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Is Sec. of Air Force Falsifying About Weaponization of Space?

By Sam Husseini | December 2, 2015

While the current box office hit “The Martian” by director Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon depicts coordination between the U.S. and Chinese space programs, that’s not the way it’s playing out in the real world.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James on Wednesday at the National Press Club responded to a question about the U.S. blocking efforts by Russia and China and over 100 other countries to ensure the disarmament of outer space by alleging that China and Russia are engaging in activities in space that are are “worrisome.”

Sec. James stated “we don’t have weapons in space in the United States.” She then added: “Now what has been very worrisome in recent years is that some other countries around the world, notably China and Russia, are investing and they’re testing in different types of capabilities which could shoot satellites out of orbit, and do other things to our capabilities and the capabilities of allies in space, which is worrisome.” [Question at 54:00, video of event.]

Sec. James’ comments were in response to a question this reporter submitted citing a UN vote last month which was 122 in favor to 4 against disarmament outer space. The U.S. was one of the nations voting against the resolution. [full question and response below.]

John Hughes, the president of the National Press Club and moderator of the event, in his introduction of James, noted that she was recently made “the principle space adviser with expanded responsibilities of all Pentagon space activities.”

Still, Sec. James stated today “I’m not familiar with that vote.”

Alice Slater, who is with Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee and is a leading activist on disarmament said today: “It’s hard to believe that the U.S. Secretary of the Air Force is unaware of the U.S. military program to ‘dominate and control the military use of space’ as set forth in Pentagon documents such as Vision 2020 [PDF] or that the U.S. also has tested anti-satellite weapons in space.”

A summary of the votes in question on Nov. 3 on the UN’s website states: “The text, entitled ‘No first placement of weapons in outer space,’ reaffirmed the importance and urgency of the objective to prevent an outer space arms race and the willingness of States to contribute to that common goal.” The UN summery references a “draft treaty, introduced by China and the Russian Federation. … The draft was approved by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 4 against (Israel, Ukraine, United States, Georgia), with 47 abstentions.” Yet, James, in her remarks painted Russia and China as the aggressors.

But consider Sec. James’ exact words. While she indicates the U.S.: “we don’t have weapons in space” — she has a different standard when talking about Russia and China: They “are investing and they’re testing in different types of capabilities which could shoot satellites out of orbit” — which the U.S. obviously is doing as well. There is a race to weaponize space though it would seem Russia, China and most other nations are making moves through the UN to stop it and the U.S. government appears to be hindering that.

In addition to Vision 2020, the Project for a New American Century also called for U.S. control of space as one of its goals: “CONTROL THE NEW ‘INTERNATIONAL COMMONS’ OF SPACE AND ‘CYBERSPACE,’ and pave the way for the creation of a new military service — U.S. Space Forces — with the mission of space control.” [archived PDF]

Slater added: “It is common knowledge that when the wall came down in Europe, Gorbachev and Reagan met in Rekjavik and were prepared to negotiate the total elimination of nuclear weapons, except the negotiations were aborted because Reagan refused to give up his dream of a U.S. military shield in space, commonly referred to at the time as Star Wars.

“Less well known, but nevertheless true, is that Putin offered Clinton a deal to cut our arsenals of 16,000 nuclear weapons to a 1,000 weapons each and call all the parties to the table to negotiate for nuclear abolition if the U.S. would cease its plans to put missile bases in Eastern Europe. Clinton refused and Putin backed out of his offer. Shortly thereafter, Bush actually walked out of the 1972 Anti-Balllistic Missile Treaty and put US missiles and bases in Turkey, Romania and Poland. …

“In 2008, Russia and China proposed a draft treaty to ban space weapons which the U.S. blocked from going forward in the consensus bound committee on disarmament in Geneva. This year the U.S. voted to abstain from a Russian proposal to ban weapons in space at the UN First Committee of the General Assembly, joining only Israel and Palau, in not going forward to support the ban.”

In a quest for increased transparency in journalism, here are background material on the piece above. 

I asked a couple of other questions about air wars and killer drones which were not asked, though several questions were asked about drones, including one about killing of civilians: 

Here were the questions I submitted in writing before the event: 

Q: estimates that the current bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria over the last 482 days has leveled about 8,600 strikes and killed 682 to 2,104 civilians. Do you have an estimate for the number of civilians killed by U.S. airstrikes?

Q: The Guardian reports on four former drone pilots who recently wrote an impassioned plea to the Obama administration, calling for a rethink of a military tactic that they say has “fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like Isis, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantánamo Bay … We cannot sit silently by and witness tragedies like the attacks in Paris, knowing the devastating effects the drone program has overseas and at home.” Do you have any information on the long term consequences of the US government’s killer drone program? Can you tell us what countries US drones operate in? How do you respond to their letter from the former drone pilot whistleblowers — these are people who left lucrative careers operating drones because they concluded it was morally contemptible to continue.

Neither was asked, though the moderator, Hughes, did ask a number of questions about drones and raised the issue of civilian deaths in this question:

Q: You talked about the effort to minimize collateral damage, or civilian deaths, in this effort how satisfied are you that you’ve been able to minimize civilian deaths in this campaign? And as you step up this effort now, will the risk of more civilian deaths rise?

Deborah Lee James: I am satisfied that our combined efforts and the way we are approaching this campaign is unprecedented in the history of warfare in terms of the care that we take to do everything possible to try to avoid civilian casualties. Is it 100 percent? No, because there are, from time to time, terrible tragedies. But with the thousands of sorties [a deployment or dispatch of one military unit, be it an aircraft, ship, or troops, from a strongpoint] that have been flown, the fact that there have only been a handful of these incidents, I think, is almost a miracle. So I am convinced we’re doing a good job, I saw some of it in action myself when I was in the CAOC [Combined Air and Space Operations Center] and the CGOC [Company Grade Officer’s Council], and enormous care is taken.

Here’s the full question about weaponization of space: 

Q: This questioner says, ‘One month ago at the UN there was a vote for disarmament in space. The vote was 122 for and 4 against, the U.S. was one of the four against. Why is the U.S. against disarmament in space?

Deborah Lee James: “Well, I’m not familiar with that vote, but what I will tell you about space and the proposition of space is this — number one, we don’t have weapons in space in the United States. Number two, we’re very focused on not creating debris in space. So to back up for just a minute, if you go back 20, 30 years there were relatively few countries, and few companies for that matter, who even could get themselves to space, but flash forward to the present day and there are many more countries and many more companies. Plus there is debris in space, there is space junk. So you’ve got thousands of these pieces of material whirling around at 40 or 50 thousand miles per hour and even a small piece of debris can do some serious damage to a billion dollar satellite. So debris is bad and we want to make sure that we minimize that at all costs. Now what has been very worrisome in recent years is that some other countries around the world, notably China and Russia are investing and they’re testing in different types of capabilities which could shoot satellites out of orbit, and do other things to our capabilities and the capabilities of allies in space- which is worrisome. And so what we have said is we need to focus more attention on space, we need to invest more in space, the resiliency of space, and we need to at all times get this point across- –particularly to some of these other countries that are investing and testing in these ways — that debris is bad, that debris hurts all of us.”

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

US’ New Nuke-Armed Missiles ‘Inherently Destabilizing’

Sputnik –  01.12.2015

Washington’s plans to develop a new nuclear-armed cruise missile contradict the US policy to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy, according to nuclear security specialist James E. Doyle.

The long-range standoff weapon (LRSO) goes against the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and the Nuclear Weapons Employment Strategy from 2013, Doyle writes in an opinion piece published Monday by the National Interest.

It also undercuts the essential goal of maintaining strategic stability in a world of increasingly nuclear-armed states, adds Doyle, who served on the technical staff of the Nonproliferation Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1997 to 2014.

“Aircraft loaded with long-range nuclear cruise missiles that can slip unseen under the radar and conduct surprise attacks are inherently destabilizing,” he writes.

Limiting cruise missiles has been a “hallmark” of Washington-Moscow nuclear cooperation dating back to the late 1980s, Doyle points out. Today, neither US nor Russian strategic aircraft routinely operate with nuclear cruise missiles loaded.

“Canceling the LRSO cruise missile program would be an appropriate way to demonstrate implementation of the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, Nuclear Employment Strategy and take a small but significant leading step towards its vision of a world without nuclear weapons,” he writes. “This step could provide momentum for a global ban on these weapons that would improve strategic stability and the security of all nations.”

Only Russia and the United States currently operate nuclear cruise missiles, but China, Pakistan and India are developing the technology. If Washington and Moscow could agree on such a ban, it would make a multilateral agreement “more feasible,” Doyle writes.

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

NATO Discussing Ways to Provoke Russia Further

By Stephen Lendman | December 2, 2015

On Tuesday and Wednesday, NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels on the pretext of “work(ing) on further measures to assure Turkey’s security,” and related issues, based on a nonexistent Russian threat.

It sounds like a bad joke, except issues at stake are deadly serious, Russia-bashing featured in all NATO meetings, Erdogan’s well-planned act of aggression complicit with Washington called self-defense, Secretary-General Stoltenberg saying:

NATO has “standing defense plans for (member country) Turkey (including) augmented… air defenses, (part of its) long-term commitment to an ally” – despite no nation threatening its security.

Washington “deployed aircraft to support Turkey’s air defenses” – Britain to follow suit along with Germany and Denmark. “(W)e have decided to address the need to support Turkey before the incident last week.”

Were NATO officials briefed about plans to down a Russian aircraft before the incident? All the fuss about Turkey reflects the latest way of bashing Russia. US-dominated NATO countries partnered with Israel and rogue Arab states alone threaten world peace and stability. Russia is the world’s leading anti-war nation – committed with its non-Western allies against the scourge of terrorism, what America fosters globally to serve its imperial interests.

False accusations of Russian aggression wore thin long ago, US state terrorism allied with its rogue allies entirely ignored.

Are plans to defend Turkish airspace code language for more anti-Russian provocations? Put nothing past neocon US policymakers, risking the unthinkable to further their agenda, possible nuclear war with Russia.

Turkey already has one of the world’s strongest militaries, waging terror war against regional Kurds, entering Syrian and Iraqi airspace lawlessly, killing its fighters battling ISIS, Erdogan lying about combating terrorism.

Aiding its military with US and other NATO member countries’ firepower increases the chance of direct confrontation with Russia. Is this what Washington intends, Erdogan recklessly going along, possibly getting embroiled with something way over his head, gravely risking Turkey’s security by playing America’s dirty game?

His heedless downing of Russia’s aircraft, compounded by Big Lies justifying the unjustifiable, forced Putin to deploy S-400s and air-to-air missiles to protect his nation’s aircraft and anti-terrorist operations throughout Syria.

Stoltenberg called enhanced Russian eastern Mediterranean and Baltic Sea region military capability a matter of “concern” – ignoring NATO’s hostile buildup and provocative military exercises near its borders, Russia responding responsibly to a confrontational US-led threat.

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Polls Reveal Montenegrin Public Are Against NATO Accession

Sputnik – 02.12.2015

NATO’s official invitation for Montenegro to join the alliance is not backed by the people of the country, most of whom are against the accession, according to social polls, a leader of the opposition Democratic Front coalition told Sputnik on Wednesday.

“It cannot be said that the official invitation by NATO is favorably accepted by the people of Montenegro because if you judge by social polls or just talking with the people, the majority is against membership in this alliance,” Andrija Mandic, the leader of the New Serbian Democracy party, said, adding that “NATO just wants Montenegro to join so it can control the country.”

Earlier on Wednesday, NATO alliance member states accepted Podgorica’s bid to join the alliance and invited the country to begin accession negotiations.

Mandic said that the current political regime in Podgorica would like to avoid holding a referendum on the country’s joining the alliance because if a referendum were to be held, the majority of Montenegrins would vote it down.

“As the opposition, we favor a referendum, but a just referendum so that the authorities don’t falsify the results as they did with the previous elections. I’m afraid that if the authorities try to bypass a referendum, the country will end up on the brink of a domestic conflict,” Mandic said.

He added that Montenegro should remain neutral and not join an alliance that is against Russia.

“We would become a member of an attacking bloc that is first and foremost directed at Russia,” he added.

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Hillary Clinton: Venezuela’s Maduro Attempting to “Rig” Upcoming Elections

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas – Venezuelanalysis – December 1, 2015

Caracas – US Democrat presidential frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused Venezuela’s leftist president Nicolas Maduro of attempting to “rig” the upcoming National Assembly elections.

Speaking at the Atlanta Council conference “Politics, Government and Women in Latin America: Better than you think?” this past Monday, Clinton beseeched hemispheric leaders to “raise their voices” on behalf of the Venezuelan people this Sunday, when they will elect their representatives to the country’s National Assembly.

“To date, (the Maduro administration) has been doing all it can to rig the elections: jailing political opponents, blocking with trumped up charges, stoking political tensions.”

“The people of Venezuela need to know that their friends and neighbours in the Americas are rallying to their cause and defence. They are not alone,” she stated.

Clinton’s comments come less than two weeks after it was revealed that the State Department’s embassy in Caracas had collaborated with the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on executives at Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.

Presidential elections are not due in Venezuela until 2019, but the upcoming elections to choose the country’s representatives to parliament could potentially increase the influence of the Venezuelan opposition coalition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), on national policy– especially if it garners two-thirds of parliamentary seats.

While the ruling socialist party has consistently won the majority of national elections over the past fifteen years, 2015’s parliamentary elections are taking place in the midst of a spiralling economic crisis. Some observers predict that general discontent amongst the population could translate to political gains for the opposition.

In her speech, Clinton appeared to strongly back an opposition win this Sunday, and rejected the possibility that the government could win the majority of the National Assembly fairly.

Nonetheless, the presidential hopeful did not take advantage of her time on the podium to elaborate on the basis for her accusations. She also made no reference to the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE), which is responsible for monitoring electoral contests in the country, nor the international electoral observation mission headed by UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) that will also accompany Sunday’s vote.

Opposition Murder

In other comments, Clinton waded into the contentious murder of opposition parliamentary candidate Luis Manuel Diaz who was shot at a political event last week.

Opposition spokespeople immediately moved to blame the death on Chavista groups, but information since released by authorities suggests that the murder was related to turf wars and unsettled scores between rival organised criminal groups.

Diaz himself had spent three years in prison awaiting trial for his connection to a double homicide and had received a series of death threats since he was temporarily released.

“I am outraged by the cold-blooded assassination of Luis Manuel Diaz on stage at a rally last week,” stated Clinton.

Voices in the Region

In what seemed to be a thinly veiled vote of confidence in the newly elected Argentine president, millionaire former businessman Mauricio Macri, Clinton added that she welcomed “voices across the region that have started to speak up for democratic values, but we need much more”.

Since his election last Sunday, Macri has pledged to have Venezuela suspended from the regional organisation MERCOSUR (the Common Market of the South), but has failed to gain the backing of other leaders on the continent.

As former Secretary of State for the Obama administration between 2009-2013, Clinton’s tenure coincided with an increase in funding for political opposition groups in Venezuela from institutions such as the National Endowment for Democracy– which in return receives an annual appropriation from US Congress through the State Department.

On Monday she vowed that the US would “show leadership and lead in the region more broadly” if she were to become president in 2016.

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Watchdog Investigations Imperiled by Obama Fixation on Government Secrecy

By Steve Straehley and Danny Biederman | AllGov | December 2, 2015

The Obama administration, by consistently refusing to turn over documents and information, has gone out of its way to make it more difficult for the inspectors general of executive branch agencies to do their jobs.

The concept of inspectors general investigating executive branch departments and agencies came into being in the late 1970s after the Watergate scandal. The idea was that inspectors general would have free rein to investigate wrongdoing in their departments and bring government abuse to light.

But thanks to an obsession with secrecy on the part of the Obama administration, inspectors general who previously had access to all documents, emails and other information have had to beg for evidence, which is often produced after months of requests and is sometimes heavily redacted.

“The bottom line is that we’re no longer independent,” Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, told The New York Times.

More than three decades of established federal policy that gave watchdogs unrestricted access to government records in their investigations is now at serious risk of being undone. That includes “at least 20 investigations across the government that have been slowed, stymied or sometimes closed because of a long-simmering dispute between the Obama administration and its own watchdogs over the shrinking access of inspectors general to confidential records,” according to the Times’ Eric Lichtblau.

Justice Department lawyers wrote an opinion last summer that stated grand jury transcripts, wiretap intercepts and financial credit reports and some other “protected records” could be withheld from inspectors general. As a result of that order, investigators who need to review government records are now required to get permission from the very agencies they are monitoring in order to do so.

“This is by far the most aggressive assault on the inspector general concept since the beginning,” Paul Light, a New York University professor who has studied inspectors general, told the Times. “It’s the complete evisceration of the concept. You might as well fold them down. They’ve become defanged.”

Among the investigations being hindered are those involving FBI use of phone records collected by the NSA, the DEA’s role in the shooting of unarmed civilians in Honduras drug raids, international trade agreement enforcement at the Commerce Department, the “Fast and Furious” gun operation, intelligence relating to the Boston Marathon bombings, and additional cases at the Afghanistan reconstruction board, the EPA and the Postal Service.

Even the Peace Corps has worked to prevent access to records. The agency’s inspector general was denied information when looking into cases of sexual abuse of Peace Corps volunteers. This despite claims that the agency is in favor of “rigorous oversight” and that it cooperated with investigators.

The situation has drawn criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said of a plan to give the Justice Department inspector general more access, but not those at other agencies, “It’s no fix at all.” His colleague on the committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said at a hearing that the Obama administration has “blocked what was once a free flow of information” to investigators.

Justice IG Horowitz said the consequence of the watchdog clampdown may be an increase in cases of waste, fraud and abuse across the government.

To Learn More:

Tighter Lid on Records Threatens to Weaken Government Watchdogs (by Eric Lichtblau, New York Times )

Gov’t Watchdogs Urge Congress to Reverse Obama Administration IG Crackdown (Fox News)

Pentagon Stonewalls U.S. Watchdog’s Inquiries into $800 Million Afghanistan Program (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )

Justice Department Tries to Limit Inspectors General Access to Government Documents (by Steve Straehley, AllGov )

FBI Claims it Doesn’t Have to Share Records with Justice Dept. Inspector General (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov )

The High Cost of Secrecy to American Taxpayers (by Matt Bewig, AllGov )

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘New Turkey’: Toward an Authoritarian and Sectarian Police State

By Sinem Adar | Jadaliyya | December 2, 2015

Tahir Elçi, the president of the bar association in southeastern Diyarbakır province and a determined Kurdish human rights lawyer, was shot dead on Saturday, 28 November, during a press statement he had delivered in Diyarbakır. Photos of Elçi’s dead body lying on the ground quickly overwhelmed social media accounts, symbolizing the deadly difficulty of talking about and fighting for peace at this critical juncture that Turkey, and the region at large, are going through. Despite the fact that Turkey is known for its long history of unsolved political crimes and political violence, Elçi’s assassination is an alarming turning point in the final phase, after the electoral victory of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) in the 1 November elections, of consolidating an authoritarian and sectarian police state.

In this essay, I argue that the “new Turkey” the AKP government is forcefully imposing on its citizens goes beyond a mere ideological transformation. It includes a full reorganization of the state’s security apparatus to consolidate an authoritarian and sectarian police state, thoroughly controlled by the AKP government under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The institutionalization of this police state is made possible through a physical war against Kurds that is legitimized by a war of discourse, the complete suppression of dissidence, and the manipulation of regional dynamics. In the rest of the essay, I will elaborate this argument by focusing on three disparate events that happened last week: the assassination of Tahir Elçi; the arrest of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, two journalists at Cumhuriyet daily; and Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian military jet with the claim that it violated Turkish airspace. Although these events are independent of one another and thus there is seemingly no causal relationship among them, they come together as pieces of a rather discomforting, and even alarming, puzzle, indicating the deeper transformation toward building the “new Turkey.”

The Physical War against Kurds and the War of Discourse

The country is at war. It is a war of discourse through the constant and willful reproduction by state elites of the infamous friend-enemy binary. But also, it is an actual physical war brutally carried out through a state of emergency in the Kurdish southeastern and eastern Anatolia. The AKP government legitimizes this physical war against its Kurdish citizens through expansively launching a war of discourse against any form of dissidence. In other words, the AKP government has been strategically manipulating, since the 7 June elections, ethnic cleavages and societal fears, leading up to its electoral victory in the re-elections on 1 November.[1]

Following the suicide bombing in Suruç on 20 July that killed thirty-three and injured 104 people, and the killing of two policemen in Șanlıurfa (which was at first claimed by the PKK, although the group then denied responsibility for it), the ceasefire between the Turkish army and the PKK came to an abrupt end. Extensive and intensive securitization policies in what are defined as “special security zones” were quickly put to work in most of the cities and towns of the Kurdish southeast and east, directly targeting life itself. It is important to emphasize here that the state of emergency and curfews continue today.

The death toll increased rapidly during the period between 7 June and 1 November. A total of 229 civilians died and about 595 were injured in incidents not related to the armed struggle. Among these, 101 died and about four hundred were injured in the Ankara suicide bombing. A total of 150 soldiers, policemen, and village guards died and forty-two were injured during the armed struggle, while at the same time, 181 armed guerrilla members died and nineteen were injured. In addition, nine civilians died and 101 were injured as a result of the armed struggle.[2]

Despite the fact that state violence has been a common practice in Turkey since the establishment of the republic in 1923 (and even preceding the founding of the republic), this particular moment is distinctively different, mainly because of the changes made to the security apparatus of the state. Among these are the reorganization of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) under the Council of Ministers and the expansion of the MIT’s access to personal and private information; the expansion of power given to government-appointed mayors over the deployment of security measures, particularly at the local level; and the reorganization of the police force. In other words, the governance of violence has been reorganized in ways toward institutionalizing a police state.

The war of discourse around the constant re-evocation of the friend-enemy binary that has brutally accompanied this physical war against Kurds since 7 June is only possible in this context of hyper-securitization. Such a war of discourse significantly confines the contours of any conversation about, and any political action for, peace, by effectively de-sanctifying any attempt to reason and mobilize. As such, the war of discourse has the ideological capacity to turn anything and everything that is considered a threat to the status quo of the party into an enemy of national unity and security, into a spy against the state. As loyalty to the party—and thus the state—has now become the overt doctrine of the AKP government in the name of assembling the nation together, the search for truth and justice is under severe attack.

Suppression of Dissidence         

It is exactly in this context that Elçi became a prominent target, as someone who violated this desired and imagined state of loyalty of the citizen/subject to the party/state. In the aftermath of his remarks as part of a television discussion about the PKK not being a terrorist organization but rather an organization of Kurdish resistance, he became the target of a public verbal lynching and death threats. There was also a court order banning Elçi from international travel. As a symbol of “out-of-the-box” thinking who had the political ability to mediate between different positions through reason and a powerful language of peace, Elçi was systematically turned into a public enemy. His assassination therefore came as no surprise to many, as was painstakingly expressed by Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-leader of the HDP, at Elçi’s funeral.

A total of 5,713 people, the majority of whom are supporters of the Kurdish resistance movement, were taken into custody during the period between 7 June and 9 November. Of these, 1,004 were arrested. There were also attacks on party buildings of the HDP (People’s Democratic Party), as well as lynchings of HDP supporters and Kurdish citizens.[3] In other words, as the most vocal oppositional fraction and the most adamant supporter of freedoms in the Turkish public sphere today, the Kurdish movement and its supporters, Kurdish and Turkish alike, were at the center of this full-fledged attack on dissidence since the 7 June elections.

The arrest of Can Dündar, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily, and Erdem Gül, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, on 27 November came within this larger context of suppressing dissidence. The two journalists were charged with “spying” and “helping a terrorist organization without being active members of it” after alleging, through photos and video footage published at the newspaper, that Turkey’s intelligence agency sent arms to Islamist rebels in Syria. President Erdoğan personally filed charges against the newspaper, also threatening Dündar in an interview aired on the national television channel right before the November elections.

Regional Dynamics: Rojava and Re-Mapping the Borders

The charges filed against Dündar and Gül—that is, “spying” and “helping a terrorist organization”—demonstrate the highly expansive reach that the war of discourse has over dissidence in Turkey today. These terms have now become the legitimizing grounds for any (arbitrary) attack on freedom of expression. Turkey is ranked number 149 in press freedom out of 180 countries, according to Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 Press Freedom Index. The state of exception that was confined to the Kurdish southeastern and eastern Anatolia during the 1990s has now extended into the entire country.

Besides the actual physical war that the government has launched against its Kurdish citizens, the civil war taking place in Syria, which involves myriad international and regional actors with competing and conflicting interests, contributes to the government’s excessive suppression of dissidence. In fact, the government’s response to the allegations made by the daily Cumhuriyet was that the ammunition had been sent to Turkmens, instead of Islamist groups, fighting in Northern Syria.

There are two important factors that raise the AKP government’s stakes in the war in Syria. One is driven by the sectarian concern to establish a strong Sunni hand in the changing power order in Syria. The second is the government’s discomfort with the rising Kurdish power in Northern Syria, especially following the Rojava revolution. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) is one of the most prominent factions powerfully fighting on the ground against the Islamist rebels, and particularly ISIS. The shooting down of a Russian jet by the Turkish army on 24 November should be interpreted in this context. Although the dynamics and factors behind Turkey’s decision to shoot down the plane are likely to be much more complicated than what appears in public, there are two implications of the decision.

First, it is a declaration—a rather too ambitious one—meant to re-position Turkey in the politico-military field beside the West as an imperial/powerful actor along the Cold War nexus. Bashar Al-Assad still remains in power despite Turkey’s staunch criticism of him since the beginning of the uprising in Syria, and the support Turkey has been giving to the quite heterogeneous and ambiguous mix of Syrian opposition groups that includes Islamist rebels of all factions. Moreover, Russia’s actual military involvement in Syria since September 2015 came as a significant challenge to Turkey’s attempt to limit the rising Kurdish power in Northern Syria, on one hand, and its support to Islamist rebels, on the other. Therefore, Turkey’s decision to shoot down the Russian military jet was part of an attempt to regain power in Syria.[4]

Second, it is also a subtle declaration aimed to position Turkey in the politico-religious field as the legitimate hegemonic actor vis-à-vis the Islamist rebels fighting in Syria. Putin immediately said that the shooting down of the plane “represents a stab in the back by the terrorists,” implying Turkey’s relationship with ISIS. Since then, allegations of Turkey’s relations with ISIS have been at the center of the cat-fight between Turkey and Russia. It would be naïve to think that Turkey acted without knowing that this action would heat up such a discussion. The dangerous pragmatism of the West (the most recent example of which is the agreement between Turkey and the EU to control the migrant and refugee flow) and the rise of Salafi jihadism across the world provide the AKP government the opportunity to attempt to position itself as the legitimate Sunni actor in the politico-religious field.

What Is Our Political Imaginary for the Future?

We are living through dark times, not only in Turkey, but also across the world. In the particular case of Turkey, what makes this juncture critical is that it underlines a deeper transformation of the state, but also of the nation. The state is being consolidated as an authoritarian police state, while at the same time the nation is re-engineered based on a sectarian imagination.

At this critical juncture, we should all earnestly ask ourselves the following questions: What is our political imaginary for the future? What kind of a country do we want to live in? What do we need to do to build such a future? Debating and answering these questions is much more pressing than ever. It is a time that urgently calls for an honest self-reflection about our societal fears. This requires a confrontation with historical injustices.

If the state is significantly failing to protect its citizens’ right to have rights—and thus the right to have a life—as equals, we are left with the political and moral responsibility of demanding it begin to do so, in full solidarity with one another despite our differences. Politics is not a kind of magic that happens to us tomorrow by some visible hand or power. Politics happens today through our deliberate choices to act or not to. Through silence and dismissal, we contribute to every death, to every bit of suffering, and to every other catastrophe.


I would like to thank the Turkey Page editors for their useful comments in revising this essay.

[1] For a discussion of political parties’ strategic deployment of ethnic, racial, and religious cleavages toward political articulation, see Cihan Tugal, Cedric de Leon, and Manali Desai, “Political Articulation: Parties and the Constitution of Cleavages in the United States, India, and Turkey,” Sociological Theory 27:3 (2009): 193-219.

[2] See this report by the Human Rights Association (IHD).

[3] See this report by the Human Rights Association (IHD).

[4] See this essay by Metin Gurcan for an analysis of the incident.

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Fires Police Chief Even Though Mayor Was Part of Police Shooting Coverup


By Carlos Miller | PNAC | December 1, 2015

In an obvious effort to detach himself from the growing scandal in the Windy City, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the police department’s top cop today, saying it was the first step in restoring confidence in the Chicago Police Department.

But the coverup of the Laquan McDonald police shooting death extends way above Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, up through the state attorney’s office and to the mayor’s office.

To truly restore confidence, both Emanuel and Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez need to lose their jobs.

And it needs to be done now.

After all, it is pretty obvious they tried their best to coverup the shooting to protect their political positions as was pointed out by university professor Bernard E. Harcourt in a New York Times opinion piece:

The Cook County prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, must have had probable cause to indict Officer Van Dyke for the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting death of Mr. McDonald the moment she viewed the police dash-cam video, after her office received it two weeks later. That video, in her own words, was “everything that it has been described to be by the news accounts. It is graphic. It is violent. It is chilling.”

Ms. Alvarez, and other city leaders, surely knew they would have to indict Mr. Van Dyke for murder as soon as the public saw that footage. “I have absolutely no doubt,” Ms. Alvarez finally said last week, “that this video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.”

But the timing, in late 2014, was not good.

Then up for re-election, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, was looking ahead to a contested election on Feb. 24, 2015, which would ultimately result in a runoff election on April 7. In Ferguson, Mo., a grand jury was hearing testimony on the police shooting of Michael Brown. The video of Eric Garner being choked to death during an arrest in New York had gone viral. The Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum across the country.

The video of a police shooting like this in Chicago could have buried Mr. Emanuel’s chances for re-election. And it would likely have ended the career of the police superintendent, Garry F. McCarthy.

And so the wheels of justice virtually ground to a halt. Mayor Emanuel refused to make the dash-cam video public, going to court to prevent its release. The city argued that releasing the video would taint the investigation of the case, but even the attorney general of Illinois urged the city to make it available.

In other words it was Emanuel who had the final say in whether or not the video was released.

With the help of Alvarez, of course, who recently announced her reelection campaign, and who has spent the past two terms protecting dirty cops.

Firing McCarthy is the first step, who admitted today that the initial information about the shooting of McDonald was inaccurate.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy admitted Tuesday on NBC Chicago that the initial press release sent out after 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was fatally shot 16 times by an officer last year was wrong.

“The initial press release was mistaken, no two ways about it,” he said. “I guess that’s my fault.”

Police initially said an officer shot McDonald in the chest when the teen refused to drop a knife and continued to walk toward officers. Authorities also said the boy lunged at officers with the knife.

But dash-cam video of the shooting shows an officer shooting the teen several times as he appeared to walk away from police.

McCarthy added that he didn’t see dash-cam video of the shooting until the day after the press release went out.

So not only do we have a mayor who ordered the video not be released and a prosecutor who waited a year to file charges – and also found no wrongdoing in how police deleted surveillance video from a local Burger King – we have a police chief who claims he did not even see the video before describing what took place on the video.

And for that, he was making more than $400,000-a-year.

McCarthy is a liar, of course, as is Emanuel and Alvarez. They all saw the video and chose not to release it. Had it shown exactly what they described, they would have wasted no time in releasing the video.

Also part of the coverup is the president of the police union, who told the media that McDonald “lunged” at Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. The Fraternal Order of Police also paid the $1.5 million to bond Van Dyke out of jail and is also handling his attorney fees as he defends himself from the first-degree murder charge.

But we expect that from police unions which have proven to defend police officers at all costs. We even expect that from police chiefs.

But we should expect more from our prosecutors and mayors.

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

Pakistan: Iran gas pipeline best option

Press TV – December 2, 2015

Pakistan says its import of gas from Iran through a pipeline is the best option as the stalled project is given new impetus with anticipated lifting of sanctions on Tehran.

The energy crisis in Pakistan which suffers about 12 hours of power cuts a day has worsened in recent years amid 4,000 megawatts of electricity shortfall which the Iran gas pipeline is being fostered to cover.

Iran has completed its part of the project with more than $2 billion of investment but Pakistan has fallen behind the target to take gas deliveries in the winter of 2014.

Addressing a seminar on business opportunities in the clean energy sector in Washington Tuesday, Pakistan’s Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Khaqan Abbasi said he hoped sanctions on Iran would be removed soon.

“The Iran gas line project is the best option for Pakistan. But as long US sanctions are there, we cannot buy gas from Iran,” the website of the Dawn newspaper quoted him as saying.

The remarks came as Turkmenistan’s leader last month ordered construction of a $10 billion rival pipeline to Pakistan and India through Afghanistan to begin despite questions about the project.

The US has long lobbied against the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, promoting Turkmen over Iranian natural gas even though the route requires the extra distance of more than 700 km across Afghanistan.

Western giants such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Total have held off on committing to the project all the more because of Afghanistan’s insecurity and the region’s complex geopolitics.

Contractually, Pakistan has to pay steep fines to Iran for failing to build and operate its section of the pipeline by the winter of 2014 but Abbasi shrugged off the postulation.

“Not our fault. We made several attempts in the last 18 months to complete the project on our side. But no investor, no builder came forward,” the minister claimed.

“Once the sanctions are lifted, we will work on this project. A pipeline is always more reliable than other options,” he added.

Besides the expected lifting of sanctions, the bolstered prospects of the Iran gas pipeline arise from China’s $46 billion investment project dubbed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Officials say up to $2 billion has been earmarked as part of the package for the Iran pipeline extension, running from Pakistan’s southern port of Gwadar to the Nawab Shah district.

The energy-starved country imports about 100 megawatts (MW) of Iranian electricity for to the areas near their border. The government has said it was in final stages of negotiations to increase electricity imports from Iran to 1,000 MW.

Trade between Iran and Pakistan plunged to $217 million in 2014 from its peak of more than $1.3 billion in 2009.

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia to execute 52 prisoners, including juveniles, en masse

Reprieve | December 2, 2015

The government of Saudi Arabia is preparing to execute some 52 prisoners at once, including several juveniles arrested at protests, according to reports.

Several Arabic media outlets have this week reported official sources as saying that 52 prisoners are set to be executed in the near future. The reports appear to suggest that among those executed will be six youths arrested at protests in the country’s Eastern Province – including juveniles Ali al Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher. All three were tortured into bogus ‘confessions’ that would be used to convict them.

The reports say the 52 prisoners – all of whom were convicted in the secretive Specialized Criminal Court – will be executed across nine different cities in the Kingdom in a single day. They suggest that preparations for the executions will be made in the next two weeks. It appears that Sheikh Nimr – Ali’s uncle and an outspoken critic of the Saudi government – is among those set to be executed.

Sheikh Nimr and the juveniles are currently understood to be held in isolation, awaiting execution. All have reportedly recently been given an unexplained medical examination, and there are concerns that this could be a prelude to their being executed at any time. Abdullah – who was 15 when arrested – has recently been moved to a prison some 1,000km from his family, who are now unable to visit him.

The news comes amid outrage at separate plans by the Saudi authorities to execute Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet who was convicted of ‘apostasy.’ There have been widespread calls for the execution to be halted, including from the Palestinian Authority. Recent research by international human rights organization Reprieve has found that a large majority of those facing execution in Saudi Arabia were convicted of non-violent offences such as apostasy and political protest.

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , | 1 Comment