Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitic?
Jewish Critics Speak

Edward C. Corrigan

Middle East Policy, Vol. XVI, No. 4, Winter 2009

Mr. Corrigan, BA, MA, LL.B., is a lawyer certified as a specialist in Citizenship and Immigration Law and Immigration and Refugee Protection by the Law Society of Upper Canada in London, Ontario. He can be reached at corriganlaw@edcorrigan.ca or at (519) 439-4015.

When individuals, activists or politicians in the United States and Canada criticize human-rights problems in Israel or question the tenets of the political ideology of Zionism, they are attacked, and accusations of bias and even anti-Semitism are made in an attempt to discredit them.
The allegation that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic is used as an effective political weapon. To quote one anti-Zionist Jewish writer:
Criticizing Israel’s mistakes is acceptable. But questioning whether Israel is a Jewish state with a racist
apartheid system that renders non‑Jews second rate citizens — that is not acceptable. It makes little difference
whether the criticism is based on facts. Few people who cannot claim Jewish descent would dare to criticize publicly. They are afraid of being accused
of “anti‑semitism.”2
Joel Beinin in “Silencing Critics Not Way to Middle East Peace,” an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle, discussed the campaign to silence critics

of Israeli policy. Beinin, a professor of history at Stanford University, is active in Jewish Voice for Peace and an editor of Jewish Peace News.3 Here is what he had to say about the campaign to attack critics of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians:
Why discredit, defame and silence those with opposing viewpoints? I believe it is because the Zionist lobby knows it cannot win based on facts. An honest discussion can only lead to one conclusion: The status quo in which Israel declares it alone has rights and intends to impose its will on the weaker Palestinians, stripping them permanently of their land, resources and rights, cannot lead to a lasting peace. We need an open debate and the freedom to discuss uncomfortable facts and explore the full range of policy options.
Only then can we adopt a foreign policy that serves American interests and one that could actually bring a just peace to Palestinians and Israelis.4
In “Why It Is Essential for Jews to Speak Out as Jews, on Israel,” Internet blogger Philip Weiss interviewed long-time Jewish activist Dorothy Zellner. She is now working with “Jews Say No.” As Weiss notes, “A lot of activists would say that this is an American issue; everyone should be engaged. And a lot of left-wingers
would say, religion/ethnicity is a tiresome
traditional category, I don’t want to identify myself in such a manner.” Zellner responds to these arguments and explains why she believes that it is essential to address
the Palestinian issue “as Jews, and speak to other Jews as Jews”:
But the sight of us doing the unthinkable has many benefits: There are a few Jews who are happy and relieved to see us because it opens the door for them. They have felt uneasy about Israeli policies for a long time, and seeing us seems to give them more courage to speak their minds. There are also some gentiles who are happy to see us because they have been afraid for a long time of being called anti‑Semites if they criticize Israel.
Just think what it would mean if a significant number of people in our country started to break through the rigid, unthinking mindset of supporting
Israel right or wrong! And just think what it means if we could have weakened the stranglehold of Israeli policies but chose not to do it!
Because we are Jews, we naturally
have a certain currency in challenging
Israeli policies. We identify with the Jewish people, and we respect Jewish culture. Some of us are former Zionists, and we know that Israel was never an empty land. We’ve been to Israel and Palestine more than once, and we’ve seen the checkpoints and the barbed wire and the guard towers with our own eyes. We’ve been angry and ashamed that this occupation is supposedly being done to protect us. Some of us have relatives in Israel. Some of us are the children of Holo

Speakcaust survivors, and we say that what happened to our murdered relatives in Europe should not be the reason for Palestinian pain.5
Here is what Norman Solomon has to say about anti-Semitism: “As with all forms of bigotry, anti‑Semitism should be condemned. At the same time, these days, America's biggest anti‑Semitism problem has to do with the misuse of the label as a manipulative tactic to short‑circuit debate about Washington's alliance with Israel.”6 He added,
The failure to make a distinction between anti‑Semitism and criticism
of Israel routinely stifles public debate. When convenient, pro‑Israel groups in the United States will concede
that it’s possible to oppose Israeli policies without being anti‑Semitic. Yet many of Israel’s boosters reflexively
pull out the heavy artillery of charging anti‑Semitism when their position is challenged.7
Professor Michael Neumann had the following to say about anti-Semitism:
. . . to inflate the definition by including
critics of Israel is, if not exactly incorrect, self‑defeating and dangerous.
No one can stop you from proclaiming
all criticism of Israel anti‑Semitic.
But that makes anti‑Semites out of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, not to mention tens of thousands of Jews.

For more: See Middle East Policy, Vol. XVI, No. 4, Winter 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Xymphora: Did Berlusconi Fake the Attack?

Once again Xymphora comes through with the information. Nice Going.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Oscar for Berlusconi
The Italians posting videos to YouTube (here and here and here and the one embedded here) make an excellent case that the attack on Berlusconi was faked;
the cameraman meticulously following Berlusconi's every move mysteriously turns away vaguely into the crowd just before the attack;
you can see the swing of the attacker at Berlusconi, which misses him;
Berlusconi immediately puts a black piece of plastic he had been holding in his hand (?) over his face (but in the moment before he does so you can see his face is unmarked);
there is no blood above the plastic at first, but when Berlusconi emerges from his car there is a new smear of blood under his eye;
his bodyguards spend some time obscuring our view while they apply the makeup in the car (and one may have a can of some spray-on substance);
the makeup appears as caked and dried blood, not what you would see as the result of a very recent attack.

The trickery worked - Berlusconi's personal popularity in Italy soared after the attack.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Jeremy Scahill: The Secret US War in Pakistan: Secret also from Congress

    The Secret US War in Pakistan


    November 23, 2009

    At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

    The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

    The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services."

    Blackwater's founder Erik Prince contradicted this statement in a recent interview, telling Vanity Fair that Blackwater works with US Special Forces in identifying targets and planning missions, citing an operation in Syria. The magazine also published a photo of a Blackwater base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

    The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country.

    Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."

    A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source's claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.

    His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater's covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct," adding, "There's no question that's occurring."

    "It wouldn't surprise me because we've outsourced nearly everything," said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater's role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater's involvement with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. "Part of this, of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress has placed on DoD. If you don't have sufficient soldiers to do it, you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it's that simple. It would not surprise me."

    The Counterterrorism Tag Team in Karachi

    The covert JSOC program with Blackwater in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007, according to the military intelligence source. The current head of JSOC is Vice Adm. William McRaven, who took over the post from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008 before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater's presence in Pakistan is "not really visible, and that's why nobody has cracked down on it," said the source. Blackwater's operations in Pakistan, he said, are not done through State Department contracts or publicly identified Defense contracts. "It's Blackwater via JSOC, and it's a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis." The main JSOC/Blackwater facility in Karachi, according to the source, is nondescript: three trailers with various generators, satellite phones and computer systems are used as a makeshift operations center. "It's a very rudimentary operation," says the source. "I would compare it to [CIA] outposts in Kurdistan or any of the Special Forces outposts. It's very bare bones, and that's the point."

    Blackwater's work for JSOC in Karachi is coordinated out of a Task Force based at Bagram Air Base in neighboring Afghanistan, according to the military intelligence source. While JSOC technically runs the operations in Karachi, he said, it is largely staffed by former US special operations soldiers working for a division of Blackwater, once known as Blackwater SELECT, and intelligence analysts working for a Blackwater affiliate, Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which is owned by Erik Prince. The military source said that the name Blackwater SELECT may have been changed recently. Total Intelligence, which is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia, is staffed by former analysts and operatives from the CIA, DIA, FBI and other agencies. It is modeled after the CIA's counterterrorism center. In Karachi, TIS runs a "media-scouring/open-source network," according to the source. Until recently, Total Intelligence was run by two former top CIA officials, Cofer Black and Robert Richer, both of whom have left the company. In Pakistan, Blackwater is not using either its original name or its new moniker, Xe Services, according to the former Blackwater executive. "They are running most of their work through TIS because the other two [names] have such a stain on them," he said. Corallo, the Blackwater spokesperson, denied that TIS or any other division or affiliate of Blackwater has any personnel in Pakistan.

    The US military intelligence source said that Blackwater's classified contracts keep getting renewed at the request of JSOC. Blackwater, he said, is already so deeply entrenched that it has become a staple of the US military operations in Pakistan. According to the former Blackwater executive, "The politics that go with the brand of BW is somewhat set aside because what you're doing is really one military guy to another." Blackwater's first known contract with the CIA for operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

    One of the concerns raised by the military intelligence source is that some Blackwater personnel are being given rolling security clearances above their approved clearances. Using Alternative Compartmentalized Control Measures (ACCMs), he said, the Blackwater personnel are granted clearance to a Special Access Program, the bureaucratic term used to describe highly classified "black" operations. "With an ACCM, the security manager can grant access to you to be exposed to and operate within compartmentalized programs far above 'secret'--even though you have no business doing so," said the source. It allows Blackwater personnel that "do not have the requisite security clearance or do not hold a security clearance whatsoever to participate in classified operations by virtue of trust," he added. "Think of it as an ultra-exclusive level above top secret. That's exactly what it is: a circle of love." Blackwater, therefore, has access to "all source" reports that are culled in part from JSOC units in the field. "That's how a lot of things over the years have been conducted with contractors," said the source. "We have contractors that regularly see things that top policy-makers don't unless they ask."

    According to the source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself as a company whose operatives have "conducted lethal direct action missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell. JSOC just ate that up," he said, adding, "They have a sizable force in Pakistan--not for any nefarious purpose if you really want to look at it that way--but to support a legitimate contract that's classified for JSOC." Blackwater's Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said. The source is not sure when the arrangement with JSOC began, but he says that a spin-off of Blackwater SELECT "was issued a no-bid contract for support to shooters for a JSOC Task Force and they kept extending it." Some of the Blackwater personnel, he said, work undercover as aid workers. "Nobody even gives them a second thought."

    The military intelligence source said that the Blackwater/JSOC Karachi operation is referred to as "Qatar cubed," in reference to the US forward operating base in Qatar that served as the hub for the planning and implementation of the US invasion of Iraq. "This is supposed to be the brave new world," he says. "This is the Jamestown of the new millennium and it's meant to be a lily pad. You can jump off to Uzbekistan, you can jump back over the border, you can jump sideways, you can jump northwest. It's strategically located so that they can get their people wherever they have to without having to wrangle with the military chain of command in Afghanistan, which is convoluted. They don't have to deal with that because they're operating under a classified mandate."

    In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to the military intelligence source. Blackwater does not actually carry out the operations, he said, which are executed on the ground by JSOC forces. "That piqued my curiosity and really worries me because I don't know if you noticed but I was never told we are at war with Uzbekistan," he said. "So, did I miss something, did Rumsfeld come back into power?"

    Pakistan's Military Contracting Maze

    Blackwater, according to the military intelligence source, is not doing the actual killing as part of its work in Pakistan. "The SELECT personnel are not going into places with private aircraft and going after targets," he said. "It's not like Blackwater SELECT people are running around assassinating people." Instead, US Special Forces teams carry out the plans developed in part by Blackwater. The military intelligence source drew a distinction between the Blackwater operatives who work for the State Department, which he calls "Blackwater Vanilla," and the seasoned Special Forces veterans who work on the JSOC program. "Good or bad, there's a small number of people who know how to pull off an operation like that. That's probably a good thing," said the source. "It's the Blackwater SELECT people that have and continue to plan these types of operations because they're the only people that know how and they went where the money was. It's not trigger-happy fucks, like some of the PSD [Personal Security Detail] guys. These are not people that believe that Barack Obama is a socialist, these are not people that kill innocent civilians. They're very good at what they do."

    The former Blackwater executive, when asked for confirmation that Blackwater forces were not actively killing people in Pakistan, said, "that's not entirely accurate." While he concurred with the military intelligence source's description of the JSOC and CIA programs, he pointed to another role Blackwater is allegedly playing in Pakistan, not for the US government but for Islamabad. According to the executive, Blackwater works on a subcontract for Kestral Logistics, a powerful Pakistani firm, which specializes in military logistical support, private security and intelligence consulting. It is staffed with former high-ranking Pakistani army and government officials. While Kestral's main offices are in Pakistan, it also has branches in several other countries.

    A spokesperson for the US State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), which is responsible for issuing licenses to US corporations to provide defense-related services to foreign governments or entities, would neither confirm nor deny for The Nationthat Blackwater has a license to work in Pakistan or to work with Kestral. "We cannot help you," said department spokesperson David McKeeby after checking with the relevant DDTC officials. "You'll have to contact the companies directly." Blackwater's Corallo said the company has "no operations of any kind" in Pakistan other than the one employee working for the DoD. Kestral did not respond to inquiries from The Nation.

    According to federal lobbying records, Kestral recently hired former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, who served in that post from 2003 to 2005, to lobby the US government, including the State Department, USAID and Congress, on foreign affairs issues "regarding [Kestral's] capabilities to carry out activities of interest to the United States." Noriega was hired through his firm, Vision Americas, which he runs with Christina Rocca, a former CIA operations official who served as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 2001 to 2006 and was deeply involved in shaping US policy toward Pakistan. In October 2009, Kestral paid Vision Americas $15,000 and paid a Vision Americas-affiliated firm, Firecreek Ltd., an equal amount to lobby on defense and foreign policy issues.

    For years, Kestral has done a robust business in defense logistics with the Pakistani government and other nations, as well as top US defense companies. Blackwater owner Erik Prince is close with Kestral CEO Liaquat Ali Baig, according to the former Blackwater executive. "Ali and Erik have a pretty close relationship," he said. "They've met many times and struck a deal, and they [offer] mutual support for one another." Working with Kestral, he said, Blackwater has provided convoy security for Defense Department shipments destined for Afghanistan that would arrive in the port at Karachi. Blackwater, according to the former executive, would guard the supplies as they were transported overland from Karachi to Peshawar and then west through the Torkham border crossing, the most important supply route for the US military in Afghanistan.

    According to the former executive, Blackwater operatives also integrate with Kestral's forces in sensitive counterterrorism operations in the North-West Frontier Province, where they work in conjunction with the Pakistani Interior Ministry's paramilitary force, known as the Frontier Corps (alternately referred to as "frontier scouts"). The Blackwater personnel are technically advisers, but the former executive said that the line often gets blurred in the field. Blackwater "is providing the actual guidance on how to do [counterterrorism operations] and Kestral's folks are carrying a lot of them out, but they're having the guidance and the overwatch from some BW guys that will actually go out with the teams when they're executing the job," he said. "You can see how that can lead to other things in the border areas." He said that when Blackwater personnel are out with the Pakistani teams, sometimes its men engage in operations against suspected terrorists. "You've got BW guys that are assisting... and they're all going to want to go on the jobs--so they're going to go with them," he said. "So, the things that you're seeing in the news about how this Pakistani military group came in and raided this house or did this or did that--in some of those cases, you're going to have Western folks that are right there at the house, if not in the house." Blackwater, he said, is paid by the Pakistani government through Kestral for consulting services. "That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say, 'Hey, no, we don't have any Westerners doing this. It's all local and our people are doing it.' But it gets them the expertise that Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work."

    The military intelligence source confirmed Blackwater works with the Frontier Corps, saying, "There's no real oversight. It's not really on people's radar screen."

    In October, in response to Pakistani news reports that a Kestral warehouse in Islamabad was being used to store heavy weapons for Blackwater, the US Embassy in Pakistan released a statement denying the weapons were being used by "a private American security contractor." The statement said, "Kestral Logistics is a private logistics company that handles the importation of equipment and supplies provided by the United States to the Government of Pakistan. All of the equipment and supplies were imported at the request of the Government of Pakistan, which also certified the shipments."

    Who is Behind the Drone Attacks?

    Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the United States has expanded drone bombing raids in Pakistan. Obama first ordered a drone strike against targets in North and South Waziristan on January 23, and the strikes have been conducted consistently ever since. The Obama administration has now surpassed the number of Bush-era strikes in Pakistan and has faced fierce criticism from Pakistan and some US lawmakers over civilian deaths. A drone attack in June killed as many as sixty people attending a Taliban funeral.

    In August, the New York Times reported that Blackwater works for the CIA at "hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company's contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft." In February, The Times of London obtained a satellite image of a secret CIA airbase in Shamsi, in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan, showing three drone aircraft. The New York Times also reported that the agency uses a secret base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to strike in Pakistan.

    The military intelligence source says that the drone strike that reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, his wife and his bodyguards in Waziristan in August was a CIA strike, but that many others attributed in media reports to the CIA are actually JSOC strikes. "Some of these strikes are attributed to OGA [Other Government Agency, intelligence parlance for the CIA], but in reality it's JSOC and their parallel program of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] because they also have access to UAVs. So when you see some of these hits, especially the ones with high civilian casualties, those are almost always JSOC strikes." The Pentagon has stated bluntly, "There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan."

    The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC's drone bombings as well. "It's Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC," said the source. When civilians are killed, "people go, 'Oh, it's the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.' Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that's JSOC [hitting] somebody they've identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they've culled the intelligence themselves or it's been shared with them and they take that person out and that's how it works."

    The military intelligence source says that the CIA operations are subject to Congressional oversight, unlike the parallel JSOC bombings. "Targeted killings are not the most popular thing in town right now and the CIA knows that," he says. "Contractors and especially JSOC personnel working under a classified mandate are not [overseen by Congress], so they just don't care. If there's one person they're going after and there's thirty-four people in the building, thirty-five people are going to die. That's the mentality." He added, "They're not accountable to anybody and they know that. It's an open secret, but what are you going to do, shut down JSOC?"

    In addition to working on covert action planning and drone strikes, Blackwater SELECT also provides private guards to perform the sensitive task of security for secret US drone bases, JSOC camps and Defense Intelligence Agency camps inside Pakistan, according to the military intelligence source.

    Mosharraf Zaidi, a well-known Pakistani journalist who has served as a consultant for the UN and European Union in Pakistan and Afghanistan, says that the Blackwater/JSOC program raises serious questions about the norms of international relations. "The immediate question is, How do you define the active pursuit of military objectives in a country with which not only have you not declared war but that is supposedly a front-line non-NATO ally in the US struggle to contain extremist violence coming out of Afghanistan and the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan?" asks Zaidi, who is currently a columnist for The News, the biggest English-language daily in Pakistan. "Let's forget Blackwater for a second. What this is confirming is that there are US military operations in Pakistan that aren't about logistics or getting food to Bagram; that are actually about the exercise of physical violence, physical force inside of Pakistani territory."

    JSOC: Rumsfeld and Cheney's Extra Special Force

    Colonel Wilkerson said that he is concerned that with General McChrystal's elevation as the military commander of the Afghan war--which is increasingly seeping into Pakistan--there is a concomitant rise in JSOC's power and influence within the military structure. "I don't see how you can escape that; it's just a matter of the way the authority flows and the power flows, and it's inevitable, I think," Wilkerson toldThe Nation. He added, "I'm alarmed when I see execute orders and combat orders that go out saying that the supporting force is Central Command and the supported force is Special Operations Command," under which JSOC operates. "That's backward. But that's essentially what we have today."

    From 2003 to 2008 McChrystal headed JSOC, which is headquartered at Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Blackwater's 7,000-acre operating base is also situated. JSOC controls the Army's Delta Force, the Navy's SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron. JSOC performs strike operations, reconnaissance in denied areas and special intelligence missions. Blackwater, which was founded by former Navy SEALs, employs scores of veteran Special Forces operators--which several former military officials pointed to as the basis for Blackwater's alleged contracts with JSOC.

    Since 9/11, many top-level Special Forces veterans have taken up employment with private firms, where they can make more money doing the highly specialized work they did in uniform. "The Blackwater individuals have the experience. A lot of these individuals are retired military, and they've been around twenty to thirty years and have experience that the younger Green Beret guys don't," said retired Army Lieut. Col. Jeffrey Addicott, a well-connected military lawyer who served as senior legal counsel for US Army Special Forces. "They're known entities. Everybody knows who they are, what their capabilities are, and they've got the experience. They're very valuable."

    "They make much more money being the smarts of these operations, planning hits in various countries and basing it off their experience in Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Ethiopia," said the military intelligence source. "They were there for all of these things, they know what the hell they're talking about. And JSOC has unfortunately lost the institutional capability to plan within, so they hire back people that used to work for them and had already planned and executed these [types of] operations. They hired back people that jumped over to Blackwater SELECT and then pay them exorbitant amounts of money to plan future operations. It's a ridiculous revolving door."

    While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain of command and in direct coordination with the White House. Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran JSOC. "What I was seeing was the development of what I would later see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Special Operations forces would operate in both theaters without the conventional commander even knowing what they were doing," said Colonel Wilkerson. "That's dangerous, that's very dangerous. You have all kinds of mess when you don't tell the theater commander what you're doing."

    Wilkerson said that almost immediately after assuming his role at the State Department under Colin Powell, he saw JSOC being politicized and developing a close relationship with the executive branch. He saw this begin, he said, after his first Delta Force briefing at Fort Bragg. "I think Cheney and Rumsfeld went directly into JSOC. I think they went into JSOC at times, perhaps most frequently, without the SOCOM [Special Operations] commander at the time even knowing it. The receptivity in JSOC was quite good," says Wilkerson. "I think Cheney was actually giving McChrystal instructions, and McChrystal was asking him for instructions." He said the relationship between JSOC and Cheney and Rumsfeld "built up initially because Rumsfeld didn't get the responsiveness. He didn't get the can-do kind of attitude out of the SOCOM commander, and so as Rumsfeld was wont to do, he cut him out and went straight to the horse's mouth. At that point you had JSOC operating as an extension of the [administration] doing things the executive branch--read: Cheney and Rumsfeld--wanted it to do. This would be more or less carte blanche. You need to do it, do it. It was very alarming for me as a conventional soldier."

    Wilkerson said the JSOC teams caused diplomatic problems for the United States across the globe. "When these teams started hitting capital cities and other places all around the world, [Rumsfeld] didn't tell the State Department either. The only way we found out about it is our ambassadors started to call us and say, 'Who the hell are these six-foot-four white males with eighteen-inch biceps walking around our capital cities?' So we discovered this, we discovered one in South America, for example, because he actually murdered a taxi driver, and we had to get him out of there real quick. We rendered him--we rendered him home."

    As part of their strategy, Rumsfeld and Cheney also created the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), which pulled intelligence resources from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA for use in sensitive JSOC operations. The SSB was created using "reprogrammed" funds "without explicit congressional authority or appropriation," according to the Washington Post. The SSB operated outside the military chain of command and circumvented the CIA's authority on clandestine operations. Rumsfeld created it as part of his war to end "near total dependence on CIA." Under US law, the Defense Department is required to report all deployment orders to Congress. But guidelines issued in January 2005 by former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone stated that Special Operations forces may "conduct clandestine HUMINT operations...before publication" of a deployment order. This effectively gave Rumsfeld unilateral control over clandestine operations.

    The military intelligence source said that when Rumsfeld was defense secretary, JSOC was deployed to commit some of the "darkest acts" in part to keep them concealed from Congress. "Everything can be justified as a military operation versus a clandestine intelligence performed by the CIA, which has to be informed to Congress," said the source. "They were aware of that and they knew that, and they would exploit it at every turn and they took full advantage of it. They knew they could act extra-legally and nothing would happen because A, it was sanctioned by DoD at the highest levels, and B, who was going to stop them? They were preparing the battlefield, which was on all of the PowerPoints: 'Preparing the Battlefield.'"

    The significance of the flexibility of JSOC's operations inside Pakistan versus the CIA's is best summed up by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Every single intelligence operation and covert action must be briefed to the Congress," she said. "If they are not, that is a violation of the law."

    Blackwater: Company Non Grata in Pakistan

    For months, the Pakistani media has been flooded with stories about Blackwater's alleged growing presence in the country. For the most part, these stories have been ignored by the US press and denounced as lies or propaganda by US officials in Pakistan. But the reality is that, although many of the stories appear to be wildly exaggerated, Pakistanis have good reason to be concerned about Blackwater's operations in their country. It is no secret in Washington or Islamabad that Blackwater has been a central part of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that the company has been involved--almost from the beginning of the "war on terror"--with clandestine US operations. Indeed, Blackwater is accepting applications for contractors fluent in Urdu and Punjabi. The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, has denied Blackwater's presence in the country, stating bluntly in September, "Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan." In her trip to Pakistan in October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dodged questions from the Pakistani press about Blackwater's rumored Pakistani operations. Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, said on November 21 he will resign if Blackwater is found operating anywhere in Pakistan.

    The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Blackwater "provides security for a US-backed aid project" in Peshawar, suggesting the company may be based out of the Pearl Continental, a luxury hotel the United States reportedly is considering purchasing to use as a consulate in the city. "We have no contracts in Pakistan," Blackwater spokesperson Stacey DeLuke said recently. "We've been blamed for all that has gone wrong in Peshawar, none of which is true, since we have absolutely no presence there."

    Reports of Blackwater's alleged presence in Karachi and elsewhere in the country have been floating around the Pakistani press for months. Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist who rose to fame after his 1997 interview with Osama bin Laden, claimed in a recent interview that Blackwater is in Karachi. "The US [intelligence] agencies think that a number of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are hiding in Karachi and Peshawar," he said. "That is why [Blackwater] agents are operating in these two cities." Ambassador Patterson has said that the claims of Mir and other Pakistani journalists are "wildly incorrect," saying they had compromised the security of US personnel in Pakistan. On November 20 the Washington Times, citing three current and former US intelligence officials, reported that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, has "found refuge from potential U.S. attacks" in Karachi "with the assistance of Pakistan's intelligence service."

    In September, the Pakistani press covered a report on Blackwater allegedly submitted by Pakistan's intelligence agencies to the federal interior ministry. In the report, the intelligence agencies reportedly allege that Blackwater was provided houses by a federal minister who is also helping them clear shipments of weapons and vehicles through Karachi's Port Qasim on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The military intelligence source did not confirm this but did say, "The port jives because they have a lot of [former] SEALs and they would revert to what they know: the ocean, instead of flying stuff in."

    The Nation cannot independently confirm these allegations and has not seen the Pakistani intelligence report. But according to Pakistani press coverage, the intelligence report also said Blackwater has acquired "bungalows" in the Defense Housing Authority in the city. According to the DHA website, it is a large residential estate originally established "for the welfare of the serving and retired officers of the Armed Forces of Pakistan." Its motto is: "Home for Defenders." The report alleges Blackwater is receiving help from local government officials in Karachi and is using vehicles with license plates traditionally assigned to members of the national and provincial assemblies, meaning local law enforcement will not stop them.

    The use of private companies like Blackwater for sensitive operations such as drone strikes or other covert work undoubtedly comes with the benefit of plausible deniability that places an additional barrier in an already deeply flawed system of accountability. When things go wrong, it's the contractors' fault, not the government's. But the widespread use of contractors also raises serious legal questions, particularly when they are a part of lethal, covert actions. "We are using contractors for things that in the past might have been considered to be a violation of the Geneva Convention," said Lt. Col. Addicott, who now runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. "In my opinion, we have pressed the envelope to the breaking limit, and it's almost a fiction that these guys are not in offensive military operations." Addicott added, "If we were subjected to the International Criminal Court, some of these guys could easily be picked up, charged with war crimes and put on trial. That's one of the reasons we're not members of the International Criminal Court."

    If there is one quality that has defined Blackwater over the past decade, it is the ability to survive against the odds while simultaneously reinventing and rebranding itself. That is most evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the US military, the CIA and the State Department despite intense criticism and almost weekly scandals. Blackwater's alleged Pakistan operations, said the military intelligence source, are indicative of its new frontier. "Having learned its lessons after the private security contracting fiasco in Iraq, Blackwater has shifted its operational focus to two venues: protecting things that are in danger and anticipating other places we're going to go as a nation that are dangerous," he said. "It's as simple as that."

    About Jeremy Scahill

    Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, published by Nation Books. He is an award-winning investigative journalist and correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!. more...

    Friday, December 18, 2009

    Mort Zukerman Defends Massacre in Gaza: Letter to the NY Daily News

    New York Daily News:
    December 17, 2009
    Letter to the Editor:

    To the Editor

    Thank you for your editorial “Sneak Attack on Israel” (12.16.09) ; You object to the recent British threat to arrest former Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for human rights violations. You write that Israel merely used “necessary force to disarm Hamas terrorists.” But the highly regarded Goldstone report found that Israel used “disproportionate force to punish, humiliate and terrorize“ the civilian population as they killed more than 1400 Palestinians and wounded perhaps thousands in their Dec-Jan 2009 attack -–more properly termed a massacre -- on the helpless people of Gaza.

    The Goldstone report also accused Israel of successfully targeting a wide range of Gaza’s infrastructure, including mosques, schools and universities, bakeries, chicken farms, factories, and many hundreds of homes, forcing thousands of people into the street.

    I gather you also support the Obama administration’s apparent disinterest in pressing Israel to allow Gazans to import concrete and other materials to rebuild their destroyed territory.


    Ronald Bleier

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Webster Tarpley: Obama Declares War on Pakistan (after Bush declared war on Afganistan which Obama continues

    Note: I'm sort of half a fan of Webster Tarpley. He comes up with more than his fair share of howlers. But this article is far and away the best I've read or heard about  what the US is doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I've believed for some time that it was the Bush-Cheney plan to destabilize Pakistan and do something crazy about its nukes, but this article gives valuable details. --Ronald Bleier

    Obama Declares War On Pakistan

    Webster G. Tarpley
    December 14, 2009


    Obama declared all-out war on Pakistan during his December 1, 2009,
    West Point speech.

    Obama's West Point speech of December 1 represents far more than the obvious
    brutal escalation in Afghanistan - it is nothing less than a declaration of
    all-out war by the United States against Pakistan. This is a brand-new war,
    a much wider war now targeting Pakistan, a country of 160 million people
    armed with nuclear weapons. In the process, Afghanistan is scheduled to be
    broken up. This is no longer the Bush Cheney Afghan war we have known in the
    past. This is something immensely bigger: the attempt to destroy the
    Pakistani central government in Islamabad and to sink that country into a
    chaos of civil war, Balkanization, subdivision and general mayhem. The
    chosen strategy is to massively export the Afghan civil war into Pakistan
    and beyond, fracturing Pakistan along ethnic lines. It is an oblique war
    using fourth-generation or guerrilla warfare techniques to assail a country
    which the United States and its associates in aggression are far too weak to
    attack directly. In this war, the Taliban are employed as US proxies. This
    aggression against Pakistan is Obama's attempt to wage the Great Game
    against the hub of Central Asia and Eurasia or more generally.


    The ongoing civil war in Afghanistan is merely a pretext, a cover story
    designed to provide the United States with a springboard for a geopolitical
    destabilization campaign in the entire region which cannot be publicly
    avowed. In the blunt cynical world of imperialist aggression à la Bush and
    Cheney, a pretext might have been manufactured to attack Pakistan directly.
    But Pakistan is far too large and the United States is far too weak and too
    bankrupt for such an undertaking. In addition, Pakistan is a nuclear power,
    possessing atomic bombs and medium range missiles needed to deliver them.
    What we are seeing is a novel case of nuclear deterrence in action. The US
    cannot send an invasion fleet or set up airbases nearby because Pakistani
    nuclear weapons might destroy them. To this extent, the efforts of Ali
    Bhutto and A.Q. Khan to provide Pakistan a deterrent capability have been
    vindicated. But the US answer is to find ways to attack Pakistan below the
    nuclear threshold, and even below the conventional threshold. This is where
    the tactic of exporting the Afghan civil war to Pakistan comes in.

    The architect of the new Pakistani civil war is US Special Forces General
    Stanley McChrystal, who organized the infamous network of US torture
    chambers in Iraq. McChrystal's specific credential for the Pakistani civil
    war is his role in unleashing the Iraqi civil war of Sunnis versus Shiites
    by creating "al Qaeda in Iraq" under the infamous and now departed double
    agent Zarkawi. If Iraqi society as a whole had lined up against the US
    invaders, the occupiers would have soon been driven out. The counter-gang
    known as "Al Qaeda in Iraq" avoided that possibility by killing Shiites, and
    thus calling forth massive retaliation in the form of a civil war. These
    tactics are drawn from the work of British General Frank Kitson, who wrote
    about them in his book Low Intensity Warfare. If the United States possesses
    a modern analog to Heinrich Himmler of the SS, it is surely General
    McChrystal, Obama's hand-picked choice. McChrystal's superior, Gen Petraeus,
    wants to be the new Field Marshal von Hindenburg - in other words, he wants
    to be the next US president.

    The vulnerability of Pakistan which the US and its NATO associates are
    seeking to exploit can best be understood using a map of the prevalent
    ethnic groups of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and India. Most maps show only
    political borders which date back to the time of British imperialism, and
    therefore fail to reflect the principal ethnic groups of the region. For the
    purposes of this analysis, we must start by recognizing a number of groups.
    First is the Pashtun people, located mainly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    Then we have the Baluchis, located primarily in Pakistan and Iran. The
    Punjabis inhabit Pakistan, as do the Sindhis. The Bhutto family came from


    The US and NATO strategy begins with the Pashtuns, the ethnic group from
    which the so-called Taliban are largely drawn. The Pashtuns represent a
    substantial portion of the population of Afghanistan, but here they are
    alienated from the central government under President Karzai in Kabul, even
    though the US puppet Karzai passes for a Pashtun himself. The issue involves
    the Afghan National Army, which was created by the United States after the
    2001 invasion. The Afghan officer corps are largely Tajiks drawn from the
    Northern Alliance that allied with the United States against the Pashtun
    Talibans. The Tajiks speak Dari, sometimes known as eastern Persian. Other
    Afghan officers come from the Hazara people. The important thing is that the
    Pashtuns feel shut out.

    The US strategy can best be understood as a deliberate effort at
    persecuting, harassing, antagonizing, strafing, repressing, and murdering
    the Pashtuns. The additional 40,000 US and NATO forces which Obama demands
    for Afghanistan will concentrate in Helmand province and other areas where
    the Pashtuns are in the majority. The net effect will be to increase the
    rebellion of the fiercely independent Pashtuns against Kabul and the foreign
    occupation, and at the same time to push many of these newly radicalized
    mujaheddin fighters across the border into Pakistan, where they can wage war
    against the central government in Islamabad. US aid will flow directly to
    war lords and drug lords, increasing the centrifugal tendencies.

    On the Pakistani side, the Pashtuns are also alienated from the central
    government. Islamabad and the army are seen by them as too much the
    creatures of the Punjabis, with some input from the Sindhis. On the
    Pakistani side of the Pashtun territory, US operations include wholesale
    assassinations from unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, murders by CIA and
    reportedly Blackwater snipers, plus blind terrorist massacres like the
    recent ones in Peshawar which the Pakistani Taliban are blaming on
    Blackwater, acting as a subcontractor of the CIA. These actions are
    intolerable and humiliating for a proud sovereign state. Every time the
    Pashtuns are clobbered, they blame the Punjabis in Islamabad for the dirty
    deals with the US that allow this to happen. The most immediate goal of
    Obama's Afghan-Pakistan escalation is therefore to promote a general
    secessionist uprising of the entire Pashtun people under Taliban auspices,
    which would already have the effect of destroying the national unity of both
    Kabul and Islamabad.


    The other ethnic group which the Obama strategy seeks to goad into
    insurrection and secession is the Baluchis. The Baluchis have their own
    grievances against the Iranian central government in Tehran, which they see
    as being dominated by Persians. An integral part of the new Obama policy is
    to expand the deadly flights of the CIA Predators and other assassination
    drones into Baluchistan. One pretext for this is the report, peddled for
    example by Michael Ware of CNN, that Osama bin Laden and his MI-6 sidekick
    Zawahiri are both holed up in the Baluchi city of Quetta, where they operate
    as the kingpins of the so-called "Quetta Shura." Blackwater teams cannot be
    far behind. In Iranian Baluchistan, the CIA is funding the murderous
    Jundullah organization, which was recently denounced by Teheran for the
    murder of a number of top officials of the Iranian Pasdaran Revolutionary
    guards. The rebellion of Baluchistan would smash the national unity of both
    Pakistan and Iran, thus helping to destroy two of the leading targets of US


    Even Chris Matthews of MSNBC, normally a devoted acolyte of Obama, pointed
    out that the US strategy as announced at West Point very much resembles a
    Rube Goldberg contraption. (In the real world, "al Qaeda" is of course the
    CIA's own Arab and terrorist legion.) In the world of official US myth, the
    enemy is supposed to be "Al Qaeda." But, even according to the US
    government, there are precious few "Al Qaeda" fighters left in Afghanistan.
    Why then, asked Matthews, concentrate US forces in Afghanistan where "Al
    Qaeda" is not, rather than in Pakistan where "Al Qaeda" is now alleged to

    One elected official who has criticized this incongruous mismatch is
    Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who said in a television
    interview that 'Pakistan, in the border region near Afghanistan, is perhaps
    the epicenter [of global terrorism], although al Qaida is operating all over
    the world, in Yemen, in Somalia, in northern Africa, affiliates in Southeast
    Asia. Why would we build up 100,000 or more troops in parts of Afghanistan
    included that are not even near the border? You know, this buildup is in
    Helmand Province. That's not next door to Waziristan. So I'm wondering, what
    exactly is this strategy, given the fact that we have seen that there is a
    minimal presence of Al Qaida in Afghanistan, but a significant presence in
    Pakistan? It just defies common sense that a huge boots on the ground
    presence in a place where these people are not is the right strategy. It
    doesn't make any sense to me.' Indeed. 'The Wisconsin Democrat also warned
    that U.S. policy in Afghanistan could actually push terrorists and
    extremists into Pakistan and, as a consequence, further destabilize the
    region: "You know, I asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
    Admiral Mullen, and Mr. Holbrooke, our envoy over there, a while ago, you
    know, is there a risk that if we build up troops in Afghanistan, that will
    push more extremists into Pakistan?" he told ABC. "They couldn't deny it,
    and this week, Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan specifically said that his
    concern about the buildup is that it will drive more extremists into
    Pakistan, so I think it's just the opposite, that this boots-on-the-ground
    approach alienates the Afghan population and specifically encourages the
    Taliban to further coalesce with Al Qaida, which is the complete opposite of
    our national security interest."'1 Of course, this is all intentional and
    motivated by US imperialist raison d'état. .


    Obama's speech did everything possible to blur the distinction between
    Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are after all two sovereign states and both
    members of the United Nations in their own right. Ibrahim Sajid Malick, US
    correspondent for Samaa TV, one of the largest Pakistan television networks,
    called attention to this ploy: 'Speaking to a hall full of cadets at the US
    Military Academy of West Point, President Barack Obama almost seemed like he
    might be declaring war on Pakistan. Every time he mentioned Afghanistan,
    Pakistan preceded mention.. Sitting at the back benches of the hall at one
    point I almost jumped out of my chair when he said: "the stakes are even
    higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and
    other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe
    that they would use them." I was shocked because a succession of American
    officials recently confirmed that the Pakistani arsenal is secure.'2 This
    article is entitled "Did Obama Declare War On Pakistan?", and we can chalk
    the question mark up to diplomatic discretion. During congressional hearings
    involving General McChrystal and US Ambassador Eikenberry, Afghanistan and
    Pakistan were simply fused into one sinister entity known as "Afpak" or even

    a.. A d v e r t i s e m e n t
    In the summer of 2007, Obama, coached by Zbigniew Brzezinski and other
    controllers, was the originator of the unilateral US policy of using
    Predator drones for political assassinations inside Pakistan. This
    assassination policy is now being massively escalated along with the troop
    strength: "Two weeks ago in Pakistan, Central Intelligence Agency
    sharpshooters killed eight people suspected of being militants of the
    Taliban and Al Qaeda, and wounded two others in a compound that was said to
    be used for terrorist training.. The White House has authorized an expansion
    of the C.I.A.'s drone program in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, officials
    said this week, to parallel the president's decision.to send 30,000 more
    troops to Afghanistan. American officials are talking with Pakistan about
    the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time - a
    controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas - because that is
    where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to hide."3 The US is now training
    more Predator operators than combat pilots.


    The CIA, the Pentagon, and their various contractors among the private
    military firms are now on a murder spree across Pakistan, attacking peaceful
    villages and wedding parties, among other targets. Blackwater, now calling
    itself Xe Services and Total Intelligence Solutions, is heavily involved:
    'At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations
    Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite
    division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they
    plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives,
    "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside
    and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The
    Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct
    a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the
    well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source
    within the US military intelligence apparatus.' 4

    As shocking as Scahill's report is, it must nevertheless be viewed as a
    limited hangout, since there is no mention of the persistent charges that a
    large part of the deadly bombings in Peshawar and other Pakistani cities are
    being carried out by Blackwater, as this news item suggests: "ISLAMABAD Oct.
    29 (Xinhua) - Chief of Taliban movement in Pakistan Hakimullah Mehsud has
    blamed the controversial American private firm Blackwater for the bomb blast
    in Peshawar which killed 108 people, local news agency NNI reported
    Thursday."5 This was blind terrorism designed for maximum slaughter,
    especially among women and children.


    Scahill's report also suggests that US black ops have reached into
    Uzbekistan, a post-Soviet country of 25 million which borders Afghanistan to
    the north: 'In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against
    suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA,
    the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside
    Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to the
    military intelligence source. Blackwater does not actually carry out the
    operations, he said, which are executed on the ground by JSOC forces. "That
    piqued my curiosity and really worries me because I don't know if you
    noticed but I was never told we are at war with Uzbekistan," he said. "So,
    did I miss something, did Rumsfeld come back into power?"' 6 Such are the
    ways of hope and change.

    The role of US intelligence in fomenting the Baluchistan rebellion for the
    purpose of breaking Pakistan apart is also confirmed by Professor
    Chossudovsky: 'Already in 2005, a report by the US National Intelligence
    Council and the CIA forecast a "Yugoslav-like fate" for Pakistan "in a
    decade with the country riven by civil war, bloodshed and inter-provincial
    rivalries, as seen recently in Baluchistan." (Energy Compass, 2 March 2005).
    According to the NIC-CIA, Pakistan is slated to become a "failed state" by
    2015, "as it would be affected by civil war, complete Talibanization and
    struggle for control of its nuclear weapons". (Quoted by former Pakistan
    High Commissioner to UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Times of India, 13 February
    2005).. Washington favors the creation of a "Greater Baluchistan" which
    would integrate the Baluch areas of Pakistan with those of Iran and possibly
    the Southern tip of Afghanistan, thereby leading to a process of political
    fracturing in both Iran and Pakistan.'7 The Iranians, for their part, are
    adamant that the US is committing acts of war on their territory in
    Baluchistan: "TEHRAN, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) - Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali
    Larijani said .that there are some concrete evidences showing U.S.
    involvement in recent deadly bomb explosions in the country's
    Sistan-Baluchistan province, the official IRNA news agency reported. .. The
    deadly suicide attack by Sunni rebel group Jundallah (God's soldiers)
    occurred on Oct. 18 in Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan province near the border
    with Pakistan when the local officials were preparing a ceremony in which
    the local tribal leaders were to meet the military commanders of Iran's
    Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).8


    Why would the United States be so obsessed with the breakup of Pakistan? One
    reason is that Pakistan is traditionally a strategic ally and economic
    partner of China, a country which the US and British are determined to
    oppose and contain on the world stage. Specifically, Pakistan could function
    as an energy corridor linking the oil fields of Iran and possibly even Iraq
    with the Chinese market by means of a pipeline that would cross the
    Himalayas above Kashmir. This is the so-called "Pipelinestan" issue. This
    would give China a guaranteed land-based oil supply not subject to
    Anglo-American naval superiority, while also cutting out the 12,000 mile
    tanker route around the southern rim of Asia. As a recent news report points
    out: 'Beijing has been pressuring Tehran for China's participation in the
    pipeline project and Islamabad, while willing to sign a bilateral agreement
    with Iran, has also welcomed China's participation. According to an
    estimate, such a pipeline would result in Pakistan getting $200 million to
    $500 million annually in transit fees alone. China and Pakistan are already
    working on a proposal for laying a trans-Himalayan pipeline to carry Middle
    Eastern crude oil to western China. Pakistan provides China the shortest
    possible route to import oil from the Gulf countries.. The pipeline, which
    would run from the southern Pakistan port of Gwadar and follow the Karakoram
    highway, would be partly financed by Beijing. The Chinese are also building
    a refinery at Gwadar. Imports using the pipeline would allow Beijing to
    reduce the portion of its oil shipped through the narrow and unsafe Strait
    of Malacca, which at present carries up to 80% of its oil imports. Islamabad
    also plans to extend a railway track to China to connect it to Gwadar. The
    port is also considered the likely terminus of proposed multibillion-dollar
    gas pipelines reaching from the South Pars fields in Iran or from Qatar, and
    from the Daulatabad fields in Turkmenistan for export to world markets. Syed
    Fazl-e-Haider, "Pakistan, Iran sign gas pipeline deal," Asia Times, 27 May
    2009.9 This is the normal, peaceful economic progress and cooperation which
    the Anglo-Americans are hell-bent on stopping.

    Oil and natural gas pipelines from Iran across Pakistan and into China would
    carry energy resources into the Middle Kingdom, and would also serve as
    conveyor belts for Chinese economic influence into the Middle East. This
    would make Anglo-American dominion increasingly tenuous in a part of the
    world which London and Washington have traditionally sought to control as
    part of their overall strategy of world domination.

    US domestic propaganda is already portraying Pakistan as the new home base
    of terrorism. The four pathetic patsies going on trial for an alleged plot
    to bomb a synagogue in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx in New York
    City had been carefully sheep-dipped to associate them with the shadowy and
    suspicious Jaish-e-Mohammad, allegedly a Pakistani terrorist group. The same
    goes for the five Moslems from Northern Virginia who have just been arrested
    near Lahore in Pakistan.


    As far as the neighboring states are concerned, India under the unfortunate
    Manmohan Singh seems to be accepting the role of continental dagger against
    Pakistan and China on behalf of the US and the British. This is a recipe for
    a colossal tragedy. India should rather make permanent peace with Pakistan
    by vacating the Vale of Kashmir, where 95% of the population is Moslem and
    would like to join Pakistan. Without a solution to this issue, there will be
    no peace on the subcontinent.

    Regarding Iran, George Friedman, the head of the Stratfor outlet of the US
    intelligence community recently told Russia Today that the great novelty of
    the next decade will be an alliance of the United States with Iran directed
    against Russia. In that scenario, Iran would cut off oil to China
    altogether. That is the essence of the Brzezinski strategy. It is urgent
    that the antiwar movement in the United States regroup and begin a new
    mobilization against the cynical hypocrisy of Obama's war and escalation
    policy, which suprasses even the war crimes of the Bush-Cheny neocons. In
    this new phase of the Great Game, the stakes are incalculable.


    2 Ibrahim Sajid Malick, "Did Obama Declare War On Pakistan?," Pakistan for
    Pakistanis Blog, 2 December 2009.

    3 Scott Shane, "C.I.A. to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan," New York Times,
    December 3, 2009. See also David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, "Between the
    Lines, an Expansion in Pakistan," New York Times, 1 December 2009.

    4 Jeremy Scahill, "The Secret US War in Pakistan," The Nation, November 23,

    5 "Taliban in Pakistan blame U.S. Blackwater for deadly blast," Xinhua News
    Agency, 29 October 2009,

    6 Jeremy Scahill, "The Secret US War in Pakistan," The Nation, November 23,

    7 Michel Chossudovsky, The Destabilization of Pakistan, Global Research,
    December 30, 2007

    8 "Iran says having evidences of U.S. involvement in suicide bomb attacks,"
    Xinhua, 29 October 2009.

    9 http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/KE27Df03.html

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    Truthout: Jason Leopold: ACLU Blasts Obama for covering up Bush-Cheney Crimes

    Blistering Indictment Leveled Against Obama Over His Handling of Bush-Era War Crimes

    Saturday 12 December 2009

    by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report

    During his 36-minute speech after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway Thursday, President Barack Obama explained to an audience of 1,000 how the United States has a "moral
    and strategic interest" in abiding by a code of conduct when waging war - even one that pits the
    US against a "vicious adversary that abides by no rules."

    "That is what makes us different from those whom we fight," Obama said. "That is a source of
    our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo
    Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend.
    And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard."

    To many human rights advocates, however, Obama's high-minded declaration rang hollow in
    light of fresh reports that his administration continues to operate secret prisons in Afghanistan
    where detainees have allegedly been tortured and where the International Committee for the
    Red Cross has been denied access to the prisoners.

    Obama has substituted words for action on issues surrounding torture since his first days in
    office nearly one year ago. Last June, on the 25th anniversary of the Convention Against Torture
    and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Obama said the US
    government "must stand against torture wherever it takes place" and that his administration
    "is committed to taking concrete actions against torture and to address the needs of its victims."

    But it's clear that his pledge does not apply to torture committed by Bush administration officials.

    That's the point the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) made shortly after Obama's
    acceptance speech. Officials from the civil rights organization issued a withering indictment of
    the Obama administration's handling of clear-cut cases of war crimes they say were committed
    by former Bush officials who the Obama administration not only refuses to prosecute but has gone
    to extraordinary lengths to cover up.

    "We're increasingly disappointed and alarmed by the current administration's stance on
    accountability for torture," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, during a conference call with reporters. "On every front, the [Obama] administration is actively obstructing accountability. This administration is shielding Bush administration officials from civil liability, criminal investigation and even public scrutiny for their role in authorizing torture."

    Before leaving office, Dick Cheney said he approved waterboarding on at least three "high value" detainees and the "enhanced interrogation" of 33 other prisoners. President Bush made a somewhat vaguer acknowledgement of authorizing these techniques.

    The ACLU and other civil rights groups said Bush and Cheney's comments amounted to an admission of war crimes.

    Under the Convention Against Torture, the clear record that the Bush administration used waterboarding and other brutal techniques to extract information from detainees should have
    triggered the United States to conduct a full investigation and to prosecute the offenders. In the
    case of the
    US's refusal to do so, other nations would be obligated to act under the principle of universality.

    However, instead of living up to that treaty commitment, the Obama administration is resisting
    calls for government investigations and going to court to block lawsuits that demand release of
    torture evidence or seek civil penalties against officials implicated in the torture.

    Jaffer said that while "the Bush administration constructed a legal framework for torture, now the Obama administration is constructing a legal framework for impunity."

    Defending John Yoo

    Indeed, last week, Obama's Justice Department asked a federal appeals court in San Francisco to dismiss a lawsuit filed against former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, who authored some
    of the memos that justified torture largely by re-defining what the term means.

    In seeking to quash that lawsuit filed by alleged "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla, Obama's
    lawyers argued, in a friend-of-the-court brief that Justice Department lawyers who advise on
    torture and other human rights issues are entitled to absolute immunity from lawsuits.

    "The Holder Justice Department insists that they are absolutely not responsible, and that they are
    free to act according to a far lower standard of conduct than that which governs Americans
    generally," wrote Scott Horton, a human rights attorney and constitutional expert in a column published on the Harper's web site. "Indeed, this has emerged as a sort of ignoble mantra for the Justice Department, uniting both the Bush and Obama administrations."

    Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley went even further, asserting that the Obama administration's arguments reversed more than six decades of US legal precedents - dating back
    to the post-World War II Nuremberg trials - which held that legal wordsmiths who clear the way
    for war crimes share the guilt with the actual perpetrators.

    The Obama administration "has gutted the hard-fought victories in Nuremberg where lawyers and judges were often guilty of war crimes in their legal advice and opinions," Turley said. "Quite a legacy for the world's newest Nobel Peace Prize winner."

    What's remarkable about the Obama Justice Department's amicus brief in the Padilla case is that it didn't need to be filed to begin with. Yoo hired a private defense attorney, albeit one who is paid
    for with taxpayer dollars, earlier this year when the Justice Department backed out of representing Yoo due to undisclosed conflicts.

    "Qualified Immunity"

    In court papers filed last week, the Obama administration took a hard line in another case, arguing that a Supreme Court ruling that gave detainees the right to challenge their indefinite imprisonment doesn't apply to the cases of Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Al-Salami, two Guantanamo prisoners who committed suicide in June 2006.

    The fathers of the men, who were never charged with a crime, sued Bush administration Defense Department officials in federal court, arguing that the torture their sons endured drove them to hang themselves on June 10, 2006 after being detained for four years.

    But the Obama administration said in a legal brief that the Military Commissions Act of 2006
    stripped the courts of jurisdiction to hear lawsuits that challenged the "detention, transfer, treatment
    or conditions of confinement" of "enemy combatants."

    Moreover, in court papers filed in June, the Obama administration said, "Judicial intrusion into this politically sensitive area by creating a damages remedy for detainees could subvert these military
    and diplomatic efforts and lead to 'embarrassment of our government abroad.'"

    Besides, the Obama administration said, just as John Yoo is entitled to absolute immunity, Defense Department officials are entitled to "qualified immunity" because the "Fifth and Eighth Amendments do not extend to Guantánamo Bay detainees."

    Earlier this week, a report prepared by the Seton Hall University School of Law Center for Policy
    & Research called into question the veracity of the government's official version of the deaths of the two men and that of a third prisoner, who was also found hanging in his cell on June 10, 2006. The government attributed the suicides to "asymmetrical warfare."

    "Both the time and exact manner of the deaths remain uncertain, and the presence of rags stuffed in the detainees' throats is unexplained," the report said.

    CIA Renditions and State Secrets

    The Obama administration also has mounted an aggressive defense in another high-profile case regarding the Bush administration's wrongdoing.

    The Bush administration had invoked the state secrets privilege in a 2007 lawsuit filed against Jeppesen DataPlan, a subsidiary of Boeing, that is accused of knowingly flying people kidnapped by the CIA to secret overseas prisons where they were tortured. Bush's legal move was successful in getting the case tossed out, but the ACLU appealed the decision.

    When that appeal came up last February, Obama's Justice Department shocked civil liberties and human rights advocates by dispatching attorneys to federal court in San Francisco, where they invoked the same state secrets privilege.

    Even the judge was baffled, and asked a Justice Department attorney if the change in US government leadership would lead to a change in the legal position with regard to state secrets. The answer was a resounding "no."

    Still, the appellate court ruled in April that the case could move forward, asserting that state secrets can only be cited with regard to specific evidence, and not used as a means to dismiss an entire lawsuit. Justice Department attorneys will be back in court next week to appeal that decision, carrying forward the Bush administration's legacy of secrecy.

    Concealing Evidence

    The Obama administration also has tried to block Binyam Mohamed, one of the victims named in Jeppesen lawsuit, from obtaining documentary evidence to support his claims that he was tortured while in US custody.

    Terrorism-related charges against Mohamed were dropped last year when his attorneys sued to gain access to more than three dozen secret documents. He was released in February after being imprisoned for seven years and sent back to Great Britain.

    In a legal brief, the ACLU said Mohamed was beaten so severely on numerous occasions that he routinely lost consciousness and during one gruesome torture session "a scalpel was used to make incisions all over his body, including his penis, after which a hot stinging liquid was poured into his open wounds."

    Obama's determination to protect these dirty secrets of its predecessors even reached across the Atlantic. The Obama administration told British officials that intelligence sharing between the US and the UK might be disrupted if seven redacted paragraphs contained in secret US documents relating to Mohamed's torture allegations were made public by a British High Court.

    Those threats were conveyed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the CIA, and Obama's National Security Adviser James Jones, according to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

    "The United States Government's position is that, if the redacted paragraphs are made public, then the United States will re-evaluate its intelligence-sharing relationship with the United Kingdom with the real risk that it would reduce the intelligence it provided," the High Court wrote in a ruling in February when it agreed to keep the paragraphs blacked out.

    "There is a real risk, if we restored the redacted paragraphs, the United States Government, by its review of the shared intelligence arrangements, could inflict on the citizens of the United Kingdom a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at a time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains."

    After the High Court's ruling, the Obama White House issued a statement thanking the British government "for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information" and added that the order would "preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens."

    Following the High Court's reversal, the New York Times published a sharply worded editorial criticizing the Obama administration's hard-line position in the Mohamed case.

    "The Obama administration has clung for so long to the Bush administration's expansive claims of national security and executive power that it is in danger of turning President George W. Bush's cover-up of abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism into President Barack Obama's cover-up," the Times wrote.

    Torture Photos

    Obama also reversed a commitment earlier this year to release photos of US soldiers torturing and abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Obama said his decision stemmed from his personal review of the photos and his concern that their release would endanger American soldiers in the field, but the reversal also came after several weeks of Republican and right-wing media attacks on him as weak on national security.

    The Obama administration then appealed to the US Supreme Court to overturn a federal court order requiring release of the images, and Obama's aides worked with Congress to pass legislation giving the Defense Secretary the power to keep the photographs under wraps.

    The legislation passed in November and was promptly signed by Obama. By blocking release of the photographs, Obama essentially killed any meaningful chance of opening the door to an investigation or independent inquiry of senior Pentagon and Bush administration officials who implemented the policies that led to the abuses captured in the images.

    In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, the ACLU also questioned the value of Obama's much-touted executive order - signed on his second day in office - demanding a shift away from excessive secrecy toward a presumption in favor of open government.

    "We have not seen the presumption translated into the release of more information," Jaffer said. "There are several cases which we are just at a loss to understand why the information we are requesting is still being withheld."

    Those documents include ones related to the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program and transcripts of Combatant Status Review Tribunals where detainees "describe the abuse they suffered at the hands of their CIA interrogators."

    However, the ACLU's Freedom of Information lawsuit continues to unearth bits of new evidence. For instance, the ACLU obtained hundreds of new documents, including a one-page questionnaire apparently from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to the CIA.

    "How close is each technique to the 'rack and screw'?" the questionnaire asked, referring to a medieval torture device.

    "Anytime you need to ask a question like that it is deeply disturbing and shows you've strayed from constitutional norms," said ACLU legal fellow Alex Abdo. "You're asking a question as to whether the conduct you're about to authorize relates to rack and screw and that in and of itself should be evidence enough that you're going too far. It never should get to that point."

    Other newly disclosed documents show that the Bush White House was deeply involved in discussions about destroying 92 torture videotapes.

    Obama and Congress

    Perhaps, Obama's most positive act on behalf of open government came in April when he resisted pressure from the CIA and ordered the release of legal memorandums written by lawyers in Bush's Office of Legal Counsel, including Yoo and two former OLC chiefs, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury.

    The memos used creative definitions regarding torture to authorize the CIA to apply a variety of torture techniques to so-called "high-value" prisoners, including beatings, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, placing insects inside a confinement box to induce fear, exposing naked detainees to extreme heat and cold, and shackling prisoners to the ceilings of their prison cells or in other painful "stress positions."

    In the face of this evidence, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and his counterpart in the House, John Conyers, floated competing proposals early in the year for a 9/11-style "truth commission" or a blue-ribbon investigative panel to look into the circumstances that led the Bush administration to create its policy of torture.

    Obama signaled that he was open to the idea of a "truth commission" but he said he was concerned "about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively, and it hampers our ability to carry out critical national security operations."

    After Republicans and neoconservative opinion writers went on the attack, Obama quickly retreated, calling lawmakers to the White House for a closed-door meeting in late April to talk them out of the idea of moving forward with independent investigations or even oversight hearings into the Bush administration's use of torture.

    Underscoring Obama's concerns about a high-profile investigation, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at the time: "the President determined the concept didn't seem altogether workable in this case."

    Gibbs added, "The last few days might be evidence of why something like this might just become a political back and forth."

    Hoping for bipartisanship on pressing issues like the economy and health care, Democrats scuttled the investigative plans. However, Republicans have shown no reciprocal interest in bipartisanship, voting as a virtual bloc against every significant bill that Obama and the Democrats have proposed.

    Despite Obama's insistence of "looking forward, not backward," there remains a chance that hearings on Bush's torture practices might still be held next year.

    Leahy and Conyers have indicated they intend to hold hearings next year once a long-awaited report by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is released that delves into Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury's legal work surrounding torture, according to Christopher Anders, the ACLU's senior legislative counsel.

    Leahy and Conyers "said a number of times that they would have hearings when the OPR report comes out," Anders said in an interview. "It would be a big surprise if they didn't conduct hearings. We fully expect them to hold hearings."

    Spokespeople for Conyers and Leahy did not return calls or respond to e-mails seeking comment.

    Upcoming Hearings on Torture?

    However, according to Christopher Anders, the ACLU's senior legislative counsel, Leahy and Conyers have both said they intend to hold hearings next year once a long-awaited report by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is released that delves into Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury's legal work surrounding torture.

    Leahy and Conyers "said a number of times that they would have hearings when the OPR report comes out," Anders said in an interview. "It would be a big surprise if they didn't conduct hearings. We fully expect them to hold hearings."

    Anders added that while there is a time and place for independent commissions, the issue of torture is really a matter for Congress to probe.

    "These are the hard issues that Congress should really be tackling" Anders said. "It's squarely under their jurisdiction."

    Spokespeople for Conyers and Leahy did not return calls or respond to e-mails seeking comment.

    The ACLU said that as much as the Obama administration may hope that additional revelations related to the Bush administration's policy of torture will slip underneath the radar, numerous documents expected to be released in the weeks and months ahead will ensure the issue remains front and center for years to come, and calls for accountability will continue.

    "The lesson that this is giving to the rest of the world is that countries do not have to be accountable for their actions even when torture and abuse occurs," the ACLU's Anders said. "That's going to make it much more difficult for the United States to push other countries on human rights issues across the board, and it's going to make it much easier for other countries to shirk their own duties to bring accountability for their own actions in the past."

    Despite Obama's spotty record on the war crimes that grew out of the Bush's "war on terror," the President still focused his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on the altruism of US foreign policy and America's commitment to upholding human rights.

    The ACLU's Jaffer said there is "an obvious tension on what the president is saying on the commitment to human rights and the work we're doing here in the United States to actually hold people accountable for the violations of both domestic and international law."

    "A lot of what was authorized by senior Bush administration officials was illegal not only under international law but domestic law as well," Jaffer said. "Many of the methods that were approved by CIA and [Department of Defense] interrogators had previously been described by multiple US administrations as war crimes and some of them have been prosecuted as war crimes.

    "Waterboarding in particular is something that has been prosecuted as a war crime before September 11. And yet we are not holding people accountable for having used those techniques, authorized those techniques. Increasingly, we're frustrated by the gap between the Obama administration's rhetoric on accountability and reality. We see the Obama administration actively obstructing accountability on every front."

    For more News From Underground, visit http://markcrispinmiller.com