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Clinton and the Bungling of Cuba Policy

By Robert Sandels and Nelson P. Valdés | CounterPunch | September 8, 2015

As the United States moves toward some kind of normal relations with Cuba, it faces a problem: normal is currently illegal. In 1996, Congress, with help from President Bill Clinton, created the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Helms-Burton) Act, which makes it illegal to normalize much of anything. What helped bring that about was a seemingly routine act of lawbreaking by a Miami exile group and the Clinton administration’s muddled response to it.

On February 24, 1996, three small surplus US Air Force Cessna Skymasters departed from Opa-locka airport in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The planes were gifts from President George H.W. Bush to Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Rescate).

Brothers to the Rescue was a Miami-based anti-Castro organization run by José Basulto and William Schuss, organized in 1991 during a period of immigration chaos. Their first missions were to locate and lend assistance to balseros, Cuban migrants in the Florida Straits trying to reach the United States in makeshift craft.

Basulto and Schuss had received US military training and later belonged to Operation 40, organized by the CIA to prepare for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. Basulto later took part in sabotage actions against Cuba along with several well-known anti-Castro terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch. In 2005, he said on a Miami TV channel that in 1962, he had taken part in a raid against Cuba, firing a 22 mm canon from offshore at the Hotel Rosita Hornedo in Havana where Russians were thought to be staying. “So far, no one has come to question me,” he said.

Juan Pablo Roque, a Cuban agent who flew with the Brothers but returned to Cuba on the eve of the February 24 flight, told a Cuban interviewer that the organization was set up in the offices of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), which was a creature of the Reagan administration. According to Roque,

Specifically, Martin Perez, with substantial economic support from the foundation, put forward the idea with some former CIA agents, José Basulto, Billy Shultz [Schuss], Arnaldo Iglesias. They advanced the idea to create an allegedly, quote, humanitarian organization, unquote, which would save the lives of the men who took to the sea to try to reach the coasts of Florida. [1]

Basulto filed a flight plan for February 24 that would take the three Cessnas to the Florida Straits where they were going to look for balseros. Instead of following the flight plan, they flew south and entered Cuba’s restricted military air space. [2]

The pilots were unaware of the intense scrutiny their flight was receiving from federal agencies. They had on many other occasions entered Cuban air space without arousing much federal interest. On previous flights, Basulto buzzed the Cuban capital and dropped leaflets and other anti-Castro debris over the city ignoring Cuban warnings. But this time, the State Department had alerted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it would be dangerous for the Brothers to attempt another flight over Cuba and asked for updates on their activities.

Consequently, an immense network of radar installations focused on Basulto’s tiny propeller planes traveling across the Gulf of Mexico at 150 mph. Even the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) center in Colorado, originally set up as an early-warning system against a Soviet missile attack, was enlisted. It coordinated radar installations around the country including March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California, Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida and at Cudjoe Key in the Florida Keys, where an  aerostat radar balloon was on alert. All of this for three small Cessnas.

The Riverside base had a narcotics interdiction center that usually hunted for flights coming from the south. When Jeffrey Houlihan, a senior detection-system specialist, reported for work there on February 24, the FAA told him to keep an eye on the Brothers, with whom he was familiar because of their frequent flights in the Florida Straits. According to Houlihan, the Southeast Air Defense

… made it very clear to me in briefings … that anything that pops up inside that area, they [the US military] will launch their interceptor aircraft immediately, their assumption being that anything that pops up in that area, heading towards the United States, is coming out of Cuba.

However, the elaborate monitoring of Basulto’s flight was not for his protection and it received none. National security seems not to have been a factor either since no US fighter jets were launched when Cuban MiGs, in pursuit of the Cessnas, headed toward the 24th parallel, the demarcation line between Cuban and US restricted zones.

Houlihan later testified at a federal hearing that a week prior to February 24, he was told to watch for the next Brothers’ flight because Basulto intended “to make a political statement against the Communist Government in Cuba, and we were requested, by the FAA, to watch for that.” [3]

Houlihan watched his monitors as fast-moving objects he took to be Cuban MiG fighter planes destroyed one of the Cessnas carrying two pilots. Six minutes later, a second air-to-air missile destroyed the second Cessna killing two more pilots. Basulto and three passengers in the third Cessna flew back to Opa-locka.

Clinton immediately declared a state of national emergency and set up a security zone in the waters around the Florida peninsula closing it to unauthorized sea and air traffic. He also demanded an investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and a UN condemnation of Cuba. The state of national emergency declared in 1996 is still in effect, one of the long-term consequences of Basulto’s flight.

Amidst the uproar and condemnation of Cuba, Clinton signed Helms-Burton into law, which did more than any other piece of legislation to freeze Cuba policy into perpetual cycles of crisis and stagnation.

How did a miniature air force of three small civilian planes exert such influence on Cuba policy that a president felt compelled to give away most of his control over it to Congress? The shootdown occurred long after Cuba’s ties with the Soviet Union had died along with the Soviet Union itself. None of the old justifications for destroying the Cuban revolution cited in the 1960s seemed relevant in a world without the Soviet Bloc and with Cuba experiencing a serious economic setback after the loss of Soviet trade and aid.

Brothers to the rescue of Helms-Burton

When the number of balseros decreased after the 1994/ 1995 migration agreements, Basulto turned to direct action flying provocatively into Cuban air space. Whether through brilliant tactical calculation or reckless stupidity, the Brothers created counterrevolutionary martyrdom for themselves during the February 24 incursion, turned world opinion against Cuba and made Helms-Burton law.

According to journalist and historian Richard Gott, Helms-Burton had little to do with Cuban liberty and democratic solidarity:

Helms-Burton was aimed at investment and was originally drafted because of the success of the Cuban recovery and the concern that US business might take second place to European, Canadian and Japanese investors. Its underlying purpose was to scare off foreign investors at a time when Cuba’s economic survival depended on its ability to open up to the outside word — to seek markets, investors and managerial expertise in Europe, Canada, Japan and Latin America.[4]

By this time, there was growing interest in opening up trade with Cuba. Farm-state representatives, including conservatives like John Ashcroft (R-MO) pressured the White House for change. Cuba had survived the collapse of the Soviet Union and had begun to show economic growth without any help from US farm states. The Cuban economy grew by 2.5% in 1995, with 5% projected for 1996.

This was bad news for some exile groups because it appeared that the opportunity to finally dispose of the revolution through economic sanctions and sabotage was slipping away. Exile groups like Basulto’s were determined to provoke new tensions and force the Cuban government to overreact. [5]

It was also bad news that Clinton rejected Helms-Burton. He said in 1995, that he could not support the bill because “it would affect our capacity to promote the transition to democracy in Cuba.” [6]

If he was concerned about giving up some executive control over Cuba policy, he might have considered that his and previous administrations had already ceded much of it to private groups in Miami, some of them created and encouraged by Washington. No effective measures had been taken against private commando raiders, filibusterers and terrorists. It was also becoming apparent that agencies in the executive branch were, by inaction or tacit approval, relaxing federal control over the civil aviation adventures of José Basulto.

Crises and the art of learned helplessness

After months of warnings from Cuba that it would not tolerate continued provocations by Basulto, there was no effective US government action to prevent as opposed to simply monitoring the events of February 24. It is true that in October 1995, the US Interests Section in Havana had looked into the matter in languid bureaucratic fashion, asking Cuba for evidence the FAA could use against Basulto even though evidence was piling up in the Miami FAA offices of Basulto’s flagrant violations of FAA rules. The FAA was still going over Cuba’s evidence when the shootdown occurred four months later.

Of particular concern to Cuba, were flights into restricted military areas identified internationally as part of a nation’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Cuba’s ADIZ extends 26 miles toward the Florida Keys and is demarcated by latitude 24. These restricted military spaces extend beyond the traditional 12-nautical mile (22.2 km) maritime limit.

US agencies kept track of Basulto in the weeks before the shootdown, concerned about how Cuba might react to another overflight. After a January 20, 1996 overflight, FAA chief Cecilia Capestany wrote a letter to the Miami FAA office:

State is increasingly concerned about Cuban reactions to these flagrant violations. They are also asking from the FAA what is this agency doing to prevent/deter these actions. As a matter of fact, the Undersecretary of State called Secretary Pena last week to check on our case against Basulto. Worst case scenario is that one of these days the Cubans will shoot down one of these planes and the FAA better have all its ducks in a row.

But an unnamed official said that by the fall of 1995, the government had given up trying to control Basulto because he was “so agitated that we were more likely to provoke him than to quiet him down. He was going ballistic every time we talked about it.” [7]

The attitude was that, short of restricting airspace between Florida and Cuba, little could be done since the Brothers, whose leader was apparently treated as a rebellious teenager, would probably disobey any FAA orders.

Charles Smith, FAA administrator in Miami, had warned Basulto against making a July 13, 1995 flight over Cuba, but Basulto had said, “Chuck, you know I always play by the rules, but you must understand I have a mission in life to perform.” [8] When the FAA finally went after Basulto’s license, it was for flying too low over water.

Election: Running on Two Tracks

Meanwhile, Clinton was making regular incursions into Florida — looking for votes. It is difficult not to conclude that the shootdown was bound up with a risky electoral strategy by which Clinton advanced along two tracks.

On Track One, the White House would emit periodic signals to anti-Castro leaders in Miami that Clinton would stick doggedly to tough sanctions against Cuba and negotiate nothing with Castro. Track One led straight to the election and support from the Cuban American National Foundation.

Track Two was strewn with obstacles left over from building Track One. It required Clinton to listen privately to Cuban warnings about the incursions and privately to reassure Havana that something or other was being done about it. This track led nowhere because any action taken to shut down these exile operations might wreck the Clinton political express barreling down track number one.

When leaders of Movimiento Democracia planned to take a flotilla of small boats with air support from Basulto on a taunting mission to the Cuban coast, Clinton’s Cuba expert Richard Nuccio was sent to head off a train wreck. The exiles said they had the right, as Cubans, to engage in protests off Cuba’s coast, and the White House agreed. While the government could not do much for the flotilla and its air cover if they entered Cuban territory, the Coast Guard would set up a command post and escort them toward Cuba.

The State Department did not seem to take seriously the possibility that the flotilla might enter Cuban waters or that Basulto might fly too near Havana. This is where the two tracks – one publically belligerent toward Cuba and the other privately conciliatory – could intersect with dangerous results.

In Track Two fashion, the administration sent a discrete note to Cuba about perhaps investigating something. In stark contrast, Clinton’s Track One action was to issue a loud public announcement aligning Washington with Basulto and the flotilla.

Clinton was making moves in matching pairs. He threatened a veto of the Miami-backed Helms-Burton bill, simultaneously suggesting that he was going to crack down on Basulto through the FAA. Then, to head off an angry reaction from the hardliners for that, he relaxed travel rules for family visits to Cuba by Cuban-Americans, reversing restrictions he had ordered the previous year.

Conspiracy theories and excuses

After the shootdown, the administration and the media advanced a version of the shootdown that was carefully limited to the events of February 24 — as Dickens might have put it, to create a harvest that had never been sown.

Basulto also confined his telling of the shootdown to the day it happened. Despite the limited historical perspective, Basulto managed to raise questions about that day that have never been satisfactorily answered.

“No one, not one of the many agencies that were monitoring our flights that day, called to inform us we were being hunted down,” Basulto claimed. He even suggested that Clinton and Castro had conspired to bring the planes down and cover up unexplained discrepancies. This, said Basulto, was to insure Clinton’s reelection, which Castro presumably favored. [9]

At a congressional hearing, Basulto said that after the two Cessnas were shot down, his plane was chased by MiG fighters for 53 minutes as he raced back to Opa-locka. While the scene was being observed by the great radar network, no US fighter planes were scrambled even though, he claimed, evidence showed that the MiGs came within three nautical miles of Florida.

After Clinton’s re-election, which included a victory in Florida, Cuba policy seemed to drift with congressional currents. In January 1997, he sent Congress a report called “Support for a Democratic Transition in Cuba,” which discharged his obligation under Helms-Burton to tell Congress how the United States was to assist Cuba in its transition to democracy.

The report outlined a fanciful scenario in which the Cuban government would wondrously start dismantling its socialist economy and sack Fidel Castro. The reward for making this transition would be millions of dollars in aid, the possible return of the Guantánamo Bay territory, resumption of normal bilateral relations and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the IMF and World Bank and thereby be eligible to take part in that destroyer of economies, the structural adjustment programs.

Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who played a role in requiring the report, said the intention was to create seeds of ferment in Cuba by showing that the United States was committed to the welfare of the Cuban people. [10] Two years earlier, CANF and Clinton acted together to sow seeds of ferment by convincing Cubans they would get no help from Clinton. Whatever the gestation properties of seeds in federal reports are, the “Support for a Democratic Transition” initiative was clearly not a serious step toward normalization.

They made me do it

In his second term and after he left office, Clinton portrayed Helms-Burton and the shootdown as things that happened in a space beyond his reach where other people were at fault. In a 2000 radio interview he said, “I believe if Castro hadn’t shot those planes down, and the Congress hadn’t passed a law which prohibits me from doing anything with the embargo, that we might have made some real progress there.”

At a 1997 gathering in Argentina, he said the Miami exiles were responsible for Helms-Burton because of pressure from them. He said that he was forced to sign the bill to prevent a stronger piece of legislation coming before Congress. [11]

In his memoirs, Clinton dropped the part about preventing a worse bill from coming to his desk. “Supporting the bill,” he wrote, “was good election-year politics in Florida… but it did undermine whatever chance I might have had, if I won a second term to lift the embargo in return for positive changes in Cuba.” [12]

Perhaps the simplest explanation for why Basulto was able to fly that day in spite of all the radar surveillance, the FAA handwringing and the State Department warnings was this from Clinton’s memoirs: “My main target was the election.” [13]

After all, he had worked hard throughout his first term to win the Florida vote. He did favors for Florida: he held the Summit of the Americas in Miami; he relocated the Southern Command there from Panama; and he made “inroads” in the Cuban-American community. He might have added that Basulto was free to fly.

The handling of the Brothers little war against Cuba and the shootdown had driven the administration into an election-based myopia. By signing the Helms-Burton Act, Clinton was reduced to sending reports mandated by Congress. Cuba policy was to be decided primarily by congressional committees responding to concessions or lack of them from Cuba. By hitching policy to fictional scenarios of a Cuban surrender of its sovereignty, Congress and Clinton, with considerable help from Brothers to the Rescue, ensured that little would change far into the future.


1 Roque interview, Tele Rebelde, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 02/27/9.

2 Miami Herald, 02/16/97.


4 Richard Gott, Cuba: A New History, New Haven: Yale Nota Bene, 2005, p.278.

5 Agencia EFE, 11/21/95.

6 Agencia EFE, 03/29/95.

7 Miami Herald, 02/16/97.

8 Miami Herald, 03/01/01.

9 El Nuevo Herald (Miami), 12/24/98.

10 Miami Herald, 01/28/97.

11  Miami Herald, 10/17/97.

12 Bill Clinton, My Life, New York: Knopf, 2004, p. 700.

13 Ibid. p.727

Robert Sandels writes on Cuba and Mexico. Nelson P. Valdés is Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico.

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Oops, it was us’: Military concedes British sub, not Russian, damaged UK trawler in April

RT | September 8, 2015

The UK Ministry of Defence admits that a submarine that damaged a British trawler in April this year was one of its own, not Russian. Earlier, Fleet Street was awash with speculation that a ‘hostile Russian sub’ had nearly destroyed the fishing vessel.

“… the RN [the Royal Navy] has now confirmed that a UK submarine was, in fact, responsible for snagging the KAREN’s [fishing vessel] nets,” Penny Mordaunt, minister of state for the Armed Forces, said in a statement.

The fishing vessel KAREN sustained damage to its nets and deck equipment while in the Irish Sea after it was dragged violently by unidentified vessel.

“It is standing Ministry of Defence [MOD] policy not to comment in detail on submarine operations but, exceptionally, I can say that this incident occurred because the [UK] submarine did not correctly identify the KAREN as a fishing vessel with nets in the water, and thus did not give her the berth she would otherwise have had.”

According to Mordaunt, if the British submarine was aware of the incident at the time, “which it was not,” then the protocols … “would have required the submarine to surface and remain on scene while the matter was investigated.”

She added that the MoD has already contacted the KAREN’s owners “to discuss appropriate compensation.”

55eeb94fc46188923f8b45cdBefore the official statement, British media was abuzz with speculation about which country owned the vessel that damaged the KAREN. Many media reports were certain it must have been a ‘Russian submarine’.

“There has been Russian activity. There have been Allied exercises going on, the Russians have been taking an interest in it. The question mark now is what kind of a submarine was it?” Dick James, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organization told the Telegraph back in April.

Later, the Mirror in its article “Fishing trawler seconds from tragedy after being dragged down by ‘Russian submarine’ caught in nets” also cited James.

“This [the incident] does raise the possibility of Russian submarines spying in the area,” local Councilor Dermot Curran told Down News.

Russian subs have a recent history of being ‘spotted’ in the waters near European countries. In January this year Britain’s MoD was forced to ask the American military for assistance in searching for a Russian submarine off the Scottish coast.

In May 2015, the Latvian National Armed Forces said they had detected two “Russian warships and a submarine” near their border. In March, they also claimed to have detected two Russian submarines, a research vessel and a destroyer off the Latvian coast.

The biggest-ever search for a ‘hostile Russian vessel’ was launched by Sweden in October 2014. The ‘Big Game’ started when Swedish media cited local fishermen and witnesses who said they had spotted a ‘Russian sub’ near the Stockholm Archipelago.

The Swedish Navy’s efforts to trace the elusive foreign activity cost €2.2 million (US$2.8 million). Stockholm even announced it was ready to use force if it detected any foreign submarine in its waters.

The sub was eventually located, although it wasn’t quite what Swedish authorities expected. It was Russian, but dated from the 1900s. The vessel reportedly sank during WWI or WWII, according to experts.


‘Begging’ for help: UK asks US to assist in search for Russian sub off Scotland
2 Russian warships & submarine detected near Latvian border – armed forces

Sweden ready to use force to surface foreign sub as search continues

Finally found? Sunken ‘Russian sub’ located off Swedish coast

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media | , | 2 Comments

The ‘Enemy’ Within: US, NATO Want to Silence All Reporters They Dislike

Sputnik – 08.09.2015

The United States and its NATO allies treat information as a weapon designed to shape people’s perceptions across the globe and are ready to use any tool in their arsenals to silence those, who are critical of Washington and its friends, veteran war correspondent Don North warned.

The US calls an activity, which involves combining psychological warfare, propaganda and public relations, “strategic communications,” the journalist explained in an opinion piece titled “US/NATO Embrace Psy-ops and Info-War.”

Within this framework, reporters, who prefer to share information based on facts and not on bullet points prepared by the US State Department, are an enemy that has to be dealt with. They could be viewed as “spies” or “unprivileged belligerents” under the Pentagon’s revised “Law of War” manual.

The highly controversial document essentially equates some journalists to al-Qaeda terrorists and maintains that they “could be subject to indefinite incarceration, military tribunals and extrajudicial execution,” the journalist explained.

This trend of treating journalists as adversaries first manifested itself during the Vietnam War and has been a visible component of all America’s military campaigns ever since. It has been significantly reinforced during the Obama administration.

In the last seven years, “the concept of ‘strategic communication’ – managing the perceptions of the world’s public – has grown more and more expansive and the crackdown on the flow of information unprecedented. More than any of his predecessors, President Barack Obama has authorized harsh legal action against government ‘leakers’ who have exposed inconvenient truths about US foreign policy and intelligence practices,” North noted.

Not surprisingly, Washington’s response to foreign media outlets it dislikes involves a combination of propaganda and brutal force. Take Radio Television of Serbia during the Kosovo war or Al-Jazeera during the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq for instance. Both broadcasters were branded as disseminating false information and bombed: RTS headquarters were reduced to rubble in 1999 and al-Jazeera’s offices in Kabul (2001) and in Baghdad (2003) were hit by US missiles.

Given recent tensions between the United States and Russia, Washington’s latest media enemy of choice is obviously based in Moscow.

“Since RT doesn’t use the State Department’s preferred language regarding the Ukraine crisis and doesn’t show the requisite respect for the US-backed regime in Kiev, the network is denounced for its ‘propaganda,’ but this finger-pointing is really just part of the playbook for ‘information warfare,’ raising doubts about the information coming from your adversary while creating a more favorable environment for your own propaganda,” North explained.

The concept of controlling and manipulating information to achieve desired outcome transcends US borders.

“This growing fascination with ‘strategic communication’ has given rise to NATO’s new temple to information technology, called ‘The NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence’ or STRATCOM, located in Latvia, a former Soviet republic that is now on the front lines of the tensions with Russia,” North observed.

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 1 Comment

“Radiation is Good for You!” and Other Tall Tales of the Nuclear Industry

By Karl Grossman | CounterPunch | September 8, 2015

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering a move to eliminate the “Linear No-Threshold” (LNT) basis of radiation protection that the U.S. has used for decades and replace it with the “radiation hormesis” theory—which holds that low doses of radioactivity are good for people.

The change is being pushed by “a group of pro-nuclear fanatics—there is really no other way to describe them,” charges the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) based near Washington, D.C.

“If implemented, the hormesis model would result in needless death and misery,” says Michael Mariotte, NIRS president. The current U.S. requirement that nuclear plant operators reduce exposures to the public to “as low as reasonably achievable” would be “tossed out the window. Emergency planning zones would be significantly reduced or abolished entirely. Instead of being forced to spend money to limit radiation releases, nuclear utilities could pocket greater profits. In addition, adoption of the radiation model by the NRC would throw the entire government’s radiation protection rules into disarray, since other agencies, like the EPA, also rely on the LNT model.”

“If anything,” says Mariotte, “the NRC radiation standards need to be strengthened.”

The NRC has a set a deadline of November 19 for people to comment on the proposed change. The public can send comments to the U.S. government’s “regulations” website.

Comments can also be sent by regular mail to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, Attention: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff. Docket ID. Needed to be noted on any letter is the code NRC-2015-0057.

If the NRC agrees to the switch, “This would be the most significant and alarming change to U.S. federal policy on nuclear radiation,” reports the online publication Nuclear-News“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission may decide that exposure to ionizing radiation is beneficial—from nuclear bombs, nuclear power plants, depleted uranium, x-rays and Fukushima,” notes Nuclear-News. “No protective measures or public safety warnings would be considered necessary. Clean-up measures could be sharply reduced… In a sense, this would legalize what the government is already doing—failing to protect the public and promoting nuclear radiation.”

In the wake of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. crash program during World War II to build atomic bombs and the spin-offs of that program—led by nuclear power plants, there was a belief, for a time, that there was a certain “threshold” below which radioactivity wasn’t dangerous.

But as the years went by it became clear there was no threshold—that any amount of radiation could injure and kill, that there was no “safe” dose.

Low levels of radioactivity didn’t cause people to immediately sicken or die. But, it was found, after a “latency” or “incubation” period of several years, the exposure could then result in illness and death.

Thus, starting in the 1950s, the “Linear No-Threshold” standard was adopted by the governments of the U.S. and other countries and international agencies.

It holds that radioactivity causes health damage—in particular cancer—directly proportional to dose, and that there is no “threshold.” Moreover, because the effects of radiation are cumulative, the sum of several small exposures are considered to have the same effect as one larger exposure, something called “response linearity.”

The LNT standard has presented a major problem for those involved in developing nuclear technology notably at the national nuclear laboratories established for the Manhattan Project—Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories—and those later set up as the Manhattan Project was turned into the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

On one hand, Dr. Alvin Weinberg, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, declared in New Scientist magazine in 1972: “If a cure for cancer is found the problem of radiation standards disappear.”

Meanwhile, other nuclear proponents began pushing a theory they named “radiation hormesis” that claimed that the LNT standard was incorrect and that a little amount of radioactivity was good for people.

A leader in the U.S. advocating hormesis has been Dr. T. D. Luckey. A biochemistry professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia and visiting scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, he authored the book Hormesis and Ionizing Radiation and Radiation Hormesis and numerous articles. In one, “Radiation Hormesis Overiew,” he contends: “We need more, not less, exposure to ionizing radiation. The evidence that ionizing radiation is an essential agent has been reviewed… There is proven benefit.” He contends that radioactivity “activates the immune system.” Dr. Luckey further holds: “The trillions of dollars estimated for worldwide nuclear waste management can be reduced to billions to provide safe, low-dose irradiation to improve our health. The direction is obvious; the first step remains to be taken.” And he wrote: “Evidence of health benefits and longer average life-span following low-dose irradiation should replace fear.”

A 2011 story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch quoted Dr. Luckey as saying “if we get more radiation, we’d live a more healthful life” and also noted that he kept on a shelf in his bedroom a rock “the size of a small bowling ball, dotted with flecks of uranium, spilling invisible rays” It reported that “recently” Dr. Luckey “noticed a small red splotch on his lower back. It looked like a mild sunburn, the first sign of too much radiation. So he pushed the rock back on the shelf, a few inches farther away, just to be safe.”

At Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), set up by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in 1947 to develop civilian uses of nuclear technology and conduct research in atomic science, a highly active proponent of hormesis has been Dr. Ludwig E. Feinendegen. Holding posts as a professor in his native Germany and a BNL scientist, he authored numerous papers advocating hormesis. In a 2005 article published in the British Journal of Radiology he wrote of “beneficial low level radiation effects” and asserted that the “LNT hypothesis for cancer risk is scientifically unfounded and appears to be invalid in favor of a threshold or hormesis.”

The three petitions to the NRC asking it scuttle the LNT standard and replace it with the hormesis theory were submitted by Dr. Mohan Doss on behalf of the organization Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information; Dr. Carol Marcus of the UCLA medical school; and Mark Miller, a health physicist at Sandia National Laboratories.

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service points out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or EPA is fully supportive of LNT.

The agency’s reason for accepting LNT—and history of the standard—were spelled out in 2009 by Dr. Jerome Puskin, chief of its Radiation Protection Division.

The EPA, Dr. Puskin states, “is responsible for protecting the public from environmental exposures to radiation. To meet this objective the agency sets regulatory limits on radionuclide concentrations in air, water, and soil.” The agency bases its “protective exposure limits” on “scientific advisory bodies, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Ionizing Radiation, and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, with additional input from its own independent review.” The LNT standard, he writes, “has been repeatedly endorsed” by all of these bodies.

“It is difficult to imagine any relaxation in this approach unless there is convincing evidence that LNT greatly overestimates risk at the low doses of interest,” Dr. Puskin goes on, and “no such change can be expected” in view of the determination of the National Academies of Sciences’ BEIR VII committee. (BEIR is for Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation.)

BEIR VII found that “the balance of evidence from epidemiologic, animal and mechanistic studies tend to favor a simple proportionate relationship at low doses between radiation dose and cancer risk.”

As chair of the BEIR VII committee, Dr. Richard Monson, associate dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, said in 2005 on issuance of its report: “The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial.”

A European expert on radioactivity, Dr. Ian Fairlie, who as an official in the British government worked on radiation risks and has been a consultant on radiation matters to the European Parliament and other government entities, has presented detailed comments to the NRC on the petitions that it drop LNT and adopt the hormesis theory.

Dr. Fairlie says “the scientific evidence for the LNT is plentiful, powerful and persuasive.” He summarizes many studies done in Europe and the United States including BEIR VII. As to the petitions to the NRC, “my conclusion is that they do not merit serious consideration.” They “appear to be based on preconceptions or even ideology, rather than the scientific evidence which points in the opposite direction.”

An additional issue in the situation involves how fetuses and children “are the most vulnerable” to radiation and women “more vulnerable than men,” states an online petition opposing the change. It was put together by the organization Beyond Nuclear, also based near Washington, D.C. It is headed “Protect children from radiation exposure” and advises: “Tell NRC: A little radiation is BAD for you. It can give you cancer and other diseases.” It continues: “NRC should NOT adopt a ‘little radiation is good for you’ model. Instead, they should fully protect the most vulnerable which they are failing to do now.”

How might the commissioners of the NRC decide the issue? Like the Atomic Energy Commission which it grew out of, the NRC is an unabashed booster of nuclear technology and long devoted to drastically downplaying the dangers of radioactivity. A strong public stand—many negative comments—over their deciding that radioactivity is “good” for you could impact on their positions.

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | 1 Comment

‘Stop arming Israel!’ Campaigners launch blockade ahead of London arms fair

RT | September 8, 2015

© Sarah Jane Brennan

Anti-arms campaigners set up a blockade in the Dockland’s area of east London on Monday to disrupt one of the world’s largest arms fairs and highlight Britain’s role in arming repressive regimes worldwide.

Protesters gathered outside the Excel center in the Dockland’s area of east London on Monday morning as part of a week of action called Stop the Arms Fair.

The campaigners occupied a space adjacent to the center in an effort to disrupt the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair scheduled to take place at the venue next week. One of the largest arms fairs in the world, it is expected to attract more than 1,000 global arms firms and 30,000 attendees.

Monday’s day of action focused specifically on Britain’s role in arming Israel. It consisted of talks and thought provoking workshops, and was attended by scores of anti-arms trade campaigners from across Britain, who displayed colorful banners, flags, and quilts, and even sported face paint.

© Sarah Jane Brennan

Campaigners said the DSEI arms fair provides a platform for Israeli and international arms firms’ to profit from oppression and destruction.

As the day progressed, a truck carrying a dark green military vehicle attempted to make its way into the Excel center. However, it was obstructed by activists who blocked the road, forcing it to stop. Several campaigners mounted the truck, while others surrounded it.

Police later warned the campaigners they would face arrest if they refused to let the truck pass. In defiance, protestors formed a tight-knit circle in front of the vehicle and staged a traditional Palestinian dance.

© Sarah Jane Brennan

The protesters, who remained peaceful throughout the blockade, were eventually dispersed by police. One campaigner was arrested at the site.

Sarah Waldron of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), who attended the protest, condemned the British government’s sale of arms to Israel.

“In one week one of the world’s biggest arms fairs will be taking place just across the road and the UK government has consistently facilitated weapon sales to the Israeli government who will have a massive pavilion at this fair where their biggest arms companies will be displaying their battle tested weapons,” she told RT.

“The UK government has a very confused attitude to democracy and human rights. On the one hand, it talks of wanting to promote democracy in the Middle East and, on the other, it’s inviting the companies and the governments that are causing violence and conflict in these regions.”

Simon Morris of Occupy Democracy, who also attended the protest, said Occupy campaigners planned to safeguard the protest site.

“The occupy method is to take a space and hold it. We hold it to either facilitate discussions or have a meeting point where people can come down and talk about the issues,” he said.

© Sarah Jane Brennan

“We intend to be here from Monday this morning up until Saturday and we intend to be living here continuously in tents holding the space for other people to come and speak.”

“Part of our list of demands, part of what we wish to change in the world, is the shift away from a huge amount of military spending and war, which causes misery and mayhem around the world,” he added.

“If our country had a more democratic system, like direct democracy, we’d see a lot less conflict, a lot less spending on military hardware, and a lot more peace in the world.”

Hilary, a Pro-Palestine campaigner who has spent time in the Occupied Territories, said she was angry with the British government.

“We don’t want Israeli arms companies here. We don’t want Britain to be selling arms to Israel or components for weapons and we don’t want to be buying arms, buying drones to fuel more conflicts in countries around the world,” she said.

© Sarah Jane Brennan

Stop the Arms Fair is set to continue until Saturday. It will feature a mixture of creative activities and direct action throughout the week to raise awareness about the destructive impact of the global arms trade.

Activists will argue Britain must redirect spending from arms to renewables and from warfare to welfare. They will also highlight the link between the global arms trade and the global refugee crisis, and host a mass day of action in opposition the DSEI fair.

Photos © Sarah Jane Brennan / RT

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Shooting Children Becomes Israeli Policy

Netanyahu’s response to kids throwing rocks

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • September 8, 2015

I have become weary of the dancing around by politicians and denial by Jewish organizations over what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians. That anyone can with a straight face deny that there is anything wrong with a nearly fifty year occupation and strangling of the Palestinians because they have been demonized as “terrorists” or possibly only because they are not Jews is abhorrent. A new United Nations report states that Gaza will be completely uninhabitable in five years. Palestinians get imprisoned by Israel and gassed or shot if they look sideways at their occupiers. Fanatical settlers tear up olive trees that have fed the locals for hundreds of years, steal their land, vandalize and burn their houses churches and mosques, even kill them and are only rarely pursued or punished. Israel is the ugly face of a fascist state and calling it apartheid is to minimize its criminality as it does not even necessarily seek to set up a parallel state for the Arabs it controls. A number of leading Israeli politicians and journalists seek to remove them completely.

All of that said, as a committed anti-interventionist, I have to believe both that what goes on between Israel and the Palestinians should pretty much be none of our business but for the fact that a powerful domestic lobby has forced us to be involved. Jews and Arabs probably would have resolved their differences by now if Washington had not coddled corrupt Palestinian leaders while simultaneously empowering Israel to make a lot of bad choices. To be sure our government should feel free to speak up whenever foreign governments behave badly, but the tendency to impose sanctions, which don’t work, intervene directly, or even invade to deal with regimes that do not conform to our standards has brought nothing but grief, most particularly over the past fifteen years. One might even reasonably argue that it is Washington’s lame brained interventions have themselves destabilized the Middle East and caused the terrorism and refugee problems emanating from that region to metastasize.

Which is not to say that Israeli politicians have not become adept at shooting themselves in their own feet before the court of world opinion, which is becoming increasingly engaged in what is going on. Just when one thinks that Benjamin Netanyahu cannot possibly morph into something more horrible he astounds the observer by doing just that.

Netanyahu’s most recent foray grew out of a late August incident on the West Bank. A series of photographs plus video footage from a protest in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh appeared in the media. They showed a masked IDF soldier trying to arrest a young boy accused of throwing stones, followed by scenes of his mother and teenage sister trying to rescue him. The pictures and video reveal a crying and struggling 11 year old Mohammed Tamimi, with his broken arm in a cast, being held in a headlock and sat upon by the soldier, armed with an assault rifle. The boy’s mother then intervened, pulling on the mask while Mohammed’s 15 year old sister joined in to bite the soldier’s wrist, compelling him to free the boy. The soldier released him, backed off and then threw a grenade at the family.

Predictably, Israel’s apologists complained that the Palestinians had attacked the soldier who was only defending himself and they quickly flooded the social media with claims that it was all a set-up, which they even dubbed “Pallywood.” And inevitably Benjamin Netanyahu joined in the debate, blaming the Arabs for what transpired, calling them “terrorists.” He stated that he would recommend that Israeli soldiers be authorized to fire live rounds to protect themselves in similar situations where children are throwing rocks. Netanyahu was reportedly responding to demands from settlers for more aggressive action against Palestinians, completely ignoring the reality that the Arabs have been defending themselves from settler harassment and worse and the soldiers represent an occupying army. Some in the Israeli media and government also advised that as the soldier had been “humiliated” by the Palestinian women he should have shot them, but Bibi did not go quite that far. At least not yet.

In the United States the hasbara jumped on both stories, notably in comments sections on Yahoo and on other sites using constant repetition of the same arguments, often to include repeated misspellings and poor syntax suggesting that their “information” came from a common source in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The names the hasbara commenters use to post are characteristically American sounding, similar to the Anglo names used by employees of the obnoxious call centers in India and the Philippines when they interrupt you at dinner time. In the hasbara comments rocks thrown by the Palestinian children were repeatedly and improbably described as “football sized.” In other pushback, a Reuters account of the Netanyahu hard line, possibly acting under pressure from Jewish groups, changed the key word in its headline from “shoot” young Palestinians to “target” them.

But in this case, Benjamin Netanyahu’s horse has already left the stable. His new orders to shoot Palestinian children have been de facto operational for some time with punishments rarer than hens’ teeth for those Israeli Defense Forces commandoes who pull their triggers on six year olds. That kind of killing has been almost routine, exhibited dramatically during last July’s execution of four young boys playing soccer on a beach in Gaza. The boys were killed by Israeli rockets in full sight of a number of international and media observers. The Israeli government subsequently conducted an “extensive investigation” that nevertheless did not interview many eye witnesses, to include a Guardian journalist. Not surprisingly it absolved itself from blame for the deaths.

And beyond that singular bit of barbarity, numerous other Palestinian children have also been abducted, imprisoned and murdered by the Israeli Army and border police. International monitors reckon that 2,061 Palestinian children have been killed by Israel since September 2000 versus 133 Israeli children murdered in the same time frame by Palestinians. The body count is deplorable on either side but at some point Netanyahu has to come to recognize that the constant barrage of videos, photos and eyewitness testimony recording the mindless brutality of the occupation of the West Bank will influence public opinion to such an extent that Israel will become everyone’s pariah state.

Recently more than 100,000 Britons signed a petititon demanding that Benjamin Netanyahu be arrested for war crimes on an upcoming visit to the UK while Israel’s resistance to the Iranian nuclear deal, when subjected to a United Nations vote, resulted in Tel Aviv lining up against the entire rest of the world including the United States. Pictures of children being manhandled by two hundred pound soldiers create a lasting impression, one that inevitably influences how people react when the subject of Israel comes up. Netanyahu may think that he can maintain course forever with the uncritical backing of the United States but forever is a long time and even in the U.S. things can change.

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 4 Comments

Reham Dawabshe’s funeral

International Solidarity Movement |September 8, 2015

Duma, Occupied Palestine – Yesterday, Monday 7th September, at approximately 1pm, thousands of people where waiting for martyr, Reham Dawabshe, to arrive to Duma to attend her funeral.

After struggling for five weeks from severe burns all over her body, Reham Dawabshe died in the hospital. Reham’s home was attacked by illegal Israeli settlers on July 31st, by smashing the windows in the middle of the night, throwing in flammable liquids and molotov bombs and setting the whole house on fire. Her 18-month-old baby, Ali, died in the flames trapped in the house and her husband, Saed, died one week later in the hospital.

AhmadinhospitalUntil this day, only 4-year-old, Ahmad, has survived but is still struggling from severe wounds in the hospital.

Thousands of people mourned the mother’s death in Duma, including hundreds of teachers and dozens of students from the Jurish School for Girls, where Reham worked as a math teacher. Many government representatives were present, including the Governor of Nablus, Akram al-Rujoub, and the Minister of Education, Sabri Seidam.

Soon after the funeral procession was finished, clashes broke out in the entrance of the village of Duma, where Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters and sound grenades towards Palestinian youth.

To this day, the perpetrators of the arson attack that killed Ali, Reham and Saed Dawabshe have not been arrested. Israeli authorities only arrested a few random settlers right after the event occurred in order to show in the news media that they were working to make justice, but soon after most of these suspects were released.

It is important to note that the great majority of attacks perpetuated by illegal Israeli settlers towards Palestinian villagers are always ignored by the Israeli authorities, whereas Palestinians are harassed, imprisoned and beaten by Israeli soldiers on a daily basis for no reason.


September 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel ‘benefiting from re-displacing Palestinians’

Palestine Information Center – September 8, 2015

-238750677ALGERIA – Dr. Abdul Razzaq Muqri, head of the Algerian Movement for a Society of Peace (MSP), said Monday that Israel would benefit from re-settling Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Europe.

He also held western countries responsible for the suffering of Palestinian and Syrian refugees, charging that western countries were the main reason for the instability in the region.

“Today, Europe is in dire need for immigration as new demographic studies confirm that Europe would need to bring one million new immigrants every year, a total of 47 million immigrants until 2050 in order to maintain positive growth rates.”

There is no doubt, Dr. Muqri continued, that Israel was delighted when New Zealand declared intention to receive 500,000 Syrian and Palestinian refugees. Instead of finding a solution for Israeli settlers who came to Palestine from all over the world, the land owners became asylum seekers fleeing from the oppression.

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Reports emerge about Russian mediation between Khartoum and Juba

MEMO – September 7, 2015

Russia will lead a new round of mediation between Khartoum and Juba to ensure the implementation of the recent agreement struck on bilateral relations between the two sides, an official Sudanese source revealed yesterday.

Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported that the foreign ministers of Sudan, Moscow and the state of South Sudan will meet in Russia on Thursday to discuss triparty relations between Moscow, Khartoum and Juba as well as the South Sudan-Sudan relations.

SUNA quoted the Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour as saying: “The Sudan’s relations with South Sudan is supposed to be better, theoretically, but there are some pending issues between the two states, most importantly, the implementation of the nine cooperation agreements signed by the two presidents, Field Marshal Omar Al-Bashir, the President of the Republic [of the Sudan] and Major General Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, on the 9th of September in 2012.”

He added that his visit to Russia on Wednesday marks the third anniversary of the Addis Ababa agreement, although only one of the nine agreements was implemented – the agreement on the transfer of South Sudan’s oil through Port Sudan.

Ghandour also noted that his visit, which will take place between 9-11 September, came in response to an invitation from the Russian foreign minister. According to Ghandour, the two ministers will discuss bilateral relation between Russia and the Sudan in all fields; in addition to the coordination of regional and international issues.

The Sudanese foreign minister added that relations between the two countries are developing at both the economic and political levels.

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Operation Flavius and the Killer Cameron

By Craig Murray | September 8, 2015

Exactly twenty years ago the European Court of Human Rights found that the British Government had acted illegally in shooting dead three IRA members in Gibraltar, even though the court accepted that the government had a genuine belief that they were planning a bombing attack. Indeed the court accepted the victims were terrorists, and refused compensation to their families on those grounds. But the court refused to accept there was no possibility of foiling the plot through methods other than summary execution.

In the light of the decision that Operation Flavius contravened Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, it is difficult to understand how the government can claim its killing of British men in Syria, with no trial, is anything other than murder. I personally find it difficult to imagine technically how men journeying in a car in Syria were imminently able to instantly wreak havoc in the UK so that it was impossible to prevent by any method other than their execution without trial. The level of certainty required for that decision would involve sufficient knowledge of what was to happen in the UK to stop it here. If there was vagueness about what was actually to happen in the UK, there cannot have been the certainty about the threat claimed. It is a logical impasse.

Frankly in twenty years of experience working with British security services their level of accuracy (remember Iraqi WMD) was never that good. And everybody is fortunately now deeply sceptical about the continual claims by the security services that there are thousands of dedicated Islamic terrorists in the UK conducting hundreds of plots every year, and yet miraculously never actually managing to kill anybody.

Just in case anybody had not worked out yet that the Guardian is a disgraceful neo-con rag, it has an article by its “legal correspondent” Joshua Rozenberg, married to the even more rabid Zionist militarist Melanie Phillips (who still believes the Iraqi WMD exist, hidden in the bed of the Euphrates). Rozenberg assures us it is absolutely legal for the British government to kill us without trial if it wants. He even suggests the murdered Mr Khan would not object:

“If he was waging war on British troops and civilians, he can hardly complain the UK’s armed forces were one step ahead of him.”

Astonishingly for a lawyer, the disgraceful Rozenberg does not seem to notice that the opening “if” is rather important. “If Mr Jones was engaged in insurance fraud, he can hardly complain at being banged up for twenty years”, so according to Mr Rozenberg we can dispense with all that nonsense about trials and evidence and just take the government’s word for it. Not to mention that the government has now instituted summary execution without trial in a country that does not even have the death penalty.

As I have argued, it is not unusual for British people to go to fight abroad. There were British citizens in the Israeli Defence Forces participating in the massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza last year. Our neo-con governments of both blue and red Tories have positively encouraged the mercenary companies Executive Outcomes/Sandline/Aegis of Tony Buckingham and Tim Spicer. There are Britons fighting now in the Ukraine. We started by positively encouraging factions in the Syrian civil war, with the Saudis and CIA arming and training them and some of those factions helped constitute ISIL. There is no evidence at all that Islamic State had any interest in attacks in the UK until we started to attack it. (That is not to say it is not a very bad organisation and did not commit actions against UK citizens in its “Caliphate area”. But it did not threaten the UK).

For the government to claim the right to kill British people through sci-fi execution, based on highly unreliable secret intelligence and a secret declaration of legality, is so shocking I find it difficult to believe it is happening even as I type the words. Are we so cowed as to accept this?

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

How Neocons Destabilized Europe

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 7, 2015

The refugee chaos that is now pushing deep into Europe – dramatized by gut-wrenching photos of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey – started with the cavalier ambitions of American neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks who planned to remake the Middle East and other parts of the world through “regime change.”

Instead of the promised wonders of “democracy promotion” and “human rights,” what these “anti-realists” have accomplished is to spread death, destruction and destabilization across the Middle East and parts of Africa and now into Ukraine and the heart of Europe. Yet, since these neocon forces still control the Official Narrative, their explanations get top billing – such as that there hasn’t been enough “regime change.”

For instance, The Washington Post’s neocon editorial page editor Fred Hiatt on Monday blamed “realists” for the cascading catastrophes. Hiatt castigated them and President Barack Obama for not intervening more aggressively in Syria to depose President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime neocon target for “regime change.” But the truth is that this accelerating spread of human suffering can be traced back directly to the unchecked influence of the neocons and their liberal fellow-travelers who have resisted political compromise and, in the case of Syria, blocked any realistic efforts to work out a power-sharing agreement between Assad and his political opponents, those who are not terrorists.

In early 2014, the neocons and liberal hawks sabotaged Syrian peace talks in Geneva by blocking Iran’s participation and turning the peace conference into a one-sided shouting match where U.S.-funded opposition leaders yelled at Assad’s representatives who then went home. All the while, the Post’s editors and their friends kept egging Obama to start bombing Assad’s forces.

The madness of this neocon approach grew more obvious in the summer of 2014 when the Islamic State, an Al Qaeda spin-off which had been slaughtering suspected pro-government people in Syria, expanded its bloody campaign of beheadings back into Iraq where this hyper-brutal movement first emerged as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” in response to the 2003 U.S. invasion.

It should have been clear by mid-2014 that if the neocons had gotten their way and Obama had conducted a massive U.S. bombing campaign to devastate Assad’s military, the black flag of Sunni terrorism might well be flying above the Syrian capital of Damascus while its streets would run red with blood.

But now a year later, the likes of Hiatt still have not absorbed that lesson — and the spreading chaos from neocon strategies is destabilizing Europe. As shocking and disturbing as that is, none of it should have come as much of a surprise, since the neocons have always brought chaos and dislocations in their wake.

When I first encountered the neocons in the 1980s, they had been given Central America to play with. President Ronald Reagan had credentialed many of them, bringing into the U.S. government neocon luminaries such as Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan. But Reagan mostly kept them out of the big-power realms: the Mideast and Europe.

Those strategic areas went to the “adults,” people like James Baker, George Shultz, Philip Habib and Brent Scowcroft. The poor Central Americans, as they tried to shed generations of repression and backwardness imposed by brutal right-wing oligarchies, faced U.S. neocon ideologues who unleashed death squads and even genocide against peasants, students and workers.

The result – not surprisingly – was a flood of refugees, especially from El Salvador and Guatemala, northward to the United States. The neocon “success” in the 1980s, crushing progressive social movements and reinforcing the oligarchic controls, left most countries of Central America in the grip of corrupt regimes and crime syndicates, periodically driving more waves of what Reagan called “feet people” through Mexico to the southern U.S. border.

Messing Up the Mideast

But the neocons weren’t satisfied sitting at the kids’ table. Even during the Reagan administration, they tried to squeeze themselves among the “adults” at the grown-ups’ table. For instance, neocons, such as Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz, pushed Israel-friendly policies toward Iran, which the Israelis then saw as a counterweight to Iraq. That strategy led eventually to the Iran-Contra Affair, the worst scandal of the Reagan administration. [See’sWhen Israel /Neocons Favored Iran.”]

However, the right-wing and mainstream U.S. media never liked the complex Iran-Contra story and thus exposure of the many levels of the scandal’s criminality was avoided. Democrats also preferred compromise to confrontation. So, most of the key neocons survived the Iran-Contra fallout, leaving their ranks still firmly in place for the next phase of their rise to power.

In the 1990s, the neocons built up a well-funded infrastructure of think tanks and media outlets, benefiting from both the largesse of military contractors donating to think tanks and government-funded operations like the National Endowment for Democracy, headed by neocon Carl Gershman.

The neocons gained more political momentum from the U.S. military might displayed during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. Many Americans began to see war as fun, almost like a video game in which “enemy” forces get obliterated from afar. On TV news shows, tough-talking pundits were all the rage. If you wanted to be taken seriously, you couldn’t go wrong taking the most macho position, what I sometimes call the “er-er-er” growling effect.

Combined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the notion that U.S. military supremacy was unmatched and unchallengeable gave rise to neocon theories about turning “diplomacy” into nothing more than the delivery of U.S. ultimatums. In the Middle East, that was a view shared by Israeli hardliners, who had grown tired of negotiating with the Palestinians and other Arabs.

Instead of talk, there would be “regime change” for any government that would not fall into line. This strategy was articulated in 1996 when a group of American neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, went to work for Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign in Israel and compiled a strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”

Iraq was first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what was on the table.

In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century, founded by neocons Robert Kagan and William Kristol, called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton balked at something that extreme. The situation changed, however, when President George W. Bush took office and the 9/11 attacks terrified and infuriated the American public.

Suddenly, the neocons had a Commander-in-Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein – and Americans were easily persuaded although Iraq and Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. [See’sThe Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

The Death of ‘Realism’

The 2003 Iraq invasion sounded the death knell for foreign policy “realism” in Official Washington. Aging or dead, the old adult voices were silent or ignored. From Congress and the Executive Branch to the think tanks and the mainstream news media, almost all the “opinion leaders” were neocons and many liberals fell into line behind Bush’s case for war.

And, even though the Iraq War “group think” was almost entirely wrong, both on the WMD justifications for war and the “cakewalk” expectations for remaking Iraq, almost no one who promoted the fiasco suffered punishment for either the illegality of the invasion or the absence of sanity in promoting such a harebrained scheme.

Instead of negative repercussions, the Iraq War backers – the neocons and their liberal-hawk accomplices – essentially solidified their control over U.S. foreign policy and the major news media. From The New York Times and The Washington Post to the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, the “regime change” agenda continued to hold sway.

It didn’t even matter when the sectarian warfare unleashed in Iraq left hundreds of thousands dead, displaced millions and gave rise to Al Qaeda’s ruthless Iraq affiliate. Not even the 2008 election of Barack Obama, an Iraq War opponent, changed this overall dynamic.

Rather than standing up to this new foreign policy establishment, Obama bowed to it, retaining key players from President Bush’s national security team, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates and General David Petraeus, and by hiring hawkish Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, who became Secretary of State, and Samantha Power at the National Security Council.

Thus, the cult of “regime change” did not just survive the Iraq disaster; it thrived. Whenever a difficult foreign problem emerged, the go-to solution was still “regime change,” accompanied by the usual demonizing of a targeted leader, support for the “democratic opposition” and calls for military intervention. President Obama, arguably a “closet realist,” found himself as the foot-dragger-in-chief as he reluctantly was pulled along on one “regime change” crusade after another.

In 2011, for instance, Secretary of State Clinton and National Security Council aide Power persuaded Obama to join with some hot-for-war European leaders to achieve “regime change” in Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi had gone on the offensive against groups in eastern Libya that he identified as Islamic terrorists.

But Clinton and Power saw the case as a test for their theories of “humanitarian warfare” – or “regime change” to remove a “bad guy” like Gaddafi from power. Obama soon signed on and, with the U.S. military providing crucial technological support, a devastating bombing campaign destroyed Gaddafi’s army, drove him from Tripoli, and ultimately led to his torture-murder.

‘We Came, We Saw, He Died’

Secretary Clinton scurried to secure credit for this “regime change.” According to one email chain in August 2011, her longtime friend and personal adviser Sidney Blumenthal praised the bombing campaign to destroy Gaddafi’s army and hailed the dictator’s impending ouster.

“First, brava! This is a historic moment and you will be credited for realizing it,” Blumenthal wrote on Aug. 22, 2011. “When Qaddafi himself is finally removed, you should of course make a public statement before the cameras wherever you are, even in the driveway of your vacation home. … You must go on camera. You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment. … The most important phrase is: ‘successful strategy.’”

Clinton forwarded Blumenthal’s advice to Jake Sullivan, a close State Department aide. “Pls read below,” she wrote. “Sid makes a good case for what I should say, but it’s premised on being said after Q[addafi] goes, which will make it more dramatic. That’s my hesitancy, since I’m not sure how many chances I’ll get.”

Sullivan responded, saying “it might make sense for you to do an op-ed to run right after he falls, making this point. … You can reinforce the op-ed in all your appearances, but it makes sense to lay down something definitive, almost like the Clinton Doctrine.”

However, when Gaddafi abandoned Tripoli that day, President Obama seized the moment to make a triumphant announcement. Clinton’s opportunity to highlight her joy at the Libyan “regime change” had to wait until Oct. 20, 2011, when Gaddafi was captured, tortured and murdered.

In a TV interview, Clinton celebrated the news when it appeared on her cell phone and paraphrased Julius Caesar’s famous line after Roman forces achieved a resounding victory in 46 B.C. and he declared, “veni, vidi, vici” – “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Clinton’s reprise of Caesar’s boast went: “We came; we saw; he died.” She then laughed and clapped her hands.

Presumably, the “Clinton Doctrine” would have been a policy of “liberal interventionism” to achieve “regime change” in countries where there is some crisis in which the leader seeks to put down an internal security threat and where the United States objects to the action.

But the problem with Clinton’s boasting about the “Clinton Doctrine” was that the Libyan adventure quickly turned sour with the Islamic terrorists, whom Gaddafi had warned about, seizing wide swaths of territory and turning it into another Iraq-like badlands.

On Sept. 11, 2012, this reality hit home when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was overrun and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American diplomatic personnel were killed. It turned out that Gaddafi wasn’t entirely wrong about the nature of his opposition.

Eventually, the extremist violence in Libya grew so out of control that the United States and European countries abandoned their embassies in Tripoli. Since then, Islamic State terrorists have begun decapitating Coptic Christians on Libyan beaches and slaughtering other “heretics.” Amid the anarchy, Libya has become a route for desperate migrants seeking passage across the Mediterranean to Europe.

A War on Assad

Parallel to the “regime change” in Libya was a similar enterprise in Syria in which the neocons and liberal interventionists pressed for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, whose government in 2011 cracked down on what had quickly become a violent rebellion led by extremist elements, though the Western propaganda portrayed the opposition as “moderate” and “peaceful.”

For the first years of the Syrian civil war, the pretense remained that these “moderate” rebels were facing unjustified repression and the only answer was “regime change” in Damascus. Assad’s claim that the opposition included many Islamic extremists was largely dismissed as were Gaddafi’s alarms in Libya.

On Aug. 21, 2013, a sarin gas attack outside Damascus killed hundreds of civilians and the U.S. State Department and the mainstream news media immediately blamed Assad’s forces amid demands for military retaliation against the Syrian army.

Despite doubts within the U.S. intelligence community about Assad’s responsibility for the sarin attack, which some analysts saw instead as a provocation by anti-Assad terrorists, the clamor from Official Washington’s neocons and liberal interventionists for war was intense and any doubts were brushed aside.

But President Obama, aware of the uncertainty within the U.S. intelligence community, held back from a military strike and eventually worked out a deal, brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Assad agreed to surrender his entire chemical-weapons arsenal while still denying any role in the sarin attack.

Though the case pinning the sarin attack on the Syrian government eventually fell apart – with evidence pointing to a “false flag” operation by Sunni radicals to trick the United States into intervening on their side – Official Washington’s “group think” refused to reconsider the initial rush to judgment. In Monday’s column, Hiatt still references Assad’s “savagery of chemical weapons.”

Any suggestion that the only realistic option in Syria is a power-sharing compromise that would include Assad – who is viewed as the protector of Syria’s Christian, Shiite and Alawite minorities – is rejected out of hand with the slogan, “Assad must go!”

The neocons have created a conventional wisdom which holds that the Syrian crisis would have been prevented if only Obama had followed the neocons’ 2011 prescription of another U.S. intervention to force another “regime change.” Yet, the far more likely outcome would have been either another indefinite and bloody U.S. military occupation of Syria or the black flag of Islamic terrorism flying over Damascus.

Get Putin

Another villain who emerged from the 2013 failure to bomb Syria was Russian President Putin, who infuriated the neocons by his work with Obama on Syria’s surrender of its chemical weapons and who further annoyed the neocons by helping to get the Iranians to negotiate seriously on constraining their nuclear program. Despite the “regime change” disasters in Iraq and Libya, the neocons wanted to wave the “regime change” wand again over Syria and Iran.

Putin got his comeuppance when U.S. neocons, including NED President Carl Gershman and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (Robert Kagan’s wife), helped orchestrate a “regime change” in Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014, overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych and putting in a fiercely anti-Russian regime on Russia’s border.

As thrilled as the neocons were with their “victory” in Kiev and their success in demonizing Putin in the mainstream U.S. news media, Ukraine followed the now-predictable post-regime-change descent into a vicious civil war. Western Ukrainians waged a brutal “anti-terrorist operation” against ethnic Russians in the east who resisted the U.S.-backed coup.

Thousands of Ukrainians died and millions were displaced as Ukraine’s national economy teetered toward collapse. Yet, the neocons and their liberal-hawk friends again showed their propaganda skills by pinning the blame for everything on “Russian aggression” and Putin.

Though Obama was apparently caught off-guard by the Ukrainian “regime change,” he soon joined in denouncing Putin and Russia. The European Union also got behind U.S.-demanded sanctions against Russia despite the harm those sanctions also inflicted on Europe’s already shaky economy. Europe’s stability is now under additional strain because of the flows of refugees from the war zones of the Middle East.

A Dozen Years of Chaos

So, we can now look at the consequences and costs of the past dozen years under the spell of neocon/liberal-hawk “regime change” strategies. According to many estimates, the death toll in Iraq, Syria and Libya has exceeded one million with several million more refugees flooding into – and stretching the resources – of fragile Mideast countries.

Hundreds of thousands of other refugees and migrants have fled to Europe, putting major strains on the Continent’s social structures already stressed by the severe recession that followed the 2008 Wall Street crash. Even without the refugee crisis, Greece and other southern European countries would be struggling to meet their citizens’ needs.

Stepping back for a moment and assessing the full impact of neoconservative policies, you might be amazed at how widely they have spread chaos across a large swath of the globe. Who would have thought that the neocons would have succeeded in destabilizing not only the Mideast but Europe as well.

And, as Europe struggles, the export markets of China are squeezed, spreading economic instability to that crucial economy and, with its market shocks, the reverberations rumbling back to the United States, too.

We now see the human tragedies of neocon/liberal-hawk ideologies captured in the suffering of the Syrians and other refugees flooding Europe and the death of children drowning as their desperate families flee the chaos created by “regime change.” But will the neocon/liberal-hawk grip on Official Washington finally be broken? Will a debate even be allowed about the dangers of “regime change” prescriptions in the future?

Not if the likes of The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt have anything to say about it. The truth is that Hiatt and other neocons retain their dominance of the mainstream U.S. news media, so all that one can expect from the various MSM outlets is more neocon propaganda, blaming the chaos not on their policy of “regime change” but on the failure to undertake even more “regime change.”

The one hope is that many Americans will not be fooled this time and that a belated “realism” will finally return to U.S. geopolitical strategies that will look for obtainable compromises to restore some political order to places such as Syria, Libya and Ukraine. Rather than more and more tough-guy/gal confrontations, maybe there will finally be some serious efforts at reconciliation.

But the other reality is that the interventionist forces have rooted themselves deeply in Official Washington, inside NATO, within the mainstream news media and even in European institutions. It will not be easy to rid the world of the grave dangers created by neocon policies.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

German Left Party Blames US for Destabilizing Middle East

Sputnik – 07.09.2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s big plan to tackle the refugee crisis will only hurt migrants without addressing the root cause of the problem, which is the US’ destabilization of Middle Eastern nations, the opposition Left Party said.

Merkel’s coalition of Christian Democrats and Socialists hammered out a package of general measures to address the rising flow of migrants on Sunday night. Around 20,000 asylum seekers arrived in the country over the weekend, with a total of 800,000 expected in 2015.

In a position paper presented to the German parliament on Monday, the Left Party accused the United States and its NATO allies of destabilizing countries in the Middle East through interventions and regime changes.

Dietmar Bartsch, the deputy chairman of the left-wing faction in the parliament, said at Monday’s press conference he had “no sympathy” for regimes in the Middle East, but added Germany and its allies should avoid making “mistakes” that lead to people being displaced.

He pointed to wars in Syria and Iraq that created a vacuum of power and forced thousands of people to flee the encroaching Islamic State forces. Most recently, Germany has been providing weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is bombing rebel positions in Yemen.

“I can tell you that the next flow of refugees will come from Yemen. Today’s arms exports create tomorrow’s migrants,” Bartsch emphasized.

“Western countries led by the United States have destabilized entire regions by allowing the creation of terror organizations… Murderous gangs like the Islamic State (IS) have been backed indirectly and supplied with weapons and funds by countries allied with Germany,” the position paper said.

The Left Party’s domestic policies spokesperson, Ulla Jelpke, said Monday that the “[Merkel] coalition’s current package of measures piled together different points that will hurt refugees, rather than do them any good.”

She said the package created additional barriers for refugees fleeing conflicts in the Western Balkans “under the cover of refugee aid.”

The Left Party said it had formulated its own 10-point plan on tackling the root causes of the ongoing migrant crisis that included an end to arms exports, no more participation in NATO-led wars and removing US bases from German soil, as well as increasing Germany’s contribution to the World Food Program for Syria from 162 billion euro ($180 billion) to 500 billion ($558 billion).

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment