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Obama drone casualty numbers a fraction of those recorded by Bureau of Investigative Journalism

By Jack Serle | Bureau of Investigative Journalism | July 1, 2016

The US government today claimed it has killed between 64 and 116 “non-combatants” in 473 counter-terrorism strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya between January 2009 and the end of 2015.

This is a fraction of the 380 to 801 civilian casualty range recorded by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from reports by local and international journalists, NGO investigators, leaked government documents, court papers and the result of field investigations.

While the number of civilian casualties recorded by the Bureau is six times higher than the US Government’s figure, the assessments of the minimum total number of people killed were strikingly similar. The White House put this figure at 2,436, whilst the Bureau has recorded 2,753.

Since becoming president in 2009, Barack Obama has significantly extended the use of drones in the War on Terror. Operating outside declared battlefields, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, this air war has been largely fought in Pakistan and Yemen.

The White House’s announcement today is long-awaited. It comes three years after the White House first said it planned to publish casualty figures, and four months after President Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, said the data would be released.

The figures released do not include civilians killed in drones strikes that happened under George W Bush, who instigated the use of counter-terrorism strikes outside declared war zones and in 58 strikes killed 174 reported civilians.

Today’s announcement is intended to shed light on the US’s controversial targeted killing programme, in which it has used drones to run an arms-length war against al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The US Government also committed to continued transparency saying it will provide an annual summary of information about the number of strikes against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities as well as the range of combatants and non-combatants killed.

But the US has not released a year-by-year breakdown of strikes nor provided any detail on particularly controversial strikes which immediately sparked criticism from civil liberty groups.

Jamel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union said: “While any disclosure of information about the government’s targeted-killing policies is welcome, the government should be releasing information about every strike—the date of the strike, the location, the numbers of casualties, and the civilian or combatant status of those casualties. Perhaps this kind of information should be released after a short delay, rather than immediately, but it should be released. The public has a right to know who the government is killing—and if the government doesn’t know who it’s killing, the public should know that.”

The gap between US figures and other estimates, including the Bureau’s data, also raised concerns.

Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve said: “For three years now, President Obama has been promising to shed light on the CIA’s covert drone programme. Today, he had a golden opportunity to do just that. Instead, he chose to do the opposite. He published numbers that are hundreds lower than even the lowest estimates by independent organisations. The only thing those numbers tell us is that this Administration simply doesn’t know who it has killed. Back in 2011, it claimed to have killed “only 60” civilians. Does it really expect us to believe that it has killed only 4 more civilians since then, despite taking hundreds more strikes?

“The most glaring absence from this announcement are the names and faces of those civilians that have been killed. Today’s announcement tells us nothing about 14 year old Faheem Qureshi, who was severely injured in Obama’s first drone strike. Reports suggest Obama knew he had killed civilians that day.”

The US government said in a statement: “First, although there are inherent limitations on determining the precise number of combatant and non-combatant deaths, particularly when operating in non-permissive environments, the US Government uses post-strike methodologies that have been refined and honed over years and that use information that is generally unavailable to non-government organsations.”

Bibi Mamana

Bibi Mammana - BBC PanoramaBibi Mamana was a grandmother and midwife living in the the tribal region of North Waziristan on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

On October 24 2012, she was preparing for the Muslim festival of Eid. She used to say that the joy of Eid was the excitement it brought to children. Her eight-year-old granddaughter Nabeela was reported to be in a field with her as she gathered vegetables when a drone killed Mamana.

“I saw the first two missiles coming through the air,” Nabeela later told The Times. “They were following each other with fire at the back. When they hit the ground, there was a loud noise. After that I don’t remember anything.” Nabeela was injured by flying shrapnel.

At the sound of the explosion, Mamana’s 18-year-old grandson Kaleem ran from the house to help. But a few minutes later the drones struck again, he told the BBC. He was knocked unconscious. His leg was badly broken and damaged by shrapnel, and needed surgery.

Atiq, one of Mamana’s sons, was in the mosque as Manama gathered vegetables. On hearing the blast and seeing the plume of smoke he rushed to the scene. When he arrived he could not see any sign of his mother.

“I started calling out for her but there was no reply,” Atiq told the Times. “Then I saw her shoes. We found her mutilated body a short time afterwards. It had been thrown quite a long distance away by the blast and it was in pieces. We collected many different parts from the field and put a turban over her body.”

Atiq’s brother Rafiq told Al Jazeera English he received a letter after the strike from a Pakistani official that said the attack was a US drone strike and that Mamana was innocent. But nothing more came of it, he said. The following year Rafiq, a teacher, travelled to the US to speak to Congress about the strike.

“My job is to educate,” he said in an emotional testimony. “But how do I teach something like this? How do I explain what I myself do not understand?”

Picture credit: BBC

Evaluating the numbers

The administration has called its drone programme a precise, effective form of warfare that targets terrorists and rarely hits civilians.

With the release of the figures today President Obama said, “All armed conflict invites tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.”

In June 2011 Obama’s then counter terrorism chief, now CIA director, John Brennan made a similar statement. He also declared drones strikes were “exceptionally precise and surgical” and had not killed a single civilian since August 2010. A Bureau investigation in July 2011 demonstrated this claim was untrue.

Most of the Bureau’s data sources are media reports by local and international news outlets, including Reuters, Associated Press and The New York Times.

The US Government suggests it has a much clearer view of post-strike situations than such reporting, suggesting this is the reason why there is such a gap between the numbers that have been recorded by the Bureau, and similar organisations, and those released today.

But the Bureau has also gathered essential information from its own field investigations.

The tribal areas have long been considered a difficult if not impossible area for journalists to access. However, occasionally reporters have been able to gain access to the site of the strikes to interview survivors, witnesses and relatives of people killed in drone strikes.

The Bureau conducted a field investigation through the end of 2011 into 2012, in partnership with The Sunday Times. Through extensive interviews with local villagers, the Bureau found 12 strikes killed 57 civilians.

The Associated Press also sent reporters into the Fata, reporting its findings in February 2012. It found 56 civilians and 138 militants were killed in 10 strikes.

Access to affected areas is a challenge in Yemen too. But in December 2009 a deputation of Yemeni parliamentarians sent to the scene of a strike discovered the burnt remnants of a camp, which had been set up by several families from one of Yemen’s poorest tribes.

A subsequent investigation by journalist Jeremy Scahill revealed a deception that hid US responsibility for the deaths of 41 civilians at the camp – half of them children, five of them pregnant women.

The reality on the ground flew in the face of the US government’s understanding of events. A leaked US diplomatic record of a meeting in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, between General David Petraeus and the Yemeni president revealed the US government was ignorant of the civilian death toll.

Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber

Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, a 40-year-old father of seven, was exactly the kind of man the US needed in Yemen. A widely respected cleric in rural Yemen, he delivered sermons in his village mosque denouncing al-Qaida.

He gave just such a speech in August 2012 and earned the attention of the terrorist group. Three anonymous fighters arrived in his village two days later, after dark, calling for Jaber to come out and talk.

He went to meet them, taking his policeman cousin, Walid Abdullah bin Ali Jaber, with him for protection. The five men stood arguing in the night air when Hellfire missiles tore into them.

A “huge explosion” rocked the village, a witness said. Jaber’s father, Ahmad bin Salim Salih bin Ali Jaber, 77, arrived on the scene to find people “wrapping up body parts of people from the ground, from here and there, putting them in grave clothes like lamb.”

All the dead were al Qaeda fighters, unnamed Yemeni officials claimed. However Jaber’s family refused to allow him to be smeared as a terrorist.

For three years they fought in courts in America and Germany for recognition that he was an innocent civilian. In November 2013 they visited Washington and even managed to arrange a meeting in the White House to plead their case. In 2014 the family said it was offered a bag containing $100,000 by a Yemen national security official. The official said it was a US strike and it had been a mistake.

By late 2015 the family offered to drop their lawsuits against the US government if the administration would apologise. The Department of Justice refused. In February 2016 the court dismissed the family’s suit but they have not stopped fighting: in April they announced they would appeal.

Picture credit: Private

Falling numbers of civilian casualties

The White House stressed that it was concerned to protect civilians and that best practices were in place to help reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties.

The Bureau’s data does show a significant decline in the reports of civilian casualties in recent years.

In Pakistan, where the largest number of strikes have occurred, there have been only three reported civilian casualties since the end of 2012. Two of these casualties – Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto – were Western hostages held by al Qaeda. The US, unaware they were targeting the American and Italian’s captors, flattened the house they were being held in.

The accidental killing of a US citizen spurred Obama to apologise for the strike – the first and only time he had publicly discussed a specific CIA drone strike in Pakistan. With the apology of a “condolence payment to both the families,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price told the Bureau. However, they have yet to receive any compensation from the US government for their loss.

Families who have lost relatives in Pakistan  have not reported being compensated for their loss. In Yemen, money has been given to families for their loss but it is not clear whether it actually comes from the US. The money is disbursed by Yemeni government intermediaries, nominally from the Yemeni government’s coffers.

Tariq Khan

Tariq Aziz (Neil Williams/Reprieve)Tariq Khan was a 16-year-old from North Waziristan who attended a high-profile anti-drone rally in Islamabad in October 2011. Only days later, he and his cousin were killed in a drone strike.Tariq was the youngest of seven children. He was described by relatives as a quiet teenager who was good with computers. His uncle Noor Kalam said: “He was just a normal boy who loved football.”

On 27 October, Tariq made the eight-hour drive to Islamabad for a meeting convened by Waziri elders to discuss how to end civilian deaths in drone strikes. The Pakistani politician Imran Khan, his former wife Jemima, members of the legal campaign group Reprieve and several western journalists also attended the meeting.

Neil Williams from Reprieve said Tariq seemed very introverted at the meeting. He asked the boy if he had ever seen a drone. Tariq replied he saw 10 or 15 every day. He said they prevented him from sleeping. “He looked absolutely terrified,” Williams said.

After a four-hour debate, the audience joined around 2,000 people at a protest rally outside the Pakistani parliament. After the rally, the tribesmen made the long journey home. The day after he got back, Tariq and his cousin Wahid went to pick up his newly married aunt, according a Bureau reporter who met Tariq at the Islamabad meeting. When they were 200 yards from the house two missiles slammed into their car. The blast killed Tariq and Wahid instantly.

Some reports suggested Wahid was 12 years old.

An anonymous US official acknowledged the CIA had launched the strike but denied they were children. The occupants of that car were militants, he said.

Picture credit: Neil Williams/Reprieve

Unnamed

Most of the dead from CIA strikes in Pakistan are unnamed Pakistanis and Afghans, according to Naming the Dead – a research project by the Bureau. Over three years the Bureau has painstakingly gathered names of the dead from US drone strikes in Pakistan. The project has recorded just 732 names of people killed since 2004 – 329 of which were civilians.

The fact that so many people are unnamed adds to the confusion about who has been killed.

A controversial US tactic, signature strikes, demonstrates how identities of the dead, and their status as a combatant or non-combatant, eludes the US. These strikes target people based on so-called pattern of life analysis, built from surveillance and intelligence but not the actual identity of a person.

And the CIA’s own records leaked to the news agency McClatchy show the US is sometimes not only ignorant of the identities of people it has killed, but also of the armed groups they belong to. They are merely listed as “other militants” and “foreign fighters” in the leaked records.

Former Deputy US Secretary of State, Richard Armitage outlined his unease with such internal reporting in an interview with Chris Woods for his book Sudden Justice. “Mr Obama was popping up with these drones left, right and down the middle, and I would read these accounts, ’12 insurgents killed.’ ’15!’ You don’t know that. You don’t know that. They could be insurgents, they could be cooks.”

Follow Jack Serle and Abigail Fielding-Smith on Twitter and sign up for the monthly update from the Bureau’s Covert War project.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Female politicians (sometimes) receive more abuse than male counterparts, apart from when they don’t…

OffGuardian | June 29, 2016

The Guardian have tried their hand at statistical analysis again – after resounding failures the last two times, you have to at least salute their determination.

As part of their “web we want” initiative, the Guardian have published Max Kelsen’s extensive study of twitter “abuse” suffered by politicians. The study seeks to demonstrate and explain the “concerning” level of abuse, and manages to do neither. Instead it becomes just a tool for the Guardian to justify and renew their assault on the idea of internet free speech.

Methods and Data

The first point that needs to be addressed is how this study defines, and subsequently identifies, “abuse”:

Tweets were filtered into those that contained abusive words, and those that didn’t. While this will include false positives in the case of tweets primarily directed at one politician but containing abuse directed at another, these are in the minority.

Their method WILL produce false positives. Not “might produce”, “ will produce”; a very important distinction.

But don’t worry, these “false positives” are, they assure us, definitely “in the minority”. They never say how they know this, or how they could know, since no data is given. For all we – and possibly they – know the admitted “false positives” could make up literally 100% of their sample.

And it should be noted that these “false positives” could include total reversion of the intent of the tweet. For example the phrase “Hillary Clinton is not a bitch”, would be shuffled into the “abuse” pile simply for containing the word “bitch”.

Still, it’s not every statistics firm that would have the chutzpah to freely admit that anything up to 49% of their data may be totally and irrevocably flawed. So hats off Max Kelsen on that score anyway.

The study also suggests that the vast majority (75%+) of “abusive” tweets come from men, without in turn pointing out that Twitter never specifically asks for a user’s gender, and actually “assigns” it using an algorithm that famously skews male.

… but wait a minute:

The gender of tweeters was assigned where possible based on available information, such as bio information or the tweets themselves.

So twitter’s algorithm doesn’t actually matter, because this “analysis” didn’t even get that technical. No, they just looked at the accounts and sort of guessed. Brilliant.

None of which really matters, in the end, because their graphs reveal that – even including all those false positives – less than 2% of twitter posts are abusive.

Less than two percent. 98% of tweets are non-abusive.

That’s hardly a tickly cough, let alone the “epidemic” that the Guardian is so fond of describing. The study itself seems to recognise the minuteness of the alleged problem, saying this in their summary:

A key point to make is that data alone is not an accurate way to reflect the impact of abuse.

Again, it’s not every statistical study that would sum up: “OK, there’s not much data here… but it feels bigger than it looks”. Maybe this is some new, progressive mathematics – much like the Common Core syllabus in the US – where numbers are given increased weight based on how they make one feel.

The Agenda

It doesn’t take a skilled reader of subtext to see where this is going – the intent of the “Web We Want” section, coincidentally launched parallel to Yvette Cooper’s “Reclaim the Internet” campaign, has always been clear. They attack free speech under the guise of protecting the “oppressed” and the “bullied” – most of the time, this means women.

That slant is clear here. The headline reads:

From Julia Gillard to Hillary Clinton: online abuse of politicians around the world

…which implies there is disparity between men and women in the amount of abuse received. This early paragraph does the same:

The abuse of politicians online, particularly women, is perceived by some to come with the territory. But as high-profile cases flag the urgent need to clean up the web, the scope of the problem is now revealed in greater detail in work by a Brisbane-based social data company, Max Kelsen.

The bolded phrase above – “particularly women” – is an interesting one. Especially since, just a little way down the page, they reveal that the abuse is, in reality, evenly split between men and women over their samples.

Hillary Clinton receives more “abuse” than Bernie Sanders, and Julia Gillard was apparently abused more than Kevin Rudd… but Chris Christie received more abuse than Carly Fiorina, and Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn both received nearly twice as much “abuse” as their female counterparts. In short: There’s no real difference between the genders.

You’d be forgiven, given the tone, for thinking the opposite – the article cites the Jess Philips claim of 600 threats in one night, repeats Yvette Coopers famous “threat” (which, to me, reads as an obviously rather tasteless joke), and then treats us to some pictures of Jo Cox’s mournful public, suggesting that controlling what people are allowed to say on the internet might have saved her life.

The study tells us to disregard the data, and focus on the “emotional impact” of the abuse. I would say disregard the data (or lack thereof), and instead focus on how the Guardian is choosing to present it.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment

Canada to send 1,000 soldiers to Latvia for NATO brigade

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Canadian troops during a NATO drill in Ukraine.
Press TV – July 1, 2016

Canada will send 1,000 troops to Latvia to join one of NATO’s battalions that are being assembled in Eastern Europe in a show of force against Russia.

The Canadian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the country will “establish and lead” a high-readiness brigade that will “contribute to NATO’s enhanced forward presence in Eastern and Central Europe.”

The statement also said that further details regarding the deployment will be provided at the upcoming NATO summit in Poland.

The Canadian soldiers will be part of a 4,000-strong NATO force that will be deployed to the Baltic States and Poland in order to deter what is claimed to be Russian threats.

The US, Germany and Britain will also send soldiers to join NATO’s four battalions in Eastern Europe.

“As a responsible partner in the world, Canada stands side by side with its NATO allies working to deter aggression and assure peace and stability in Europe,” said Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Canada’s decision reportedly came after US President Barack Obama urged Canada to contribute more to NATO in a speech in the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday.

NATO plans to expand its military presence in Eastern Europe amid the conflict in Ukraine and has held numerous war games recently.

Some 2,000 NATO forces began a large-scale military exercise in western Ukraine earlier this week which will last until July 8.

Last month, NATO held another 10-day military drill, involving some 31,000 troops from Poland, the US and 17 other nations in Poland.

Russia, wary of the increased presence of NATO troops close to its borders, threatened to take unspecified measures to respond to the increased activities by the Western military bloc.

NATO has stepped up its military build-up near Russia’s borders since it suspended all ties with Moscow in April 2014 after the Black Sea Crimean Peninsula re-integrated into the Russian Federation following a referendum.

Moscow has repeatedly repudiated NATO’s expansion near its borders, saying such a move poses a threat to both regional and international peace.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Brexit: the English and Welsh Enlightenment

By Aidan O’Brien | CounterPunch | July 1, 2016

“No one really knows what happens now: the collective imagination leads to dark places.”

The International New York Times, June 25-26 2016

DublinBy voting for Brexit the English and Welsh have switched on the light. And, as usual, when the light suddenly conquers the dark the cracks become obvious and the cockroaches scatter. It’s a beautiful sight.

The speculators and the hoarders are running for cover. And their liberal apologists are blinded. At the same time their global gunmen feel naked. And what once felt like a palace now looks like a filthy dungeon. However it is a dungeon with a well marked exit.

It is an English and Welsh enlightenment rather than a British one because the British elite in London and their Celtic counterparts  in Edinburgh and Belfast voted to remain in the dark.

The critics of Brexit think that switching on the light is an act of madness. It is far better in their eyes to see nothing and to continuously walk into the wars.

Martin Wolf, the main man in the Financial Times, calls Brexit “irrational” and immune to “cold calculations”. And a Die Ziet editor, Jochen Bittner, writing in the New York Times thinks that Brexit is something an “Arab” would do rather than a “rational” European. Ireland’s leading liberal, Fintan O’Toole, in the Irish Times likens the voters for Brexit to a “drunk”. And the King of the liberals, Tony Blair, again in the New York Times, opines that those who voted for exit are controlled by “dangerous impulses”.

This is class war in words – a stab in the dark at the working class who actually decided the outcome of the referendum.

Despite this liberal attempt to assassinate the working class character; despite the accusation of irrationalism, and indeed the racism, directed at the English and Welsh workers: the vote for Brexit was an act of pure reason.

No matter the perspective (political, economic, military or moral) Brexit makes perfect sense for the working class. Has there ever been in the history of England or Wales a better example of rationalism? Probably not.

According to the mainstream media the determining issue in the referendum was immigration. The mainstream however is Murdoch: a man who has built an empire on lies and insults directed at the working class. And contrary to what the “quality” liberal press think: Murdoch doesn’t speak for the working class. And neither do the right-wingers, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, who were and are presented as being the leaders of Brexit.

The vote for Brexit was based on solid ground rather than on a fog of emotion. There was nothing alcoholic about it, nothing fearful nor fantastical nor dangerous. In fact the vote was raw rationalism. And the fact that it was based on “uneducated” workers is brilliantly hopeful.

The empirical reasons for voting for Brexit were as clear as day. The obvious one is that there is no “European Union” to belong to. Germany rules the roost. The “Union” doesn’t exist. But the “Apartheid” does.

The facts have being piling up for all to see in recent years. Only an educated fool could miss them. The financial crisis of 2008 crystallised everything. The subsequent rape of Greece and the generalised attack on workers throughout the EU (Austerity) made the EU feel more like a Banana Republic than a Super State.

And the 2014 coup in Ukraine made this banana feeling unbearable. The USA was doing to Europe what it did to Honduras in 2009. To paraphrase the US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, the US was “fucking” Europe. And the response of the EU? Silence. Not a word of complaint. So why would anyone want to belong to an organisation that is being “fucked”?

The fact that damns the EU the most however, in the eyes of “cold calculation”, is the EU’s death wish. The EU’s push for World War III in the East is truly mad. And makes a mockery of the “peaceful” portrayal of the EU.

By allowing NATO to goose-step the EU into the Middle East and up to the borders of Russia completely discredits the EU. Even more so if you’re an English or Welsh worker. Because it is they who are expected to kill and die on the frontline. The fact is that the English and Welsh working class are the EU’s best canon fodder. And in a time of permanent war: why should they continue to be so?

The vote for Brexit was not a vote against immigration but was a vote against the wars of the ruling class – those stemming from neoliberalism and imperialism (class and world war). That is why the ruling class are now panicking.

This is the hard factual ground upon which Brexit stands. But you will not see or feel this in the gutter liberal press and the gutter liberal education that dominates the European mind.

Therefore to grasp EU reality despite EU propaganda is a triumph of human reason. To understand the class hatred that is dressed up as the “educated” liberal norm and to rebel against it is rationalism at work. And to see the real race hatred that is presented as sophisticated EU foreign policy and to reject it is rational logic at it’s best.

In short: to identify the disunity beneath the rhetoric of European unity is today straightforward common sense. And this is what the common people have in abundance. The English and the Welsh have just tapped into it. And by doing so they may have just kick started another enlightenment.

And what about the darkness? The New York Times, the leading liberal daily, is trapped inside it. Read it’s June 27 International editorial:

“Compounding the problem [of Brexit] is Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Ruthlessly playing a weak hand, he has worked hard to undermine NATO and challenge the post-cold War order by invading Ukraine, funding right-wing groups in France and elsewhere and recklessly brandishing his military power from the Baltics to Syria. European countries have struggled to remain united on issues ranging from NATO’s budget to how best to respond to Mr. Putin.”

Have you ever read anything more sinister and stupid? This no doubt is what the US and EU “elite” see in their dark “places”. Thanks for switching on the light England and Wales.

Aidan O’Brien is a hospital worker in Dublin, Ireland.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Guess Who Wants Authority to Murder by Drone

By David Swanson | Let’s Try Democracy | July 1, 2016

“I am persuaded no constitution was never before as well calculated as ours for extensive empire and self-government.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, April 27, 1809.

“We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people — the Israel of our time.” –Herman Melville, 1850.

“I chant the new empire.” –Walt Whitman, 1860.

“Our frontiers today are on every continent.” –John F. Kennedy, 1960.

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” –Frederick Douglas.

If you haven’t been hiding under a partisan rock for the past several years, you’re aware that President Barack Obama has given himself the sort-of legalish right to murder anyone anywhere with missiles from drones.

He’s not the only one who wants that power.

Yes, President Obama has claimed to have put restrictions on whom he’ll murder, but in no known case has he followed any of his self-imposed non-legal restrictions. Nowhere has someone been arrested instead of killed, while in many known cases people have been killed who could have easily been arrested. In no known case has someone been killed who was an “imminent and continuing threat to the United States,” or for that matter just plain imminent or just plain continuing. It’s not even clear how someone could be both an imminent and a continuing threat until you study up on how the Obama administration has redefined imminent to mean theoretically imaginable someday. And, of course, in numerous cases civilians have been killed in large numbers and people have been targeted without identifying who they are. Lying dead from U.S. drone strikes are men, women, children, non-Americans, and Americans, not a single one of them charged with a crime or their extradition sought.

Who else would like to be able to do this?

One answer is most nations on earth. We now read news stories from Syria of people dying from a drone strike, with the reporter unable to determine if the missile came from a U.S., U.K., Russian, or Iranian drone. Just wait. The skies will be filled if the trend is not reversed.

Another answer is Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, but not Jill Stein. Yes, those first three candidates have said they want this power.

Another answer, however, should be just as disturbing as those already mentioned. Military commanders around the world want the authority to murder people with drones without bothering to get approval from civilian officials back home. Here’s a fun quiz:

How many zones has the United States divided the globe into for purposes of complete military domination, and what are their names?

Answer: Six. They are Northcom, Southcom, Eucom, Pacom, Centcom, and Africom. (Jack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack were already taken.) In normal English they are: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Western Asia, and Africa.

Now here comes the hard question. Which of those zones has a new would-be commander who was just encouraged by a prominent Senator in an open Congressional hearing to acquire the authority to murder people in his zone without getting approval from the U.S. president?

Clue #1. It’s a zone with the empire’s headquarters not even located in the zone, so that this new commander speaks of killing people there as playing “an away game.”

Clue #2. It’s a poor zone that does not manufacture weapons but is saturated with weapons made in the United States plus France, Germany, the U.K., Russia, and China.

Clue #3. Many of the people in this zone have skin resembling people who are disproportionately targets of U.S. police department killings.

Did you get it right? That’s correct: Africom is being encouraged by Senator Lindsay Graham, who a short time back wanted to be president, to blow people up with missiles from flying robots without presidential approval.

Now here’s where the morality of war can wreak havoc with humanitarian imperialism. If a drone killing is not part of a war, then it looks like murder. And handing out licenses to murder to additional people looks like a worsening of the state of affairs in which just one person claims to hold such a license. But if drone killing is part of a war, and Captain Africom claims to be at war with Somalia, or with a group in Somalia, for example, well then, he wouldn’t need special permission to blow up a bunch of people with manned aircraft; so why should he need it when using robotic unmanned bombers?

The trouble is that saying the word “war” doesn’t have the moral or legal powers often imagined. No current U.S. war is legal under either the U.N. Charter or the Kellogg-Briand Pact. And the intuition that murdering people with a drone is wrong can’t be a useful one if murdering people with a piloted plane is right, and vice versa. We actually have to choose. We actually have to set aside the scale of the killing, the type of technology, the role of robots, and all other extraneous factors, and choose whether it’s acceptable, moral, legal, smart, or strategic to murder people or not.

If that seems too much of a mental strain, here’s an easier guide. Just imagine what your response would be if the ruler of Europe Command asked for the authority to murder at will people of his choosing along with anybody too close to them at the time.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US proposal for military partnership with Russia in Syria – ‘desperate move’

RT | July 1, 2016

A new military cooperation deal on Syria the US has reportedly proposed to Moscow might be only useful for an American faction trying to protect Al-Qaeda in Syria, says Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity Executive Director Daniel McAdams.

The US government has reportedly offered to work with Russia in fighting terrorists in Syria.

RT: We still don’t know many details on the proposed agreement. How could it work, in your opinion?

Daniel McAdams: I don’t think it can work, I think it is an absurd agreement. I would call it a neocon trial balloon. Let’s look at the origins of why this came out now. It has been a pretty bad few days for the US in Syria. First, all of these weapons the CIA was sending to the rebels in Syria – were taken, put on the black market, and ended up in the hands of ISIS. Then we saw yet another military construct by the US government, the new Syrian army was sent to its maiden battle close to the Iraqi border. Even with US support they were completely annihilated, they completely failed in their mission. And what happened: a bunch of guns, trucks, satellite equipment – it all ended up in the hands of ISIS. The US is proving to be ISIS’s best line of support in Syria right now. This is a desperate move on the part of the US. Frankly if you look at what it contains, I don’t see what is in it for anyone except possibly the US, that faction of the US that is trying to protect Al-Qaeda in Syria.

RT: We also don’t know the source of the information about this proposal made by the US as the Washington Post cited an unknown administration official. How reliable is this?

DM: Well, this reporter Josh Rogin is a neoconservative; he is very, very tight in with the other neocons in the US government. I would call him more of a stenographer than a reporter. So there is a reason they leaked this. This comes just a week or so after the supposed 51 State Department employees sent a letter to John Kerry saying: “You need to go more aggressively after [Bashar] Assad.” A lot of this has to do with Hillary Clinton and people jogging propositions in the Clinton State Department. I think that is a lot what you’re seeing here.

RT: Under the agreement, the US would not give Russia the exact locations of rebels, but specify areas. Doesn’t this give a chance for terrorists to spread inside those zones and stay safe?

DM: That is exactly it! As I said before with Clinton, this is Clinton’s safe zones; this is a no-fly zone; this is essentially, what it is. The US is telling the Russians: “You know, we’re not going to tell you where they are. They are in the East Aleppo. So don’t bomb anywhere near there.” Then they know exactly where Al-Qaeda is safe. It doesn’t make any sense.

The US has claimed: “Oh, we can’t separate our good, moderate rebels from the Al-Qaeda rebels. Therefore you can’t bomb either of them.” If these are US-backed rebels why could Washington not call them up and say: “Listen, stop fighting with Al-Qaeda; stop being alongside Al-Qaeda, or you will get bombed too.” That seems to be a very effective way to solve the problem. If these people really are not part of Al-Qaeda, then they would separate themselves.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , | 2 Comments

From Brexit to Nicaragua : Liberal Contempt for Ordinary People

By Tortilla Con Sal | teleSUR | July 1, 2016

After the Brexit vote on June 23,  no one reading the coverage by liberal media like the U.K.’s Guardian and Independent newspapers, or the New York Times in the U.S., could possibly mistake the fierce anti-democratic, neocolonial metropolis mentality of the attacks against the mainly working class people who voted for Britain to leave the European Union.

That explains a lot about why these newspapers’ coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean has always been hostile to every progressive government in the region. These media outlets’ foreign affairs reporting has consistently attacked progressive governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, despite all the huge achievements of those governments on behalf of the region’s impoverished majority over the last 15 years.

The latest example of this comprehensive psychological warfare campaign is the Guardian’s attack on Nicaragua’s Sandinista government using the same lazy, skewed reporting and dishonest editorial practice Western liberal media routinely apply to Venezuela, Ukraine, Syria or any other foreign news story the Western elites need to misrepresent for propaganda purposes. Nina Lakhani’s June 26 report “Nicaragua suppresses opposition to ensure one-party election, critics say,” is a text book example of malicious innuendo with close to zero factual content, purposefully edited to obscure and confuse rather than clarify and explain. The most pernicious feature of this kind of propaganda attack is that general readers never see a strong fact-based rebuttal and even if they were to do so would find the detail relentlessly boring. Only specialists are likely to take an interest. So in practice, the liberal and progressive minded public, virtual captives of their own media taste, are entirely at the mercy of liberal media psychological warfare unless they have a special interest in seeking out more truthful reporting.

The most important political reality in Nicaragua since 2011 has been the solid and growing popular support for Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista Front for National Liberation. A poll by a center-right polling consultancy, published over the same weekend that the Guardian’s article appeared, confirmed that 60 percent of people in Nicaragua say they support the FSLN and Daniel Ortega. That augurs a total vote of probably around 70 percent for Daniel Ortega in the forthcoming national elections in November this year. Lakhani’s report ends with a quote from a U.S. academic acknowledging this reality, “The opposition are poorly organized, bereft of ideas and spend too much time fighting amongst themselves …. there’s no one in opposition capable of beating Ortega. He’s too popular – it was always going to be one-horse race.”

But that truth is buried at the end of an arbitrary disinformation pot pourri, jumping from one anti-Sandinista falsehood to another. Much more interesting than the routine falsity of the Guardian’s report is the fundamental assumption underlying it, namely that the opinion of a cosseted, self-interested neocolonial managerial class is worth more than the opinion of at least 60 percent of people in Nicaragua.

This reality was roughly stripped of its usual suave cosmetic makeover by the commentary in all the Western liberal media, almost universally attacking what they regarded as the ignorance and lack of education of the voters supporting Britain’s exit from the European Union. The political expression of that duplicity and cynicism has been the attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the British Labour Party by party MPs largely carried over from the dead-end neoliberal era of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who are talking openly about splitting to form a new political grouping. So at precisely the moment when the governing right-wing Tory Party is at its lowest ebb since the last general election, these avowed social democrats have chosen to attack the most faithful progressive expression of working class people in Britain. They cannot accept the stark challenge to the privileged status quo of which they are beneficiaries that the June 23 Brexit vote represents. There’s a very clear precedent for this moment in British politics and it comes from … Nicaragua.

After the Sandinista Front lost the 1990 election, a strong debate developed between those who believed in staying faithful to the principles of the Sandinista Revolution and those who believed in a move towards European style social democracy. Daniel Ortega lead those who insisted on fighting to defend strong government intervention in a mixed economy and an anti-imperialist foreign policy. The social democrat faction, led by former Vice-President Sergio Ramirez, argued for a shift to a more free market economic policy and an accommodation with the reality of U.S. power in the region. Through 1993 and 1994, Ramirez and his allies organized a parliamentary coup leading a majority of the 39 Sandinista deputies elected in 1990 to work with right-wing factions, railroading through the National Assembly restrictive changes to the 1987 Constitution with zero popular consultation.

In May 1994, the Sandinista Front held a national party congress in which Sergio Ramirez and his sympathizers lost a series of positions in the party structure while Daniel Ortega strengthened his grass roots support to consolidate his leadership. In the subsequent national elections in 1996, Daniel Ortega lead his party to important electoral success in the legislature with 36 out of 93 seats but, amid blatant electoral fraud, failed to win the Presidency. Sergio Ramirez’s Sandinista Renewal Movement polled a negligible vote, winning a solitary seat in the legislature as a result of questionable adjudication by the head of the Supreme Electoral Council, who was also the wife of the candidate in question. Over the subsequent decade, the MRS went into steady decline eventually disappearing as a formally constituted political party after the national elections of 2006.

There may well be a lesson in that history for Britain’s Labour Party. Nicaragua’s economy and society were in deep crisis in 1994 with opinion extremely polarized and a large floating vote desperate for policies to alleviate the crisis. The right wing only won the presidential elections of 1996 and 2001 by ruthless fear-mongering. Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista Front finally won the 2006 presidential election through astute alliances and positive policy proposals, insisting on national unity and reconciliation. In office, Ortega’s team successfully implemented those policy proposals despite being in a minority in the legislature. Their success enabled the Sandinista Front to win the 2011 election with over 63 percent of the vote, while the MRS social democrats by then had disappeared as a national political force. Parallels between Nicaragua in 1994 and Britain now may seem far fetched, but the political logic is strikingly similar. A progressive, relatively radical leader with a massive grassroots mandate faces a rebellion from a privileged social democratic parliamentary clique in a national context dominated by the right wing.

That configuration of forces may well foreshadow, for the social democrat Labour MPs a steady decline into oblivion and, for Jeremy Corbyn, a clear trajectory into office, if not immediate power. The Nicaraguan precedent will not be lost on Corbyn, who for decades has been a strong supporter of progressive movements in Latin America. What is common to both Britain and Nicaragua is the sheer contempt with which social democrat politicians have treated their party and the cynical opportunism of their timing.

The Brexit vote expresses both ordinary voters’ recognition of that cynicism and opportunism and, certainly in England and Wales, their rejection of it. The attitudes of the West’s social democrat political and media class to progressive political movements in Latin America evince the same obtuse, cynical neocolonial arrogance they apply to their own electorate. And that is why it is a waste of time hoping for a coherent, truthful account of events in Latin America and the Caribbean from media disinformation outlets owned and operated by that political and social class, as the Guardian’s latest inaccurate, phony report on Nicaragua demonstrates yet again.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Crowd-funded propaganda? Ummm…no thanks

OffGuardian | July 1, 2016

“The last few days have been seismic and historic for Britain, the greatest political crisis since the second world war with reverberations felt around the world,” wrote Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner in the Graun yesterday, in what amounts to a begging letter to her diminishing readership, imploring them to throw money the Guardian’s way. She goes on to say:

We’ve been working non-stop to try to make sure that the journalism you find in the Guardian and the Observer properly reflects these extraordinary and complicated times.

Let’s note her choice of words – “properly reflects these extraordinary and complicated times.”

Properly.

Not ‘accurately’. Not ‘honestly’. Not ‘responsibly’. Not even ‘fairly’. In fact she notably doesn’t invoke any of these supposedly essential aspects of good journalism anywhere. Instead we get “fast, well-sourced, calm, accessible and intelligent” journalism, that “provide[s] the answers that people desperately need at this time of anxiety and confusion.” Not questions, which can be open-ended and scary. Answers. Packaged and provided for you courtesy of the Graun. Safe, secure, on message, and of course “properly reflect[ing] these …complicated times.”

So, the proper way to reflect Corbyn’s speech on anti-semitism was to grossly misrepresent both the meaning and content? The proper way to reflect the coup against the Labour leadership was to give unlimited space to only one side of the debate? The proper pursuit of journalistic excellence lies in forming unholy alliances with unashamed propaganda outlets such as Interpreter Magazine and the CIA-created Radio Free Europe, and to run an endless and often ignorantly racist smear campaign against the Russian government and nation? The proper position for a serious news outlet is to publish fan write-ups and apologies for avowedly neo-nazi militias? To advocate for illegal wars, and solicit the opinions of a war criminal on the desirability of further war crimes?

This, presumably, is how they sleep at night. Reassuring themselves that answers are more important than questions and “proper” trumps “true” in terms of real journalism. This is fine, I suppose, if that’s their personal choice, but isn’t it a little rich to ask us to fund them to tell us lies? Still, at least there’s one sentence in Viner’s embarrassing begging letter that I think most of us can agree with.

Producing in-depth, thoughtful, well-reported journalism is difficult and expensive. But supporting us isn’t

Good of you to make the distinction, Kath. Saves us the trouble.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Ancillary Lessons from Brexit

By Evan Jones | CounterPunch | July 1, 2016

Apart from the substantive issues for the European elites of the Brexit referendum victory, two ancillary lessons have been thrust upon us, if we were not already wise to them.

One, the contemptible character of the mainstream media. Two, the crucial importance of historical understanding.

The mainstream media

One, the elite mainstream media, especially the financial media, is intolerable. Tabloids of and for the opinion makers. If one has been inclined to put a peg on the nose and tolerate the smell for the odd bit of useful information, the Brexit coverage should surely show that the daily sacrifice is not worth the candle.

Universal hysteria has reigned. It has been a tsunami of shit.

This from the super smug Financial Times :

“Britain takes a leap into the dark. … Britain’s decision to leave the EU is the biggest shock to the continent since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

The bloody dismantlement of Yugoslavia and the financial coup d’État in Greece were apparently of minor significance.

The Economist, if at times sober, declaimed:

“After the vote, chaos. … June 23rd will be a landmark in British and European history.”

John Lloyd (a contributing editor at the Financial Times no less) blesses Reuters readers with a condescending inconsequential piece titled “… the chaos that will be felt around the world”. Well no it won’t.

Said the Guardian, now running on empty:

“Britain was heading into a period of unprecedented political, constitutional and economic crisis on Saturday night as European leaders stepped up demands for it to quit the EU as soon as possible.”

Beyond ground zero, other countries’ MSM joined in the shock horror clamor.

This from France’s L’Obs (formerly Le Nouvel Observateur), just before the vote:

“Après le Brexit, l’apocalypse?”

And on 24 June:

“Un suicide économique: après le Brexit, la City se réveille en panique”

France’s MSM is now overwhelmingly the plaything of the mega-rich. L’Obs could do well to hone in on the economic suicide perpetrated on its own turf.

Down under, in the colonies, The Sydney Morning Herald (deteriorating by the week with large-scale retrenchment of seasoned staff), dutifully reproduces whatever Anglo-America is saying. Thus the Washington Post appears, with:

“Brexit vote raises global recession fears”

Tabloid-style front page graphics inform us of:

“Anarchy in the UK … Broken Britain as the world reels”

The pot has been simmering, suppressed

Broken Britain indeed. The geographical distribution of the voting patterns highlights a predictable disparity that wasn’t generated the day before yesterday.

The afore-mentioned John Lloyd, from his Oxonian watchtower, declaims (of Scotland and Northern Ireland, but of general application):

“London and the southeast region generate the surplus they help to spend.”

What? As the City funnels its lucre to tax haven satellites (the Channel Islands aptly named), the regions will be appreciative of Lloyd setting the record straight on their mendicancy.

Here is the fundamental problem of the frenzy. The Brexit vote merely reflects a pre-existing condition. Why the supposed shock reaction?

The shock is because ‘the masses are revolting!’ They are supposed to know their place. We, the quality MSM, tell them what’s what, we set the agenda. That we report selectively, that we lie to them as a matter of principle, this is none of their business. It’s their role to take their medicine and be grateful. The universal franchise has been a problem from the beginning; we thought we had it under control, and these wretched people don’t know the rules. Non-stop propaganda not entirely successful, disenfranchisement here we come.

MSM failings have led to the birth of media watch outfits like the British Medialens and the French Acrimed. And now, praise the Lord, we have Off-Guardian, product of the precipitous decline of that once admirable masthead. Off-Guardian nails the MSM’s hysteria:

“You’d be forgiven for thinking that the referendum had been for turning off the sun, banning talking, or killing the first born son of every family in Britain…rather than a return to a state of affairs that has existed for all but the last 40 years of human history. Such is the level of the destruction.”

Thank you and goodnight to the ‘quality’ MSM.

Washington to the rescue?

Before moving on, there appeared an instructive piece emanating from the colonial cringe-worthy political culture in Australia, courtesy of a local academic ‘defense expert’, Stephen Fruehling. We discover that the evil Putin, everybody’s anti-Christ, is the major beneficiary of Brexit: The cad!

“Brexit is a great setback for the security of the Western world … [Fruehling] branded the successful exit vote a victory for Russia, which under Vladimir Putin has been trying to drive wedges into Europe. For Russia, this is a great win as it demonstrates that the institutions that hold together the West are cracking, and can be prised apart … Russia … will be encouraged to step up its corrosive and subversive influence on domestic debates in the EU member states.

Critically for Australia, it would leave Washington less time to focus on its ‘pivot’ to Asia. The turmoil to come can only reinforce the recent tendency of US re-engagement with Europe on the security front. Washington now has yet another crisis to manage in Europe, and will have even less time for allies in Asia.”

‘Washington now has yet another crisis to manage in Europe’? Has our expert let something out of the bag here?

(Real) history matters

But on to issue two – the importance of historical understanding.

Escaping from harsh reality, I was recently watching a re-run of the BBC B-grade copper sitcom, New Tricks, and there was handed down a word of advice from a petty crim to an honest- ex-cop trying to reclaim his integrity from a murky past.

“The past is a foreign country. It’s not a tourist destination. I should leave well enough alone if I were you!”

Quite. And an elitist catechism of general applicability. Leave history to your betters. Control the past and it’s easier to dictate the present.

It’s true that the European Union has been a scapegoat for what Conn Hallinan calls ‘a very British affair’. But the palaver confidently handed down from the MSM over Brexit has universally steered clear of the disaster that is the European Union. A few minor problems, slow to recover after the GFC blah, a refugee tide coming from a whacko sectarian bloodbath nothing to do with us, plebeian xenophobes thrusting for attention, etc.

The strategic myopia, the dishonesty regarding the stench emanating from Brussels is comprehensive. And that’s before TAFTA is promulgated.

The conventional wisdom is that (Inigo Thomas, LRB): “The European Union was formed with the idea of diminishing the power of any country to wage war; the nation state was believed to be part of the problem.” In this regard, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman are credited as key visionaries and progenitors of economic integration, the ‘fathers’ of the European Union.

The New York Times’ Roger Cohen, long time European correspondent, has been an ardent expositor of this line, allowing him to blithely ignore the trajectory of Europe’s damnable flaws.

But the creation of the European Union didn’t prevent war; it merely pushed it elsewhere, with the connivance of the EU’s leadership. This neglected point has been recently highlighted by Joseph Richardson on this site. Europe’s integration into NATO, and its subservience to US imperatives therein, guarantees the institutional artillery for endless aggression. A collectivity of states can wage war as well as a single nation state, indeed with more intemperance, especially under a belligerent hegemon.

What price the conventional wisdom?

A century down the track from World War I has prompted re-examination of its origins and after-effects. Recent cathartic events within Europe (the debacle of Greece, the refugee influx, Brexit) provide the incentive for a re-examination of the origins of the EU.

By coincidence, I happen to be reading Alexander Werth’s France: 1940-1955 (published in 1956). Werth, a Russian-born English journalist, long-time Moscow correspondent, was by then living in France. He is an unjustly neglected author. Werth’s account of post-War French politics is minutely detailed and iconoclastic.

Monnet’s Plan of December 1945 was designed to engineer faster French re-industrialization. It was integrally dependent on German coal (and incidentally German prisoners of war/peace), which involved simultaneously limiting German re-industrialization. In effect, Versailles redux. The results were paltry, not least because Monnet’s ideas (especially regarding French agriculture) were fanciful.

By mid-1948, the agenda was essentially being set by the US, and Monnet fell into line. The priority was to bring what was to become West Germany into the Western camp – vehicle for the West’s own Iron Curtain. The scene was set with the March 1948 Treaty of Brussels which established the Western European Union (France, Britain, Benelux). France’s attempt to appropriate and/or dominate the German coalfields permanently (the Ruhr, the Saar) could no longer be tolerated.

In mid-1949 the US government instructed Schuman, then French Foreign Secretary, that he had to come up with a plan to deal with the German coal problem. Schuman handed the job to Monnet, who handed it to his bureaucrats. Thus was devised the so-called Schuman Plan, which appeared in ‘bare skeleton’ form in May 1950. This was the beginning of the coal-steel pool, to become the European Coal and Steel Community. There appeared for the first time the idea of a federalist Europe and of the creation of supra-national authorities.

The mis-named ECSC was compromised from the start, as Britain (major coal miner and steel maker) declined to join it. Some French envisaged the creation of a ‘third force’ industrial powerhouse that would balance the US and the Eastern bloc. That idea readily succumbed to US interests and British concerns for its sovereignty.

Schuman and Monnet consulted no-one in the French government, and parliament had no idea. The government, parliament and the public were hostile to the plan. Schuman and Monnet themselves were out of their depth. With the US in Korea, the Schuman Plan soon became integrally linked to US pressure for Western European re-militarization through the creation of a supra-national European army, to include German troops.

In late 1950, the US was even considering incorporating Spain into defense of the ‘free world’. The cynics quipped: “If Syngman Rhee, why not Franco?”.

France was naturally opposed, for economic as well as security reasons. ‘Neutralism’ (the then buzz word) was France’s ‘sound instinct of self-preservation’. West Germany at that stage preferred emphasis on the return of its sovereignty and on re-industrialization. So much for facilitating Franco-German cooperation.

Werth reproduces an excerpt from the French press in April 1948, foreshadowing this trajectory:

“The transformation of the Marshall Plan into a Holy Alliance against Communism means that priority is to be given to military aid, and that the European countries will also be expected to increase their military expenditure, thus adding to their inflation. Secondly, it means the intensification of the Cold War. … What its advocates represented a few months ago as America’s way of saving peace at the lowest possible price has now become one of the greatest war dangers since the Liberation.”

But France was broke, thankful for Marshall Aid, bogged down in Indochina (hoping for American support there), and the US and Britain were relentless. In September 1950, President Truman and Secretary of State Acheson announced that Europe had to have sixty divisions, ten of them German. British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, speaking for Britain, immediately fell into line. Ditto Schuman, speaking for himself.

The Pleven Government buckled in its proposed 1951 budget, with a planned 75 per cent increase in military expenditure, to the detriment of civil infrastructure. The Radical Party deputy Pierre Mendès-France was excoriating of the government. He noted, citing the truncated original Monnet Plan, that industrial robustness was a precondition for military preparedness and to prioritize military spending would entrench France’s then economic fragility.

By 1953, the French leadership thought that the idea of a European army was dead. The Americans thought otherwise. In January Life magazine brutally lampooned French politics (the American media has been doing it ever since). The incoming Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, known on the continent as ‘Europe’s Bully No 1’, exclaimed (Werth):

“The USA had already spent thirty billion dollars in Europe since the war, and this money had been ‘invested’ in the hope that Europe would achieve unity. But if it was found that France, Britain, and Germany were each to go their own way, it would be necessary to ‘give a little re-thinking’ to America’s policy in Europe.”

In October, a speech by Churchill to the Party faithful, drippingly condescending to the French, claimed that Germany would be rearmed, with or without the proposed European Defence Community.

As the French noted, Britain refuses to be integrated in Europe but wants to dictate, with its US masters, the terms on which France has to do so. The clip from Yes Minister  currently doing the rounds has substance behind the farce.

De Gaulle responded in a November speech, contemptuous and prescient:

“Since victorious France has an army and defeated Germany has none [he parodied Monnet] let us suppress the French Army. After that we shall make a stateless army of Frenchmen and Germans, and since there must be a government above this army, we shall make a stateless government, a technocracy. As this may not please everybody, we’ll paint a new shop sign and call it ‘community’; it won’t matter, anyway, because the ‘European Army’ will be placed at the entire disposal of the American Commander-in-Chief.”

On the contrary, de Gaulle considered that it was time to revive the Franco-Russian alliance, given that they remained formal allies. That recommendation went down like the proverbial …

At the December 1953 Bermuda Conference, the French Prime Minister Laniel and Foreign Minister Bidault were profoundly humiliated by Churchill. Eisenhower demanded that the EDC be ratified by 15 March. More, just when finally France wanted to sue for peace in Indochina, the US insisted that it was moving in there itself. Following the Bermuda Conference:

“The demand that EDC be ratified without delay became increasingly peremptory. The agitation against EDC in France became correspondingly more violent. …

“… despite assurances, promises and other ways of keeping the United States in an at least relatively good humour, all the French governments from the end of 1950 (Pleven Plan) till the actual rejection of EDC in 1954, knew that at no time was there a majority in the National Assembly or in the country, to sanction EDC.

“If finally, in 1955, German rearmament was agreed to in a different form, it was only because of two years of ever-growing American and especially British pressure and threats, which, it was thought, could no longer be ignored.”

Mendès-France became Prime Minister in June 1954. By now he feared for France’s isolation from the Atlantic Alliance and sought a compromise proposal in August from his Cabinet on the EDC. Bitter conflict resulted in a series of protocols qualifying the original, which Mendès-France took to the Six-Power Conference in Brussels. Mendès-France was confronted by “a general Anglo-American-German gang-up”, supported by the Belgian Conference Chair Paul-Henri Spaak and the Dutch Foreign Minister Johan Beyen. The protocols were laughed out of court. Spaak concluded the conference (at. 2.35 am) with:

“The failure of this conference is a catastrophe. France will be completely isolated. There will be an EDC without her. Western Germany will rearm … We must, must make Europe. The military side isn’t everything. What matters more is the integration of Europe. EDC is only a step in that direction, but if there is no EDC, then everything falls to the ground …”

Mendès-France defied the will of the Conference gang and immediately took the EDC issue to the Assembly, which chucked the whole thing out again “in a stormy and highly emotional debate”.

There was more fury from the foreign press. Churchill told Mendès-France that Germany would be rearmed within NATO if necessary.

Instructive is the fact that the Nazi General Carl Oberg, supreme overseer in France of Jewish deportations and repression of the Resistance, already condemned to death by a British court, was being tried again in October 1954. If the trial’s disclosures reinforced French public hostility to German rearmament, it was of no interest to Britain or to the US. Earlier in 1954 the British Foreign Office, via the Lord Chancellor, had attempted to prevent the publication of Bertrand Russell’s The Scourge of the Swastika. This skirmish was part of a propaganda battle being waged in Britain over official attempts to forge West Germany as an ally amongst civilized nations.

In June the Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz was overthrown by a US-engineered coup. Le Monde, in September, likened Mendès-France to Árbenz and France as a United Fruit Republic.

In October, the Paris agreements were signed over France’s ‘head’, legitimizing the rearmament and sovereignty of West Germany. On Friday 24 December, Mendès-France took the ratification bill authorizing a German army to the Assembly, which the Assembly promptly rejected. With more fury from London and Washington. Noted Werth, the British Foreign Office “had gone off the deep end”. The Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee also rejected the bill.

During the next week, the Assembly debated for three days. A wise voice said that rearmament was now by the by; the priority henceforth was to stop the bomb! By that stage, exhaustion and resignation had set in. Mendès-France got his ratification bill passed by a bare margin. Having got France out of Indochina, Mendès-France couldn’t bridge the massive gulf between France and its dictatorial ‘allies’. He was out of office within two months.

The EU a Cold War project

In short, the European Union has its origins not in the mutual thrust for economic cooperation and harmonization of interests but as an American-Anglo Cold War project.

West Germany was to be the core of Cold War Europe, and France was to become frankly irrelevant. West Germany (later a unified Germany) became an Atlantic Alliance satrap but in return obtained carte blanche to become, by whatever means, the industrial and economic powerhouse of the Union. More, it would dictate the terms on which closer economic integration took place. France got, as consolation prize … the Common Agricultural Policy.

And sixty years later? For all its evolution, the EU remains a Cold War project. The ex-Soviet satellites – Eastern Europe and the Baltic states – were incorporated into the Union within that ambit. NATO, the replacement for the ultimately unachievable EDC, dictates military and even foreign policy imperatives. Europe bowed to, facilitated, the dismantlement of Yugoslavia. Europe kowtows to US dictates regarding sanctions on Russia over the Magnitsky Affair and then over the Russian response to the coup in Ukraine.

To European subordination to ongoing American-Anglo Cold War against Russia is added its subordination to American-Anglo (plus Israeli) imperatives in the Middle East. Thus Europe signs up for the sanctions against Iran.

The economic cost to European national economies of these sanctions has been significant. For example, it has been estimated that France’s cancellation of the Mistral carriers that it was building for Russia will cost it ultimately losses of the order of €2 billion. France’s loss of markets (especially for autos) in Iran has been significant.

Then there’s the refugee tidal wave, mostly courtesy of those same imperatives. This is the cost of Europe’s subordination, and it is incalculable. And its leaders have yet to put 2 + 2 together.

Out of the blue, the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has broken ranks, and said, ‘enough is enough’. Is there a sign of a rare rationality amongst the European leadership in the wings?

Lessons from Brexit

This story is removed from the Brexit front line, but it is a large elephant in the room.

Which particular European Union does the Remain coalition and its Continental supporters have in mind when they imply that the European status quo is the greatest thing since sliced bread? And with what conception of Europe will they fight to overturn Brexit?

The Brexit catharsis provides the ideal opportunity to re-examine the history and character of the European Union. No whitewashes this time around please. With this prospect, the mainstream media, on its wretched record, has automatically disqualified itself from the job.

Evan Jones is a retired political economist from the University of Sydney. He can be reached at:evan.jones@sydney.edu.au

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaked FBI doc reveals secret policy of targeting journalists, sources

RT | July 1, 2016

FBI documents sought after in Freedom of Information Act requests for the last year are now available, thanks to a leak to the Intercept. They lay out secret rules for collecting phone records of journalists, bypassing normal judicial processes.

The documents, published Thursday, outline how FBI agents would utilize National Security Letters in obtaining journalists’ phone records. They date back to 2013, the same year the agency’s overseer, the US Department of Justice, amended its standards for subpoenaing for such records.

However, the newly leaked papers are marked “last updated October 2011,” and they seem to conflict with DOJ policy as well as reveal information that many say never should have been secret in the first place.

The FBI’s National Security Letters, or NSLs, are used like search warrants, but unlike a normal warrant, they are not signed off on by any judge or court. They are approved in-house without even a requirement to notify the target. For the purposes of these documents, that means not even the news organization employing the journalist would necessarily be informed. Furthermore, they nearly always come with some form of a gag order, preventing the target from talking about their NSL case.

Getting an NSL authorized typically requires the signatures of the FBI’s general counsel and its National Security Branch’s executive assistant director as well as other chain of command OK’s following the agent making the request, the Intercept reported. That is, as long as the NSL is deemed “relevant” to an investigation pertaining to national security.

Except in investigations over a leak, such as how these FBI documents came to be available, when the purpose of an NSL is “to identify confidential news media sources,” according to the documents, the general counsel and executive assistant director defer to the DOJ National Security Division’s assistant attorney general. To identify a leaker, however, the DOJ is not needed for NSL approval.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation sued the DOJ for a more complete release of these rules, since they had previously been divulged under ample redaction in 2011, along with the rest of the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, or DIOG.

“These supposed rules are incredibly weak and almost nonexistent — as long as they have that second sign-off they’re basically good to go,” Trevor Timm, the executive director of the media advocacy group told the Intercept. “The FBI is entirely able to go after journalists and with only one extra hoop they have to jump through.”

FBI spokesman Christopher Allen gave little comment to the Intercept, only to say the agency was “very clear” that “the FBI cannot predicate investigative activity solely on the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Press advocates have criticized President Obama’s administration harshly, as it has pursued more cases, including under the Espionage Act, against publishers, leakers and reporters than prior administrations.

In 2013, in response to backlash over its seizing the phone lines of the Associated Press and keeping tabs on Fox News’s James Rosen, the DOJ released new “Media Guidelines” that conveyed a tightening up of the practices. The information just leaked to the Intercept, though, “makes a mockery” of those guidelines, the Freedom of the Press Foundation wrote Thursday.

It is important to note that NSLs are covered by rules wholly separate from the DOJ’s media guidelines.

Efforts on Capitol Hill to loosen restrictions on NSLs have failed recently, but only by slim margins, and the fight does not seem to be letting up. An amendment to a Senate criminal justice funding bill failed last week by just two votes, while this past Monday, a similar amendment allowing the FBI to demand email header information, web browser history, social media account access and other metadata was blocked by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Reuters reported.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

US Deployment of Patriot Batteries in Turkey Threatens New Crisis

Sputnik — 01.07.2016

The US decision to send Patriot anti-ballistic missile interceptor batteries to Turkey has no military justification and may be a preparation for a manufactured incident to provoke a new crisis in the region, historian and retired US Army Maj. Todd Pierce told Sputnik.

“Do you pick up the preparation for yet another ‘Gulf of Tonkin Moment’ here?” Pierce said on Thursday.

Pierce was referring to the alleged clash between a US warship, the destroyer Maddox and two North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964 that was used to win congressional endorsement for what became the US involvement in the Vietnam War.

NATO is deploying missile defense systems in Turkey under the pretext of a non-existent threat of missile attacks from Syria, Russian Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko told Sputnik earlier on Thursday.

Pierce said the Obama administration remained committed to finding whatever justification it needed to expand its military forces in the region with the goal of toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“That is what the Syrian war and proposed takedown of Assad is really about: rolling up any potential Russian allies,” he explained.

Pierce pointed out that deploying the Patriot systems was an unnecessary move as Turkey faced no direct threats of missile attacks.

“Does deploying these Patriots systems in Turkey make any sense at all for Turkey’s national security? Absolutely not: Who is going to attack them? Bulgaria?” he asked.

The Patriots deployment appeared to be part of NATO’s policies to encircle Russia with increased military deployments, Pierce stated.

“It is definitely not about protecting the Turkish people… It is directed at Russia in some way because there is no other potential opponent in the area,” he continued.

Pierce said the Patriot systems’ deployment was part of a US strategy, also employing NATO that had been operating for at least 18 years since the NATO bombing of Serbia to force it to leave its Kosovo province in 1999.

“Since the Kosovo War with the takedown Milosevic, we have been working to subvert or overthrow any ally or potential ally of Russia with a tactical aim of weakening them, and with Russia as the ultimate target. The Wolfowitz doctrine stated that. Now we are getting closer,” he noted.

Pierce noted that long-term US strategy toward Russia was similar to the policy that the United States feared it was experiencing from the Soviet Union through the decades of the Cold War.

“Remember when the Soviet Union seemed to be encircling us with Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Grenada? And how that angered us? We saw it there as their military aggressiveness… We took it as a threat which needed to be countered,” he said.

Current US policies of deploying increasingly large military forces and weapons systems around the periphery of Russia from the Baltics to Turkey was bound to generate those kinds of fears in Moscow, Pierce warned.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

New report demonstrates previous US Government claims on drones have been false

Reprieve | June 30, 2016

Ahead of an announcement from the White House on civilian casualties from drone strikes, expected as early as Friday July 1st, international human rights organization Reprieve has released a report demonstrating how the Administration’s previous statements on the issue have proved to be false.

From CIA Director John Brennan’s June 2011 assertion that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death” to President Obama’s claim that strikes only take place when there is “near certainty” that civilians won’t be killed, the Administration’s statements, both on record and off, have been undermined by Government leaks and independent assessments.

The CIA itself had recorded a civilian casualty from a Pakistan drone strike just two months before Mr Brennan’s claim that there hadn’t been any “for nearly a year.” Meanwhile, independent investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) and others identified 45 civilian casualties from a strike on a meeting of local elders  in March 2011.

The President’s claims on “near certainty” were themselves contradicted by internal CIA documents which, according to McClatchy, “show[ed] that drone operators weren’t always certain who they were killing despite the administration’s guarantees.”

In addition, his 2013 policy on the ‘Use of Force in Counterterrorism Operations’ has since been undermined by revelations that ‘signature strikes,’ which target people based on patterns of behavior without knowing their identities, have secretly been allowed to continue in Pakistan and possibly Yemen.

According to the report, which is available on Reprieve’s website,

What little the Obama Administration has previously said on the record about the drone program has been shown by the facts on the ground, and even the US Government’s own internal documents, to be false.  Any claim of low numbers of civilian casualties will therefore have to be read against the more rigorous work of organizations such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), which estimates a low of 492 civilian casualties across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and a high of potentially 1138.

But more importantly, it has to be asked what bare numbers will mean if they omit even basic details such as the names of those killed and the areas, even the countries, they live in.  Equally, the numbers without the definitions to back up how the Administration is defining its targets is useless, especially given reports the Obama Administration has shifted the goalposts on what counts as a ‘civilian’ to such an extent that any estimate may be far removed from reality. In US drone operations, reports suggest all “military aged males” and potentially even women and children are considered “enemies killed in action” unless they can “posthumously” and “conclusively” prove their innocence.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment