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Rise Like Lions - Occupy Wall Street and the Seeds of Revolution

"Scott Noble’s film Rise Like Lions takes the people, actions, and words from the camps and streets of Occupy Wall Street and provides a radical, compelling and inspiring account of what the movement is about. Watch it. Share it. Do it!" -Ron Jacobs, Journalist, Author The Co-Conspirator’s Tale

Filed under Commentary documentary Occupy Occupy Wall Street Revolution

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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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House Passes Stealth Legislation

By Philip Giraldi

Go to Google and type in “H.R. 4133.” You will discover that, apart from a handful of blogs and alternative news sites, not a single mainstream medium has reported the story of a congressional bill that might well have major impact on the conduct of United States foreign policy. H.R. 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, was introduced into the House of Representatives of the 112th Congress on March 5 “to express the sense of Congress regarding the United States-Israel strategic relationship, to direct the president to submit to Congress reports on United States actions to enhance this relationship and to assist in the defense of Israel, and for other purposes.” The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) reportedly helped draft the bill, and its co-sponsors include Republicans Eric Cantor and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrats Howard Berman and Steny Hoyer. Hoyer is the Democratic whip in the House of Representatives, where Cantor is majority leader. Ros-Lehtinen heads the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The House bill basically provides Israel with a blank check drawn on the U.S. taxpayer to maintain its “qualitative military edge” over all of its neighbors combined. It requires the White House to prepare an annual report on how that superiority is being maintained. The resolution passed on May 9 by a vote of 411–2 on a “suspension of the rules,” which is intended for non-controversial legislation requiring little debate and a quick vote.

A number of congressmen spoke on the bill, affirming their undying dedication to the cause of Israel. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was the only one who spoke out against it, describing it as “one-sided and counterproductive foreign policy legislation. This bill’s real intent seems to be more saber-rattling against Iran and Syria.” Paul also observed that “this bill states that it is the policy of the United States to ‘reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.’ However, according to our Constitution, the policy of the United States government should be to protect the security of the United States, not to guarantee the religious, ethnic, or cultural composition of a foreign country.” Paul voted “no” and was joined by only one other representative, John Dingell of Michigan, who represents a large Muslim constituency.

It is interesting to note what exactly the bill pledges the American people to do on behalf of Israel. It obligates the United States to veto resolutions critical of Israel, to provide such military support “as is necessary,” to pay for the building of an anti-missile system, to provide advanced “defense” equipment (including refueling tankers, which are offensive), to give Israel special munitions (i.e., bunker-busters, which are also offensive), to forward deploy more U.S. military equipment to Israel, to offer the Israeli air force more training and facilities in the U.S., to increase security- and advanced-technology-program cooperation, and to extend loan guarantees and expand intelligence-sharing (including highly sensitive satellite imagery). Actually, there’s even more included, and I may have missed the kitchen sink. But the objective is to provide Israel with the resources to attack Iran, if it chooses to do so, while tying the U.S. and Israel so closely together that whatever Benjamin Netanyahu does, the U.S. “will always be there,” as our president has so aptly put it.

But the scariest bit of the bill is its call for “an expanded role for Israel within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises.” If Israel becomes part of NATO, which is clearly Congress’s intent, the U.S. and other members will be obligated to come to the aid of a nation that is expanding its borders and is currently engaged in hostilities with three of its neighbors. Israel has also initiated a series of regional wars. Whether NATO membership for Israel would benefit anyone is questionable, but it is something the neocons have been seeking for years, to turn Israel’s wars into a new crusade against the Muslim world.

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Filed under News Commentary US NATO Israel Taxes war war crimes

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G8 Summit Camp David Friday Actions

The G8 Summit at Camp David, MD is currently underway with minimal protesters and a shit ton on mainstream press with nothing to cover. Tomorrow there is a Bloc Party. If you’re not in Chicago… it’s not too late.

Filed under News commentary G8 Summit protest

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Prison Industrial Complex

“No other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” – Report by California Prison Focus

Source

“Prison Industrial Complex” is a term that refers to private prison companies and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies. What is interesting about this term and the concept of “prison labor” is how it’s rise parallels the rapid expansion of the US inmate population.

The Prison Industrial Complex is big growth industry. While other sectors of our economy continue to struggle in this recession, the private prison industry is booming!

Is there a connection between this booming business and the record rise in incarceration in this country? Let’s take a deeper look…

Did you know that for every 100,000 Americans, 743 of them reside behind bars? That is nearly 1 out 100 Americans! Today, the United States has the highest prison population in the world with more than 2 million people either incarcerated in prison or in jail awaiting trail. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world, surpassing China, North Korea and Russia. A study conducted by the Bureau of Justice in 2005 showed that a record 33-year continuous rise in the number of inmates in the United States despite falling crime rates.

To put this concept into perspective, consider the following:

The major myth associated with our Prison Industrial Complex is that the rise in incarceration rates reflects a commensurate rise in crime. The fact is that crime rates have fallen. One of the driving forces behind the sudden rise in prison populations is a result of the “three strikes laws.”  It is estimated over 500,000 Americans are in prison for drug-related, non-violent crimes.  Another driver is the continued privatization of our prison system where these private companies are actually incented to keep their jails full.  Case in point, CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for "good behavior," but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state-run prisons.

Another big driving force behind our massive prison system is cheap labor.

37% states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations. The list of these corporations include: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more.

In private-run prisons, the working inmates receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison “employer” is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.”

Exploitation of cheap labor by Fortune 500 companies has competition from the Military Industrial Complex. Did you know that prison labor — with no union protection, overtime pay, vacation days, pensions, benefits, health and safety protection, or Social Security withholding — makes complex components for McDonnell Douglas/Boeing’s F-15 fighter aircraft, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, and Bell/Textron’s Cobra helicopter? And that prison labor produces night-vision goggles, body armor, camouflage uniforms, radio and communication devices, and lighting systems and components for 30-mm anti-aircraft guns to 300-mm battleship guns, along with land mine sweepers and electro-optical equipment for BAE Systems’ Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder? Prisoners are also “hired” to recycle toxic electronic equipment and overhaul military vehicles.

Labor in federal prisons is contracted out by UNICOR, previously known as Federal Prison Industries, a quasi-public, for-profit corporation run by the Bureau of Prisons. In 14 prison factories, more than 3,000 prisoners manufacture electronic equipment for land, sea and airborne communication. UNICOR is now the U.S. government’s 39th largest contractor, with 110 factories at 79 federal penitentiaries.

The majority of UNICOR’s products and services are on contract to orders from the Department of Defense. Giant multinational corporations purchase parts assembled at some of the lowest labor rates in the world, then resell the finished weapons components at the highest rates of profit. For example, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Corporation subcontract components, then assemble and sell advanced weapons systems to the Pentagon.

I believe what former Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix said when he recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs, we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”

In other words…he is basically offering slave labor!  While our so-called elected officials talk about the massive slave labor camps in North Korea, I think one only has to look into the mirror and let the facts speak for themselves.  Our prison industrial complex is getting out hand, much like our military industrial complex. We need to stand up now and do something about it, before it gets too powerful, too influential, and too out of control.

Until next time, keep your powder dry and your faith strong!

Filed under News Commentary Prison Industry Raytheon Prison

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The Bank Runs In Greece Will Soon Be Followed By Bank Runs In Other European Nations

Michael Snyder

The bank runs that we are watching right now in Greece are shocking, but they are only just the beginning.  Since May 6th, nearly one billion dollars has been withdrawn from Greek banks.  For a small nation like Greece, that is an absolutely catastrophic number.  At this point, the entire Greek banking system is in danger of collapsing.  If you had money in a Greek bank, why wouldn’t you pull it out?  If Greece leaves the euro, all euros in Greek banks will likely be converted to drachmas, and the value of those drachmas will almost certainly decline dramatically.  In fact, it has been estimated that Greek citizens could see the value of their bank accounts decline by up to 50 percent if Greece leaves the euro.  So if you had money in a Greek bank, it would only make sense to withdraw it and move it to another country as quickly as possible.  And as the eurozone begins to unravel, this is a scenario that we are going to see play out in country after country.  As member nations leave the eurozone, you would be a fool to have your euros in Italian banks or Spanish banks when you could have them in German banks instead.  So the bank runs that are happening in Greece right now are only a preview of things to come.  Before this crisis is over we are going to see bank runs happening all over Europe.

If Greece leaves the euro, the consequences are likely to be quite messy.  Those that are promoting the idea that a “Grexit” can be done in an orderly fashion are not being particularly honest.  The following is from a recent article in the Independent….

“Whoever tells you a Greek exit would be no big deal is an idiot, lying or disingenuous,” said Sony Kapoor of the European think-tank Re-Define. Economists fear that a disorderly exit would prompt a huge run by investors on Spanish and Italian debt, forcing those countries to seek support from an EU bailout fund, which, with a capacity of just €500bn, is widely regarded as too small to cope with those pressures.

Greek exit from the euro would not only result in a run on Spanish and Italian bonds, but it would also likely result in a run on Spanish and Italian banks.

If Greece is allowed to leave the euro, that will be a signal that other countries will eventually be allowed to leave as well.  Nobody in their right mind would want their euros stuck in Spanish or Italian banks if those countries end up converting back to national currencies.

Fear is a powerful motivator.  If Greece converts their euros back to drachmas, that will be a clear signal that all euros are not created equally.  The race to move money into German banks will accelerate dramatically.

And a Greek exit from the euro is looking more likely with each passing day.  Even the IMF is now admitting that it is a very real possibility….

Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, warned she was “technically prepared for anything” and said the utmost effort must be made to ensure any Greek exit was orderly. The effect was likely to be “quite messy” with risks to growth, trade and financial markets. “It is something that would be extremely expensive and would pose great risks but it is part of options that we must technically consider,” she said.

Meanwhile, banks in other troubled European nations are already on shaky ground.  The Spanish banking system is an absolute disaster zone at this point and on Monday night Moody’s downgraded the credit ratings of 26 Italian banks.

The situation in Italy is especially worth keeping a close eye on.  As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recently noted, things are not looking good for Italy at all….

Italy’s former premier Romano Prodi said the EU risks instant contagion to Spain, Italy, and France if Greece leaves. “The whole house of cards will come down”, he said

Angelo Drusiani from Banca Albertini said the only way to avert catstrophe is to convert the European Central Bank into a lender of last resort. Otherwise Italy faces “massive devaluation, three to five years of hyperinflation, and unbearable unemployment.”

So what can be done about any of this?

Read more …

Filed under Bank Runs Commentary Euro Europe Financial Crisis Greece News Italy

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Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow: Surviving Guantanamo (E5)

The 5th episode of The World Tomorrow takes us to the very heart of America’s War on Terror: Guantanamo Bay. In the episode Julian Assange speaks with Moazzam Begg - former Gitmo prisoner and a rights campaigner fighting for those still trapped behind the wire, and Asim Qureshi - former corporate lawyer, whose human rights organization Cageprisoners Ltd exists solely to raise awareness of the plight of prisoners who remain in Guantanamo Bay.

Filed under News Commentary Julian Assange Guantanamo Bay

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$100 Million NATO Invasion Of Chicago Coming Soon

By Stephen Lendman

A $100 million NATO invasion is coming. Low intensity conflict may follow. The “City of Broad Shoulders” may get more than it bargained for.

Nelson Algren once called Chicago the “City on the Make.” NATO’s May 20/21 “on the make” invasion isn’t welcome.

Chicago NATO.org announced an Obama-hosted “diplomatic summit.”

Thousands plan protests against it.

The Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty issued a statement, saying:

The city has carried out a campaign to intimidate and vilify protesters, claiming that protests lead to violence. In fact, the main source of violence in the world today is the wars being waged by NATO and the US.

We will march in May during the NATO meeting to deliver our message: Jobs, Housing, Healthcare, Education, Our Pensions, the Environment: Not War!

We and tens of thousands will be in the streets that day for a family friendly rally and march, with cries so loud they will be heard in Camp David and across the globe. We will be in the streets that day to fight for our future, and speak out against the wars and their cutbacks are designed to benefit the 1% at the expense of the 99% of the world.

Last August, dozens of activists from 73 organizations met to plan large protests and marches when NATO arrives. United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) coordinator Joe Lombado said “(t)he entire world will be watching us.”

NATO doesn’t foster democratic values, liberation, and peace. It’s about wars, death, destruction and human misery. It requires draconian austerity and soaring debt to support it. A Chicago-style welcome awaits.

Organization representatives fear large-scale crackdowns before and during protest demonstrations. Those involved plan to repudiate confrontations. They’ll also stand up for their constitutional rights.

Dozens of NATO heads of state and other top officials plan attending. Large delegations are coming with them. So are similar partner nation contingents.

The Chicago Tribune and Sun Times reported on elaborate security preparations. Hundreds of state police and National Guard forces are involved. So are thousands of Chicago cops.

Secret Service staff also will be out in force. The ACLU said they’ll set up a security perimeter around McCormick Place. Part of Lake Shore Drive will be closed. It’s one of the city’s main arteries.

Enormous amounts of anti-scale steel fencing will be erected. Thousands of linear feet of concrete barriers will be strategically placed.

Secret Service spokesman George Ogilve declined to give specifics. The ACLU threatened court action unless details are released well in advance.

At issue are fundamental freedoms. They include speech and assembly rights. They’re also about police refraining from crackdowns on non-violent protesters.

Will Chicago respect what NATO and Washington never do on so-called “liberating” missions? Activists want to know. The city has an odious reputation. More on that below.

Permits were granted for six protest events. Other groups got them earlier. Chicago cops cracked down anyway. A Secret Service/Chicago police business panel session revealed one planned tactic.

“Extraction teams” will snatch and grab protesters from crowds. Who for what reasons wasn’t explained.

Company representatives attending were told business won’t be affected. Staff won’t be deterred from moving around freely. How they’ll distinguish them from protesters and pedestrians isn’t clear, especially in large crowds.

Occupy Chicago plans 10 protest days. A May 12 “People’s Summit” will be followed by other events. Themes will highlight education, healthcare, the environment, immigration, other issues, and imperialism. On May 20, a “No to NATO” march is scheduled.

‘We at Occupy Chicago,’ it said, ‘cordially invite you to join us and thousands around the world in a week of action in protest. We will highlight the connection between our local struggles, global struggles, and the policies of the thieves and oppressors of NATO and G-8.

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Filed under News Commentary NATO Summit Chicago Protest

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Netanyahu, king of Israel?

Golden Platform Side Note: You have GOT to me kidding me… Anyway: Is calling Netanyahu the “king of Israel” similar to calling him the 'King of the Jews'?
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By Aaron David Miller

Editor’s note: Aaron David Miller is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and served as a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Can America Have Another Great President?” Follow him on Twitter

Washington (CNN) — With 30-plus governments since independence (average length less than two years), Israeli politics rarely surprises. But Monday’s agreement between Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz did precisely that.

In a pre-emptive strike — against his critics, a cynical Israeli press, and, last but not least, an American administration that keeps hoping he’s a short-timer — Netanyahu bought himself another 16 months of challenge-free politics, co-opted his main opponent for the price of a deputy premiership, and broadened and legitimized his government for the turbulent period ahead.

While Mofaz looks unprincipled (two weeks ago he said he’d never join a Netanyahu-led coalition), Bibi Netanyahu looks like a veritable statesman and political genius who, for the sake of the country’s unity and stability, did the right thing. With U.S. President Barack Obama facing an uncertain political future, Netanyahu has secured his — at least over the short term.

What difference will the new coalition of 94 Knesset members — a virtually unassailable majority — have on the core issues facing Israel?

Peace process: Already comatose, the Israeli-Palestinian issue may be revived slightly as a result of the new politics. Mofaz has made resolution of the Palestinian issue a key theme; but the result will be motion without real movement.

Since Mofaz is committed to pursuing the existing government’s policies until the end of 2013, it’s unlikely there will be major changes. Netanyahu didn’t invite Kadima into the coalition only to go to new elections over a deal with the Palestinians that could split his own Likud party. But the change in tone will relieve the pressure of being saddled with a right-wing government that many claimed had no constituent group which was at all interested in negotiations.

Iran: Some analysts argue that early elections would have reduced the chances for an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear sites, and that the unity government has now increased them.

That’s what Netanyahu would like to make the world believe. But Netanyahu’s decision-making on striking Iran has always been shaped by three factors; the unity government changes none of them. In fact, given Mofaz’s caution on Iran, the odds of a strike before the American elections may actually be reduced.

First, there’s Netanyahu’s read of Iran’s intentions. That hasn’t changed. Netanyahu believes the mullahs want the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon and ultimately to possess the weapon itself. The P5+1 international talks on Iran, in Istanbul last month and later this month in Baghdad, haven’t persuaded him otherwise; but they do make an attack much less likely while the process is in train.

Second, there’s the degree of difficulty of the operation. Israel would like to avoid a unilateral strike and make Iran America’s problem. Without firing a shot in the past year or so, the Israelis are well on their way to success here. And Mofaz will reinforce this approach now that his bloc of 28 Kadima Knesset members is part of the coalition.

Finally, what America thinks is critical to Israeli calculations. Should the Israelis strike, the United States needs to be in their corner to deal with the mess afterward. And Obama has made it as clear as any American president can that Israel acting now, with negotiations ongoing, is a bad idea. Clearly, Obama doesn’t want an Israeli strike or an American strike before the elections and probably not this year.

And the new unity government reinforces the obvious: no war with Iran in 2012 and likely no deal on the nuclear issue either. This new government in Israel isn’t about upsetting the status quo and getting ready for war; on the contrary, it’s about preserving the status quo — at least for now.

Netanyahu thinks of himself in historic and potentially transformative terms — leading Israel at a moment of great challenge, particularly freeing the Israelis from the shadow of the Iranian bomb.

We’re constantly underestimating him. Obama thinks he’s a con man, or at best a speed bump confronting a peace process he’d like to see move forward. The Europeans would like him gone — yesterday. The Palestinians and the Arabs can’t stand him.

But the fact is, for now Netanyahu is the only Israeli political leader that can do and have it all — maintain close ties with Washington; settle the West Bank; avoid negotiations with the Palestinians; use the threat of an Israeli attack to keep the international community pressing Iran; and now, dominate Israeli politics.

He’s the king of Israel, and we may just have to get used to it.

Filed under News Commentary Israel Benjamin Netanyahu

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The Dark Side of the Prestigious Marine Barracks

By Col. Ann Wright

According to Marine Corps lore,semper fidelis, a Latin phrase for “always faithful,” commands Marines to remain a “brotherhood, faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to country, no matter what. Becoming a Marine is a transformation that cannot be undone and once made, a Marine will forever live by the ethics and values of the Corps.”

The Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., is the official residence of the commandant of the Marine Corps. It is the home of the Marines who are the ceremonial guard for the president during official U.S. government functions and the security force for the White House and Camp David. The Marine Band, also located at the Barracks, is known as “The President’s Own.” The Barracks is the showplace of the Marine Corps with its Silent Drill Platoon giving weekly military precision performances for the public during the busy summer tourist season.

But the Marine Barracks has its dark and ugly side. It is also the home of officers and enlisted men of the Marine Corps who have been accused of sexually harassing, assaulting and raping female Marine officers and enlisted and civilian women who work there.

According to information provided by the Marine Barracks Washington legal adviser at the request of the Senate Armed Services Committee minority counsel, from 2009 to 2010 three female Marines and two civilian women reported to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) that they had been raped by male Marines. Two of the female Marines held high-visibility jobs at the Barracks and said they were raped by senior officers.

During the same period, two other female Marines and two other civilian women reported that they had been sexually harassed by Marines at the Barracks.

Second Rape Lawsuit Filed Against Marines, Navy and DOD

On March 6, 2012, attorney Susan Burke filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of eight military women—four Marines and four Navy members—who said they were raped while in the service. Two of the four female Marine officers served at the Barracks and alleged that they had been raped by Marines assigned there. The two, Lt. Ariana Klay and Lt. Elle Helmer, spoke at a news conference announcing the lawsuit and on national TV shows afterward.

This is the second lawsuit filed in a little over a year against the Department of Defense on the issue of rape in the military. The first lawsuit was filed on Feb. 15, 2011, and was brought by 15 female and two male active-duty military personnel and veterans. They accused the DOD of permitting a military culture that fails to prevent rape and sexual assault and alleged that it mishandled cases that were brought to its attention, thus violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

On Dec. 9, 2011, U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady dismissed the suit, saying the sexual assault allegations were “troubling” but that Supreme Court and other court decisions had advised against judicial involvement in cases of military discipline. O’Grady cited Gilligan v. Morgan, decided in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which determined that “matters of military discipline should be left to the ‘political branches directly responsible—as the judicial branch is not—to the electoral process.’ ” O’Grady said, “Not even the egregious allegations within the plaintiffs’ complaint will prevent dismissal.”

The March 2012 lawsuit names current and former secretaries of defense and military chiefs of the Navy and Marine Corps as defendants. It alleges that “Although defendants testified before Congress and elsewhere that they have ‘zero tolerance’ for rape and sexual assault, their conduct and the facts demonstrate the opposite: They have a high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks, and ‘zero tolerance’ for those who report rape, sexual assault and harassment.” The lawsuit alleges that “Defendants have a long-standing pattern of ignoring congressional mandates designed to ameliorate the armed services’ dismal record of rape and sexual assault. As but one example, defendant [Leon] Panetta [secretary of defense] continues to violate the law requiring the Department of Defense to establish an incident-specific Sexual Assault Database no later than January 2010.” More than two years later, the database still does not exist.

“Rather than being respected and appreciated for reporting crimes and unprofessional conduct,” the lawsuit alleges, “plaintiffs and others who report are branded ‘troublemakers,’ endure egregious and blatant retaliation, and are often forced out of military service.”

Lt. Ariana Klay

According to the lawsuit, Klay, a Naval Academy graduate, served as a protocol officer for the Marine Barracks. She alleges that while there, she was sexually harassed by a lieutenant colonel, a major and a captain. She said she was gang-raped by a Marine officer and his civilian friend, a former Marine. Klay alleges that the Marine officer threatened to kill her and told his friend he would show him “what a slut she was” and “humiliate” her.

After she reported the alleged rapes and subsequent harassment, the Marine Corps investigation ruled that she welcomed the harassment because “she wore makeup, regulation-length skirts as a part of her uniform and exercised in running shorts and tank tops.”

The Marine Corps did not punish any of those who were accused of sexually harassing Klay. One of her alleged harassers was granted a waiver by the Corps that permitted him to get a security clearance despite accusations of hazing and sexual misconduct against not only Klay but many others. He was selected to be in a nationally televised recruitment commercial while he was still under investigation. According to the lawsuit, the Marine Corps featured Klay’s alleged rapist and a harasser in the Marine calendar.

Read more …

Filed under News Commentary US Military Marines Rape Pentagon

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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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You Can’t Occupy This

The government says the anti-protest bill was just a small tweak of the existing law. Don’t believe it.

By Dahlia Lithwick and Raymond Vasvari

In post-Occupy America, it’s often hard to know whether new citizen protest laws signal the end of free speech or a mere tweak of the machine. That looks to be the case with the new anti-protest bill that passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly two weeks ago and was signed into law by the president soon thereafter. On its face, the new legislation doesn’t change a whole lot. Yet the Occupy protesters are in an uproar that the bill both targets them and also signals a radical shift in free speech law. Almost nobody else seems to have noticed it at all. Who’s right?

That all depends on what you want to protest and where.

H.R. 347, benignly titled the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, passed the House 399-3. Such a lopsided vote suggests that nobody in Congress is bothered by this, on either side of the aisle. When President Obama signed it on March 8,  almost nobody seems to have cared.

Simply put, the way the bill will “improve” public grounds is by moving all those unsightly protesters elsewhere. The law purports to update an old law, Section 1752 of Title 18 of the United States Code, that restricted areas around the president, vice president, or any others under the protection of the Secret Service. The original law was enacted in 1971 and amended in 2006. At first blush, the big change here is that while the old law made it a federal offense to “willfully and knowingly” enter a restricted space, now prosecutors need only show that you did it “knowingly”—that you knew the area was restricted, even if you didn’t know it was illegal to enter the space. This has been characterized in some quarters as a small technical change that hardly warrants an arched eyebrow, much less a protest.

But it’s important to understand what has changed since the original law was enacted in 1971, because it shows how much a tiny tweak to the intent requirement in a statute can impact the free speech of everyone.

For one thing, the law makes it easier for the government to criminalize protest. Period. It is a federal offense, punishable by  up to 10 years in prison to protest anywhere the Secret Service might be guarding someone. For another, it’s almost impossible to predict what constitutes disorderly or disruptive conduct or what sorts of conduct authorities deem to “impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.”

The types of events and individuals warranting Secret Service protection have grown exponentially since the law was enacted in 1971. Today, any occasion that is officially defined as a National Special Security Event calls for Secret Service protection. NSSE’s can include basketball championships, concerts, and the Winter Olympics, which have nothing whatsoever to do with government business, official functions, or improving public grounds. Every Super Bowl since 9/11 has been declared an NSSE.

And that brings us to the real problem with the change to the old protest law.  Instead of turning on a designated place, the protest ban turns on what persons and spaces are deemed to warrant Secret Service protection. It’s a perfect circle: The people who believe they are important enough to warrant protest can now shield themselves from protestors.  No wonder the Occupy supporters are worried.  In the spirit of “free speech zones,” this law creates another space in which protesters are free to be nowhere near the people they are protesting.

Consider that more than 6,700 people have been arrested at Occupy events since last September.  Thus, while these changes to the law are not the death of free speech, they aren’t as trivial as the administration would have you believe.  Rather, they are part of an incremental and persistent effort by the government to keep demonstrators away from events involving those at the top of the political food chain.  

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Filed under News Commentary Occupy Free Speech OWS arrest

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Surveillance State democracy

As the FBI seeks full access to all forms of Internet communication, it is not voters who need to be convinced

Glenn Greenwald

CNET‘s excellent technology reporter, Declan McCullagh, reports on ongoing efforts by the Obama administration to force the Internet industry to provide the U.S. Government with “backdoor” access to all forms of Internet communication:

The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance… . That included a scheduled trip this month to the West Coast — which was subsequently postponed — to meet with Internet companies’ CEOs and top lawyers… .

The FBI general counsel’s office has drafted a proposed law that the bureau claims is the best solution: requiring that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.

“If you create a service, product, or app that allows a user to communicate, you get the privilege of adding that extra coding,” an industry representative who has reviewed the FBI’s draft legislation told CNET.

As for the substance of this policy, I wrote about this back in September, 2010, when it first revealed that the Obama administration was preparing legislation to mandate that “all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct ‘peer to peer’ messaging like Skype” — be designed to ensure government surveillance access. This isn’t about expanding the scope of the government’s legal surveillance powers — numerous legislative changes since 2001 have already accomplished that quite nicely — but is about ensuring the government’s physical ability to intrude into all forms of Internet communication.

What was most amazing to me back when I first wrote about these Obama administration efforts was that a mere six weeks earlier, a major controversy had erupted when Saudi Arabia and the UAE bothannounced a ban on BlackBerries on the ground that they were physically unable to monitor the communications conducted on those devices. Since Blackberry communication data are sent directly to servers in Canada and the company which operates Blackberry — Research in Motion — refused to turn the data over to those governments, “authorities [in those two tyrannies] decided to ban Blackberry services rather than continue to allow an uncontrolled and unmonitored flow of electronic information within their borders.” As I wrote at the time: “that’s the core mindset of the Omnipotent Surveillance State: above all else, what is strictly prohibited is the ability of citizens to communicate in private; we can’t have any ‘uncontrolled and unmonitored flow of electronic information’.”

In response to that controversy, the Obama administration actuallycondemned the Saudi and UAE ban, calling it “a dangerous precedent” and a threat to “democracy, human rights and freedom of information.” Yet six weeks later, the very same Obama administration embraced exactly the same rationale — that it is intolerable for any human interaction to take place beyond the prying eyes and ears of the government — when it proposed its mandatory “backdoor access” for all forms of Internet communication. Indeed, the UAE pointed out that the U.S. — as usual — was condemning exactly that which it itself was doing:

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to the United States, said [the Obama administration’s] comments were disappointing and contradict the U.S. government’s own approach to telecommunication regulation.

“In fact, the UAE is exercising its sovereign right and is asking for exactly the same regulatory compliance — and with the same principles of judicial and regulatory oversight — that Blackberry grants the U.S. and other governments and nothing more,” Otaiba said.

“Importantly, the UAE requires the same compliance as the U.S. for the very same reasons: to protect national security and to assist in law enforcement.”

A week after the announced ban by the Saudis and UAE, The New York Times published an Op-Ed by Richard Falkenrath — a top-level Homeland Security official in the Bush administration and current principal in the private firm of former Bush DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff — expressing support for the UAE’s Blackberry ban. Falkenrath explained that “[a]mong law enforcement investigators and intelligence officers [in the U.S.], the Emirates’ decision met with approval, admiration and perhaps even a touch of envy.” The Obama administration — by essentially seeking to ban any Internet technology that allows communication to take place beyond its reach — is working hard to ensure that its own Surveillance State apparatus keeps up with those of the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The FBI claims this requirement is merely an extension of current law that mandates that all telecommunications carriers provide government surveillance access to telephone conversations when a search warrant is obtained, and that failure to extend this requirement to Interent communications will risk “Going Dark” with important investigations. There are many reasons why this claim is false.

For one, as surveillance expert Julian Sanchez explained to me in October, the U.S. Government does not need “backdoor” access to all Interent communications in order to surveil even individuals using encrypted communications; instead they can simply obtain end-user surveillance to do so: “if the FBI has an individual target and fear he’ll use encryption, they can do a covert entry under a traditional search warrant and install a keylogger on his computer.” Moreover, the problem cited by the FBI to justify this new power is a total pretext: “investigators encountered encrypted communications only one time during 2009′s wiretaps” and, even then, “the state investigators told the court that the encryption did not prevent them from getting the plain text of the messages.” As usual, fear-mongering over national security and other threats is the instrument to justify massive new surveillance powers that will extend far beyond their claimed function.

Sanchez explains that the true value of requiring back-door access for all Internet communications is full-scale access to all communications: “If you want to sift through communications in bulk, it’s only going to be feasible with a systemic backdoor.” McCullagh notes that Joe Biden has been unsuccessfully attempting to ban encrypted communications, or at least require full-scale government access, since well before 9/11. As for why this proposed bill is far more intrusive and dangerous than current law requiring all telephone communications to be subject to government surveillance, see Sanchez’s analysis here. The ACLU makes similar points here about why this proposal is so dangerous, and describes the numerous ways it extends far beyond current authorities concerning government access to telephone communications.

Moreover, for anyone who defends the Obama administration here and insists that the U.S. Government simply must have access to all forms of human communication: does that also apply to in-person communication? Should home and apartment builders be required to install monitors in every room they build to ensure that the Government can surveil all human communications in order to prevent threats to national security and public safety? I believe someone oncewrote a book about where this mindset inevitably leads. The very idea that no human communication should ever be allowed to take place beyond the reach of the Government is definitive authoritarianism, which is why Saudi Arabia and the UAE — and their American patron-ally — have so vigorously embraced it.

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Filed under News Commentary Surveillance Surveillance State Internet Spying US Government FBI DHS

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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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Not Explaining the Why of Terrorism

by Ray McGovern

John Brennan, President Obama’s chief adviser on counterterrorism, has again put on public display two unfortunate facts: (1) that the White House has no clue as to how to counter terrorism; and (2) (in Brennan’s words) “the unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives.”

In a speech on April 30, Brennan did share one profound insight: “Countries typically don’t want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns.” His answer to that? “The precision of targeted [drone] strikes.” Does he really mean to suggest that local populations are more accepting of unmanned drones buzzing overhead and firing missiles on the push of a button by a “pilot” halfway around the world?

Beneath Brennan’s Orwellian rhetoric lies the reality that he remains unable (or unwilling) to deal with, the $64 question former White House correspondent Helen Thomas asked him repeatedly on Jan. 7, 2010, about why terrorists do the things they do.

Brennan: “Al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Is it possible he still has no clue? To demonstrate how little progress Brennan has made in the way of understanding the challenge of “terrorism,” let’s look back at my commentary in early 2010 about Brennan’s vacuous non-answers to Helen Thomas. At the time, I wrote:

Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

After Obama briefly addressed L’Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote “must do better” on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas (now 91) to break through the vapid remarks about rechanneling “intelligence streams,” fixing “no-fly” lists, deploying “behavior detection officers,” and buying more body-imaging scanners.

Thomas recognized the John & Janet filibuster for what it was, as her catatonic press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions. Instead, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and more intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.

She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did. Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

Brennan: “Al-Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al-Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al-Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?”

Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how al-Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men. 

There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks.

Obama’s Non-Answer

I had been hoping Obama would say something intelligent about what drove Abdulmutallab to do what he did, but the president uttered a few vacuous comments before sending in the clowns. This is what he said before he walked away from the podium:

It is clear that al-Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al-Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.

But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Gaza long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress”?

Does a smart fellow like Obama expect us to believe that all we need to do is “communicate clearly to Muslims” that it is al-Qaeda, not the U.S. and its allies, that brings “misery and death”? Does any informed person not know that the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced 4.5 million from their homes? How is that for “misery and death”?

Rather than a failure to communicate, U.S. officials are trying to rewrite recent history, which seems to be much easier to accomplish with the Washington press corps and large segments of the American population than with the Muslim world. But why isn’t there a frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive?

Peeking Behind the Screen

We witnessed a similar phenomenon when the 9/11 Commission Report tiptoed into a cautious discussion of possible motives behind the 9/11 attacks. To their credit, the drafters of that report apparently went as far as their masters would allow, in gingerly introducing a major elephant into the room: “America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.” (p. 376)

When asked later about the flabby way that last sentence ended, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission, explained that there had been a donnybrook over whether that paragraph could be included at all.

The drafters also squeezed in the reason given by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as to why he “masterminded” the attacks on 9/11: “By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed … from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

Would you believe that former Vice President Dick Cheney has also pointed to U.S. support for Israel as one of the “true sources of resentment”? This unique piece of honesty crept into his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009.

Sure, he also trotted out the bromide that the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world.” But the Israel factor slipped into the speech, perhaps an inadvertent acknowledgement of the Israeli albatross adorning the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Very few pundits and academicians are willing to allude to this reality, presumably out of fear for their future career prospects.

Former senior CIA officer Paul R. Pillar, now a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the few willing to refer, in his typically understated way, to “all the other things … including policies and practices that affect the likelihood that people … will be radicalized, and will try to act out the anger against us.” One has to fill in the blanks regarding what those “other things” are.

But no worries. Secretary Napolitano has a fix for this unmentionable conundrum. It’s called “counter-radicalization,” which she describes thus: “How do we identify someone before they become radicalized to the point where they’re ready to blow themselves up with others on a plane? And how do we communicate better American values and so forth … around the globe?”

Better communication. That’s the ticket.

Hypocrisy and Double Talk

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Filed under News Commentary War War crimes Terrorism Imperialism Totalitarianism Washington DC USA DHS

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