Tag Archives: Dick Cheney

the horror, the horror… can be found in the subtext too

The only person to have been put on trial and convicted for any reason relating to America’s use of torture against prisoners is the former CIA analyst John Kiriakou. Kiriakou was the first insider to disclose the use of waterboarding and like many whistleblowers, he paid a heavy price.

Three years ago, in January 2012, just weeks after Obama had signed his name under the now notorious NDAA 2012 with its “indefinite detention” clauses, Kiriakou had been formally charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act as well as the Espionage Act of 1917 – and please note that under Obama’s administration, this act has been used to bring more indictments against whistleblowers than under all other presidents combined. A year later, after a plea deal had been reached with federal prosecutors, Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison. The judge at the trial described Kiriakou’s sentence as “way too light.”1

Kiriakou was recently released from prison, although he remains under house arrest while finishing his two-and-a-half-year sentence. And following his release, he was interviewed from his home on yesterday’s Democracy Now! These are selected excerpts from what he had to say, beginning with the extraordinary case of Abu Zubaydah.

During his capture in Pakistan, Zubaydah was shot three times and gravely wounded. He was then sent to a secret location, where the CIA brought in a trauma surgeon from Johns Hopkins University Medical Center to treat him:

When we first captured him, we took him to a hospital, a military hospital in Pakistan. He had lost so much blood, we needed to transfuse him. And he was initially in a coma. He came out of the coma a couple of times, and we were able, at first, to just exchange an initial comment, later on, in the next couple of days, to have short conversations. For example, when he first came out of his coma, he asked me for a glass of red wine. He was delirious. Later in the evening, he asked me if I would take the pillow and smother him. And then, the next day, we talked about poetry. We talked about Islam. We talked about the fact that he had never supported the attacks on the United States. He wanted to attack Israel.

Well, he was sent from Pakistan to this secret location. And once he was healthy enough to withstand interrogation, a group of CIA interrogators—I’m sorry, a group of FBI interrogators interviewed him, appeared to have been successful in gathering some information, but then were replaced by CIA interrogators, that we’ve now learned were untrained, unprepared, and was subjected to waterboarding in addition to other torture techniques, placed into a cage. He had a fear of bugs, so they put him in a small box and put bugs in the box with him. He was subject to a cold cell, to lights on 24 hours a day, booming music so that he couldn’t sleep. There were several different things that the CIA did to him.

Torture is wrong under any circumstances. You know, we know from the Second World War, when the Justice Department was interrogating Nazi war criminals, we know that the establishment of a rapport, the establishment of a relationship with someone, results in actionable information, if that prisoner has actionable information which he’s willing to give. That wasn’t the case with Abu Zubaydah. He was beaten. He was waterboarded. He was subject to sleep deprivation. He had ice water poured on him in a 50-degree cell every several hours. The man just simply didn’t have any information to give.

I learned initially that he had been waterboarded in the summer of 2002, at the end of the summer of 2002. And as I said in the 2007 interview with Brian Ross, I believed what the CIA was telling us, that he was being waterboarded, it was working, and we were gathering important, actionable intelligence that was saving American lives. It wasn’t until something like 2005 or 2006 that we realized that that just simply wasn’t true—he wasn’t producing any information—and that these techniques were horrific.

It was in 2007, Amy [Goodman], that I decided to go public. President Bush said at the time, categorically, “We do not torture prisoners. We are not waterboarding.” And I knew that that was a lie. And he made it seem as though this was a rogue CIA officer who decided to pour water on people’s faces. And that simply wasn’t true. Torture—the entire torture program was approved by the president himself, and it was a very carefully planned-out program. So to say that it was rogue, it was just a bald-faced lie to the American people.

Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded no less than 83 times and yet we now know that he provided no useful information as a result. He remains imprisoned at Guantánamo without charge.

I will return to Kiriakou’s interview later. But first would like to address the bigger issues here. For instance, why does Guantánamo remain open at all, especially since more than half of its inmates have long since been acquitted of terrorist charges? Leaving aside the logistical and legalistic excuses, one of the unspoken reasons concerns us all. It is the same reason Obama was determined to surreptitiously sign into law the NDAA 2012. And part of the reason why we are seeing no serious repercussions following last December’s release of the long-delayed Senate report which detailed the horrendous catalogue of crimes committed by the CIA (and only those committed by the CIA – which actually lets the Pentagon off the hook): crimes of torture nowadays chillingly redefined as “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

Reading through those horrendous descriptions of what the spy agency has routinely been doing to prisoners in the name of “freedom and democracy” is painful. Not that these “revelations” come as much of a surprise. Other than the most lurid details, we already knew all of this, didn’t we? But then think about it this way, and imagine for a moment the public outcry if an ordinary citizen (a civilian, to use the preferred label attached by today’s news media) confessed to having chained their victims to a wall, repeatedly half-drowned them and also forcibly inserted a variety of objects into their anus (so-called “rectal feeding” is an abuse more straightforwardly described as rape). Such an individual would rightly be publicly judged to be a depraved monster and hurriedly locked away in a very secure facility (somewhere not so very different from Guantánamo, but without the torture regime). Yet instead, these open admissions of crimes committed by an extremely depraved “intelligence” arm of our terribly depraved system are met with little more than a grimace and a whimper. After the obligatory week of media coverage, the news of this systemic cruelty has largely been forgotten, and in spite of the weight of harrowing evidence, it appears that no-one at all will be prosecuted.

With Kiriakou locked away in jail for speaking out of turn, here is what CIA Director John Brennan had to say by way of apology for those most heinous of crimes:

CIA Director John Brennan has defended the agency’s post-9/11 interrogation methods but admitted some techniques were “harsh” and “abhorrent”.

Speaking at CIA headquarters, he said some officers acted beyond their authority but most did their duty.

So begins a report from BBC news entitled “CIA boss John Brennan defends post-9/11 strategy”. The implication being that torture is a “strategy”. Well, yes, if we listen to neo-con voices such as John Brennan, echoed without contradiction thanks to the drones at the BBC.  But before returning to the BBC and their article, it is worthwhile reminding ourselves of John Brennan’s prior approval of the CIA’s use of torture. Indeed, it helps to go back two years to his Senate confirmation hearing when he was appointed CIA Director. The following is taken from a Guardian article published in February 2013:

Brennan faced lengthy questioning over the CIA’s abduction and abuse of alleged terrorists at secret “black sites”, following a confidential 6,000-page Senate report that Brennan described as “very concerning and disturbing” in its evidence that the agency misrepresented and lied about the value of “enhanced interrogation techniques”. […]

Brennan defended an interview with CBS in 2007 in which he said that IETs [sic] “saved lives” by gathering valuable intelligence.

“The reports I was getting subsequent to that and in the years after that, it was clearly my impression it was valuable information that was coming out,” he said.2

Click here to read the full article.

Likewise, The Atlantic then reported:

In nominating John Brennan to head the CIA, President Obama has made it more urgent that the report be declassified. It is one of several sources that could help us to answer an important question: Are the American people being asked to entrust our clandestine spy agency and its killing and interrogation apparatuses to a man who was complicit in illegal torture?

There is strong circumstantial evidence that the answer is yes. At minimum, Brennan favored rendition and what he called “enhanced interrogation tactics” other than waterboarding. As Andrew Sullivan put it in 2008, when Obama first considered Brennan as CIA chief, “if Obama picks him, it will be a vindication of the kind of ambivalence and institutional moral cowardice that made America a torturing nation. It would be an unforgivable betrayal of his supporters and his ideals.”3

Incidentally, this latest release is merely a 525-page summary of the aforementioned 6,000-page report. Two years after it was approved by Senate, the full report remains highly classified. In any case, the White House needed time for the torture-happy Hollywood fantasy Zero Dark Thirty to seep deeply into the American collective unconscious before any part of this lesser report could be publicly released. Think I exaggerate…? Well then read how the Huffington Post reported on the story two years ago:

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 9-6 on Thursday to approve a report on the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program that could shed light on the debate over torture. But for now, even as the new movie “Zero Dark Thirty” stirs up public debate about the use of harsh interrogation tactics, declassifying the report to prepare for its release to the public could take months, if not longer. […]

While “Zero Dark Thirty” suggests that a critical piece of information in the hunt for Osama bin Laden was extracted from a prisoner by using “enhanced interrogation,” top senators speaking to The Huffington Post dismissed the proposition.

Nevertheless the idea that torture can provide valuable information was very helpfully implanted by the film – and it is still being repeated by Brennan and his ilk. Just as a different meme was being embedded at the very same time, and in this case by neo-con apologist Dianne Feinstein:

“The report uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight,” Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement after the vote. “I strongly believe that the creation of long-term, clandestine ‘black sites’ and the use of so-called ‘enhanced-interrogation techniques’ were terrible mistakes. The majority of the Committee agrees.”4 [my bold highlight]

So we are supposed to swallow this ludicrous defence that torturing was a terrible mistake. Just an accidental error of judgement. Which it obviously isn’t and never could be. And so let’s come back to the BBC news report already quoted above, because it then continues:

Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose committee produced the report, said torture should now be banned by law. 5

But torture IS banned by law! It is already against the law because it was ‘banned’ (i.e., criminalised) a long time ago. For instance, “cruel and unusual punishments” are in direct violation of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution. On top of which, torture contravenes the UN Convention against Torture that was signed by President Reagan in 1988 and then ratified by the Senate in October 1990. But more importantly, torture is internationally outlawed under the Geneva Conventions and legally defined as a war crime. So why does the BBC insist on perpetuating this kind of claptrap?

Deliberate or not (I leave the reader to judge), uncritical repetition of this sort of nonsense as if it were impartially reporting facts serves to acclimate readers to accept the unacceptable and to tolerate the intolerable. Torture may or may not be a necessary evil, they imply in this way, but regardless of the ethical concerns it was lawfully sanctionable. As I say, this is absolute rubbish – and patently so.

Incidentally, John Kiriakou describes Senator Feinstein as “one of the CIA’s leading supporters on Capitol Hill”. He adds: “So for Dianne Feinstein to come out with a report as critical as this report was just shows you how wrongheaded the CIA torture program was.”

But now we must come to an even more shocking illustration of how public perceptions are being shifted and reframed. And the author on this occasion happens to be Anthony Romero, who is none other than the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Romero writes:

BEFORE President George W. Bush left office, a group of conservatives lobbied the White House to grant pardons to the officials who had planned and authorized the United States torture program. My organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, found the proposal repugnant. Along with eight other human rights groups, we sent a letter to Mr. Bush arguing that granting pardons would undermine the rule of law and prevent Americans from learning what had been done in their names.

But with the impending release of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all — because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal. 6

I will not bother to outline the kinds of doublethink which encourage Mr Romero to reach such a startling and illogical conclusion. If you can stomach any more then I direct you read his New York Times op-ed.

So what we have in summary is one extremely shocking although highly redacted text that has been released in such a fashion as to make believe the rule of law is extant. As with child abuse, the offending authorities have taken care to draw an historical line so as to make it appear a problem of past failures. Torture was “a mistake”. And thus, like a fashion that disappeared for no more discernible reason than footballers stopped wearing moustaches and perms, all the torturing has since stopped, or so we are encouraged to believe (in spite of ample evidence to the contrary that the ‘black sites’ never went away), because the perpetrators, who were previously misguided in the actions, have since spontaneously and miraculously come to their senses.

After John Kiriakou had heard about the release of the Senate report whilst in jail, he says that “like most other Americans, [he] was absolutely shocked and appalled at some of the details”:

We need to prosecute some of these cases. I understand that reasonable people can agree to disagree on whether or not case officers who really believed they were carrying out a legal activity should be prosecuted. I understand that. But what about case officers who took the law into their own hands or who flouted the law and raped prisoners with broomsticks or carried out rectal hydration with hummus? Those were not approved interrogation techniques. Why aren’t those officers being prosecuted? I think, at the very least, that’s where we should start the prosecutions.

(Incidentally, I do not agree with everything Kiriakou says in this interview.) 7

The BBC may feel obliged to keep up this pretence that torture is not in itself illegal, and one of the largest civil rights organisations may actually believe that even though torture was and is illegal, for legal reasons it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, but as it happens John Kiriakou begs to differ. Likewise, I believe that the proper response must be to demand criminal prosecutions for those who were most responsible: beginning from the top with Cheney and Bush and working down. Kiriakou also believes that Cheney should now be tried and he makes this perhaps more important point:

We’ve seen Vice President Cheney, we’ve seen former CIA directors, several of them, former senior CIA officers go on the network news programs and defend, defend, defend their actions during the torture regime. The reason that they’re doing that is because torture is their legacy. When their obituaries are written, those obituaries are going to say that they were instrumental in the torture program. And the only thing they can do at this point to save their reputations is to keep repeating this lie that torture worked and hope that the American people eventually believe it.

Yes, torture is still being normalised. Doubtless, for the reason Kiriakou states above, but also because there remains a sinister determination by some at the top to undo the well-established justice process and take us back into the dark ages. So the horror of December’s report is not entirely contained within the text per se, but very much exists within the surrounding subtext too. That under a given pretext (which our never-ending “war on terror” usefully sustains) torture can be inflicted with absolute impunity on whosoever America and her close allies deems an enemy, because might is right and the rule of law be damned.

Click here to watch the interview or read the full transcript on the Democracy Now! website.

*

Additional:

If you are wondering in what ways our own authorities in Britain have also been complicit in these torture programmes, then I recommend reading an article by former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, published in the Daily Mail last December, immediately following the release of the summary of the Senate report. It begins:

In the summer of 2004, I warned Tony Blair’s Foreign Office that Britain was using intelligence material which had been obtained by the CIA under torture. Two months later I was sacked as the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan on the orders of Downing Street, bringing to an end my 20-year diplomatic career.

When I then went public with the news that Uzbek territory was part of a global CIA torture programme, I was dismissed as a fantasist by Mr Blair’s henchmen. Now finally, a decade later, I have been vindicated by last week’s shocking Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Over 500 pages it details the CIA’s brutal abuse of Al Qaeda suspects, who were flown around the world to be tortured in a network of secret prisons. One of these was in Uzbekistan, where the US had an air base.

Murray continues later:

The British Government continues to cover up the truth even today. We should not forget that the climate of public and media opinion which made it possible for this US Senate report to be published at all was generated entirely by the work of whistleblowers. I was the first of these, but at least I remain at liberty: two subsequent whistleblowers – soldier Chelsea Manning and CIA agent John Kiriakou – are serving long stretches in prison. Although it is in no way comparable to the horrifying abuses suffered by the torture victims, we truth-tellers have also been through hell.

It is very strange to now hear Westminster politicians calling for a judicial inquiry into our involvement in rendition. There has already been one, headed by retired judge Sir Peter Gibson. He started to gather evidence, and ordered the Foreign Office to give me full access to all the classified documentation on the subject from my time as Ambassador. Indeed, Gibson gave every appearance of being a man of integrity, appointed to lead an investigation into governmental wrongdoing.

It was therefore no surprise when the Gibson inquiry was cancelled and his duties handed to politicians on the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee. Incredibly, its members include Hazel Blears, one of Tony Blair’s Ministers at a time when the Government had a policy of using intelligence from torture. She is therefore investigating herself.

No wonder a source on the Intelligence and Security Committee told journalists last week that they would only scrutinise members of the security services, not the politicians who instructed them.

He concludes with a call for both Tony Blair and Jack Straw to be put on trial:

Recent scandals, such as the alleged cover-up of an Establishment paedophile ring, highlight the apparent impunity of our political class in the face of the honest forces of law and order.
We don’t need an inquiry into British complicity in torture. We need a trial. And it should be Tony Blair and Jack Straw in the dock.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full statement.

 *

1 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/former-cia-officer-john-kiriakou-sentenced-to-30-months-in-prison-for-leaks/2013/01/25/49ea0cc0-6704-11e2-9e1b-07db1d2ccd5b_story.html

2 From an article entitled “Brennan rejects CIA torture claims in confident display at Senate hearing” written by Chris McGreal, published by the Guardian on February 7, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/feb/07/john-brennan-cia-torture-claims-senate-hearing

3 From an article entitled “Does It Matter if John Brennan Was Complicit in Illegal Torture?” written by Conor Friedersdorf, published in The Atlantic on January 8, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/01/does-it-matter-if-john-brennan-was-complicit-in-illegal-torture/266918/

4 From an article entitled “CIA Torture Report Approved By Senate Intelligence Committee” published by the Huffington Post on December 13, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/13/cia-torture-report_n_2295083.html

5 From an article entitled “CIA boss John Brennan defends post-9/11 strategy” published by BBC news on December 12, 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-30437804

6 From an article entitled “Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured” written by Anthony D. Romero, published by the New York Times on December 8, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/09/opinion/pardon-bush-and-those-who-tortured.html?_r=2

7 Kiriakou adds that: “I understand that President Obama is not going to seek the prosecution of the CIA leaders who carried out the torture, the case officers involved in the day-to-day torture program. I understand that. The lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, I understand. No problem. But what about the CIA officers who directly violated the law, who carried out interrogations that resulted in death? What about the torturers of Hassan Ghul? Hassan Ghul was killed during an interrogation session.”

I strongly disagree with him on these points. All those in charge must be prosecuted and the lawyers who sanctioned these crimes doubly so.

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Filed under al-Qaeda & DAESH / ISIS / ISIL, Craig Murray, police state, USA, Uzbekistan

the last days of Obama might yet be the worst

About five years ago, away on a teaching course in Athens, I met up with some very friendly Danes. During the week, we discussed all sorts of subjects, and often politics. My new Danish friends were interested to hear what I thought about Tony Blair and so I explained to them how his policies had, in just about every respect, been atrocious, if not, ruinous. They were dumbstruck by what I told them, having been given to believe that Blair was not only very popular, but also that his government was a largely progressive one. In return, I was equally amazed by their high opinion of a British Prime Minister already so reviled at home. Blair’s PR was better than I’d supposed.

Going further back, to 1997, I had helped vote in Tony Blair’s original New Labour government. For this I am sorry. It wasn’t even that I wanted what Tony Blair was offering, but like many other dupes, I’d been convinced (or convinced myself) to believe that he might only be disguising himself as a Tory, and then, once in office, and whatever Blair’s true colours, he would probably be kept honest by the Labour Party members and the trade unions. In fairness to myself, it didn’t take long to change my mind on this, and I certainly didn’t vote Blair back into power in either of his two re-elections. Indeed, I’ve not voted for Labour since 1997, but been fooled instead into supporting the weaselly Lib Dems and, in their last campaign, the dishonourable and toadying Nick Clegg. Apologies once more. So my record of voting in recent elections has not been good, but then in fairness again, what were the choices? None were available.

Already by the mid-nineties, I had become one of an ever-growing minority who were completely disenfranchised by our essentially two-party “first past the post” electoral system. So last time around, the slim hope was that if the Lib Dems got any sniff of power, then, and aside from moderating the thoroughly anti-liberal and right-wing agendas of either New Labour or the Conservatives, they would also press hard for electoral reform. A result that might then open the backdoor for a longer term revival of a genuinely left-leaning, liberal and anti-imperialist alternative. And the Lib Dems really had nothing to lose. They might never get a second chance to demand overhaul of our clearly unfair voting system, but, as it transpired, suddenly holding balance of power, but then playing their hand so badly, they blew even that limited opportunity. Indeed, having settled for a damp squib referendum that had nothing to do with the kinds of proportional representation system they have traditionally called for, the whole argument about electoral reform seems to be dead, and, in consequence, it’s even harder to understand if the Lib Dems actually stand for anything at all. Who gets my vote next time is anybody’s guess. I loathe them all, as do a huge portion of the British public.

With Britain lost, it’s tempting to seek glimmers of hope abroad, but hard to find any. The race for the Republican nomination in this year’s US Presidential election is an interesting case in point. As with previous years, it looks like a catwalk for the nasty, the glib and the downright stupid. Obama vs Gingrich. Obama vs Romney. Obama vs Santorum. In other words, at best it’s Obama vs Obama, and at worst…. well, I’d rather not go there.

There is, of course, still an outside bet: Obama vs Paul. Ron Paul appearing in many respects to be a genuine alternative to Obama et al; and outstanding among his Republican rivals in that he promises to end the wars, roll back the unconstitutional Patriot Acts, and take on the private Federal Reserve. Pledges that if kept would be a blessing for all of us. Sadly, however, Paul’s economic plans (aside from his call to heel of the Federal Reserve) are truly dreadful. Full scale neo-liberalism. As if the people haven’t suffered enough ‘austerity’ already. What is worse, however, is that Obama, who in common Blair, is far more popular abroad than with actual US voters, nonetheless remains unopposed by any serious challenge within the Democratic Party. The question then, why is there no opposition to Obama coming from the left?

After all, Obama has been such a wretched President. He has been to Bush, what Blair was to Thatcher. Superficially he appears different – marginally more human, basically – but everything he does is simply more of the same. Continued clampdown on civil liberties and human rights, continued protection of the financial criminals on Wall Street, continued tax breaks for the big corporations and the ruling elite, and last but not least, continued expansion of the preposterous and often illegal “war on terror”.

Not only has Obama expanded Bush’s “war on terror” into Pakistan, but more surreptitiously into other regions. He has achieved this whilst replacing conventional forces with ‘contractors’ (i.e., mercenaries) and also by dramatically escalating the use of drones, which are now launched from bases not only in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but from Turkey, the Arabian Peninsula, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and even The Seychelles. Click here to view a map published by the Washington Post in late December1. Using private armies and killer robots (i.e., drones), the new preferred weapon of choice, he has opened up the possibility for what he promotes as a ‘leaner’ military, unveiling, as the BBC news reported on Thursday [Jan 5th], “a far-reaching defence review under which thousands of troops are expected to be axed.” Although, as the same article concedes:

No specific cuts to troop numbers or weapons programmes were announced on Thursday – those are to be presented as part of the federal budget next month.

Whilst confirming our suspicions:

Anticipating criticism from his Republican rivals in an election year, the president stressed that the defence budget would still grow, but at a slower pace.2 [my highlight]

The nub of it is that Obama is as addicted to war as Bush was; the difference being that Obama always tells us how he’s trying to quit.

Behind the scenes, right now, US troops are being moved into Israel, as further evidence that a build-up to a war against Iran seems almost unstoppable:

Under the Austere Challenge 12 drill scheduled for an undisclosed time during the next few weeks, the Israeli military will together with America host the largest-ever joint missile drill by the two countries. Following the installation of American troops near Iran’s neighboring Strait of Hormuz and the reinforcing of nearby nations with US weapons, Tehran authorities are considering this not a test but the start of something much bigger. […]

Israeli military officials say that the testing was planned before recent episodes involving the US and Iran. Of concern, however, is how the drill will require the deployment of thousands of American troops into Israel. The Jerusalem Post quotes US Commander Lt.-Gen Frank Gorenc as saying the drill is not just an “exercise” but also a “deployment” that will involve “several thousand American soldiers” heading to Israel. Additionally, new command posts will be established by American forces in Israel and that country’s own IDF army will begin working from a base in Germany.3

Click here to read full article on Russia Today and here to read a follow-up story the following day [Fri 6th Jan].

The Washington Post [Thu 5th Jan] also reported on the “Austere Challenge 12” drill saying it “is designed to improve defense systems and cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli forces” and that “It follows a 10-day Iranian naval exercise near the strategic Strait of Hormuz”:

The Israeli military spokesman did not give a date for the drill Thursday, but a senior military official said it would be in the next few weeks. He said it would be the biggest missile defense drill ever held. He was speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.4

Click here to read the full article in the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, in his recent “far-reaching defence review”, as the BBC described it, which is ominously entitled “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities For 21st Century Defense”, Obama writes:

“As we end today’s wars and reshape our Armed Forces, we ensure that our military is agile, flexible, and ready for the full range of contingencies. In particular, we will continue to invest in the capabilities critical to future success, including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaisance; counterterrorism; countering weapons of mass destruction; operating in anti-access environments; and prevailing in all domains, including cyber.”

Reading those final points (especially the part I’ve highlighted in bold) reminded me very much of a document produced more than a decade earlier. It was published by a right-wing “think-tank” called The Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

PNAC had been founded in the spring of 1997 as an initiative of the New Citizenship Project, and was co-chaired by William Krystol and Robert Kagan. Ringing any bells? Here is one of its Statement of Principles to give you a flavour: “We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.”5 It’s worth bearing in mind that Obama’s defence review is called “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership”.

The PNAC commission was endorsed by such notables as Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dan Quayle, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, as well as by famous postmodern historian Francis Fukuyama. So this wasn’t just any old think-tank, but rather the plans for a new world laid out in advance as aims for the incoming US neo-con administration.

In September 2000, the PNAC think-tank brought out a new report entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.” It is a report that has since become notorious (at least in some circles). Here was PNAC’s vision for the twenty-first century:

“At present the United States faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible.”6

However, to achieve such a grand objective meant the need of substantial increases in defence expenditure, because to attain their goal of a glorious Pax Americana (which was how PNAC promoted their plans of world dominion) required nothing short of “full spectrum dominance”7:

“Although it may take several decades for the process of transformation to unfold, in time, the art of warfare on air, land, and sea will be vastly different than it is today, and “combat” likely will take place in new dimensions: in space, “cyber-space,” and perhaps the world of microbes.”

More alarming still, and a just little further down the same page, the authors make the following recommendation:

“And advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.”8

This talk of targeting “specific genotypes”, which is nothing short of proposing some form of genocide, is available as a publicly accessible document, published and endorsed by a group integrally connected to the highest echelons of the previous US administration. But there’s more, and here we reach the sentence of greatest notoriety:

“Further, the process of transformation [towards a Pax Americana], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”9

Please remember that this extract is taken from a document that was released just one year prior to the most “catastrophic and catalyzing event” in modern history.

By contrast Obama’s latest defence review includes the following statement:

In order to credibly deter potential adversaries and to prevent them from achieving their objectives, the United States must maintain the ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged.” (bottom p.4)

The highlight is mine again. So PNAC had called very bluntly for ‘world dominance’ and ‘global hegemony’, whereas Obama’s report talks up America’s ‘global responsibilities’, but both are actually pushing towards the same ends: “to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged” being ultimately tantamount to the ‘full-spectrum dominance’ dreamt of by the PNAC crew. But as the empire grows, where are America’s ‘potential adversaries’ now? – well, read on:

States such as China and Iran will continue to pursue asymmetric means to counter our power projection capabilities, while the proliferation of sophisticated weapons and technology will extend to non-state actors too.”

All of which ratchets a little more tension on Iran [who were also the main target of PNAC] and on China, whilst also hinting at more nebulous enemies for the public at home to fear:

Terrorist access to even simple nuclear devices poses the prospect of devastating consequences for the United States.” (bottom p.3)

If I were an American, however, the part of the report I would find most alarming goes as follows:

U.S. Forces will continue to defend U.S. Territory from direct attack by state and non-state actors. We will also come to the assistance of domestic civil authorities in the event such defense fails or in the case of natural disasters, potentially in response to a very significant or even catastrophic event.”

With the NDAA 2012 act (see my previous post) now permitting the indefinite military detention of anyone (civilians included) ‘suspected’ of any ‘association’ with terrorists, just signed into law by Obama, following on here, only a week later, is a statement justifying deployment of the military on the streets. All that is absent is some catastrophic and catalyzing event – as the PNAC bullyboys would have put it.

The intent is all too clear, whereas the timetable is less so. The domestic clampdown might simply continue with the already steady erosion of civil liberties, or, and given the ideal ‘catalyzing event’, could happen almost overnight. Just think about it — that’s exactly what the latest NDAA ‘indefinite detention’ bill provides for. The nets are ready to haul you in.

Meanwhile, an attack against Iran might be launched next month, next year, or might never happen. But this last option will surely depend upon real political change in America. Could Ron Paul deliver such a change? How would I know — given my current track record I am loathe to endorse any candidates for any election ever again, and it’s not my country anyway. I feel unqualified to judge. It is reasonable to suppose, in any case, that it will take more than a single election (however important) to turn America around. All I can do is cheer from the sidelines. Come on the people of America — right now, we’re all really counting on you!

*

Today’s Democracy Now! asked William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, about Obama’s new strategy, which leaves military spending at levels equal to the Bush administration. The accompanying report also compares foreign policy and military spending pledges made by the current Republican Presidential candidates:

Click here to read full transcript, or to watch the report on the Democracy Now! website.

1http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/national-security/under-obama-an-emerging-global-apparatus-for-drone-killing/2011/12/13/gIQANPdILP_story.html to read related article entitled “Under Obama, an emerging global apparatus for drone killing”, written by Greg Miller, published in the Washington Post on December 28, 2011.

2 From an article entitled “Obama unveils new strategy for ‘leaner’ US military, published by BBC news on January 5, 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16430405

3 From an article entitled “Thousands of US troops deploying to Israel” published by Russia Today on January 5, 2012. http://rt.com/usa/news/us-troops-israel-iran-257/

4 From an article entitled “Israel and US troops gear up for major missile defense drill after Iran maneuvers” by Associated Press, published in the Washington Post on January 5, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/israeli-and-us-troops-gear-up-for-major-missile-defense-drill-after-iran-maneuvers/2012/01/05/gIQAE0QqcP_story.html

5 These statements were released on June 3rd 1997, just a few months after the foundation of PNAC.

6 Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century. p.1

7 Although this precise term is not found in the document in question, it has become the key term in subsequent report entitled Joint Vision 2020, which offers the latest blueprint for the US Department of Defence.

8 ibid: p.60

9 ibid: p.51

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, China, drones, Iran, Israel, Uncategorized, USA

distracted from distraction by distraction

Logging into my email account, half-glancing through the scrolling headlines on Yahoo news, as you do, come on now, be honest… well a few days ago, they went as follows: – “Robbie in Strictly thrust ban”; “Xmas elf stolen, OAP sought”; “Push-up bra model is a man” – the usual crud in other words, but then there’s often an odd-one-out, and on the occasion in question it happened to be this: “Why Britain is moving closer to war with Iran”. And it jolted me, which is not something that generally happens as the Yahoo titbits roll past, dulling my senses and enfeebling my mind with tawdry ‘human interest’ slush and air-brushed celebrity dross.

According to the news, of course, the decade-long war on neighbouring Iraq is over. So we hear Obama making speeches about the completion of a successful mission, and reports of the compete withdrawal of US troops from the country. But all of this is only a half-truth (and the biggest lies, as Orwell pointed out, are frequently those of omission).

The larger official truth is that as ordinary US troops are being moved out, thousands of ‘contractors’ (i.e., mercenaries) will remain in place, although not Blackwater this time, since Blackwater were banned from Iraq after the massacre of civilians at Nisoor Square in 2007.1 Perhaps you remember it? Here is Jeremy Scahill speaking on Democracy Now! in December 2008 about “the token prosecution of a handful of Blackwater guys” involved in that massacre:

Click here to find the same interview on the Democracy Now! website.

And then, two year later, Democracy Now! also reported on how all charges against those Blackwater operatives were subsequently dismissed by federal judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington:

Click here to find the same interview on the Democracy Now! website.

As a consequence, Blackwater is gone… or at least, by name, it is gone…

The security firm once known as Blackwater on Monday changed its name for the second time in less than three years as its owners continue to reshape the company they bought from its founder a year ago.

The Arlington-based company announced it will no longer be known as Xe Services and is now called Academi. The name is inspired by Plato’s Academy in ancient Greece and is designed to connote elite, highly disciplined warriors who are thinkers as well as fighters.2

Taken from a recent article [Dec 12th] in the Washington Post.

With US troops finally leaving, Academi are, surprise, surprise, one of the private military contractors heading the queue for a piece of the new action:

Returning to the immediate situation elsewhere in the Middle East, and our attention is rapidly being switched to that other old enemy, Iran. For even though war against Iran has been a constant theme ever since 9/11 (and before), the sabre-rattling is suddenly louder than ever.

If we turn back to October, for instance, we had that ridiculous fiasco of an Iranian plot involving a used-car salesman and an alleged attempt to assassinate a Saudi ambassador. This was good enough to send all the hawks in Washington and abroad squawking for immediate retaliation. Concurrently, Craig Murray’s exposé on the deeper scandal of the Liam Fox and Adam Werritty affair, was uncovering, little by little, firm evidence that a secret Israeli plot has already been hatched to foment a war with Iran. Somehow the mainstream media has managed to put a cap on that story, although it perhaps leaked out just enough to maintain the illusion that we still have a free press.

In this latest wave of mainstream propaganda, and like a deja vu happening all over again, we are told that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has “increasing concern” regarding the Iranian nuclear programme. Yet in terms of balance, there is little or no mention of veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s repeated dismissal of any solid evidence for such alarmist claims.3 We’ve also had Dick Cheney’s more recent demands, that instead of asking Iran to give back America’s missing surveillance drone, Obama should have ordered an airstrike instead.4 Now if, conversely – and God knows how this could ever happen – an Iranian spy drone had been shot down over Texas, well Tehran would have been flattened already. But then as Cheney’s record shows: might is right (although the Iranians might contend that possession is still nine tenths of the law). Meanwhile, as Obama tried to get his spy plane back, trouble at the British embassy allowed Foreign secretary William Hague to seize yet another opportunity for threatening “serious consequences” for Iran, whilst adding: “it’s a nice little place you’ve got here, you wouldn’t want anything to happen now, would you…?”

But really this is scary stuff. The stuff of nightmares coming true. Since any kind of military attack on Iran would mean the near certain prospect of a huge conflagration across the Middle East, involving multiple millions of fatalities. It would mean a return to the height of the Cold War standoff, with Russia and the USA squaring up directly in efforts to secure access to resources and a battle that could so easily go nuclear. It is no exaggeration to say that any attack on Iran might be the spark that ignites a world war – THE WORLD WAR. So why, when this is featuring as headline news, as it did on Yahoo, are still we hearing so little outspoken opposition? In fact, why is it that, for the most part, no one mentions any of the wars much at all these days? Even Yahoo news has moved on… to “Woman lives Xmas every day”; “Celebs wearing bad jumpers”; “Kate tops good manners list”; “Military Wives outselling Little Mix”; “Why Britain is moving closer to war with Iran” Hang on, there it is again… WAR WITH IRAN!!! Not that it needs to be written in capitals, apparently.

Nearly a decade ago, as the false accusations against Iraq were just beginning to spin our course to a bloody conflict, it was enough to galvanise millions to voice their opposition on the streets; and it was the voice of a two million strong protest in London which undoubtedly forced Blair to lie in parliament. A few years later, when Bush had the whole God-forsaken ‘Axis of Evil’ in his sights, and war against Iran was being seriously mooted for the first time since 9/11, there was also plenty of public discussion and a loose gathering of opposition. Back then, the anti-war movement still sustained a little momentum. Whereas, it would seem that a similar build-up this time around is being accomplished so stealthily that there is next to no resistance.

Every week or so brings another story, and a further opportunity for publicity-seeking politicians to puff themselves up with talk of the “serious consequences” for Iran, and it’s almost as if no one actually believes the bluster any more. Or perhaps the public simply accepts that the war’s going to happen whatever they do, and they’re just dog-tired of fighting. Or could it be some deadly combination of both disbelief and fatalism, and the fact that we’ve now been sold a dummy on Iran enough times to finally kill off all reason to have a response.

Here, for example, is Michel Chossudovsky speaking on Russia Today about the building of a pretext to attack Iran and the terrible repercussions of such action back in February 2010:

A decade ago, Hans Blix, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and then head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, had refused to bow to pressure from Washington and to twist the evidence in favour of the existence of WMDs in Iraq. In a saner world, Hans Blix would surely have received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to stop the illegal war on Iraq, but instead his honourable part in that shameful episode of imperialist adventuring has been largely written out.

This week Russia Today interviewed Hans Blix and asked him about the unstable situation in North Korea as well as the rising threat of war against Iran:

“Well there are some similarities in the escalation of the language and the threats that we had in the case of Iraq, and now have in the case of Iran. On the other hand, we must remember that in the case of Iraq they talked about the weapons that in fact did not exist. Today they are talking about Iranian intentions that may or may not exist. But the difference is that Iran certainly has a lot of nuclear installations. Iraq did not have that.”

Asked his opinion of whether Iran is any kind of imminent threat to any nation at this point, Blix replied:

“I don’t think so really. It is true that Ahmadinejad has come out [with] some very bad language about wiping Israel off the map of the world. But I think, and most people with me think, that he’s really talking to the Arab streets. He has wanted to destabilise Arab states that have supported the United States. Iran does not have a track-record of aggression. In fact, it was Iraq that attacked Iran. So I don’t see an immediate threat from Iran. But I can understand that Israelis are nervous.”

And does Blix think that Iran has a nuclear weapon?

No, I think nobody really thinks they have a nuclear weapon, and I think one must read that [IAEA] report rather carefully. What they say is that they see some evidence that could be explained if they were dealing with a weapon or aiming at a weapon. And that they’ve seen some other evidence that is very hard to explain unless they were working towards a weapon. But they have not said that they established that Iran actually intends to do it. They might stop short of a weapon. […]

We know from the case of Israel that they do not admit that they have nuclear weapons. They say that they will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Maybe one day the Iranians will also say that we also will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and maintain a situation of ambiguity. But I think it would be better if all the parties came to the conclusion that they should have neither nuclear weapons nor enrichment capability.

The bitter irony might yet be that during a time of so much cause for righteous indignation over the economic collapse and the imposition of ‘austerity measures’ across the world, and as political dissent reaches new peaks with protests spreading from city to city, and from nation to nation, the way is accidentally left open for the warmongers: a way to stifle rising popular dissent by another means. After all, war is not only good for business, it is also an ideal pretext for flushing out unruly dissent, whilst persuading the rest of the masses to rally around the flag and accept a little more hardship.

But who cares, some of you may be thinking, since in almost precisely one year’s time, the world is going to end, or so they say… You’ve seen the movie, right? No, okay – me neither. But you know about the Mayan calendar, I presume, and since when have the Mayans ever been wrong about anything:

“The timewave will culminate on 21 December 2012. At that point novelty on the planet will reach infinity. This would be an endpoint – a time at which anything and everything conceivable to the mind would occur at the same time.”

What do you mean, “who says so?” They say so – the future-seers…

No, I’m not going bonkers! I’m merely quoting from a book entitled “Worldshift 2012: Making Green Business, New Politics & Higher Consciousness Work Together”. Look, it’s a serious book, or so it claims. It has a foreword by Mikhail Gorbachev, and describes itself as “The Club of Budapest’s Handbook of Conscious Change”. The late Václav Havel was an honorary member of the same group, as are Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu, not to mention Peter Gabriel and Bianca Jagger. And I’m quoting from Chapter 3: “The 2012 Horizon: The Time in ‘Timely Change’”. It’s all taken from a section on “The 2012 Prophesies”, which closes as follows:

“None of these prophesies and predictions [of impending doom/imminent change] is one hundred percent certain, but in their ensemble they are highly significant. When we also take the time-horizon given by the cross-impact of global trends into account, we get serious grounds for viewing the end of 2012 as a critical point in history, when the fate of humankind could hang in the balance.”5

Don’t you see? – they’re taking “the time-horizon given by the cross-impact of global trends into account”, which is important, right? These guys aren’t mucking around…

Although they do concede a slightly lower than a one hundred percent guaranteed certainty that the end of 2012 will prove to be such a critical point in history, giving us at least a slim chance nothing much will happen (aside the continuing economic meltdown which can only be reversed by currently off-the-table and unfashionable policy changes). And obviously we must hope that all of this rehashed scaremongering about Iran is just another distraction that will fizzle out and be forgotten. Much as, no doubt, the whole ‘End of Days’ doomsday business about 2012 and ‘The Rapture’ (which have somehow been grafted together and used to bewitch Christian fundamentalists across the Bible Belt of America so they regard every new catastrophe as if it were a divine blessing) will quickly be forgotten in a year’s time. If I’m wrong then I’ll humbly eat the smouldering remains of my hat…

And should the insanity of the powers within Washington know no bounds, and, in which case, the balloon really does go up, then Yahoo news probably won’t be alone in carrying the big story. I’m guessing that it’ll read something like this: “Justin Bieber cuts himself shaving on hearing news that World War III has started”. Bless him.

“Justin — is that you in the bathroom again?”

Cartoon courtesy of George Bennett Boswell*.

1 See BBC news article entitled “Blackwater incident: What happened” published December 8, 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7033332.stm

2 From an article entitled “Former Blackwater security firm changes name again, from Xe to Academi, as changes continue”, published in the Washington Post on December 12, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/former-blackwater-security-firm-changes-name-again-from-xe-to-academi-as-changes-continue/2011/12/12/gIQAhyxhpO_story.html

3 See “Iran and the I.A.E.A.” posted by Seymour M. Hersh for The New Yorker on November 18, 2011. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2011/11/iran-and-the-iaea.html#ixzz1eNafDh4A

4 See “’They’ll likely send the drone back in pieces’: Dick Cheney rips Obama for failing to act on downed spy plane”, written by Thomas Durante, published in the Daily Mail on December 13, 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2073428/Dick-Cheney-rips-Obama-failing-act-downed-US-drone-Iran.html

5 Taken from “Worldshift 2012: Making Green Business, New Politics & Higher Consciousness Work Together”, written by Ervin Laszlo, published in 2009 by Inner Traditions. ISBN 978-1-59477-328-0

*Although based around an idea I suggested, the artwork is entirely the creation of my very talented 11 year-old nephew George.

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Filed under Craig Murray, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jeremy Scahill, Seymour Hersh

September 11th remembered

On November 10th 2001, George W. Bush addressed the United Nations General Assembly with these words:

“We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children.”

And true to his word, Bush, along with Cheney and the rest of the gang, did indeed remember the victims of 9/11, and especially so, whenever they needed cover for their imperialist adventures, or as pretext to undermine the American constitution, and, perhaps most deplorably of all, when using the horror of that day to legitimise imprisonment without trial and the use of torture. In short, they never shirked from reminding us of the terrible suffering of the victims of 9/11 as they inflamed new wars, bringing terror to many more millions of innocent people.

Yet, we should also remember how Bush, and the White House administration as a whole, made no great efforts to find out what really happened on September 11th. Indeed, how they first delayed, and then hampered at every turn, an investigation that they were eventually forced to conduct. So, overarching all the other questions that still surround the events of September 11th, there is one that echoes loudest: cui bono? Who actually benefited?

Was it Osama Bin Laden, already suffering from kidney failure (or so we were told) and now forced to scuttle around from cave to cave, presumably with his dialysis machine in tow, as bunker-busting bombs and “daisy-cutters” flattened all around him? Perhaps – Or how about the administration in Washington, suddenly positioned and enabled to embark on an endless war against a mysterious “axis of evil”.

The Kean-Hamilton 9/11 commission report is revealing but not in the way supposed. It is a surprising read. For instance, of the four-hundred plus pages, you discover that a mere fifty address the main events of the day itself. These few pages cover the total evidence provided by the testimony of all the first responders and other survivors. All condensed to fill just a single chapter: “Heroism and Horror”. Whilst, in the next chapter, something more startling is revealed.

Headed “Wartime”, the discussion has already moved on. Having no direct bearing on the events of the day of September 11th – and thus more in keeping with the report in general – the emphasis here is shifted to the urgency of an effective response. The concluding section to the chapter, which is subtitled: “‘Phase two’ and the question of Iraq”, begins as follows (and this is a direct quote):

President Bush had wondered immediately after the attack whether Saddam Hussain’s regime might have had a hand in it. Iraq had been an enemy of the United States for 11 years, and was the only place in the world where the United States was engaged in on-going combat operations. … He told us he recalled Iraqi support for Palestinian suicide terrorists as well. Speculating about other possible states that could be involved, the President told us he also thought about Iran. [Richard] Clarke has written that on the evening of September 12, President Bush told him and some of his staff to explore possible Iraqi links to 9/11. “See if Saddam did this,” Clarke recalls the President telling them. “See if he’s linked in anyway.”1

So is this really how America of the twenty-first century constructs its foreign policy? Founding it on the hunches and suppositions of its great leader.

Meanwhile, we learn that September 11th was the ideal cover for governments to “bury bad news” as someone close to Tony Blair once carelessly put it. So what ought we to make of Donald Rumsfeld’s announcement to The Pentagon on September 10th of the disappearance of some 2.3 Trillion Dollars from US Defense expenditure accounts?2

Now obviously, 2.3 Trillion is one hell of a lot of money by anyone’s standards, but this was actually only one half of the bad news that Rumsfeld was delivering that day. He also had another axe to grind:

Perhaps this adversary sounds like the former Soviet Union, but that enemy is gone: our foes are more subtle and implacable today. You may think I’m describing one of the last decrepit dictators of the world. But their day, too, is almost past, and they cannot match the strength and size of this adversary.

The adversary’s closer to home. It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy. Not the people, but the processes. Not the civilians, but the systems. Not the men and women in uniform, but the uniformity of thought and action that we too often impose on them.

In this building, despite this era of scarce resources taxed by mounting threats, money disappears into duplicative duties and bloated bureaucracy—not because of greed, but gridlock. Innovation is stifled—not by ill intent but by institutional inertia.

Just as we must transform America’s military capability to meet changing threats, we must transform the way the Department works and what it works on. We must build a Department where each of the dedicated people here can apply their immense talents to defend America, where they have the resources, information and freedom to perform.

Our challenge is to transform not just the way we deter and defend, but the way we conduct our daily business. Let’s make no mistake: The modernization of the Department of Defense is a matter of some urgency. In fact, it could be said that it’s a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American’s.”3

This “modernization of the Department of Defense” Rumsfeld was calling for actually meant nothing less than the beginnings of privatisation of the US military. Here was news that few within the military could be expected to take lying down, but given the events soon to follow, could there have been any better occasion to bury the awful news and to stifle internal dissent?

Click here to read a transcript of Rumsfeld’s address to The Pentagon.


Chasing after justice, a few of the victims (including first responders, many of whom have since died, or are dying, of respiratory illnesses caused by inhaling toxic dust that the government was also fully aware of) got to have an inquiry. Right from the start they were deeply unhappy with how it had been delayed, was underfunded, and lacked independence. Afterwards, when they’d read the commission report, they felt betrayed for a second time. In response, they put together a documentary film called “9/11: Press for Truth”.4

Based in part around Paul Thompson’s carefully researched book ‘The Terror Timeline’, the film is compelling viewing and should be aired worldwide:

All the delays, the distortions, the changes in timelines, the endless deceptions that frustrated Kean and Hamilton (at least according to their own hand-washing account “Without Precedent”5) also troubled others on the 9/11 Commission.

The following overview was put together by Daniel Taylor (with linked references throughout):

Senator Max Cleland, who resigned from the 9/11 Commission after calling it a “national scandal”, stated in a 2003 PBS interview,

“I’m saying that’s deliberate. I am saying that the delay in relating this information to the American public out of a hearing… series of hearings, that several members of Congress knew eight or ten months ago, including Bob Graham and others, that was deliberately slow walked… the 9/11 Commission was deliberately slow walked, because the Administration’s policy was, and its priority was, we’re gonna take Saddam Hussein out.”

Cleland, speaking with Democracy Now, said,

“One of these days we will have to get the full story because the 9-11 issue is so important to America. But this White House wants to cover it up”.

In 2006 the Washington Post reported that several members of the 9/11 Commission suspected deception on part of the Pentagon. As reported,

“Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon’s initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate.”

9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey also has unanswered questions. As reported by Salon, he believes that there are legitimate reasons to believe an alternative version to the official story.

“There are ample reasons to suspect that there may be some alternative to what we outlined in our version,” Kerrey said. The commission had limited time and limited resources to pursue its investigation, and its access to key documents and witnesses was fettered by the administration.

Commissioner Tim Roemer, speaking to CNN, stated that Commission members were considering a criminal probe of false statements. As quoted,

“We were extremely frustrated with the false statements we were getting,” Roemer told CNN. “We were not sure of the intent, whether it was to deceive the commission or merely part of the fumbling bureaucracy.”

Click here to read the original article posted on September 11th 2009.

But there is another point here, and within the bigger scheme it is the more important one. Just like the commission itself, those who work within the media have a responsibility. It is their duty to demand the truth, even if only to apportion blame. Of course this is precisely what inquiries are supposed to do, but if, as is so often the case, the inquiry can’t deliver, then we rely upon journalists to step up to the mark. But they did not. During the four hundred and forty days when the administration dragged its heels before reluctantly opening its inquiry, the media kept their silence. And in decade since they have maintained this “impartial” stance, which really means defending the official version of events against all dissenting opinion.

Colonel Robert Bowman, a physicist who headed the “Star Wars” project, and also a former combat pilot who flew over a hundred missions during the Vietnam War, has put it this way:

“What are they trying to hide? Are they trying to hide guilt or incompetence? We don’t know, but we should know. Either way the American people deserve to know.”

Bob Bowman, ran for Congress as a Democrat candidate in 2006, determinedly trying to raise support for a full and totally independent re-investigation. He has frequently described the official theory of 9/11 as “a bunch of hogwash”, summing up the case against the Bush administration with these words:

“The very kindest that we can say is that they were aware of the impending attacks and let them happen. Now some people will say that’s much too kind. However, even that is high treason and conspiracy to commit murder.”

A decade has passed, Bush has gone, and nothing has changed. The deeply flawed version of events published by the 9/11 commission remains officially unchallenged. Meantime, the mainstream media, which remains just as eager as ever to reinforce the fears lurking at the back of our collective memories, has next to nothing to say when it comes to questions of justice. Even the barring of first responders and other survivors from attending the tenth anniversary memorial ceremony at Ground Zero barely makes the news:

But the campaign for justice led by the families and first responders goes on. Here, for instance, are two headline stories from yesterday’s Democracy Now! :

Former Senator Calls on Obama to Reopen 9/11 Investigation with Focus on Saudi Family

Former Florida senator, Bob Graham, is calling on President Obama to reopen the investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks after new information has emerged about the possible role of prominent Saudis in the 9/11 attack. According to recent news reports, a wealthy young Saudi couple fled their home in a gated community in Sarasota, Florida, just a week or so before 9/11, leaving behind three cars and nearly all of their possessions. The FBI was tipped off about the couple but never passed the information on to the Sept. 11 Commission, even though phone records showed the couple had ties to Mohamed Atta and at least 10 other al-Qaeda suspects. Former Senator Bob Graham described the news as “the most important thing about 9/11 to surface in the last seven or eight years.” Graham said, “The key umbrella question is: What was the full extent of Saudi involvement prior to 9/11 and why did the U.S. administration cover this up?’’

Former FBI Agent Accuses CIA of Withholding Intelligence Before 9/11

A former FBI agent has accused the CIA of deliberately withholding photographs and information about two al-Qaeda operatives living in the United States before the Sept. 11 attacks. The agent, Ali Soufan, writes in a new book that the CIA rejected repeated FBI requests for information before 9/11 about possible al-Qaeda operatives. Then, hours after the World Trade Center was attacked, Soufan claims a CIA official in Yemen finally turned over the material that the FBI had requested months earlier. The CIA’s files included photographs of two of the hijackers who had been living in California. The CIA reportedly became aware of one of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi, a few days after he attended a secret planning meeting of al-Qaeda in Malaysia in January 2000.

Charlie Skelton also published an excellent article on the Guardian news blog, reporting on a symposium of critical thinkers that was also held in New York on the day of the tenth anniversary:

What I heard, from speaker after speaker, was a heartfelt desire to turn away from the path of destruction, militarism and lies that America has been set upon after 9/11. Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, mourned for Iraq: “One million dead, 4m displaced, and that’s a victory?” […]

He drew attention to an extraordinary story, barely touched by the mainstream press, that Richard Clarke, who was the White House counter-terrorism czar at the time of the attacks, has recently accused the CIA of deliberately suppressing information before 9/11, information that might have prevented the attacks. Clarke claimed: “There was a high-level decision in the CIA ordering people not to share information.” And who made this decision? “I would think it would have been made by the director”.

So that would be George Tenet. Director of the CIA from 1997-2004, now a managing director of an investment bank. The former CIA man, McGovern, ends his speech by saying: “Of all the people who should be put in prison, he’d be top of my list.”6

Another speaker at the conference was Wayne Madsen:

History, documentation, facts. A respect for life, and a respect for truth. This is what I heard, over and over again, at this remarkable conference. Wayne Madsen – a former naval officer and NSA operative – spoke of the atmosphere of “hype and fear” that still grips America, 10 years after 9/11. A fear that’s pumped into us, relentlessly, through our flatscreen HD Orwellian “telescreens”.

Madsen called for the release of the commission findings that Ludkowski told me about last night: “Let’s get those documents out of the National Archives!” But he noted that the man whose job it is to decide what gets released, the administrator of the White House office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is one Cass Sunstein. The same Cass Sunstein that in 2008 urged the government to “cognitively infiltrate” alternative groups like the 9/11 Truth Movement. So releasing those documents probably isn’t top of his to-do list.

Skelton summed up as follows:

We have to do something. Even if that something is simply to Google ‘Cass Sunstein’ and start from there. Begin your own cognitive infiltration. Google ‘Vigilant Guardian’ or ‘Able Danger’. Crosscheck ‘Abdel Hakim Belhadj’ and ‘Al-Qaida’. Begin digging. Begin thinking. And stop believing.

Click here to read his full article.

1 Extract from Kean-Hamilton 9/11 commission report, p.334, Section 10.3 entitled “Phase two” and the question of Iraq.

2 “On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared war. Not on foreign terrorists, “the adversary’s closer to home. It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy,” he said. He said money wasted by the military poses a serious threat. “In fact, it could be said it’s a matter of life and death,” he said. Rumsfeld promised change but the next day – Sept. 11– the world changed and in the rush to fund the war on terrorism, the war on waste seems to have been forgotten.

“According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions,” Rumsfeld admitted. $2.3 trillion — that’s $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America.”

extract from “The War On Waste: Defense Department Cannot Account For 25% Of Funds — $2.3 Trillion” CBS News, Los Angeles, Jan. 29, 2002.

3 Extract from “DoD Acuquistion and Logistics Excellence Week Kickoff – Bureaucracy to Battlefield: Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, The Pentagon, Monday, September 10, 2001”. http://www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=430

4 “Like Paul Thompson [author of The Complete 9/11 Timeline], twenty-something filmmakers Ray Nowosielski and John Duffy had been touched by September 11th but never thought much further about it. In the spring of 2003, during their last semester of film school at Columbia College in Chicago, a friend mentioned The Complete 9/11 Timeline in passing. That evening, Duffy and Nowosielski decided to take a look. They found themselves unable to stop reading, scrolling through the web site until being interrupted by sunrise. Though the filmmakers had never had any interest in the genre of documentary, as the months passed, they grew to believe that this was a story the American public needed to hear. By the 2nd anniversary of September 11th, they were seeking the funding for what would eventually become 9/11: Press for Truth.” taken from official website at http://www.911pressfortruth.com/#

5 “Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon’s initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate.

“Suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004, debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, according to several commission sources. Staff members and some commissioners thought that e-mails and other evidence provided enough probable cause to believe that military and aviation officials violated the law by making false statements to Congress and to the commission, hoping to hide the bungled response to the hijackings, these sources said.

“In the end, the panel agreed to a compromise, turning over the allegations to the inspectors general for the Defense and Transportation departments, who can make criminal referrals if they believe they are warranted, officials said.

“‘We to this day don’t know why NORAD [the North American Aerospace Command] told us what they told us,” said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. “It was just so far from the truth. . . . It’s one of those loose ends that never got tied.’”

Extract from an article entitled, “9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon: Allegations Brought to Inspectors General”, written by Dan Eggen, Washington Post Staff Writer, published on Wednesday, August 2, 2006; A03. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/01/AR2006080101300.html?sub=new

6 From an article entitled “How the world changed after 9/11” written by Charlie Skelton and published on the Guardian news blog on September 12, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/sep/12/9-11-symposium-charlie-skelton

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Seymour Hersh says worry about Iraq, not Iran

In his latest article for The New Yorker magazine, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says the United States might attack Iran based on distorted estimates of Iran’s nuclear and military threat—just like it did with Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. He spoke to Democracy Now! on Friday 3rd June:

 “Well, very simply, it’s—you know, you could argue it’s 2003 all over again. Remember WMD, mushroom clouds. There’s just no serious evidence inside that Iran is actually doing anything to make a nuclear weapon. You know, making a weapon is a big deal. You have to have fabrication facilities. You have to convert a very toxic gas into a metal and then mold it into a core. It’s big stuff, and there’s no sign of any of it.” […]

“The Iranians are enriching to about 3.7 or so percent to run civilian power plants. There’s one small pilot project for medical research that gets up to 20 percent. But everything that’s being enriched is under camera, under watch, by the IAEA. There’s just no sign of any diversion. There’s just no evidence. This doesn’t mean we can go to intent. It doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of concern in the United States and appropriate concern about the Iranian intent. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t watch what they do. But it does mean that we’re sort of beating a dead horse here.” […]

“And so, here we have this very bright guy [Obama] continuing insane policies that are counterproductive, do nothing for the United States, and meanwhile the real crisis is going to be about Iraq, because, whatever you’re hearing, Iraq is going bad. Sunnis are killing Shia. It’s sectarian war. And the big question is going to be whether we pull out or not.”

He also gave his assessment of the uprisings in the Arab world, highlighting the Saudi involvement in the brutal oppression of protests in Bahrain and the US government’s tacit approval:

 “[And] what you have now is a very, very—it’s sort of unremarked upon by the press here in America—you have a counterrevolution going on, fueled largely by the Saudis and their panic. You see the implication of that in Bahrain, where the unbelievable things are happening to the Shiites, the minority Shiites there. They may be a majority in terms of population, but certainly a minority in terms of power. And you have that regime brutalizing its people in a way that’s beyond, I would argue, anything going on elsewhere, including in Syria. As bad as it is in Syria, it’s much worse in Bahrain. And the United States, of course, for a lot of reasons, is ignoring that. You have the Gulf states in a state of sort of controlled panic now.” […]

“What’s going on in Bahrain is, I’m telling you, it’s a sensationally underreported story. The brutality there is beyond—it’s shocking. And again, the Saudis are directly involved, sort of with our OK.”

The interview ended with Amy Goodman asking Hersh this final question:

“You made headlines a few years ago when you said President Bush operated an executive assassination ring. Has that policy continued under President Obama?”

In response, Hersh said:

“What I said was that in the early days under Cheney, in the first days after—you know, ’03, ’04, ’05, yes, there was a direct connection between the vice president’s office and individuals getting hit. That got institutionalized later in a more sophisticated way. There’s no question that—look, there’s an enormous military apparatus out there that isn’t seen. That’s what I’m writing about. We’re not seeing it. We don’t know it exists. Cheney built up a world that still exists. And it’s a very ugly, frightening world that has not much to do with what the Constitution calls for.”

Full transcripts of the interview are available on the Democracy Now! website.

Hersh also gave a very candid interview to Russia Today in which he reiterated his concerns that the Obama regime wishes “to punish” Iran in a similar way to how the Bush regime punished Iraq:

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fracking all over the world

Have you ever heard of fracking? If you have, then are you’re probably aware that fracking is a method for natural gas extraction that is already widespread across America, with rigs set up across 32 states . Perhaps you also know that permission has been granted for fracking in parts of Europe and Africa. So are you aware that we may soon see the go-ahead for fracking in England too…?

A few miles inland [from Blackpool Tower] a gawky newcomer in the flat landscape makes a rival gesture towards the skies. It’s a drill rig attempting to usher in an era of its own; an era of cheap and plentiful gas to set the UK’s energy policy alight.

The firm involved, Cuadrilla, promise that their fracking technique is safe. Their CEO, Mark Miller is a veteran gas man from the US. He admits that careless fracking in his homeland has caused problems, but says: “People compare us to the worst operators in North America. Things are different over here because we use practices that are foolproof. We make a bullet-proof well where you can’t get any leakages. It’s called Industry Best Practice. We don’t take any short cuts over here.”

Cuadrilla currently have permission to do test drilling and the Environment Agency confirm that they will need to apply for a full licence if and when the time comes for full scale production.

Environmentalists want a delay in fracking until a major review of the practice by the US Environmental Protection Agency has been carried out — maybe sometime next year. The government believes its own safety regulations are strict enough.

So far, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) appears to be cautiously welcoming the advent of shale gas in the UK.

I met Philip Mitchell, chairman of Blackpool Green Party by the banks of the picturesque River Wyre in this little-visited corner of rural England. “I’m worried about the risks,” he told me.

“Risks to human health; to ground water and drinking water; and to the environment due to the huge amounts of waste this produces and the huge amount of water it consumes. Also I think the impact of drilling rigs on the countryside will be totally unacceptable to the British people. I think this is something we’ll live to regret.”1

Click here to read full article from BBC News.

Fracking, or Hydraulic fracturing, is a method for extracting natural gas from shale. A borehole is drilled and then a cocktail of highly toxic and volatile chemicals, including benzene, toluene and formaldehyde, are added to huge quantities of freshwater, and pumped into the ground.2  Thanks to the “Halliburton Loophole”, the precise make-up of the cocktail used is allowed to be kept as a trade secret:

The industry lobbied the Bush Administration and Congress with its claims that the “fracking fluid” should be considered “proprietary” and exempt from disclosure under federal drinking water protection laws.3 Led by Halliburton and aided by the former CEO of Halliburton, then-Vice President Dick Cheney, the industry obtained this exception in the law along with favorable treatment by political appointees and regulators in the “Environmental Protection Agency.” As a result of the “Halliburton loophole” to the law, drilling companies have not been required to divulge the cocktail of chemicals that are in the fracking fluids used at each of the proposed or continuing drill sites across the country.

Taken from sourcewatch.

So should we be worried? Here are some extracts from a recent article published in The Engineer :

Scientists are warning that plans to use a new method of gas drilling in the UK could contaminate water supplies.

A report released today [17 Jan 2011] from Manchester University’s Tyndall Centre calls for a moratorium on shale gas drilling until further research is done.

Mining company Cuadrilla Resources is preparing to carry out drilling that could involve ‘fracking’ – fracturing rock with water and chemicals to release gas trapped inside – following initial tests at a site near Blackpool, Lancashire.

The Tyndall report warns that horizontal fracking carries risks of contaminating groundwater and surface water with the fracturing chemicals and with methane, as well as putting pressure on water and land resources in the UK.

It adds that there is little publicly available information on these risks or the chemicals used in fracking, but notes that substances stockpiled in the US for the process include toxins and carcinogens such as naphthalene and benzene.4

With fracking rigs now operating across huge stretches of land, there is also the ever-increasing danger of contamination due to blowouts. Here’s a report of an accident that happened only last month:

Chesapeake Energy suspended the use of a controversial natural-gas production technique in Pennsylvania on Thursday as it worked to contain a well blowout that spilled toxic fluid into a local waterway”.

President Barack Obama has made natural gas the cornerstone of his energy policy, in part thanks to the huge reserves unlocked by the use of fracking. Shale gas now accounts 23 percent of U.S. natural gas production, rising from a negligible amount in 2004.

But environmentalists and residents complain that fracking can pollute water supplies, raising calls for increased regulation on natural gas production.

“This is the kind of incident that is likely to shine a spotlight, again, on the fact that despite repeated assurances from industry and regulators in Pennsylvania, things there keep somehow going wrong,” said Kate Sinding, senior attorney for the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council.5

But if you’ve never heard of fracking, then you may still be wondering how anything with such a pointedly stupid name could possibly be worth worrying about. Well, the bigger truth about fracking is so astonishing, so shocking and so absurd that you may need to see it in order to believe it – which is the reason I am recommending a documentary called Gasland. Here is a précis:

When filmmaker Josh Fox received an offer of $100,000 from a gas company to lease his land for drilling in May 2008, he decided to investigate. Setting off across America and speaking with other rural residents about their experiences of fracking, he was soon confronted by toxic streams, dying livestock, neurological diseases, and kitchen sinks that burst into flames.

Fox learns that the process of fracking requires huge fleets of tankers, with between 400 and 600 needed to supply the freshwater alone. He also discovers that the contaminated water returning to the surface, known in the trade as “produced water”, is simply dumped into “flowback pits” and allowed to evaporate, so that the volatile additives are thereby released into the atmosphere as well as the groundwater.

Click here to watch the full documentary Gasland

In the film, Fox also speaks to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whistle-blower Weston Wilson, and environmental scientist Dr. Theo Colborn 6, who is one of the foremost experts on health and environmental effects of the toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Colborn tells him:

“Every environmental law we wrote to protect public health is ignored.”

On April 14th 2010, Colborn also expressed her concerns about fracking on Democracy Now!

Fracking has already caused widespread, long-term and very serious environmental damage by polluting water systems throughout America, and yet many people have still never heard of it. Now, as permission is granted for operations to begin in other countries — including Britain — the devastation it brings is also spreading, poisoning more land and destroying more lives. Sad proof, if any were needed, that corporate irresponsibility knows no bounds when it comes to risking human health and the environment in the pursuit of profit.

1 From BBC News article entitled “UK shale plans target cheap gas” by Roger Harrabin published on April 1st, 2011. www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12922196

2 A breakdown of some of the additives is available from Department of Environmental Conservation for New York State report “Natural Gas Development Activities and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing” www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogdsgeischap5.pdf

3 “Central to that development is the use of fracking fluids. Largely unregulated, they’ve been employed by the energy industry for decades and, with the exception of diesel, can be made up of nearly any set of chemicals. Also, propriety trade laws don’t require energy companies to disclose their ingredients. “It is much like asking Coca-Cola to disclose the formula of Coke,” says Ron Heyden, a Halliburton executive, in recent testimony before the COGCC. Despite its widespread use and somewhat mysterious mix, fracturing fluid was deemed in 2004 by the Environmental Protection Agency as safe for the environment and groundwater.” from “A Toxic Spew? – Officials worry about the impact of ‘fracking’ of oil and gas” published in Newsweek on August 20th 2008. www.newsweek.com/2008/08/19/a-toxic-spew.html

4 Extracts from an article entitled “Evidence from the US prompts calls to stop fracking” by Stephen Harris published in The Engineer on January 17th 2011. www.theengineer.co.uk/news/evidence-from-the-us-prompts-calls-to-stop-fracking/1006915.article

5 Extracts from an article entitled “Driller halts Pennsylvania fracking after blowout” by Edward McAllister for Reuters on Thursday April 21st 2011. uk.reuters.com/article/2011/04/21/us-chesapeake-blowout-idUKTRE73K5OH20110421

6 Theo Colborn is Professor Emeritus of Zoology at the University of Florida. She is also the President of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange.

Her awards include the: Chatham College Rachel Carson Award, Norwegian International Rachel Carson Prize, United Nations Environment Program Women Leadership for the Environment Award, International Blue Planet Prize, Society of Toxicology and Environmental Chemistry Rachel Carson Award, Center for Science in the Public Interest Rachel Carson Award, Beyond Pesticides Dragonfly Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council for Science and the Environment.

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