Monthly Archives: June 2011
By Ken Dilanian
June 30, 2011″LA Times” – – — The Obama administration has concluded in a newly released counter-terrorism strategy that precision strikes and raids, rather than large land wars, are the most effective way to defeat Al Qaeda.
“Al Qaeda seeks to bleed us financially by drawing us into long, costly wars that also inflame anti-American sentiment,” John Brennan, President Obama’s counter-terrorism advisor, said in a speech Wednesday unveiling the new strategy. “Going forward, we will be mindful that if our nation is threatened, our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us.”
Brennan, a longtime former CIA officer, spoke at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, as the White House posted the new strategy on its website.
The strategy codifies policies the administration has been pursuing for 2 1/2 years, and much of it mirrors the practices of the Bush administration, Brennan said. But at its core is a repudiation of the thinking that sent large numbers of American troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda’s leadership has been decimated, Brennan said, thanks not to the wars but to “unyielding pressure” from U.S. operations to kill the group’s leaders one by one in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.
The more acute threats to the U.S. these days come from Al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and perhaps Somalia, U.S. officials have said, and no one is contemplating sending large numbers of American troops to those countries.
Instead, the U.S. will pursue a war in the shadows, one relying heavily on missile strikes from unmanned aerial drones, raids by elite special operations troops, and quiet training of local forces to pursue terrorists.
Brennan said the recently announced troop reduction in Afghanistan would have no impact on U.S. counter-terrorism strategy in that country and Pakistan, where, he said, the U.S. has been delivering “precise and overwhelming force” against militants.
In the peculiar dance that marks the administration’s discussions of this issue, Brennan did not explicitly mention the vast expansion of drone strikes the U.S. has undertaken in Pakistan since January 2009— 213 of them, according to the New America Foundation, which counts them through media reports. That is because the program technically is secret, even though it is widely discussed and openly acknowledged by U.S. and Pakistani officials in private.
Later, when asked whether a policy of targeted killing was appropriate for the United States, Brennan responded that the U.S. is “exceptionally precise and surgical in terms of addressing the terrorist threat. And by that I mean, if there are terrorists who are within an area where there are women and children or others, you know, we do not take such action that might put those innocent men, women and children in danger.”
He added that in the last year, “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.”
Brennan presumably was referring to covert strikes by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command, because in April, two American servicemen were killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a military drone after apparently being mistaken for insurgents moving to attack another group of Marines in southern Afghanistan.
Brennan’s willingness to boast about the precision of the drone strikes without actually acknowledging them underscores one of the implications of the Obama counter-terrorism strategy: It will be conducted largely in secret, without public accountability. When the military makes a mistake in a drone strike, as it has done in Afghanistan, there is an investigation and some transparency.
But when it comes to targeted killing by the CIA or clandestine special operations units, government officials are able to avoid public scrutiny, citing the need for secrecy. They are willing to make claims about limited civilian casualties, but are not willing to document those claims by, for example, releasing the video taken of each strike.
While members of Congress briefed on the drone program, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), back the administration’s claims that civilian casualties are minimal, other experts, including Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and Obama advisor, question how officials can be so sure.
Asked about this, the White House declined to comment.
Read the text of Brennan’s remarks here.
Video By RT
President Obama has unveiled new strategies for American counterterrorism, but to some experts the commander in chief is only making matters worse.
“What I see us doing is creating more terrorism throughout policies in Libya and Yemen,” says Susan Lindauer, a former CIA asset that previously worked out of Libya. “I think our actions speak louder than words,” she says, adding that military operations by America are neither proactive nor problem solving. Rather, says Lindauer, “we are actually making the situation worse.”
Posted June 30, 2011
The “Call to Patriotism” has been the leading political program on Libyan national television since the start of the war. It is broadcast nearly every day and is hosted by Yousif Shakeer, a respected journalist and former enemy of Gaddafi, but who currently stands for national unity in the face of foreign aggression.
The programme is aired live from the basement of the Raixos Hotel, where the international press, so that NATO will not dare bomb the studio.
A group of investigators associated with Voltaire Network now in Libya. Thierry Meyssan, Chairman of the non-aligned aligned press network, was the program’s special guest on 27 June 2011.
However, one minute before going on the air, NATO launched a guided missile on the radio relay station.
The explosion took place near Bab Al-Azizia square, which has turned into a camping ground for anti-NATO protesters since the outbreak of the hostilities. Libyan engineers managed to improvise another relay antenna and the program finally went on one and a half hours late. Several reruns were scheduled and it will soon be accessible on the internet.
The deliberate destruction of civilian installations is an international crime. According to the Alliance, the costly high-tech bombing was not targeting a relay antenna, but a mirador.
Four years ago, the United States declared that Thierry Meyssan represented a threat to their national security and, by virtue of Article 5 of the Treaty, it requested its NATO allies to “neutralize” him. Since then, he has been the object of an abduction attempt and several assassination bids, although the sponsors could not be clearly identified.
It is not known whether the missile which was used in vain to prevent the revolutionary intellectual from speaking to the Libyan people was fired by the French army or by another section of the Coalition of the Willing.
I am beginning to despair with the international community. Not the bogus one the Empire speaks of (a true minority), but the real one. Those who in physical actuality are the majority of the world population. Those who know what’s going on, but are doing absolutely nothing about it.
This enables the Empire to be more and more arrogant. Witness France’s flagrant admission that they are outrageously violating the UN Resolutions on Libya by openly admitting they are arming terrorists. Is anything being done about it? Is anyone dragging France before the UN Security Council to answer for its behavior?
Not a word. The silence is deafening.
The US Congress registers their disapproval of their President’s starting a war against Libya without consulting Congress, but yet the same dirtbags vote to continue funding for this illegal, immoral, genocidal filthy war. The American taxpayer doesn’t need health care, a home, a job, an up-to-date infrastructure or any type of security for the future when they grow old.
The western coalition of barbaric savages doesn’t try to hide their objective to assassinate Muamar Ghaddafi so that they can install terrorists as the Libyan government, people with open and easily observable connections to al Qaeda, and unknown individuals deep into corruption. Even the Los Angeles Times and the Daily Telegraph were forced to admit the al Qaeda connection of the terrorists.
The terrorists and their benefactors do not accept the free and fair elections offered, because they are well aware their loss would be most embarrassing.
One of the recent requests by the terrorist National Transitional Council to their NATO benefactors was to destroy a building in Libya containing information that would expose their corruption.
They are clearly terrorists in every sense of the word. Heavily armed, they are conducting summary executions, hangings, torture, mutilations, beheadings, rape, pillage, wanton destruction…all the nice and fuzzy things terrorists are known for.
If you are black and you are in Libya, your days are numbered if this murderous filth has anything to say about it. Racist anti-black ethnic cleansing is being actively implemented by the terrorists, all with the approval of the western barbarians.
The terrorists have already driven most foreign workers out of the country. They are going through money like it grows on trees. This money was stolen from the assets of the Libyan people and filtered by western trash countries to the terrorist treasure chest, which is nothing but a bottomless pit.
All this happens with the total complicit silence of western corporate media.
As insanely ferocious, evil, psychotic and demonic as the bombings are, the war of lies and disinformation is just as bad. They continue to repeat the same mantra…Ghaddafi Is attacking “his own people” you know, those poor innocent unarmed civilians.
Nevermind that the accusations that started the whole thing were shown to be lies, there never were any bombings by the government on “peaceful” protesters or any protesters for that matter. The satellites showed that no such thing ever happened. But do they stop repeating the lie? Of course not.
They try to give the impression that the government of Libya is ready to fall at any moment, that the rag tag impotent, pernicious terrorists with no support among the population are “popular” and doing well in their destructive campaign.
A decent person cannot help but feel utter righteous indignation, seething hatred and disgust as their sensibilities are offended by this utter arrogance and evil, these never ending, ceaseless, unpunished crimes, their god-like feeling that they can act with impunity. These crimes are being perpetrated to enrich the global elite who are pulling the strings of the Empire.
They have no legal or moral right to interfere in and exacerbate this internal conflict. Although there is substantial proof that the conflict was planned, funded and instigated by outside elements for some time. It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a part of some lovely, feel good “Arab spring” that came out of some desire for “freedom and democracy.”
When the west talks about “freedom and democracy” what they really mean is a country’s or leader’s willingness to do what they are told. Neither do they feel compelled to engage in the preferable, more human, more rational approach of discussion, dialogue and debate.
All the west is capable of is enforcing the law of the jungle, might makes right. Well, no, it does not. Righteous people are utterly horrified by their arrogance.
Every empire thought it was invincible, indestructible and eternal. So where are they now? The same is going to happen to the current evil Empire. Don’t think for a moment that it cannot be brought down, that it is too powerful, too whatever.
This too, shall pass. But at what price? The time for action is now. The time is now to end the stranglehold of international corporatism and capitalism, the worst and most dangerous form of fascism.
In closing, I can only say you will get the governance you deserve and if the innocent are to be put through the fire, the international community is not to remain silent. Every Libyan that is killed has died for our freedom. For you and for me. They are being made to suffer horribly and we will not remain unmindful of their pain and suffering.
Do something, people, or it is no great loss if some huge comet or asteroid hits this stupid planet.
Why Is Jerry Falwell’s Evangelical University Getting Filthy Rich off Your Tax Money? | Tea Party and the Right | AlterNet
By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON – “We are in a multi-polar world now,” Robert Gates told a Washington Post columnist within a year of his taking over the Pentagon in early 2007.
Such an assertion sounds banal today, nearly three years after the outbreak of a global financial crisis that would underline Washington’s relative decline vis-a-vis China and other emerging powers and bolster the perception that the 21st-century was unlikely to be as “American” as the last one.
But, at the time, it was anathema to the neo-conservatives and other hawks, led by Dick Cheney, the vice president who, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, drove the US into two costly wars and doubled a defense budget that was already greater than the combined spending by the world’s next 20 biggest militaries in order to affirm that the world was in fact “unipolar”.
For Gates, who replaced the strutting, no-nonsense – but ultimately clueless – Donald Rumsfeld, it was one of a number of statements designed to nudge his country into a more realistic understanding of its place in the world, and, more precisely, the limits to its vast military power.
Whether he succeeded in that effort remains unclear, but, as he leaves the capital at the end of this week for his retirement home in “the other Washington” on the US northwest coast, few here doubt that he will be remembered as one of the most influential secretaries of defense in the country’s history.
“James Forrestal created the Department of Defense, Robert McNamara created its modern structure, and Gates has taken it from a hegemonic posture to one that is more realistic,” according to John Prados, a national security historian and author of a dozen books on the subject.
“For most of his career, US power could not be opposed, and the only questions were where and how we wanted to intervene and have our way,” Prados told Inter Press Service (IPS). “I see Robert Gates as appreciating that there are limits to our power and attempting to re-align the defense organization and our actual policies accordingly.”
“In Washington, it’s no longer considered a sin to question American omnipotence,” wrote Andrew Bacevich, a retired army colonel and author who teaches international relations at Boston University on tomdispatch.com this week. “[T]he Gates legacy is likely to be found in his willingness – however belated – to acknowledge the limits of American power.”
Gates’ tenure as defense secretary has been unique in many ways, not least his status as the only Pentagon chief to be retained by an incoming administration – Barack Obama’s – of a different party (Democratic). As he himself has noted in recent farewell interviews, his breed of bipartisanship in an increasingly partisan Washington has become an endangered species.
Perhaps more compelling was his transformation from a career Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Soviet analyst during the Cold War with a reputation for arrogance, political and bureaucratic opportunism, and shading his reports to suit his bosses’ most-hawkish ideological predilections into a nearly universally respected senior statesman willing to speak inconvenient truths to leaders who would rather not hear them.
Indeed, it was his service as deputy CIA director under the aggressively anti-communist crusader and Iran-Contra mastermind William Casey that resulted in his failed nomination by Ronald Reagan to take over the agency after Casey’s death in 1987, although he was approved for the job – over strong Democratic opposition – when he was nominated by president George H W Bush four years later.
After Bush’s defeat to Bill Clinton in 1992, Gates followed his boss back to Texas where he became president of Texas A&M University.
It was as a member of Bush’s foreign policy team – perhaps the most coherent and effective since World War II – that Gates firmly established his reputation as both a master bureaucrat and as a Republican foreign policy “realist”. It is a breed deeply skeptical of the kinds of foreign policy adventures favored by the party’s neo-conservatives and aggressive nationalists, as well as “liberal interventionists” in the Democratic Party, particularly if they involved the use of US military power.
Whether George W Bush by November 2006 had come to share that skepticism is unclear – most of the neo-conservatives had left the administration by then, and Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s influence was definitely on the wane. But once Gates took over the Pentagon, the hawks’ decline accelerated sharply.
“To move the administration away from the neo-cons and on a realist trajectory, Gates proved pivotal,” said Steve Clemons, American Strategy director at the New America Foundation.
“He brought the Bush administration back to the center and to a more moderate brand of internationalism after a more extremist first term,” agreed Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Gates cleaned out Pentagon officials who had either actively supported or excessively deferred to Rumsfeld and Cheney, replacing them with far more independent-minded officers, most importantly Admiral Mike Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who made his opposition to either a US or Israeli attack on Iran crystal clear.
Gates is to be succeed by Leon Panetta, who moves from his position as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Using his considerable bureaucratic skills, Gates also recommended like-minded policymakers for critical posts, such as Admiral Mike McConnell, with whom he had worked closely under the elder Bush, for Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The two men pushed hardest for the White House to release the summary of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that effectively stopped a Cheney and neo-conservative drive to rally support for an attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities dead in its tracks.
“If one person were to receive the top credit for preventing an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, it would be Gates,” wrote Ido Oren, an international relations professor at the University of Florida this week.
Working with secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and later with Hillary Clinton under Obama, he promoted a “reset” of relations with Russia, doggedly pursued a renewal – after a deep freeze enforced by Rumsfeld – of military ties with China, and constantly talked up the virtues of “soft power”, becoming the first defense secretary to lobby for major increases in the State Department and foreign aid budgets.
“I’ve heard him say repeatedly that we over-militarize our responses to national security challenges,” Clemons told IPS. “And while the challenge of rebalancing resources from the military to the civilian agencies will take a long time, he’s laid the groundwork for that to happen in a compelling way.”
And while the Pentagon budget has continued to grow in real terms even under Obama, Gates, as well as Mullen – who last year warned that the national debt posed the single greatest threat to national security – became ever more insistent that Washington could no longer afford it.
“What’s clear is that Gates recognized we’d gotten ourselves seriously over-extended, and once the financial meltdown happened, that the resources available for the military were inevitably going to shrink,” said Stephen Walt, an influential Harvard international relations professor who writes a blog for foreignpolicy.com.
“It didn’t take a genius to figure this out, but it took someone who was experienced, largely devoid of ideology, and wasn’t looking for another job down the road to say all these things.”
Indeed, as his tenure has wound down, he has become increasingly outspoken, even alarmist, about the country’s future if it does not come to terms with the limits to its power.
“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined”, as General [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it,” he told West Point cadets in February.
“I’ve spent my entire adult life with the United States as a superpower and one that had no compunction about spending what it took to sustain that position,” he told The DailyBeast just last week. ”
… This is a different time,” he went on, noting that he was retiring at the right moment. “Because frankly … I wouldn’t want to be part of a government that is being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world.
“… My hope is that those fears are unfounded, that we will figure out a way … to sustain our presence around the world – and even increase it in the Pacific. But I think there are some very real questions that are going to have to be answered in terms of the size and shape of the US military,” Gates said.
Jim Lobe’s blog on US foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com.
(Inter Press Service)
It is by now patently obvious that there are two languages being spoken in Athens: that among the political class desperate to keep the Euro-wagon on the road and that of the Greek people, who at this moment represent the hearts and minds of the Europeans, which spells out the message that we do not want this European Union.
Apart from not wanting this European Union, we do not want this system. They told us their system was better than the Socialist model, which provided free maternity care, maternity leave, free and excellent education and extra-curricular activities, free and excellent University or further education, a guaranteed job, a decent salary, subsidised staple foodstuffs, including drinks, subsidised or free public utilities, a free house, a free or subsidised car, social mobility, excellent and free healthcare, including dental treatment, security of the State, security on the streets, protection against drug addicts, porn and the filth that was practised in western countries, free or subsidised transportation, social mobility, a decent and indexed pension and free leisure-time activities, free or heavily subsidised medication and culminating with a free funeral.
They told us their model was far, far better. And what, pray, was their model? For a start, never did they ask us whether or not we wanted the Euro and rarely did they ask us if we wanted the EU or any part of it. In the few instances they did so, at best the vote was split 50-50 and more often than not, the poll was a resounding NO!, after which they cynically reworded the vote, altering the date to a sunny June summer’s day when everyone would be at the beach and repeated the exercise ad infinitum until people gave up and the YES won – with around 13 per cent of the electorate. A classic example of anti-democracy.
And had this undemocratic European Union bothered to explain things to us and then asked us how we wanted to vote, we would have said Nein! Merci beaucoup! Or in plain English, Up yours!
Did they ask us if we wanted the Euro? Did they tell us that prices would more than double while salaries stagnated? Did they tell us that the convergence rates would now bind us together using parameters which might make sense in Germany but are nonsensical in an economy like Portugal’s? If they imposed such measures, then why didn’t they start giving German salaries to the Portuguese?
Oh no, they wouldn’t do that, would they? They gave southern Europe northern European obligations without the tools to meet them then told northern Europe to pay for it. It is a lose-lose situation, being the fault of neither region but being very much that of the wonderfully colourful motley group of Eurocrats who glued this monster together against our collective will.
But that is not the end of it. They told us that in this wonderful capitalist system, the small trader had the freedom to start his own business and to employ people, making the economy grow, creating prosperity. Fine. But is this what they implemented? No, it is not. Look around you on the high street and tell me how many small traders you can see. Correct. Now deny that the Big Spaces have swallowed them all up, that the same Big Spaces negotiate supply contracts which favour not small local producers but the mega-sized food brokers who are selling foodstuffs at future prices, being the cheapest on the market, of what age and of what quality?
Coupled with that, the European Union destroyed the industry, agriculture and fisheries in many countries, handing everything to Germany, France and Spain in that order, destroying jobs down the line for future generations. True, the governments in power upon and just after adhesion to the EU are to blame but that does not help anyone now, does it?
And then what did they do? To compound everyone’s misery, they started trading not in concrete commodities – oh no, that wasn’t enough – they started trading in weird and wonderful products, SWAPS, futures and you name it, based entirely upon speculation, gambling our money away, and worse, taking out all sorts of insurance policies to guarantee what they now term “complex products”. Complex, or downright stupid?
Because if anyone had bothered to ask the people along the way, those of us who know a little about these things would have stood up and explained to the others that what they were doing was bound to fail.
But we haven’t finished yet. Added to this, these grey failed politicians called Eurocrats (who couldn’t get a proper job at home and had to waste billions – I repeat, billions – of our money in Strasbourg and Brussels) not only spent all the money they had, deriding centuries of economic history based upon the Gold Standard but then started issuing sovereign debt, which amounts to loans for the future based upon an interest rate controlled by the credit rating of ratings agencies in New York (Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch). Now, just how much more manic could this get?
Right. It couldn’t. Greece is the end of the line, the beginning of the end of this European Union, or put another way, the end of its beginning. However, it could also be a new beginning.
This time let us be sensible. Let us ignore the fantastic ideas of those generations of Eurocrats which have put us in the situation we are in, imposing this madhouse upon us without asking our opinions and this time, let us do what the people of Europe want us to do. How?
Well to be frank, I believe the chair of economics in all Universities these days should be banished because if the economics courses are supposed to produce economists, who in turn have created this hell-hole they call market-oriented capitalism and now say there is no Plan B, because it is too complicated, then it doesn’t say very much for them collectively, does it?
It is perfectly simple and not complicated at all. For a start let us stop all this nonsense about the possibility of Greece “going bankrupt”. Greece is bankrupt, period. Otherwise it wouldn’t need constant injections of billions upon billions in loans, which anyway it will have to pay back tomorrow at inflated prices. How is its economy supposed to grow at a rate which will mean that the same situation will not arise again, and again, and again? For the Greeks, impending disaster, under this system, is a given factor. For those who pay, well, how long are the northern Europeans going to see their hard-earned tax-Euros squandered in paying off Greece, or Portugal, or wherever, when “Sorry Mr. Brown, we cannot afford your cancer treatment because we’ve bailed out Greece, oh! and we’ve spent 300 million Euros supporting terrorists in Libya”?
So if the economists cannot produce a Plan B, then I will. Greece? Be a man, drop this Euro nonsense, tell the European Union to go stick it and go back to the good old Drachma, not the silly little coins they were using just before the Euro, but the proper Drachma, those nice chunky coins and those pretty notes which actually meant something.
OK? Now, having done that, pass a law accepting your debt in Drachma. Done that? OK now devalue your Drachma by half and lo and behold! You have halved your debt! Ha ha ha, well not quite but almost. Numerically you still have the debt to pay but you can now use the Drachma for leverage to renegotiate it over time. Forget those interest rates, and tell them the interest rate will be created by you, otherwise there isn’t a cent for anyone. Send Moody’s and Fitch and their friends to Hell where they belong.
Now, they will tell you that this is terrible for imports because things will cost more. Exactly! Now here is your opportunity. It if costs more to import, then conversely it will be easier to export and now you can start rebuilding the production units you lost, recuperating your agriculture, fisheries and industries the EU took away from you and wow, you will see that you are suddenly creating jobs and markets and futures for your children. The State is receiving more income from taxation and hey! Yes you can afford those social schemes they told you that you could not. Amazing, eh?
The world is a small place, you can go out there looking for places downstream for your production to flow into. And with this upturn in your economy, buoyed by consumer confidence (the Feelgood Factor, the National Card – Buy Greek!) now you can start thinking of real economic growth, servicing your debt as and when you are able to pay it and building a brighter future for your children.
Tell Brussels to shove its Convergence Rate up where the Sun does not shine, tell Strasbourg to keep its silly Euro laws about the size of oranges and the size of a fishing net you cannot use but foreigners can, in your waters.
And there, ladies and gentlemen, we have the funeral of this European Union. Rest in Peace and for Christ’s sake stay there. See, they tried to go too far, too fast. The experiments should never have left the desks of the academics who, bored shitless no doubt on a Friday afternoon, maybe after lunch, cooked them up. What were they smoking?
All the people of Europe every really wanted was a loose trading agreement life EFTA, possibly something along the lines of free movement of goods, maybe to a certain extent of peoples and nothing more than that. If our dear beloved Eurocrats had bothered to ask us in the first place…
So Greece, please. Your first move, the rest of us will follow suit! Or are the 500 million citizens of Europe too cowardly to fight this monstrosity which is today eating away our pensions and the futures of our children? Mark my words, if the monster isn’t killed today it will come back tomorrow. With its friends.
by Thierry Meyssan
n international team of investigators from Voltaire Network is currently in Libya where it visited the bombing sites. With the support of the Libyan authorities, and not withstanding the war conditions, they were able to meet with a number of political leaders and security officials. What they witnessed is diametrically opposed to the accounts conveyed by the western media. Thierry Meyssan shares their initial observations.
Voltaire Network | Tripoli (Libye)
| 29 June 2011
As the Libyan bombing campaign entered the 100th day, NATO announced its imminent success. However, since the aims of the war were never clearly defined, it is difficult to know what is meant by success. Simultaneously, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the Libyan regime’s intelligence chief Abjullah al-Sanoussi for “crimes against humanity.”
According to the terms of Security Council Resolution 1973, the aim of the Coalition of the willing was to establish a no-fly zone to prevent the tyrant from murdering his own people. However, the initial reports of Libya mobilizing its air force against its own people have as yet to be corroborated, despite the ICC’s acceptance of their authenticity. Whatever the case, NATO operations have largely exceeded the establishment of a no-fly zone, morphing into a systematic destruction campaign of all national armed forces -air, land and sea.
NATO’s objectives must evidently lie elsewhere. Accordingly, the heads of the Alliance have repeatedly called for the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s “regime“, including the “Brother Leader“’s physical elimination. At the same time, the western media periodically evoke the “massive defections” of Tripoli officials to rally the cause of the Benghazi rebels, while failing to cite any names except for those political leaders already famous for their longstanding sympathies towards, such as Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa.
International public opinion is widely misinformed. Washington had the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (Arabsat), of which Libya is a shareholder, block the transmission of the Jamahiriya Satellite Channel. It shouldn’t be long before the State Department follows suit with NileSat. In breach of its international obligations, Washington denied a visa to the new Libyan ambassador to the United Nations. He is barred from going to New York to expound his point of view, while his predecessor – who has joined the National Transitional Council – continues to occupy his seat.
With Tripoli’s voice stifled, any lie can easily be spread without risk of refutation.
It should come as no surprise if – when seen from Tripoli where this article is written – NATO’s announcements and the injunctions of the ICC seem unreal. Western Libya is peaceful. The sirens unpredictably announce the arrival of bombers or missiles, immediately followed by explosions. It is pointless to scramble towards the shelters; on one hand, time is too short and, on the other hand, there are no shelters.
The bombings are carried out with razor-sharp precision. The guided munitions hit the targeted buildings, then the targeted rooms inside the buildings. Nevertheless, NATO loses control in flight of roughly one guided missile out of every ten. When that occurs, the missile lands haphazardly in the city, sowing indiscriminate death.
While part of NATO’s targets are “military“: barracks and bases; the majority are “strategic“, that is economic. For example, the Alliance bombarded the Libyan Mint Office building, a civilian administration in charge of manufacturing dinars. Also, its commandos sabotaged factories that were competing with those of the Coalition. Other targets are said to be “psychological” in that they strike the political and security leaders where it hurts most: the decimation of their families. The missiles are then aimed at their private quarters and, more precisely, their children’s bedrooms.
The capital and the coast are steeped in a heavy atmosphere. But the population is united. The Libyans emphasize that none of their internal problems can justify the recourse to war. They voice social claims and regional issues, comparably to certain European countries, but nothing that would prompt families to split up, a situation which the imposed partition of the country is currently generating.
With NATO’s intervention, tens of thousands of wealthy Libyans packed up and moved to neighboring countries, especially Tunisia, leaving the poor with the responsibility to defend the country that made them rich. Many shops have closed down but no one knows whether it’s because of replenishment problems or because the owners have fled.
As is happening in Syria, the majority of political opponents are behind the government, eager to protect their country’s integrity in the face of foreign aggression. Meanwhile, certain Libyans collaborate with NATO under the radar, feeding information on the location of targets. In the past, their parents had welcomed the Italian colonial troops; today, in unison with their Benghazi counterparts they chant “1, 2, 3, Sarkozy is on his way!.” Each nation has its share of traitors and quislings.
The abuses committed by Prince Bandar’s mercenaries in Cyrenaica wound up convincing a lot of fence sitters. Television channels broadcast non-stop the doings of Al-Qaeda leaders in Libya, some of whom were sent directly from Guantanamo to fight alongside the United States. Unbearable images display scenes of lynchings and mutilations in cities which have been transformed into Islamic emirates – Afghan or Iraqi style – by individuals dehumanized by inflicted torture and under the influence of potent drugs. It is not necessary to be a longstanding supporter of Gaddafi’s Revolution in order to support it today in the face of the horrors perpetrated by the jihadists in the “zones liberated” by the Alliance .
Nothing anywhere in the West of the country is reminiscent of a rebellion or a civil war. There are no barricades, nor armored vehicles in the streets. Along every road, the authorities set up a check-point every two kilometers. The drivers patiently bide their time, themselves on the look out for elements infiltrated by NATO.
Colonel Gaddafi has armed the population. Approximately two million machine guns have already been distributed to the civilians. The idea is that each adult, man or women, should be in a position to defend his or her home. The Libyans learned the Iraqi lesson. Saddam Hussein had rested his power on the Ba’ath ruling party and the army, excluding the people from political life. When the party was decapitated and several generals defected, the State suddenly collapsed leaving the country with no resistance and floundering in chaos. Libya instead follows an original system of participative democracy, similar to the grassroots assemblies in Vermont. People are used to being consulted and assuming responsibilities. Hence, it is easy to mobilize them en masse.
Unexpectedly, women are more determined than men to carry arms. This could be explained by their higher rate of participation in the popular assemblies in recent years. It could also be a reflection of the flightiness that has affected certain officials in this socialist country where they enjoy a high standard of living.
Everyone is aware that the decisive moment will come when NATO will deploy its ground troops, if it dares to venture it. The defense strategy has been entirely conceived in terms of dissuading the penetration of ground troops by mobilizing the population. Here, U.S., French and British soldiers will not be received as liberators, but as colonial invaders. Endless urban guerrilla combats will await them.
Libyans are perplexed about the real motives behind NATO’s military operation. I was surprised to learn that it was often through the articles published by Voltaire Network, translated and relayed by numerous other Internet sites and printed newspapers, that they were informed of what was at stake. Here, like everywhere else, there is an information deficit when it comes to the international scene. People are aware and proud of their government’s initiatives and achievements in favor of African unity and the development of the Third World, but they are oblivious to certain aspects of international politics and under-estimate the destructive capacity of the Empire. War always seems remote, until the predator picks you as his prey.
So, what is the success heralded by NATO? For the time being, the country is fractured in two. Cyrenaica has been proclaimed an independent republic – although preparations are under way to restore the monarchy – and has been recognized by several States, starting with France. This new entity is governed de facto by NATO, but officially by a mysterious non-elected National Transitional Council whose members, if they exist, are undercover to avoid having to answer for their acts. A portion of Libyan assets has been frozen and currently administered to their greatest benefit by western governments. Part of the oil production is marketed at unbeatable conditions in favor of western companies, which are going hog wild. Perhaps this is the success that NATO is talking about: colonial pillaging.
By issuing an international arrest warrant against Muammar Gaddafi, his son and his intelligence chief, the International Criminal Court aims to exert pressure on the Libyan diplomats to get them to resign. Should Jamahiriya fall, each one is threatened to be charged with “complicity in crimes against humanity.” Those who resign will leave a vacant post behind them, without being replaced. The arrest warrants are clearly linked to a policy of isolating the country.
The ICC also engages in war communication. It qualifies Seif al-Islam as a “de facto Prime Minister“, which he is decidedly not, but it conveys the impression of a family regime. We are before an example of the reversal-of-values principle which is typical of US propaganda. While the Benghazi rebels brandish the flag of the Senussi monarchy and that the heir to the throne sits impatiently in London, it is the system of participative democracy which is being portrayed as a family dynasty.
At the end of the first hundred days of war, disappointment is seeping through NATO’s communiqués. With the exception of Cyrenaica, the Libyans did not rise up against the “regime.” No military solution is in sight. The only exit allowing NATO not to loose too much face is the division of the country. Benghazi would thus become the equivalent of Camp Bondsteel, the largest US military base in Europe, which acceded to the status of an independent state by the name of Kosovo. Cyrenaica would serve as the permanent base that Africom requires for the better control of the black continent.
 Some readers may find such remarks surprising. Voltaire Network will revisit them in more detail in forthcoming articles.
By Uri Avnery
“gush-shalom” The Palestinians are planning something thoroughly obnoxious: they intend to apply to the UN for statehood.
Why obnoxious? Any Israeli spokesman (not to mention spokeswoman) will tell you readily: because it is a “unilateral” move. How dare they proclaim a state unilaterally? How dare they do so without the consent of the other party to the conflict – us?
A stickler for detail might ask at this point: “But was the State of Israel not proclaimed unilaterally?” Our state, it may be remembered, was declared by David Ben-Gurion and his colleagues on Mai 14, 1948, without asking anyone.
But who would dare to compare?
Furthermore, these dastardly Palestinians are going to the UN General Assembly, trying to circumvent the UN Security Council where the US can block them with its veto. Dirty trick!
But just a moment! Was the State of Israel not proclaimed on the basis of a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly? To be precise: resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, on the partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state?
As a matter of fact, this resolution is still in force. It served as the centerpiece of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and serves now as a basis for the Palestinian demand that the State of Palestine be accepted as a full-fledged member of the United Nations.
But again, how can one compare?
IN SHORT, the Palestinians must be condemned for their impertinent effort to resort to “unilateral” action. Binyamin Netanyahu says so. Barack Obama says so. Hillary Clinton says so. Angela Merkel says so. It has become a mantra.
One more mantra. It might have been thought that the Israeli-Palestinian arena is so full of mantras, that there is no room for more. But there always is.
Shlomo Avineri, a much respected Zionist professor, has dredged up one of the oldest. In a recent article entitled “Narratives and Truth” he claimed that there are two narratives about our conflict, but only one truth. The truth consists of incontestable facts.
For example: there are several narratives about the UN partition resolution, but only one truth. As it so happens, this truth coincides with the Israeli narrative, which has become a sacred mantra.
It goes like this: in 1947, the Zionist leadership accepted the UN partition plan, and the Palestinian Arabs rejected it. Instead, they attacked the Jewish community in the country and were later joined by the regular armies of the neighboring Arab states. They wanted to throw us into the sea. They lost the war and paid the price.
Facts? Incontestable? Well…
IT IS indeed a fact that the Zionist leadership accepted the partition plan – formally. Many Zionist leaders objected, but were persuaded by David Ben-Gurion to agree to the official acceptance. However, in several secret meetings Ben-Gurion made it clear that the partition borders were unacceptable and must be rectified at the first opportunity. The minutes of these meetings are there for all to read.
The other side of the mantra – “the Palestinian Arabs rejected” – is more complex. There was no democratically elected Palestinian Arab leadership. In the 1936-39 Arab revolt, the Arab leadership – such as it was – was destroyed, partly by the British but mostly by the foremost Palestinian leader, the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini. He had most of his competitors killed off.
During World War II, Hajj Amin fled to Nazi Germany and the rest of the “leaders” were deported by the British. After the war, the discredited Hajj stayed abroad. A distant relative of his headed the so-called “Arab Higher Committee”, which was unelected and had shallow roots among the population. There was no effective Palestinian leadership in existence.
No one asked the Arab Palestinians whether to accept or reject anything. If they had been asked, they would probably have rejected partition, since – in their view – it gave a large part of their historical homeland to foreigners. The more so, since the Jews, who at the time constituted a third of the population, were allotted 55% of the territory – and even there the Arabs constituted 40% of the population.
The governments of the Arab states rejected partition, but they certainly did not represent the Palestinian Arabs, who were at the time still under British rule (as were we).
As a matter of fact, during the war there was no effective united Palestinian Arab leadership, nor was there anything even remotely resembling a united Palestinian fighting force.
One can interpret these facts as one wishes – but they certainly do not paint a clear picture of “the Zionists accepted, the Palestinians rejected”.
Yet this mantra is being repeated endlessly in newspaper articles, TV talk-shows and political speeches as self-evident truth. Prof. Avineri is only one of a legion of Israeli propagandists to repeat it.
ANOTHER MANTRA parading as the incontestable truth is that the 750,000 original Palestinian refugees left their homes in 1948 voluntarily, after being requested by the Arab leadership to do so, ”in order to clear the way for the advancing Arab armies”.
Any thoughtful person hearing this must come to the conclusion that it is utter nonsense. No advancing army would want to remove a friendly population. Quite the contrary. Needless to say, not a shred of evidence for this contention has ever been discovered. (There may be some doubts about local events during the conquest of the Arab parts of Haifa, but they do not change the broad picture.)
This mantra is compounded by the idea that in war, all the people on the losing side forfeit their country, their homes and their property. This may have been so in Biblical times, but in modern times it does not reflect international law or common morality.
There may be many different opinions about how to put an end to this tragedy. The Palestine refugee population has grown to over five million. The landscape has changed completely. Very few people, even among Palestinians, believe in a mass return of refugees. But this does not change the fact that the mantra sounds hollow. It is not even good propaganda anymore.
A NEW mantra is now gaining ground. Binyamin Netanyahu put it in simple words: “the Conflict is Insoluble”. Many respected figures, including prominent university professors, now repeat it daily.
I am reminded of a late friend of mine, Samuel Merlin, a member of the first Knesset, who once took part in a public debate with Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former chief of army intelligence. At the time – the era of euphoria between the 1967 and the 1973 wars – Harkabi was a raving Arab-hater (after 1973 he repented and became a determined peace activist).
When his turn came to answer Harkabi’s arguments, Merlin said: “I respect Professor Harkabi very much, but in order to utter such views you don’t need to be a professor, you can be anyone on the street.”.
By Pepe Escobar
Way beyond the impenetrable fog of war, the ongoing tragedy in Libya is morphing into a war of acronyms that graphically depicts the tortuous “birth pangs” of a possibly new world order.
On one side there’s NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and AL (the Arab League; on the other side, the African Union (AU) and the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). Alternatively, this may be seen as the Atlanticist West and its counter-revolutionary Arab allies, against Africa and the emerging global economic powers.
Lies, lies and more lies
Much rumbling has emanated from the US Congress on Libya – centered on technicalities around the War Powers Act. Essentially, US lawmakers are so far refusing to authorize what walks like a war and talks like a war (and, according to the White House, isn’t a war). There will be no more funds for increased US involvement in this NATO adventure; but funds will keep flowing anyway.
As the semantic contortions involved in the Libya tragedy have already gone way beyond newspeak, this means in practice US drones will keep joining NATO fighter jets in bombing civilians in Tripoli.
Unlike the irrepressible Vijay Prashad from Trinity College in Connecticut, few in the West may have noticed what Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has had to say about all this. In a June 23 op-ed for the Financial Times titled “How China Plans to Reinforce the Global Recovery”, Wen states that China is ready to exercise its political muscle in MENA (Middle East/Northern Africa) via the BRICS.
Beijing is not exactly happy that it has been elbowed out of its sizable energy investments in Libya – over 30,000 workers evacuated in a matter of only two days; it wants to make sure it remains a major player whatever happens in Libya.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, for its part, has already stressed the “physical destruction of [Muammar] Gaddafi and members of his family raise serious doubts”. Gaddafi’s daughter, Aisha, is suing NATO in Brussels for the killing of her daughter, Mastoura, her brother and Gaddafi’s two other grandchildren.
Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty International, has reported after spending three months in Libya that there’s absolutely no evidence Libyan troops on Viagra engaged in mass rape of women (that is a fact as far as the International Criminal Court is concerned).
Amnesty also found no evidence of mercenaries from Central and West Africa fighting the “rebels”. According to Rovera, “those shown to journalists as foreign mercenaries were later quietly released … Most were sub-Saharan migrants working in Libya without documents.”
Some though were lynched and even executed. Cyrenaica has historically been prejudiced against black Africans.
Civilians have been bombed by both the Libyan army and by NATO. Yet there’s no evidence the Libyan Air Force bombed “rebel” towns wholesale; and no proof of mass killing of civilians on the scale of Syria or Yemen. In a nutshell; the Gaddafi regime may hold a record of brutal repression against any sort of opposition. But it has not committed genocide. That buries the humanitarian hawks’ rationale for war six feet under.
Hypocrisy rules. The International Criminal Court accuses Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam – the one who used to be a darling of the London School of Economics – and intelligence czar Abdallah al-Senoussi of “crimes against humanity” while the ghastly dictatorship in Burma/Myanmar and the al-Khalifas in Bahrain walk away.
When in doubt, balkanize
One must be privy to the cavernous NATO halls in Mons, near Brussels, to gauge how much this swarm of military bureaucrats is impermeable to reality. NATO still believes that it “won” the war against Slobodan Milosevic by bombing Serbia for 78 days in 1999. What in fact “won” that war was Milosevic losing political support from Russia.
After more than 100 days of bombing Libya, with 12,000 sorties and 2,500 targets, NATO continues to spin that it is “winning”. Yes, just like it is “winning” in Afghanistan.
Newspeak rules – in the context of a relentless disinformation war. NATO refuses to admit straight away it is engaged in humanitarian liberation of Libya via regime change – which by the way is not authorized by UN resolution 1973.
The US for its part cut off Libyan TV from the ArabSat satellite – of which Libya is a shareholder. The new Libyan representative to the United Nations was refused a US visa. This means only the dodgy motley crew of “rebels” is allowed a forum in global English-language media.
Even with much-lauded “precision bombing” NATO loses at least one missile in 10. This accounts for the increasing rate of “collateral damage”. Targets are not only military; they are increasingly economic, such as the Libyan Mint, which prints dinars.
There is no national uprising against the regime. Tripolitania – Western Libya – has rallied behind Gaddafi; after all he is regarded as defending the country against a neo-colonial foreign attack.
As for those in Benghazi who believe opportunist neo-Napoleonic Nicolas Sarkozy loves them so much he wants to “liberate” them the Rafale way, they are regarded as patsies – if not traitors.
Northern African al-Qaeda jihadis for their part are having a ball manipulating NATO to reach their ends – performing the odd lynching or amputation in selected “liberated” environment.
NATO’s mix of arrogance and incompetence is inevitably leading towards a balkanization of Libya – a scenario Asia Times Online has already predicted. Considering almost two million machine-guns have already been distributed among the population, and assuming NATO will end up daring to put boots on the ground – the only way to win a decisive “victory” – one may imagine the absolutely dire consequences in terms of very bloody urban combat.
A new NATO protectorate
Libya is already a graphic case of post-modern neo-colonial plunder.
NATO “winning” means in practice Cyrenaica as an independent republic – although the “rebels” would rather restore the monarchy (the candidate can barely conceal his impatience in London). That also happens to be what Saudi Arabia and Qatar – major backers of regime change – want.
This “independent” eastern Libya would-be emirate is already recognized by a few countries, Sarkozy’s France included. No wonder; it is already configured as a NATO protectorate. The ultra-dodgy Transitional Council cannot even let its members – opportunist defectors, US Central Intelligence Agency assets, jihadi-linked clerics – be known.
Moreover, billions of dollars of Libyan assets have already been – illegally – seized by the US and the European Union. And part of the national oil production is being commercialized by Qatar.
This mongrel NATO war now has absolutely nothing to do with R2P (Responsibility to Protect) – the new gospel of humanitarian hawks that has turned international law on its head. Civilians are not being protected but bombed in Tripoli. There’s a refugee crisis – a direct consequence of this civil war. Against repeated pleading by Turkey and the AU, the humanitarian hawks didn’t even bother to organize a humanitarian corridor towards Tunisia and Egypt.
The only feasible way out is a ceasefire – with NATO out of the picture. The monitoring on the ground would fall to UN blue helmets – preferably composed by Africans. The West has absolutely no credibility to act as a mediator; Africans would be the first to oppose it. So what’s left would be the Arab League and the AU.
The Arab League is pro-Benghazi. In fact a fake Arab League vote (only nine out of 22 countries, six of them part of the Gulf Counter-Revolution Club, also known as GCC), manipulated by Saudi Arabia, allowed the Arab endorsement of what became UN resolution 1973; in fact this was a trade-off for the House of Saud having its hands free to repress pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, as Asia Times Online has reported (see Exposed: The US/Saudi deal, Asia Times Online, April 2).
The AU has been repeatedly scorned by the Anglo-French-American regime change consortium – even after it got a commitment from Gaddafi to enter negotiations. The AU is meeting again this Thursday in Equatorial Guinea. The AU Libya panel’s chair – the President of Mauritania, Mohamed Abdel Aziz – has already said on the record that Gaddafi “can no longer lead Libya”, which is a considerable step beyond for the AU.
But that does not mean that the AU – unlike NATO and the “rebels” – wants regime change right here, right now. Gaddafi relinquishing power will have to be a natural outcome of detailed negotiations. In a nutshell; the AU has a road map towards a solution; NATO has bombs. And the BRICS, especially via China, Russia and South Africa, privilege the AU strategy.
Expect the US/NATO consortium to fight to the death. For obvious reasons – all linked to the Pentagon’s eternal, irremovable full-spectrum dominance doctrine plus a crucial subplot, NATO’s new strategic concept adopted in Lisbon in November 2010 (see Welcome to NATOstan Asia Times Online, November 20, 2010).
NATO’s definition of “winning” implies Benghazi as the new Camp Bondsteel – the largest US military base in Europe, which happens to double as an “independent” state under the name of Kosovo. Cyrenaica is the new Kosovo. Balkanization rules.
This is a sort of dream scenario for the compound NATO/Africom. Africom gets its much-wanted African base (the current headquarters is in Stuttgart, Germany) after participating in its first African war. NATO extends its crucial agenda of ruling over the Mediterranean as a NATO lake. After Northern Africa there will be only two Mediterranean non-players to “take out”: Syria and Lebanon. The name of this game is not Libya; it’s Long War.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
By Victor Kotsev
TEL AVIV – The “Freedom Flotilla II”, an attempt by international pro-Palestinian activists to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed by Israel, is due to sail any time now. The name and the organizers themselves suggest that their goal is to emulate last year’s bloody confrontation at sea in which nine Turkish activists were killed and dozens, including a number of Israeli soldiers, were wounded. It is possible that this time around, the confrontation (there is little doubt there will be one) will be entirely non-violent, but this outcome is far from certain.
News reports say that 10 boats are due to sail from, among other places, Corsica, Greece. They will include two cargo boats with the rest being passenger ships.
The undertaking has taken almost a whole year to organize – and this time, the confrontation has been raging, behind the scenes, for many months, alongside continued legal and political haggling over the legacy of last year’s violent events. Both sides have been preparing meticulously, and the maneuvers of a number of international actors – most importantly, Turkey – have left their imprint on the operation. Amid the Arab uprisings that have reshuffled the entire Middle East in a major way, the affair has already attracted a lot of controversy.
It is ironic that the main paradigm of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement is last year’s debacle (which arguably did little good for anybody – see my article Nothing new for Israel all at sea, Asia Times Online, 3 June 2010) rather than, say, the 2008 expedition that managed to reach Gaza without violence and was widely perceived as a success. A number of other sea-borne attempts to break the blockade took place meanwhile, with varying outcomes. None was as deadly and controversial as the May 2010 one.
It is not just the shadow of violence that contrasts the most recent flotillas to the previous runs on the blockade. The narrative of the activists has been evolving in the last couple of years. The early flotillas emphasized the need for humanitarian assistance over political messages. Now, that emphasis appears to be reversed. “The flotilla is not about aid and Palestinians do not want humanitarian aid. We yearn for, we demand liberation,” one of the top organizers, Huwaida Arraf, told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
There may well be a link between these threads – political undertakings traditionally hold a much greater potential for violence than do humanitarian ones. They also tend to provoke a harsher response from the “other” side. The main challenge of any non-violent movement – as the organizers claim to be – is to break this link between political activism and violence, and to reverse the logic of the famous 19th-century military strategy Carl von Clausewitz (who claimed that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”). So far, the Free Gaza Movement has had a very mixed record at that, despite its rhetoric.
There is little doubt there will be a confrontation – the activists, despite numerous hiccups, have announced thy will sail, and the Israeli government has announced that it will intercept the vessels; on Monday, the latter gave its final approval for the operation to the military. However, it is difficult to forecast what exactly this confrontation will look like, just as it is unclear how many and which exactly activists will take part in it.
The Free Gaza organizers were forced to scale down their plans several times in the past months. One of their main allies, the Turkish IHH charity, pulled out in the last moment, ostensibly under political pressure from the Turkish government. Arguably, Ankara decided to boycott the undertaking for a complex mixture of reasons, including the escalating tensions with Syria (which could use the flotilla to launch its own provocation against Israel, as it has done twice in as many months, in hopes of creating a distraction), a reported warming of relations between Turkey and Israel, and an alleged American offer for “major” Turkish role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  Some reports even have it that Turkey is concerned that a soon-to-come United Nations report on last year’s flotilla will side with Israel and damage Ankara’s credibility. 
Whatever the truth, IHH’s decision likely had an ambiguous effect on the activists’ effort: on the one hand, it deprived the flotilla of its flagship, a powerful symbol, and a considerable part of its participants. The original plan was to use the Mavi Marmara, the ship where the violence occurred last year, again in order to amplify the message. The cancellation of that plan delivered a logistical blow as well, since the Mavi Marmara is considerably larger and can carry more passengers than any of the other vessels in the hands of the Free Gaza Movement.
On the other hand, however, the Turkish IHH members spearheaded last year’s violence, and their absence might give the activists a chance to change tactics significantly, and to rehabilitate their non-violent credentials. In particular, if the soldiers overreact, but the activists remain calm and non-violent, this would be a major symbolic victory for the latter; clearly, at least some of the participants are preparing for this scenario. 
However, whether the non-violent activists will be able to enforce discipline among all participants, remains to be seen, and will depend on who else is on board. Reports have it that some IHH members and other provocateurs have managed to infiltrate the flotilla again.
Israeli forces, moreover, have been preparing hard for the raid – and while some of those preparations suggest a possibility for overreaction, most actually point in the opposite direction.
Part of Israel’s less-known narrative regarding last year’s naval raid is the shock of the Israeli public at images of wounded Israeli soldiers being helplessly carried away from the battle scene. The world largely saw the events through a different prism – that of armed commandos taking over vessels in international waters.
Yet most Israelis regarded the raid as legitimate law enforcement action, not too different from what Israel and other countries have done in the past, and carried out with proper warnings and in accordance with international standards for such actions. They held their government accountable for not taking more precautions to protect the soldiers.
This year, there is every indication that the Israeli government is taking all threats seriously. These include reports that some activists plan to attack soldiers, possibly with chemical substances such as sulfur,  and that Iranian agents have tried to sneak aboard the ships. 
According to a Jerusalem Post report from early June:
This time around, the navy has been preparing rigorously for the operation, enlisting all of its Flotilla 13 [Israeli naval special forces] commandos from the reserves and running different training models with various scenarios, from passive resistance – such as sit-downs – to potential gunfights and booby-trapped ships.
In addition to Flotilla 13 – better known as the Shayetet – the ships will be boarded by members of the Border Police’s Yasam Unit and the Prisons Service elite Masada Unit, both known for their expertise in crowd control and the use of non-lethal means to quell violent riots.
The teams will be supported by snipers – whose job will be to neutralize violent protesters before the commandos board the ships – with dogs from Oketz, the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF’s) canine unit, and operators from Yahalom, the elite unit from the Engineering Corps. 
News of some of these preparations – snipers and dogs – caused considerable controversy in the Israeli media, due to the uncomfortable similarity of the images they invoke to scenes from concentration camps and the Holocaust. While the comparison hardly holds on any realistic terms, the dogs in particular are almost certain to have been dropped from the final operation plans.
The presence of elite crowd-control forces, on the other hand, is assuring; as subsequent inquiries into last year’s events revealed, military commandos are simply not the appropriate type of force to use in circumstances requiring riot control. It seems that the Israeli government is trying hard to correct this shortcoming, and we can expect that the boarding, if one is carried out, will be conducted more professionally.
It is not even certain that the boats will be boarded at sea. An alternative that has long been discussed is, once all warnings are ignored, to disable to vessels’ engines and to tow them to the port of Ashdod, where they can be boarded more easily and with less danger of violence.
Last year, this same scenario was also reportedly considered, but it was rejected due to the size of the lead ship, Mavi Marmara. Allegedly, disabling the engines of such a large ship would incur excessive danger that the vessel might sink, causing many casualties. This year, however, the Mavi Marmara is not sailing, and all of the vessels involved are of a smaller size.
By all accounts, Israel has no interest in seeing violence erupt. The Israeli government and non-governmental organizations have been trying hard to prevent the flotilla from sailing, including but not limited to putting pressure on Turkey through various channels. Their efforts appear to be relatively successful – according to estimates, less than a half of the original vessels and participants will sail.
“The Foreign Ministry is leading diplomatic efforts to delegitimize the flotilla in the eyes of the international community,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon told the news website Ynet.  Support from the United States also helped, although it did not prevent an American delegation from setting out to Greece with hopes of taking part in the expedition. The activists claim that some underhand tactics were used against them as well, including sabotage against one of the boats and back-channel pressure on Greece to halt the departure of the vessels. 
A particularly interesting part of the campaign to delegitimize the flotilla was conducted by an independent Israeli legal organization, Shurat HaDin, which threatened to sue insurance and communications companies and other businesses providing assistance to the expedition. 
All this suggests that Israel itself is getting better in the field of non-violent strategy, and may even be about to outpace the Free Gaza activists. Its successes on this front are part of why it is so difficult to tell who will be in the final version of the flotilla as it confronts the Israeli navy – several of the ships are still reportedly being held back in Greece, and it is unclear how that situation will be resolved.
This, in a sense, presents the organizers with a dilemma – if they do not create a violent provocation, they will have to rely on their luck (an Israeli overreaction) in order to score any points. Otherwise, they will eventually end up arrested and deported from Israel, without the noise in the international media they seek. Their humanitarian cargo will be transferred to Gaza, as Israel has promised, but this is not their goal.
For true followers of Mahatma Gandhi, success comes slow, sometimes over many years. If they choose to limit what they can achieve with one operation, to a strictly symbolic confrontation with Israel, and if they are able to enforce the non-violent discipline, chances are that there will be no violence. It will not be a big victory, but it will give them an opportunity to bolster their non-violent credentials, to set a new standard for their subsequent undertakings, to purge their ranks of provocateurs, and to prepare for next stand-offs.
Taking this path would demonstrate that the activists are firmly persuaded in the overwhelmingly just nature of their cause. If they are right and their opponents wrong, manuals of strategic non-violence postulate, cruel repression is bound to manifest itself, if not immediately, then down the road. This, in turn, would destroy Israel’s – or any opponent’s – credibility and moral standing.
If, however, they – or some portion of them – decide that they need to achieve results quickly, or they have any reasons to doubt their cause or the effectiveness of strictly non-violent strategy, they will actively seek a confrontation. Then it will all depend on the Israeli forces and their ability to resist the provocations without incurring unacceptable casualties.
1. Report: U.S. to offer Turkey major role in Mideast talks if it stops Gaza flotilla, , Ha’aretz, 3 June 2011.
2. Israeli official: Turkey wants UN to tone down report on Gaza flotilla raid, Ha’aretz, 26 June 2011.
3. In preparation for Gaza flotilla, passengers briefed on how to face Israeli soldiers, Ha’aretz, 27 June 2011.
4. IDF: Some flotilla activists planning to kill soldiers , Jerusalem Post, 27 June 2011.
5. ‘Iranian spies falsified travel documents for IHH flotilla’ , Jerusalem Post, 19 June 2011.
6. How will Israel deal with the next flotilla, , Jerusalem Post, 3 June 2011.
7. Gaza flotilla losing momentum,, ynetnews.com, 27 June 2011.
8. Gaza flotilla activists: One of our ships was sabotaged, Ha’aretz, 27 June 2011.
9. Lawyers, not IDF, at forefront of battle against flotilla, Jerusalem Post, 6 June 2011.
Victor Kotsev is a journalist and political analyst based in Tel Aviv.
(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
By Ramzy Baroud
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made a series of stern and fiery statements recently, giving the impression that war is somehow on us once again. Oddly, Clinton’s sudden reappearance on the Middle East diplomacy scene was triggered by the brave attempts of peace activists to break the siege on Gaza.
In recent months, as Arab nations settled old scores with their insufferable dictators, US foreign policy started taking a backseat. Attempts at swaying Arab revolts teetered between bashful diplomatic efforts to sustain US interests – as was the case with Yemen – and military intervention, as in Libya, which is still being marketed to the US public as a humanitarian intervention, as opposed to the war it actually is.
The indecisiveness and double-standards on display are hardly new.
The US’s stance during the Tunisian popular revolution ranged between complete lack of interest (when the protests began brewing in December 2010), to sudden enthusiasm for freedom and democracy (when the revolts led to the ousting of longtime president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14).
The same foreign policy pendulum repeatedly swung both ways during the Egyptian revolution. The US political definitions of Hosni Mubarak shifted from that of a friendly leader to that of a loathsome dictator who had to go for the sake of Egyptian democracy.
It took Tunisians 28 days to overthrow their leader, and Egyptians 18 days to outset Mubarak. During these periods, US foreign policy in the two countries – and the Middle East as a whole – seemed impossible to delineate in any concrete statements. Clinton was an emblematic figure in this diplomatic discrepancy.
Now Clinton is back, speaking in a lucid language which leaves no room for misinterpretation. When it comes to the security and interests of Israel – as opposed to those of the entire Middle East region and all its nations – Clinton, like other top American officials, leaves no room for error. Israel will always come first.
Clinton’s forceful language was triggered by the decision of humanitarian activists from over 20 countries to travel to Gaza in a symbolic gesture to challenge the Israeli blockade of one of the poorest regions on earth. The 500 peace activists on board 10 boats will include musicians, writers, Nobel Laureates, Holocaust survivors and members of parliament.
“We think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke action by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves,” Clinton told reporters on June 23. The foreboding language offers another blank check to Israel, giving it permission to do as it pleases.
If Israel repeated the same scenario it used to intercept and punish activists abroad the first flotilla on May 31, 2010 – killing nine activists in the Mavi Marmara – then it would constitute another act of “self-defense”, according to Clinton’s avant-garde rationale.
Responding to Clinton’s comments, Irish member of parliament Paul Murphy told the Irish Examiner on June 24: “It is not true that we will be entering Israeli waters. We will be sailing through Gaza waters.” He added, “Clinton’s comments are disgraceful. She has essentially given the green light to Israeli Defense Forces to use violence against participants in the flotilla.”
Indeed, Israeli diplomats will be utilizing Clinton’s advanced verbal and political support for the Israeli action in every platform available to them.
According to Clinton, the entire business with the flotillas is unnecessary. “We don’t think it’s useful or helpful or productive to the people of Gaza,” she told reporters in Washington, adding that, “a far better approach is to support the work that’s being done through the United Nations”.
The UN had already declared the Gaza siege illegal. Various top UN officials have stated this fact repeatedly, and the international body had called on Israel to end the siege. Notable among the many statements was a 34-page report by UN human-rights chief Navi Pillay.
Published on August 14, 2009, the report “accused Israel of violating the rules of warfare with its blockade stopping people and goods from moving in or out of the Gaza Strip”, according to the Associated Press.
“The Gaza blockade,” Pillay stated, “amounts to collective punishment of civilians, which is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare and occupation”. Before the 34 pages could be thoroughly examined, both the US and Israel dismissed the findings. Now Clinton is suddenly urging all interested parties to work through the same institution that her department has repeatedly undermined.
Pillay’s report was issued nearly two years ago. Since then, little has been done to remedy the situation and to bring to an end the protracted Palestinian tragedy in Gaza. In fact, The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has recently put Gaza’s unemployment at 45.2%, allegedly among the worst in the world.
The UN report, released on June 14, claimed that unemployment in the first half of 2011 had increased by 3%. Monthly wages were also shown to have declined significantly. It seems the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is not only bad, it is progressively worsening.
This time, Clinton is speaking from a power position. As diplomatic pressure from Israel finally dissuaded Turkey from allowing the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) from joining the flotilla, it seems the Mavi Marmara won’t be setting sail back to Gaza anytime soon. As if to confirm that the IHH decision was motivated by political pressure, Clinton “spoke to her Turkish counterpart, [Foreign Minister] Ahmet Davutoglu to express her happiness at the announcement” (according to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, June 21).
With political victory in mind, the State Department travel warning of June 22 read like a legal disclaimer issued by the Israeli foreign ministry. It warned US citizens to avoid any attempt to reach Gaza by sea. Those who participate in a flotilla risk arrest, prosecution, deportation and a possible 10-year travel ban by Israel.
In a region that is rife with opportunities for political stances – or at least a measurable shift in policy – the US State Department and its chief diplomat have offered nothing but inconsistency and contradiction. Now, thanks to a group of peaceful civil society activists, including many pacifists and elders, the State Department is getting its decisive voice back. And the voice is as atrocious and unprincipled as ever.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on Amazon.com.
(Copyright Ramzy Baroud 2011.)
There can be no doubt at all that the situation in Libya provides one of those moments which provide a collective test to measure where Humankind stands, what its values are and how far it has progressed towards a state in which our societies are governed by the precepts of the rule of law, in which international law not only exists but is applied.
I invite our readers to participate in an active discussion on the points raised in this article and to reflect on them before making knee-jerk reactions, because to be qualified to enter into a meaningful debate, you have to be informed. How many of those who call Muammar al-Qathafi a “dictator” have bothered to read his Green Book, see foot note (1); how many of those who say that his humanitarian record is deplorable have bothered to read the UN Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (2)?
In this report, the systematic commitment to uphold human rights in Libya by the Libyan authorities is praised, a record for which Colonel Gaddafi was to receive a UN award in March.
The sheer stupidity of the attack on Libya by a handful of (powerful) nations underlies the difference between a balanced and responsible Government and the clique of self-seeking lightweight and cheap wannabes which run Britain, France and the USA today. Due to their ill-judged impetuousness, high-handedness and arrogance, they have painted themselves and the Institution they represent – NATO – into a corner.
Let us examine the background to this conflict and let us collectively reflect on the best way out.
Colonel Gaddafy saw this coming, a long time ago. To start with, Benghazi and Tripoli are two cities representing, formerly, two ancient countries: Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and Benghazi has long had a radical and Islamist streak running through members of its population. This is the city which provided the highest number of suicide bombers in Iraq to act against NATO troops, this is the city which produced Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the al-Qaeda operational who recruited these terrorists for the Iraq and Afghan theatres of war.
The “rebels” are obviously funded from abroad and have been prepared for a long time. The sudden appearance of hundreds of “new” Libyan flags representing the time before Colonel Gaddafi, before he transformed Libya from the poorest country in the world to the most prosperous in Africa, was a telling sign; the timing of the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions on the Western and Eastern frontiers provided a timely, crafted no-man’s land for NATO to coordinate the operation.
The Libyan Government tried to reason with the “rebels”, contrary to what has been reported, and Colonel Gaddafi sent his son Saif al-Arab al-Qathafi to talk with them. He was promptly murdered by NATO along with three of the Colonel’s grandchildren in yet another horrific NATO war crime. Who are the rebels? See this report (3). And this video (4).
Now, here is one of the main events which sparked it all off – the “massacre” was in fact a false flag event and carried out not by Libyan Government forces (after all why would a Government commended for its human rights record suddenly start the indiscriminate shelling of civilians?) but by the “unarmed civilians” themselves (5).
What was also behind this horrific surge in violence by the marauding groups of armed fanatics called “The Rebels”, basically representatives from the very dregs of society, a hotchpotch of lunatics, bandits, terrorists, criminals and opportunists, was ethnic cleansing carried out against Black Libyans. The “rebels”, indeed, refer to themselves as “the brigade for purging slaves, black skin.” The Wall Street Journal has also reported that the “rebels” are trained by former al-Qaeda operationals, released from the US concentration camp Guantanamo Bay.
While the Libyan Government itself has said an armed reaction was “regrettable” it has also asked what else it was supposed to do. What would anyone do if their nation was being torn apart by armed terrorists torching Government buildings and committing massacres in the streets? There is evidence of horrific “rebel” attacks against children. In this video, you can see a boy who was impaled. He later died (6).
By now we can see that to describe this as a fight between a “brutal dictator” and “innocent civilians who wanted freedom” is sickeningly and dangerously naïve, however easy it is to sell to generations brought up on western movies with fights between the good cowboy in the white hat and the bad cowboy in the black hat.
The problem with this simplistic attempt to brainwash the public, manipulate public opinion and whitewash NATO’s war crimes in Libya (murder of children, acting outside the rules of engagement occasioning the crimes of murder, attempted murder, criminal damage with intent, grievous and actual bodily harm) and crimes under international law, interfering in an internal armed struggle, against the UN Charter (7), is that it creates the space for a travesty of international law to be committed with impunity.
More seriously, this ill-planned, ill-conceived and very amateurish attempt at foreign policy and, unbelievably, a total absence of crisis management by poorly-advised politicians in countries with serious internal problems (Britain, France and the USA) has serious consequences for the future of Libya and the region. Indeed, the longer it goes on, the more ancient fault lines and tribal conflicts appear. The country has already shown a massive crack down the middle: the ancient countries of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica mentioned above and fighting in different areas is not based upon population vs. Gaddafi (who you will be surprised to hear, is genuinely liked and popular among the vast majority of Libyans, who would certainly vote for him in an election – that is why NATO refused this offer from the Libyan Government), but rather, upon ancient tribal feuds which are surfacing with every week that passes.
Deriding NATO, calling its leaders incompetent, at best and criminals, at worst, feels great. However, this situation has gone beyond name-calling and it is time for action. In this non-Clauswitzian world, in which military action can be taken by entities which are not an organised military force controlled by a State apparatus, NATO countries engaging in this murderous outrage have rendered themselves open for revenge attacks by non-State players. After all, what is the difference between the slaughter of a Libyan civilian in Tripoli and a British, French or American citizen in London, Paris or Washington? One was caused by a bomb dropped from 30,000 feet and the other,by a grenade tossed through his window? Or does NATO have some God-given right to go around the world breaking international law and committing massacres?
Such revenge attacks are not the first option, because violence engenders violence and escalates it, as is the case with the conflict in question. The answer is a political solution, so long as NATO is willing to accept one; if not, there would be no alternative in the minds of those most enraged by this travesty of international law.
NATO has painted itself into a corner – or to be more precise, certain members of NATO have painted the Organization into a corner and the squirming and twisting and turning of most of its members is visible and audible. Italy wants out (now which bases are going to be used? Who is going to admit that its territory could well be a target?), Obama is being systematically neutered in the USA and Hillary Clinton is sounding more hysterical by the day as she sees her Grand Plan slipping though her fingers (destroying the African Union which Al-Qathafi mentors and replacing it with AFRICOM). Meanwhile, the British and French voters are starting to question why their family members are denied hospital treatment, why there are no places in schools or police on the street because their governments say they cannot afford it, when each of them has shelled out some 300 million USD to date and daily spends 50,000 to 100,000 USD per aircraft per hour plus accommodation plus insurance and other expenses…on supporting Islamist terrorists in Libya.
Therefore, there is a need to help NATO extricate itself because it does not have the wherewithal to back down and lose face, even though its politicians deserve it. The best option would be to admit that the terms of Resolution 1973 (2011), namely the imposition of a no-fly zone, have been met, while at the same time accepting the Libyan Government’s offers of allowing international mediation (something it has said from the beginning), allowing the UNO to monitor the situation on the ground, and allowing the Libyans, together with the African Union, to sort it out for themselves before it is too late and before the country and the region implode. If NATO does not accept this, then what exactly is it supporting? Obviously not democracy.
NATO’s reputation therefore rests, once and for all, upon a decision to use the get-out strategy referred to above.
Comment: In the debate that follows I would request readers to refrain from ad hominem attacks, name-calling and derogatory and aggressive writing styles. For once, let us have a heated debate but without lowering the standard before it has started.
Disgusting, Depraved And Illegal
By Ken Dilanian
“SMH” — WASHINGTON: David Petraeus, Barack Obama’s choice to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, says the US should consider using special interrogation techniques when a captive is withholding information that is immediately needed to save lives.
In the vast majority of cases, General Petraeus said, the ”humane” questioning standards mandated by the US Army field manual were sufficient to persuade detainees to talk. But while he did not use the word torture, General Petraeus said ”there should be discussion … by policy makers and by Congress” of something ”more than the normal techniques”.
Speaking at his confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence committee on Thursday, General Petraeus described an example of a detainee who knew how to disarm a nuclear device set to explode under the Empire State Building. Congress might want to give the President the option of taking extraordinary measures to extract that information, he said.
The Republican senator John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, endorsed the idea. ”I look forward to working with you on this ticking time bomb scenario,” he said. ”I think the person responsible should be the President of the United States … I do agree with you.”
The comments were noteworthy because they came from two men opposed to the interrogation techniques, including water boarding, that were used by the CIA in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Mr Obama banned the techniques when he took office.
General Petraeus, who said he opposed torture generally because ”it’s the right thing to do”, expressed his preference for capturing rather than killing al-Qaeda militants, pointing out that the CIA neither held nor interrogated detainees at present.
General Petraeus argued that the US needed a place to hold people accused of terrorism, despite the President’s stated intention to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
”This is a very, very serious issue for our country, and it’s one that policymakers and Congress need to address on an expeditious basis,” he said.
General Petraeus, who would become the first CIA director to arrive directly after serving as the top commander in a war, would be called upon to offer objective views of the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq. He sought to dispel concerns about having to ”grade my own work”.
”Clearly I have views on the efforts in which I have been engaged,” he said. ”However … when I am in the situation room with the President, I will strive to represent the agency’s position.”
He also said he wanted to make sure the agency was not ”totally captured” by the war against al-Qaeda.
China, weapons proliferation and the next developments in the ”Arab Spring” should also be intelligence priorities and cyber threats were ”of particular note”.
”I share the concerns that many hold about cyber security,” he said.
A vote on his nomination is expected before July 4.
By Sreeram Chaulia
As European economies wilt under unchecked fiscal imprudence and fears of contagious sovereign defaults, it seems absurd that Britain and France are leading a depleted North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) coalition to militarily attack Libya. Financially imperiled states facing mass protests from irate citizens are puzzlingly prosecuting war in North Africa.
After an initial burst of aerial strikes on Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s defenses by the United States, the Barack Obama administration stepped back to hand over the bulk of operations to Britain and France under the NATO banner. The passing of the baton made pragmatic sense for Washington, which has been hard-pressed since the corporate bailouts of 2008-2009 to cut its ballooning budget deficit.
Even playing second fiddle to Britain and France in the Libyan conflict has been controversial in the US, with the Republican opposition crying hoarse about Obama running a de facto war without congressional authorization. Last Friday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted against formal approval of the ongoing participation in the combat in Libya.
The recent televised debates of early hopefuls for the Republican presidential nomination revealed an isolationist but fiscally responsible streak among candidates backed by the Tea Party movement. They broke ranks with traditional Republicans by arguing that the US must put its own indebted economy in order and disentangle completely from the slow-attrition war in Libya (besides pulling out bag and baggage from Afghanistan).
But no such wisdom has yet dawned in Britain and France, which are emptying their depleted exchequers to pay for air assaults in Libya. According to the French Defense Ministry, Paris is spending US$1.4 million each day in the Libyan war, while some predict that Britain may incur a cost of $1.4 billion if it continues hitting targets in Libya until September.
Some Western media outlets mocked at the ridiculous spectacle of Gaddafi amusing himself with a game of chess against a Russian sports official when Libya was on fire. What the governments of Britain and France are doing in Libya is no less an act of fiddling while rioters are running amok in London and Paris against benefit retrenchments.
If British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are gambling on the Libyan mission as a diversionary tactic to pacify citizens furious at their tanking economies, it is poor politics. The eventual ouster of Gaddafi will not restore British and French jobs, subsidized college education, or welfare benefits.
If Cameron and Sarkozy are placing bets on military Keynesianism (a spinoff economic theory that big war spending can pull a country out of recession by revving up demand for the defense industry and heavy machinery sectors), history shows that past wars in Suez (1956) and the Falklands (1982) did not magically pull Britain and France out of economic slumps.
Cameron has even rebuked senior British naval and air force officials who have rung alarm bells that Britain’s air fighting capacity will be badly undermined if the Libyan war goes on indefinitely. The Conservative prime minister struck an adamant note that the British military would keep waging war in Libya “as long as is necessary”.
One plausible reason why deficit-laden London and Paris have plunged into the Libyan war is geopolitical. American strategists have commented that North Africa is a “European affair”, ie a sphere of influence that has greater strategic value for Europe than for the US.
Although Europe’s global footprint has been shrinking in the past few years while China’s shadow has lengthened, the urge to dominate Africa is viewed by some European foreign policy pundits as natural. Denomination of regions of Africa as “Anglophone”, “Francophone” and “Lusophone” zones owes to this nostalgic neo-colonial mentality.
Secondly, European policymakers are growing jittery about a deadly weapon that Gaddafi has unleashed since the war began – African immigrants and refugees headed towards Italy first and then seeping across open borders to the rest of the European continent.
The Mediterranean boat people were hitherto controlled by the Gaddafi regime in exchange for symbolic and economic concessions from the European Union. That sinister pact, where desperate human beings were pawns in an international diplomatic game, came unstuck once NATO started bombing Libya.
So, Britain and France (disregarding Italy’s agony about a deluge of refugees triggered by the NATO bombing campaign) are apparently fighting to get rid of Gaddafi and to install a friendlier government that will curb the African exodus to the continent as a matter of policy.
Here too, the contradictions are glaring. A Europe that is aging and demographically declining actually needs more skilled and unskilled workers from the developing world. Opening “fortress Europe” is good economics, but bad politics, which is based on racial discrimination and religious profiling in both Britain and France.
It bears reminder that France and Britain had for long coddled Arab dictators in North Africa, including the ousted Ben Ali of Tunisia and Gaddafi himself since his diplomatic “rehabilitation” by the West and the influx of European companies into Libya’s oil sector a few years ago. The best-case projection for the Quixotic European war in Libya is that Paris and London are making amends for their past misdeeds and policy errors. But such course corrections are costly and unsustainable in the present economic doldrums.
The rhetorical claim that Britain and France are rescuing the people of Libya from state-sponsored massacres through a war on humanitarian grounds raises a deeper question: why are Cameron and Sarkozy not moved by humanitarian concern for their own masses who are reeling under acute economic distress?
The fragile economies of Europe are in such abject state that they cannot wish away the classic “guns versus butter” choice. Britain and France saw the writing on the wall last November, when they chose to share troops, aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons facilities, thereby diluting sovereignty in an attempt to notch up some direly required savings in their respective military budgets. But their joint war in Libya is proving penny wise, pound foolish.
Germany, which has been skewered in the Anglo-American press for chicaning out of the Libyan war effort, is behaving more humanely than Britain and France by tending to its own citizens’ plights in tough times. Its neutral stance on Libya is proving to be wiser and ironically in the greater interest of the crisis-plagued European Union, whose survival in one piece depends on stable economic recovery rather than Pyrrhic military successes.
Cameron and Sarkozy are bankrupting their treasuries and jeopardizing the wider European integration project. The European Union’s skepticism is mounting among distressed European publics by the day even as French and British jets fly sorties over Libya. Nero’s ghost has possessed present ruling elites in London and Paris. These two European capitals are condemned to keep burning until more accountable politicians take power and clean up the mess.
Sreeram Chaulia is Professor and Vice Dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India, and the author of the new book International Organizations and Civilian Protection: Power, Ideas and Humanitarian Aid in Conflict Zones (I B Tauris, London)
(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
By Tom Engelhardt
Now that Washington has at least six wars cooking (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and more generally, the global “war on terror”), Americans find themselves in a new world of war. If, however, you haven’t joined the all-volunteer military, any of our 17 intelligence outfits, the Pentagon, the weapons companies and hire-a-gun corporations associated with it, or some other part of the National Security Complex, America’s distant wars go on largely without you (at least until the bills come due).
War has a way of turning almost anything upside down, including language. But with lost jobs, foreclosed homes, crumbling infrastructure, and weird weather, who even notices? This undoubtedly means that you’re using a set of antediluvian war words or definitions from your father’s day. It’s time to catch up.
So here’s the latest word in war words: what’s in, what’s out, what’s inside out. What follows are nine common terms associated with our present wars that probably don’t mean what you think they mean. Since you live in a twenty-first-century war state, you might consider making them your own.
Victory: Like defeat, it’s a “loaded” word and rather than define it, Americans should simply avoid it.
In his last press conference before retirement, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was asked whether the US was “winning in Afghanistan”. He replied, “I have learned a few things in four and a half years, and one of them is to try and stay away from loaded words like ‘winning’ and ‘losing’. What I will say is that I believe we are being successful in implementing the president’s strategy, and I believe that our military operations are being successful in denying the Taliban control of populated areas, degrading their capabilities, and improving the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces.”
In 2005, George W Bush, whom Gates also served, used the word “victory” 15 times in a single speech (“National Strategy for Victory in Iraq”). Keep in mind, though, that our previous president learned about war in the movie theaters of his childhood where the marines always advanced and Americans actually won. Think of his victory obsession as the equivalent of a mid-20th-century hangover.
In 2011, despite the complaints of a few leftover neo-cons dreaming of past glory, you can search Washington high and low for “victory”. You won’t find it. It’s the verbal equivalent of a Yeti. Being “successful in implementing the president’s strategy”, what more could you ask? Keeping the enemy on his “back foot”: hey, at $10 billion a month, if that isn’t “success,” tell me what is?
Admittedly, the assassination of Osama bin Laden was treated as if it were VJ Day ending World War II, but actually win a war? Don’t make Secretary of Defense Gates laugh!
Maybe, if everything comes up roses, in some year soon we’ll be celebrating DE (Degrade the Enemy) Day.
Enemy: Any super-evil pipsqueak on whose back you can raise at least $1.2 trillion a year for the National Security Complex.
“I actually consider al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with al-Awlaki as a leader within that organization probably the most significant risk to the US homeland.” So said Michael Leiter, presidential adviser and the director of the National Counter-terrorism Center, last February, months before Bin Laden was killed (and Leiter himself resigned).
Since Bin Laden’s death, Leiter’s assessment has been heartily seconded in word and deed in Washington. For example, New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti recently wrote: “Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen is believed by the CIA to pose the greatest immediate threat to the United States, more so than even al-Qaeda’s senior leadership believed to be hiding in Pakistan.”
Now, here’s the odd thing. Once upon a time, statements like these might have been tantamount to announcements of victory: That’s all they’ve got left?
Once upon a time, if you asked an American who was the most dangerous man on the planet, you might have been told Adolf Hitler, or Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong. These days, don’t think enemy at all; think comic-book-style arch-villain Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom – anyone, in fact, capable of standing in for globe-encompassing evil.
Right now, post-Bin Laden, America’s super-villain of choice is Anwar al-Awlaki, an enemy with seemingly near superhuman powers to disturb Washington, but no army, no state, and no significant finances. The US-born “radical cleric” lives as a semi-fugitive in Yemen, a poverty-stricken land of which, until recently, few Americans had heard.
Al-Awlaki is considered at least partially responsible for two high-profile plots against the US: the underwear bomber and package bombs sent by plane to Chicago synagogues. Both failed dismally, even though neither Superman nor the Fantastic Four rushed to the rescue.
As an Evil One, al-Awlaki is a voodoo enemy, a YouTube warrior (“the Bin Laden of the Internet”) with little but his wits and whatever superpowers he can muster to help him. He was reputedly responsible for helping to poison the mind of army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan before he blew away 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas.
There’s no question of one thing: he’s gotten inside Washington’s war-on-terror head in a big way. As a result, the Barack Obama administration is significantly intensifying its war against him and the ragtag crew of tribesmen he hangs out with who go by the name of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Covert War: It used to mean secret war, a war “in the shadows” and so beyond the public’s gaze. Now, it means a conflict in the full glare of publicity that everybody knows about, but no one can do anything about. Think: in the news, but off the books.
Go figure: today, our “covert” wars are front-page news. The top-secret operation to assassinate Osama bin Laden garnered an unprecedented 69% of the US media “newshole” the week after it happened, and 90% of cable TV coverage. And America’s most secretive covert warriors, elite SEAL Team 6, caused “SEAL-mania” to break out nationwide.
Moreover, no minor drone strike in the “covert” CIA-run air war in the Pakistani tribal borderlands goes unreported. In fact, as with Yemen today, future plans for the launching or intensification of Pakistani-style covert wars are now openly discussed, debated, and praised in Washington, as well as widely reported on. At one point, CIA Director Leon Panetta even bragged that, when it came to al-Qaeda, the Agency’s covert air war in Pakistan was “the only game in town.”
Think of covert war today as the equivalent of a heat-seeking missile aimed directly at that mainstream media newshole. The “shadows” that once covered whole operations now only cover accountability for them.
Permanent bases: In the American way of war, military bases built on foreign soil are the equivalent of heroin. The Pentagon can’t help building them and can’t live without them, but “permanent bases” don’t exist, not for Americans. Never.
That’s simple enough, but let me be absolutely clear anyway: Americans may have at least 865 bases around the world (not including those in war zones), but we have no desire to occupy other countries. And wherever we garrison (and where aren’t we garrisoning?), we don’t want to stay, not permanently anyway.
In the grand scheme of things, for a planet more than four billion years old, our 90 bases in Japan, a mere 60-odd years in existence, or our 227 bases in Germany, some also around for 60-odd years, or those in Korea, 50-odd years, count as little. Moreover, we have it on good word that permanent bases are un-American. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said as much in 2003 when the first of the Pentagon’s planned Iraqi mega-bases were already on the drawing boards. Hillary Clinton said so again just the other day, about Afghanistan, and an anonymous American official added for clarification: “There are US troops in various countries for some considerable lengths of time which are not there permanently.” Korea anyone? So get it straight, Americans don’t want permanent bases. Period.
And that’s amazing when you think about it, since globally Americans are constantly building and upgrading military bases. The Pentagon is hooked. In Afghanistan, it’s gone totally wild – more than 400 of them and still building! Not only that, Washington is now deep into negotiations with the Afghan government to transform some of them into “joint bases” and stay on them if not until hell freezes over, then at least until Afghan soldiers can be whipped into an American-style army. Latest best guesstimate for that? 2017 without even getting close.
Shock Doctrine: ‘Emergency Finance Managers’ and the Right-Wing’s Power Grab | Tea Party and the Right | AlterNet
A recurring refrain about the Afghan War is that the United States must stay for the long haul now to avoid repeating the “mistake” made in 1989 when Soviet forces left and Americans supposedly disappeared, too. But this conventional wisdom, spread by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others, is a lie, Robert Parry writes.
By Robert Parry
June 26 2011 “Information Clearing House” — In Official Washington, there’s one “fact” about the Afghan War that nearly everyone “knows”: In February 1989, after the Soviet army left Afghanistan, the United States walked away from the war-torn country, creating a vacuum that led to the rise of the Taliban and its readiness to host al-Qaeda’s anti-American terrorists.
It is a point made by senior administration officials, including incoming Ambassador Ryan Crocker and departing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who once summed up the conventional wisdom by saying: “We will not repeat the mistakes of 1989, when we abandoned the country only to see it descend into civil war and into Taliban hands.”
And Gates was there at the time, as President George H.W. Bush’s deputy national security adviser. So, he should know.
If there’s any remaining doubt about this key historical “lesson” regarding Afghanistan, you simply need to watch the Tom Hanks’s movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” in which you see Hanks as Rep. Wilson pleading for additional aid to Afghanistan and getting rebuffed by feckless members of a congressional committee.
The only problem with this “history” is that it isn’t true.
There was no immediate cutoff of funds for the Afghan mujahedeen in 1989. Indeed, hundreds of millions of dollars in covert CIA funding continued to flow to the rebels for several years as the U.S. government sought a clear-cut victory over the left-behind communist leader Najibullah, who was holed up in Kabul.
And, if you don’t believe me, you can read George Criles’s 2003 book, Charlie Wilson’s War, upon which the Hanks movie was based.
In it, Crile describes how Wilson kept the funding spigot open for the Afghan rebels after the Soviet departure, despite a growing U.S. awareness that the mujahedeen were brutal, reactionary and corrupt, a reality that Washington had chosen to ignore when these Islamic warlords were being hailed as anti-Soviet “freedom fighters” in the 1980s.
As Crile writes, “Throughout the war, Wilson had always told his colleagues that Afghanistan was the one morally unambiguous cause that the United States had supported since World War II – and never once had any member of Congress stood up to protest or question the vast expenditures.
“But with the departure of the Soviets [in February 1989], the war was anything but morally unambiguous. By 1990, the Afghan freedom fighters had suddenly and frighteningly gone back to form, reemerging as nothing more than feuding warlords obsessed with settling generations-old scores.
“The difference was that they were now armed with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons and explosives of every conceivable type. The justification for the huge CIA operation had been to halt Soviet aggression, not to take sides in a tribal war – certainly not to transform the killing capacity of those warriors.”
Crile reported that at the end of that first year, Wilson traveled to Moscow and listened to appeals for a settlement of the long-running conflict from Andre Koserov, a future Russian foreign minister. Koserov warned Wilson that Moscow and Washington had a common interest in preventing the emergence of radical Islamic control of Afghanistan.
Upon returning to Washington, however, Wilson’s openness to Moscow’s overtures brought a stern rebuke from his hard-line friends in the CIA who wanted to see an unambiguous victory of the CIA-backed mujahedeen over the Soviet clients in Kabul.
“It was sad to see how quickly Wilson’s effort at statesmanship collapsed,” Crile reported. “He found that it wasn’t easy to stop what he had started.”
Wilson decided to side with his old allies in the CIA and the Saudi royal family, who were matching the CIA’s huge contributions dollar for dollar.
“In the second year after the Soviet withdrawal, Wilson delivered another $250 million for the CIA to keep its Afghan program intact,” Crile wrote. “With Saudi matching funds, the mujahedeen would receive another half billion dollars to wage war. The expectation was that they would join forces for a final push to throw out the Soviet-backed Najibullah regime, restore order, and begin the process of rebuilding.”
However, Najibullah’s forces held out and the mujahedeen broke down into internal bickering. They also demonstrated their respect for human rights by slaughtering enemy prisoners.
Eventually, the mujahedeen did capture the strategic city of Khost, but turned it into a ghost town as civilians fled or faced the mujahedeen’s fundamentalist fury. Western aid workers found themselves “following the liberators in a desperate attempt to persuade them not to murder and pillage,” Crile wrote.
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley began to wonder who were the worse bad guys, the Soviet-backed communists or the U.S.-supported mujahedeen.
“It was the leaders of the Afghan puppet government who were saying all the right things, even paying lip service to democratic change,” Crile reported. “The mujahideen, on the other hand, were committing unspeakable atrocities and couldn’t even put aside their bickering and murderous thoughts long enough to capture Kabul.”
In 1991, as the Soviet Union careened toward its final crackup, George H.W. Bush’s administration had so many doubts about the nature of its erstwhile Afghan allies that it made no new request for money, and the Senate Intelligence Committee approved nothing for Afghanistan, Crile wrote.
“But no one could just turn off Charlie Wilson’s war like that,” Crile noted. “For Charlie Wilson, there was something fundamentally wrong with his war ending then and there. He didn’t like the idea of the United States going out with a whimper.”
Wilson made an impassioned appeal to the House Intelligence Committee and carried the day. The committee first considered a $100 million annual appropriation, but Wilson got them to boost it to $200 million, which – with the Saudi matching funds – totaled $400 million, Crile reported.
“And so, as the mujahideen were poised for their thirteenth year of war, instead of being cut off, it turned out to be a banner year,” Crile wrote. “They found themselves with not only a $400 million budget but also with a cornucopia of new weaponry sources that opened up when the United States decided to send the Iraqi weapons captured during the Gulf War to the mujahideen.”
But even then the Afghan rebels needed an external event to prevail on the battlefield, the stunning disintegration of the Soviet Union in late 1991. Only then did Moscow cut off its funding support of Najibullah. His government finally fell in 1992. But its collapse didn’t stop the war – or the mujahedeen infighting.
The capital of Kabul came under the control of a relatively moderate rebel force led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, an Islamist but not a fanatic. But Massoud, a Tajik, was not favored by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (the ISI), which backed more extreme Pashtun elements of the mujahedeen.
The rival Afghan warlords battled with each other for another four years destroying much of Kabul. Finally, a disgusted Washington began to turn away. Crile reported that the Cross Border Humanitarian Aid Program, which was the only sustained U.S. program aimed at rebuilding Afghanistan, was cut off at the end of 1993, almost five years after the Soviets left.
While chaos continued to reign across Afghanistan, the ISI readied its own army of Islamic extremists drawn from Pashtun refugee camps inside Pakistan. This group, known as the Taliban, entered Afghanistan with the promise of restoring order.
The Taliban seized the capital of Kabul in September 1996, driving Massoud into a northward retreat. The ousted communist leader Najibullah, who had stayed in Kabul, sought shelter in the United Nations compound, but was captured. The Taliban tortured, castrated and killed him, his mutilated body hung from a light pole.
The triumphant Taliban imposed harsh Islamic law on Afghanistan. Their rule was especially cruel to women who had made gains toward equal rights under the communists, but were forced by the Taliban to live under highly restrictive rules, to cover themselves when in public, and to forgo schooling.
The Taliban also granted refuge to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, who had fought with the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviets in the 1980s. Bin Laden then used Afghanistan as the base of operations for his terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, setting the stage for the next Afghan War in 2001.
This actual history of the Afghan conflict — as opposed to the fictional version pushed by Gates and others — could provide some valuable lessons, assuming policymakers in Washington would acknowledge the truth.
For one, the U.S. government could have collaborated with Soviet officials in the late 1980s to work out a cease-fire and a political settlement. The Soviet-backed regime in Kabul was even willing to have elections as part of a national reconciliation.
It was the tough-guy intransigence of the CIA and the early Bush-41 administration that prevented a possible settlement. Washington wanted a triumphal climax to its long-running covert war, even if that meant delivering the Afghan people into the hands of heavily armed religious fanatics.
Another reasonable lesson would be that it’s often better to settle for a partial success than to insist on total military victory. That way all sides in a civil war have a sense that their interests are protected, rather than having one segment of the society crush another.
That lesson has resonance today as the Obama administration considers reaching out to the Taliban and trying to bring the fundamentalists into a peace process. As repugnant as it might be to deal with Taliban leader Mullah Omar – as it would have been to negotiate with communist leader Najibullah two decades ago – that might be necessary to achieve a lasting peace.
The recent Afghan history also could be useful as a reminder about the limits – and the risks – of military solutions not just for Afghanistan but for other countries, including Libya today. It can turn out to be foolhardy to spurn olive branches even if you don’t like the people extending them.
But Official Washington has derived a different set of lessons based on the false narrative of what happened after the Soviets withdrew in 1989, when the U.S. government supposedly folded up its tent and headed home.
The lesson from that bogus history is that the United States should remain in Afghanistan indefinitely because to depart prematurely would invite greater danger in the future.
It may be understandable why neoconservatives would push such malarkey – and why Defense Secretary Gates and other government hardliners would be tempted to use the made-up chronology to convince gullible journalists about the need to stay the course – but their “history” is a fabrication (as Gates well knows).
The simple truth is that the last end game in Afghanistan was messed up not because the United States left too soon but because it stayed too long.
[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a two-book set for the discount price of only $19. For details, click here.]
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.
This item was first published at www.consortiumnews.com
By Karamatullah K Ghori
When the head of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) directorate of the Pakistan military makes a clean breast, as he did on June 21, that a serving brigadier of the army at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi is in detention on charges of having links with an extremist religious organization, one has to believe that something very serious must be wrong in the military.
Another announcement from the ISPR, a day later, added four majors of the army to the brigadier’s column. These four, however, are merely being questioned and not detained, at least not yet.
The Pakistan military is an exclusive club that doesn’t let out much information about itself unless there’s an overwhelming reason for it. And the current period in time is, no doubt, one such phase when a lot has happened that the denizens of this elitist club may never have wished to see.
The series of humiliations kicked off in early May with the embarrassment of Abbottabad and the macabre siege of the naval base Mehran, in Karachi, and shows little sign of abating.
As the sweltering heat in the plains of Pakistan is getting closer to making room for the annual monsoons – with the likelihood of another visitation of floods engulfing the country – dark clouds ominously dot the horizon for the army.
The open season that opposition politicians, led by two-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, have declared on the military’s bloated but unwelcome role in governance is enough to test its resilience. And now United States President Barack Obama, too, has waded in to make the challenge even more onerous for the generals at GHQ.
Obama’s June 22 speech from the White House – in which he announced the commencement of his promised drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan in July this year and phased over the next three years – contains a list of veiled demands and warnings for Pakistan, particularly its military.
To Obama, the thinning of the American combat presence in Afghanistan doesn’t mean any dilution of his firm resolve to keep up the pressure on al-Qaeda and its militant comrades. He complimented Pakistan’s efforts that, together with the American punch, have led to more than half of al-Qaeda’s top brass being eliminated. However, he left no room for doubt that as long as he was in command, there would be no sanctuary for terrorists, anywhere.
That’s where Pakistan and the role of its military take on a pivotal position in Obama’s estimation. He was quite categorical that there would be no “safe havens for al-Qaeda”. That was a loud and clear message for Pakistan to ensure there are no hide-outs for al-Qaeda and its fellow-travellers in the “no man’s land” of Pakistan’s tribal belt straddling Afghanistan.
It’s an old but persistent demand of the Americans for the Pakistan army to do in its North Waziristan tribal area what it did in South Waziristan. The Pakistan army – for a variety of reasons – has been stalling on that demand. But Obama sounded more insistent and resolute than ever before. Indeed, his confidence has climbed since US special forces killed al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in his hideout not far from a military compound in Abbottabad. So he hardly minced his words in articulating that “we will insist” that Pakistan keeps its commitments.
It’s easy for Obama to pile pressure on Pakistan, coupled with barely disguised warnings that if Pakistan didn’t, then he would go about it on his own, which in simple words means another Abbottabad-like solo operation.
However, the relentless demands from Obama for the Pakistan army to do still more – with himself holding a gun to its head, is a catch-22 dilemma for the generals. The price Obama could exact from them and the country is enormous.
The latest survey by the Washington-based Pew research in Pakistan in the wake of Bin Laden’s demise finds that 67% of Pakistanis questioned, a solid majority, don’t think the “war on terror” is Pakistan’s war. A fresh incursion by the army into North Waziristan to oblige the Americans could only trigger wider public uproar, which would be hard to stomach for an army leadership already forced onto the back foot.
The Pakistan army’s operation in South Waziristan has already brought a massive spike in acts of terrorism that has taken a heavy toll of public life. Another Quixotic venture would inevitably add fuel to a burning fire and push the country to the brink of anarchy.
In a nutshell, Pakistan could slide into civil war, given an already super-charged tension in its political culture, where tolerance of any kind is at a heavy premium.
On top of that, Pakistan is wary of the talks that Washington has been carrying on for some time with the Afghan Taliban behind its back. Keeping Pakistan out of the loop has only one meaning for Islamabad: the Obama administration doesn’t trust it enough to make it a party to the parleys, which could have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan, more than any other neighbor of Afghanistan.
Islamabad is also feeling increasingly leery of the traction that the so-called Blackwill formula – to divide Afghanistan along ethnic lines into a Pashtun south and a non-Pashtun north – is apparently receiving in top echelons of the Obama administration.
There’s near-consensus in Pakistan’s intellectual community, and policymakers, that the author of this prescription, Robert Blackwill, has absorbed a lot of Indian input into his brain wave. Blackwill was George W Bush’s ambassador to India from 2001 to 2003.
Pakistan’s intellectual community also fears Obama’s drawdown of forces, spread over three years, is calibrated to allow the Blackwill plan ample opportunity to take root in Afghanistan.
A divided Afghanistan would not only denude Pakistan of its strategic depth, vis-a-vis India, but may also become a cause for the Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line, the poorly marked border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, to unite. Such unity could only mean further dismemberment of Pakistan and open up a Pandora’s box. Pakistan simply can’t countenance such an outcome and will pull no punches to thwart it.
Karamatullah K Ghori is a former career ambassador of Pakistan whose diplomatic assignments took him to the United States, Argentina, Japan, China, The Philippines, Algeria, Kuwait, Iraq, Macedonia and Turkey.
This weekend provides Humanity with a period for reflection on a crisis which promises to explode out of control, on the eve of the declaration of the International Penal Court at The Hague on Libya and more specifically, Colonel Gaddafi, which will be made on Monday. Two days before the declaration, I will tell you what the IPC will say.
The International Penal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo will make his declaration on Libya and more specifically, Colonel Muammar al-Qathafi and the senior members of the Libyan Government on Monday. However, let us get one or two things clear first.
To begin with, the IPC has no jurisdiction whatsoever over Libya. Period. Therefore any declaration from this monstrosity, this insult to the precepts of international law has the same validity and jurisprudence as an alcoholic belching obscenities in a public latrine. Secondly, let us examine the legal validity of the Hague Tribunal.
The second point is that besides having no jurisdiction over Libya, The Hague Court is not really a court at all, it is a travesty of justice, based on airy-fairy ideals and nothing more, has not even been recognised by the USA and has itself insulted and derided every precept of legal precedent, every fibre of international jurisprudence and has rendered itself void by violating the most basic notions held dear under international law.
The Hague is a kangaroo court set up to whitewash the Grand Scheme of NATO and the war mongering arms lobby which controls it and, let us call a spade a spade, both The Hague and NATO serve as a very useful tool for the United States of America to get its job done by proxy. Why, look at the wording of a letter from The White House in answer to a question as to why American citizens were seeing hundreds of millions of their hard-earned cash being squandered on a war whose casus belli seems dodgier by the day:
Here it comes….3….2….1….zero!
“NATO’s involvement significantly reduces the risk and cost to America’s military and taxpayers”.
Precisely: Thank you Britain and France and your friends in Europe for doing the job for us, spending your money and not ours (between 50,000 and 100,000 USD per aircraft per hour plus 50,000 USD per day lodging and accommodation) and placing your pilots’ lives at risk instead of the good ol’ boys. The words are there loud and clear for all to read and they come from The White House itself.
So much for the USA’s contribution and anyway the USA never gave the go-ahead for its citizens to come under the jurisdiction of The Hague. So any crowing from them on Monday is null before it starts. If the USA does not recognise the court, it has no right to comment on its proposals.
As for the third point: what Court of Law apart from the IPC at The Hague pronounces a defendant guilty before the trial has even started? Answer: In a word, none. Not in Outer Mongolia, not in Burkina Faso, not even in NATO countries. The fact that the Hague kangaroo court does so renders it legally invalid from the outset.
The fourth point is that The Hague kangaroo court has been involved in previous instances of breach of international law. The most telling example of this was the kidnap and illegal detention of the ex-President of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, snatched from his own country against every fibre of Yugoslav Federal and Serbian National law because the respective quorums were not attained, flown to The Hague under conditions of illegal detention, maintained in The Hague under the same conditions and then, when he started winning his case and began embarrassing his captors and their mentors, he died, still under illegal detention. And let it be known, his “death” (murder?) was highly suspicious as he himself was trying to tell the international community in the days before it happened.
This renders The Hague court not only illegal and insignificant in terms of international law, but also liable for criminal charges. It is therefore void and unable to pronounce itself on whatsoever charges against whomsoever, wherever and whenever. Period.
I will tell you now what the declaration will be. It will issue an indictment against Muammar al-Qathafi and his son Saif-al-Islam al-Qathafi and other senior figures in his Government, probably using the word “regime”. The text will refer to domiciles as “compounds”, will refer to armed terrorists as “unarmed civilians” and will provide a list of “war crimes” which have not been investigated, or else were perpetrated by the “unarmed civilians” or terrorists themselves.
In fact the entire statement will be a mix between a tissue of lies, fabrications and a cynical manipulation of the truth.
It will not make any reference at all to the document which provides a wonderful character witness and perfect legal background to this case, namely the UN Report (2011) on Muammar al-Qathafi’s excellent humanitarian record, for which he was to receive a special award:
The Hague statement will not make any reference to NATO’s war crimes in this theatre of war or any other, will not make any reference to the violation of rules of engagement, will not make any reference to NATO’s violation of the Geneva Conventions, leaving theatres of war polluted and contaminated with Depleted Uranium, will not make any reference to NATO’s Mission Creep in Libya (since when does enforcing a no-fly zone justify ad hominem attacks occasioning the murder of children?) it will not make any reference to the murder of Muammar al-Qathafi’s three grandchildren or other attacks on civilian structures with military hardware.
It will not mention the fact that the rebel leader, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi was connected with Al-Qaeda, was arrested for this, himself admitted that he recruited Benghazi-based terrorists (endemically separatist and Islamist fanatics) to fight in Iraq against NATO and in Afghanistan against NATO.
It will not mention the fact that the “evidence” which provoked UNSC Resolutions 1970 and 1973 (2011) was a false flag event, in fact an attack by “innocent civilians” or terrorist forces against Black Libyans, rendering the texts of those resolutions void.
It will not mention the ethnic cleansing being performed by the “unarmed civilians” or terrorists – see the photos – against Black Libyans and it will not mention the lies that the “unarmed civilians” (see photos) used against the Government, claiming they were using mercenaries while they themselves were slaughtering black Libyans.
The “unarmed civilians” (see photos) are none other than Islamist racists perpetrating ethnic cleansing against Negroes. That is what sparked off the Libyan Government’s legitimate attempt to quell the revolt, firstly through pacific means and then by force. Who would not use force? It is regrettable, as the Libian government claims but what was the alternative?
None of this will be present in The Hague declaration on Monday and none of this will be present in any media report on it, rendering the declaration and the coverage of it as valid as some inane soccer graffiti scrawled in excrement on the wall of a public latrine.
The international community has to wake up, inform itself and debate and this time convince NATO it is fundamentally, and once again, wrong.
Background reading: UN Report on Muammar al-Qathafi’s excellent humanitarian record:
The Green Book, written by Al-Qathafi on good governance, social and economic policies which he implemented in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (People’s Congresses)
Are the citizens of the world, are those who are engaged in defending international law, so impotent they will shrug and do nothing? If Yes, then may the future generations of Humankind deride us collectively as the apologies for human beings we have become, as an insult to our planet and as the very worst type of monster Mother Nature has ever created.
Written by Camilo Cahis Friday, 24 June 2011
The austerity has begun, and workers are the main target. The new Conservative majority government is showing us that all democratic rights and freedoms will be trampled if corporate profits are threatened. Conservative Labour minister Lisa Raitt has stated that she is prepared to put an end to workers’ democratic right to negotiate a new contract and better working conditions by legislating Air Canada and Canada Post workers back to work.
Canada Post workers, unionized under the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), went out in a series of 24-hour rotating strikes beginning on June 3. From the beginning, Canada Post management sought to shut down the bargaining process and have the federal government bring in back-to-work legislation. First, they cut workers’ benefits (including maternity pay and disability pay), and then forced all unionized workers to work a three-day week instead of five. Their rationale was that mail volumes were down, despite photographic evidence that mountains of mail was piling up across the country.
From the very beginning, Canada Post management sought to get the federal government involved in the labour dispute, and to have them step in with back-to-work legislation. Even though the mail continued to be delivered, Canada Post decided to lock-out the workers across the country; almost immediately, Raitt announced that the Tories would enact back-to-work legislation.
As this article goes to print, the details of the back-to-work order are being leaked out. In what can only be described as a blatant provocation, the federal government has imposed a new wage scale that is even lower than what Canada Post had presented in their last offer! Management had offered wage increases of 1.9% over the first three years of the contract, with a 2% increase in the final year; the federal government wants to impose increases of 1.75%, 1.5%, 2%, and 2%. In response, CUPW’s national president Denis Lemelin said, “Imposing wage increases that are lower than Canada Post’s last offer punishes postal workers for a disruption that was caused by the corporation’s national lockout.” Lemelin went on to say that the Tories’ contract would cost each Canada Post worker $875.50, on average, and represent a theft of $35-million in total.
As CBC News reported, the federal government has not dictated pay scales on a union contract since the 1970s when the Trudeau government enacted wage controls, which sparked massive labour protests across the country. Again expressing the government’s determination in enforcing austerity and making workers pay for the capitalist crisis, Raitt explained that the Tories set the pay scale lower than what Canada Post had offered so that postal workers would not get a bigger raise than government workers represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
At the same time as the postal strike, customer service and call centre workers at Air Canada began walking the picket lines. These workers, unionized with the Canadian Autoworkers (CAW), are part of one of four unions that are negotiating a new contract with Air Canada. Like Canada Post, Air Canada management has tried to force its workers onto new defined contribution pension plans, which do not provide the funding or security as defined benefits plans that workers won in decades past. Furthermore, workers are fighting to regain some of their wages that were so greedily cut by Air Canada over the past decade.
As with Canada Post, Raitt and the Conservative government wasted no time in threatening the union with back-to-work legislation. To justify her government’s position, Raitt explained that the Tories could not have the workers threaten Canada’s economic recovery! (This is an absurd position, as Air Canada’s lost business would have almost exclusively gone to Canadian rival Westjet.)
The Conservatives’ speedy support of the bosses clearly demonstrates what the Marxists have been saying — that we have entered a new age of austerity where the interests of Bay Street are going to be imposed come hell or high water. The strikes and lockouts at Canada Post and Air Canada are not just economic disputes between bosses and workers; they are political, too. As was demonstrated with last year’s arrests at the G20 summit in Toronto, when corporate profits are at stake, the state will step in and walk all over our democratic and constitutional rights.
Even with back-to-work legislation looming over their heads, CUPW workers continue to proudly walk the picket lines, as this article is being written. The NDP caucus is promising to filibuster Parliament in the hopes of delaying the back-to-work order. There is also the possibility of CUPW workers defying the legislation.
At Air Canada, the CAW leadership was forced into a settlement with management under the threat of legislation. Although the workers received minor wage increases (their first in a decade), unfortunately the union caved under the government’s threats and agreed to take the issue of pensions to binding arbitration. According to Ken Lewenza, the president of CAW, this was a better option than having the Conservatives appoint their own lawyer or judge to impose a contract on Air Canada workers. Although there is a chance that an arbitrator will rule in the union’s favour, there is also a possibility that he won’t. The union leadership is gambling with the workers. It is vital that workers have the right to decide their fate themselves rather than leaving it to some outsider who has more in common with the bosses and politicians. Moreover, this will almost certainly impact the three other unions who continue to negotiate new contracts with the airline.
Facing back-to-work legislation under punitive terms, the workers are left with two choices. Either submit and see your livelihood eroded, or defy these illegitimate laws and take the struggle with the government head-on. Canada Post workers have a fighting tradition, but if they defy the legislation they cannot stay out long without support from the rest of the labour movement. Workers will be fined $1,000 for each day on strike, union officers $50,000, and the union $100,000. The Canadian Labour Congress and every provincial federation of labour must draw up a plan of mass demonstrations and solidarity strikes now if the workers are to beat back this onslaught that is going to impact all workers.
The lesson from these two strikes is that the old style of bargaining is gone. The leadership of the workers’ movement can have no trust in the laws, the courts, or the government to enforce or protect workers’ rights. Governments at all levels and of all stripes have no fear of taking away the right to strike from workers (as also evidenced by the Ontario Liberal government taking away Toronto transit workers’ rights earlier this spring). This is no longer just an economic struggle; it is fundamentally a political struggle with the capitalist state stepping in on the side of the bosses.
Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty, and Tony Clement have repeatedly emphasized that the federal government needs to find $11-billion in cuts. As much as a third of Canada’s public-sector jobs could be permanently axed. The simple right to organize is under attack. Today’s labour struggles are much more than achieving a new contract with the employer; these political struggles will shape what rights workers have far into the future. The attacks will continue as long as there is a capitalist government in power. Workers and their organizations must fight back to break this current offensive, but not stop there. To truly put an end to the austerity we must put an end to the system that creates it. We need a socialist NDP government that can do away with capitalism and provide decent conditions for all.
Source: Fightback (Canada)
NATO is committing war crimes in Libya. The rules of engagement are bound by the UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 (2011) in which there is no mention of taking out Colonel Gaddafi, his aides or his children or grandchildren. NATO was supposed to police a no-fly zone and explain any misgivings to the international community.
The People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation asked the countries proposing the above-mentioned Resolutions to explain the details of the “measures” inherent in the agreements. No explanations were given, making the basis for the Resolutions void.
No rules of engagement allow for the purposeful targeting of Libyan officials, therefore the murder of Colonel Gaddafi’s grandchildren and the recent strikes on civilian targets in Tripoli amount to war crimes. The author of this piece has already pressed war crimes charges against David Cameron and Barack Obama in the nearest police stations to their places of work according to the rules for bringing war crimes charges currently in operation in the international community. Nothing has yet been forthcoming, meaning that the justice systems of the United Kingdom and the United States of America are placed in question.
The international community is bound to abide by the rules of international law. International law is ruled by the UN Charter and Resolutions from the UNSC. NATO has acted outside these rules, and therefore Barack Obama, David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and the other NATO warmonger leaders are guilty of war crimes.
Is the international community going to sit back and do nothing?
Probably, yes. But then there are consequences…
Noam Chomsky is one of the major intellectuals of our time. The eighty-two-year-old American linguist, philosopher and activist is a severe critic of US foreign and economic policy. Ceyda Nurtsch talked to him about the Arabic spring in its global context
June 22, 2011 – – Mr. Chomsky, many people claim that the Arab world is incompatible with democracy. Would you say that the recent developments falsify this thesis?
Noam Chomsky: The thesis never had any basis whatsoever. The Arab-Islamic world has a long history of democracy. It’s regularly crushed by western force. In 1953 Iran had a parliamentary system, the US and Britain overthrew it. There was a revolution in Iraq in 1958, we don’t know where it would have gone, but it could have been democratic. The US basically organized a coup.
False friends: Iran’ democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh during a visit in the US in 1951, two years before the CIA’s coup d’état that ousted him
In internal discussions in 1958, which have since been declassified, President Eisenhower spoke about a campaign of hatred against us in the Arab world. Not from the governments, but from the people. The National Security Council’s top planning body produced a memorandum – you can pick it up on the web now – in which they explained it. They said that the perception in the Arab world is that the United States blocks democracy and development and supports harsh dictators and we do it to get control over their oil. The memorandum said, this perception is more or less accurate and that’s basically what we ought to be doing.
That means that western democracies prevented the emergence of democracies in the Arab world?
Chomsky: I won’t run through the details, but yes, it continues that way to the present. There are constant democratic uprisings. They are crushed by the dictators we – mainly the US, Britain, and France – support. So sure, there is no democracy because you crush it all. You could have said the same about Latin America: a long series of dictators, brutal murderers. As long as the US controls the hemisphere, or Europe before it, there is no democracy, because it gets crushed.
So you were not surprised at all by the Arab Spring?
Chomsky: Well, I didn’t really expect it. But there is a long background to it. Let’s take Egypt for instance. You’ll notice that the young people who organized the demonstrations on January 25th called themselves the April 6th movement. There is a reason for that. April 6th 2008 was supposed to be a major labour action in Egypt at the Mahalla textile complex, the big industrial centre: strikes, support demonstrations around the country and so on. It was all crushed by the dictatorship. Well, in the West we don’t pay any attention: as long as dictatorships control people, what do we care!
“Efforts to create democracy”: On 6 April 2008 Egyptian workers, primarily in the state-run textile industry, striked in response to low wages and rising food costs. Strikes were illegal in Egypt, and the protests were eventually crushed
But in Egypt they remember, and that’s only one in a long series of militant strike actions. Some of them succeeded. There are some good studies of this. There is one American scholar, Joel Beinen – he is at Stanford – he has done a lot of work on the Egyptian labour movement. And he has recent articles and earlier ones, in which he discusses labour struggles going on for a long time: those are efforts to create democracy.
Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, claimed to cause a domino effect of freedom with his policy of the “New Middle East”. Is there a relation between the uprisings in the Arab world to the policy of George W. Bush?
Chomsky: The main theme of modern post-war history is the domino effect: Cuba, Brazil, Vietnam… Henry Kissinger compared it to a virus that might spread contagion. When he and Nixon were planning the overthrow of the democratically elected Allende in Chile – we have all the internal materials now – Kissinger in particular said, the Chilean virus might affect countries as far as Europe. Actually, he and Brezhnev agreed on that, they were both afraid of democracy and Kissinger said, we have to wipe out this virus. And they did, they crushed it.
Today it’s similar. Both Bush and Obama are terrified of the Arab spring. And there is a very sensible reason for that. They don’t want democracies in the Arab world. If Arab public opinion had any influence on policy, the US and Britain had been tossed out of the Middle East. That’s why they are terrified of democracies in the region.
The well-known British Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk recently stated that Obama and his policy is irrelevant for the developments in the region…
Chomsky: I read the article, it’s very good. Robert Fisk is a terrific journalist and he really knows the region well. I think what he means is that the activists in the April 6th movement don’t care about the United States. They have totally given up on the US. They know the United States is their enemy. In fact in public opinion in Egypt about 90 per cent think that the US is the worst threat that they face. In that sense the USA is of course not irrelevant. It’s just too powerful.
Some criticize the Arab intellectuals for being too silent, too passive. What should the role of the Arab intellectual be today?
Chomsky: Intellectuals have a special responsibility. We call them intellectuals because they are privileged and not because they are smarter than anyone else. But if you are privileged and you have some status and you can be articulate and so on we call you an intellectual. And it’s the same in the Arab world as anywhere else.
© Qantara.de 2011
Editor: Lewis Gropp/Qantara.de
By Michael Parenti
June 22 2011 “Information Clearing House” — — Imperialism has been the most powerful force in world history over the last four or five centuries, carving up whole continents while oppressing indigenous peoples and obliterating entire civilizations. Yet, it is seldom accorded any serious attention by our academics, media commentators, and political leaders. When not ignored outright, the subject of imperialism has been sanitized, so that empires become “commonwealths,” and colonies become “territories” or “dominions” (or, as in the case of Puerto Rico, “commonwealths” too). Imperialist military interventions become matters of “national defense,” “national security,” and maintaining “stability” in one or another region. In this book I want to look at imperialism for what it really is.
Across the Entire Globe
By “imperialism” I mean the process whereby the dominant politico-economic interests of one nation expropriate for their own enrichment the land, labor, raw materials, and markets of another people.The earliest victims of Western European imperialism were other Europeans. Some 800 years ago, Ireland became the first colony of what later became known as the British empire. A part of Ireland still remains under British occupation. Other early Caucasian victims included the Eastern Europeans. The people Charlemagne worked to death in his mines in the early part of the ninth century were Slavs. So frequent and prolonged was the enslavement of Eastern Europeans that “Slav” became synonymous with servitude. Indeed, the word “slave” derives from “Slav.” Eastern Europe was an early source of capital accumulation, having become wholly dependent upon Western manufactures by the seventeenth century.
A particularly pernicious example of intra-European imperialism was the Nazi aggression during World War II, which gave the German business cartels and the Nazi state an opportunity to plunder the resources and exploit the labor of occupied Europe, including the slave labor of concentration camps.
The preponderant thrust of the European, North American, and Japanese imperial powers has been directed against Africa, Asia, and Latin America. By the nineteenth century, they saw the Third World as not only a source of raw materials and slaves but a market for manufactured goods. By the twentieth century, the industrial nations were exporting not only goods but capital, in the form of machinery, technology, investments, and loans. To say that we have entered the stage of capital export and investment is not to imply that the plunder of natural resources has ceased. If anything, the despoliation has accelerated.
Of the various notions about imperialism circulating today in the United States, the dominant view is that it does not exist. Imperialism is not recognized as a legitimate concept, certainly not in regard to the United States. One may speak of “Soviet imperialism” or “nineteenth-century British imperialism” but not of U.S. imperialism. A graduate student in political science at most universities in this country would not be granted the opportunity to research U.S. imperialism, on the grounds that such an undertaking would not be scholarly. While many people throughout the world charge the United States with being an imperialist power, in this country persons who talk of U.S. imperialism are usually judged to be mouthing ideological blather.
The Dynamic of Capital Expansion
Imperialism is older than capitalism. The Persian, Macedonian, Roman, and Mongol empires all existed centuries before the Rothschilds and Rockefellers. Emperors and conquistadors were interested mostly in plunder and tribute, gold and glory. Capitalist imperialism differs from these earlier forms in the way it systematically accumulates capital through the organized exploitation of labor and the penetration of overseas markets. Capitalist imperialism invests in other countries, transforming and dominating their economies, cultures, and political life, integrating their financial and productive structures into an international system of capital accumulation.A central imperative of capitalism is expansion. Investors will not put their money into business ventures unless they can extract more than they invest. Increased earnings come only with a growth in the enterprise. The capitalist ceaselessly searches for ways of making more money in order to make still more money. One must always invest to realize profits, gathering as much strength as possible in the face of competing forces and unpredictable markets.
Given its expansionist nature, capitalism has little inclination to stay home. Almost 150 years ago, Marx and Engels described a bourgeoisie that “chases over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere. . . . It creates a world after its own image.” The expansionists destroy whole societies. Self-sufficient peoples are forcibly transformed into disfranchised wage workers. Indigenous communities and folk cultures are replaced by mass-market, mass-media, consumer societies. Cooperative lands are supplanted by agribusiness factory farms, villages by desolate shanty towns, autonomous regions by centralized autocracies.
Consider one of a thousand such instances. A few years ago the Los Angeles Times carried a special report on the rainforests of Borneo in the South Pacific. By their own testimony, the people there lived contented lives. They hunted, fished, and raised food in their jungle orchards and groves. But their entire way of life was ruthlessly wiped out by a few giant companies that destroyed the rainforest in order to harvest the hardwood for quick profits. Their lands were turned into ecological disaster areas and they themselves were transformed into disfranchised shantytown dwellers, forced to work for subsistence wages—when fortunate enough to find employment.
North American and European corporations have acquired control of more than three-fourths of the known mineral resources of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But the pursuit of natural resources is not the only reason for capitalist overseas expansion. There is the additional need to cut production costs and maximize profits by investing in countries with cheaper labor markets. U.S. corporate foreign investment grew 84 percent from 1985 to 1990, the most dramatic increase being in cheap-labor countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, and Singapore.
Because of low wages, low taxes, nonexistent work benefits, weak labor unions, and nonexistent occupational and environmental protections, U.S. corporate profit rates in the Third World are 50 percent greater than in developed countries. Citibank, one of the largest U.S. firms, earns about 75 percent of its profits from overseas operations. While profit margins at home sometimes have had a sluggish growth, earnings abroad have continued to rise dramatically, fostering the development of what has become known as the multinational or transnational corporation. Today some four hundred transnational companies control about 80 percent of the capital assets of the global free market and are extending their grasp into the ex-communist countries of Eastern Europe.
Transnationals have developed a global production line. General Motors has factories that produce cars, trucks and a wide range of auto components in Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Nigeria, Singapore, Philippines, South Africa, South Korea and a dozen other countries. Such “multiple sourcing” enables GM to ride out strikes in one country by stepping up production in another, playing workers of various nations against each other in order to discourage wage and benefit demands and undermine labor union strategies.
Not Necessary, Just Compelling
Some writers question whether imperialism is a necessary condition for capitalism, pointing out that most Western capital is invested in Western nations, not in the Third World. If corporations lost all their Third World investments, they argue, many of them could still survive on their European and North American markets. In response, one should note that capitalism might be able to survive without imperialism—but it shows no inclination to do so. It manifests no desire to discard its enormously profitable Third World enterprises. Imperialism may not be a necessary condition for investor survival but it seems to be an inherent tendency and a natural outgrowth of advanced capitalism. Imperial relations may not be the only way to pursue profits, but they are the most lucrative way.Whether imperialism is necessary for capitalism is really not the question. Many things that are not absolutely necessary are still highly desirable, therefore strongly preferred and vigorously pursued. Overseas investors find the Third World’s cheap labor, vital natural resources, and various other highly profitable conditions to be compellingly attractive. Superprofits may not be necessary for capitalism’s survival but survival is not all that capitalists are interested in. Superprofits are strongly preferred to more modest earnings. That there may be no necessity between capitalism and imperialism does not mean there is no compelling linkage.
The same is true of other social dynamics. For instance, wealth does not necessarily have to lead to luxurious living. A higher portion of an owning class’s riches could be used for investment rather personal consumption. The very wealthy could survive on more modest sums but that is not how most of them prefer to live. Throughout history, wealthy classes generally have shown a preference for getting the best of everything. After all, the whole purpose of getting rich off other people’s labor is to live well, avoiding all forms of thankless toil and drudgery, enjoying superior opportunities for lavish life-styles, medical care, education, travel, recreation, security, leisure, and opportunities for power and prestige. While none of these things are really “necessary,” they are fervently clung to by those who possess them—as witnessed by the violent measures endorsed by advantaged classes whenever they feel the threat of an equalizing or leveling democratic force.
Myths of Underdevelopment
The impoverished lands of Asia, Africa, and Latin America are known to us as the “Third World,” to distinguish them from the “First World” of industrialized Europe and North America and the now largely defunct “Second World” of communist states. Third World poverty, called “underdevelopment,” is treated by most Western observers as an original historic condition. We are asked to believe that it always existed, that poor countries are poor because their lands have always been infertile or their people unproductive.In fact, the lands of Asia, Africa, and Latin America have long produced great treasures of foods, minerals and other natural resources. That is why the Europeans went through all the trouble to steal and plunder them. One does not go to poor places for self-enrichment. The Third World is rich. Only its people are poor—and it is because of the pillage they have endured.
The process of expropriating the natural resources of the Third World began centuries ago and continues to this day. First, the colonizers extracted gold, silver, furs, silks, and spices, then flax, hemp, timber, molasses, sugar, rum, rubber, tobacco, calico, cocoa, coffee, cotton, copper, coal, palm oil, tin, iron, ivory, ebony, and later on, oil, zinc, manganese, mercury, platinum, cobalt, bauxite, aluminum, and uranium. Not to be overlooked is that most hellish of all expropriations: the abduction of millions of human beings into slave labor.
Through the centuries of colonization, many self-serving imperialist theories have been spun. I was taught in school that people in tropical lands are slothful and do not work as hard as we denizens of the temperate zone. In fact, the inhabitants of warm climates have performed remarkably productive feats, building magnificent civilizations well before Europe emerged from the Dark Ages. And today they often work long, hard hours for meager sums. Yet the early stereotype of the “lazy native” is still with us. In every capitalist society, the poor—both domestic and overseas—regularly are blamed for their own condition.
We hear that Third World peoples are culturally retarded in their attitudes, customs, and technical abilities. It is a convenient notion embraced by those who want to depict Western investments as a rescue operation designed to help backward peoples help themselves. This myth of “cultural backwardness” goes back to ancient times, when conquerors used it to justify enslaving indigenous peoples. It was used by European colonizers over the last five centuries for the same purpose.
What cultural supremacy could by claimed by the Europeans of yore? From the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries Europe was “ahead” in a variety of things, such as the number of hangings, murders, and other violent crimes; instances of venereal disease, smallpox, typhoid, tuberculosis, plagues, and other bodily afflictions; social inequality and poverty (both urban and rural); mistreatment of women and children; and frequency of famines, slavery, prostitution, piracy, religious massacres, and inquisitional torture. Those who claim the West has been the most advanced civilization should keep such “achievements” in mind.
More seriously, we might note that Europe enjoyed a telling advantage in navigation and armaments. Muskets and cannon, Gatling guns and gunboats, and today missiles, helicopter gunships, and fighter bombers have been the deciding factors when West meets East and North meets South. Superior firepower, not superior culture, has brought the Europeans and Euro-North Americans to positions of supremacy that today are still maintained by force, though not by force alone.
It was said that colonized peoples were biologically backward and less evolved than their colonizers. Their “savagery” and “lower” level of cultural evolution were emblematic of their inferior genetic evolution. But were they culturally inferior? In many parts of what is now considered the Third World, people developed impressive skills in architecture, horticulture, crafts, hunting, fishing, midwifery, medicine, and other such things. Their social customs were often far more gracious and humane and less autocratic and repressive than anything found in Europe at that time. Of course we must not romanticize these indigenous societies, some of which had a number of cruel and unusual practices of their own. But generally, their peoples enjoyed healthier, happier lives, with more leisure time, than did most of Europe’s inhabitants.
Other theories enjoy wide currency. We hear that Third World poverty is due to overpopulation, too many people having too many children to feed. Actually, over the last several centuries, many Third World lands have been less densely populated than certain parts of Europe. India has fewer people per acre—but more poverty—than Holland, Wales, England, Japan, Italy, and a few other industrial countries. Furthermore, it is the industrialized nations of the First World, not the poor ones of the Third, that devour some 80 percent of the world’s resources and pose the greatest threat to the planet’s ecology.
This is not to deny that overpopulation is a real problem for the planet’s ecosphere. Limiting population growth in all nations would help the global environment but it would not solve the problems of the poor—because overpopulation in itself is not the cause of poverty but one of its effects. The poor tend to have large families because children are a source of family labor and income and a support during old age.
Frances Moore Lappe and Rachel Schurman found that of seventy Third World countries, there were six—China, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Chile, Burma, and Cuba—and the state of Kerala in India that had managed to lower their birth rates by one third. They enjoyed neither dramatic industrial expansion nor high per capita incomes nor extensive family planning programs. The factors they had in common were public education and health care, a reduction of economic inequality, improvements in women’s rights, food subsidies, and in some cases land reform. In other words, fertility rates were lowered not by capitalist investments and economic growth as such but by socio-economic betterment, even of a modest scale, accompanied by the emergence of women’s rights.
Artificially Converted to Poverty
What is called “underdevelopment” is a set of social relations that has been forcefully imposed on countries. With the advent of the Western colonizers, the peoples of the Third World were actually set back in their development sometimes for centuries. British imperialism in India provides an instructive example. In 1810, India was exporting more textiles to England than England was exporting to India. By 1830, the trade flow was reversed. The British had put up prohibitive tariff barriers to shut out Indian finished goods and were dumping their commodities in India, a practice backed by British gunboats and military force. Within a matter of years, the great textile centers of Dacca and Madras were turned into ghost towns. The Indians were sent back to the land to raise the cotton used in British textile factories. In effect, India was reduced to being a cow milked by British financiers.By 1850, India’s debt had grown to 53 million pounds. From 1850 to 1900, its per capita income dropped by almost two-thirds. The value of the raw materials and commodities the Indians were obliged to send to Britain during most of the nineteenth century amounted yearly to more than the total income of the sixty million Indian agricultural and industrial workers. The massive poverty we associate with India was not that country’s original historical condition. British imperialism did two things: first, it ended India’s development, then it forcibly underdeveloped that country.
Similar bleeding processes occurred throughout the Third World. The enormous wealth extracted should remind us that there originally were few really poor nations. Countries like Brazil, Indonesia, Chile, Bolivia, Zaire, Mexico, Malaysia, and the Philippines were and sometimes still are rich in resources. Some lands have been so thoroughly plundered as to be desolate in all respects. However, most of the Third World is not “underdeveloped” but overexploited. Western colonization and investments have created a lower rather than a higher living standard.
Referring to what the English colonizers did to the Irish, Frederick Engels wrote in 1856: “How often have the Irish started out to achieve something, and every time they have been crushed politically and industrially. By consistent oppression they have been artificially converted into an utterly impoverished nation.” So with most of the Third World. The Mayan Indians in Guatemala had a more nutritious and varied diet and better conditions of health in the early 16th century before the Europeans arrived than they have today. They had more craftspeople, architects, artisans, and horticulturists than today. What is called underdevelopment is not an original historical condition but a product of imperialism’s superexploitation. Underdevelopment is itself a development.
Imperialism has created what I have termed “maldevelopment”: modern office buildings and luxury hotels in the capital city instead of housing for the poor, cosmetic surgery clinics for the affluent instead of hospitals for workers, cash export crops for agribusiness instead of food for local markets, highways that go from the mines and latifundios to the refineries and ports instead of roads in the back country for those who might hope to see a doctor or a teacher.
Wealth is transferred from Third World peoples to the economic elites of Europe and North America (and more recently Japan) by direct plunder, by the expropriation of natural resources, the imposition of ruinous taxes and land rents, the payment of poverty wages, and the forced importation of finished goods at highly inflated prices. The colonized country is denied the freedom of trade and the opportunity to develop its own natural resources, markets, and industrial capacity. Self-sustenance and self-employment gives way to wage labor. From 1970 to 1980, the number of wage workers in the Third World grew from 72 million to 120 million, and the rate is accelerating.
Hundreds of millions of Third World peoples now live in destitution in remote villages and congested urban slums, suffering hunger, disease, and illiteracy, often because the land they once tilled is now controlled by agribusiness firms who use it for mining or for commercial export crops such as coffee, sugar, and beef, instead of growing beans, rice, and corn for home consumption. A study of twenty of the poorest countries, compiled from official statistics, found that the number of people living in what is called “absolute poverty” or rockbottom destitution, the poorest of the poor, is rising 70,000 a day and should reach 1.5 billion by the year 2000 (San Francisco Examiner, June 8, 1994).
Imperialism forces millions of children around the world to live nightmarish lives, their mental and physical health severely damaged by endless exploitation. A documentary film on the Discovery Channel (April 24, 1994) reported that in countries like Russia, Thailand, and the Philippines, large numbers of minors are sold into prostitution to help their desperate families survive. In countries like Mexico, India, Colombia, and Egypt, children are dragooned into health-shattering, dawn-to-dusk labor on farms and in factories and mines for pennies an hour, with no opportunity for play, schooling, or medical care.
In India, 55 million children are pressed into the work force. Tens of thousands labor in glass factories in temperatures as high as 100 degrees. In one plant, four-year-olds toil from 5 o’clock in the morning until the dead of night, inhaling fumes and contracting emphysema, tuberculosis, and other respiratory diseases. In the Philippines and Malaysia corporations have lobbied to drop age restrictions for labor recruitment. The pursuit of profit becomes a pursuit of evil.
When we say a country is “underdeveloped,” we are implying that it is backward and retarded in some way, that its people have shown little capacity to achieve and evolve. The negative connotations of “underdeveloped” has caused the United Nations, the Wall Street Journal, and parties of various political persuasion to refer to Third World countries as “developing” nations, a term somewhat less insulting than “underdeveloped” but equally misleading. I prefer to use “Third World” because “developing” seems to be just a euphemistic way of saying “underdeveloped but belatedly starting to do something about it.” It still implies that poverty was an original historic condition and not something imposed by the imperialists. It also falsely suggests that these countries are developing when actually their economic conditions are usually worsening.The dominant theory of the last half century, enunciated repeatedly by writers like Barbara Ward and W. W. Rostow and afforded wide currency in the United States and other parts of the Western world, maintains that it is up to the rich nations of the North to help uplift the “backward” nations of the South, bringing them technology and teaching them proper work habits. This is an updated version of “the White man’s burden,” a favorite imperialist fantasy.
According to the development scenario, with the introduction of Western investments, the backward economic sectors of the poor nations will release their workers, who then will find more productive employment in the modern sector at higher wages. As capital accumulates, business will reinvest its profits, thus creating still more products, jobs, buying power, and markets. Eventually a more prosperous economy evolves.
This “development theory” or “modernization theory,” as it is sometimes called, bears little relation to reality. What has emerged in the Third World is an intensely exploitive form of dependent capitalism. Economic conditions have worsened drastically with the growth of transnational corporate investment. The problem is not poor lands or unproductive populations but foreign exploitation and class inequality. Investors go into a country not to uplift it but to enrich themselves.
People in these countries do not need to be taught how to farm. They need the land and the implements to farm. They do not need to be taught how to fish. They need the boats and the nets and access to shore frontage, bays, and oceans. They need industrial plants to cease dumping toxic effusions into the waters. They do not need to be convinced that they should use hygienic standards. They do not need a Peace Corps Volunteer to tell them to boil their water, especially when they cannot afford fuel or have no access to firewood. They need the conditions that will allow them to have clean drinking water and clean clothes and homes. They do not need advice about balanced diets from North Americans. They usually know what foods best serve their nutritional requirements. They need to be given back their land and labor so that they might work for themselves and grow food for their own consumption.
The legacy of imperial domination is not only misery and strife, but an economic structure dominated by a network of international corporations which themselves are beholden to parent companies based in North America, Europe and Japan. If there is any harmonization or integration, it occurs among the global investor classes, not among the indigenous economies of these countries. Third World economies remain fragmented and unintegrated both between each other and within themselves, both in the flow of capital and goods and in technology and organization. In sum, what we have is a world economy that has little to do with the economic needs of the world’s people.
Neoimperialism: Skimming the Cream
Sometimes imperial domination is explained as arising from an innate desire for domination and expansion, a “territorial imperative.” In fact, territorial imperialism is no longer the prevailing mode. Compared to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the European powers carved up the world among themselves, today there is almost no colonial dominion left. Colonel Blimp is dead and buried, replaced by men in business suits. Rather than being directly colonized by the imperial power, the weaker countries have been granted the trappings of sovereignty—while Western finance capital retains control of the lion’s share of their profitable resources. This relationship has gone under various names: “informal empire,” “colonialism without colonies,” “neocolonialism,” and “neoimperialism.”U.S. political and business leaders were among the earliest practitioners of this new kind of empire, most notably in Cuba at the beginning of the twentieth century. Having forcibly wrested the island from Spain in the war of 1898, they eventually gave Cuba its formal independence. The Cubans now had their own government, constitution, flag, currency, and security force. But major foreign policy decisions remained in U.S. hands as did the island’s wealth, including its sugar, tobacco, and tourist industries, and major imports and exports.
Historically U.S. capitalist interests have been less interested in acquiring more colonies than in acquiring more wealth, preferring to make off with the treasure of other nations without bothering to own and administer the nations themselves. Under neoimperialism, the flag stays home, while the dollar goes everywhere—frequently assisted by the sword.
After World War II, European powers like Britain and France adopted a strategy of neoimperialism. Left financially depleted by years of warfare, and facing intensified popular resistance from within the Third World itself, they reluctantly decided that indirect economic hegemony was less costly and politically more expedient than outright colonial rule. They discovered that the removal of a conspicuously intrusive colonial rule made it more difficult for nationalist elements within the previously colonized countries to mobilize anti-imperialist sentiments.
Though the newly established government might be far from completely independent, it usually enjoyed more legitimacy in the eyes of its populace than a colonial administration controlled by the imperial power. Furthermore, under neoimperialism the native government takes up the costs of administering the country while the imperialist interests are free to concentrate on accumulating capital—which is all they really want to do.
After years of colonialism, the Third World country finds it extremely difficult to extricate itself from the unequal relationship with its former colonizer and impossible to depart from the global capitalist sphere. Those countries that try to make a break are subjected to punishing economic and military treatment by one or another major power, nowadays usually the United States.
The leaders of the new nations may voice revolutionary slogans, yet they find themselves locked into the global capitalist orbit, cooperating perforce with the First World nations for investment, trade, and aid. So we witnessed the curious phenomenon of leaders of newly independent Third World nations denouncing imperialism as the source of their countries’ ills, while dissidents in these countries denounced these same leaders as collaborators of imperialism.
In many instances a comprador class emerged or was installed as a first condition for independence. A comprador class is one that cooperates in turning its own country into a client state for foreign interests. A client state is one that is open to investments on terms that are decidedly favorable to the foreign investors. In a client state, corporate investors enjoy direct subsidies and land grants, access to raw materials and cheap labor, light or nonexistent taxes, few effective labor unions, no minimum wage or child labor or occupational safety laws, and no consumer or environmental protections to speak of. The protective laws that do exist go largely unenforced.
In all, the Third World is something of a capitalist paradise, offering life as it was in Europe and the United States during the nineteenth century, with a rate of profit vastly higher than what might be earned today in a country with strong economic regulations. The comprador class is well recompensed for its cooperation. Its leaders enjoy opportunities to line their pockets with the foreign aid sent by the U.S. government. Stability is assured with the establishment of security forces, armed and trained by the United States in the latest technologies of terror and repression. Still, neoimperialism carries risks. The achievement of de jure independence eventually fosters expectations of de facto independence. The forms of self rule incite a desire for the fruits of self rule. Sometimes a national leader emerges who is a patriot and reformer rather than a comprador collaborator. Therefore, the changeover from colonialism to neocolonialism is not without risks for the imperialists and represents a net gain for popular forces in the world.
Chapter 1 of Against Empire by Michael Parenti
Michael Parenti is an internationally known award-winning author and lecturer. He is one of the nation’s leading progressive political analysts. His highly informative and entertaining books and talks have reached a wide range of audiences in North America and abroad. http://www.michaelparenti.org/
Written by Seamus Loughlin Wednesday, 22 June 2011
The UVF attacks on the Short Strand area of Belfast over the last days and the clashes between Catholic and Protestant youth demonstrate that despite the claims of the various ministers at Stormont, the underlying tensions and conflicts in the North have neither been resolved nor overcome.
The Short Strand area has often been the site of conflict passing periodically from a state of psychological siege to a physical and sometimes bloody siege, not just recently but going back to the 1920’s. Reports on the recent events indicate that shots were fired from both sides.
The trigger for the recent events seems to have been the rerouting of an Orange march that was planned to pass through Ardoyne prompting a loyalist riot. But there has been low level sectarian activity over the past period also. The Short Strand is an easy target surrounded by overwhelmingly Protestant areas in what used to be the industrial heart of the city.
The loyalists claim that Protestant rights have been denied, but the truth is that it isn’t the Catholic workers and youth to blame. It is the crisis of capitalism that has eaten away at East Belfast over decades. Shorts Bombardier has shrunken away, Sirocco has gone. The whole area has been deindustrialised and now the Protestant workers are in the same situation as the unskilled Catholic workers who were historically excluded from many of the skilled jobs in the area. In some ways the situation is worse, as the loss of the industry and the jobs that went with it has been felt more in the Protestant areas.
The Good Friday and St Andrews agreements resulted in the carve up of political power in the North between two main camps, neither of which offer any way out of the blind alley. Existing tensions have been fuelled by the economic crisis, while many workers on either side see no tangible benefit from the debates and posturing at Stormont.
Tensions have risen during the economic crisis and in the absence of a clear political alternative, many are pulled towards sectarian groups egged on by some politicians or towards the so called dissident republicans. Loyalist attacks such as these give the still armed republican groups the opportunity to point to the decommissioning of weapons as evidence that Catholic communities have no means of self defence.
In the Short Strand, that argument can gain ground. At the end of June 1970 the Short Strand was attacked by overwhelming numbers of loyalists. The defence of the area, which was led by Billy McKee a founder of the Provos, was instrumental in developing the position of the Provisionals in Belfast. The defence of St Matthew’s Church has acquired an important place in the history of the Provisionals. However, Billy McKee himself who is now 89 was recently interviewed in the Irish News where he distanced himself from Sinn Féin (SF), while coming over as a devout mass-going Catholic with no regrets regarding the armed campaign and the bombing campaign of the early 1970’s. This must be very worrying for the leadership of SF, as it indicates that there is fertile ground for the “dissidents”. Billy himself would probably have been out last night if it wasn’t for infirmity.
At the same time, yesterday’s reports claimed that while the UVF attacks have been linked to the march through Ardoyne, there are tensions within the leadership of the UVF which may also have contributed to the events. The run up to July 12th is likely to see further conflict. Once again last night gun shots were reported.
Unemployment, low wages, poor housing and lack of opportunity for the youth saps the life out of communities. While we can point out the reasons why tensions between Catholic and Protestant can be exacerbated because of the impasse in society, we can’t leave it at that. There are no solutions to the problems of workers and youth from either side on the basis of capitalism and within the narrow boundaries of the North of Ireland.
The crisis of capitalism – which is particularly severe in Ireland – has produced mass, united, working class struggles across Europe. In the South we have seen unprecedented mass mobilisations in the recent period. In Britain the workers are beginning to flex their muscles, as the March 26 demonstration and the coming June 30 strike action confirm. The same issues that affect workers in England, Wales and Scotland, from the raising of the age of retirement, to cuts in education and healthcare, also affect workers in the North of Ireland.
It is because of this that the present resurgence of sectarianism can be cut across by united working class struggle. But there is no guarantee that this will be the only perspective. The latest sectarian conflict in the Short Strand area of Belfast confirms what the Marxists have always maintained: that so long as capitalism survives in Ireland it will bring recurring crises, with growing unemployment and social degradation, the breeding ground for sectarian strife.
As James Connolly wrote in 1914:
“Such a scheme as that agreed to by Redmond and Devlin, the betrayal of the national democracy of industrial Ulster, would mean a carnival of reaction both North and South, would set back the wheels of progress, would destroy the oncoming unity of the Irish Labour movement and paralyse all advanced movements whilst it endured.
“To it Labour should give the bitterest opposition, against it Labour in Ulster should fight even to the death, if necessary, as our fathers fought before us.”
Connolly’s prediction is very clear and given the history of the last 40 or so years is very accurate. Connolly fought for a United Socialist Ireland which he saw as the only guarantee for the rights of the Protestant minority in the North at the time. He understood that only in a socialist Ireland could the rights of both Catholics and Protestants be respected. That remains as true today as it was then. There is a huge political vacuum in the North that needs to be filled by a mass socialist alternative. There are no short cuts to building such an alternative. The impasse of world capitalism, however, has shown the potential power of working people in the Middle East, North Africa, Greece and Spain, every night on prime time television. The North of Ireland is not excluded from that process.
If Americans Don’t Get Hurt, War Is No Longer War
By Jonathan Schell
June 21, 2011 “TomDispatch” — The Obama administration has come up with a remarkable justification for going to war against Libya without the congressional approval required by the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
American planes are taking off, they are entering Libyan air space, they are locating targets, they are dropping bombs, and the bombs are killing and injuring people and destroying things. It is war. Some say it is a good war and some say it is a bad war, but surely it is a war.
Nonetheless, the Obama administration insists it is not a war. Why? Because, according to “United States Activities in Libya,” a 32-page report that the administration released last week, “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.”
In other words, the balance of forces is so lopsided in favor of the United States that no Americans are dying or are threatened with dying. War is only war, it seems, when Americans are dying, when we die. When only they, the Libyans, die, it is something else for which there is as yet apparently no name. When they attack, it is war. When we attack, it is not.
This cannot be classified as anything but strange thinking and it depends, in turn, on a strange fact: that, in our day, it is indeed possible for some countries (or maybe only our own), for the first time in history, to wage war without receiving a scratch in return. This was nearly accomplished in the bombing of Serbia in 1999, in which only one American plane was shot down (and the pilot rescued).
The epitome of this new warfare is the predator drone, which has become an emblem of the Obama administration. Its human operators can sit at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada or in Langley, Virginia, while the drone floats above Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen or Libya, pouring destruction down from the skies. War waged in this way is without casualties for the wager because none of its soldiers are near the scene of battle — if that is even the right word for what is going on.
Some strange conclusions follow from this strange thinking and these strange facts. In the old scheme of things, an attack on a country was an act of war, no matter who launched it or what happened next. Now, the Obama administration claims that if the adversary cannot fight back, there is no war.
It follows that adversaries of the United States have a new motive for, if not equaling us, then at least doing us some damage. Only then will they be accorded the legal protections (such as they are) of authorized war. Without that, they are at the mercy of the whim of the president.
The War Powers Resolution permits the president to initiate military operations only when the nation is directly attacked, when there is “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” The Obama administration, however, justifies its actions in the Libyan intervention precisely on the grounds that there is no threat to the invading forces, much less the territories of the United States.
There is a parallel here with the administration of George W. Bush on the issue of torture (though not, needless to say, a parallel between the Libyan war itself, which I oppose but whose merits can be reasonably debated, and torture, which was wholly reprehensible). President Bush wanted the torture he was ordering not to be considered torture, so he arranged to get lawyers in the Justice department to write legal-sounding opinions excluding certain forms of torture, such as waterboarding, from the definition of the word. Those practices were thenceforward called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Now, Obama wants his Libyan war not to be a war and so has arranged to define a certain kind of war — the American-casualty-free kind — as not war (though without even the full support of his own lawyers). Along with Libya, a good English word — war — is under attack.
In these semantic operations of power upon language, a word is separated from its commonly accepted meaning. The meanings of words are one of the few common grounds that communities naturally share. When agreed meanings are challenged, no one can use the words in question without stirring up spurious “debates,” as happened with the word torture. For instance, mainstream news organizations, submissive to George Bush’s decisions on the meanings of words, stopped calling waterboarding torture and started calling it other things, including “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but also “harsh treatment,” “abusive practices,” and so on.
Will the news media now stop calling the war against Libya a war? No euphemism for war has yet caught on, though soon after launching its Libyan attacks, an administration official proposed the phrase “kinetic military action” and more recently, in that 32-page report, the term of choice was “limited military operations.” No doubt someone will come up with something catchier soon.
How did the administration twist itself into this pretzel? An interview that Charlie Savage and Mark Landler of the New York Times held with State Department legal advisor Harold Koh sheds at least some light on the matter. Many administrations and legislators have taken issue with the War Powers Resolution, claiming it challenges powers inherent in the presidency. Others, such as Bush administration Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, have argued that the Constitution’s plain declaration that Congress “shall declare war” does not mean what most readers think it means, and so leaves the president free to initiate all kinds of wars.
Koh has long opposed these interpretations — and in a way, even now, he remains consistent. Speaking for the administration, he still upholds Congress’s power to declare war and the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution. “We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own,” he told the Times. “We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.”
In a curious way, then, a desire to avoid challenge to existing law has forced assault on the dictionary. For the Obama administration to go ahead with a war lacking any form of Congressional authorization, it had to challenge either law or the common meaning of words. Either the law or language had to give.
It chose language.
Jonathan Schell is the Doris M. Shaffer Fellow at The Nation Institute, and a Senior Lecturer at Yale University. He is the author of several books, including The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Schell discusses war and the imperial presidency, click here, or download it to your iPod here.
Copyright 2011 Jonathan Schell