s order. The homes and barns of Mennonites – a peaceful sect who opposed slavery and secession  – were especially hard hit by that crackdown, according to a 1909 history of Mennonites in America.

By the end of Sheridan’s campaign, the former “breadbasket of the Confederacy” could no longer even feed the women and children remaining there.  An English traveler in 1865 “found the Valley standing empty as a moor.” Historian Walter Fleming, in his classic 1919 study, The Sequel to Appomattox, quoted one bedeviled local farmer: “From Harper’s Ferry to New Market, which is about eighty miles, the country was almost a desert… . The barns were all burned; chimneys standing without houses, and houses standing without roof, or door, or window.” John Heatwole, author of “The Burning: Sheridan’s Devastation of the Shenandoah Valley” (1998),  concluded: “The civilian population of the Valley was affected to a greater extent than was the populace of any other region during the war, including those in the path of Sherman’s infamous march to the sea in Georgia.” Unfortunately, given the chaos of the era at the end of the Civil War and its immediate aftermath, there are no reliable statistics on the number of women, children, and other civilians who perished thanks to “the burning.”

Some defenders of the Union military tactics insist that there was no intent to harshly punish civilians. But, after three years of a bloody stalemate, the Lincoln administration had adapted a total war mindset to scourge the South into submission.  As Sheridan was finishing his fiery campaign, Gen. William Sherman wrote to Gen. Grant that “[U]ntil we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of it’s roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources.” Sherman had previously telegrammed Washington that “[T]here is a class of people – men, women, and children, who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order.” President Lincoln congratulated both Sheridan and Sherman for campaigns that sowed devastation far and wide.

The carnage inflicted by Sheridan, Sherman, and other northern commanders made the South’s post-war recovery far slower and multiplied the misery of both white and black survivors. Connecticut College professor Jim Downs’ recent book, Sick From Freedom, exposes how the chaotic situation during and after the war contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of freed slaves.

After the Civil War, politicians and many historians consecrated the conflict and its grisly tactics were consigned to oblivion.  The habit of sweeping abusive policies under the rug also permeated post-Civil War policy towards the Indians (Sheridan famously declared “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”) and the suppression of Filipino insurgents after the Spanish-American War. Later historians sometimes ignored U.S. military tactics in World War Two and Vietnam that resulted in heavy civilian casualties.

The failure to recognize how wars routinely spawn pervasive brutality and collateral deaths lowers Americans’ resistance to new conflicts that promise to make the world safe for democracy, or rid the world of evil, or achieve other lofty sounding goals. For instance, the Obama administration sold its bombing of Libya as a self-evident triumph of good over a vile despot; instead, chaos reigns in Tripoli. As the administration ramps up bombing in Syria and Iraq, both its rhetoric and its tactics echo prior U.S. misfires. The proclaimed intentions of U.S. bombing campaigns are far more important than their accuracy.

Since 1864, no prudent American should have expected this nation’s wars to have happy or uplifting endings.  Unfortunately, as long as the spotlight is kept off atrocities, most citizens will continue to underestimate the odds that wars will spawn debacles and injustices that return to haunt us.

James Bovard is the author of author of Public Policy Hooligan,Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books. More info at www.jimbovard.com; on Twitter @j

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

38 Years Ago Cubana Flight 455 Downed by CIA-Linked Terrorists

RIA Novosti | October 6, 2014

MOSCOW – Ekaterina Blinova – 38 years ago, on October 6, 1976, Cubana Airlines Flight 455 was downed by terrorists, only now known to be CIA operatives; experts further claim it was not the only case when CIA was sponsoring terrorists.

“The US Government, being consistent with its stated commitment to fight terrorism, should act without double standards against those who, from US soil, have carried out terrorist acts against Cuba,” said Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Barbados Lisette Perez, as cited by the Barbados Advocate, during the ceremony of commemorating the victims at the Cubana Monument at Paynes Bay, Barbados.

The sudden explosion of two bombs onboard Cubana Flight 455, traveling between Havana and Panama, led to the plane’s crash, killing all 73 passengers and five crew members.

“For the past three months, Dr. Castro’s opponents in the US have waged a terrorist campaign in the Caribbean against those who break bread with the Cuban leader,” the Guardian wrote on October 8, 1976, reporting on the tragic accident. The media source noted that a previous attempt to place explosives on the plane was carried out in July, 1976, when a suitcase bomb exploded just before it was loaded onto the plane. In the same month the “office of a Trinidad airline was bombed in Barbados and a mysterious fire in Guyana destroyed a large quantity of Cuban-supplied fishing equipment,” the Guardian wrote.

According to the media outlet, the terror acts were presumably conducted by right-wing Cuban exiles and were aimed at states with political and economic ties with Cuba. Four suspects, Luis Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch, Freddy Lugo and Hernan Ricardo Lozano were arrested. In August 1985, Bosch was acquitted because of the lack of evidence, while Posada fled from prison under mysterious circumstances on the eve of the announcement of his verdict. Both Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch later ended up in the US.

Remarkably, in May 2005 the National Security Archive, an independent non-profit organization at George Washington University, released declassified CIA and FBI documents,  indicating Cuban exile Luis Posada was a former CIA agent and a mastermind of the terror attack on Cubana Airlines flight 455. It was also revealed Posada was linked to a series of bombing in Barbados in 1976. Additional CIA records confirmed Posada indeed served as an agent in the 1960s and early 1970s and worked as an informant until June 1976. Posada was on a payroll, “receiving approximately $300.00 per month from CIA,” according to the FBI’s Memorandum, written on July 14, 1966. In that period, Posada was involved in military activities directed against Fidel Castro. Particularly, under the guidance of the US intelligence services he  organized a military base in the Dominican Republic, drawing in fighters from different anti-Castro organizations.

According to the declassified CIA report, dated June 21, 1976, the US intelligence service was informed by Posada, allegedly, that  Orlando Bosch, the leader of extremist Cuban exile group was planning to place two bombs on a board of a Cubana Airlines Flight, traveling between Havana and Panama. The US security agency did not inform the authorities of Barbados, which in 1970s granted Cuba stopover rights for its passenger planes flying to Africa, nor did they warned Havana about the preplanned terrorist act.

Furthermore, in July of 1990, US President George H.W. Bush pardoned Orlando Bosch of all American charges and rejected an extradition request to those seeking to arrest Bosch for his terrorist activities. Interestingly enough, the Cuban terrorist was exempted from charges at the request of Jeb Bush, a Potential 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate. Washington had also refused to extradite Luis Posada to Venezuela, under the pretext that he could face torture and mistreatment there.

The National Security Archive cited Peter Kornbluh, the Director of the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project, who warned in 2005 that Posada’s presence in the US “poses a direct challenge to the Bush administration’s terrorism policy.” Although Bush claimed that no nation should shelter terrorists, surprisingly, the White House provided asylum to the murderers responsible for terrorist crimes against peaceful civilians.

Experts assert that the policy is mutable when Washington and its intelligence services use their own terrorists in order to threaten and undermine “disagreeable regimes.” For instance, political analysts point to the fact that ISIL fighters were trained in NATO camps located in Jordan and Turkey. The assistance, provided by the US to the so-called “Syrian opposition,” was aimed to oust Syria’s President al-Assad. In fact the Islamic State “was actually an integrated part of the ‘opposition movement’ supported, trained and financed by the West and its regional allies,” notes Andre Vltchek, an investigative journalist. Former CIA analyst Kenneth M. Pollack confirms that the US was carrying out military training of anti-Assad rebels in Jordan and Turkey in his article “An Army to Defeat Assad,” published in August 2014 in Foreign Affairs magazine. Some experts insist that the IS plot is a pretext for a large-scale military operation against Syria and Bashar al-Assad.

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment