News Roundup 1/26/2022

News Roundup 1/26/2022

US News

  • The Department of Labor drops the OSHA-enforced vaccine mandate. [Link]
  • As many as 500 criminal cases could be dropped because NYPD detective Joseph Franco was caught planting drugs. [Link]
  • Twitter says it removed nearly 45,000 accounts in the first half of 2021 for promoting violence or terrorism. Over the same time span, Twitter forced users to delete 4.7 million posts. [Link] Twitter also saw a record number of government requests to remove content. [Link]
  • Lockheed Martin is investing heavily in hypersonic missiles. [Link]

Venezuela

  • The US-recognized leader – although he holds no actual power – of Venezuela Juan Guadio offers the country’s true leader – Maduro –  talks in exchange for the possible reduction in some US sanctions. [Link]

Russia

  • US and Ukrainian officials are giving conflicting statements on the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. [Link]
  • The UK delivered thousands of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. [Link]
  • The US delivered 80 tonnes of Javelin missiles and launchers to Ukraine. [Link]
  • The House will vote on the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act as early as next week. The bill would impose sanctions on Russia and give Ukraine $500 million in military aid. [Link]

China

  • China and Russia conducted joint naval war games. Russia said it discussed conducting bilateral trade with China in national currencies. [Link]
  • The US flew operations with patrol and spy planes around Taiwan. [Link]

Korea

  • North Korea test-fired two cruise missiles. [Link]

Afghanistan

  • The accounts for the Afghan embassy in the US have been frozen. [Link]
  • Thousands of Afghans – many CIA-trained commandos – have been stranded in the UAE. [Link]

Middle East

  • A senior Human Rights Watch employee had their device hacked by the Israeli NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. [Link]
  • Talks between Israel and Russia could reduce Israeli airstrikes in Syria. [Link]
  • The US says it is ready for direct talks with Iran. [Link]
  • Ted Cruz introduces a bill that will put the Houthi on the terrorism list. [Link]
  • UAE-backed forces report making gains in Marib against the Houthi. [Link]

Africa

  • The Biden administration approves a $2.5 billion weapons sale to Egypt. [Link]
  • Senegal says two of its soldiers were killed and nine went missing while on operations in The Gambia. The Senegalese military said the Movement of Democratic Forces for Casamance was behind the attack. [Link]
COI #222: Cold War Served Hot, Hawks Cry For Russian Blood

COI #222: Cold War Served Hot, Hawks Cry For Russian Blood

On COI #222, Kyle Anzalone and Connor Freeman cover the hawks advocating the killing of Russians, the ongoing Cold War with China, and recent violence in Syria.

Connor reviews his latest column discussing the Washington imperial elite’s calls for Russian blood during the Ukraine crisis. The Biden administration, the CIA, Senators from both parties, and NATO officials have been promoting policies that will lead to war. Military aid to Kiev is skyrocketing. U.S. lawmakers seek to tie Biden’s hands and only continue increasing tensions with Moscow.

Kyle details military and political escalations with Beijing. In a move sure to anger the Chinese, Taipei’s Vice President is visiting the U.S. soon.  The Seventh Fleet is carrying out war drills with dual aircraft carrier strike groups in the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea. An F-35 recently crash-landed on the USS Carl Vinson’s deck during the provocative South China Sea exercise.  In response to a U.S. destroyer’s recent FONOP in the region, China’s military is demanding an end to these frequent hostile maneuvers.

Kyle updates the chaotic situation in Syria. An Islamic State attack on a prison in Kurdish territory reportedly holding ISIS suspects, including child detainees, has left scores dead and thousands displaced. The prison break in Hasakah began with two car bombs. Daesh prisoners overpowered prison guards, killing them and taking their weapons. Backing the Kurds, the U.S. has been committing airstrikes. On top of this, U.S. lawmakers are attempting to put a stop to Arab states’ efforts to normalize relations with Damascus.

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Israel’s Founding Father Called for Villages to Be ‘Wiped Out,’ Confirming Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Israel’s Founding Father Called for Villages to Be ‘Wiped Out,’ Confirming Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Archival institutions are not known to be pioneers of technological innovation. They are preoccupied with the past, after all. That is why censors still often black out classified information physically, with a marker, a piece of paper or whatnot.

The Israeli State Archives, on the other hand, have apparently been experimenting with virtual censorship tools. In the minutes of a cabinet meeting of Israel’s provisional government during its “War of Independence,” released following requests of the Akevot Institute, digital blackouts were included to cover the more problematic statements made by the Zionist leaders present. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently found out, however, these comments could be unveiled with a simple click. Woops! (Perhaps due to a similar technical error, I was able to access the paywalled Haaretz article once. Fortunately, the details can be found at Middle East Eye, too.)

The technical malfunction put the war-time document, dated July 1948, suddenly in an entirely different perspective. The censored version had shown David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister of the brand-new State of Israel, as saying that “I am against the wholesale demolition of villages.” But then, once the blackout was removed, there followed a “but.” Indeed, he quickly elaborated: “But there are places that constituted a great danger and constitute a great danger, and we must wipe them out. But this must be done responsibly, with consideration before the act.”

These comments are testimony of the well-documented ethnic cleansing of Palestine during Israel’s foundational war.1Ilan Pappe, The ethnic cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld Publications, 2006). In fact, the ‘wiping out’ of Arab forces and the “expulsion” of the Palestinians was officially sanctioned policy during the conflict. The censorship, which the Israeli State Archives claims to have been unintentional, is only the latest attempt to obscure this historical crime against humanity.

The Roots of Ethnic Cleansing

David Ben-Gurion is widely celebrated in Israel as the country’s founding father who led the war effort during and after the declaration of independence of May 14, 1948. Travelers flying to Tel Aviv today are immediately reminded of this historic figure as they land in Ben Gurion Airport. But the airport in fact predates the founding of Israel. Established in 1934, Arab and European airlines used Lydda Airport, as it was called before World War II, for local and transcontinental travel. In July 1948, however, the same month as the above-mentioned cabinet meeting, the Israelis seized the airport and gave it a Hebrew name: Lod Airport. In 1973, after Ben-Gurion’s death, it was renamed again to its present name in honor of Israel’s first prime minister.

This is just one tiny example of how Palestinian land—and Palestinian history for that matter—was ‘wiped out’ as a result of the 1948 war. This process, as well as the massive expulsion of Palestinians that went along with it, was not a haphazard outcome of the war, however. Rather, as this article argues, ethnic cleansing was at the root of the Zionist project and was implemented as policy by Ben-Gurion in the late 1940s.

From the very beginning, political Zionism implied the “transfer” of the indigenous population to other countries. In their early efforts to gain support from Western nations, Zionist leaders proclaimed that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” In reality, they knew that the first part of that slogan was a lie. The Palestinian people were like “the rocks of Judea, obstacles to be cleared on a difficult path,” as Chaim Weizmann, a prominent Zionist figure and future first president of Israel, put it in 1918.2Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians: the concept of ‘transfer’ in Zionist political thought, 1882-1948 (Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992), 5-48. Quote at page 17.

This dismissive attitude towards the pre-existing civilization in Palestine perhaps explains the early Zionist optimism surrounding the “Arab question.” Theodore Herzl, the founding father of political Zionism, believed that the Palestinians could be uprooted with non-violent methods. In 1895, he wrote that “we shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country.” The property owners, on the other hand, could easily be tricked into giving up their lands according to Herzl. “Let the owners of immovable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us something far more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back.”3Idem, 8-9.

The free market turned out not to be a very good ally, however. Only 5.8% of Palestinian land was under Jewish ownership by December 1947, more than half a century after Herzl’s remarks. Realizing that Jewish immigration, establishing kibbutzes and buying property was not enough, Zionist leaders soon turned to political and military means.

Political help was secured first. During the First World War, a great-power patron was found in Britain, which pledged to put its weight behind “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” in the so-called Balfour Declaration of 1917. When the British secured a League of Nations mandate over Palestine in 1922, words were followed by deeds. During the Mandate period, the British allowed for the creation of a Jewish Agency to function as a semi-governmental body while denying similar advantages to the Palestinians. As such, the Palestinians had to bear the brunt of two colonial movements simultaneously: a settler-colonialist movement in Palestine, aided and abetted by the world’s foremost colonial power in London.4Rashid Khalidi, The hundred years’ war on Palestine: a history of settler colonialism and resistance, 1917-2017 (Metropolitan Books, 2020), 17-54.

The more extreme branches of the Zionist movement, such as the “Revisionists” led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, were the first to resort to military means. As far back as 1925, Jabotinsky wrote that “Zionism is a colonizing venture and, therefore, it stands or falls on the question of armed forces.”5Idem, 51. Since he was open about an “Iron wall of bayonets” that needed to separate Jews and Arabs, there was little confusion about the purpose of the paramilitary militias that Jabotinsky endorsed. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Irgun and the Stern Gang launched a terror campaign against Palestinian civilians (and British officials towards the end of the Mandate period) that left hundreds of casualties.

Lest these extreme forms of intimidation be seen as evidence that the need for ethnic cleansing was solely a right-wing policy aim, it was actually accomplished under the leadership of the dominant “Labor” branch of the Zionist movement. With the help of sympathetic British officers, the Jewish Agency was allowed to expand its military arm, the Haganah, during the Great Palestinian Revolt of 1936-1939. Meanwhile, the mainstream Zionist leadership, too, was gravitating towards a military solution to the “Arab Question.” Ben-Gurion, for instance, told his compatriots of the Jewish Agency in June 1938—ten years before the ‘wipe out’ comment—that “I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it.”6Pappe, The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, XI.

The Execution of Ethnic Cleansing

But how was this “compulsory transfer” to be accomplished? How, indeed, did the Zionists gain control over the majority of Palestine by the beginning of 1949 if a little over one year earlier they owned barely 5% of the land, the majority of which was concentrated in the cities? Here, the political and military clout they had built up over the years converged.

This time, foreign political help came from the recently founded United Nations, which, bear in mind, before decolonization in Africa and Asia was in large part a club of the Western Great Powers. These nations felt obliged to compensate the Jews for the Nazi Holocaust. In February 1947, the British decided to turn the fate of Palestine over to the UN. On November 29 of that year, after nine months of deliberation, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which envisioned the partition of Palestine into two separate states. 56% of the land was to go to a Jewish state, while the Palestinians were left with only 43%. (A small enclave around Jerusalem was to become internationally governed.)

The Palestinians were vehemently opposed to partition, however. They considered it unfair since they held almost all of Palestine and had lived on their lands for generations. Moreover, while only 10,000 Jews would end up under Palestinian governance, 438,000 Palestinians—as well as hundreds of villages and the most fertile land—would end up under Jewish rule overnight. Leaving these Palestinians in the hands of an ideology which had openly vowed to de-Arabize Palestine contributed to the fate that was to befall them.

Indeed, the Palestinian and Arab rejection of the UN plan allowed the Zionist leadership to claim the moral upper hand. Ben-Gurion was a good tactician; like many of his successors, he kept the most extreme Zionist elements at bay and made sure to demonstrate to the outside world that the Jewish side, contrary to the Arabs, did accept the UN plan. Behind closed doors, however, he knew that the borders of the Jewish state “will be determined by force and not by the partition resolution.”7Idem, 36-7.

Still, the two-state solution created a huge problem that preoccupies Zionists until today: the so-called “demographic balance.” Jews would constitute only a tiny majority in the future Jewish state, and this did not stroke with the exclusionary Zionist ideology. As Ben-Gurion said in a speech a few days after the publication of the UN partition plan, “there are 40% non-Jews in the areas allocated to the Jewish state. This composition is not a solid basis for a Jewish state. […] Only a state with at least 80% Jews is a viable and stable state.”8Idem, 48.

And thus, the plan to ethnically cleanse Palestine was born. By the end of the year, parallel to an escalation in terrorist attacks by Irgun and the Stern Gang (and later on also the Haganah), Ben-Gurion gave the green light for lethal assaults on Arab villages. The object was clear: “Every attack has to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion.”9Idem, 64. In early March, ethnic cleansing was adopted as official policy in Plan Dalet (or Plan D), which sanctioned operations aimed at “destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in their rubble). […] In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.”

It is difficult not to read “in case of resistance” here as a silly pretext. Indeed, in a letter to the commanders of Haganah brigades, Ben-Gurion stated unequivocally that “the cleansing of Palestine [is] the primary objective of Plan Dalet.”10Idem, 128. Moreover, although there was certainly Palestinian armed resistance (and at times acts of retaliation), the systematic ethnic cleansing of 531 villages and eleven urban neighborhoods and towns that followed happened regardless of the presence and activity of Arab armed forces. Hundreds of civilians were killed in dozens of cold-blooded massacres, which, as intended, drove more than 750.000 Palestinians to flee beyond the territory under control of the Israelis. These refugees would never be allowed back in.

The Memory-Holing of Ethnic Cleansing

Like all subsequent assaults on Palestine, Israeli propaganda has done its best to try to paint the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1947-1949 as a defensive war. Echoing later proclamations that the Jews were about to be “driven into the sea,” Ben-Gurion and company justified their military action as a desperate attempt to stave off a “second Holocaust.” In private, however, Ben-Gurion was well aware of the superior military power of the Zionist forces. In a letter from February 1948, for instance, he wrote that “we can face all the Arab forces. This is not a mystical belief, but a cold and rational calculation based on practical examination.”11Idem, 46.

The Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, and Jordanian forces that entered Palestine following Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948 almost exclusively operated in the areas allocated to the Palestinians under the UN partition plan. For the Jordanians, not crossing the UN-proposed borders was even part of a secret deal with the Jewish Agency. But even at defending those borders the Arab forces did a bad job. Indeed, after the war was over the Israelis controlled 78% of historic Palestine, having conquered almost half of the land that was supposed to become part of a Palestinian state. What was left was the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, the first two of which were annexed by Jordan and the last by Egypt. In 1967, finally, Israel conquered and occupied these areas (as well as the Egyptian Sinai and Syrian Golan Heights), too.

In the procrastinated peace process that has dragged on ever since, the acceptance of the State of Israel within the 1949 armistice lines (the so-called “Green Line”) has formed a sine qua non for the Israelis. Everything that happened before 1967 is considered a fait accompli and is simply not on the negotiating table. Israel, with diplomatic help from its new great-power patron, the United States, to this day ignores UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which affirms the right of return for the millions of descendants of the 750,000 Palestinians it expelled between 1947 and 1949. Meanwhile, under Israel’s 1950 Law of Return, every Jew in the world has the right to “return” to Israel and acquire citizenship.

The fate of the Palestinians that the Israelis failed to expel beyond the borders of historic Palestine is perhaps even more tragic. Palestinians inside the State of Israel, which today make up around 21% of the population, live under a system of Apartheid. Palestinians living in the West Bank continue to live under occupation. And Palestinians in Gaza are confined to what is often called “the world’s largest open-air prison,” suffering at the hands of a devastating fifteen-year-old Israeli-Egyptian blockade and intermittent Israeli bombing campaigns.

News Roundup 1/26/2022

News Roundup 1/25/2022

US News

  • The Massachusetts Department of Health reports that about half of people hospitalized with covid have incidental covid infections. [Link]
  • The US donated 150,000 doses of the Pfizer covid vaccine to Kyrgyzstan through Covax. [Link]
  • Seven sailors were injured during a landing accident on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson. [Link]
  • The US deploys two aircraft carrier strike groups to the South China Sea, including the USS Vinson. [Link] 

Russia

  • Cyber Partisans – a ‘pro-democracy’ hacker group – claims to have carried out a ransomware attack on Belarus’ rail system to prevent the transportation of Russian weapons. [Link]
  • Ukrainian separatists warn the government is planning to invade the breakaway Donbas region. [Link]
  • Ukraine is unhappy with the US withdrawing staff from its Kyiv embassy. [Link]
  • The Department of Homeland Security warns Russia could launch a cyberattack. [Link]
  • Without providing details, NATO announced it was moving additional aircraft and warships to Eastern Europe. [Link]
  • The US places 8,500 troops on heightened preparedness to deploy. [Link]

Iran

  • Iran rules out any preconditions – including releasing American prisoners –  for returning to compliance with the JCPOA. The US recently suggested Iran would have to release American prisoners to return to the nuclear deal. [Link]
  • Iran says it is willing to engage in direct talks with the US. [Link]
  • The Deputy Iran Envoy, Richard Nephew, leaves the nuclear deal negotiation team. [Link]

Middle East

  • Airstrikes in Iraq killed ten militants, and three soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb. [Link]
  • The US carried out airstrikes on a prison in northeastern Syria. The prison is run by the US-backed SDF but was taken over by IS. Fighting for control of the prison continues. [Link]
  • CENTCOM reports it used Patriot missile interceptors to defend the UAE. [Link]
  • The UAE-backed Giants Brigades say they have halted their offensive in Marib. [Link]

Africa

  • Mali calls on Denmark to withdraw its special forces. [Link]
  • Burkina Faso soldiers claim they have captured the country’s president. [Link]
  • Three protesters were killed by security forces in Sudan. [Link]
Cold War Served Hot

Cold War Served Hot

The hawks are openly discussing killing Russians again. The last time this happened Donald Trump was running for President against a largely despised, pantsuit sporting war criminal. Confronted with these two alternatives, assuming he was the lesser of two evils, the American people elected the wild card Trump. Although, by early 2018, the Donald was bombing Russian mercenaries in Syria and Americans hardly blinked an eye.

Almost four years later, the Biden administration, members of the Senate in both parties, the CIA, NATO’s Secretary General, at least two former NATO supreme allied commanders, and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense are now, in various ways, advocating that Washington begin killing Russians.

Senate Democrats—led by Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the jingoist chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—introduced a bill that contains measures which if implemented would virtually commence total economic war with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The bill would further impose sanctions to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and increase military aid to Ukraine by a whopping $500 million. The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act has already authorized $300 million in military aid to Kiev.

The Democrats’ military-industrial complex wish list includes “anti-armor weapon systems, mortars, crew-served weapons and ammunition, grenade launchers and ammunition, anti-tank weapons systems, anti-ship weapons systems, anti-aircraft weapons systems, and small arms and ammunition.”

The bill states that these policies can be triggered if President Joe Biden simply determines Moscow is “knowingly supporting” a “significant escalation” in “hostile action in or against Ukraine prior to December 1, 2021.”

Lacking evidence, the corporate press has already put out a story about the Russians planning a false flag to manufacture a justification to invade Ukraine, the claims have been repeated by the White House and the Pentagon. This is practically an invitation to anti-Russian forces and covert operators, including those backed by the U.S., to attack or start trouble that can be deemed “Russian aggression” and lead to war.

On Fox News, Republican Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) boasted about potential “military action” such as putting U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine and always keeping “first use nuclear action” on the table. Additionally, he proposes having ships “stand off” in the Black Sea to “rain destruction on Russian military capability.”

With talks ongoing between the U.S. and Russia at the highest levels, there are reasons for both sides to deescalate and make concessions. There is reportedly an opportunity to restore the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, limit the scope of NATO as well as Russian military drills in Europe, limit the NATO troop presence on Russia’s borders, and prevent accidents occurring in the air and sea.

The Russians withdrew at least 10,000 troops away from the border with Ukraine. Moscow arrested and seized the assets of supposed members of a Russian ransomware group accused of being behind the Colonial pipeline hack. In a phone call with Putin, Biden quietly promised not to place offensive strike weapons in Ukraine. Biden also recently suggested that if Putin undertakes a small invasion, the U.S. might not react. The latter was framed, by the right, as the worst kind of weakness and appeasement.

Reflecting D.C. politics’ pro war bias, the White House immediately walked back the President’s statement. The Commander in Chief’s handlers clarified, “President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that’s a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies.”

Alongside some fellow GOP senators from the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, Wicker recently insisted that it’s time, with enhanced U.S. and NATO support for Ukraine, to ensure “Vladimir Putin will get a bloody nose.

Multi-millionaire Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), was recently part of a delegation, including Wicker, visiting Kiev. Blumenthal pledged the U.S. would “impose crippling economic sanctions, but more importantly, we will give the people of Ukraine the arms, lethal arms they need to defend their lives and livelihoods.”

GOP war hawks in the Senate want to send more anti-tanks missiles to Kiev. As Fox News reported, the “United Kingdom delivered short-range anti-tank missiles to Ukraine Tuesday—a move GOP lawmakers applauded and called on the Biden administration to increasingly emulate.”

Since 2014, the U.S. has supplied the Ukrainians with over $2.5 billion in military aid. American Special Forces have been training Kiev’s forces in the country for several years now and there are U.S. National Guard troops in Ukraine as well.

Reportedly, at a secret base in the southern U.S., the CIA is training Ukrainian paramilitaries to “kill Russians” and—in the event of Putin’s allegedly imminent invasion—even launch an “insurgency.”

According to a de facto Langley press release in the form of a Yahoo News report, the spooks have not only been overseeing this training program under our noses but also deployed ground unit advisors to Ukraine.

Since the Obama administration’s final years, the CIA has sent paramilitary elements to the Donbas region’s front where Kiev has been at war with Russian-backed separatists. This U.S.-supported war against Ukraine’s restive eastern provinces has seen neo Nazi militias, as well as the Islamic State’s “brothers,” unleash brutal violence against Kiev’s enemies. The neo-Nazis have proven quite useful to American-backed government in Ukraine. They were instrumental during America’s 2014 street putsch coup in Kiev. Some Nazi groups have since been incorporated into their National Guard.

The American people should now realize the foreign policy establishment and the Biden administration are warning Moscow that if they go through with their supposed plans to invade Ukraine, which Russia has denied all along, the killing of Russian forces will begin. One former supreme allied commander of NATO could hardly contain his blood lust.

As reported in the New York Times,

“If Putin invades Ukraine with a major military force, U.S. and NATO military assistance—intelligence, cyber, anti-armor and anti-air weapons, offensive naval missiles—would ratchet up significantly,” said James Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral who was the supreme allied commander at NATO. “And if it turned into a Ukrainian insurgency, Putin should realize that after fighting insurgencies ourselves for two decades, we know how to arm, train and energize them.”

He pointed to American support for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion there in the late 1970s and 1980s, before the rise of the Taliban. “The level of military support” for a Ukrainian insurgence, Admiral Stavridis said, “would make our efforts in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union look puny by comparison.”

Both Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have warned their Russian counterparts in recent telephone calls that any swift Russian victory in Ukraine would probably be followed by a bloody insurgency similar to the one that drove the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. In discussions with allies, senior Biden officials have also made clear that the C.I.A. (covertly) and the Pentagon (overtly) would both seek to help any Ukrainian insurgency.

For a point of reference, it is estimated that at a million people were killed during “Operation Cyclone,” the CIA’s dirty war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Keeping with the Cyclone theme, Wesley Clark, former General and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, recently signed a letter encouraging the U.S. to arm Kiev with stinger missiles.

Reportedly, the U.S. has just green lit the NATO Baltic states’ transfer of weapons to Ukraine, including stinger anti-aircraft missiles. While Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Kiev, the U.S. announced another $200 million in military aid to Ukraine.

On the eve of the recent U.S.-Russia talks in Geneva, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Russia of “severe costs.” He told the Financial Times that if negotiations failed, NATO was prepared for “a new armed conflict in Europe.” Russia sent security proposals to Washington that precipitated bilateral talks with the U.S. and multilateral talks with NATO as well. The proposals include, perhaps most prominently, a demand that NATO officially rescind its promises of future alliance membership received by both Ukraine and Georgia at the 2008 Bucharest summit. Before the ink dries, brining either country into NATO would start a war that could end in planetary devastation and nuclear winter. NATO and the Americans flatly rejected the request.

Evelyn Farkas, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia in the Obama administration, said in an interview that this time “the gloves should come off.” She warns of a time when “must use our military to roll back Russians—even at risk of direct combat.”

Such spokespeople for the merchants of death always claim to hold the moral high ground. But when reporters at Newsweek asked Farkas about the Nazi problem in Kiev’s security forces her response was shocking. “They have right now existential issues to deal with, and the far-right groups are helping defend Ukraine,” she explained. “So at this moment in time, the Ukrainian government needs all the help it can get from its citizens, regardless of their ideology.”

Farkas ominously declares the U.S. ”must not only condemn Russia’s illegal occupations of Ukraine and Georgia, but we must demand a withdrawal from both countries by a certain date and organize coalition forces willing to take action to enforce it.”

With this kind of rhetoric, Farkas will surely be there on the front lines, sword in hand, with a Braveheart speech prepared to rally the “coalition forces.”

This unhinged agitation for war is very much in the spirit of ultra-hawk Dick Cheney who as Vice President, during the brief August 2008 war in Georgia, wished to drop bombs on Russians.

Then Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili indisputably provoked that conflict by attacking Russian peacekeepers protecting the autonomy of the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Russian forces were there because of a European Union brokered deal.

As Scott Horton, Director of the Libertarian Institute, has explained, Saakashvili was “incentivized” by “vague security assurances the Bush government had given his government that spring.”

Andrew Cockburn elaborates, “[Saakashvili’s] confidence may have been buoyed by back-channel assurances from minions of Vice-President Richard Cheney that the U.S. would in the end come to his aid.”

It was only a few months earlier that NATO promised Tbilisi and Kiev their future alliance membership.

The Americans also installed Saakashvili in power during the 2003 “Rose Revolution” and had provided Georgia with military aid for years.

Saakashvili was keenly aware of how U.S.-styled democracy works. As Cockburn has written,

To bolster his standing in the American capital, Saakashvili hired Randy Scheunemann, a Republican lobbyist and the executive director of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a neocon group formed in 2002 under the chairmanship of none other than Bruce Jackson, a senior Lockheed executive and president of the Committee to Expand NATO.

Scheunemann was a “close advisor” to the mega hawk Republican Senator John McCain who supported the Ukraine coup as well as inducting Tbilisi and Kiev into NATO. Then-presidential candidate McCain announced he told Saakashvili—after he had already started the war in 2008—“…today, we are all Georgians.”

The authors of the recently published, and previously mentioned, New York Times article describe this “conversation” as having “revived the specter of a new Cold War and suddenly made real the prospect of the beginnings of a so-called great power conflict.”

But after the Red flag came down, the American sore winners’ economic “shock therapy” devastated Russia, lowered the life expectancy of the population by double digits, allowed gangsters and oligarchs to loot entire industries and liquidate everything. As Horton has said, “…it was an economic war against Russia. Larry Summers and the Harvard Boys, what they did was as bad as dropping a couple of nukes on them.”

Despite repeated Western promises to the precise contrary, NATO’s eastward expansion has been ongoing since the 1990s and the anachronistic time bomb itself has nearly doubled in size. The U.S. has launched a plethora of color-coded revolutions in Russia’s near abroad including overthrowing the Kiev government twice in ten years, installing a Nazi infested regime on Russia’s very border, and keeping the door open to its full NATO membership. NATO has been constantly deploying warships and bombers to the Black Sea. The warships are often participating in massive military war games. The U.S. has ships in the Baltic Sea carrying medium range missiles. Of course, myriad sanctions have been levied against Moscow. Critical arms treaties such as Open Skies, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the INF Treaty have been unilaterally killed by successive GOP presidents. In Poland and Romania, the U.S. has so-called anti-ballistic missile sites with MK-41 launchers able to fit hydrogen bomb-tipped Tomahawks. The two previous presidents created a severe crisis by conducting massive expulsions of Russian diplomats and the neocons’ vast political and media influence has criminalized any notion of détente. The very concept may as well be treasonous.

Maybe what flies most flagrantly in the face of the claim that we are witnessing the “the beginnings of a so-called great power conflict” is the 2018 National Security Strategy which plainly states the War Department’s policy is “great power competition” or put differently, conflict, with Moscow and Beijing.

To illustrate, the U.S. just held massive military exercises with Japan and an American aircraft carrier strike group just drilled for war in the South China Sea. Last year, Biden sailed air craft carrier strike groups in the South China Sea ten times, nearly doubling Trump’s 2020 numbers. In 2021, American warplanes and spy planes flew more than 2,000 sorties around China, including 94 in November, more than doubling Trump’s deployments during the previous year. These flights take place in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Yellow Sea. U.S. warships sail through the Taiwan Strait nearly every month. And the U.S. continues to further nuclearize the so called the Indo Pacific region.

As CNN just reported,

One of the most powerful weapons in the US Navy’s arsenal made a rare port call in Guam…

The USS Nevada, an Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarine carrying 20 Trident ballistic missiles and dozens of nuclear warheads, pulled into the Navy base in the U.S. Pacific Island territory on Saturday. It’s the first visit of a ballistic missile submarine—sometimes called a “boomer”—to Guam since 2016 and only the second announced visit since the 1980s.

Since the end of the previous Cold War, Washington has rigidly adhered to a neoconservative ideology bent on world domination and endless wars. To this end, the U.S. maintains more than 800 military bases globally and has been morally and financially bankrupted. Across multiple continents, this century’s American mass murder campaigns have killed and displaced millions of people. In Iraq alone, more than a million people were killed. Yet the U.S. public has not held the ruling class war criminals to account, there has never been a reckoning.

Months after the withdrawal, Afghanistan’s children are deliberately being starved. Biden’s current policy, freezing billions of dollars in the Afghan government’s assets and maintaining sanctions on the Taliban, amounts to a macabre economic war. As with the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran, humanitarian exemptions mean nothing since few if any international banks, businesses, medical companies, or aid groups will risk the U.S. Treasury Department’s wrath. This lays bare 20 years of cynical humanitarian interventionist propaganda supporting a multi trillion dollar war which killed an estimated 241,000 people. Those same women and girls we used to hear so much about are being starved to death at the hands of the sore loser American hegemon.

In December, Dave DeCamp, news editor at Antiwar.com, reported,

In the wake of the U.S. withdrawal, Afghanistan is facing a dire humanitarian crisis, which is being exacerbated by U.S. economic pressure. Citing the UN’s World Food Program, The New York Times reported that about 22.8 million Afghans—more than half of the country’s population—are expected to face life-threatening hunger this winter, and 8.7 million Afghans are “nearing famine.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. wants to benefit the Afghan people without benefiting the Taliban. But whether the U.S. likes it or not, the Taliban is now the government of Afghanistan. And history shows that U.S. sanctions and economic pressure do little to change the targeted government and always hurt the civilian population.

Taliban leaders are still under U.S. and UN sanctions, which discourage international businesses and banks from doing business with the new Afghan government, something Psaki explained.

The U.S. military still occupies nearly a third of Syria. The CIA’s six-year dirty war—this time backing the al Qaeda led “insurgency”killed roughly half a million people. One of the more infamous byproducts of this policy was the Islamic State caliphate. The Pentagon controls Syria’s oil fields, Israel bombs the country nearly every week, and more than 60% of the population is close to starvation. About 80% of the country lives in poverty. Rebuilding the country will cost an estimated $250-400 billion. Blinken, America’s top diplomat, has asserted that the U.S. is absolutely committed “to oppose the reconstruction of Syria.” The American people have repeatedly expressed an opposition to this war, yet they remain criminally indifferent enough to permit its indefinite duration.

Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, continues to be terror bombed and blockaded in a genocidal war ceaselessly waged by the American Empire and its Gulf dictatorship satellites. The U.N. conservatively estimates 377,000 people, mostly children, have been killed in this almost seven-year war. Trump vetoed war powers resolutions to end the war, Biden said he would stop it and has not. Less than a year into Biden’s term, investigative reporter Alan Macleod after studying the Pentagon’s sales records wrote “the Biden administration has already approved 20 separate weapons contracts, worth just shy of $1.2 billion, to Saudi Arabia alone.”

By the Deep State’s self-fulfilling prophecy, Russia and China must remain our perpetual enemies. Designedly, the American people have readily accepted this premise. Our fellow citizens seem to either despise China or Russia. While you are free to take your pick, the most obedient citizens are hawkish on both the Russians and the Chinese.

Those covered in Yemeni, Syrian, Afghani, Iraqi, Somali, and Libyan blood are merely feigning concern for the democracy, human rights and sovereignty of Ukrainians and the Taiwanese. It helps them sell weapons, increase the Pentagon budget, and boost their own power. If the military, Washington, NATO, and the DC foreign policy Blob cared at all about national sovereignty and human rights, our troops would no longer occupy Iraq in defiance of the parliament’s two year old unanimous demands for a complete withdrawal. If those crocodile tears over the unproven claims of a Uighur “genocide” in Xingang province were rooted in any concern for the plight of Muslims, the globally notorious Israeli apartheid regime would not be America’s top military aid recipient. Those are American weapons and warplanes being used to bomb Palestinian civilians confined in the Gaza concentration camp.

With the American public evidently bored with brutalizing Muslim countries, though unfortunately not bored enough to stop, we seamlessly move on to the next enemies, the next build ups, the next wars. Trillions of dollars are continually diverted from peaceful and productive use and poured into what former CIA analyst Ray McGovern refers to as MICIMATT (the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex). This money funds the consensus that Washington’s sphere of influence extends the world over. Moscow and Beijing’s red lines be damned. It is common now to hear discussion of an impending war with China over Taiwan. Likewise, agreeing not to bring Kiev into NATO is viewed as “appeasement.”

On Memorial Day 2021, the U.S. flew nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over all 30 NATO member states. This past Thanksgiving, the U.S. sailed a guided missile destroyer into the Black Sea. Just months into Biden’s presidency, throughout Eastern Europe including on Russia’s borders, the “dangerous dinosaur,” NATO held the largest military exercises since the previous Cold War era.

Americans will have to soon give up their favorite drugs of apathy, partisanship, and blissful ignorance. The fights and wars our ruling elite are now picking threaten to kill us too. Last November, the U.S. brazenly simulated a nuclear attack on Russia, flying strategic bombers less than 13 miles off its borders. Voting will not suffice, we must recognize this global hostage situation for what it is, and make difficult decisions about how to finally end the American Empire.

News Roundup 1/26/2022

News Roundup 1/24/2022

Covid

  • A federal judge in Texas blocks Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal employees. [Link]
  • The US donates three million covid vaccines to four African countries through covax. [Link]
  • The US donates nearly two million Pfizer covid vaccine doses to Egypt through Covax. [Link]

Haiti

  • The judge overseeing the investigation into the assassination of President Moise quits. [Link]

Russia

  • The Biden administration notified Congress of its plan to transfer Mi-17 helicopters to Ukraine. [Link]
  • The US delivers 90 tonnes of weapons – from a December aid package – to Ukraine. [Link]
  • The Baltic States’ arms transfers to Ukraine include Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. [Link]
  • Fewer than one in six Americans support sending US troops to Ukraine to prevent a Russian invasion. [Link]
  • The US will allow non-essential staff at the embassy in Ukraine to leave the country. The US ordered the family of staff to leave the country. [Link]
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Vienna. The US agreed to give Russia a written response to its security proposal. The two diplomats will meet again next week. [Link]
  • Blinken asked Russia to release two US citizens who were convicted of crimes in Russia and serving prison sentences. [Link]
  • Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia will send political advisers to Paris for talks this week. [Link]
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declined an invitation to speak with Biden about the Ukraine crisis. [Link]
  • The UK says Russia is planning to install a new government in Ukraine. [Link]
  • Blinken rejects calls to sanction Russia now. He explained that sanctions cannot work as a deterrent if they are already in place. [Link]
  • Biden is considering applying the ‘foreign direct product rule’ – cutting off semiconductors and related technology – to Russia in response to an invasion of Ukraine. [Link]
  • Biden is considering plans to deploy between 1,000 and 5,000 troops to Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. [Link]
  • Blinken says there are a number of areas for the US and Russia to work together. [Link]

China

  • Taiwan reports 39 Chinese military aircraft entered its Air Defense Identification Zone. [Link]

Afghanistan 

  • The Taliban will meet with officials from Western governments in Norway. [Link]
  • ISIS-K claims it is behind a bombing in Afghanistan that killed at least six. [Link]

Iran

  • Shipments of thinning agents from Iran have allowed Venezuela to double its oil exports over the past year. [Link]
  • US and European officials warn time is running out in Iran nuclear talks. [Link]
  • Iran and Russia are in talks to upgrade Iran’s nuclear power plant. [Link]
  • The US Envoy to Iran Robert Malley says it is unlikely the US will return to the nuclear deal if Iran continues to hold four American prisoners. [Link]

Yemen

  • Saudi Arabia bombed a Houthi-run prison in Yemen, killing at least 80 people. [Link]
  • Shards from an American-made bomb were found at the prison. [Link]
  • The US claims it intercepted a ship transporting Urea-based fertilizer in the Gulf of Oman. The US alleges it was headed to the Houthi in Yemen. [Link]

Middle East

  • Israel’s cabinet voted to launch an investigation into the “submarine affair” that could implicate former prime minister Netanyahu. [Link]
  • The UAE bans civilians from using drones. [Link]
  • The UAE says it intercepted two ballistic missiles. [Link]
  • Eleven Iraqi soldiers were killed in an IS attack. [Link]
  • Nearly 200 people have been killed in three days of fighting between the US-backed SDF and IS for control over a prison in Syria. [Link]

Africa

  • A top Ethiopian military official says his army will attempt to eliminate the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. [Link]
  • Aid groups warn the people of Mali will pay the price for the sanctions recently imposed on the country. [Link]
  • A French soldier was killed in Mali. [Link]
  • Reports from Burkina Faso say several soldiers have mutinied against the government and a possible coup is underway. [Link]
Debunking The War on Terrorism Narrative – ‘Enough Already’ Book Review

Debunking The War on Terrorism Narrative – ‘Enough Already’ Book Review

… interventionism is not only immoral and aggressive; it doesn’t work. We must regain liberty at home, end all interventions in other countries, and return to the historic, forgotten “foreign policy” of serving as an example and a beacon-light of liberty to the rest of the suffering and strife-torn world.

 

Murray N. Rothbard, Ph.D., Libertarian Forum v. 1, p. 582

Buy Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism here

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News Roundup 1/26/2022

News Roundup 1/21/2022

Covid

  • New Mexico is requesting National Guard soldiers and state employees to fill in as substitute teachers. [Link]
  • The US donated over 300,000 Johnson & Johnson covid vaccines to Bangladesh. [Link]
  • The US donated over 600,000 Pfizer covid vaccine doses to Ukraine. [Link]
  • At least 2.8 million covid vaccine doses donated to Africa have expired. [Link]

Russia

  • The US charged four Belarusians with air piracy. [Link]
  • The US announces sanctions on four Ukrainians for assisting an alleged Russian influence campaign in Ukraine. [Link]
  • A bipartisan group of Senators introduced a bill that would give the president more power to arm Ukraine. [Link]
  • Germany rejects a request to send weapons to Ukraine. [Link]
  • CIA Director William Burns traveled to Germany and Ukraine. [Link]
  • Spain will deploy warships to the Black Sea. [Link]
  • Russia will carry out a series of naval war games over the next six weeks. [Link]

China

  • Taiwan’s vice president will visit the US on his trip to Honduras. [Link]
  • The US is looking for ways to accelerate the delivery of F-16s to Taiwan. [Link]
  • The USS Benfold – a guided-missile destroyer – sailed near the Chinese-claimed Paracel and Spratly Islands to challenge the Chinese territorial claim. [Link]
  • China responds to the USS Benfold maneuvers by calling on the US to stop violating Chinese territorial claims. [Link]

Middle East

  • Israel calls for Iranian proxy forces to be an issue at Vienna talks. [Link]
  • China, Russia, and Iran hold joint naval drills in the Gulf of Oman. [Link]
  • The Islamic State carried out an attack on a prison run by the US-backed Syrian Kurds. Some IS fighters were able to escape. [Link]
  • The US bombed the Tabqa Dam in 2017. [Link]
  • Saudi airstrikes led to a nationwide internet outage in Yemen. [Link]
  • Saudi Arabia bombed a Yemeni youth soccer game causing casualties. [Link]

Sudan

  • The US says it will withhold aid from Sudan until civilian rule is restored. [Link]
COI #218: Biden Team Blames Trump for Iran Nuclear Deal Failure

COI #218: Biden Team Blames Trump for Iran Nuclear Deal Failure

On COI #218, Kyle Anzalone and Connor Freeman update the Iran talks, the new Cold War with China, and the genocidal war in Yemen.

Connor discusses the ongoing indirect negotiations in Vienna to restore the JCPOA. There are troubling signs that the Biden administration may be preparing for the talks to fail. House Republicans are demanding President Biden’s team immediately end the talks. Whatever happens, a decision is coming soon, and Biden’s team plans to continue scapegoating Trump. Although there are still positive statements coming from the EU foreign policy chief, the Chinese, and the Iranians themselves.

Connor covers China’s growing Middle East influence. Beijing and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are working toward building a free trade area and a strategic partnership. China is the GCC’s top trading partner and the region forms a centerpiece in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China recently invited Syria to join the BRI as well. Additionally, last year’s Tehran-Beijing comprehensive cooperation agreement is now entering its implementation stage.

Kyle and Connor talk about the U.S. military carrying out massive military exercises with Japan. Tokyo also sailed warships near Chinese-controlled islands twice in the last ten months. The U.S. just wrapped up war drills in the South China Sea including with an aircraft carrier strike group. Washington sent an Ohio class nuclear submarine to Guam, it carries dozens of nuclear warheads and 20 Trident ballistic missiles.

Kyle reports on the war in Yemen where the Saudis announced they will be increasing the bombings of the long battered country. Massive strikes, killing civilians, are being carried out including in the capital city. The Houthis have retaliated, they conducted a high-profile drone attack on Abu Dhabi that destroyed three oil tankers and killed three people. The UAE wants the U.S. to redeclare the Houthis a terrorist group. Such a move would make it even more difficult for aid to enter the blockaded and starving country. Most of Yemen’s civilians live in the northern territory held by the Houthis, the threat of U.S. sanctions would designedly deter most any humanitarian assistance.

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From GITMO to the ‘Killing Machine’

From GITMO to the ‘Killing Machine’

Twenty years ago, on January 11, 2002, the prison at Guantánamo Bay (GITMO) admitted its first round of post-9/11 terrorist suspects. Two recent films, The Mauritanian (2021) and The Forever Prisoner (2021), chart parts of the ugly history of the facility, during which acts of torture were rebranded by officials as “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EIT) and inflicted on at least 119 of the 780 men held at GITMO over the course of the Global War on Terror. The story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was cleared for release in 2010 but remained incarcerated for another seven years as the Obama administration appealed the decision, is relayed in director Kevin Macdonald’s film The Mauritanian. The story of Abu Zubaydah, who remains incarcerated still today, is covered by Alex Gibney’s film The Forever Prisoner.

Many other men were abused in prisons such as Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram in Afghanistan, in addition to an array of “black sites” erected around the world in collaboration with “torture-friendly” governments. The CIA’s EIT program was commissioned and approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government, and deemed legal by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo. The practices included waterboarding (which mimics drowning), slamming detainees’ heads against the wall, rectal feeding, confining naked suspects in small boxes along with insects, depriving them of sleep for days on end, and forcing them to endure extremely cold temperatures while naked. Some of the victimized men died, and while a number of deaths were characterized by the powers that be as suicides, at least one prisoner was acknowledged to have died of hypothermia as a direct result of the conditions he was forced to endure.

The nightmarish series of abuses to which these men were subjected were claimed by the architects and orchestrators of the EIT program to be supported by “the science” and sure to save American lives. At least twenty-six of the victims of torture held in GITMO were later determined to have been captured in error in what were most charitably interpreted as overzealous efforts to thwart the next terrorist attack. Bounty hunter greed and/or penury appears also to have played a significant role in the erroneous capture of thousands of innocent men throughout the War on Terror.

A thorough investigation of classified CIA documents eventually culminated in the 2014 release of the “Report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program.” This 712-page document, which has come to be referred to colloquially as “The Torture Report,” includes a 500+ page executive summary of the thousands of pages of the original report instigated by committee chair Senator Diane Feinstein and prepared over a period of several years by her staffer Daniel Jones, among others. The investigation was undertaken in response to the revelation that the CIA had destroyed films of some of the detainees being victimized. The story of how The Torture Report was commissioned and eventually released is relayed in the 2019 film The Report (directed by Scott Z. Burns), which offers shocking insights into the lengths to which the CIA—including the director at the time of the report’s release, John Brennan—were willing to go in order to absolve themselves from allegations of wrongdoing.

Faced with the findings of the report, some of those involved, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA Deputy Director for Operations José Rodriguez, continued to deny that “enhanced interrogation techniques” were morally repugnant forms of torture. Others employed by the U.S. government during that period, including John Brennan, claimed that they had expressed moral reservations about the program, although there is no written evidence to that effect, and the director of the CIA at the time, George Tenet, has publicly denied that he was ever approached with such objections. The EIT program proved in any case to be tactically nugatory, at best.

According to the report’s authors, none of the ghastly procedures deployed resulted in actionable intelligence used to thwart terrorist attacks. Some of the men were entirely innocent and so obviously had no information to share; others told interrogators only information which had already been obtained from other sources or which had already gone stale; and some of the men simply made up stories so as to call a halt to the torture. Most notoriously, the false claim that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Al Qaeda was obtained through torture and used to rationalize the misbegotten 2003 war on Iraq.

In response to the Senate committee’s report, President Obama, to his credit, publicly admitted that “We tortured some folks,” and issued Executive Order 133491, “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations.” The order references the Geneva Conventions and explicitly prohibits the barbaric activities perpetrated by U.S. government employees and contractors under the guise of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Notwithstanding Obama’s rhetorical efforts to restore the image of the United States as a beacon of human rights, the president never delivered on one of his primary campaign promises, to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay. He also declined to prosecute any of the torturers. Obama did stop sending new prisoners to the facility, and some of the remaining prisoners were released and sent to other countries for processing and rehabilitation.

The primary obstacle to Obama’s closure of GITMO was claimed by his apologists to be the political opposition he encountered to the prospect of suspects’ standing trial in the United States, which was thought by some to risk the increased incidence of terrorist attacks in the homeland. Concerns were also raised that some of the prisoners may have been made more dangerous by the torture to which they were subjected. Indeed, it was thought by some that even men who were not previously connected to terrorist groups, having been captured and imprisoned on the basis of faulty intelligence, may have been radicalized by the dramatic proof of the evil nature of the U.S. empire which they themselves had personally witnessed.

The Guardian recently reported that some of the men removed from GITMO and relocated to other countries have been stuck in legal limbo for years, unable to return to normal life because they have not been cleared for release by the governments of those countries. Others have found themselves unemployable and therefore unable to reassimilate into civil society. But they are still alive, which cannot be said of the many suspects pegged during the eight years of Obama’s presidency and labeled “Enemy Killed in Action” (EKIA) after having been dispatched by missiles launched from drones on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence of possible future complicity in possible future terror plots. We have Daniel Hale, the drone program whistleblower now serving a federal prison sentence, to thank for sharing documents revealing that suspects were effectively defined by the Obama administration as guilty until proven innocent before being summarily executed.

A number of politicians in addition to Obama, including the instigator of the Torture Report, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator John McCain, who was a prisoner of war (POW) in Vietnam, spoke out against torture, agreeing with Obama that “That’s not who we are.” In addition to straightforward moral concerns about abusing human beings, some politicians and military officers aired concerns that such practices could also endanger U.S. troops, who when taken prisoner might be subjected to similarly cruel techniques.

Shockingly, however, some of the most vociferous denouncers of torture, including Senators Feinstein and McCain, continued enthusiastically to support the far more ghastly practice of summary execution without trial of suspects, often unnamed, on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence, even when the targets were neither bearing arms nor located in war zones. The Obama administration itself reported in 2016 that they had ended the lives of between 2,372 and 2,581 of such men “outside areas of active hostilities,” in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan (not the active war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria) where there were no uniformed U.S. soldiers on the ground to protect.

Having spoken out about the crimes committed by the Bush administration, Obama opted not to take as prisoners the suspects identified by his own administration using the very same forms of evidence which had served as the basis for capturing and imprisoning thousands of men during the first eight years of the War on Terror. It is therefore essential to observe here that 732 of the 780 men incarcerated at GITMO were eventually released without charges. Because the types of circumstantial evidence being used to peg suspects did not change under Obama, and continued to include intelligence obtained from bribed informants (human intelligence or HUMINT), and cellphone SIM card data and drone video footage (signals intelligence, or SIGINT), we have grounds for believing that many of the thousands of men executed rather than captured during Obama’s presidency, were, too, innocent.

President Obama had a choice to make in the light of the revelation that longterm detention and torture did not yield actionable intelligence. But rather than capture suspected militants and treat them humanely, detaining them in circumstances conducive to proper judicial processing, respecting their rights and acknowledging the very real possibility that they might in fact be innocent, his administration instead defined them as guilty until proven innocent and executed them using lethal drones.

Mentored by his drone-killing czar, John Brennan, Obama became known as the “drone warrior president,” who revved up a veritable “killing machine” to eliminate nearly all of the terror suspects identified as such during his eight-year term as president. Obama and Brennan (promoted to director of the CIA in 2013), opted to use lethal drones to execute suspects on hit lists generated by a vast network of government employees and private contractors who collected and analyzed HUMINT and SIGINT. These hit lists were reviewed by the president himself during what were termed “Terror Tuesday” meetings in which nominees for execution were evaluated on the basis of flash card presentations.

When the Obama administration located and executed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, the president was praised by many U.S. citizens. Later that year, he proceeded to act on the political capital he had garnered to take the drone program to a qualitatively new level, executing even U.S. citizens without indictment or trial. He authorized the killing of not only Anwar al-Awlaki, a formerly moderate Muslim cleric arguably radicalized by the War on Terror itself, and Samir Khan, a propagandist, but also, two weeks later, al-Awlaki’s sixteen-year-old son, Abdulrahman, along with a group of his teenage friends.

Obama himself never deigned to explain why Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a teenager not suspected by anyone of terrorism, was eliminated, but it seems unlikely to have been a “coincidental” targeting error. In fact, Robert Gibbs, Obama’s press secretary at the time, offered the following garbled answer when asked about the U.S. government’s killing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki:

I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.

The gravity of this normalization of summary execution of suspects and their associates (including family members) appears to have escaped altogether those who throughout the Trump presidency waxed nostalgically about the “good old days” when mild-mannered, anti-torture Obama was president. On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump vowed not only not to close GITMO, but also that he would fill up the facility with “bad dudes.” In reality, once president, Trump simply followed Obama’s lead, putting his newly appointed defense secretary, James “Mad Dog” Mattis on a very long leash and essentially allowing the killing machine—not only the drone program but also special operations forces—to eliminate anyone anywhere suspected of connections to “bad dudes.” Trump, like Obama, killed one of the children of Anwar al-Awlaki. In Trump’s case the victim was an eight-year-old girl, Nawar al-Awlaki, who was destroyed by U.S. special forces during a raid in Yemen, where both her father and her brother had been killed by drones.

Predictably enough, the norms governing state homicide were loosened yet again when President Trump, in his usual swagger-filled attempt to outdo his predecessor, openly vaunted his assassination of Qassim Soleimani, an Iranian general who was located in Iraq at the time. Before the War on Terror, assassination was widely regarded, even by U.S. officials, as illegal. President Bush may bear primary responsibility for the torture program, but we have President Obama to thank for having normalized the premeditated, intentional execution of persons believed by their killers to be dangerous, even when they are unarmed and located outside areas of active hostilities. This sleight of hand was accomplished through putting the CIA in charge of the drone program, ironically the very organization which had presided over the practices denounced in The Torture Report.

In the case of summary execution by drone of suspects, the CIA operated for years under its usual cloak of secrecy, allowing it to evade congressional oversight. As many critics of the drone program have observed (myself included), the decision to enlist the CIA to run the killing machine outside areas of active hostility was in all likelihood an effort to evade accusations of war crimes, to which the military itself would have been subject. In abject violation of the Geneva Conventions, the targets of drone strikes are not provided with the opportunity to surrender or lay down their arms, nor to defend themselves against allegations based on faulty intelligence. In other words, this slick rebranding of assassination as “targeted killing” also violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to which suspects are to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Instead, the “principle” governing the premeditated, intentional execution of specific persons at the caprice of the killers is tantamount to “Everything is permitted.”

Leaders rarely cede power unless forced to do so, and U.S. military leaders have long aimed to maximize both efficiency and lethality, so it should come as no surprise that President Joe Biden has taken up the drone-killing mantel to continue fecklessly on with the same policies vaunted by Obama as “smart war.” One horrifying example of the general laxity of standards in the use of lethal force by the U.S. government, regardless of who is in charge, was the incineration on August 29, 2021, of ten civilians in Kabul, Afghanistan, on the basis of intelligence according to which people who drive white Toyota Corollas and move stuff around town might be planning to bomb the airport. A Pentagon investigation into the case concluded that no wrongdoing had been committed, as the perpetrators had abided by standard protocols and followed their rules of engagement. As a direct result of the manner in which the drone program has evolved through four presidencies, the impunity long enjoyed by the CIA for what once were plausibly deniable acts of lawless killing has in this way been transferred to the military as well.

Torture is inhumane, barbaric, and immoral. It harms the victims both physically and psychologically, and it degrades the perpetrators, who are corrupted by their atrocious treatment of fellow human beings. We should accordingly welcome films such as The Mauritanian, The Forever Prisoner, and The Report, which aim to illuminate some of the many crimes committed in our names and using our tax dollars. Let us not, however, be distracted by the heartfelt denunciations of torture by some government officials from the even more egregious practices which some of them continue to champion.

As objectionable as torture may be, its perpetrators can still be conceptualized as having chosen misguided means to the acquisition of what they believed would be actionable intelligence needed to thwart imminent terrorist attacks. In contrast, the summary execution of unarmed suspects located outside areas of active hostilities, and identified as such on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence, serves no tactical or strategic aim whatsoever. It is evil, pure and simple: the intentional, premeditated annihilation of human beings denied all human rights, from the right to surrender, to the right to defend themselves against false claims that they have committed crimes.

Substituting drone killing of suspects for longterm detention and torture may seem superficially less objectionable to the untutored populace, but as is so often the case, appearance diverges starkly from moral reality. Through linguistic neologism and rebranding, conjoined with the development of technologies which have made it possible to kill anyone anywhere, through the push of a button from thousands of miles away, the atrocious practice of torture has been supplanted by the intrinsically evil and tyrannical practice of summary execution without indictment or trial. Is this who we are?

News Roundup 1/26/2022

News Roundup 1/16/2022

Corrected on 1/17 to say the USS Nevada visited Guam, not Taiwan.

Covid

  • Covax claims to have distributed one billion covid vaccine doses. [Link]
  • The US donates 2.8 million Pfizer covid vaccine doses to the Philippines through Covax. [Link]
  • The US donated four million covid vaccine doses to African nations through Covax. [Link]
  • The US donated three million Pfizer covid vaccine doses to Egypt through Covax. [Link]

US News

  • Ohio police officers will face no punishment after dragging a paraplegic man from his car by his hair. [Link]

Haiti

  • Jamaican authorities arrested former Haitian Senator John Joel Joseph, a suspect in the assassination of Haitian President Moise. [Link]
  • A Haitian hospital will close because gangs stole the generator that would be used to power the hospital. [Link]

Russia

  • Several Ukrainian government websites were targeted with a cyberattack. The US offered Ukraine support in recovering from the attack and investigating the source. [Link]
  • Ukraine blames Russia for the cyberattack. [Link]
  • The Pentagon says Russia is planning a false flag to give reason to invade Ukraine. [Link]
  • Russia says it took down the ransomware crime group REvil at the request of the US. [Link]
  • Kazakhstan authorities now report 225 deaths in the recent riots/protests. [Link]

China

  • Poland will sell the Philippines 32 Black Hawk helicopters. [Link]
  • The US and Japan participate in the annual Yama Sakura war games. [Link]
  • The USS Nevada – a nuclear, Ohio-class submarine – makes a port call in Guam. [Link]

Korea

  • North Korea is expected to reopen its border with China for rail freight. North Korea closed the border due to covid in 2020. [Link]
  • An early warning system incorrectly predicted that a missile launched by North Korea could hit the US. [Link]
  • North Korea says its third missile test in January was fired from a train. [Link]
  • North Korea carried out its fourth missile test this month. [Link]

Myanmar

  • Opposition forces in Myanmar are using 3D-printed guns. [Link]
  • Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi – who was removed in a coup – faces five new charges. She is currently serving a multi-year sentence imposed by the ruling militia. [Link]

Afghanistan 

  • At least four people were killed in fighting between Uzbek fighters and the Taliban. [Link]

Middle East

  • Eight members of the House and Senate form the Abraham Accords caucus. [Link]
  • Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vows not to engage in peace talks with Palestinians. [Link]
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there are only a few weeks left to save the Iran nuclear agreement. [Link]
  • Lebanon says that it will not be subject to US sanctions on Syria for importing Jordanian and Egyptian energy through Syria. [Link]
  • Saudi Arabia announces an increase of bombing in Yemen. [Link]
  • The UN is calling on the Houthi to release a UAE-flagged ship. The UAE says the ship was carrying medical supplies, and the Houthi claim it was carrying weapons. The Houthi rejected the UN call. [Link]

Africa

  • The spokesperson for Somalia’s prime minister was injured in an al-Shabaab suicide bombing. [Link]
  • The UN says airstrikes have killed over 100 civilians in Ethiopia since the start of the year. [Link]
News Roundup 1/26/2022

News Roundup 1/14/2022

Covid

  • The Supreme Court strikes down the Biden requirement that employers mandate the covid vaccine or mask and test employees weekly. The court approved Biden’s requirement for all healthcare staff at federally funded facilities to get the covid vaccine. [Link]
  • Biden plans to double the number of covid tests the US is buying to one billion. The administration will announce plans on a program to distribute N-95 masks for free. [Link]
  • The Pentagon signs contracts to buy 380 million covid tests. [Link]
  • The Marines granted the Pentagon’s first two religious exemptions. Over 18,500 soldiers have applied. [Link]
  • Poorer nations rejected over 100 million doses of the covid vaccine in December. Most were rejected due to their short shelf life. [Link]

US News

  • A Florida resident was sentenced to years in prison for exporting rebreathers to Libya. Another man was sentenced to five months in prison for involvement in the crime. [Link]
  • Former Google employees are landing key posts in the Biden administration. [Link]
  • The USS Carl Vinson suffered four “Class A mishaps” – an incident causing at least $2.5 million in damages – in the final six weeks of 2021. [Link]
  • The Pentagon will allow a special operations soldier to retire with a written reprimand after allegedly sexually assaulting a Thai translator. [Link] 

Russia

  • Ted Cruz’s Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill fails in the Senate. [Link]
  • Ukraine spent over $1 million on lobbying in the US. [Link]
  • The CIA hired paramilitaries to train Ukrainian forces in the US.  [Link]
  • Russia says it does not see grounds for further talks with the US and NATO unless the US shows flexibility. [Link]
  • Russia says it could deploy troops to Venezuela or Cuba. [Link]
  • National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan claims the chance that Russia invades Ukraine is high. [Link]
  • Troops from the Russian-led CSTO begin withdrawing from Kazakhstan. [Link]

China

  • The US moved several warships into the South China Sea. [Link]

Korea

  • North Korea test-fired two missiles. [Link]

Afghanistan 

  • The UN calls on the US to release frozen Afghan funds. [Link]

Middle East

  • 110 Republican Congressman issued a letter calling for Biden to exit talks with Iran and increase pressure. [Link]
  • Four rockets targeted the US Embassy in Baghdad. One of the rockets injured three civilians. [Link]
  • Three people were killed in Syria in two suicide bombings near the Turkish border. [Link]

Africa

  • The EU will sanction Mali. [Link]
  • Sweden will remove its 400 troops from Africa’s Sahel. Sweden has been supporting France’s war in Mali. [Link]
  • One police officer and one protester were killed during protests in Sudan. [Link]

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