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Activist: Time to ‘Formally End the Korean War’ After 65 Years of Armistice

Sputnik – 23.02.2018

The brief respite on the Korean Peninsula seems fated to end with the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after North Korean leaders canceled a planned secret meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence. Washington is also expected to soon resume postponed military exercises alongside South Korea, exercises that North Korea has labeled provocative.

​Brian Becker and John Kiriakou of Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear were joined by Christine Ahn, a co-founder of the Korea Policy Institute, a think tank that advises American politicians to foster diplomacy and friendship with both Koreas, as well as the International Coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, an organization of peace activists.

“I feel like we’re in a funhouse with a lot of smoke and mirrors and doublespeak and confusion, especially coming from the Trump administration,” said Ahn. “This spin coming from the White House that it’s North Korea that canceled the secret meeting, but [the US] were also noting that they were just going to reiterate their hardline stance — which they publicly did in Tokyo as [Pence] was meeting with [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe.”

“As for the military exercises — I have heard different things. I have heard that South Korea has now been in conversation that they will consider stalling the military exercises, and we have the US jumping the gun and saying that the exercises are going to resume. We are in a critical window and it is urgent now for the US peace movement to raise our voices and to say we must support the inter-Korean peace process that is underway.”

“We must urge our government to halt the military exercises, to listen to the people of Korea — both North and South — that want the inter-Korean reconciliation to continue. Clearly resuming these military exercises, that include provocative decapitation strikes and regime-change exercises, would intrude on inter-Korean dialogue,” she went on to say.

In response to North Korea’s myriad missile tests, the US, South Korea and Japan launched a series of military exercises on and near the peninsula. This includes December air drills between the US and South Korea that involved hundreds of aircraft, including nuclear-capable B-1B bombers.

“The national security law in South Korea [considers] any contact with North Koreans to be a threat to their national security,” said Ahn. “I think you have a situation where South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has gone to the 2007 summit in North Korea, having his mother come from the northern part of the Korean Peninsula before it was divided, deeply understands the complex situation that South Korea is in.”

“They have this ‘alliance’ with the US which includes wartime operational control over South Korea’s military. I think you also have… this older generation, who are maintaining that Cold War paradigm that has really hobbled the advancement of South Korean democracy.”

“It’s a historic moment, we know that. [Moon] has said he is trying to get a peace treaty between the US and North Korea, as promised under the armistice agreement that was signed in 1953.”

The agreement that ended hostilities on the Korean Peninsula, was not a peace treaty, merely an armistice, so the Korean War technically continues 65 years later. While the stated intention of the armistice was to eventually replace it with a permanent peace treaty, attempts to actually do so have never gotten far.

“It’s time right now for Americans to really put pressure on our government to formally end the Korean War,” said Ahn. “Not just for the Korean people, but also for the soul of this nation.”

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

My First Day as CIA Director

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | February 22, 2018

Now that I have been nominated again – this time by author Paul Craig Roberts – to be CIA director, I am preparing to hit the ground running.

Ray McGovern

Last time my name was offered in nomination for the position – by The Nation publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel – I did not hold my breath waiting for a call from the White House. Her nomination came in the afterglow of my fortuitous, four-minute debate with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when I confronted him on his lies about the attack on Iraq, on May 4, 2006 on national TV. Since it was abundantly clear that Rumsfeld and I would not get along, I felt confident I had royally disqualified myself.

This time around, on the off-chance I do get the nod, I have taken the time to prepare the agenda for my first few days as CIA director. Here’s how Day One looks so far:

Get former National Security Agency Technical Director William Binney back to CIA to join me and the “handpicked” CIA analysts who, with other “handpicked” analysts (as described by former National Intelligence Director James Clapper on May 8, 2017) from the FBI and NSA, prepared the so-called Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of Jan. 6, 2017. That evidence-impoverished assessment argued the case that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his minions “to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton.”

When my predecessor, CIA Director Mike Pompeo invited Binney to his office on Oct. 24, 2017 to discuss cyber-attacks, he told Pompeo that he had been fed a pack of lies on “Russian hacking” and that he could prove it. Why Pompeo left that hanging is puzzling, but I believe this is the kind of low-hanging fruit we should pick pronto.

The low-calorie Jan. 6 ICA was clumsily cobbled together:

“We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence … used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”

Binney and other highly experienced NSA alumni, as well as other members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), drawing on their intimate familiarity with how the technical systems and hacking work, have been saying for a year and a half that this CIA/FBI/NSA conclusion is a red herring, so to speak. Last summer, the results of forensic investigation enabled VIPS to apply the principles of physics and the known capacity of the internet to confirm that conclusion.

Oddly, the FBI chose not to do forensics on the so-called “Russian hack” of the Democratic National Committee computers and, by all appearances, neither did the drafters of the ICA.

Again, Binney says that the main conclusions he and his VIPS colleagues reached are based largely on principles of physics – simple ones like fluid dynamics. I want to hear what that’s all about, how that applies to the “Russian hack,” and hear what my own CIA analysts have to say about that.

I will have Binney’s clearances updated to remove any unnecessary barriers to a no-holds-barred discussion at a highly classified level. After which I shall have a transcript prepared, sanitized to protect sources and methods, and promptly released to the media.

Like Sisyphus Up the Media Mountain

At that point things are bound to get very interesting. Far too few people realize that they get a very warped view on such issues from the New York Times. And, no doubt, it would take some time, for the Times and other outlets to get used to some candor from the CIA, instead of the far more common tendentious leaks.  In any event, we will try to speak truth to the media – as well as to power.

I happen to share the view of the handful of my predecessor directors who believed we have an important secondary obligation to do what we possibly can to inform/educate the public as well as the rest of the government – especially on such volatile and contentious issues like “Russian hacking.”

What troubles me greatly is that the NYT and other mainstream print and TV media seem to be bloated with the thin gruel-cum-Kool Aid they have been slurping at our CIA trough for a year and a half; and then treating the meager fare consumed as some sort of holy sacrament. That goes in spades for media handling of the celebrated ICA of Jan. 6, 2017 cobbled together by those “handpicked” analysts from CIA, FBI, and NSA. It is, in all candor, an embarrassment to the profession of intelligence analysis and yet, for political reasons, it has attained the status of Holy Writ.

The Paper of (Dubious) Record

I recall the banner headline spanning the top of the entire front page of the NYT on Jan. 7, 2017: “Putin Led Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Says;” and the electronic version headed “Putin Led a Complex Cyberattack Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Finds.” I said to myself sarcastically, “Well there you go!  That’s exactly what Mrs. Clinton – not to mention the NY Times, the Washington Post and The Establishment – have been saying for many months.”

Buried in that same edition of the Times was a short paragraph by Scott Shane: “What is missing from the public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. That is a significant omission.”

Omission? No hard evidence? No problem. The publication of the Jan. 6, 2017 assessment got the ball rolling. And Democrats like Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, were kicking the ball hard down the streets of Washington. On Jan. 25, 2017, I had a chance to confront Schiff personally about the lack of evidence — something that even Obama had acknowledged just before slipping out the door. I think our two-minute conversation speaks volumes.

Now I absolutely look forward to dealing with Adam Schiff from my new position as CIA director. I will ask him to show me the evidence of “Russian hacking” that he said he could not show me on Jan. 25, 2017 – on the chance his evidence includes more than reports from the New York Times.


Intelligence analysts put great weight, of course, on sources. The authors of the lede, banner-headlined NYT article of Jan. 7, 2017 were Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger; Sanger has had a particularly checkered career, while always landing on his feet. Despite his record of parroting CIA handouts (or perhaps partly because of it), Sanger is now the NYT’s chief Washington correspondent.

Those whose memories go back more than 15 years may recall his promoting weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as flat fact. In a July 29, 2002 article co-written with Them Shanker, for example, Iraq’s (non-existent) “weapons of mass destruction” appear no fewer than seven times as flat fact.

More instructive still, in May 2005, when first-hand documentary evidence from the now-famous “Downing Street Memorandum” showed that President George W. Bush had decided by early summer 2002 to attack Iraq, the NYT ignored it for six weeks until David Sanger rose to the occasion with a tortured report claiming just the opposite. The title given his article of June 13 2005 was “Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn’t Made.”

Against this peculiar reporting record, I was not inclined to take at face value the Jan. 7, 2017 report he co-authored with Michael D. Shear – “Putin Led a Complex Cyberattack Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Finds.”

Nor am I inclined to take seriously former National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s stated views on the proclivity of Russians to be, well, just really bad people — like it’s in their genes. I plan to avail myself of the opportunity to discover whether intelligence analysts who labored under his “aegis” were infected by his quaint view of the Russians.

I shall ask any of the “handpicked” analysts who specialize in analysis of Russia (and, hopefully, there are at least a few): Do you share Clapper’s view, as he explained it to NBC’s Meet the Press on May 30, 2017, that Russians are “typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever”? I truly do not know what to expect by way of reply.

End of Day One

In sum, my priority for Day One is to hear both sides of the story regarding “Russian hacking” with all cards on the table. All cards. That means no questions are out of order, including what, if any, role the “Steele dossier” may have played in the preparation of the Jan. 6, 2017 assessment.

I may decide to seek some independent, disinterested technical input, as well. But it should not take me very long to figure out which of the two interpretations of alleged “Russian hacking” is more straight-up fact-based and unbiased. That done, in the following days I shall brief both the Chair, Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and ranking member Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee, as well as the Chair and ranking member of its counterpart in the Senate. I will then personally brief the NYT’s David Sanger and follow closely what he and his masters decide to do with the facts I present.

On the chance that the Times and other media might decide to play it straight, and that the “straight” diverges from the prevailing, Clapperesque narrative of Russian perfidy, the various mainstream outlets will face a formidable problem of their own making. Mark Twain put it this way: “It is easier to fool people than it is to convince them they have been fooled.”

And that will probably be enough for Day One.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Savior in inner-city Washington.  He served 30 years as an U.S. Army Intelligence and CIA analyst, and in retirement co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Hamas: Abbas’s speech did not rise up to the desired level

Palestine Information Center – February 22, 2018

GAZA – Palestinian resistance group Hamas criticized Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas following his speech at the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

In a press release, Hamas underlined that the political plan presented by Abbas in his speech does not reflect the national position which calls for an end to the Oslo Accords and which opposes a resumption of negotiations with Israel.

“Abbas’s speech did not rise up to the desired level, nor did it reflect the national consensus, which wants to terminate the Oslo agreements and rejects negotiations with the occupiers,” Hamas said.

Abbas is working to create a new mechanism for the failed peace process despite Israel’s violations and crimes against Palestinian women and children and the dangerous bias of the United States in favor of Israel on Jerusalem and the refugees and the encouragement it gives Israel to commit crimes and liquidate the Palestinian cause, the statement reads.

In this context, Hamas demanded an end to Abbas’s unilateral decision-making, and instead of following the path of a political process, to accelerate the unification of the ranks within the Palestinian arena and reach an agreement on a national strategy that focuses on the path of resistance.

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment

Crimes of compassion, Iraq’s long war and Canada’s bloody hands

By Matthew Behrens | Rabble | February 22, 2018

Canadians should prepare themselves for an onslaught of feel-good propaganda in the coming weeks as the world marks the 15th anniversary of one of the most horrific war crimes of the 21st century, the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq by forces including the U.S., U.K., and Canada.

It will be disheartening to watch as liberal commentators from the Toronto Star and CBC engage in the most dishonest kind of smug, self-satisfied flag saluting, praising then-Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien for allegedly “declining” to sign on to the war. Yet the notion that Canada somehow decided not to be part of the Shock and Awe invasion of Iraq is a complete falsehood, and is well-documented elsewhere .

Lost within any of this self-congratulatory coverage will be the people of Iraq themselves, for whom 2018 marks 38 years of almost non-stop warfare and repression, during which they have endured hardships that are incomprehensible to most of us. The blood of the Iraqi people — millions of them killed, maimed, poisoned, irradiated, traumatized — is on the hands of many Canadian corporate, military, and political leaders who profited from weapons sales and political brinksmanship.

And while every Canadian government from Pierre Trudeau through to Justin Trudeau is in part responsible for this misery, no one has been held to account for aiding and abetting the crimes against humanity that have marked decades of aerial bombardment, the use of chemical and radioactive weapons (resulting in a massive spike in previously unseen birth defects), and an economic sanctions regime described by former UN inspectors as a “genocide.”

Was the price ‘worth it’?

Enforced throughout the 1990s in part with $1 billion in Canadian military muscle, those sanctions led to the monthly deaths of over 5,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, and provoked the high-profile resignations of UN humanitarian co-ordinators Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck. When Halliday resigned in 1998, he stated: “I’ve been using the word ‘genocide’ because this is a deliberate policy to destroy the people of Iraq. I’m afraid I have no other view.”

What was one to make of a policy that deliberately targeted the importation of civilian goods that allegedly had “dual use,” from pencils and baby dolls to eyeglasses and shampoo? The equipment needed to fix electrical generating stations and water purification systems destroyed during the 1991 U.S. and Canadian bombing runs of Desert Storm was not permitted entry, so water-borne diseases ran rampant. The medicines needed to treat the spike in cancer (a result of tons of depleted uranium munitions dust that wound up in the Iraqi soil, air and water) didn’t get through either.

Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, asked on the CBS program 60 Minutes if the sanctions-related deaths of a half million Iraqi children were worth it, famously replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

The people of Iraq were subjected to a Stalingrad-style siege, and while the general responsible for the Russian siege was charged as a war criminal at Nuremberg, Clinton now struts about the world stage as a self-styled “elder statesman” who runs a foundation where he paints himself as the second coming of Mother Theresa.

“In my life now, I am obsessed with only two things: I don’t want anybody to die before their time, and I don’t want to see good people spend their energies without making a difference,” Clinton crowed when the foundation began.

As Clinton continues to rake in obscene six-figure speaking fees for trotting out such tripe and basks in the “at least he wasn’t like Donald Trump” comparisons, New York oncologist Dr. Rafil Dhafir, who also believed no one should die before their time — especially in Iraq — remains behind the same prison walls that have marked his existence since his arrest 15 years ago this week for an alleged crime of compassion.

A crime of compassion

Dr. Dhafir was sentenced to 22 years for consciously violating the sanctions against the people of Iraq. Many individuals and groups who were not Muslim also violated the sanctions — fines were the worst punishment directed at a number of groups — yet Dhafir, as the driving force behind the Help the Needy Foundation, which provided millions in aid, was the only one to suffer such a fate. Needless to say, corporations that quietly went around the sanctions not for humanitarian goals, but to profit from their relationship with the Hussein dictatorship, did not face charges either.

Dhafir’s imprisonment began on the morning of February 26, 2003, when hundreds of federal agents swooped down on the community of Syracuse, New York. They knocked down his door, pointed a gun at his wife’s head, and ransacked his house, taking away any books related to Islam while leaving behind the Bible and tomes on American history.

Agents proceeded to terrorize patients at Dhafir’s clinic, and interrogated almost 150 primarily Muslim Help the Needy donors about how often they prayed, whether they had family in the Middle East, and whether they celebrated Christmas.

Cynically framed as a terrorism-related arrest as the U.S. prepared its invasion of Iraq, the first indictment of Dhafir contained 14 charges of violating sanctions. But when he refused a plea bargain, the government ratcheted up its already hyperbolic case, alleging an additional 45 alleged breaches of various financial laws related to the running of a charity as well as alleged Medicare fraud. The non-sanctions charges were speciously vague, and related to things like incorrectly filling out the complicated Medicare forms (many doctors refuse to treat Medicare patients as a result of their burdensome regulations, and even Medicare officials themselves appeared confused about them during the trial). Charges also arose from using another organization to issue Help the Needy’s tax receipts, a not uncommon practice. In any event, most such “white collar” cases, should they actually result in a trial, do not produce such serious consequences.

Refusing to be silent

As community members could testify, Dhafir was a hugely generous person, and opened his office not in Syracuse, where he could have made more money, but an hour away in Rome, New York, an under-served community. His reputation for providing interest-free loans, treating low-income patients, donating large chunks of money for schools and mosques, and assisting newcomers to the U.S. was legendary.

But Dhafir’s refusal to be silent in the face of genocide resulted in seven government agencies investigating Help the Needy and intercepting his mail, email, faxes and telephone calls, bugging his office and hotel rooms, combing through his trash, and also conducting physical surveillance. They were unable to find any evidence of terrorism links, yet the stench of such alleged associations infused the trial as a result of headline-grabbing outbursts from New York Governor George Pataki and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

After a six-week trial, Dhafir was convicted in February, 2005, though as the Syracuse New Standard pointed out, “The defense was forbidden during the trial to tell the jury that the government’s investigation of Dhafir had apparently begun as a terrorism hunt, nor was the defense allowed to argue that Dhafir had been selectively prosecuted for alleged crimes that are relatively common and do not usually result in criminal charges.”

Said former UN representative Denis Halliday: “I am stunned by the conviction of this humanitarian, especially as the US State Department breached its own sanctions to the tune of $10 billion. The policy of sanctions against Iraq undermined not only the UN’s own charter, but the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention as well.”

During his time behind bars, Dhafir has developed a range of debilitating conditions, from an untreated hernia and diabetes, to chronic gout, significant back pain, and incipient cataracts. Even though he was originally sentenced to a medium-security prison within driving distance of his community, he was transferred to the notorious Communication Management Unit in Terre Haute, Indiana (a.k.a., “Little Guantanamo”), which was “home” to dozens of Muslims arrested as part of post-9/11 racial profiling paranoia. At the CMU, he could not have contact visits, his freedom to worship was severely limited, phone calls were rare, and he was harshly treated along with his fellow, isolated inmates.

When Barack Obama was getting ready to leave the White House, Dhafir, now aged 69, had the opportunity to apply for clemency, but declined to do so.

“How can an innocent person like me ask for this alleged commutation from a criminal, regardless of who she/he is?” he asked. While he is considering applying for non-medical compassionate release given his age and the fact that he has served so much time in prison, he watches as the world continues to treat the people of Iraq as a geopolitical punching bag and a $1 trillion economic opportunity. Indeed, Canadian companies are salivating at the chance to help “rebuild” the very infrastructure that they helped to destroy.

Dr. Dhafir, if forced to serve the remainder of his term, will not be released until he is 76 years of age. The lives of those he tried to save in Iraq — as well as the lives of patients who no longer had access to his compassionate and accessible medical services in New York State — are nameless victims to almost all of us, just some of the millions who have been sacrificed in the name of state security, war profiteers, and politicians addicted to militarism.

Further details of Dr. Dhafir’s case are available at

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

US Violates Iranian Nuclear Deal Almost Every Day – Tehran

Sputnik – February 22, 2018

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said Thursday that the US violated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) almost every day, while Trump’s public statements contribute to this.

“It is a fact that the United States is not implementing the JCPOA [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], it is a fact that it violates it almost daily,” he told the BBC.

According to him, Trump’s statements regarding the deal being “bad,” or seeking to change it are a violation of the agreement.

“This violates the letter, not the spirit of the agreement,” the deputy minister added.

Speaking further, the senior Iranian official said that Iran would withdraw from the agreement if there would be no economic benefits for the country and major banks wouldn’t work with Iran.

“The deal would not survive this way even if the ultimatum is passed and waivers are extended,” Araqchi said.

The statement comes almost two weeks after US President Donald Trump delivered an ultimatum to the heads of European countries, saying that he wouldn’t extend the US sanctions relief on Iran if the sides refused to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal.

“The day before, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an exclusive interview with Sputnik that “the US has never adhered to its liabilities within the JCPOA.”

Fears of Syrian War Tearing Middle East Apart

Araghchi also commented on the on-going conflict in Syria, which has recently escalated after an Israeli F-16 jet was shot down by the Syrian Army as it was about to attack Iranian positions for allegedly flying a drone into Israel’s airspace.

The Deputy FM denied the accusations, claiming that the drone in fact belonged to the Syrian government.

At the same time, he underlined the policy of double standards on the part of Israeli  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had earlier branded Iran as the “greatest threat to our world,” while the Israeli military itself is frequently flying drones over Syria and  neighboring countries.

“They shouldn’t be angry when they are faced with something that they are doing against others on a daily basis,” Araghchi said.

The deputy minister noted that the incident has had a significant destabilizing impact on the de-escalation process in Syria and on the maintenance of peace in the Middle East.

“Fear of war is everywhere in our region,” Araghchi stated.

Nevertheless, Araghchi stressed that the presence of Iranian forces in Syria should not be misinterpreted as a threat to Israel, since their sole objective is to assist the government of Bashar al-Assad in combating terrorists.

“Just imagine if we were not there. Now you would have Daesh [the Islamic State group] in Damascus, and maybe in Beirut and other places,” he said.

The Deputy FM affirmed that the “de-escalation of tensions” is “very important” to the Iranian strategy in Syria, and the country has “worked hard to achieve that.”

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to Admit the Afghan War is ‘Nonsense’

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | February 22, 2018

Whatever happened to the Donald Trump who tweeted in 2013, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan … we waste billions there. Nonsense!”

And whatever happened to the reality TV star who used to tell under-performers, “you’re fired”?

Today, as commander in chief, President Trump is indefinitely extending the Afghan war’s record as the longest in U.S. history. He’s wasting $45 billion to wage it this year alone. And he’s not even thinking of firing his huckster generals who claim that sending a few thousand more troops and stepping up the bombing will be a “game changer.”

Much like the Vietnam War, every day’s news of war from Afghanistan puts the lie to optimistic claims of a military solution. A recent BBC study concluded that Taliban forces are now active in 70 percent of the country, more than at any time since the end of 2001. Unofficial U.S. estimates of their strength have soared from about 20,000 in 2014 to at least 60,000 today.

Afghan government forces number several times as many, but—like their counterparts in the Vietnam War—they “lack the one thing the U.S. cannot provide: the will to fight a protracted campaign against a committed enemy,” in the words of Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The Taliban have proven that no place in Afghanistan is safe from their long arm. At the beginning of February, they infiltrated a bomb-laden ambulance into Kabul, just blocks from a meeting at the Afghan Ministry of Defense with the head of the U.S. Central Command. Its blast killed more than 100 people and injured 235. It followed only days after Taliban gunmen stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least 20 people, including four Americans.

Inspector General Finds No Progress

The latest Inspector General report on the status of “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel,” issued Feb. 18, declares that U.S. and Afghan government forces made no progress last year in expanding their control of the country or in forcing the Taliban to the peace table, one of the administration’s stated goals.

“In addition,” the report said, “there were growing concerns about whether Afghanistan will be able to hold parliamentary elections as planned in July 2018, and the country was struggling to provide assistance to nearly two-million internally displaced persons.”

The report also highlighted the lethality of Taliban operations against Afghan military and police forces, but it declined to offer numbers, noting that the U.S. military had classified them at the request of the Afghan government.

To justify its optimism, the Trump administration has touted its ostensibly new tactic of bombing drug labs to deny the Taliban revenue. The Inspector General notes that such operations were undertaken as far back as 2009, to no end:

“The United Nations reported that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan set a new record in 2017. Cultivated land increased 63 percent over 2016 levels and potential opium production set a new record at 9,000 tons. The United Nations stated that the Afghan government’s strategic focus on protecting population centers in 2017 might have made rural populations more vulnerable to the influence of anti-government entities who pay local farmers to grow poppy and protect farmers from government eradication efforts.”

Similarly, U.S. military operations have failed to suppress Afghanistan’s version of ISIS, which recently conducted several spectacular terror attacks in Kabul. The U.S. command made “no discernible progress” on convincing Pakistan to close its borders to insurgents. Last but not least, the Afghan government remains a mess, riven by factional fights between President Ashraf Ghani and provincial warlords.

An Incoherent Policy

Meanwhile, unaddressed by the IG is the basic incoherence of a policy of bombing the Taliban into reconciliation. On paper, Washington aims to force the Taliban to the negotiating table, acknowledging that outright victory is impossible. But only this January, President Trump told members of the UN Security Council, “we don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” and a spokesman for President Ghani said recently, “We never negotiate with groups who resort to crime and the brutal killing of people and then claim responsibility for it.”

That sounds like a policy of stalemate if ever there was one.

“For years, we have been pursuing a strategy that will not win, but at the same time, we are doing just enough to ensure that we do not entirely lose,” concedes Kevin Hulbert, former CIA station chief in Kabul. “The way forward will be determined by clarifying our objectives, which to this point, have remained ambiguous at best.”

Clarifying our objectives would certainly help, but just as important are clarity about U.S. interests and capabilities.

Ever since 9/11, policy makers have largely taken American interests for granted. Yet aside from fantasies about developing Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, it’s hard to make a serious case that American lives and treasure will be more at risk from getting out of Afghanistan than continuing an endless war. The only significant interest at stake is political: no president wants to lose such a war.

And as to capabilities, the Obama-era surge proved that even with 100,000 troops, the United States cannot win a war against committed, indigenous insurgents who enjoy unlimited funding and protected foreign sanctuaries. Unlike the United States, the Taliban have nowhere to go. They will wait us out, even if that means fighting for another 16 years.

A decade ago, a top-level policy analysis requested by President George W. Bush admitted, “The United States is not losing in Afghanistan, but it is not winning either, and that is not good enough.” Those words are as true in 2018 as they were in 2008. The situation is still not good enough, and there’s no chance of it getting any better. It’s time for President Trump to wake up and say “you’re fired!” to anyone on his team who pretends otherwise.

Jonathan Marshall is the author or co-author of five books on U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. His articles on Afghanistan include “The Goal of ‘Not Losing’ in Afghanistan,”  “Blaming the Afghan War Failure on — Russia,” and “Afghanistan: President Obama’s Vietnam.”

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 4 Comments

‘Russian bots’ outcry: Is Twitter cracking down on people who ‘challenge the status quo’?

RT | February 22, 2018

It seems that ‘the bots’ (especially the ‘Russian bots’) narrative is being used as a kind of defensive mechanism, journalist and human rights activist Mike Raddie told RT amid reports of a massive account purge on Twitter.

A crackdown on bot spam or dissent?

“The whole meme of the bots, especially the ‘Russian bots,’ is actually being used as a kind of defensive mechanism,” said Mike Raddie. “Whenever people criticize the corporate media in the West – we’ve done it with the Guardian – they come back and say, ‘oh, you’re part of a Russian bot army,’ or a typical question is, ‘what’s the weather like in St. Petersburg? Is it snowing in Moscow yet?’ So it’s a very useful meme for corporate journalists to deflect any kind of criticism, especially over hot topics such as Syria, Ukraine – things like this.”

A number of Twitter accounts are said to have been flagged over the past few days, in what many have speculated is part of the company’s efforts to clamp down on the much-touted army of Russian-controlled automated accounts, or “bots.” However, Twitter has yet to elaborate on the reported mass purge, which allegedly also targeted users with right-wing views – raising concerns of political censorship on the popular social media platform. The hashtag #TwitterLockOut began trending on the site shortly after the suspensions.

“If Twitter has begun this campaign of eliminating or blocking people that have different ideas than the company wants to portray or the message that they want to get out, I think it’s very harming to democracy and freedom of speech,” Christian Mancera, a lawyer and 2018 congressional candidate, told RT. “We have to keep every single channel of communication open, and just because a person has a conservative view doesn’t make that person an enemy, or make that person politically incorrect. So I hope that Twitter comes forward and clarifies.”

Although his own outlet’s Twitter account recently received a 12-hour suspension, allegedly for “criticizing a multi-billionaire,” Raddie suggested that most users who get hit with the ban hammer are likely victims of the company’s “crude algorithm,” and not singled out by an actual Twitter employee. However, he said the company’s recent behavior suggests that when Twitter “sees challenges, serious challenges, to the status quo, they’re likely to limit activity or even block accounts or delete accounts.”

Hunting for ‘Russian links’

Dragged in front of the US Senate last year as part of efforts to expose “Russian influence” in the 2016 presidential elections, Twitter initially revealed that it had identified 201 “Russia-linked” accounts operating on its platform. After Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) expressed disappointment in the anticlimactic findings, Twitter raised its figure to 36,746.

As part of its autumn crackdown, Twitter banned an account owned by an African-American political activist from Atlanta – allegedly for her “links” to Russia. “This whole suppression of voices in using this Russian scare tactic is just way too far,” Charlie Peach, who has absolutely no ties to Russia, told RT back in October.

“In my lifetime I’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t remember the McCarthyism era, obviously, because I’m not that old, but my parents talked to me about it and things that were occurring at the time,” Peach told RT. “It ensures that the 1 percent continues to have a narrative and that anyone who opposes that are no longer allowed to speak. You look at CNN, MSNBC ‒ they gave us the Iraq War. This is what they do. The main media houses that run everything are the ones that continue to push the propaganda and make sure we’re shut down.”

In January, the US Senate Intelligence Committee published answers provided by Twitter, Facebook and Google in response to questions concerning Russia’s alleged use of social media to meddle with American democracy. In its written response, Twitter disclosed that it had identified nine accounts as being “potentially linked to Russia that promoted election-related, English-language content.” Of these nine nefarious accounts “potentially linked” to Russia, “the most significant use of advertising was by @RT_com and @RT_America. Those two accounts collectively ran 44 different ad campaigns, accounting for nearly all of the relevant advertising we reviewed,” according to Twitter. Conspicuously absent from Twitter’s written statement was the fact that the American tech giant traveled to Moscow to pitch a proposal for RT to spend huge sums on advertising for the US presidential election – an offer which RT declined.

‘Shadow ban’ controversy

More recently, in January, conservative journalism watchdog Project Veritas released undercover footage of current and former Twitter staff who appear to admit to silencing conservative voices using “shadow bans” – which block a user or their content from reaching a wider audience without their knowledge.

“We’re giving away an awful lot to these companies, but when they come out and publicly say they want to be the public forum for free speech, yet they’re censoring free speech and they are slanting what free speech can or cannot be heard, then there’s a problem,” Project Veritas executive director Russell Verney told RT.

Read more:

Buzz kill: Tech giants struggle to find ‘Russian meddling’ in written answers to US Senate

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

When Will Congress Investigate All Interference in Elections?

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 22.02.2018

The atmosphere in the United States regarding possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is something like hysteria, with a real danger that bilateral relations might break down completely as a result. Indeed, a number of politicians and senior government officials have described the allegations that Moscow sought to influence the election results as an “act of war” with Congressman Jerold Nadler even declaring that it was similar to Pearl Harbor.

Assuming that the indictment against 13 Russians and 3 Russian companies filed last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is accurate, the reported activity of the Internet Research Agency could indeed have been part of an intelligence operation seeking to influence developments in the US, but the organization’s employees also displayed considerable amateur behavior, suggesting that they were not professional spies, supporting the stronger argument that it was not a Russian government-run operation at all.

And the United States is hardly innocent when it comes to interfering in the domestic politics of both friends and enemies. That is very often what intelligence agencies are designed to do, and no one is more active in interfering in foreign governments and elections than the United States of America. The Russian election featuring Boris Yeltsin in 1996 was arranged by Washington working with the International Monetary Fund, and more recently there was the $5 billion invested in bringing “democracy” to Ukraine in 2014. The US was also involved in many of the elections in post-war Europe, most particularly in countries whose own democratic systems were still evolving. The CIA worked to keep communists out of the government in Italy’s 1976 national election. Conservative parties received sacks of money and articles warning about communism appeared in all the major newspapers. The major covert action proceeded even though Italy was a NATO member and the corruption that the intervention brought with it has blighted Italian politics to this day.

And then, there are America’s friends who in similar fashion interfere in US politics to support their own national agendas. Most active recently have been Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which have an identical foreign policy goal, which is to end what they describe as the Iranian threat in their region. As neither has the resources to go it alone, both seek to involve the United States in what would likely be a catastrophic war for all involved, leaving Riyadh and Tel Aviv standing on the sidelines to pick up the pieces.

The Saudi lobby in the United States operates largely below the surface, working on individual congressmen and through the funding of think tanks. Israel’s manipulation of the US is, however, much more in the open. One can argue that what we are now calling Russiagate all started when Trump National Security Adviser designate Michael Flynn called Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, on December 22, 2016. The call was made at the direction of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who, in turn, had been approached by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change a U.N. vote critical of Israel.

Kushner asked Flynn, the soon-to-be National Security Adviser, to help Israel by undermining what was being done by the still-in-power American government in Washington headed by President Barack Obama. In legal terms this most certainly could be construed as covered by the “conspiracy against the United States” statute that the Mueller investigation has exploited in the recent Russian indictments.

Mueller’s indictment specifically claimed that the Russians created false US personas while also stealing actual identities. But the Russians are being accused of involvement in activity that Israel engages in openly. It has interfered in US elections, to include promoting Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012, and has a powerful and well-funded lobby in AIPAC that intervenes aggressively in American foreign and domestic policy. And the Israeli government’s propaganda arm uses its hasbara to use false internet identities to confuse and deflect critical stories. They do so routinely and do not even try to hide what they are doing. Part of their agenda is to smear critics and elect politicians favorable to them.

So, when will Mueller and the several congressional committees that are investigating the Russians move on to the topic of Israel and Saudi Arabia to find out what really effective foreign influencing operations looks like? Given the power of Israel and the Saudis over Congress, probably never.

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 4 Comments

Overthrowing Syrian govt is aim of West’s proposed UNSC resolution – Lavrov

RT | February 22, 2018

The real goal of the West-brokered UN Security Council resolution on Syria is to put the blame on Damascus for everything and provide cover for militants, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

The authors of the resolution on humanitarian issues in Syria, which is to be discussed at the UNSC meeting on Thursday evening, want to “shift the focus” from the peace process “to blaming the Syrian government in order to promote ‘plan B,’ namely overthrowing the regime in violation of resolution 2257,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Belgrade.

If the US continues to ignore Russia’s position, Moscow will have no other choice than to infer that the authors of the initiative “again want to put the blame on Damascus and provide cover for militant groups,” the minister added.

Russia is also preparing a resolution on humanitarian issues in Syria, amid concerns over the escalating violence in the country. Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, has seen a new wave of clashes between Syrian government forces and both rebel and Islamist factions operating in the area.

Together with Iran and Turkey, Russia is tasked with enforcing the ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta, one of the de-escalation zones established as a result of the Astana talks in May 2017. The Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria earlier suggested the militants leaving the area, but the proposal was rejected, according to Lavrov.

“The Al-Nusra Front [currently known as Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham] and those who interact with it have firmly rejected the proposal and continue to shell the city from their positions, using the civilian population of Eastern Ghouta as a human shield,” the diplomat stressed.

February 22, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment