Daily Archives: July 6, 2011

The US Must End its Illegal War in Libya Now

President Obama has ripped up the US constitution for Nato’s ill-considered Libyan adventure. Congress must restore sense

By Dennis Kucinich

July 06 “The Guardian” — This week, I am sponsoring legislation in the United States Congress that will end US military involvement in Libya for the following reasons:

First, the war is illegal under the United States constitution and our War Powers Act, because only the US Congress has the authority to declare war and the president has been unable to show that the US faced an imminent threat from Libya. The president even ignored his top legal advisers at the Pentagon and the department of justice who insisted he needed congressional approval before bombing Libya.

Second, the war has reached a stalemate and is unwinnable without the deployment of Nato ground troops, effectively an invasion of Libya. The whole operation was terribly ill-considered from the beginning. While Nato supports the Benghazi-based opposition (situated in the oil-rich north-east), there is little evidence that the opposition has support of the majority of Libyans. The leading opposition group, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (which had reportedly been backed by the CIA in the 1980s), should never have launched an armed civil war against the government if they had no chance absent a massive Nato air campaign and the introduction of Nato troops. Their reckless actions, encouraged by western political, military and intelligence interests, created the humanitarian crisis that was then used to justify the Nato war campaign.

Third, the United States cannot afford it. The US cost of the mission is projected to soon reach more than $1bn, and we are already engaged in massive cutbacks of civil services for our own people.

It is not surprising that a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents alike think the US should not be involved in Libya. 

This war is misguided. An invasion would be a disaster. Nato already is out of control, using a UN mandate allowing for protection of civilians as the flimsy pretext for an unauthorised mission of regime change through massive violence. In a just world, the Nato commander would be held responsible for any violations of international law. As a means of continuing the civil war, Nato member France and coalition ally Qatar have both admitted shipping weapons to Libya, in open violation of the United Nations arms embargo.

In the end, the biggest casualty of this game of nations will be the legitimacy of the UN, its resolutions and mandates, and international rule of law. This condition must be reversed. The ban on arms supplies to Libya must be enforced, not subverted by Nato countries. The US must cease its illegal and counterproductive support for a military resolution now.

The US Congress must act to cut off funds for the war because there is no military solution in Libya. Serious negotiations for a political solution must begin to end the violence and create an environment for peace negotiations to fulfil the legitimate, democratic aspirations of the people. A political solution will become viable when the opposition understands that regime change is the privilege of the Libyan people, not of Nato.


Can Media irresponsibility be reversed?

Jakobskind: why the media is silent about Libya, Strauss-Kahn

Libya remains an impasse. The daily bombings by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) did not achieve the goal of finishing the government of Muammar Gaddafi. With the complicity of the media around the world, Gaddafi is being blamed for a series of human rights violations.

By Mario Augusto Jakobskind

The International Criminal Court decided to order the arrest of the Libyan leader, accusing him of killings and other violence. For example, he ordered his soldiers to rape women. While such information is circulating around the world, the British newspaper The Independent published an Amnesty International report exonerating the regime of Muammar Gaddafi from such incriminating charges, and that the rebels have the support of NATO.

All the denunciations about violence by Gaddafi government forces have fallen to the ground. They can be considered made from the same mold of the schemes that preceded the invasion of Iraq, such as weapons of mass destruction that never existed. All because of oil. Amnesty International has found evidence that on several occasions the rebels in Benghazi deliberately made false statements and distributed versions lying about crimes committed by the Libyan government.

It is worth remembering the series of warnings issued by the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who clearly plays the game for the military industrial complex. She based the charges against Gaddafi on “reports” invented by the rebels, but as the reports of Amnesty International have been little publicized, Hillary is still ahead in the media market, which helped, as at other times, the gold plating of Americans.

I mean, the farce against Iraq is being repeated with Libya. In spite of the justifications for the daily bombings by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which some TV channels mistakenly repeat, either through ignorance or ideological choice of the Western Alliance, the fact remains that they invented pretexts to intervene in the North African country.

It is inconceivable that this practice is repeated on all areas of the planet where there are riches coveted by the United States and other industrialized countries. And even worse: smart bombs hit civilian targets and cause deaths in the name of “humanitarian intervention.”

After the report of Amnesty International, it is hoped that international bodies like the UN, at least investigate impartially, and even review the position taken against Libya. Or at least enact a ceasefire, as suggested by former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva at a meeting with representatives of African countries.

None of these three suggestions will be done, and they will keep on giving a pretext for the bombings. The credibility of the organization is going to minus zero. It is now at zero, but if it enters the next level, it might recover credibility.

What would they have to say about all this, President Dilma Rousseff and her foreign minister, Antonio Patriota? After all, NATO, with the seal of the United Nations, commits serious human rights violations. To temain silent is supporting and approving the practice. Because the Brazilian President herself has already made it clear numerous times what the position would be if they commit human rights violations.

But we must be careful not to fall into the the U.S. trap which blows the whistle only against countries that don’t do the play of the White House. Saudi Arabia, ruled by a royal family and ally of Washington, that always violates human rights, is not condemned or even mentioned by the United States, just as the entry of Saudi troops to quell protesters in Bahrain was accepted as a normal fact.

And in the episode concerning Dominique Strauss-Kahn, after some analysts were denouncing him, a part of the truth began to emerge. The media market had already in advance condemned the Frenchman, in another demonstration of journalistic irresponsibility. The second version now appears according to which the maid wanted to extract money from Strauss-Kahn. It is emerging as the tip of the iceberg of a story that might have even greater political implications than previously imagined.

Although Strauss-Kahn was a representative of the financial world, according to experts, he had displeased,the market in statements or issues related to international finance. There will be no surprise that soon after some kind of interference by intelligence and secret services comes up. And in the place of Strauss-Kahn, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was appointed, of an absolutely conservative line. Mission accomplished for the radical defenders of the god of the market.

The case deserves to be thoroughly investigated because of the fact that this maid has ties to mobsters, according to police in New York. This does not eliminate the participation of some secret service, such as the CIA, for example, that often uses tricks like this and other types not readily apparent. And, as the newspaper The New York Times reported, we have the emergence of $100,000 in the bank account of the maid, which may have come from who knows where.

The corporate media market runs irresponsibly behind the audience to raise more advertisers and gorges itself enough to exploit the case. They have to do an immediate self-criticism. And in that sense, it would now be worth putting into practice a kind of investigative journalism to clarify definitively what lies behind the case. The question is whether there will be a political will to do so. Or if the New York Police Department will have an interest in disclosing facts behind the scenes.

 Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova


The House of Saud paranoia

By Pepe Escobar

A very quiet summit recently took place at a North Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO) base in Molesworth, in the United Kingdom. Facing the British was none other than Prince Turki al-Faisal, former director general of Saudi Arabia’s feared Mukhabarat (intelligence services), and once a very close friend of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Prince Turki was there to explain the House of Saud’s take on the great 2011 Arab revolt. In a nutshell; he told the British – and the Americans – to forget their silly ideas about “democracy”. This was all an Iranian plot.

The deployment of Saudi Arabian troops in Bahrain and Yemen, and the deployment of Wahhabi mercenaries in Libya and Syria was nothing other than tools to fight in ideological combat – and engage in hardcore repression – against the spread of Shi’ite Iran’s influence.

The icing in this desert cake is the ongoing transformation of the Gulf Cooperation Council – in fact now a Gulf Counter-Revolution Cub – into an alliance of Sunni monarchies, with the incorporation of Jordan and Morocco to current members Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The House of Saud remains the proverbial staunch ally of the Washington/London “special relationship” – its petrodollars ($300 billion in oil revenues in 2011, made possible by owing 12% of global oil production) buying everyone in sight from Egypt to Libya and Palestine, while Arab al-Qaeda-linked networks merrily bolster the uprisings in both Libya and Syria.

Yet – in this House of supreme paranoia – what if the day comes when they wouldn’t be regarded as indispensable, staunch allies anymore? What if Washington/London are convinced that a more acceptable Middle East should have Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood as “models”?

On the crucial energy front, the House of Saud didn’t fail to notice the fact that the US will prefer to concentrate its future energy needs on gas – and not oil, and this while Saudi oil reserves are declining and China is already Saudi Arabia’s top trade partner (that’s one of the key reasons China abstained from United Nations resolution 1973 on Libya; Beijing didn’t want to antagonize Riyadh).

Washington/London certainly increased their own fears of a regional disaster when Prince Turki was very clear Saudi Arabia would go for its own nuclear bomb in case Iran did the same – although there’s no evidence whatsoever, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program. By the way Prince Turki himself made it clear on a separate occasion; the only regional actor allowed to have nuclear weapons is Israel.

So Prince Turki’s message at this “secret” NATO meeting was essentially that we’re top dog in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, and from now on we do what we want to do first, not necessarily what you want us to do.

That could be the definitive hint for Washington to finally drop this inconvenient, medieval but staunch ally that stubbornly wants to stop the flow of history – but it won’t be interpreted as such.

All about Iranophobia
The House of Saud has used the great 2011 Arab revolt to propel Iranophobia in the Sunni Arab world to all-out hysteria. Iranophobia has been deployed as a Saudi-orchestrated psy-ops for years now – geared towards isolating Iran in the arc from Northern Africa to Southwest Asia.

While trying to depict Iran to Arab public opinion as the ultimate evil, the House of Saud may hope to obscure the role of the real profiteers – Western neo-colonial powers which occupy or control, directly and indirectly, the Arab world. Most of all, Iranophobia is extremely useful for the House of Saud, as well as the al-Khalifa Sunni dynasty in Bahrain and the Emirates rulers, to mercilessly repress their own people.

In the West, Iranophobia has been misunderstood as a cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. No; it’s a counter-revolutionary pys-ops conducted by the House of Saud out of supreme fear of Iran’s regional alliances – with Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad – as well as Iranian support, for instance, for the Houthi rebellion in northern Yemen in 2009.

There’s also a running myth that Saudi King Abdullah, 86, illiterate and close to meeting his maker, has tried to integrate Saudi Shi’ites – especially via the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue. There’s no way to understand Saudi Arabia without examining its historical prejudice against Shi’ites. Saudi schoolbooks treat Shi’ites as non-Muslim infidels, or worse – evil “polytheists”.

The heart of the matter is that the House of Saud is bound by blood with the Sunni Wahhabi clerical establishment. As long as the monarchy follows their medieval interpretation of sharia law, the king is incensed as the legitimate “custodian of the two holy mosques”.

So Iranophobia – as it’s being deployed especially after Tahrir Square in Egypt – only serves to bolster Wahhabi medievalism, and to demean Shi’ites, inside and outside the kingdom. Thus the overall belief in Saudi Arabia that Iran forced the overwhelming majority of Bahrain’s population to cry for democracy.

The power of the Saudi counter-revolution should not be underestimated. As much as the House of Saud was horrified by Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak being “dumped” by the Barack Obama administration, they have been clever enough to bribe the Tantawi junta currently in power with almost $4 billion. The House of Saud is furious that Mubarak will have to stand trial.

Asia Times Online has extensively reported on the Saudi invasion and repression in Bahrain. In Yemen, Saudi “made-in-the-USA” jets have routinely pulled an Obama AfPak gimmick, bombing Shi’ite rebels across the border. But now the House of Saud craves “stability” – that is, to pick up the new post-Ali Abdallah Saleh ruler.

In Syria, it’s more complicated. The House of Saud, officially, is silent – while Saudi media has a ball demonizing President Bashar al-Assad and Saudi-financed networks, mildly Islamist and even jihadi-oriented, work in the shadows.

Welcome to the end of history
House of Saud minions are all over Saudi-controlled media talking about the kingdom’s “non-interference” policy. That’s absurd; the House of Saud for decades has interfered against scores of progressive or leftist movements all across the world, and pushed several countries to civil war, from Lebanon to Yemen and Somalia – either serving Washington’s interests or most of all the interests of their medieval Wahhabi clerics.

King Abdullah recently ordered that the grand mufti and other top clerics simply cannot be criticized. If you are even mildly opposed to the House, you go to jail; 11,000 people have been arrested since 9/11, and more than 5,000 remain in prison. No one has a clue who these people are. Transparency is zero. And there’s no legal system responding to internationally accepted standards.

Beheadings abound; 121 people last year. There’s no elected government, no political parties, no free press. Two women were arrested last Sunday in Riyadh because they were demanding a fair trial for their relatives, according to Amnesty International. On the same day, at least 20 people – including 16 women and children – were arrested outside the feared Ministry of Interior because they were demanding the release of political prisoners, according to the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association.

Iranophobia is just another facet of a House living in perpetual fear – and paranoia. Wanna see the end of history? Board a flight to Riyadh.

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 pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


Empire of bases

by Nick Turse

The United States boasts hundreds of military bases around the world, perhaps even thousands. They constitute a planetary military deployment of a sort never before seen in history. Everywhere it has a military base, the U.S. has been able to swing the necessary political, economic and coercive power to impose its will. But with its economy shrinking, so will inevitably its empire of bases and its imperial base, predicts Nick Turse.

Voltaire Network | 6 July 2011

Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan
Anyone who thinks the United States is really going to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011 needs to come to this giant air base an hour away from Kabul. There’s construction everywhere. It’s exactly what you wouldn’t expect from a transient presence.” – remarks by Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room blog, who visited the base in August 2010.

The United States has 460 bases overseas! It has 507 permanent bases! What is the US doing with more than 560 foreign bases? Why does it have 662 bases abroad? Does the United States really have more than 1,000 military bases across the globe?

In a world of statistics and precision, a world in which “accountability” is now a Washington buzzword, a world where all information is available at the click of a mouse, there’s one number no American knows. Not the president. Not the Pentagon. Not the experts. No one.

The man who wrote the definitive book on it didn’t know for sure. The Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist didn’t even come close. Yours truly has written numerous articles on US military bases and even part of a book on the subject, but failed like the rest.

There are more than 1,000 US military bases dotting the globe. To be specific, the most accurate count is 1,077. Unless it’s 1,088. Or, if you count differently, 1,169. Or even 1,180. Actually, the number might even be higher. Nobody knows for sure.

Keeping count

In a recent op-ed piece, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof made a trenchant point: “The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade?

For years, the late Chalmers Johnson, the man who literally wrote the book on the US military’s empire of bases, The Sorrows of Empire, made the same point and backed it with the most detailed research on the globe-spanning American archipelago of bases that has ever been assembled. Several years ago, after mining the Pentagon’s own publicly-available documents, Johnson wrote, “[T]he United States maintains 761 active military ’sites’ in foreign countries. (That’s the Defense Department’s preferred term, rather than ’bases,’ although bases are what they are.)

Recently, the Pentagon updated its numbers on bases and other sites, and they have dropped. Whether they’ve fallen to the level advanced by Kristof, however, is a matter of interpretation. According to the Department of Defense’s 2010 Base Structure Report, the US military now maintains 662 foreign sites in 38 countries around the world. Dig into that report more deeply, though, and Grand Canyon-sized gaps begin to emerge.

A legacy of bases

In 1955, 10 years after World War II ended, the Chicago Daily Tribune published a major investigation of bases, including a map dotted with little stars and triangles, most of them clustered in Europe and the Pacific. “The American flag flies over more than 300 overseas outposts,” wrote reporter Walter Trohan. “Camps and barracks and bases cover 12 American possessions or territories held in trust. The foreign bases are in 63 foreign nations or islands.”

Today, according to the Pentagon’s published figures, the American flag flies over 750 US military sites in foreign nations and US territories abroad. This figure does not include small foreign sites of less than 10 acres (4 hectares) or those that the US military values at less than US$10 million. In some cases, numerous bases of this type may be folded together and counted as a single military installation in a given country. A request for further clarification from the Department of Defense went unanswered.

What we do know is that, on the foreign outposts the US military counts, it controls close to 52,000 buildings, and more than 38,000 pieces of heavy infrastructure like piers, wharves and gigantic storage tanks, not to mention more than 9,100 “linear structures” like runways, rail lines and pipelines. Add in more than 6,300 buildings, 3,500 pieces of infrastructure, and 928 linear structures in US territories and you have an impressive total. And yet, it isn’t close to the full story.

Losing count

Last January, Colonel Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told me that there were nearly 400 US and coalition bases in Afghanistan, including camps, forward operating bases and combat outposts. He expected that number to increase by 12 or more, he added, over the course of 2010.

In September, I contacted ISAF’s Joint Command Public Affairs Office to follow up. To my surprise, I was told that “there are approximately 350 forward operating bases with two major military installations, Bagram and Kandahar airfields“. Perplexed by the loss of 50 bases instead of a gain of 12, I contacted Gary Younger, a Public Affairs Officer with the ISAF. “There are less than 10 NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization[ bases in Afghanistan,” he wrote in an October 2010 e-mail. “There are over 250 US bases in Afghanistan.”

By then, it seemed, the US had lost up to 150 bases and I was thoroughly confused. When I contacted the military to sort out the discrepancies and listed the numbers I had been given – from Shanks’ 400 base tally to the count of around 250 by Younger – I was handed off again and again until I landed with Sergeant First Class Eric Brown at ISAF Joint Command’s Public Affairs. “The number of bases in Afghanistan is roughly 411,” Brown wrote in a November e-mail, “which is a figure comprised of large base[s], all the way down to the Combat Out Post-level.” Even this, he cautioned, wasn’t actually a full list, because “temporary positions occupied by platoon-sized elements or less” were not counted.

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