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War Inc. Shifts Homeward

by Kelley B. Vlahos

It’s been said many times that the war is a self-sustaining industry that requires a constant threat overseas to keep the machine thriving at home. Looking at the millions if not billions of dollars spent on securing “national special security events” against its own citizens, it’s clear that protesters have become the threat that has allowed, in part, the warfare state to flourish on American soil.

Sound dramatic? One need only to look at the lockdown of our cities during these “events” — whether it be the NATO Summit in Chicago today, or preparations to militarize the cities of Tampa and Charlotte for the Democratic and Republican conventions this summer — to see that the constitutionally protected, American tradition of protest has become a reason for law enforcement to spend their quickly evaporating budgets each year on new toys and overtime — including the latest in surveillance, crowd control gear and communications equipment, not to mention the helicopters overhead and armed vehicles on the ground.

Just as important, this threat allows the federal government to extend its own powers under the Patriot Act onto Main Street, all in the order of counterterrorism and national security.

No one would dispute that the gathering of representatives from 50 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including 28 members of the military alliance in Afghanistan, warrants extra security. Indeed, we live in a world today where gunmen walk right up to U.S. members of Congress and shoot them in the head, or pack cars full of explosives on the city street. But it becomes increasingly clear, after 10 years of conventions and “special events” with little or no incident, that the specter of terrorism is being used to generate intimidating and repressive conditions, particularly against peaceful protesters, and proliferating an industry that thrives on domestic conflict and chaos.

What is this industry? Look no further than the advertisements for this year’s GovSec 2012, the annual security exposition held in Washington, D.C. In April, it promised to help “arm homeland security professionals and law enforcement professionals alike with the training and tools they need to detect, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks — from large-scale international threats to the dangers posed by homegrown extremists and lone wolves.”

According to this report, funding for the U.S. homeland security and homeland defense sector (including federal, state and local governments, and the private sector) will grow from $184 billion in 2011 to $205 billion by 2014. The market will grow from $73 billion in 2011 to $86 billion by 2014.

“The face of terrorism is constantly changing,” insisted GovSec Director Don Berey in a GovSec press release. “As a result, it is critical that those on the front lines of homeland security understand where new threats may arise and how their strategies must be adjusted to remain ever vigilant.” Adjusted, and paid for.

Thus, the endless war over there, becomes the endless war at home. Chicago is just the latest example of putting these new “strategies” to use. Talking about Chicago last week on Democracy Now!, Bill Ayers, University of Illinois professor and right-wing nemesis, explained:

There’s a mass campaign. They’re shutting Lakeshore Drive. They’re shutting the trains. They’re closing exits off the freeways. And they’re creating a kind of culture of fear. We have police officers we—who are friends of ours, we run into in coffee shops. They’ve told us that the training is focused a lot on the danger of the protesters and how you should be careful when you grab one of them, because they might have some kind of poison spike in their sleeve or something. I mean, it really is quite nuts.

At the same time, they’ve denied permits, taken permits away, given them back, been very vague about making any agreement with the protesters…we insist that this is a family-friendly, nonviolent, permitted march. And all the kind of hysteria about what’s about to happen is really brought on by the police. I don’t think anything is going to happen, except that they are creating the conditions for a police riot, once again.

Reports on Monday morning indicated that 45 people were arrested and four officers injured, including a police officer who was reportedly stabbed during a dramatic clash with protesters on Sunday night. In his remarks to reporters Sunday, Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy blamed the “black bloc” for rushing the police and precipitating the violence.

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Filed under News Commentary Antiwar War DHS Police Police state

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So then Who in the Hell Are We?

Dan DeWalt

“This is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for.”
— Jeff Gearhart, Wall-Mart general counsel, on the firm’s Mexico bribery

[Torture] “is not the norm.”
— Mike Pannek, Abu Ghraib prison warden.

“This is not who we are.”
— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the US massacre of 16 Afghan villagers.

“This is not who we are.”
— General John Allen, commander of forces in Afghanistan, on Koran burning

“This is not who we are.”
— Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on troops posing with enemy body parts

“This is not who we are.”
— Secretary of State Clinton, also on troops posing with enemy body parts

Spying by the New York Police on Muslims in Newark, NJ, which the Newark Police Chief was alerted to, is “not who we are”
— Newark Mayor Cory Booker

“I can tell you something all of you know already - that using pepper spray on peaceful protesters runs counter to our values. It does not reflect well on this university and it absolutely is not who we are.”
— UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who ordered campus police to use force to clear peaceful student occupiers from the campus, leading to pepper spraying of students

Ripping families apart by deporting the undocumented parents of American-born children is “not who we are.”
— President Barack Obama

“This larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own — that’s not who we are.”
— President Barack Obama

“You can’t say, well, we developed trade and the economic relations first and the disregard of human rights. That’s not who we are. We are the United States of America.”
— Sasha Gong, director of the China branch of Voice of America
 

The latest PR catch phrase from business, administration, military, state and local officials after some atrocity or other is that whatever happened, it is certainly “not who we are,” a phrase appropriately initially uttered by the Vietnam War commander, Gen. William Westmoreland, with reference to the My Lai slaughter of 400 women, children and old men, all civilians, by a group of US soldiers.
 Not who we are?American atrocities: Not who we are? Really?

Yet if all these abominations are not “who we are,” then why do our business, police and military and government institutions generate so many examples of obscene, horrific or criminal behavior?

If we examine the culture that guides our young men and women in battle, our public safety employees in their duties, or our business class in its pursuit of profit, it’s easy to see how shameful and reprehensible episodes such as these have become as routine as they have.

Take the military. The Pentagon achieves its ends by through war. Troops must be obedient and willing to kill. This doesn’t come naturally, so the military branches have to reprogram civilian recruits raised to believe killing is wrong so that they can be part of a murderous enterprise. After breaking down an enlistee’s individuality, trainers then teach them to despise “the other,” whomever it may be — kraut, gook, rag-head depending on the generation and the particular war. Only after sufficiently dehumanizing both the recruit and the future enemy can they mold a soldier who will do the dirty work demanded by an imperial nation. Then they build these soldiers into super-fit, adrenaline-charged fighters, surround them with propaganda that demonizes the enemy of the moment, and set them loose to “get the job done.”

The troops who are sent to Afghanistan find themselves in a conflict with no clear objective, let alone an achievable one. They face an able and motivated foe with a very simple objective: to drive the occupier out of their country. As U.S. losses mount, frustrations grow and pressure increases. It is an unfortunate commonplace that armed troops vent their anger with lethal force upon local civilian populations. Their ability to do that is part and parcel of their training that worked so hard to dehumanize these same people.

It is a sick hypocrisy for Obama, Clinton, Panetta, or Allen to claim that these actions are not a direct result of U.S. military and foreign policy. If Dick Cheney and John Yoo were torturing language and logic to advocate the torture of humans, why wouldn’t guards at Abu Ghraib fall into the same debased state of mind? (For example, years after he claimed it was “not who we are,” documents proved that, ahead of the My Lai massacre, Westmoreland himself had issued rules-of-engagement orders that any civilians found in Communist-held territory like My Lai, a “free-fire” zone, were to be considered enemy combatants, and treated the same as Viet Cong.)

Those in power attempt to frame the issue within the “one bad apple in the barrel” rubric. As long as they can pretend that war crimes and atrocities aren’t a logical outcome of official policy, they can shift blame to those without power and keep the odious policies in place. The cabinet secretary sanctimoniously intones platitudes about morality at the same time as one of his underlings is screaming “KILL!” into a fresh recruit’s trembling face.

The same kind of thing happens in the case of police and federal law enforcement officials. Increasingly militarized themselves, they are trained to believe not that their duty is to “protect and serve” or to uphold the nation’s freedoms and liberty, but rather that they are centurions tasked with enforcing “order” and protecting property—generally government property and the property of the wealthy. The general public then becomes a kind of “enemy” to be subdued with whatever force is necessary. Those who stand up for their rights under the law are perceived as threats to the authority of the enforcers, and are dealt with as enemies, to be beaten, pepper-sprayed in the face, spied upon and locked up.

Meanwhile, a farce of morals plays itself out in an endless cycle in the business world. Siemens, Boeing, Wal-Mart are just three prominent recent examples of corporations which have been exposed for using bribery as a standard business practice. Sam Walton may have started his company with some notion of honest (if ruthless) business practices, but the current business culture promotes success at any cost. Coming in second is for losers, and bribery of foreign (and domestic) officials is just another tool in the toolbox, as they like to say.

Just because these shameful acts may indeed indicate who or what our Empire’s institutions are, it does not mean that it is who we are as well. Most Americans, as well as most Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians etc., would not commit the types of acts that have made our nation infamous over the years. But if we are truly better than that, if this is not who we are, then we had better do something about the fact we are being represented to the world by the very actions that we find so heinous.

Even as countries are being abused by U.S. foreign policy, their people are often slow to blame or hate the American people. They often show a remarkable understanding that governments rarely represent their peoples’ wishes.

But we are the nation that is burdened by an impassioned rhetoric that asserts that we are the beacon of democracy, that we are captains of our own destiny. Our supposed innocence of the crimes of Empire and rapacious capitalism can be accepted for only so long. Eventually, we too must share the blame for the actions of our government and our economic culture. It is essential that we do hold every level of business and government accountable for every action that betrays America’s promise, both at home and abroad.

It is time to stop pretending that we are not also accountable. It is time to end militarism at home and abroad and to put people before profits. It won’t be the militarists and the profiteers who make such changes, though. It can only be us.  

Otherwise, maybe former Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells had it right, when he said, “You are what your record says you are.”

Filed under News Commentary Antiwar Walmart Torture USA America

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Bringing the ‘War on Terrorism’ Home

Cleveland May Day terrorist plot – another frame-up by the Feds

by Justin Raimondo

The Obama cult is revving up its motors for the reelection campaign, with Joe Bidendeclaiming “General Motors is alive and bin Laden is dead”: that’s the signature slogan MSNBC apparently intends to repeat endlessly until we get some relief on election day. It must be the concatenation of the stars in alignment with Mars, but it looks like I actually agree with something Arianna Huffington said: that this campaign slogan is “despicable,” which it surely is. Naturally, Ms. Huffington doesn’t acknowledge the lie at the heart of the first part of that slogan: GM still hasn’t paid back the bailout money shelled out by taxpayers. If they’re making money, why not reimburse the tax slaves? But never mind: what concerns us here is that the Obama administration is taking credit for a long process – finding OBL – that began in the Bush administration and only culminated under this President’s watch.

But never mind that, too, because one has to wonder: who cares that bin Laden is dead when our endless “war on terrorism” continues? As Glenn Greenwald points out, that war hasn’t slowed down a bit, indeed it is escalating – not only abroad, where our“regime change” machine is homing in on Syria and Iran after having devastated Libya and destabilized Pakistan, but also here in this country. Is it just a coincidence that on May Day, the very day the “Occupy” movement chose for nationwide protests against corporate dominance of American politics, the FBI announced the arrest of five “anarchists” who were supposedly plotting to blow up a bridge in Cleveland?

Not that there was ever any danger of the bridge actually being blown up: like all the high-profile “domestic terrorism” cases touted by the feds these days, this was yet another case of the FBI infiltrating a fringy group and instigating its members into participating in a bogus “plot,” which the feds could then hold up as another “success story” in their ongoing domestic “war on terrorism.” It’s a veritable growth industry, one the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have a vested interest in propagating and encouraging: the more “plots” they can uncover, the more tax dollars are poured into their coffers.

That the timing of this announcement is politically motivated is obvious even to the most naïve observer: this administration is directly threatened by the Occupy movement, in spite of their strenuous attempts to co-opt it. The President’s war chest this time around is going to dwarf that of the Republicans, supposedly the party ofCorporate Greed, and the bucks aren’t coming from little old ladies on Social Security and college students dipping into their piggy banks. Last election season, Obama’s bundlers outpaced the Republicans by more than two-to-one, unleashing a veritable cornucopia of corporate donations, earning him the soubriquet “the candidate from Goldman Sachs.” Rather than put up with dissent from his left flank, Obama and his minions in law enforcement are seemingly determined to frame up the Occupy movement just like they tried to do the same with the ultra-right-wing “Hutaree” militia – and let’s hope they have as much success with the former as they did with the latter. Because the judge in the Hutaree case threw the government’s case out, acquitted the defendants, and rebuked prosecutors for bringing the case to court in the first place.

The Hutaree were engaged in a lot of talk, some of it ill-considered, but that is not a crime. The only crime involved the instigations of a paid government informer who insisted that the Hutaree carry out a “war” against the federal government and concocted a plan to kill some police officers. One of the defendants came out of the trial advising people to “watch what you say” – because “even the most innocent statements can be used against you.” In post-9/11 America, that’s sage advice.

The Hutaree militia members were charged with “seditious conspiracy” to overthrow the government, based on over 100 hours of clandestinely recorded audio and the testimony of their paid informant. No doubt prosecutors knew they were treading on shaky legal grounds, but obtaining a conviction is not necessarily the government’s first concern in cases of this kind, because the effect of such prosecutions is to publicize the difficulties “anti-government” individuals and organizations will run into if they persist in their activities. These cases have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech, and that is a key aspect of these trumped-up cases. Are you going to oppose the will of the federal government and get yourself into all sorts of trouble – or are you going to keep a low profile, keep your mouth shut, and avoid all sort of unpleasant legal problems? That’s the question “anti-government” activists have to ask themselves, these days, and there’s no doubt many potential dissidents are choosing the second alternative.

In the Cleveland case, we are assured that the elements of the “bomb” wereinoperable, and the FBI was in on the details of the “conspiracy” from day one: in other words, this was another Hutaree-type “plot,” a pretext for the government to entrap and prosecute “dangerous radicals” whose only crime is operating outside an acceptable ideological context. In short, it is a propaganda exercise designed to show that the feds need all the “legal tools” given to them by the “Patriot” Act – and that these incursions on our constitutional rights need to be preserved and extended. It’s propaganda aimed at keeping Americans fearful, so that they’ll surrender what is left of their rights to a government ready, willing, and eager to extend its authority into every aspect of our lives – in the name of “fighting terrorism.”

Our phony “war on terrorism” on the international front has given the government ablank check to descend on Americans and root out “subversion” while trampling on free speech and narrowing the range of permissible dissent. One by one, the liberties guaranteed to us in the Constitution are being chipped away by government prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and politicians on the make. Last time this happened – around 1776 – the American people had to take matters into their own hands in order to teach them a lesson – a lesson it appears they have forgotten. And if this be “seditious conspiracy,” then let the feds make the most of it!

Filed under News Commentary War on terror DHS FBI Dissent antiwar False flag Cleveland Ohio

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Waking Up to the Drones

By Kelley B. Vlahos

Look at these photographs. See the eager faces among the children at the school — they could be anyone’s kids at any moment in America. And the baby, so precious and new, reflecting the light of his proud parents, the hope of everyone around him.

Now imagine that the school is attacked by Predator drones launching Hellfire missiles directly into the classrooms. The children are ripped to shreds where they sit on the carpet. Imagine that a similar flying machine, directed by an agent thousands of miles away in a windowless room, has targeted militants on the ground, but shrapnel from the blast slices through the walls of a nearby house, cutting into the crib where the sleeping baby lies unknowing, now eternal.

The very thought would tear the American mind asunder — on normal days, we worry almost neurotically whether our children are exposed to too many germs, eat too much junk food, are doing all the right things to get into college. We hand-wring over the clothes they wear, the video games they play, whether they are friendless and bullied, or sufficiently popular with their peers.

Pondering what attire to place on their little mutilated bodies before lowering them into the grave would be too much to bear. If this actually happened, there would be a conflagration of outrage in U.S cities and towns fearsome enough to build a funeral pyre to the sky.

Yet Pakistani and Yemeni adults face this merciless task all of the time from drone attacks they can neither control nor protest. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been upwards of 350 U.S. military and CIA drone strikes on Yemen and Pakistan since 2004, with the majority in Yemen (20 to 36) occurring in the last two months. As if their children were less valuable than our own, most Americans either ignore or remain passive-aggressively ignorant of the civilian carnage associated with these so-called “targeted strikes.”

Sadly, this has translated into broad public support of what has become the third post-9/11 American War following Iraq and Afghanistan — the Drone War. As coldly as the remote control technology behind these killing machines, Americans appear perfectly accepting of the most self-centered and weakest justifications: drones are making us safer at home, or, it is their fault for allowing the militants to hide among civilians.

Drones make for a cleaner, more precise war against the enemy.

A sizable group of human rights activists, law scholars and antiwar campaigners came together last weekend in Washington to not only turn that thinking completely on its head, but to formulate a strategy to stop the use of drones in warfare altogether. It is a herculean task, but aided in the fact that these groups already are engaged in a number of simultaneous lawsuits, Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests and field investigations with the goal of first bringing the brutal truth — perhaps their best weapon — to public light.

Syed Wali Shah, killed in an October 2008 airstrike in Waziristan

“The stories are really important to be told here, first of all, we have to see exactly what is going on the ground and what is happening to these people,” said Shahzad Akbar, who was finally able to obtain a travel visa to the U.S after repeatedly running into the brick wall of the “homeland security structure,” ostensibly because he is helping drone victims from Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) — the epicenter of the U.S strikes in Pakistan — file lawsuits against the CIA in Islamabad courts.

Akbar was a special guest of the weekend’s Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control, which was probably the first event of its kind and hopefully, not the last. It was sponsored by CODEPINK (led by Medea Benjamin, author of the new book, Drone Warfare), the Foundation for Fundamental Rights (represented by Akbar) and U.K.-based Reprieve (led by founder Clive Stafford Smith, an American lawyer who represents Guantanamo Bay detainees)

Akbar and others, like journalist Madiha Tahir, who is working on a documentary about the Waziristan victims, were able to bring disturbing photo images, video and personal testimony to the forum, more than a few times shocking the audience with the brutality of the injuries and the horror of knowing that many of these victims, so many of them children, never knew what hit them, the strikes came so fast.

Read more …

Filed under News Commentary Drones Antiwar CIA US Military FBI Killing Afghanistan Iraq

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‘Lasting Pride’ For the Hell We Left in Iraq

By John Glaser

“We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” – President Barack Obama, Fort Bragg, N.C., December 2011

“You will leave with great pride – lasting pride.” – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to U.S. troops, December 2011

I’ve written repeatedly about the terrible dictatorship and lasting sectarian violenceWashington left in Iraq after the troop withdrawal of December 2011. Contrary to the lies of these indecent politicians, the enduring effects of the illegal U.S. war in Iraq are still causing havoc and bloodshed throughout the country. Iraq is neither secure, nor is it a democracy as was promised by warmongers in Washington.

A new Congressional Research Service report takes a look at post-withdrawal Iraq and at one point lists the most high-profile incidents of sectarian violence:

On February 7, 2012, the AQ-I affiliate Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for two of the deadliest attacks on Shiites since the U.S. withdrawal—on January 5 and January 14, 2012, which killed 78 and 53 Shiite pilgrims, respectively. In one of the most complex attacks in recent months, on February 23, 2012, bombings in 12 Iraqi cities killed over 50 persons; based on the method and scope of the attacks, Iraqi observers attributed the attacks to AQ-I. AQ-I claimed responsibility for a broad series of attacks—encompassing six cities—on March 20, 2012; over 40 persons were killed. Another spate of attacks took place in Baghdad and Kirkuk on April 19, 2012, killing about 36 persons.

As for the record of the government (other than what’s included in the above hyperlinks), the report had this to say:

The State Department’s report on human rights for 2010 released April 8, 2011, largely repeated the previous year’s characterizations of Iraq’s human rights record as follows: “Extremist violence, coupled with weak government performance in upholding the rule of law, resulted in widespread and severe human rights abuses.” The State Department report cited a wide range of human rights problems committed by Iraqi government security and law enforcement personnel, including some unlawful killings; torture and other cruel punishments; poor conditions in prison facilities; denial of fair public trials; arbitrary arrest; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; limits on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association due to sectarianism and extremist threats; lack of protection of stateless persons; wide scale governmental corruption; human trafficking; and limited exercise of labor rights.

All this, as America continues to give money and weapons to the Maliki government. What exactly do U.S. troops have to be proud about?

Filed under News Commentary Iraq antiwar dissent War Washington DC Pentagon

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How Think Tanks Think

Side Note: I love Kelley Vlahos.
_____________________________________________________________________

by 
Kelley B. Vlahos

When liberal Americans find themselves at a loss as to why Democrats appear to walk, talk and gurgle like Republicans on national security issues — especially during election season — they honestly need to look no further than the powerful think tank apparatus in Washington for the culprit.

First of all, it is important to understand that Washington is place that breeds and feeds only on power — power ordained on seemingly endless revenue sources, charitable, political and the kind you and I send to Uncle Sam in a thick white envelope every April 15. One’s power is determined by their placement in the pecking order and every four years elections determine who is in the big house parlor holding the purse, and who is stewing in the guestroom, plotting to take over when the other dies.

Everything else — the non-profits, lobbyists, unions, trade associations, and all the agencies that make up the massive federal bureaucracy, are the animals in the barnyard, fighting for slop and supremacy. Not surprisingly, the military rooster is usually bullying everyone around, including the thin skins in the house.

Therefore, federal elections that determine members of the House and Senate and who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are not — contrary to what were taught in grade school — a near-religious American ritual that determines the kind of ideas and principles that will guide the Republic, but an extremely expensive, often cut-throat contest to see who gets to drive the car (further into the ditch).

Thus, after endless campaign slogans calling for “reform” and “change” and “getting the money out of Washington,” there’s never any real effort at doing any of those things when the time comes, because no one, once in Washington, wants to alter the stakes. Locked into this timeless struggle, Republicans and Democrats know that money is power and vice-versa. The man who once said “I hate a Roman named Status Quo!” never sat in the Roman Senate.

Which brings us to our vaunted think tanks. The most influential ones in Washington have the most money (tons of contributions from corporations, foundation grants, individuals and associations) and with few exception play the biggest role in advancing Republican and Democratic agendas, though for tax purposes most will call themselves “non partisan” or some such hooey. Those more obliquely partisan still fall along “liberal” or “conservative” lines (with Cato the only major libertarian vessel).

Think tank success requires fealty to certain principles that tether thinking and general policy-making to the establishment hive, or better yet, the barnyard mentality. For sure, the Washington think tank world at second blush is a rather bland cultural orthodoxy that while allowing for seemingly stark shifts in ideology and method, belies a clubby landscape in which the same chief actors set tone and prioritize issues, blessing those who prove themselves “of the body,” and quietly boxing out those who don’t.

Thus, they are as parochial as they are loyal to the duopoly that dominates the nation’s politics and its centers of power: Congress, the White House and the Pentagon establishment, otherwise known as the military industrial complex (MIC).

I’d like to concentrate on one such think tank because not only does it exhibit everything we’re discussing in spades, but because Antiwar.com and its audience is particularly interested in the MIC, and how war has become a corrupt and supremely political business that has made a lot of people inside the Beltway rich and many more outside of it, dead.

Last week, Josh Rogin of ForeignPolicy.com wrote what could only be described as a press release for the aptly named Truman National Security Project. Calling it “a major arm of the progressive foreign-policy establishment in Washington,” that “does not self-identify with either political party,” Rogin went on to report that the group had released its new “Truman Security Briefing Book,” a “comprehensive collection of suggested messaging, issue framing, and policy options for Democratic officials and candidates to use this summer and fall.”

Don’t choke on the chicken scratch yet. It gets worse. Rogin calls the group “left of center,” which it is decidedly not. To maintain this non-partisan fiction, the Truman people call themselves “progressives,” but while the rest of us in the 21st century are thinking this means liberal “reformers,” their “blueprint” for success suggests they are reliable foreign policy hegemons with a humanitarian interventionist philosophy harking further back from their namesake to Wilsonian progressivism itself. In their world, neoconservatives are much preferred over foreign policy “realists” or non-interventionists, which they casually refer to as pitiable isolationists anyway.

Whatever they are, with the number of Clinton era retreads, Democratic operatives, corporate suits, defense contractors and current or former congressional and administration staff attached to this outfit, no one should confuse the Truman Project with anything other than a re-election campaign that promises to keep the war machine humming no matter who is elected to office.

The People

One need to go no further to understand the dynamic at work here than the advisory board, on which sits former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who once infamously said while advocating the bombing of Bosnia, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” She also said, when asked in a 1996 interview about the estimated half a million children dead due to Clinton’s Iraq sanctions, that “we think the price is worth it.” She now stewards her own lucrative “global strategy” consulting firm, The Albright Group LLC.

Then there’s Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which makes him a made man in the purest embodiment of the foreign policy establishment there is. Gelb confessed in 2009 that he supported the Iraq War because the hive made him do it. You may not have heard of Robert Abernethy, head of American Standard Development Co., but he sits on the board and serves as trustee at dozens of schools, associations, colleges and think tanks, including Brookings, the RAND Corporation, CFR, the Pacific Council and Johns Hopkins University. He’s also raised some $80,000 in campaign contributions for Democrats since the beginning of 2011 and tens of thousands more over the past decade. He also sits on the Truman board.

Read more …

Filed under Commentary Antiwar CFR Washington DC RAND Corporation

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Is America a Free Country?

by Justin Raimondo

The “war on terrorism” has inaugurated a new era in the American polity, a sea-change that has not only threatened to overturn traditional limits on government power but also corrupted the political culture – and opened the way to the terminal crisis of the Constitution.

In a revealing series of interviews on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” program, three individuals targeted by the American surveillance state – William Binney, former top NSA official, Jacob Applebaum, an internet security specialist who works with WikiLeaks, and Laura Poitras, an Oscar-nominated documentary film-maker whose work has brought her to the attention of US authorities and led to her harassment by US government agents – give compelling evidence that the answer to the question in the title of this piece is clearly an emphatic no.

Binney resigned his position with the National Security Agency (NSA) after 40 years in protest at the government’s increasingly totalitarian methods of data-collection and retention, without judicial oversight. The government has targeted him: in 2007, his home was invaded by FBI agents after he went to the Senate Intelligence Committee with revelations about illegal NSA spying on American citizens: they pointed guns at him, and warned that he would “not do well” in prison. Applebaum and Poitras have been detained, searched, and interrogated every time they have re-entered the US from abroad – Poitras over 40 times – and had their laptops seized and presumably copied. None of these individuals have been charged with a crime.

The degree to which our constitutionally-protected liberties have been usurped is shockingly described by Binney:

AMYGOODMAN: Do you believe all emails, the government has copies of, in the United States?

WILLIAMBINNEY: I would think—I believe they have most of them, yes.

GOODMAN: And you’re speaking from a position where you would know, considering your position in the National Security Agency.

BINNEY: Right. All they would have to do is put various Narus devices at various points along the network, at choke points or convergent points, where the network converges, and they could basically take down and have copies of most everything on the network.

While this level of surveillance started during the Bush administration, under President Obama, says Binney:

The surveillance has increased. In fact, I would suggest that they’ve assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens. 

AMY GOODMAN: How many? 

WILLIAM BINNEY: Twenty trillion.”

What are they doing with all those emails? They’re targeting their enemies, domestic as well as foreign, and combining this information with “meta-data” – i.e. financial records, credit card transactions – to create comprehensive profiles of those on their enemies list. There’s nothing to stop them from “leaking” this information to anyone, for any purpose – because it all takes place in the dark. And if they want to find something on you, they will find it and use it. This, in short, is what it means to say one lives in a police state. Glenn Greenwald wrote about this in a recent column, and he said something very important that we should all focus on:

So just look at what happens to people in the U.S. if they challenge government actions in any meaningful way — if they engage in any meaningful dissent. We love to tell ourselves that there are robust political freedoms and a thriving free political press in the U.S. because you’re allowe d to have an MSNBC show or blog in order to proclaim every day how awesome and magnanimous the President of the United States is and how terrible his GOP political adversaries are — howbrave,cutting andedgy! — or to go on Fox News and do the opposite. But people who are engaged in actual dissent, outside the tiny and narrow permissible boundaries of pom-pom waving for one of the two political parties — those who are focused on the truly significant acts which the government and its owners are doing in secret — are subjected to this type of intimidation, threats, surveillance, and climate of fear, all without a whiff of illegal conduct.”

All modern dictatorships employ the same method of limited freedom in certain realms, expanding and contracting the parameters of the permissible according to the tactical advantage of the moment, and yet always upholding the first principle of any and all tyrannies: that the government grants such “rights” as “free speech” and “free assembly” at its sole discretion. Which means they can be rescinded at a moment’s notice.

This state of conditional freedom that allows these governments to maintain the official fiction they are “liberal” democracies. With Fox News and MSNBC braying at one another, and the airwaves filled with corporate-funded political ads detailing the dirt on this or that candidate, the illusion of liberality persists. Yet all one has to do is challenge the “national security” prerogatives of an ever-expanding American empire – as Binney, Applebaum, and Poitras did – and suddenly one is transported into the world of It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis’s masterful evocation of what a distinctively American dictatorship might look like, Orwell’s 1984, or some other dystopian vision of a totalitarian future. Reading these warnings today, one cannot escape their archaic air: not because the visions projected in these novels turned out to be wrong, but precisely because they have already come true. 

Take Orwell’s classic work, which posited a world in a state of perpetual warfare (check!), where constant and universal surveillance is the norm (check!), where “thoughtcrime” is ruthlessly punished, and where most ordinary people (the “proles”) are basically left alone, with totalitarian methods of repression directed almost exclusively against rebellious elites (check!) This last item is the point Greenwald made in his piece, and it bears repeating and elaboration. The idea is to make it possible to exert control without affecting how most people live their lives. If you aren’t a “whistle-blower,” a Julian Assange, or a Bradley Manning: if you don’t reveal closely-guarded government secrets, if you aren’t making documentaries about how the Americans conquered and lorded over the Iraqis, then you have nothing to worry about. There are no political prisons, no gulags – but if you step out of bounds the government has enough information to discredit, destroy, and/or imprison you. Two journalists – Tom Vanden Brook, a writer for USA Today, and Ray Locker, an editor – who were writing about the Pentagon’s use of military contractors to whitewash its sorry record in Iraq and Afghanistan, found that a website and a false Twitter account in their names made a sudden appearance, in what appeared to be a coordinated effortto discredit them and their work.

The contractors deny all involvement, and, yes, this happened under the Obama administration – last week. Barack Obama is an essential element of the developing totalitarian trend in the United States: indeed, I would argue his reelection is theessential factor pushing this process forward. “Lean forward!” barks MSNBC – but forward to what?

This is a question I needn’t ask myself, for the simple reason that I was never a supporter of the President, and am an unlikely candidate for membership in the Obama cult. My political views might be described as somewhat to the “right” of Ayn Rand, when it comes to domestic issues, and far to the “left” of Noam Chomsky when it comes to foreign policy. In short, I’m a libertarian, and so my jaundiced view of the President is not all that surprising. Yet even I am surprised by the deafening silence in the “liberal” community – and the lack of real anger on the left at Obama’s escalation of the war on our civil liberties. Leading “progressives” are apparently indifferent to this administration’s vindictive pursuit of “whistle-blowers” – insiders like Binney who cry foul at government abuses – and the lack of outrage is … outrageous.

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Filed under Commentary Antiwar Sinclair Lewis George Orwell Julian Assange Bradley Manning NSA FBI Surveillance USA Totalitarianism

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Obama’s Drones Threaten World Civilization

Glen Ford

President Obama’s vast escalation of drone warfare is “a declaration of war against international law, as it has evolved over the centuries.” He systematically wages war against peace, the highest international crime. More than “justanother ‘war president’ – he is a destroyer of world civilization, the terms by which humans deal with one another as states, social groupings and individuals.

Drone warfare utterly shreds the very concept of the rule of law.”

When Barack Obama was running for president, in 2008, he vowed to increase the use of drones against al Qaida elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His surrogates roamed the talk shows, advocating a “smarter” and cheaper kind of robotic war, allowing the U.S. to avoid pouring more troops into the “Af-Pak” theater of conflict. Vastly increased deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the argument went, would jettison George Bush’s “dumb” approach to warfare in favor of a cheaper and more humane use of U.S. technological resources, saving both American and South Asian lives.

What the “peace” candidate was actually proposing, was a qualitative leap in the U.S. drive for “full spectrum dominance” over the planet. The U.S. would elevate to a strategic principle its self-arrogated entitlement to use whatever technical means at its disposal – mainly drones – to target and kill designated adversaries at will, anyplace on the globe, at any time, accountable only to itself. It was a declaration of war against international law, as it has evolved over the centuries.

This administration has expanded the Air Force inventory of active drones to at least 7,500. Drones have joined Special Operations forces as the “tip of the spear” of U.S. power projection in the developing world, the “front lines” of the current imperial offensive.

Virtually all of the drones’ lethal missions are, in legal terms, assassinations, with or without “collateral damage.” They are also acts of terror, certainly in the broad sense of the word, and intended to be so.

Drone warfare requires that due process be destroyed everywhere, including within the borders of the United States.”

As Canadian political scientist David Model points out in a recent article “Assassination by Drones”: “It is clearly evident that for a State to launch an attack by a UAV is a violation of international law and those responsible for such acts becomes suspects of war crimes.” Drone warfare utterly shreds the very concept of the rule of law. In killing those “suspected” of committing or planning actions against the U.S., Washington “precludes the application of due process,” writes Model.

Therefore, in the quest to make the entire world a free-fire (and law-free) zone, drone warfare requires that due process be destroyed everywhere, including within the borders of the United States.The Obama-shaped preventive detention bill signed into law this past New Years Eve is the logical extension of the international lawlessness called forth by drone warfare, and by the larger aims of full spectrum American dominance. Barack Obama is not just another “war president” – he is a destroyer of world civilization, the terms by which humans deal with one another as states, social groupings and individuals. It is not an exaggeration to describe this leap into depravity as a war against humanity at-large, and against the human historical legacy.

The Obama-shaped preventive detention bill is the logical extension of the international lawlessness called forth by drone warfare.”

Certainly, it is a war against peace, the highest international crime. If a state can kill individuals and designated (or alleged) organizations by fiat, without due process or any shred of accountability to any authority but the president of the superpower, that state can also “execute” other states at will. Under Obama, the U.S. has articulated an alternative notion of global legality that purports to replace the body of international law accrued over centuries and so elegantly codified after World War Two. “Humanitarian” military intervention is the fraudulent doctrine through which the U.S. seeks to justify its current, desperate offensive against all obstacles to its global dominance.

Where George Bush often spoke in unilateralist terms of a U.S. mission to “spread democracy” as justification for his regime-changing aggression in Iraq and elsewhere, Obama invokes the higher calling of “humanitarian intervention” as a universal, pseudo-legal principle of international conduct. It is a doctrine designed for a Final Conflict for American supremacy on the planet, a doomsday construct that conflates perceived U.S. (corporate) geopolitical interests with the destiny of humankind – unbounded imperial criminality posing as the highest bar of justice!

Since the Vietnam War era, the U.S. has traveled from being the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” in Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, to an existential threat to world order, the rule of law, and the security of the Earth’s inhabitants – to civilization itself. The nation’s first Black President has taken us on the final descent into international barbarity with his drone offensive. It is a joy stick to Hell.

Filed under News Commentary Drones UAV Obama Empire Law US Military CIA NATO Afghanistan Antiwar

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Starve the Beast of Empire: Ax the Income Tax

by John V. Walsh

As we approach April 15, the day when we render unto Caesar what is ours, it is well to bear a few stark and simple numbers in mind.

The personal income tax for 2011 will haul in a hefty $1.09 trillion to the federal coffers. The estimate for 2012* is $1.16 trillion.  

On the other side of the ledger, the best estimate of the known “national security” expenditures for 2012 is $1.22 trillion dollars.

That’s right; it takes the entire personal income tax, and then some, to cover the costs of war and Empire.  

The total federal revenue from every source will be $2.47 trillion in 2012, so the war machine and its various appurtenances take an enormous bite out of the total federal budget. 

There is a question of morality when the taxpayer forks over enormous tribute to bulk up a military Empire which visits death and destruction on untold numbers of people in the developing world – often with a public relations veneer of “humanitarian” endeavors.    Historically antiwar tax resistance of various types has grown out of such moral concerns.  The moral consideration bites harder when the wars are either sold on the basis of lies as W’s war on Iraq or are undeclared as with Obama’s on Libya, Pakistan, Syria and Iran.   In the case of undeclared wars for which we pay, it may fairly be said that we have taxation without representation.

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Filed under Commentary Antiwar Income Tax Empire Military Imperialism

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Cindy vs. The Empire

CINDY SHEEHAN

Dear Friend,

Even if one only counts foreign military invasions, the United States of America has long been an Empire, but if we talk about our nation’s First People, it has always been so.

This is a true story: A few months before I went to Crawford, Texas in August of 2005, to ask George Bush the infamous question, “What Noble Cause,” I visited my Congressional Representative, George Miller (D). I begged him to do what he could to end the wars and hold the Bush crime syndicate accountable for killing my son, Casey.

Miller told me that he was sympathetic to my cause, but he couldn’t do anything because the Democrats were at that time, a “minority.” (We would all soon learn that the Democrats wouldn’t do anything even when they were the majority, but that’s another story.)

Anyway, I said, “George, I am only one person, but I will do whatever I can to hold Bush accountable. The Bush family has been murdering people for generations, but when they murdered by son, Casey, they murdered the wrong person.”

Well, since that meeting, I have been doing everything I can to hold BushCo (etc) accountable, but in my quest for accountability, I learned my target was too narrow—George Bush was never the bullseye. The bullseye is the Robber Class that uses the Military Empire for profit and power.

One of my many protest actions is to not pay my income taxes which mostly go for war and other police state tyrannies. Now, the Empire is Striking Back as my hearing date to force me to provide information to the IRS against my 5th amendment right to not incriminate myself, is rapidly approaching.

I need all the support I can muster because The Empire is a formidable foe—yet the worst it can do to me is imprison me—my son, and millions of others, have had their lives stolen from them in the Empire’s lust for blood.

I am attaching all the information anyone needs for coming to the pre-hearing rally in Sacramento on April 19, and/or other ways to support me and other war tax conscientious objectors. 

Peace and love all the way to victory,

Cindy Sheehan

(Please share this email with your contacts to spread the word. Sharing doesn’t cost anything, except a few minute’s time).

Filed under Cindy Sheehan Peace Antiwar Anti-War IRS Taxes

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