Ukrainian soldiers with Nazi symbols on their helmets, including the swastika and the SS runes of Hitler's infamous black-uniformed elite corps

Germans were confronted with images of their country’s dark past on Monday night, when German public broadcaster ZDF showed video of Ukrainian soldiers with Nazi symbols on their helmets in its evening newscast. In a report on the fragile cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, Moscow correspondent Bernhard Lichte used pictures of a soldier wearing a combat helmet with the "SS runes" of Hitler’s infamous black-uniformed elite corps. A second soldier was seen with a swastika on his gear. “Volunteer battalions from nearly every political spectrum are reinforcing the government side,” the ZDF correspondent said in his report.

The video was shot last week in Ukraine by a camera team from Norwegian broadcaster TV2. “We were filming a report about Ukraine’s AZOV battalion in the eastern city of Urzuf, when we came across these soldiers,” Oysten Bogen, a correspondent for the private television station, told NBC News. Minutes before the images were taped, Bogen said he had asked a spokesperson whether the battalion had fascist tendencies. “The reply was: absolutely not, we are just Ukrainian nationalists,” Bogen said.


I had speculated that Obama might work with the Syrian government secretly to coordinate their air wars, a deal that could be denied by both sides.

Syrian rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State have agreed a non-aggression pact for the first time in a suburb of the capital Damascus, a monitoring group said on Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the ceasefire deal was agreed between IS and moderate and Islamist rebels in Hajar al-Aswad, south of the capital.
Under the deal, "the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime."
Nussayri is a pejorative term for the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.Syria's armed opposition initially welcomed jihadists including Islamic State members in their fight against Assad, but the group's harsh interpretation of Islam and quest for domination of captured territory sparked a backlash against it that began in January.
A coalition of rebel groups pushed IS out of much of northern Syria, but it has recaptured much of that territory in recent months and has a strong presence in Hajar al-Aswad.
More than 180,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the uprising against Assad that began in March 2011.

--------------------------

Joe Gianforte sends this:
As the United States begins to deepen ties with moderate Syrian rebels to combat the extremist group IS, a key component of its coalition appears to have struck a non-aggression pact with the group.
According to Agence France-Presse, IS and a number of moderate and hard-line rebel groups have agreed not to fight each other so that they can focus on taking down the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Other sources say the signatories include a major U.S. ally linked to the Free Syrian Army. Moreover, the leader of the Free Syrian Army said Saturday that the group would not take part in U.S. plans for destroying the Islamic State until it got assurances on toppling Assad.
The deal between IS and the moderate Syrian groups casts doubt over President Barack Obama's freshly announced strategy to arm and train the groups against IS.
The AFP report cited information from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based group monitoring the Syrian civil war, which said parties to the agreement "promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime." The term Nussayri refers to the Alawite ethnic group that Assad and many of his supporters belong to. AFP said the agreement was signed in a suburb of the Syrian capital, where IS has a strong presence.
Charles Lister, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Doha Center, cited a report from the anti-regime Orient Net website to suggest on Twitter that the signatories of the ceasefire include a U.S.-backed coalition called the Syrian Revolutionary Front.According to the U.K.-based outlet Middle East Eye, that same Orient Net report says the ceasefire between groups described in the U.S. as "moderate rebels" and the Islamic State was mediated by the al-Nusra Front, al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria.
As recently as March, the Syrian Revolutionary Front and its leader were described in Foreign Policy as "the West's best fighting chance against Syria's Islamist armies." As of that report, the group controlled 25,000 fighters and its leader had close ties with the Western-friendly Syrian National Coalition.
Its leader initially won Western favor by successfully fighting IS in northern Syria.
"He proved his mettle in a sense and that's what endeared him to the Americans," said Joshua Landis, a prominent Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma. "The Americans are looking for people who can actually fight. That's been their problem: they've gone with people who are moderate but they don't know to fight. This guy appears to be both moderate and he knows how to fight."
The Orient Net report on the ceasefire identified the Syrian Revolutionary Front as part of the Free Syrian Army, the loose array of non-jihadist rebel brigades that the U.S. has directly supported since last year. Obama asked Congress to approve $500 million to train and equip "vetted" Syrian rebels this summer. He repeated his request in his address Wednesday about IS.
Despite its reputation as a palatable ally, the U.S.-backed Syrian Revolutionary Front has previously said that its chief goal is not to stop the rise of extremists, but to topple Assad. In April, its leader told The Independent, "It’s clear that I’m not fighting against al-Qa’ida. This is a problem outside of Syria’s border, so it’s not our problem. I don’t have a problem with anyone who fights against the regime inside Syria."
The prospect of a group once supported by the U.S. now sitting down with IS raises fundamental questions about U.S. strategy in Syria. Why support Syrians who have a very different, clearly stated goal and who will act as they see fit to achieve it? What assurance does the administration have that fighters it trains and arms in Syria won't ally with IS if it seems like the most effective anti-Assad force?
The White House argues that its ability to spotlight and support reliable rebel groups has been heightened by improved and expanded intelligence. In an interview with The Huffington Post before news of the pact broke, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes expressed confidence in U.S. allies in the region.
"We have been working with the Syrian opposition now for a couple of years, providing them assistance, non-lethal at first but then we [now] provide them with some military assistance, so we know them better today than we did a year, two years ago," Rhodes said. "There are people who have been vetted who we have relationships with, who we deliver assistance to, so we're not starting from scratch."
Many of those groups, the administration acknowledges, have not passed a vetting process, which explains the delay in expanding assistance. But the news that the Syrian Revolutionary Front, a major player in the moderate coalition, has now chosen to stop fighting IS may inspire other groups, either already vetted or still waiting for aid, to determine that a deal with the extremist group is worthwhile. Given reports that Assad avoided fighting IS in order to crush the moderate rebels -- his calculus being that the West would eventually combat the extremists, as it is now doing -- potential U.S. partners may decide that instead of being prey to both extremists and the government, they should settle one battle.
"These guys are all starved for arms," Landis said. "They don’t want to go get themselves killed by fighting IS until they figure out where Obama is."
That turns a conflict that the White House hopes is three-sided -- with radical Sunnis, moderate Sunnis and Assad all battling each other -- into a sectarian, two-sided war of Sunnis against Assad. Reports already suggest that Syrians who entered the civil war opposing Assad are now turning to IS as their best bet for a different kind of government.
Rhodes warned that a wrong move by the U.S. may lead to that precise perception and reality.
"If we were to try to run a play with Assad, we would ensure that they" -- all Sunni rebel groups -- "were turned against us, and in fact we would be taking sides in a sectarian war against one side. We need a Sunni partner in these countries," he said. "That's why we need this inclusive government [in Iraq] and that's why we need a Sunni opposition partner in Syria."
This news suggests that partners will be hard to find. Lister said the pact is a product of failed U.S.-led Western policy in Syria.
"This underlines serious frustration w. lack of US-backing to [Free Syrian Army] opposition in fight vs Assad," he tweeted.
If true, Landis said, the news of a ceasefire proves Washington does not know who it can support or trust within the fractured country.
"We don't know who the moderates are," Landis said. Describing a recent interview in which a Free Syrian Army commander told an Arab outlet that the U.S. wanted to make Syrian rebels "slaves," he added, "These guys are supposed to be our buddies?"

Two interesting rants ON uKRAINE. wHITNEY MAY CELEBRATE THE REBELS “TRIUMPH” PREMATURELY AND pERRY REVEALS SOME SUSPICIOUS BUSINESS DEALING IN EAST uKRAINE NATURAL GAS BY FOLKS CONNECTED TO bIDEN AND kERRY. bOTH A REFRESHING COUNTER TO MAINSTREAM REPORTING-mm
Obama Begs for More War
Did Putin Just Bring Peace to Ukraine?
by MIKE WHITNEY
COUNTERPUNCH, Sept 5, 2014
“There is no way to overstate the significance of what has transpired in Ukraine in the last three weeks. What began as a murderous onslaught on the mainly Russian-speaking population of east Ukraine, has turned into a major triumph against a belligerent and expansionistic empire that has been repulsed by a scrappy, battle-hardened militia engaged in a conventional, land-based war.  The conflict in east Ukraine is Obama’s war; launched by Obama’s junta government, executed by Obama’s proxy army, and directed by Obama’s advisors in Kiev. The driving force behind the war is Washington’s ambitious pivot to Asia, a strategy that pits Russia against Europe to prevent further economic integration and to establish NATO forward-operating bases on Russia’s western border. Despite the overheated rhetoric, the talk of a (NATO) “Rapid Reaction Force”, and additional economic sanctions; the US plan to draw Ukraine into the western sphere of influence and weaken Russia in the process, is in tatters. And the reason it is in tatters is because a highly-motivated and adaptable militia has trounced Obama’s troopers at every turn pushing the Ukrainian army to the brink of collapse”
----------------------------------------- 
There
There‘s also Robert Parry’s search for and explanation for Obama’s effort at regime change in Ukraine at
 

A Shared Culture of Conflict of Interest

Elite media don’t see Human Rights Watch’s closeness to power as a problem

By Keane Bhatt
FAIR, September 1, 2014
http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/a-shared-culture-of-conflict-of-interest/
In late 2010, a US District Court judge threw out a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights against President Barack Obama. The groups had argued that the administration was violating the Constitution and international law in attempting to assassinate Muslim cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, a US citizen residing in Yemen, without providing him with charges, evidence or due process.

“If the court’s ruling is correct, the government has unreviewable authority to carry out the targeted killing of any American, anywhere, whom the president deems to be a threat to the nation,” explained ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer (CNN, 12/7/10).

A little over a month later, Obama hosted a state dinner for President Hu Jintao of China—an event “highly choreographed,” supposedly, to raise human rights concerns, according to Voice of America (1/24/11). The dinner was to take place on the heels of a joint news conference in which Obama “gently but pointedly prodded China to make progress on human rights,” wrote the New York Times (12/19/11) unquestioningly.

Emerging as a victor in an “intense winnowing-down process by a White House confronted by some of the toughest jockeying for invitations in recent memory” (New York Times, 1/19/11), Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth arrived at the function, which also hosted the leaders of Microsoft, Boeing, Goldman Sachs, JP-Morgan Chase and Disney. (The administration also aimed to “press China to open its markets to goods made by American companies,” reported the Times.)

Roth saw a nobler rationale for his own presence: “I knew that I was being used as a symbol—to signal a tougher approach on human rights,” he wrote in the L.A. Times (1/23/11), and he took on his US-appointed role with gusto.

President Hu, said Roth (VOA, 1/24/11), “was frankly my most important target, if you will, when I went into the White House.” Roth was “pleasantly surprised” to be “seated in the main State Dining Room” where, “with the Obama administration’s backing, I had been able to explain to a senior Chinese official why his government’s treatment of [political prisoner] Liu [Xiaobo] was a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression” (L.A. Times, 1/23/11).

Roth concluded, “I had a chance to chat further with Obama. I thanked him for being more outspoken on human rights in China and for finding a way to discuss the issue that was genuine and heartfelt.”

How was the president—who just weeks prior had employed a “state secrets” justification for his right to maintain a covert kill list—so easily able to recruit the head of a self-described “independent” nonprofit to use human rights as part of an event contrived to advance US interests? Put another way, if New York City-based HRW were instead headquartered in 1970s-era Santiago, Chile, when that government similarly administered an international assassination program, would HRW expect its denunciations of Soviet human rights abuses at Pinochet’s behest to be taken seriously?

Part of the answer for Roth’s dutiful performance rests with Human Rights Watch’s institutional history, whose Cold War framework fit well with Obama’s task for the group. HRW’s first incarnation in 1978, as Helsinki Watch, was “designed to support the citizens groups formed throughout the Soviet bloc” and engage in “publicly ‘naming and shaming’ abusive governments” throughout “the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe” (“Our History,” HRW.org).

But a second reason lies in HRW’s present-day conflicts of interest, which contribute to a culture of normalizing and accommodating the extreme power that the United States arrogates to itself. Only under such a worldview could President Obama have the moral standing to advocate for human rights improvements in China—a country whose head of state could never maintain a secret international extrajudicial kill list, for example.

HRW’s ties to US power were publicly criticized in a campaign launched in May: Two Nobel Peace Prize laureates and over 100 scholars, lawyers, journalists and current and former United Nations officials submitted an open letter to Roth that I organized, detailing HRW’s revolving door to human rights–abusing arms of the US government, and instances of inconsistent advocacy that suggested an unhealthily close relationship to US power (AlterNet, 5/12/14).

The letter noted that HRW’s former Washington advocacy director, Tom Malinowski, had previously been a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, and that he left HRW to serve as an assistant secretary of State for Obama. Miguel Díaz, prior to his eight years on HRW’s advisory committee for Latin America, had worked as a CIA analyst. “Now at the State Department,” we wrote, Díaz’s official role is to serve as “an interlocutor between the intelligence community and nongovernment experts.”

The letter highlighted some of HRW’s questionable advocacy. Malinowski, for example, had once publicly argued (L.A. Times 2/1/09) that there was “a legitimate place” for CIA renditions. And HRW (HRW.org, 11/9/12) had strongly criticized Venezuela for its candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council in 2012, but at “no point has US membership in the same council merited censure from HRW, despite Washington’s secret, global assassination program, its preservation of renditions, and its illegal detention of individuals at Guantánamo Bay,” the letter read.

Roth dismissed the effort, writing that the signatories’ “concern is misplaced” (HRW.org, 6/3/14). In a debate on Democracy Now! (6/11/14), HRW counsel and spokesperson Reed Brody echoed Roth in claiming that there was “really no basis to this kind of allegation.”

A follow-up on behalf of the Nobel laureates and former UN officials reaffirmed the original concerns. The rebuttal cited yet another instance of an HRW staffer moving to the State Department—just one week after Roth’s receipt of the first letter. In this case, a senior HRW researcher was transitioning to the office of the US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who had promised in her confirmation hearing to “never apologize for America” (AlterNet, 5/12/14).

This rebuttal advocated for lengthy “cooling-off” periods before and after HRW associates work in the foreign-policy divisions of the US government, and criticized both Roth and Malinowski for engaging in pro-war advocacy in the cases of Syria (Twitter, 6/10/14) and Libya (New Republic, 3/27/11; Foreign Policy, 10/2/12), respectively, in apparent violation of HRW’s policy of neutrality on such matters.

The letter to Roth also concluded that HRW should remove from its board of directors Javier Solana, the ex-NATO secretary general who initiated an illegal war on Yugoslavia and presided over such atrocities as the deliberate bombing of a television station, which killed over a dozen civilians (Extra!, 6/99).

While HRW did not respond officially, HRW associates close to one of the letter’s signatories, Richard Falk, exerted private pressure on the Princeton law scholar and ex-UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights to withdraw his signature. He refused.

While generating substantial debate within progressive spheres, the effort for greater accountability from HRW was almost uniformly ignored by the corporate media, with the exception of a stray op-ed in the Boston Globe (5/24/14). This perhaps reflected the cultural similarities between the influential human rights group and the establishment press. Within corporate media, proximity to political power is generally viewed positively, and conflicts of interest are endemic.

As FAIR (FAIR Blog, 12/16/13) has documented, the prestigious news program 60 Minutes retained correspondent John Miller, who has shuttled back and forth between police and intelligence work and journalism throughout his career. His prior professional experience in the office of the Director of National Intelligence and as assistant director of public affairs for the FBI have repeatedly raised questions about the favorable portrayals of the national security officials he has interviewed for the show. Miller later re-entered the revolving door to become the New York Police Department’s top intelligence and counterterrorism official.

The New York Times, for its part, denied that its Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner had a conflict of interest when it was discovered that his son was actively serving in the US-backed Israeli Defense Forces (Extra!, 4/10). FAIR Action Alerts  (5/16/12, 9/26/13) subsequently targeted the New York Times and the Washington Post—whose owner incidentally benefits from lucrative CIA contracts (Extra!, 3/14) —for allowing their Jerusalem bureau reporters’ spouses to engage in paid, pro-Israeli government advocacy.

Their revolving doors and conflicts of interest help lead both the media and HRW to inhabit the worldview of US “exceptionalism”: the notion that the country is benevolent and noble, that it genuinely pursues human rights and needs to play a more active role in world affairs. This ideology explains how both the Times and HRW can promote themselves as combative and fiercely independent counterparts to the state—while operating firmly within the acceptable parameters dictated by US priorities.

The discordant reality behind the “exceptionalism” myth is that the rest of the planet sees the United States as “the greatest threat to peace in the world today,” according to a global poll. The second runner-up, Pakistan, received a third as many responses (BBC, 12/30/13).

So when Roth expressed to VOA that he “frankly was very grateful” to the “people in the White House” for arranging his encounter with Chinese officials at the state dinner, and applauded the administration for “stay[ing] true to its values” and promoting a “more serious approach to human rights,” he was demonstrating that HRW’s approach to human rights is more that of a lapdog than a watchdog.

Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com


“The main constant of US foreign policy is that we always have to bomb people...”
    —Glenn Greenwald
Read all of Robert Naiman’s rant at
truth-out.org/opinion/item/25851-lets-treat-assad-fairly-like-any-other-pro-west-dictator-in-the-middle-east

 
“...when [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren has spoken on national security, she has invariably spouted warmed-over, banal Democratic hawk tripe of the kind that she just recited about Israel and Gaza. During her Senate campaign, for instance, she issued wildly militaristic – and in some cases clearly false – statements about Iran and its nuclear program that would have been comfortable on the pages of The Weekly Standard.” –Glenn Greenwald

Elizabeth Warren Breaks Silence on Israel/Gaza, Sounds Like Netanyahu

Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly, August 29, 2014
  http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/elizabeth_warren_breaks_silence_on_israel_gaza_sounds_like_20140829/ VIA Steve Weiss

Responding to constituents at her regularly scheduled “office hours” last week, Massachusetts senator and celebrated left-wing icon Elizabeth Warren defended her vote to send $225 million of American taxpayer money to Israel for its Iron Dome missile defense system and explained her support of Israel in that country’s summer military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

“I think the vote was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right,” she said. “America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

Describing Warren’s event for the Cape Cod Times, reporter C. Ryan Barber noted that the senator said Hamas attacked Israel “indiscriminately” and that she believed civilian casualties from Israeli attacks are “the last thing Israel wants.”

Drawing applause, Barber reported, Warren said, “But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.”

Writing at The Intercept about the senator’s statements, Glenn Greenwald observed:

In her defense, Warren has long been clear that this is what she would do. Her Senate campaign website still contains statements such as “it is a moral imperative to support and defend Israel” and ”as a United States Senator, I will work to ensure Israel’s security and success.”

During her time in the national spotlight, Warren has focused overwhelmingly on domestic issues, rarely venturing into foreign policy discussions. Many of those domestic views, particularly her strident-for-D.C. opposition to banks, have been admirable, elevating her to hero status for many progressives.

But when Warren has spoken on national security, she has invariably spouted warmed-over, banal Democratic hawk tripe of the kind that she just recited about Israel and Gaza. During her Senate campaign, for instance, she issued wildly militaristic – and in some cases clearly false – statements about Iran and its nuclear program that would have been comfortable on the pages of The Weekly Standard.

Greenwald went on to note that British newspaper The Telegraph has published the names of all 504 children who were killed in Gaza “over the last 50 days.” Warren’s “clear position,” he continued, “is that Israel bears none of the blame for any of this. … That, ladies and gentlemen, is your inspiring left-wing icon of the Democratic Party.”


Ferguson shares a border with a little black town, Kinloch.

And along this border between 1940 and 1960, Ferguson puts up a chain on the main drag that connects the two towns.  So you literally cannot drive from Kinloch into Ferguson.  And this signals to black folks that we don’t want you.”  —Jim Loewen, author of Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism
at
http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2014/08/17/ferguson-mo-phasing-out-black-communities/
Airplane near Kinloch
 

Kinloch connection:
Ferguson fueled by razing of historic black town

Resentment lingers 30 years after African-American area next to airport was depopulated to build runway that never was

FERGUSON, Mo. — Long-time north St. Louis County resident Geralda Ray believes that the focus of the protests in the suburb of Ferguson should stay centered on the death of 18-year-old Mike Brown.

But as she held her sign near the spot Brown was killed last week, Ray thought about the Missouri town of Kinloch: a place she had once called home.

Like most residents of Kinloch, Ray had been forced to relocate after a buyout program bought up most of the land to expand the adjacent airport. Many of those from Kinloch were forced to move to other nearby municipalities such as Florissant, Berkeley and Ferguson, where historic laws had long forbidden black citizens from owning land.

Many ended up in the Canfield Green apartment complex, where Mike Brown lived and died.

So when protests erupted over Brown’s death, some former residents of Kinloch were more than ready to carry its memory with them in the streets.

“I used to live in Kinloch,” Ray said. “You should see my old apartment. There’s nothing left.”

Once a vibrant, self-sustaining, middle-class community of thousands in north St. Louis County — and also the first incorporated black community in the state — Kinloch was effectively reduced to a collection of overgrown vacant lots, decaying streets and abandoned buildings. It’s illegally used as a dumping ground for trash, old furniture and even bodies.

Only minutes from the protests in Ferguson, the near-vacant city has long been a symbol of what many African-Americans in north St. Louis County feel is representative of a social and governmental system in which they have little voice and that they say consistently works against them.

Some 30 years ago, the City of St. Louis started a buyout program in Kinloch to collect land in order to build a new runway at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. While voluntary on paper, those who lived there at the time describe the atmosphere as “arm-twisting.”

Eminent domain was in the back of everybody’s mind.

“Whether you chose to accept it or you chose to fight it, you knew eventually you’d have to leave,” Steven Peebles, who grew up in Kinloch, told Al Jazeera in April as part of a look at Missouri’s disappearing black towns. “There was this feeling of helplessness. We were essentially and effectively gobbled up.”

“The airport took that sense of community,” he added, “and eradicated it.”

Whether you chose to accept it or you chose to fight it, you knew eventually you’d have to leave. There was this feeling of helplessness. We were essentially and effectively gobbled up.
In 1980, more than 4,000 people lived in Kinloch. Today there are not even 300, and the entire municipality has been reduced to less than one square mile of land, drained of most of its tax base. What used to be streets lined with houses, churches and corner stores now resembles an undeveloped plot of land, sprinkled with decaying buildings and cracked, empty streets. Much of the land belongs to the City of St. Louis.

Nearly the entire town was torn down to accommodate a runway that, in the end, was never built. The ground shakes when landing planes pass over, an ironic homage to the fact that the city’s first airstrip was in Kinloch, a point of pride for many of its former residents.

Tony Ambus, a long-time resident of the area who was also out protesting in Ferguson, knew the story of Kinloch well.

“What they did in Kinloch,” he said, “was destroy the sense of community there.”

Umar Lee, a life-long resident of north St. Louis County and local writer, told America Tonight that a sense of displacement has contributed to the frustration in Ferguson and is now being broadcast all over the world.

“You have a lot of displaced youth,” Lee said. “Either they came from Kinloch, or their families came from Kinloch. You know, a lot of these families are so transient and moving from one apartment complex — like Canfield Green — to another.”

He added: “Just constantly moving and no real sense of place or direction.”

An aircraft flies overhead on the final approach to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

Lee and the Al Jazeera film crew were later threatened by two Kinloch police officers for filming a sign on one of its abandoned streets. In recent years, the remnants of the city have become notorious for crime and violence, due to the abandoned buildings, former Kinloch residents said.

“You want to know what they did to that church?” Ray asked of the Catholic parish she and her children went to when they lived in Kinloch.

A scowl formed on her face. “It’s a nightclub now.”

Kinloch, Lee said, is one of the many factors playing into the protests in Ferguson. To understand Ferguson, one must understand Kinloch.

“It’s not just Mike Brown,” he said. “It’s life — times of bad dealings with the police and seeing your family dealt with by the police in that manner. It’s so many things, and it’s not just Mike Brown.”

“[Kinloch] is an issue they had back then,” said a Ferguson protester named Susan, who wished to have her last name withheld. “They tried to brush it under the rug there. Now it’s back up in their face.”

Susan was a property manager in Kinloch for several years. The apartment complex she managed was foreclosed on, and she was charged with the task of evicting its residents.

“They didn’t understand,” she said softly. “It was home to a lot of people for generations. They were heartbroken. That was their home.”

For those who lived in Kinloch, the city was the village it took to raise their children. It’s a community many are nostalgic for, and many who lived there feel the system that took Mike Brown is the connected to the one that bulldozed their hometown.

“It’s a festering wound,” Susan said. “They feel like they weren’t ever heard.”

Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com




 


visit my website www.michaelmunk.com

Picture Tribune Photo by L. E. Baskow

An interview with 
Michael Munk:
theportlandalliance.org/munk 

Munk's Musings: http://www.theportlandalliance.org/Munk


German TV Shows Nazi Symbols on Ukraine Soldiers' Helmets
E-LIST MANAGEMENT BY:
Also: see my earlier post attached
clip_image001
Stepan Bandera celebrated on a 2009 Ukrainian stamp
-MM
 
The Hushed-Up Hitler Factor in Ukraine
Consortiumnews.com
August 16, 2014
http://consortiumnews.com/2014/08/16/the-hushed-up-hitler-factor-in-ukraine/ VIA David McReynolds


The Hushed-Up Hitler Factor in Ukraine

Behind the Ukraine crisis is a revision of World War II history that seeks to honor eastern European collaborators with Hitler and the Holocaust by repackaging these rightists as anti-Soviet heroes, a reality shielded from the U.S. public.

by Dovid Katz
[Dovid Katz, formerly professor of Yiddish Studies at Vilnius University, is a New York born, Vilnius-based independent researcher. He edits DefendingHistory.com. His personal website is www.dovidkatz.net.]


Would America support any type of Hitlerism in the course of the State Department's effort to turn the anti-Russian political classes of Eastern Europe into paragons of PR perfection that may not be criticized, howsoever mildly?

It was frankly disconcerting to see Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, embracing the leader of Ukraine's far right, anti-Semitic, pro-fascist Svoboda party last December. It was disturbing to learn of the neo-Nazi elements that provided the "muscle" for the actual Maidan takeover last February (BBC's Newsnight was among the few major Western outlets to dare cover that openly).

Most disturbing of all has been the mainstream Western media's almost Soviet-grade wall somehow erected against critical mention of the far-right component of Ukraine's 2014 history, rendering any such thought as worthy of ridicule on New York Times opinion pages last spring.

Most hilarious was the Times's May 2014 publication of an (obviously ghost-written, State Department-scripted) op-ed by Ukrainian  presidential candidate Yulia V. Tymoshenko which quotes Churchill writing to Roosevelt, "Give us the tools, as we will finish the job," rumbling on about "the just and open democracy that is America's greatest bequest to the world."

This, from the far right politician who had shortly before that expressed genocidal musings for the millions of Russian-speaking citizens of her country, and who was, during her tenure as prime minister, a prime devotee of the wartime fascist leader Stepan Bandera, whose organization slaughtered tens of thousands (many historians put it at hundreds of thousands) of Polish and Jewish civilians based on ethnicity, in the Aryanist drive for an ethnically pure state precisely on the Nazi model.

It was therefore refreshing to read in last Saturday's Times a report that had, albeit buried near the end, a single line informing readers that "One [militia active in the Kiev government's military campaign] known as Azov, which took over the village of Marinka, flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag." By contrast, London's right-of-center Daily Telegraph ran a whole report Monday titled "The neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists," rightly including the observation that the neo-Nazi forces being used by the Ukrainian government to do military heavy lifting  "should send a shiver down Europe's spine."

This goes to the heart of what is being kept from so many Western, and especially American readers. Putin — for all his authoritarianism, anti-democratic bent and revanchism — is not the cause of the Ukrainian conundrum (though he is certainly exploiting it). There is a genuine divide in Ukraine between a nationalist-dominated west and a Russian-speaking east.

Anybody who has traveled the country will tell you that these "Russians" in the east, and wherever else they are to be found, would much rather be living in a European Union-type country than in a Russia-type country. What then is the problem? They do not want to live in an ultranationalist-dominated state that is anti-Russian in a 1930s Aryanesque sense of ethnically and linguistically pure Ukrainism. They much prefer the Russia-model state to that.

Now those anti-racist values, including the revering of the Anglo-American-Soviet alliance that brought down Hitler, and the disdain of societies founded on models of racist purity, are in fact also American values. But that affinity between Western values and the easterners would never even be guessed at in the avalanche of  Cold War II newsfeed coming our way.

Incidentally, some Western reports that caricature the Putinist press's use of the word "fascists" for Ukrainian nationalists don't appreciate the colloquial Russian usage where it refers not necessarily to swastika-wielding thugs but even to high society that holds in esteem the likes of Bandera and other World War II-era Nazist fascists as supposed mythical "freedom fighters" to be revered today by the state, in street names, statues, museums, and more.

That is not to say that America's allies among the western Ukrainian nationalists are all pro-fascist. They are not. But there are two salient issues that go beyond Ukraine and cover all of "anti-Russian" Eastern Europe, particularly the new member states of NATO and the EU.

The first is casual acceptance of neo-Nazi elements, symbolism and ideology as part of any kind of supposedly centrist mainstream. In Latvia and Estonia, this is exemplified by tacit (or not so tacit) state support for honors for those countries' Waffen SS divisions. In Lithuania, it can be manifest in state-sponsored shrines to the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) killers who unleashed the Holocaust on Jewish neighbors before the first German soldiers had quite arrived.

But there is a second issue that is much deeper, and has nothing to do with these more ostentatious kinds of Nazi worship. That issue is history.

'History' Alive

While World War II is indeed "history" for the West, it is very much part of Now in Eastern Europe. State-sponsored institutions in the three Baltic countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, especially, and also at times in Croatia, Romania and elsewhere have invested a fortune in a kind of Holocaust revisionism that would whitewash their own nationalists' collaboration with Hitler and turn the Soviet Union into the real Hitler.

Known as "Double Genocide," it posits the absolute theoretical equality of Nazi and Soviet crimes. Its constitution is the 2008 "Prague Declaration," which most Americans have never heard of, that sports the word "same" five times in reference to Nazi and Soviet crimes. Even fewer Americans know that one of its demands, that the world accept a unitary mix-and-match day of remembrance for Nazi and Soviet victims, was snuck under the radar into last June's congressional military appropriations bill.

The issue across the board is the choice made by nationalist elites in Eastern Europe to construct national myths not on the merits of a country's great artists, poets, thinkers and genuine freedom fighters, but all too often, on the basis of Nazi collaborators whose claim to fame is that they were also "anti-Soviet patriots."

The fact of the matter is that virtually all of Hitler's collaborators in Eastern Europe were "anti-Soviet." In fact, the Soviet Union was the only power putting up resistance to Hitler in Eastern Europe. If the Soviets had not pushed the Nazi armies back by the spring of 1944, at huge sacrifice to all the Soviet peoples, there would have been no D-Day or opening of a Western front.

Whether it is hero-worship of Hungary's Miklós Horthy, leaders of Croatia's Hitlerist Ustasha, the Nazis' Waffen SS divisions in Latvia and Estonia, or the likes of Ukraine's Bandera and his OUN and UPA, and the Waffen SS, it is an offense to Western values that a NATO or EU state, or NATO/EU-aspiring state, would disburse state funds on the distortion of history, obfuscation of the Holocaust and construction of societies that admire the worst of history's racists.

To do so quite simply implies that all the minority citizens they butchered, or whose butchering they supported, were quite unworthy of continued existence. Incidentally, all these countries have real heroes from that darkest moment in their history: those (often the simplest of people) who just did the right thing and risked all to rescue a neighbor from the Nazist establishment collaborationist leadership of their own nationalists.

A High Low Point

The trend reached an unseemly highpoint in 2012, when the Lithuanian government financed the repatriation from Putnam, Connecticut, to Lithuania of the remains of the 1941 Nazi puppet prime minister Juozas Ambrazevičius Brazaitis, who had personally signed documents confirming Nazi orders first, for Jewish citizens of his city, Kaunas, to be sent to a concentration camp (it was actually a mass murder site), and a few weeks later, for the remainder to be incarcerated in a ghetto within four weeks.

Instead of politely protesting, the American embassy in Vilnius helped camouflage the event with a symposium on the war and the Holocaust that did not even mention the reburial underway.

According to some in State Department circles, the Obama administration, shaken by criticism of its long-standing anti-neocon caution in Iraq and Syria, and rueful over Libya, has tried to show its muscle, and satisfy the contingent led by Robert Kagan and his wife, Victoria Nuland, now assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, with sheer one-sidedness over Ukraine.

That is the Ms. Nuland who was caught telling the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine "Fuck the EU," which would have preferred peaceful, democratic change in Ukraine. She was also plotting which politician would emerge as prime minister in that nation in the worst neo-con tradition of organizing who will emerge as ruler after the next fixed case of foreign regime change.

In Ukraine, a negotiated solution could maintain the nation's independence and freedom to join the EU but not the military alliance NATO that is the huge humiliation for Russia (a hostile military alliance coming right to more of its borders).

Any viable solution needs to take into account that it is a deeply divided country even in the absence of (ever-present) Putinist mischief. It therefore needs to also take into account the many millions of Russian speakers who oppose the racial chauvinism of some of the nationalist elite now in or close to the government, and who have very different ideas about Twentieth Century history.

That is the way forward, not the Cold War II nonsense of spreading the word that the westerners are pure angels and the easterners pure demons, not the neocon nonsense that America's greatness depends on endless foreign military misadventures in regime change that lead to long , unpredictable, and uncontrollable cycles of violence.

That America shares with Russia the magnificent legacy of having in tandem brought down Hitler's empire is a heritage worth invoking for building better understanding, not a fact to be buried in deference to the far-right revision of Holocaust history with which much of nationalist Eastern Europe is so obsessed.

www.michaelmunk.com
 
An interesting interview of  Edward Snowden by James Bamford,
the authoritative exposer of the NSA, is at
http://www.wired.com/2014/08/edward-snowden.
 
Among the points new to me are his explanation for his disillusionment
with President Obama and the incident that triggered his decision to blow the whistle
-mm.
1) Snowden “ began to consider becoming a whistle-blower, but with Obama about to be elected, he held off. “I think even Obama’s critics were impressed and optimistic about the values that he represented,” he says. “He said that we’re not going to sacrifice our rights. We’re not going to change who we are just to catch some small percentage more terrorists.” But Snowden grew disappointed as, in his view, Obama didn’t follow through on his lofty rhetoric. “Not only did they not fulfill those promises, but they entirely repudiated them,” he says. “They went in the other direction. What does that mean for a society, for a democracy, when the people that you elect on the basis of promises can basically suborn the will of the electorate?”
He decided when DNI James Clapper lied to the Senate under questioning from Oregon senator Ron Wyden. More recently, Clapper lied to the Senate again when he denied the CIA had spied on its investigation of CIA kidnapping and torture. The Senate report, censored heavily by Obama, still remains secret from the public.-MM
2) “On March 13, 2013, sitting at his desk in the “tunnel” surrounded by computer screens, Snowden read a news story that convinced him that the time had come to act. It was an account of director of national intelligence James Clapper telling a Senate committee that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect information on millions of Americans. “I think I was reading it in the paper the next day, talking to coworkers, saying, can you believe this shit?”

Snowden and his colleagues had discussed the routine deception around the breadth of the NSA’s spying many times, so it wasn’t surprising to him when they had little reaction to Clapper’s testimony. “It was more of just acceptance,” he says, calling it “the banality of evil”—a reference to Hannah Arendt’s study of bureaucrats in Nazi Germany.

“It’s like the boiling frog,” Snowden tells me. “You get exposed to a little bit of evil, a little bit of rule-breaking, a little bit of dishonesty, a little bit of deceptiveness, a little bit of disservice to the public interest, and you can brush it off, you can come to justify it. But if you do that, it creates a slippery slope that just increases over time, and by the time you’ve been in 15 years, 20 years, 25 years, you’ve seen it all and it doesn’t shock you. And so you see it as normal. And that’s the problem, that’s what the Clapper event was all about. He saw deceiving the American people as what he does, as his job, as something completely ordinary. And he was right that he wouldn’t be punished for it, because he was revealed as having lied under oath and he didn’t even get a slap on the wrist for it. It says a lot about the system and a lot about our leaders.” Snowden decided it was time to hop out of the water before he too was boiled alive.

Then there’s this:

3) “Among the discoveries that most shocked him was learning that the agency was regularly passing raw private communications—content as well as metadata—to Israeli intelligence. Usually information like this would be “minimized,” a process where names and personally identifiable data are removed. But in this case, the NSA did virtually nothing to protect even the communications of people in the US. This included the emails and phone calls of millions of Arab and Palestinian Americans whose relatives in Israel-occupied Palestine could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” Snowden says. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.” (The operation was reported last year by The Guardian, which cited the Snowden documents as its source.)
Read it all at the link
Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com

 
To wit: Michael Schwartz writes at http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175860/tomgram%3A_michael_schwartz%2C_the_new_oil_wars_in_iraq/#more

“Does anyone remember what Iraq looked like a dozen years ago, when Saddam Hussein still ruled the country and the United States was about to invade? On the one hand, Iraqis, especially Shiites and Kurds, suffered under the iron heel of an oppressive dictator -- who may have killed 250,000 or more of his own people during his 25-year reign. They also struggled against the privation caused by U.S.-led sanctions -- some estimates at the time placed the number of sanction-caused infant deaths alone at 500,000.

On the other hand, the country had a number of successful export-oriented industries like leather goods and agricultural products like dates that offered employment to hundreds of thousands of relatively well paid workers and entrepreneurs. It also had a resilient electrical, water, and highway infrastructure (though increasingly decrepit thanks to those sanctions). In addition, it had a best-in-the-region primary and higher educational system, and the finest (free) health care in the Middle East. In a nation of 27 million people, it also had -- in comparison to other countries in the area -- a large, mainly government-employed middle class of three million.

These pluses all flowed from a single source: the 2.5 million barrels of oil that Iraq produced each day. The daily income from the sale of the “national  patrimony” undergirded the country’s economic superstructure. In fact, the oil-based government budget was so ample that it supported Hussein with multiple palaces, enriched all his relatives and allies, and financed his various wars, both on other countries and on Iraq’s Kurds and Shiites.

This mixture of oppression and prosperity ended with the U.S. invasion. Despite denials that it would ever touch the Iraqi “patrimony,” the Bush administration went straight for those oil revenues, diverting them away from the economy and into “debt payment” and soon enough, a pacification campaign.  Despite promises from Washington that, under an American occupation, production would soon rise to six million barrels per day, the struggle to take control of energy production out of Iraqi hands ended up crippling the industry and reducing production by 40%.”

 Read the rest at the ULR (above)


Declassified memo reveals US justification of drone strikes on Americans

DOJ memo from 2010 says killing of Anwar al-Awlaki was legal because the US citizen was 'operational leader' of Al-Qaeda

A federal appeals court on Monday released a previously secret memo in which the U.S. Department of Justice provided legal justification for using drones to kill Americans suspected of links to Al-Qaeda operations overseas.

The memo concluded that the September 2011 drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Al-Qaeda leader, was legally justified. The memo said that because the U.S. government considered Awlaki to be an "operational leader" of an "enemy force," it was legal for the CIA to attack him with a drone as part of the United States' ongoing “armed conflict with Al-Qaeda," even though he was a U.S. citizen.

The memo, initially drafted in 2010, said the killing was further justified under Congressional authorization for the use of U.S. military force following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The document noted that the authority to use lethal force abroad might apply in appropriate circumstances to a U.S. citizen who is part of the forces of an enemy organization. It said the Awlaki killing in Yemen was justified as long as it was carried out in accord with applicable laws of war.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan released the memo, portions of which are blacked out, after the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU lawyer who argued the case before the 2nd Circuit, said the memo's release "represents an overdue but nonetheless crucial step towards transparency. There are few questions more important than the question of when the government has the authority to kill its own citizens."

Awlaki was killed in what U.S. officials acknowledged at the time was a CIA drone strike in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011. Another American citizen, Samir Khan, was killed in the same attack, although U.S. officials have said that Khan was not intentionally targeted.

Although other Americans have appeared in Internet postings or propaganda as spokesmen or representatives for Al-Qaeda or its affiliates, Awlaki is the only American citizen who U.S. government officials have acknowledged was directly targeted for a U.S. drone strike.

Some legal scholars and human rights activists complained that it was illegal for the U.S. to kill American citizens away from the battlefield without a trial.

Pardiss Kebriaei, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, said the memo's justification was based on "highly aggressive and controversial interpretations of international law."

Lawyers for the Times and ACLU had said that the government's continued delays regarding the document were cheating the public of a fully informed and fair debate over the highly classified "targeted-killing" program.



“The most appalling result of this process in the United States is that some human rights activists now regularly call for using force to resolve the world’s problems. At one time, “human rights” implied opposition to war. Now some of the most outspoken warmongers in Washington are self-proclaimed human rights advocates.”

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/05/24/are-human-rights-activists-today-warmongers/gef04rpPxgEdCEdx4DQ87J/story.html VIA Howard Keylor

warmongers?

By Stephen Kinzer

  |    MAY 25, 2014

ALMOST EVERYONE likes the idea of human rights. The phrase itself is freighted with goodness. Supporting human rights is like supporting world peace.

The modern human rights movement began as a band of outsiders, fighting governments on behalf of the faceless and voiceless. President Jimmy Carter brought it into the American foreign policy establishment by naming an outspoken assistant secretary of state for human rights. This meant that concern for the poor, the brutalized, and the imprisoned would be heard in the highest councils of government.

Now, several decades after the human rights movement traded its outsider status for influence in Washington, it is clear that this has produced negative as well as positive results. The movement has become a global behemoth. Sometimes it functions as a handmaiden to the power it was once dedicated to combating.

The most appalling result of this process in the United States is that some human rights activists now regularly call for using force to resolve the world’s problems. At one time, “human rights” implied opposition to war. Now some of the most outspoken warmongers in Washington are self-proclaimed human rights advocates.

They were among the loudest promoters of war to depose the Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy. That war cast Libya into chaos and set off a chain of events that has brought radical jihadist rule to large parts of Mali.

In recent months, President Obama’s “human rights” team has pushed for escalated intervention in Syria and the dispatch of more troops to Afghanistan. Human rights activists — sometimes supported by well-meaning but pitifully ignorant celebrities — have urged that American military power be used to capture a warlord in Uganda, impose order in the Ivory Coast, crush rebels in South Sudan, and locate kidnap victims in Nigeria.

This is a radical development in the history of the human rights movement. Once it was generals, defense contractors, and chest-thumping politicians who saw war as the best solution to global problems. Now human rights activists play that role. Some seem to have given up on diplomacy and statecraft. Instead they promote the steady militarization of American foreign policy.

These trigger-happy human rights activists rotate in and out of government jobs. This month more than 100 scholars, activists, and Nobel Peace Prize winners protested against this revolving door in an open letter to Human Rights Watch, which, thanks to an astonishing $100 million gift from the financier George Soros, has become king of the human rights hill.

Their letter says that, although Human Rights Watch claims to defend and protect human rights, its ties to the American military and security establishments “call into question its independence.” It names prominent Human Rights Watch figures who have served in the State Department and CIA; condemns the group for supporting “the illegal practice of kidnapping and transferring terrorism suspects around the planet”; and asserts that it produces biased reports exaggerating human rights abuses in countries the United States dislikes, like Venezuela, while being gentler to American allies like Honduras.

“HRW’s close relationships with the US government suffuse such instances with the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the letter says.

Also this month, news came that a French publisher will issue a book version of a devastating essay by a former American diplomat, Richard Johnson, called “The Travesty of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda,” that has been circulating on the Internet for the last year. It is a detailed indictment of the policies Human Rights Watch wants Rwanda to adopt. They include demands that the Rwandan government end restrictions on hate speech and invite the former genocide army back from its bases in the Congo so it can compete for power.

In his paper, Johnson accuses Human Rights Watch of waging a “viscerally hostile” campaign against Rwanda from behind an “aura of sanctity.” He asserts that this campaign “is a threat to that country’s peace and stability.”

“The mendacity and bias of HRW’s political campaign against the post-genocide Rwandan government undermines the overall credibility of Western human rights advocacy,” he concludes.

The world needs fearless truth-tellers. Some human rights advocates are. Others have succumbed to the temptations of power. Their movement is in danger of losing its way.

Stephen Kinzer is a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

www.michaelmunk.com


Obama wants US troops to stay in Afghanistan

Obama worked to keep about the same number (c. 10,000) of troops in Iraq, but the war crimes committed by his troops convinced the Iraqis to reject his demand to protect those troops from Iraqi law.
Now he seems likely to pressure an Afghan successor government to agree to the same deal that the previous government rejected for the same reasons Iraq did.--MM
Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
 
US foreign fighters in the AfPak theater under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 69 casualties since
April 16 the official c
asualty total for the Iraq and AfPak wars* rose to 121,881.
The exposure of the USAID (which paid Gross to go to Cuba)“Cuban Twitter”scheme was one reason he went on his hunger strike. -MM
On her Facebook page, Judy Gross, who is married to Alan Gross, has addressed Secretary of State Kerry: 
"Come on Secretary Kerry, are you still so worried about Menendez, Rubio and Ros-Lehtinan that you can't make a simple swap for the now Cuban 3 and Alan Gross?"
She adds her recognition that the "Cuban 3" "never had a fair trial to begin with."
In the statement (see below), from the official website of the Cuban Foreign Ministry (MINREX), Josefina Vidal, the
General Director of the US Division of MINREX, says:
"The Cuban government reiterates its willingness to find, together with the US government, a solution to the case of Mr. Gross that is acceptable for both parties, taking into account Cuba’s humanitarian concerns with regard to three of the Five Cubans who have remained unjustly imprisoned in the United States for more than fifteen years."
All the necessary parties for an agreement for the release of Alan Gross and the Cuban 3 are here -- EXCEPT for President Obama.  One swift humanitarian arrangement would allow all four prisoners to be home with their loved ones.  The world would be a happier place and nobody anywhere would be endangered by this achievement.  We should all be begging the White House to respond to the loved ones of all four prisoners.  Let them go home now!

Jane Franklin

Statement by Mrs. Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, General Director of the United States Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba

We have read with concern the press communiqué issued in the morning of April 8 in Washington stating that “Alan Gross, the USAID subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba for the last four years and four months, launched a hunger strike last week.”

The Cuban government reiterates its willingness to find, together with the US government, a solution to the case of Mr. Gross that is acceptable for both parties, taking into account Cuba’s humanitarian concerns with regard to three of the Five Cubans who have remained unjustly imprisoned in the United States for more than fifteen years.

As is well known, Mr. Gross has been accorded a decent and appropriate treatment.  Since his detention, he has remained interned in a hospital, not because his health condition required so, but because there he is guaranteed specialized assistance by a highly qualified medical staff.
Alan Gross remains physically fit and his health condition is normal and stable.  The chronic diseases he suffers from, which are proper of a person his age, for which he is receiving medical treatment, are under control. He has been visited by his wife and his lawyer, with whom he also maintains regular communications by phone and e-mail, as he does with other relatives and friends.  He is visited by US diplomatic officials on a monthly basis and also by political and religious personalities.

Mr. Gross was detained, tried and convicted for violating the Cuban laws while he was implementing a subversive program financed by the US Government which involved the establishment of illegal and covert communication systems with the use of non-commercial technology.
Phony state regulators have been recently exposed as close friends of the corporations they “regulate” and consider them to be clients. To wit:
1) Oregon allowed every railroad in the state to keep information about their dangerous oil trains secret.
2) North Carolina allowed Duke Power to pour toxic coal ash waste into its Dean River.
3)West Virginia allowed Freedom Industries to spew cancer-causing chemicals into its Elk River.
4)Washington allowed Grandy Lake Forest to clear cut right above the massive Oso mudslide that has just killed at least 29 people.
Read the details, “ State allowed logging on plateau above slope”  at http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2023225363_mudslideloggingxml.html
And the 1% responsible for these disasters have bought  the media and bamboozled enough of the public to make “government regulation” a dirty word.-MM
Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
 
Obama won the ‘08 primary because he opposed the invasion while Hillary defended it. He even tried to keep the US occupation going (as he is trying to do in Afghanistan) but the Iraqis, recalling war crimes by US troops, refused to immunize them from their justice system as Obama demanded.

Any deadender Obamatons left after this disgraceful rant?-MM

Anger, Disbelief as Obama Defends US Invasion of Iraq

'In order to not appear hypocritical, Obama rewrites history around Iraq War while denouncing Russia'

- Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams, March 27, 2014

President Barack Obama delivers a speech Palais des Beaux-Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels. (Reuters)President Obama is on the receiving end of scorn for remarks made during a high-profile speech in Brussels on Wednesday in which he defended the U.S. invasion of Iraq in an attempt to chastise Russia for recent developments in Crimea and Ukraine.

Speaking to the international community about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and fending off repeated accusations that the U.S. has lost its moral authority given the invasion of Iraq and other breaches of international law in recent years, Obama said:

Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. Now, it is true that the Iraq war was a subject of vigorous debate, not just around the world but in the United States, as well. I participated in that debate, and I opposed our military intervention there.

But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.

But instead of tamping down accusations of hypocrisy, Obama inflamed it.

Responding to the speech on FireDogLake, DSWright shot back: "Worked within the international system? So if Russia had gone to the UN to get a resolution, failed, then annexed Crimea it would have been OK?"

Reaction on Twitter was swift—and among those with a seemingly better memory of the devastation caused by the U.S. invasion of Iraq than the president—fierce:

Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
For those organizing protest demos in public, take heed of Clancy Segal’s challenge when he writes:
“... another of those terminally boring mass meetings... in which every conceivable faction and constituency grimly demands their square foot of platform space to have their (long, long) say.”
Read the rest of his rant, disguised as a movie review, below
 
HELLO HAPPINESS, GOODBYE MISERY
A couple of years ago the Chileans made a movie called simply “No”.  It’s askew in important ways, but stunningly apt for our situation.
In 1988 the Chilean dictator Pinochet, he of the torture cells and “desapariciones”, confident in his powers, orders a people’s plebiscite to decide if he should stay in power for another eight years.  Even though the vote probably will be fixed, the opposition – liberals, good conservatives and radicals – persuade a young advertising executive, Rene, to brainstorm their campaign.  The format is for each side to have 15 minutes of nationwide TV time for 27 nights.  A “yes” vote is to keep Pinochet, a “no” promises a democratic election.
The rightwing government has the big battalions on its side, including the military and police and almost total control of propaganda.  All the liberals have is most of Chile’s artistic community which pitches in to help Rene create an effective “no” campaign.
Rene’s problem as ad-master is that he may lose his conventional ad-agency job by working for the opposition.  More poignantly, he is compelled to argue with his own side composed of jowled politicians emasculated by Pincochet’s tyranny and by oppositionals who suffered terribly under the dictatorship.  Rene’s comrades demand “a right to be heard” and want the campaign to dignify and articulate their pain…at length. 
Rene, more in tune with popular appetites because he’s worked on “Live on the Coke Side of Life”, we-are-the-world type of ads while in exile, tells his comrades their grim idea is a drag.   The Chilean people have had a bellyful of depressing news.  Let’s give them something to live for and laugh about and dance with.  Many of his comrades are offended by Rene’s trivialization of their agony.  Should political activism be turned into marketing rather than a discussion of principles?   Much of the story is taken up by this heated, sometimes personal and ugly debate.
In the end, despite Pinochet’s intimidation, Rene’s ideas win and so does the “no” vote.  Against all the odds and probability, Pinochet – under pressure by his own military who understand the logic of the “no” vote – bows out.
The meat of the film, directed by Pablo Larrain, is the sparkling series of visual images that Rene flashes up on the TV scene of smiling Chileans confronting not their grisly past but looking forward to a better future.  He’s not afraid of using soap opera actors and high fashion models.  Pushing the envelope, Rene even convinces the mothers, sisters and wives of murdered victims to give witness…by singing and dancing.  An extraordinary moment.
It was a gamble to go against an encrusted, traditional, progressive mind-set and exploit the crass, shallow, pandering marketing tools and thus win the “no” campaign. 
I take this film personally.  Some time ago my stomach rebelled against much of the progressive writing and speechifying I’ve spent a lot of my life doing.   All that shock-horror-misery.  The awful word “plight”.  Wallowing and even glorying in unhappiness, exploitation, inequality, discrimination etc. because there’s so much of it that activists feel we can change.  Like Atlas we carry the world on our shoulders.  Lightness of spirit is not one of our many virtues.  I guess we leave the joy and optimism to comics like Bill Maher, Doonesbury, Colbert and rock concertgoers. 
In a way the Chileans had it easy.  They had only a single product to sell, democracy, while we have a spectrum of “issues”, agendas, points of view, studies, and Nobel Prize economists on our side.  As a matter of fact I’m not sure WHAT we are selling to the people Out There. 
No” has flaws.  It bypasses the undramatic grass roots effort that turned out the anti Pinochet vote, and the director's camera is so in love with his leading man, Gael Garcia Bernal (who played Che Guevera in Motorcycle Diaries) that some potentially fascinating side characters are unattended .  Still, “No” is salutary for those of us stuck in the same old ditch.  At the very least it may obstruct another of those terminally boring mass meetings – TROOPS OUT! EAT THE RICH! - in which every conceivable faction and constituency grimly demands their square foot of platform space to have their (long, long) say.  Attending such meetings is where I learned to fall dead asleep on my feet, no small talent.
US foreign fighters in the AfPak theater under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered four casualties
during the week ending March 19 the official casualty total for the Iraq and AfPak wars* rose to 121,786.

As everyone knows, Diane Feinstein has been a reliable supporter of the NSA and CIA, so her outburst against the CIA pushback on her senate intelligence committee staffers is a surprise probably explained more by her need to defend the power of the legislative branch against the White House than a belated revulsion against the notorious CIA kidnapping and torture programs.
But her charges and the CIA counter-charges against her staffers for stealing documents are all consequences of what Obama decided in his first month in office. In January 2009, the new president announced to the dismay of many of his supporters that he was letting the CIA agents who conducted the torture and their bosses off scot free. Obama said that while he did not “believe that anybody is above the law,” he preferred “to look forward as opposed to looking backwards” and that he did not want C.I.A. employees to “suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering.” As a NYT editorial observed, “ The lingering fog about the C.I.A. detentions is a result of Mr. Obama’s decision when he took office to conduct no investigation of them.”
Obama’s announcement influenced a series of decisions by his AG Holder not to prosecute CIA employees for a variety of acts ranging from murder to destruction of videotapes depicting torture by the CIA at its secret prisons, including in Thailand, Afghanistan and the former socialist countries of Poland,Romania and Lithuania
1) In November 2010, the Justice Department said there would be no charges in the destruction of the videotapes of C.I.A. interrogations. Note
that the CIA’s acting general counsel who referred the accusation against the committee staffers to DOJ as a possible criminal offense, was Robert Eatinger, who in 2005 was one two CIA lawyers in its Counterterorism Center who signed off on the torture tapes’ destruction. He is mentioned “more than 1,600 times” in the committee’s hitherto secret report but not by Feinstein in her public statements.
2) In June, 2011, Holder announced that the CIA torturers “would not be charged if they had acted strictly in accordance with the department’s legal advice, though the legal opinions involved were later withdrawn. His review focused more narrowly on more than 100 cases in which interrogators exceeded legal guidelines, including instances of prisoners waterboarded more often than permitted and of one prisoner who was threatened with an electric drill. That left only the cases of Gul Rahman who died in 2002 after being shackled to a concrete wall in near-freezing temperatures at a secret C.I.A. prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit; and Manadel al-Jamadi, who died in C.I.A. custody in 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where his corpse was photographed packed in ice and wrapped in plastic.

3) Finally, in  August, 2012, Holder announced no one would be prosecuted for the deaths of Rahman and al-Jamadi, eliminating the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the C.I.A.

This summary is based on NYT reporting as accessed on its website. Another angle is at http://www.politico.com/story/2014/03/exclusive-cia-emails-reveal-tension-over-terrorism-probe-104561.html     --MM


Distorting Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine

U.S. media malpractice the pervasive new norm.

This article originally appeared in  The Nation, and is reprinted here with their permission.

The degradation of mainstream American press coverage of Russia, a country still vital to US national security, has been under way for many years. If the recent tsunami of shamefully unprofessional and politically inflammatory articles in leading newspapers and magazines—particularly about the Sochi Olympics, Ukraine and, unfailingly, President Vladimir Putin—is an indication, this media malpractice is now pervasive and the new norm.

There are notable exceptions, but a general pattern has developed. Even in the venerable  New York Times and Washington Post, news reports, editorials and commentaries no longer adhere rigorously to traditional journalistic standards, often failing to provide essential facts and context; to make a clear distinction between reporting and analysis; to require at least two different political or “expert” views on major developments; or to publish opposing opinions on their op-ed pages. As a result, American media on Russia today are less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War.

read the rest at http://www.alternet.org/media/distorting-russia-how-american-media-misrepresent-putin-sochi-and-ukraine?akid=11515.52132.6GkR_e&rd=1&src=newsletter959460&t=17


Don’t know how significant this is, but the Pentagon issued its last regular Wednesday casualty report on Jan 30. As of Feb 12. it had added 11 combat casualties (9 pending)-MM.
US foreign fighters in the AfPak theater under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 11 combat casualties
during the period ending Feb 13 the official c
asualty total for the Iraq and AfPak wars* rose to 121,728
The
total includes 81,316 casualties since the US invaded Iraq in March, 2003 (Operations "Iraqi Freedom" and "New Dawn"), and 40,412 since the US invaded Afghanistan in November, 2001 (Operation "Enduring Freedom")
US foreign fighters in the AfPak theater under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 49 combat casualties
during the week ending Jan 30 as the official c
asualty total for the Iraq and AfPak wars* rose to 121,729.
The
total includes 81,316 casualties since the US invaded Iraq in March, 2003 (Operations "Iraqi Freedom" and "New Dawn"), and 40,401 since the US invaded Afghanistan in November, 2001 (Operation "Enduring Freedom")

The Taliban announced they carried out the attack on the restaurant in reprisal for a “coalition” airstrike in Parwan province north of Kabul that killed eight civilians,according to a Presidential spokesman, and escalated Afghan-US tensions yet again. Officials confirmed an airstrike had been called in after Afghan and USpecial Operations advisers took heavy fire during a mission to clear the area. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that “The target of our attack was a restaurant frequented by high-ranking foreigners where the invaders dined and drank plenty of booze."

When President Obama escalated what he called the “right war” by sending 35,000 more troops in March and another 30,000 in December 2009, his decision “ injected billions of dollars into the local economy, [and] drew thousands of new foreign civilians to Kabul,” according to the NYTimes http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/world/asia/afghanistan-restaurant-attack.html?hp

The article says that this surge of foreigners and dollars caused Afghans to change their attitudes toward foreigners “from being an occasional nuisance — some drove too aggressively, others drank too publicly — to being a daily reminder of a war and an occupation that they resented.”And the Taliban escalated their attacks on foreign troops and their Afghan allies.
 
The NYTimes reporter reveals his own fear when he writes, “the attack on the restaurant, Taverna du Liban, a mainstay of the Kabul social scene that catered mainly to foreigners but also to well-to-do Afghans, showed a frightening willingness by the insurgents to strike noncombatants and civilian targets.’
Of course, most of those “noncombatants and civilians” are there to support the occupation—they are not neutral or innocent observers.-MM
-----------------------
In case you missed my earlier rant on this subject:
Interesting observations of the lives of “thousands” of unofficial (mainly US) civilians by the NYTimes correspondent in Kabul. I assume they are mainly US contractors and “security” company gunmen, business speculators and even shadier types that hope to profit from the foreign money flooded into an invaded and occupied country. Although there are also NGO employees engaged in presumably righteous activity, even most of them receive generous pay.-MM

Though the Taliban have mounted numerous attacks in Kabul, they have rarely sought to directly target the thousands of Western civilians who live in the city unattached to any embassy.
...
the thousands of Western civilians who live in Kabul have felt very little of the threat posed by the insurgents. Outside of embassies and other official missions, few expatriates have altered what is a fairly vulnerable existence, even as security in other parts of Afghanistan continues to deteriorate.
Many expatriates still live in houses guarded only by the high walls that usually surround Afghan homes. They frequent a handful of well-established restaurants, many of which serve alcohol, and loud parties at private homes are still weekly occurrences.”
Read it all at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/18/world/asia/Kabul-Cafe-Bombing.html?hp
Hillary Clinton’s Unapologetically Hawkish Record Faces 2016 Test

Burned by Iraq in 2008, but still a strong voice for military action

TIME.com http://swampland.time.com/2014/01/14/hillary-clintons-unapologetically-hawkish-record-faces-2016-test/#ixzz2qQ9rzFOy

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s new memoir hasn’t been a welcome development for Hillary Clinton. In one of the book’s most quoted passages, Gates writes that he witnessed Clinton make a startling confession to Barack Obama: she had opposed George W. Bush‘s last-ditch effort to salvage the Iraq war, the 2007 troop “surge,” because the politics of the 2008 Democratic primaries demanded it.

Clinton’s critics were quick to celebrate the new evidence of the former Secretary of State’s expedience. Clinton, hissed a statement from the conservative Stop Hillary PAC, “will do anything, including mislead the country by putting her political ambitions ahead of the safety of Americans at home and abroad.”

Whatever the truth of that surge anecdote—Clinton’s camp won’t comment on it—the larger truth is impossible to deny. Clinton has demonstrated a well-documented willingness to use American military power overseas. Gates’ book is just the latest evidence, along with previous reporting and original interviews with current and former Obama officials, of the strikingly hawkish voice Clinton offered during Obama Situation Room debates.

As Secretary of State, Clinton backed a bold escalation of the Afghanistan war. She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels, and later endorsed air strikes against the Assad regime. She backed intervention in Libya, and her State Department helped enable Obama’s expansion of lethal drone strikes. In fact, Clinton may have been the administration’s most reliable advocate for military action. On at least three crucial issues—Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid—Clinton took a more aggressive line than Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.

Former administration officials also tell TIME that Clinton was an advocate for maintaining a residual troop force after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq—an issue of renewed interest given al Qaeda’s resurgence there. They also describe her as skeptical of diplomacy with Iran, and firmly opposed to talk of a “containment” policy that would be an alternative to military action should negotiations with Tehran fail.

Recent comparisons of Secretary of State John Kerry’s frenetic globe-trotting to Clinton’s arguably modest diplomatic achievements have tended to overlook this less visible aspect of her tenure. But no assessment of her time in Obama’s administration would be complete without noting the way Clinton hewed to the liberal hawk philosophy she adopted during her husband’s presidency in the 1990s, and which contributed, less happily, to her 2002 vote to authorize force against Iraq. “The Democratic party has two wings—a pacifist wing and a Scoop Jackson wing. And I think she is clearly in the Scoop Jackson wing,” says former Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, now director of the Wilson Center. (Jackson, a Cold War-era Democratic Senator from Washington state, mixed progressive domestic politics with staunch anti-communism, support for a strong military, and backing for the Vietnam War.)

Clinton’s allies resist the word “hawk,” and say a focus on military power doesn’t do justice to her fuller record. “You can’t really pigeonhole her,” says Clinton’s press secretary, Nick Merrill. “She was pragmatic, and wasn’t afraid to use the tools in our proverbial toolbox, as long as it was part of a larger strategy. Her approach was always that diplomacy, development and defense were only effective if used together.”

But potential 2016 opponents may not acknowledge such nuances—particularly given the way the country has grown ever-more wary of foreign entanglements. Consider the recent record:

1. Iraq Clinton paid a political price in the 2008 campaign for warning that a hasty exit from Iraq might be dangerous. But she stayed true to that view once inside Obama’s administration. As Obama began withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, Clinton supported an effort to leave behind several thousands soldiers for training, advisory and counter-terror missions, says James Jeffrey, who was the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad at the time. Jeffrey says Clinton sided with military officials urging a larger troop presence than the roughly 3,000 favored by some White House officials eager to bring the Iraq era to an end—including some who didn’t want to leave any troops in the country.

“Hillary Clinton was a very strong supporter of a residual troop presence and effectively backed my and the military’s views several times with others in the administration,” says Jeffrey. “At times when I felt I was being pushed around at levels below the President and Biden, she was a good person to go fix it,” Jeffrey adds. Obama wound up trying to secure an agreement with the Iraqi government for a modest residual force. But in the end, Jeffrey says, Iraqi politics would not allow for such an agreement on terms acceptable to the U.S., and no troops remained after December 2011.

2. Afghanistan After the top U.S. commander in Kabul, General Stanley McChrystal, asked Obama for another 40,000 more troops to fight the Taliban in mid-2009, several top officials—including Vice President Joe Biden—resisted, arguing in part that the public had lost patience with the conflict.

Clinton sided with the generals, and “strongly supported McChrystal’s approach,” Gates writes. He adds that Clinton actually wound up favoring slightly more surge troops than he did. Obama ultimately sent another 30,000 more American soldiers to Afghanistan. (A former Clinton State Department official says the focus on troop levels alone oversimplifies her position, which included a “civilian surge” to promote development, and the diplomatic efforts of her Afghanistan-Pakistan point man, Richard Holbrooke.)

When a White House debate later flared over when to bring the surge troops home, Clinton stood firm again. “Clinton argued forcefully that withdrawing the surge [before the end of 2012] would signal we were abandoning Afghanistan,” Gates writes. The troops departed in September 2012.

3. Libya The political grief Clinton has suffered over the September 11, 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, comes with an ironic twist: the tragic episode might never occurred had Clinton not supported intervening in Libya’s civil war.

Gates bridled at getting mixed up in another Arab country, insisting that vital U.S. interests were not at stake. But as Muammar Gaddafi’s forces gained momentum and threatened to massacre innocents in early 2011, influential Obama advisors, including then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and national security aides Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power argued for air strikes. Even with public opinion running more than 2-1 against them, Clinton sided with the interventionists. “In the final phase of the internal debate,” Gates writes, “Hillary threw her considerable clout behind Rice, Rhodes and Power.”

That clout may have been decisive: Obama later told Gates that his decision to approve air strikes had been a 51-49 call. Had Clinton taken the other side, Obama might have, too. (For his part, Gates says he considered resigning over the issue.)

Libya is another example of Hillary’s belief in pairing diplomacy with force, says the former State Department official. “On Libya, what convinced her was being able to build a diplomatic coalition” that included the Arab League and the United Nations. “I don’t think you can separate those two things from each other.”

4. Syria Obama had no such appetite for intervening in Syria’s civil war, however, even as the country plunged into chaos in 2012. Clinton came to worry that the cost of inaction was outweighing the risk of intervention. So she teamed up with C.I.A. director David Petraeus to devise a plan to arm and train moderate rebel factions, which the two presented to Obama. The plan echoed the views of some leading Republicans, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. But few in the White House agreed—including Obama, who rejected it.

Hillary never spoke publicly about the plan, although in June her husband urged Obama to be less cautious about Syria. “Some people say, ‘Okay, see what a big mess it is? Stay out!’ I think that’s a big mistake,” Bill Clinton said.

When Obama threatened air strikes last fall to punish the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, Hillary Clinton did support him with a pair of public statements. She was apparently undaunted by polling that showed more than 70 percent of Americans opposed to military action.

5. Iran Clinton brought a hard-line background to the topic of Iran. In April 2008 she warned that the U.S. could “totally obliterate” Iran in retaliation for a nuclear attack on Israel—prompting Obama to chastise her for using “language that’s reflective of George Bush.”

In Obama administration debates about Tehran’s nuclear program, Clinton opposed talk of ‘containment,’ a policy option that plans for a world in which Iran possesses a nuclear weapon. Preparing for containment implies a decision not to use military force to prevent an Iranian bomb in the event that diplomacy fails.

“She was not a fan of containment, believing that it would not work,” says Dennis Ross, a former top Middle East policy staffer in the Obama White House.

Clinton does not share the view that diplomacy with Iran is hopeless, however. She was the first Obama official to suggest that Iran could maintain a domestic uranium enrichment program under an international nuclear deal. And one of her most trusted State Department aides, Jake Sullivan, conducted secret talks with the Iranians in Oman. “She was skeptical that diplomacy would work with the Iranians but absolutely convinced that we had to test the possibilities,” Ross adds.

6. Al Qaeda Though it looks like a no-brainer in hindsight, Obama’s national security team was not unanimous about the wisdom of the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid to kill Osama bin Laden. But while Gates and Biden opposed the operation, Clinton was for it—as she has boasted since leaving office. And while some observers wondered if the liberal background of her hand-picked State Department legal advisor, Harold Koh, might produce new restrictions on lethal drone strikes, Koh instead devised legal reasoning that supported Obama’s aggressively expanded drone campaign.

If Clinton runs for president in 2016, she’s likely to emphasize the more dovish aspects of her record—including her public diplomacy to repair America’s international image, her focus on building ties in Asia, and her attention to women’s rights and development issues.

But at a time when fewer Americans support an active U.S. role in foreign affairs, Clinton’s comfort with the harder side of American power could be a vulnerability. A liberal primary challenger might well reprise Barack Obama’s 2007 line that Hillary’s record amounts to “Bush-Cheney lite.” One potential contender, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, has already been zinging her over her 2002 Iraq vote. “When George Bush got a bunch of [Democrats] to vote for that war, I was just shaking my head in Montana,” he said recently. Whether such attacks will hold even a fraction of the valence they did at the Iraq war’s peak remains to be seen.

And in a scenario that would have seemed absurd  in 2008, Clinton might even wind up defending her left flank against a Republican general election opponent. At a moment of rising isolationism in both parties, a GOP nominee could bash Clinton for defying public opinion on Afghanistan, Syria and Libya. Even a relative GOP centrist like Marco Rubio opposed Obama’s planned air strikes against Syria.

Such a dynamic could scramble American politics in surprising ways. In August, the New Republic asked John McCain whom he would support in a matchup between Clinton and the Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a fulsome critic of American military interventions. “Tough choice,” McCain replied.

 
Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
Watch the NYTimes video “Stealing J. Edgar Hoover’s Secrets” at http://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000002635482/stealing-j-edgar-hoovers-secrets.html
Glenn Greenwald comments:
It's easy to praise people who challenge governments of the distant past, and much harder to do so for those who challenge those who wield actual power today.
 
 
John and Bonnie Raines, two of the burglars who broke into an FBI office in 1971 and stole files that exposed its Cointelpro operation of spying and disruption against dissidents. Shown today at home in Philadelphia with their grandchildren.
As you watch the video, just imagine what today's American commentariat, media class, and establishment figures from both parties would be saying in denouncing these activists. They stole government documents that didn't belong to them! They endangered national security! They did not take just a few documents but everything en masse that they could get their hands on. Former FBI and CIA chief William Webster is shown in the film conceding that the documents they revealed led to important debates, but nonetheless condemning them on the grounds that they used the "wrong methods" - criminal methods! - to expose these bad acts, insisting that they should have gone through unspecified Proper Channels.”-
Read the rest of Greenwald’s comments at
Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
A follow up to my earlier post on the media-ignored neo-Nazi and racist ideologies in the US-supported protests-MM

15,000 nationalists march in Kiev

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — About 15,000 people marched through Kiev on Wednesday night to honor Stepan Bandera, glorified by some as a leader of Ukraine's liberation movement and dismissed by others as a Nazi collaborator.

The march was held in Ukraine's capital on what would have been Bandera's 105th birthday, and many of the celebrants carried torches.

Some wore the uniform of a Ukrainian division of the German army during World War II. Others chanted "Ukraine above all!" and "Bandera, come and bring order!"

However, many of Bandera's followers sought to play down his collaboration with the Germans in the fight for Ukraine's independence as the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, Ukraine's foremost nationalist organization in the first half of the 20th century.

Bandera, who died 55 year ago, remains a deeply divisive figure in Ukraine, glorified by many in western Ukraine as a freedom fighter but dismissed by millions in eastern and southeastern Ukraine as a traitor to the Soviet Union's struggle against the occupying German army.

Bandera was a leader of Ukraine's nationalist movement in the 1930s and 1940s, which included an insurgent army that fought alongside Nazi soldiers during part of the Second World War. Bandera's supporters claim they sided with the Nazis against the Soviet army, believing that Adolf Hitler would grant Ukraine independence.

However, Bandera did collaborate with the Nazis and receive German funding for subversive acts in the USSR as German forces advanced across Poland and into the Soviet Union at the start of the war.

He fell out with the Nazis in 1941, after the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists declared Ukraine's independence, and he was sent to a concentration camp.

Bandera won back Germany's support in 1944, and he was released. The German army was hoping the Ukrainian insurgents could stop the advance of the Soviet army, which had regained control over much of eastern Ukraine by then. Bandera set up a headquarters in Berlin and oversaw the training of Ukrainian insurgents by the German army.

His group also was involved in the ethnic cleansing that killed tens of thousands of Poles in 1942-44. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists portrayed Russians, Poles, Hungarians and Jews — most of the minorities in western Ukraine — as aliens and encouraged locals to "destroy" Poles and Jews.

Bandera was assassinated in 1959 by the KGB in West Germany.

In January 2010, less than a month before his term in office was to end, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko posthumously decorated Bandera with the Hero of Ukraine award. That led to harsh criticism by Jewish and Russian groups. The award was annulled by a court in January 2011 under President Viktor Yanukovych.

Kiev has been the scene of massive pro-European protests for more than a month, triggered by Yanukovych's decision to ditch a key deal with the European Union in favor of building stronger ties with Russia.

The nationalist party Svoboda [Freedom], which organized Wednesday's rally, was one of the key forces behind the protests, but other opposition factions have said the Bandera rally is unrelated to the ongoing protest encampment in central Kiev.


New Study Refines View of Sarin Attack in Syria

A new analysis of rockets linked to the nerve-agent attack on Damascus, Syria, in August has concluded that the rockets were most likely fired by multiple launchers and had a range of about three kilometers, according to the two authors of the analysis.

An image taken by local activists in Damascus shows the remains of a rocket implicated in a chemical attack in August.

Multimedia

The authors said that their findings could help pinpoint accountability for the most lethal chemical warfare attack in decades, but that they also raised questions about the American government’s claims about the locations of launching points, and the technical intelligence behind them.

The new analysis could point to particular Syrian military units involved, or be used by defenders of the Syrian government and those suspicious of the United States’ claims to try to shift blame toward rebels.

The rockets in question were not seen before the Syrian civil war. There is little publicly available information about their internal construction, their manufacturing provenance or their flight characteristics.

But remnants of expended rockets have been videotaped and photographed, including at sites in eastern Damascus that were struck by sarin-filled warheads on Aug. 21.

That attack is broadly believed to have caused at least hundreds of civilian deaths. It led the Obama administration, which blamed the government of President Bashar al-Assad, to threaten military action. That threat was deferred in mid-September after Russia and the United States reached an agreement to dismantle the Syrian government’s chemical weapons program.

The authors of the new analysis —Theodore A. Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Richard M. Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories — evaluated the exteriors of the implicated rockets, visible in videos and photographs. The analysis suggested that they were propelled by motors taken from a common family of 122-millimeter conventional artillery rockets known as the BM-21, the authors said.

The BM-21 line is a globally abundant system of ground-to-ground rockets, colloquially called Grads, that originated in the Soviet Union but have been reproduced and updated by many countries, including post-Soviet Russia, China, Egypt and Iran. Both the Syrian army and the rebels possess them.

An examination of the territory to the northwest of the cluster of reported impact strikes shows many positions that have been firmly under military control throughout 2013, including factories and a bus station complex that are part of Mr. Assad’s defense around his seat of government.

Eliot Higgins, a blogger who has collected and analyzed many online videos related to the attack, the munitions and the Syrian government’s military positions in Damascus, said the new analysis of the rockets’ range aligned with assertions that the government was culpable.

“A range of beyond 2.5 kilometers would put potential launch sites in an area between Jobar and Qaboun, to the north and northwest of the impact locations, that has been a hive of government activity for months,” Mr. Higgins wrote in an email on Friday.

But the analysis could also lead to calls for more transparency from the White House, as Dr. Postol said it undermined the Obama administration’s assertions about the rockets’ launch points.

On Aug. 30, the White House released its assessment of the attack, saying that, among other forms of intelligence, “satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred.”

Dr. Postol said those statements created a public impression that the rockets had been launched from areas at the center of government control.

“It is clear that if the U.S. government’s claims that the allegedly observed launches came from ‘the heart’ of Syrian government controlled areas, there is a serious discrepancy between the meaning of this claim, the technical intelligence it relies on, and the technical properties of this munition,” he wrote.

Using published data about characteristics of motors in various Grad rockets and derivatives, Dr. Postol and Mr. Lloyd calculated potential maximum ranges for the sarin-filled rockets, with an emphasis on a common Grad variant’s motor.

“The dimensions of the inserted rocket motor very closely match the dimensions in the 9M22-U artillery rocket,” Dr. Postol wrote in an email on Thursday. “If the inserted motor is the same as the standard 9M22-U motor, then the maximum range of the munition would be no more than three kilometers, and likely less.”

Multimedia

That would be less than the ranges of more than nine kilometers calculated separately by The New York Times and Human Rights Watch in mid-September, after the United States had dropped its push for a military strike. Those estimates had been based in part on connecting reported compass headings for two rockets cited in the United Nations’ initial report on the attacks.

The published range for a 9M22-U rocket is about 20 kilometers, or 12.4 miles. But the Syrian rockets carried a bulky and apparently flat-nosed warhead — Dr. Postol called it “a soup can” — whose range would have been undermined by its large mass and by drag, the authors said.

Depending on the motors propelling different Grad models, the projected maximum ranges can vary from 2.5 to 3.5 kilometers, or 1.5 to 2.2 miles, Dr. Postol and Mr. Lloyd said.

The longer estimates seem unlikely, Dr. Postol said, because as a sarin-filled rocket was pushed to greater air speeds by a more powerful motor, the stresses created by its non-aerodynamic shape could cause it to tumble or break apart.

Mr. Lloyd said on Friday that his separate analysis of the reported impact sites suggested that two to four launchers were involved in the Aug. 21 strikes.

Dr. Postol agreed. The details, he said, might indicate a canny attacker.

“The line of impacts suggests a launcher that changed loft angle,” Dr. Postol wrote. “This is consistent with a strategy aimed at spreading the nerve agent over a wide area.”

The new analysis has limits. It relies on secondhand measurements of and assumptions about the rockets’ components and construction, but no handling, X-rays or other examination of the real items. The central claim, about a particular rocket-motor insert, regards an item that has not yet been seen in any publicly available images.

Nonetheless, a core assertion in the two authors’ previous analysis of the sarin-filled rockets, also based on dimensions, has stood for months.

That study proposed that the warheads contained a large volume, about 13.2 gallons, of sarin. The United Nations implicitly seconded that suggestion when it included a similar estimate in its own report in September.

The assumption that the warheads contained a large volume of nerve agent also helped shape another prominent analyst’s assertion that the details of the Aug. 21 attack implicated the Syrian government.

Another post I sent out on Dec 13:

A puzzling report that carefully avoids focusing on the report’s clear suggestion that the armed opposition used CWs to attack “soldiers and civilians” at Khan al Assal last March, as well as sarin against “soldiers”in Ashrafia Sahnaya and Jobar in August. Usually only Syrian soldiers are described as such in the western media. Those locations were also identified by Syria at the time as being targeted by the armed opposition and the Khan al Assal attack has been widely reported (outside the US) to have been a chemical strike against Syrian forces.
Recall that, much to the regret of Angela Kane, the UN’s top disarmament official, the US prevented UN inspectors to investigate the Khan al Assal attack by insisting other sites must be included. Kane said in October that “the missed opportunity now haunted her.”-MM

UN inspectors confirm Syria chemical attack

 

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Chemical weapons were probably used in four locations in Syria this year, in addition to the confirmed attack near Damascus in August that forced the government to abandon its secret chemical stockpile, U.N. inspectors have said.

In a report released Thursday, the experts, led by Swedish professor Ake Sellstrom, examined seven alleged chemical weapons attacks and said it lacked information to corroborate the allegations at two locations.

The inspectors' limited mandate barred them from identifying whether the government or opposition fighters were responsible for any of the attacks.

Thursday's report said evidence indicated chemical weapons were probably used in Khan al Assal outside Aleppo, Jobar in Damascus' eastern suburbs, Saraqueb near Idlib in the northwest, and Ashrafiah Sahnaya in the Damascus countryside. In two cases, it found "signatures of sarin."

The government and opposition accused each other of using chemical weapons at Khan al Assal and the report said none of the parties in Syria denied their use in the village. The allegations of chemical weapons use at Jobar and Ashrafiah Sahnaya were made by the Syrian government, while Britain and France raised the allegations about Saraqueb.

In an initial report on Sept. 16, Sellstrom's team concluded that evidence collected in the Ghouta area of Damascus following an Aug. 21 attack provided "clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used." Graphic video footage showed dozens of people gasping for air and bodies lined up and the U.S. government said [not the UN] more than 1,400 people were killed.

The experts said they collected "credible information that corroborates the allegations that chemical weapons were used in Khan al Assal on March 19, 2013 against soldiers and civilians." The report said information from medical, military and health personnel corroborated the occurrence of rapid mass poisoning "by an organophosphorous compound."

But the inspectors said the release of chemical weapons at the site couldn't be independently verified because it lacked "primary information" on how the chemical agents were delivered and because environmental and medical samples weren't scientifically collected, preserved and analyzed.

The U.N. mission said it collected evidence "consistent with the probable use of chemical weapons in Jobar on Aug. 24, 2013 on a relatively small scale against soldiers." But it said it lacked information on the delivery system and the chain of custody for samples, and said therefore it could not "establish the link between the victims, the alleged event and the alleged site."

The report said Jobar was "compromised by previous demining activities and by visits of representatives of the Syrian Government who had reportedly moved the remnants of two explosive devices alleged to be the munitions used in the incident." The U.N. team was able to examine those remnants at a storage location.

At Saraqueb, the inspectors said they collected evidence "that suggests that chemical weapons were used ... on April 29, 2013 on a small scale, also against civilians." Again, they said they lacked information on the delivery system and the chain of custody for environmental samples and therefore couldn't link the event, the site "and the deceased woman."

The inspectors said samples of several of her organs, taken during an autopsy performed in the presence of inspectors, "tested positive for signatures of sarin."

The U.N. mission said it collected evidence "that suggests that chemical weapons were used in Ashrafia Sahnaya on Aug. 25, 2013 on a small scale against soldiers." But it said it lacked primary information on delivery systems and said samples collected by the U.N. experts one week and one month after the alleged incident tested negative.

The report says the U.N. investigative team was unable to make on-site visits to almost all of the sites where chemical weapons allegedly were used, mostly because of poor security conditions. Of the seven sites in the final report, the team did visit Ghouta and Jobar.

Sellstrom handed his final report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The report was then sent to members of the U.N. Security Council. Ban said he would address the 193-member General Assembly on Friday and the council on Monday about the report's findings.

Does Being a Pundit Ever Mean Having to Say You're Sorry?

It's been said that being a pundit means never having to say you're sorry. That's probably more true than not, given that there are few penalties for being spectacularly wrong about the big things.

But that doesn't mean pundits can't decide to tell readers that they made a mistake. And that's exactly what Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen did today (10/22/13) .

"The early denunciations of Snowden now seem both over the top and beside the point," Cohen writes. He should know–he wrote one of them. And now he says his initial reaction was "just plain wrong."

Cohen's earlier piece (6/11/13) called Snowden a "self-proclaimed martyr for our civil liberties," and predicted that he would "go down as a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood." Cohen closed with this:Kerbie Joseph yells and pumps her fist as she marches with protesters against U.S. military action in Syria through Washington to Capitol Hill from the White House, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. A final vote in the U.S. Senate is expected at the end of the coming week. A U.S. House vote is likely in the week of Sept. 16. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Everything about Edward Snowden is ridiculously cinematic. He is not paranoiac; he is merely narcissistic. He jettisoned a girlfriend, a career and, undoubtedly, his personal freedom to expose programs that were known to our elected officials and could have been deduced by anyone who has ever Googled anything. History will not record him as "one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers." History is more likely to forget him.

A few months later, Cohen is telling readers that "my mouth is agape at the sheer size of these data-gathering programs." Snowden is no longer some cross-dressing martyr; he is "an authentic whistleblower" who might be compared to Paul Revere; he's even "a bit like John Brown, the zealot who intensely felt the inhumanity of slavery and broke the law in an attempt to end the practice."

Well, that's something. Cohen is to be credited for re-evaluating his work, and doing something to clear up the record. Here's to hoping that some day he might do the same thing about his support for unconstitutional stop-and-frisk police harassment. But in the meantime, this is a remarkable turnaround that deserves to be noted.


Especially since his hysterical performance during the debate over attacking Syria, Kerry had earned a reputation for consistently wrong declarations and factual untruths. Here’s the most recent example. We should stress, however, that those “friendly host nations”against which the US has fought wars and from which has never withdrawn its forces (Germany, Japan and the southern part of Korea), legal jurisdiction of the hosts is usually waived.-MM

The truth about criminal jurisdiction over US troops in Afghanistan

Commentary: Secretary of State Kerry jeopardizes US-Afghan security agreement with misstatement
Al-Jazeera, October 19, 2013
During an Oct. 12 press conference in Kabul, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that under the pending U.S.-Afghan security agreement, the United States would retain exclusive jurisdiction over its service members for any crimes they commit in Afghanistan.

Kerry unfortunately misstated U.S. law, policy and practice. What's worse, he did so at a critical juncture in the negotiations for an agreement to enable American troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014. And he did this while standing next to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Kerry's misstatements undermined Karzai's ability to explain and advocate for the jurisdiction provisions at an upcoming loya jirga, or political assembly.

Here is what Kerry said:

"We have great respect for Afghan sovereignty. And we will respect it, completely … But where we have forces in any part of the world … in Japan, in Korea, in Europe … wherever our forces are found, they operate under the same standard. We are not singling out Afghanistan for any separate standard. We are defending exactly what the constitutional laws of the United States require."

Returning to the U.S., Kerry repeated his misstatement, claiming that there is "the question of who maintains jurisdiction over those Americans who would be (in Afghanistan after 2014). Needless to say, we are adamant it has to be the United States of America. That’s the way it is everywhere else in the world." This led The Washington Post to award Kerry "three Pinocchios," for statements containing "significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions."

The secretary may, in fact, have doomed the very security agreement he was in Afghanistan to save. His comments are also strategically counterproductive on a larger scale: They perpetuate the myth that the U.S. does not "allow" the courts of another country to prosecute U.S. service members for their criminal actions in that country.

Variety of standards

Foreign countries prosecute and imprison U.S. service members each and every year under the terms of security agreements — which, contrary to Kerry's claim, apply very different standards than the U.S.-Afghan agreement. Since Kerry is a lawyer and former district attorney, his false contention that the U.S. Constitution requires that the U.S. and only the U.S. prosecute its service members is perplexing.

The criminal jurisdiction sections of security agreements between the U.S. and other countries vary. But for a foreign country in which a large number of American service members are stationed, such as Japan, South Korea and Germany, that country has primary jurisdiction over U.S. service members in the vast majority of c

ases.

The only crimes for which the U.S. retains primary jurisdiction under those agreements are offenses that arise from service members' official duties (think convoy vehicle accident or military aircraft incident) or from crimes in which the victims are exclusively American. In all other instances in which the offense violates laws of both the U.S. and the foreign country, the foreign country has primary jurisdiction to prosecute U.S. service members.


The current Afghan criminal justice system lacks the procedural safeguards guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to ensure a fair trial.

American policy is to maximize U.S. jurisdiction over its service members. For foreign countries that have a primary right of jurisdiction over U.S. service members, the United States requests that those countries waive their right so the American military may take appropriate action. And in the overwhelming number of cases, countries such as Germany, Japan and South Korea do waive their right, because they know from decades of experience that the U.S. does in fact hold its service members accountable.

In the small number of cases in which the foreign country declines to waive its jurisdiction — generally in high-profile offenses such as rape and murder — the U.S. provides its service member a foreign attorney at no charge to the service member; another representative to ensure that the foreign country respects the rights and privileges the agreement affords the service member; and a dedicated military lawyer to observe, monitor and report on the proceedings.

Afghanistan's standard

Under the current U.S.-Afghan arrangement, Afghanistan waives jurisdiction over U.S. service members regardless of the crime. Thus, when U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bales sneaked out of a forward operating base in the middle of the night on March 11, 2012, and slaughtered 16 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, Afghanistan did not have criminal jurisdiction. Had Bales committed his offense in Japan, South Korea or a NATO country, that country could and would have prosecuted him.

The jurisdictional scheme in the pending U.S.-Afghan security agreement would lead to the same outcome as in the Bales case. If, in 2015, a U.S. service member stationed in Afghanistan commits wanton criminal misconduct against Afghan civilians, Afghanistan would still not have primary jurisdiction over the offender.

Kerry was right to push back on the claim that the agreement results in immunity. It does not. That the U.S. Army court-martialed Bales, convicted him of murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole is anything but immunity.

But the proposed criminal jurisdiction arrangement is fundamentally different from the arrangement the U.S. has with other countries, including those the secretary mentioned. Kerry undermines American credibility by falsely claiming the U.S. is not singling out Afghanistan for a separate criminal jurisdiction standard. In fact, there are legitimate reasons for that separate standard. For instance, the current Afghan criminal justice system lacks the procedural safeguards guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to ensure a fair trial.

Making that point is diplomatically delicate, if not awkward — especially when President Karzai is standing next to you. But if Afghanistan is to be treated as a partner, now and moving forward, the U.S. cannot afford such careless statements by its top foreign-affairs official.




US foreign fighters in the AfPak theater under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 18 casualties
during the week ending Oct 24 as the official
 total for the Iraq and AfPak wars* rose to 121,514.
The
total includes 81,330 casualties since the US invaded Iraq in March, 2003 (Operations "Iraqi Freedom" and "New Dawn"), and 40,184 since the US invaded Afghanistan in November, 2001 (Operation "Enduring Freedom")
 
  AFGHANISTAN THEATER: US foreign fighters suffered 17 combat casualties during the week ending Oct 24 as the total rose to 40,184 The total includes 21,230 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and 18,954 dead or medically evacuated (as of Dec.3, 2012) from what it calls "non-hostile" causes.   IRAQ THEATER: The total of US military personnel in Iraq is unclear, with estimates ranging from a few hundred to several thousand. Most armed US employees are designated as civilians. The casualty total has been revised several times recently and has risen to 35,762 dead and wounded from “hostile" causes and 45,568 dead or medically evacuated (as of Dec 3, 2012) from "non-hostile" causes.    US media divert attention from the actual cost in American life and limb by reporting regularly only the total killed (6,774- 4,489 in Iraq, 2,285 in Afghanistan) but rarely mentioning those wounded in action (51,571- 32,235 in Iraq;19,436 in Afghanistan). They ignore the 59,908 (44,607 in Iraq,18,463 in AfPak (as of Dec 3, 2012) military casualties injured and ill seriously enough to be medevac'd out of theater, even though the 6,774 total dead include 1,452 (961 in Iraq, 491 in Afghanistan) who died from those same "non hostile" causes, of whom almost 25% (332) were suicides (as of Jan 9, 2013) and at least 18 in Iraq from faulty KBR electrical work.    NOTE: It’s unclear whether the AfPak number for WIAs at some point started to include medical evacuations for non hostile injuries and disease.   *LIBYA :Operation "Odyssey Dawn" launched in March,2011 officially ended Oct 31, 2011 with no reported US casualties.
  WIAs are usually updated on Wednesday at www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf   -------------------------------------------- visit my website www.michaelmunk.com

The 400 managing partners ands top execs at Goldman Sachs are covered by a medical and dental plan that vcosts over $40,000 /year for a family. They pay no co-payments or deductibles, have no limits on doctors or procedures, no restrictions on pre-existing conditions and no requirements for referrals, according to Paul Fronstin, an analyst at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a Washington nonprofit that studies benefits. Ted Cruz’s wife is one of those covered, so the Senator was able to decline federal employee health coverage.- MM

 For details see http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/27/health/policy/27insure.html?_r=0

 

 
US fighters in the AfPak theater under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 38 casualty total for the Iraq and AfPak wars* rose to 121,343.
The total includes 81,326 casualties since the US invaded Iraq in March, 2003 (Operations "Iraqi Freedom" and "New Dawn"), and 40,017 since the US invaded Afghanistan in November, 2001 (Operation "Enduring Freedom")


Kerbie Joseph yells and pumps her fist as she marches with protesters against U.S. military action in Syria through Washington to Capitol Hill from the White House, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. A final vote in the U.S. Senate is expected at the end of the coming week. A U.S. House vote is likely in the week of Sept. 16. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Mike Nelson/AFP/Getty Images

As President Barack Obama considers a military intervention in Syria following allegations that its embattled government used chemical weapons against civilians, Foreign Policy published declassified CIA documents Sunday revealing that the U.S. government knew about Iraq's use of nerve gas against Iranian forces in 1988, but did nothing.

While it isn't a secret that the U.S. government aided Iraq's military to prevent an Iranian victory in the nearly decade-long war between the two countries, it is the first time that official documents reveal the scale of the United States’acquiescence to some of the largest chemical-weapons attacks in recent history, including the gassing of thousands of Kurds in Halabja, Iraq in 1988.

The CIA documents are part of a secret program where the U.S. government shared military intelligence with the Iraqi regime, detailing the positions of Iranian forces after they had discovered a hole in Iraqi defenses and were planning a strike. The information resulted in several chemical attacks on Iran and eventually forced the country to the negotiating table, FP reports.

American officials, including the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who supervised the program denied the attacks. But retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona, who was a military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, told FP that the U.S. government was well aware of Saddam Hussein’s deadly intent.

"The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn't have to. We already knew," he said.

Iraq's gas wars against Iran from 1981 to 1988 were frequently employed to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which happened without prior consent from the United Nations Security Council and under the guise of exposing Hussein’s stock of weapons of mass destruction.

In 1983, the U.S. government gathered evidence of Iraqi chemical-weapon attacks as Iran was building its case for the U.N., but prevented the information from becoming public, according to FP.


Marketing 'Obamacare' shaping up as big challenge

CHICAGO (AP) — It will make you stronger. It will give you peace of mind and make you feel like a winner. Health insurance is what the whole country has been talking about, so don't be left out.

Sound like a sales pitch? Get ready for a lot more. As President Barack Obama's health care law moves from theory to reality in the coming months, its success may hinge on whether the best minds in advertising can reach one of the hardest-to-find parts of the population: people without health coverage.

The campaign won't come cheap: The total amount to be spent nationally on publicity, marketing and advertising will be at least $684 million, according to data compiled The Associated Press from federal and state sources.

About 16 percent of Americans are uninsured, but despite years of political debate and media attention, more than three-quarters of them still know little about the law known as "Obamacare," according to recent surveys.

"It's not sugar cereal, beer and detergent," said Brooke Foley, chief executive officer of the Chicago-based Jayne Agency, one of the advertising firms crafting messages to reach the uninsured.

The Obama administration and many states are launching campaigns this summer to get the word out before enrollment for new benefits begins in October.

The targets are mostly the working poor, young people who are disengaged, or those who gave up their insurance because of the cost. Three-quarters are white. Eighty-six percent have a high school education or less. Together they make up a blind spot in the nation's health care system.

"They've been shut out. It's too expensive and it's incredibly confusing," said David Smith of the advertising agency GMMB, pitching the health law's benefits in Washington and Vermont.

Their confusion might only have been magnified by the administration's surprise announcement recently postponing part of the system that affects businesses. But that change should not affect many individuals. A bigger complication is that in about half the states, Republican governors are declining to cooperate, which will limit the marketing.

The states that have been more receptive to the health care overhaul and are further ahead in their planning will receive proportionally more federal money for outreach, advertising and marketing than Republican-led states that have been hostile to the law.

AP research from all 50 states shows the amount of government spending will range from a low of 46 cents per capita in Wisconsin, which has ceded responsibility for its health insurance exchange to the federal government, to $9.23 per capita in West Virginia, which opted for a state-federal partnership.

About $4.8 million in public money will be spent trying to sign up New Jersey's 1.3 million uninsured, for example, compared to the nearly $28 million spent reaching out to Washington state's much smaller 960,000.

Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured people in the nation, three times more than Illinois. But only a fourth as much public money will be spent on getting people enrolled in Texas.

Austin resident Caryl Mauk, 46, remains confused about the Affordable Care Act even though Texas' federally run exchange is just two months away from opening for enrollment.

She hasn't had insurance since she had to quit her nursing job in 2011 because of a heart condition. She's been struggling with chest pains, arthritis and fatigue but doesn't know what to make of the new program.

"Sometimes I just get overwhelmed," Mauk said. "I don't want to get bad news again, and that slows me down in making calls."

In the GOP states, community groups with federal grants will lead the effort.

Ads based on research about the uninsured will soon start popping up on radio, TV and social media. Grassroots organizers are recruiting their pastors, barbers and mothers and arming them with carefully worded messages. In some neighborhoods, volunteers will go door-to-door.

The pitch: If you don't make much money, the government can pick up some of the cost of your health insurance. If you can afford a policy, by law you have to get one. By getting more people insured, the government hopes they'll get health care earlier, before winding up in emergency rooms with expensive problems that could have been prevented.

The political stakes for the Obama administration in a big response are high. If only the sickest people sign up, the cost of their medical care could overburden insurance carriers and sink the new marketplaces. The new system depends on a balanced pool.

The ad campaign already underway in Colorado demonstrates the search for an effective message.

There, TV commercials show people being magically transformed into champions. One minute they're shopping for health insurance on a computer, the next they're winning at a horse race, in a casino or at the World Series with champagne corks flying. The slogan: "When health insurance companies compete, the only winner is you."

That's because market research shows Coloradans like competition, said Tom Leydon, CEO of Denver-based advertising and digital marketing agency Pilgrim.

The celebratory scenes "remind people of the good feeling they get when they win," he said.

Despite the focus on winning and champions, there may be little if any cooperation for the publicity blitz from the professional sports leagues, which would have the potential to reach tens of millions of people. Two Republican Senate leaders warned the leagues about getting involved in "a highly polarized public debate."

In states where there will be no official cooperation, Enroll America, a coalition of health companies and advocates, has deployed volunteers to hand out brochures at a farmers market in Austin and hold house parties in Cincinnati, and plans a seven-figure ad buy across the nation.

"There has to be an echo chamber," said John Gilbert, national field director for the Enroll America media campaign. "If I'm uninsured and it's October, I won't be able to go anywhere without (hearing) the message of enrollment."

Chicago resident Martin Upshaw, whose fast food job doesn't provide health benefits, said the cost has kept him uninsured.

"The bottom line is the dollar sign," said Upshaw, 27, who survived a shooting three years ago. "I would love to be able to go in and see a doctor and make sure I'm OK."

In Chicago, the Jayne Agency's staff talked to more than 50 patients at an emergency room to hone the best message. The slogan they chose: "Don't Just Get By." The ad campaign features real people and their health stories.

On a recent Sunday in southwest Houston, volunteers recruited by Blue Cross Blue Shield set up information tables at a community center where three Methodist church services are held.

"I'm looking to get where I can go to the doctor and have a $25 to $30 co-pay," said churchgoer Yolanda Boykin, 60, whose current job through a temp agency does not provide health insurance.

Another part of the campaign nationwide, focused on young men, is refining messages for their mothers.

Market research has shown that young adults say it's often a parent, a girlfriend or a sibling who will push them to sign up for something like health insurance, said Julie Bataille, helping lead the outreach for the Obama administration, so the campaign will "make sure moms are aware."


 

Subject:  Greenwald.. "Shame on Feinstein"

Norman Solomon’s challenge to secret program defender Feinstein http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/07 quotes Glen Greenwald “The reason there are leakers is precisely because the govt is filled with people like Dianne Feinstein who do horrendous things in secret.”
Her colleague on the Senate Intelligence committee, Ron Wyden (D-OR) has been trying to wake people up about that “horrendous secret thing” for years http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/05/secret-patriot-act/.
But all he could do was vaguely warn since he couldn’t describe the secret phone data program without violating his oath to keep it secret. Wyden and Feinstein are both “Israel Firsters” but he’s been vindicated as a righteous politician on this one.-MM


Subject:  An Example of Bradley Manning's whistleblowing...
 
If you follow the story of the IAEA and Iranian nukes, you may have noticed a pro-US bias in the IAEA’s bureaucracy in Vienna. That was precisely the result the US expected when it pushed Yukiya Amano of Japan, a nation with a military alliance with the US, to be secretary general.
According to a cable dated Oct 16, 2009, the US mission to the IAEA reported that Amano is “solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program”.  http://opendemocracy.net/peter-oborne-david-morrison/myths-falsehoods-and-misrepresentations-about-iran
This is an example of the important information the US tries to keep secret from the public and for which it is trying Bradley
Manning under the 1917 Espionage act.-MM
Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com
Remember the “Cold War Liberals” who pushed for aggressive US military policy (like Vietnam) and fronted the Military-Industrial Complex? These days they’re “Liberal Hawks” or “’Humanitarian’ Interventionists” and like Rice and Power want even more aggressive US intervention in Syria than is already underway (More Patriot missiles to Jordan after sending them to Turkey).-MM

At White House, liberal hawks ascend

The elevation of Susan Rice as national security advisor and Samantha Power as U.N. envoy hints at a foreign policy fight.

By Jacob Heilbrunn

Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2013

latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-heilbrunn-obama-rice-power-20130607,0,4704730.story VIA Steve Weiss

With his decision to elevate Susan Rice to become his national security advisor and the nomination of Samantha Power as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, President Obama is not simply rewarding the loyalty of two women who have backed him from the start. Nor is he merely increasing the diversity of his foreign policy team. Rather, their promotions hints at a new source of fireworks in a growing foreign policy battle in the Obama administration. Liberal hawks and doves in the White House and the Democratic Party are struggling for hearts and minds over whether it makes sense to intervene in Syria and to attack Iran.

Democratic hawks believe that America has a crusading mission to champion humanitarian intervention. Their credo is exemplified by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's reference to America as the "indispensable nation," one that should intervene abroad whenever and wherever necessary to defend the oppressed. Count among the hawks New York Times commentator Bill Keller, who has been demanding intervention in Syria; Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning at the State Department [and head of the $20M/yr New America Foundation]; and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a staunch liberal who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee and is urging limited military strikes on Syria.

On the other side are the realist skeptics of intervention in Syria, such as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. And although Secretary of State John F. Kerry wants to bolster the Syrian rebels, he's not big on regime change; he favors increased aid as a measure to strengthen diplomatic efforts to force President Bashar Assad to negotiate.

Both men have been deeply shaped by the Vietnam War, in which they served with distinction, and the Iraq war. The fear of a repetition of Iraq is what is prompting liberal pundits such as David Rieff to plead, "Save us from the liberal hawks." The liberal realists worry that the very military steps taken to help embattled populations abroad may inadvertently end up triggering even greater havoc. Like John Quincy Adams, they believe "America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy" for fear that America itself will become the monster.

The conflict between the two camps is probably best understood as the latest installment in a running dispute over the lessons of the Vietnam War. Vietnam was originally promoted by Cold War liberals such as Dean Acheson and Dean Rusk. A younger generation, led by Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.), said that the U.S. had lost its way in Southeast Asia and was becoming an international bad guy. The warriors recoiled. Some became neoconservatives and left for the GOP; others remained behind to try to stage an insurgency inside the party.

Ever since, the Democratic Party has been divided when it comes to foreign policy. During the 1970s and '80s, the doves mostly had the upper hand, decrying U.S. militarism everywhere, from the invasion of Grenada to the Nicaraguan revolution. It may have been emotionally satisfying, but the Democrats also looked weak on foreign policy, a vulnerability that Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush exploited.

Then came the Clinton administration. Initially, Secretary of State Warren Christopher and National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, both of whom were scarred by Vietnam, kept America out of the conflict. But as atrocities mounted in the Balkans, the calls for intervention, including from Samantha Power, who made her name as a journalist covering Serbian aggression, and from Albright, then ambassador to the U.N., became increasingly prominent. In 1995, the administration intervened militarily in the Balkans to bring the Serbs to heel. Hand-wringing about American power was out. A new taste for intervening abroad under the banner of humanitarianism was in. The liberal hawks were once again ascendant.

Despite the fiasco in Iraq, key Obama advisors such as Rice and Power were undaunted when it came to Libya. They argued that regime change was essential, that the United States could put together a genuine international coalition, and that it had a profound obligation to save the civilian population of Benghazi from being annihilated by Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi's marauding forces. It was supposed to be the Balkans all over again. Instead, Islamic militant forces have been emboldened and are spreading the fight to Syria with Kadafi's weaponry.

The chaos in Libya has chastened Obama, who is resisting attacking Syria militarily. But Libya's travails aren't stopping a chorus of warrior intellectuals from denouncing what they consider his morally culpable passivity. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, for example, complains, "Liberals, once characterized as bleeding hearts, seem now to have none at all."

Will Obama remain aloof in Syria, or will a liberal president once again accede to the cries of the hawks? His elevation of Rice and Power suggests that the pressure will be on from within his own administration. Both Rice and Power are personally much closer to the president than Kerry and could seek to undermine him. Even as Rice controls foreign policy from the White House, Power will occupy a potent pulpit at the United Nations, historically a highly visible platform for moralistic defenses of America and denunciations of evildoers abroad.

In naming Rice and Power, Obama, you could say, is staging his own potent intervention on behalf of the liberal hawks.

Jacob Heilbrunn, a senior editor at the National Interest, is the author of "They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons."


 

The media, which depend on a “recovery” are leading the cheers heralding its arrival. But stagnation seems to a better term to apply to today’s global capitalism.
The Global Economy: A Midyear Snapshot
By Zoltan Zigedy

http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

What happens to the US economy when the Federal Reserve stops printing money to buy mortgage based securities, treasury notes, and other bonds? What happens when that body stops injecting 85 billion dollars into the US economy every month?

These questions torture the economic pundits in the mainstream press.

Contrary to what most believe there has been no recovery. The reports from the other principal global economies have been dismal, recording stagnation or anemic growth. In the mean time, the US economy has been sustained by forced feeding. The Federal Reserve quietly prints notes and takes around 85 billion dollars worth of various securities off the market and parks them on the Fed's balance sheets. The announced reasons for this action are to keep interest rates low, attracting borrowers, and to thus stimulate business growth and job creation. An unannounced consequence of the 85 billion dollar injection has been a surge in equity markets and housing prices. Since both stock portfolios and home values are the principal components in the psychological “wealth effect” -- the subjective, personal sense of financial well-being -- they have spurred the impression of recovery and consumer confidence. Behind this conjured image of recovery, the US economy continues to stagnate and erode.

Whenever the Federal Reserve has suggested that it might slow or end this life-support, markets have dropped precipitously.

Obviously, the Federal Reserve program, dubbed “quantitative easing,” is a back-door stimulus program.
Not a stimulus program of the New Deal type, not public works and public jobs, but more a reclamation of the garbage piled up after the massive, destructive party thrown by the financial sector and a rekindling of the pre-crisis euphoria. No one in the political establishment, neither Republican nor Democrat, had the stomach for a full-blown New Deal program, nor did they have any desire to pass even a little of the cost of a fix-up on to their corporate masters.

So the task of recovery fell in the lap of the Federal Reserve, an ostensibly independent non-political body. The Federal Reserve is not political, except when it is. While it can't be dictated to by the branches of government, its make-up of ivy league professors and financial industry veterans guarantees loyalty to corporate moguls. It also keeps an ear open to the powerful as well as the rich. On occasion the Fed even hears the voices from the barricades, but only when they are at the barricades!

It shares that “independence “ with the Supreme Court. Like the Supreme Court, the Fed gets occasionally chastised when it either missed or failed to get the message of a ruling class change in policy.

All central banks boast of their independence, but all listen closely for a shift in political favor. The Central Bank of Japan recently demonstrated its fealty to political change. With the election of Shinzo Abe as Prime Minister, the Bank relented to his pressure and began a policy of quantitative easing with the goal of doubling Japan's money supply in two years. Abe, a right-wing nationalist, advocates purchasing securities and bonds through a speed-up of the Bank's printing presses, but makes no effort to conceal his real goal: radically reducing the exchange rate of the national currency, the Yen.

Like his foreign policy initiatives, Abe's currency policy is a bold act of aggression, in this case, economic aggression. A weak yen makes Japanese manufacturing products cheaper in global markets, giving Japan a competitive edge against other global manufacturers. The rise of Japanese nationalism has not gone unnoticed by other Asian powers. Chinese demonstrators have trashed Japanese cars in a way reminiscent of similar spectacles in the US decades ago. Japanese automobile sales have dropped sharply in the PRC.

While retaliation may well be on the horizon, the Abe policies have brought a sharp drop in the Yen's value, but also great volatility in Asian equity markets.

Similarly, for all the US Federal Reserve's aggressiveness in printing money, the stock market's surge and the recovery of housing prices have masked serious issues plaguing the real US economy.

[June 2: “Investors have ignored poor economic news as stocks have risen... The Basil, Switzerland based Bank of International Settlements said... that central banks' policies of record low interest rates and monetary stimulus had helped investors “tune out” bad news-- every time an economic indicator disappointed, traders simply took that as confirmation that central banks would continue to provide stimulus.” as reported by Fox News.]

Disposable personal income growth is collapsing, for example. Excepting the 2008-2009 collapse, disposable personal income growth was lower in 2012 than any time since 1959 and is trending even lower in 2013. Not surprisingly, the personal savings rate-- a rate that grew dramatically after the frivolity leading to the 2008-2009 collapse-- has now dropped sharply. Clearly, workers are taking home less while reducing their savings to pay the bills. While unsustainable, this tact has buoyed consumer spending.

[May 31: The Commerce Department reported a .2% pull back in consumer spending for April, 2013.]

Manufacturing production in the US has declined for three of the last