Follow the Soapbox
 
Source: readersupportednews.org

By Julian Assange, WikiLeaks
01 July 15

Today, 1500 CEST Wednesday, 1 July 2015, WikiLeaks releases a modern journalistic holy grail: the secret Core Text for the largest 'trade deal' in history, the TiSA (Trade In Services Agreement), whose 52 nations together comprise two-thirds of global GDP. The negotiating parties are the United States, the 28 members of the European Union and 23 other countries, including Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan and Israel.

Today's publication happens the week before the next TiSA negotiating round that begins on Monday, 6 July. WikiLeaks is also today publishing the full agenda for next week's negotiations, which shows that discussions will focus on Financial Services, Telecommunications and the Movement of Natural Persons.

WikiLeaks is also publishing a previously unpublished Annex text – the secret TiSA Annex on Government Procurement. The draft Annex aims to reduce procurement regulation to ensure that TiSA governments will not favour local services over services supplied by foreign multinationals.

WikiLeaks is also publishing the new negotiating texts for three highly controversial TiSA annexes: the annexes on the Movement of Natural Persons, the Domestic Regulation Annex and the Transparency Annex. All three texts include negotiating positions of each of the participant countries in the TiSA negotiations, and illustrate developments from previous versions of the TiSA annexes, also published by WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks has also released 36 pages of our own expert analysis.

While the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP) have become well known in recent months, the TiSA is the largest component of the United States' strategic neoliberal 'trade' treaty triumvirate. Together, the three treaties form not only a new legal order shaped for transnational corporations, but a new economic "grand enclosure", which excludes China and all other BRICS countries.

According to statements made in April by US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, parts of the triumvirate are "as important" to the US engagement with Asia as "another aircraft carrier". All three treaties have been subject to stringent criticism for the lack of transparency and public consultation in their negotiation processes. TiSA drafts are classified for a period of five years after the completion of the treaty.

According to NSA interceptions of French treasurer Jean-Francois Boittin published by WikiLeaks on Tuesday "Washington is negotiating with every nation that borders China... so as to 'confront Beijing'."

The TiSA Core Text shows how this negotiation aims at going beyond the GATS agreement, substantially further restricting what governments can do in services. There are far more extensive criteria for commercial firms, including foreign ones, to force governments to protect their corporate interests. Changes to scheduling bring more services than GATS under two main rules regarding commercial businesses working in foreign jurisdictions: non-discrimination in favour of local companies and market access abilities to not limit the size and shape of foreign companies in the market.

The text also shows TiSA expanding the GATS agreement to include new "disciplines" such as those on domestic regulation, transparency and eCommerce. TiSA is also of great worry to developing countries, a number of whom will be bound by this agreement, as it does not give any of the GATS provisions for them, but instead gives greater protections for foreign growth into the countries, with protections for national services far lesser than GATS'.

Today's publication of the TiSA Core Text adds to WikiLeaks' prior publications of numerous secret TiSA annexes. The text reveals the ideological and legal underpinnings of the TiSA, and provides the overarching context for each of the TiSA annexes.

According to World Bank figures, "services" comprise 75% of the EU economy and 80% of the US economy. For a typical developing country like Pakistan, services comprise 53% of its economy. The TiSA covers the majority of the global economy.
 
 
Or How California's Legislature and Governor Ignored the Law and Shredded the Constitutions of California and the United States.

July 1, 2015. Sacramento, CA. After receiving substantial big $$ from the pharmaceutical industry to push through perhaps the most Unconstitutional piece of legislation in the history of California, Big Pharma may be celebrating the passage of SB 277 and Jerry Brown's signature on this measure into law, but the California Supreme Court and maybe the U.S. Supreme Court will have the last word. All sixteen of those justices took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and. in the case of the seven California justices, the Constitution of the State of California.  Pictured are the California Supreme Court Justices dressed and ready for action, teaching a history lesson to California attorneys at the 2015 Annual meeting of the California Bar Association.  In passing and signing SB 277, Jerry and the State Legislature may have shredded the Constitutions of California and United States but these justices took an oath to uphold those Constitution and Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is a woman of her word.  Unfortunately for those legislators, who want to eliminate parental rights, Tani is also a mother and she was NOT appointed by Jerry.

Read More...
 
 
An interview with peace activist Cindy Sheehan!

Source
 
 
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June 18, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 Carl Dix is the co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and a representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Outrageous! A white supremacist motivated by racist venom enters Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, during a Bible study class. He sits down with people there for a while and then starts shooting them, murdering six Black women and three Black men. He calmly reloaded in the course of carrying out these foul murders, telling his victims that he had to do this “because you [meaning Black people] rape our women and are taking over our country"!

Mass murder carried out in a church—a place that is supposed to be a sanctuary in the face of injustice. This brings to mind the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963 which killed four little girls. And the wave of burnings of Black churches in more recent decades.

Mass murder carried out at this church, which has a history of being a place Black people gathered to organize themselves to stand up to the savage oppression this system has enforced on them for centuries. This history goes back to the church's founding in 1816. Among its founders was Denmark Vesey who was hung in 1822, along with 35 other Black people, for planning a slave uprising.

The blood of the nine people murdered in Charleston is on the hands of the rulers of this country. Whether this guy acted alone or not, he was acting within a climate that has been deliberately whipped up. White supremacy has been ingrained in the fabric of America from its very beginning. This country was founded on theft of land from and genocide inflicted on the native inhabitants and the dragging of millions of Africans to these shores in slave chains. And white supremacy remains at the heart of this society right down to today.

What does it tell you about this country that George Zimmerman could murder Trayvon Martin as he walked home carrying Skittles and iced tea and walk away with no punishment. That cops could choke Eric Garner to death, ignoring his cries of “I can't breathe,” and get off scot free. That a South Carolina cop could feel he could get away with shooting Walter Scott in the back as he ran away. That Black communities are built on toxic areas that poison people. That Black couples with good credit were steered to sub-prime loans that led to them disproportionately losing their homes in the 2007 economic meltdown. That 2+ million people are imprisoned in this country, vastly disproportionately Black and Latino. These and more amount to a genocidal program of suppression and deprivation targeting Black people. And they have contributed to a climate in which it is legitimate to view Black people as criminals and justified to murder them. In these and a thousand other ways a message is delivered that Black life doesn't matter.




All this faces us all with an urgent question: Which side are you on? Are you on the side of the savage oppression and brutality this system enforces on Black people? Or do you stand against these kinds of horrors?




The crocodile tears being shed by those who preside over the brutality and murder this system inflicts on people are worse than useless. It will take revolution, nothing less, to uproot white supremacy and end the oppression of Black people and all the other horrors this system inflicts on humanity. If you want to see these horrors stopped, there is a movement you can get with, a movement for revolution that the Revolutionary Communist Party is building. To get information and to join in dealing with the questions and obstacles this revolution faces, go to the website: www.revcom.us.




Everyone should understand that there is no middle ground in this struggle where people can be neutral while this system grinds away, crushing the bodies and breaking the spirits of those on the bottom of society. If you have an ounce of humanity, you must add your voice to those demanding that horrors like these STOP! Right Now!



 
 
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Common Dreams
by Lauren McCauley
06/14/2015


Seeking official apology, Faisal bin Ali Jaber says, 'Imagine that your loved one was wrongly killed by the U.S. government. Imagine they would not even admit their role in the death of your family members.'


In April, U.S. President Barack Obama, pictured with director of the CIA John Brennan, publicly apologized for the killing of two western hostages. (Photo: file)

The family of two U.S. drone victims is refusing to keep their pain silent as they seek an official apology by U.S. President Barack Obama for the deaths of their kin.

In a CNN op-ed published on Friday, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni civil engineer, issued a public challenge to the U.S. leader—who recently made public statements about the deaths of two westerners killed by U.S. drone strikes, but has refused to acknowledge Yemeni civilian casualties.

"What is the value of a human life?" Jaber asks.

In the column, Jaber describes how following the August 2012 strike that killed Waleed and Salem bin Ali Jaber, the family had to identify them "from their clothes and scraps of matted hair."

And how in the wake of the strike, while the family awaited an official apology, they were instead presented with "$100,000 in sequentially-marked U.S. dollars in a plastic bag."

Jaber writes: "A Yemeni security service official was given the unpleasant task of handing this over. I looked him in the eye and asked how this was acceptable, and whether he would admit the money came from America. He shrugged and said: 'Can't tell you. Take the money.'"

"The secret payment to my family represents a fraction of the cost of the operation that killed them," he continues. "This seems to be the Obama administration's cold calculation: Yemeni lives are cheap. They cost the President no political or moral capital."

In contrast to the experience of Jaber and other relatives of innocent Yemenis killed by the U.S. drone war, in April, Obama publicly acknowledged that a U.S. counterterrorism operation had killed an American, Warren Weinstein, and an Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto. The lawsuit follows another failed court challenge in Germany in which Jaber's family sought to prosecute the home of Ramstein Air Base for its role in "facilitating American covert drone strikes in Yemen."

"Like a lot of Americans, my family and I watched the President's speech at home," Jaber writes. "But while many praised him for his forthrightness, we do not share that view. His speech shocked us. No, it was worse: his speech broke our hearts. 

"As I watched," he continues, "I thought of my dead relatives, names that so far as I know have never crossed the President's lips: Waleed and Salem bin Ali Jaber."

On Monday, Jaber filed a suit asking a Washington D.C. district court to issue a declaration that the strike that killed Salem and Waleed was unlawful. He is seeking no monetary compensation.

"Imagine that your loved one was wrongly killed by the U.S. government, and the White House would not apologize. Imagine they would not even admit their role in the death of your family members," Jaber concludes. "We simply want the truth and an apology. We will not rest until it is ours."



 
 
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Counter Punch
by HENRY A. GIROUX
06/08/2015

The academy is entering a dangerous time. Academics now find themselves entering a time when a more comprehensive politics that deals with the rise of authoritarianism through a variety of related fundamentalisms–economic, religious, political, and educational–is being overlooked as a result of an emerging limited and depoliticizing politics of civility and trauma. This is not meant to suggest that dehumanizing behavior and injurious forms of trauma do not matter and should not be addressed. What is disturbing is when such incidents lose their sense of specificity and connections to wider political and economic forces and become universalized and all-encompassing.

Frozen in time and space, this narrow view of politics functions largely to inflict injury against a broader politics and its myraid victims rather than respond to such injuries within a context in which they can be truly addressed. If a politics of civility substitutes conformity and the personal for the political, the politics of trauma collapses the political into the therapeutic. In both cases, the personal universalizes its own narrow privatizing interests and smothers dissent, elevates conformity and the therapeutic as the most viable political practice and in doing so fuels a form of political purity that undercuts any type of broad-based pedagogy of disruption.

As John and Jean Comaroff argue, under a neoliberal regime of affective management, “the personal is the only politics there is, the only politics with a tangible referent or emotional valence.”[1] Under such circumstances, the political value of marginalized groups to narrate themselves is often shut down by critics on the faux left and militant right who refuse to connect the injuries of racism, sexism, and homophobia, among others, to larger political, economic, and cultural structures.

Knowledge and pedagogical practices that were once condemned as uncivil are now criticized as causing mass trauma- hence legitimating the move from a reactionary cultural capital that celebrates conformity to one that trades in fear while claiming to be part a fight against injustice. In the end such discourses are not only anti-intellectual, depoliticizing, and essentialist, but also fuel the ability of the right wing to use their
massive cultural apparatuses to point to progressives as authoritarians who are against any viable notion of free speech. Conservatives such as David Brooks trade in this kind of discourse only too willing to portray leftists as the real extremists in American society. It gets worse. What gets lost in the discourses of civility and privatized trauma are those larger injuries of poverty, homelessness, racism, ecological devastation, and mass incarceration. That latter get erased in discourses wrapped in a kind of comforting quietism and universalizing of personal trauma that demands not just the suppression of dissent or the erasure of disturbing images and discourses, but any attempt to explore systemic structural reforms. This is a particularly dangerous position to take given the full-fledged attack now being waged by right wing politicians against the all vestiges of dissent, tenure, and the notion of the university as a democratic public sphere. Academics and their progressive allies need to flip the script and embrace a notion of the political that addresses those authoritarian forces ushering in truly dark times.

The closing down of free speech in higher education, the collapse of critical thought into a repressive, privatized affective, corporatized pedagogy that celebrates ideas, values, and representations that are comforting rather than unsettling, the defunding of higher education, the rise of a corporate driven managerial administrative class, the casualization of faculty, and the now aggressive attack on tenure in Wisconsin and other places should come as no surprise to progressives. This is a truly disturbing trend and historical conjuncture because it suggests a comprehensive authoritarian politics that cannot be addressed merely through the discourses of personal injury and individual responsibility. This current attack on higher education is a central project of the financial and neoliberal elite and dates back to the Trilateral Commission and the Powell Memo of 1971.

The attack on higher education as a democratic public sphere and the formative culture of questioning and critical scholarship it supports has been under attack under the regime of neoliberalism since the late 1970s. Reagan channeled McCarthyism and John Silber fired anyone on the left at Boston University. What came next was a reversal of the sixties–protest and large scale social movements became fractured, either falling prey to political purity, or simply accommodating themselves to power. And as academics have retreated from engaging larger public issues in their work and became more and more insular the attack has intensified, unchecked in many cases.

That kind of insularity is now dangerous, whether it hides behind academic silos, disciplinary specialization, or the jargon of theoreticism. The very conditions which make intellectual labor possible have been under siege intensely since the neoliberal revolution began at the end of the 1970s. The ranks of full-time faculty have been decimated and yet there is no national social and political formation fighting these assaults. Students are drowning in debt and still we have only a scattered response among faculty. Well, now the corporate elite and ideological barbarians have come for tenure and this attack will spread like wild fire

What is needed to counter this attack is not political purity or the fracturing of the left into discourses of personal injury. What is needed is much more. That is, unless academics begin to mobilize and join forces with other social movements, unions, young people, students, and others willing to see such attacks as part of a larger war against the social state, it is not unreasonable to conclude that any remaining vestige of democracy in the United States will disappear.   Academics need to embrace their rolls as public intellectuals and social activists. It is time for them to wake up and organize for a university that addresses crucial social problems, fights ferociously to give power back to faculty, joins with adjuncts to create full time positions and tenured positions for all faculty, join with students to address the forgiving of student debt, and begin and national movement for free public higher education. Such demands are far from radical and they are incomplete, but they certainly point to a new beginning in the struggle over the role of higher education in the United States. As I have said many times, resistance is not an option, it is a necessity.

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.



 
 
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Fusion.net
by Tonya Riley

06/05/2015

In 2010, almost $1.4 billion in aid poured into earthquake-stricken Haiti. $32 million of that number came from the American Red Cross’ $10 text messages touted in aid campaigns and endorsed by celebrities. But according to a stunning joint Pro Publica and NPR investigation released today, the American Red Cross had a lot more difficulty spending your money than you had sending it.

The investigation focuses heavily on the Red Cross’ claims of providing homes to more than 130,000 Haitians with its 2013 development project. The report reveals that while the organization raised $488 million donations, it only built six permanent houses. The Red Cross reports, which are available to the public, group expenses into large categories. For example, shelter, which included the botched housing project, accounts for $170 million.

Tracking down the impact of overall efforts unearthed a number of issues in the organizations’ transparency efforts:

For example, while the Red Cross says it provided more than 130,000 people with homes, that includes thousands of people who were not actually given homes, but rather were “trained in proper construction techniques.” (That was first reported by the Haiti blog of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.)

The figure includes people who got short-term rental assistance or were housed in several thousand “transitional shelters,” which are temporary structures that can get eaten up by termites or tip over in storms. It also includes modest improvements on 5,000 temporary shelters.

The investigation goes on to detail the organization’s mistakes, such as reportedly discriminating against Haitian employees and ballooning costs of projects with outside contractors. It pinpoints the many internal crises of an organization that was also lambasted for its handling of 9/11 and Katrina and was barely solvent a year and half before the earthquake hit.

The Red Cross is not the only aid organization to have acted ineptly in the sometimes complex operating zone of post-quake Haiti. The cholera epidemic that hit Haiti after the earthquake raised criticism of the slow-moving nature of many sanitation projects. According to Pro Publica, the Red Cross’ own response to the epidemic was internally marked as “very behind schedule” months into the epidemic. A story by NBC News revealed that the United Nations has released only half of what they’ve earmarked for the crisis through 2020.

“Like many humanitarian organizations responding in Haiti, the American Red Cross met complications in relation to government coordination delays, disputes over land ownership, delays at Haitian customs, challenges finding qualified staff who were in short supply and high demand, and the cholera outbreak, among other challenges,” the charity said in a statement to Pro Publica.



 
 
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WSWS.org
By Patrick Martin
3 June 2015

The US Senate voted by a top-heavy bipartisan majority Tuesday to approve legislation that extends several key spying programs of the National Security Agency. President Obama declared his intention to sign the bill into law “as soon as I get it” in order to allow the NSA to resume the collection of telephone metadata and several other surveillance efforts that had nominally been suspended with the expiration of authorization under the Patriot Act Sunday night.

While the White House, congressional leaders of both parties and the American media are all portraying the so-called USA Freedom Act as a significant restriction on NSA spying, an effort to “strike a balance” between security and civil liberties, it is nothing of the kind.

In the first place, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, whose expiration May 31 made passage of the new authorization necessary, only covers a tiny fraction of the vast surveillance operations of the NSA. The collection of telephone metadata on every American was only one of the many of these illegal and unconstitutional programs first exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, now in exile in Russia.

In a bitter floor speech just before the final vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced the bill as “a victory for Edward Snowden,” but this is merely part of the congressional play-acting aimed at giving the American people the illusion that something is being done about illegal government spying, when it continues on a virtually unlimited and ever-expanding scale.

Only hours before McConnell’s diatribe, the Associated Press revealed yet another secret government spying program—hundreds of flights by a fleet of FBI planes that conduct low-flying video and cellphone surveillance over dozens of American cities .

McConnell denounced the bill for supposedly “taking away another tool from those who defend us every day” because it phases out the bulk collection of telephone metadata by the NSA, leaving collection of data to the telecommunications companies, which are in turn required to respond to NSA search requests once they are approved by the rubber-stamp FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court.

The bill contains a few other cosmetic efforts to conceal the build-up of police-state powers in America. The secret FISA court is required to hear from privacy advocates and document its decisions on surveillance policy, rather than, as in the past, hearing only from government prosecutors and making all its decisions in secret. This will have no material effect on the surveillance state.

The Senate passed the grossly misnamed USA Freedom Act by a vote of 67-32, with nearly all the opposition coming from right-wing Republicans, led by McConnell, who objected to even the minor limitations on the surveillance operations of the US government contained in the bill. The House passed the same bill last month by an overwhelming margin of 388 to 38, with the backing of Speaker John Boehner and the entire Republican leadership.

The 67-32 Senate vote actually expresses near-unanimous support for the US intelligence apparatus. Democrats backed the bill by 44-2. Republicans were split, 23 in favor and 30 against, but nearly all those opposed wanted no restrictions on NSA spying, even of a cosmetic character.

After McConnell’s vitriolic attack on the Obama White House for supposedly capitulating to Edward Snowden, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid retorted that it was McConnell who had undermined US spy operations by his mistaken handling of delaying tactics by Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, leading to the supposed shutdown of the telephone metadata program by the NSA Sunday night.

Final passage came after the Senate narrowly rejected all three amendments put forward by McConnell and the Republican leadership to further water down the bill’s anemic “reform” element. One amendment would have set the transition period from NSA databases to telecom databases at a year, rather than six months. Another would have required the telecoms to notify the NSA before any change in data retention policy, and mandated the NSA to certify that it was ready to make the transition without any loss of ability to conduct searches. The third amendment would have eliminated the requirement that the FISA court report to Congress on significant changes in the interpretation of surveillance laws.

The amendments were less important substantively than as an attempt to delay passage of the legislation indefinitely, since an amended bill would have to go back to the House for further deliberation. In that event, the Senate Republican leadership hoped to push through a simple extension of all Patriot Act surveillance authority, without any cosmetic changes.

A US Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that Section 215 of the Patriot Act did not provide adequate legal authority for the telephone metadata collection—in effect, finding the program had been operating illegally for 14 years. The White House and the congressional leadership of both parties moved quickly to reestablish the program using a different legal process—FISA warrants served on the telecoms—to accomplish the same end.

Appearing on the CBS program Face the Nation Sunday, CIA Director John Brennan denounced the protracted wrangling in the Senate and whipping up fears of new terrorist attacks—despite the well-documented fact that none of the Section 215 programs has played any role in disrupting terrorist activities. “Anyone who is satisfied with letting this critical intelligence capability go dark isn’t taking the terrorist threat seriously,” Brennan said. “I’d urge the Senate to pass the bipartisan USA Freedom Act, and do so expeditiously.”

Brennan declared, “I think terrorist elements have watched very carefully what has happened here in the United States, whether or not it’s disclosures of classified information or whether it’s changes in the law and policies. They are looking for the seams to operate within.”

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s vote, Obama made increasingly strident denunciations of the congressional delay in approving the extension of NSA spying authority. The White House issued a statement Sunday night, after the expiration of Section 215, declaring, “We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible. On a matter as critical as our national security, individual senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly. The American people deserve nothing less.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that the American people faced “unnecessary risk,” because of the loss of surveillance tools “our national security professionals can use to keep us safe.” In reality, there was no change in the operation of the vast US police-intelligence apparatus, as the New York Times admitted, reporting that “interviews with law enforcement and intelligence officials about what they will do in the interim suggest there are multiple workarounds to the gap.”



 
 
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 WSWS.org
26 May 2015

In the face of mounting American pressure and provocations in the South China Sea, the Chinese government announced yesterday that it had lodged an official complaint over a highly publicised surveillance flight close to Chinese-claimed territory and urged the US to back off.

Washington’s extraordinarily reckless actions are threatening to plunge the Asia Pacific and the entire world into conflict. From a media campaign condemning Chinese land reclamation in the South China Sea, the US has moved to military challenges. While last week’s reconnaissance flight did not breach China’s 12-mile territorial limit, the Pentagon is preparing plans to do just that under the pretext of defending “freedom of navigation.”

At a press briefing yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying condemned the flight as “utterly dangerous and irresponsible” and declared it was “highly likely to cause miscalculation and untoward incidents in the waters and airspace.”

An editorial in yesterday’s Global Times, a hawkish state-run tabloid, warned: “If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea.” The article went on to state that if the US wanted to teach China a lesson by “provoking and humiliating,” then “China will have no choice but to engage.”

The US has deliberately placed the entire region on a knife edge, posing a real and imminent danger of war. An accident or miscalculation by US or Chinese military aircraft or warships in the South China Sea could set in train a series of actions and reactions that would bring the two nuclear-armed powers to blows.

One has only to consider how the US would react to Chinese aircraft or ships engaged in “freedom of navigation” operations near Hawaii or off the coast of California to appreciate the sheer hypocrisy of American propaganda over the South China Sea. These waters are not only essential to Chinese trade but are immediately adjacent to key naval bases on Hainan Island in southern China.

The US has further heightened the risk of war by pushing other claimants in the South China Sea, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, to more assertively press their territorial demands against China. It has also encouraged Japan to conduct its own patrols in the region. All of these steps multiply the danger of an incident, not necessarily immediately involving the United States, precipitating a far broader conflict.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared yesterday that his country’s aircraft “will still fly the routes we fly based on international law.” Philippine Air Force spokesman Colonel Enrico Canaya told the media that its planes flew in contested areas, including the route taken last week by the US reconnaissance flight.

Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he would ask for a “stronger commitment” from the US for assistance to counter Chinese “bullying” when he meets his American counterpart Ashton Carter this week. What the Philippines is seeking is a public pledge that the US will support it in a war with China similar to the guarantee already provided to Japan in its dispute with China over rocky outcrops in the East China Sea.

The looming confrontation in the South China Sea has been long in preparation. The Obama administration’s aggressive stance towards China on every front—diplomatic, economic and military—began in 2009 and was formalised in the “pivot to Asia” in 2011. As part of the “pivot,” the US has engaged in a comprehensive build-up and restructuring of its armed forces in the Indo Pacific, focussed on fighting a war with China.

Throughout Asia, Washington has strengthened its already formidable network of military alliances and partnerships. It has concluded formal basing agreements with Australia, including “rotating” US Marines, warplanes and naval ships through its bases, and with the Philippines, providing virtually unlimited access to that country’s military facilities. The US is repositioning and boosting its forces in Japan and South Korea, has placed warships in Singapore, and is consolidating closer relations with every country on China’s periphery.

Washington has also encouraged closer cooperation between countries it regards as the cornerstones of “the pivot”—Japan, Australia and India. The Australian government has announced that Japanese troops will take part for the first time in the huge biennial Talisman Sabre war games held at locations around Australia and involving up to 30,000 US, Australian and New Zealand troops.

The US is not about to back off its confrontation with China in the South China Sea. To do so would result in a loss of confidence in its strategic commitments among US allies in Asia and around the world. More fundamentally, American imperialism is being driven to increasingly rash military actions as a means of shoring up its hegemony in Asia and internationally.

Washington bitterly resented the decision by Britain in March to ignore its advice and sign up to the China-backed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The move prompted a rush by other countries to follow suit, undermining the monopoly position of longstanding American-dominated institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. US actions in the South China Sea are, in part, a means of hitting back by underscoring the military vulnerability of China.

There is absolutely nothing progressive about the response of the Chinese regime, which rests on and defends the interests of a tiny layer of super-rich oligarchs. Deeply hostile to the working class, the Beijing bureaucracy is engaged in a frantic arms race that only heightens the danger of a catastrophic war.

The drive to war is being fuelled by the fundamental contradictions of capitalism expressed in the deepening breakdown of the world economy following the 2008 financial crisis. Whatever the immediate outcome of the present standoff in the South China, war is inevitable if the international working class does not disarm the imperialist war-mongers by means of socialist revolution.

Peter Symonds



 
 
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May 24, 2015 Exclusive: Of all the world’s holidays commemorating wars, Memorial Day should be one of sober reflection on war’s horrible costs, surely not a moment to glorify warfare or lust for more wars. But many pols and pundits can’t resist the opportunity, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern describes.

Consortium News
By Ray McGovern

How best to show respect for the U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families on Memorial Day? Simple: Avoid euphemisms like “the fallen” and expose the lies about what a great idea it was to start those wars and then to “surge” tens of thousands of more troops into those fools’ errands.

First, let’s be clear on at least this much: the 4,500 U.S. troops killed in Iraq – so far – and the 2,350 killed in Afghanistan – so far – did not “fall.” They were wasted on no-win battlefields by politicians and generals – cheered on by neocon pundits and mainstream “journalists” – almost none of whom gave a rat’s patootie about the real-life-and-death troops. They were throwaway soldiers.

Graves at Arlington Cemetery

And, as for the “successful surges,” they were just P.R. devices to buy some “decent intervals” for the architects of these wars and their boosters to get space between themselves and the disastrous endings while pretending that those defeats were really “victories squandered” – all at the “acceptable” price of about 1,000 dead U.S. soldiers each and many times that in dead Iraqis and Afghans.

Memorial Day should be a time for honesty about what enabled the killing and maiming of so many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and the senior military brass simply took full advantage of a poverty draft that gives upper-class sons and daughters the equivalent of exemptions, vaccinating them against the disease of war.

What drives me up the wall is the oft-heard, dismissive comment about troop casualties from well-heeled Americans: “Well, they volunteered, didn’t they?” Under the universal draft in effect during Vietnam, far fewer were immune from service, even though the well-connected could still game the system to avoid serving. Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, for example, each managed to pile up five exemptions. This means, of course, that they brought zero military experience to the job; and this, in turn, may explain a whole lot — particularly given their bosses’ own lack of military experience.

The grim truth is that many of the crème de la crème of today’s Official Washington don’t know many military grunts, at least not intimately as close family or friends. They may bump into some on the campaign trail or in an airport and mumble something like, “thank you for your service.” But these sons and daughters of working-class communities from America’s cities and heartland are mostly abstractions to the powerful, exclamation points at the end of  some ideological debate demonstrating which speaker is “tougher,” who’s more ready to use military force, who will come out on top during a talk show appearance or at a think-tank conference or on the floor of Congress.

Sharing the Burden?

We should be honest about this reality, especially on Memorial Day. Pretending that the burden of war has been equitably shared, and – worse still – that those killed died for a “noble cause,” as President George W. Bush likes to claim, does no honor to the thousands of U.S. troops killed and the tens of thousands maimed. It dishonors them. Worse, it all too often succeeds in infantilizing bereaved family members who cannot bring themselves to believe their government lied.

Who can blame parents for preferring to live the fiction that their sons and daughters were heroes who wittingly and willingly made the “ultimate sacrifice,” dying for a “noble cause,” especially when this fiction is frequently foisted on them by well-meaning but naïve clergy at funerals. For many it is impossible to live with the reality that a son or daughter died in vain. Far easier to buy into the official story and to leave clergy unchallenged as they gild the lilies around coffins and gravesites.

Not so for some courageous parents – Cindy Sheehan, for example, whose son Casey Sheehan was killed on April 4, 2004, in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City. Cindy demonstrated uncommon grit when she led hundreds of friends to Crawford to lay siege to the Texas White House during the summer of 2005 trying to get President Bush to explain what “noble cause” Casey died for. She never got an answer. There is none.

But there are very few, like Cindy Sheehan, able to overcome a natural human resistance to the thought that their sons and daughters died for a lie – and then to challenge that lie. These few stalwarts make themselves face this harsh reality, the knowledge that the children whom they raised and sacrificed so much for were, in turn, sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, that their precious children were bit players in some ideological fantasy or pawns in a game of career maneuvering.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is said to have described the military disdainfully as “just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” Whether or not those were his exact words, his policies and behavior certainly betrayed that attitude. It certainly seems to have prevailed among top American-flag-on-lapel-wearing officials of the Bush and Obama administrations, including armchair and field-chair generals whose sense of decency is blinded by the prospect of a shiny new star on their shoulders, if they just follow orders and send young soldiers into battle.

This bitter truth should raise its ugly head on Memorial Day but rarely does. It can be gleaned only with great difficulty from the mainstream media, since the media honchos continue to play an indispensable role in the smoke-and-mirrors dishonesty that hides their own guilt in helping Establishment Washington push “the fallen” from life to death.

We must judge the actions of our political and military leaders not by the pious words they will utter Monday in mourning those who “fell” far from the generals’ cushy safe seats in the Pentagon or somewhat closer to the comfy beds in air-conditioned field headquarters where a lucky general might be comforted in the arms of an admiring and enterprising biographer.

Many of the high-and-mighty delivering the approved speeches on Monday will glibly refer to and mourn “the fallen.” None are likely to mention the culpable policymakers and complicit generals who added to the fresh graves at Arlington National Cemetery and around the country.

Words, after all, are cheap; words about “the fallen” are dirt cheap – especially from the lips of politicians and pundits with no personal experience of war. The families of those sacrificed in Iraq and Afghanistan should not have to bear that indignity.

‘Successful Surges’

The so-called “surges” of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan were particularly gross examples of the way our soldiers have been played as pawns. Since the usual suspects are again coming out the woodwork of neocon think tanks to press for yet another “surge” in Iraq, some historical perspective should help.

Take, for example, the well-known – and speciously glorified – first “surge;” the one Bush resorted to in sending over 30,000 additional troops into Iraq in early 2007; and the not-to-be-outdone Obama “surge” of 30,000 into Afghanistan in early 2010. These marches of folly were the direct result of decisions by George W. Bush and Barack Obama to prioritize political expediency over the lives of U.S. troops.

Taking cynical advantage of the poverty draft, they let foot soldiers pay the “ultimate” price. That price was 1,000 U.S. troops killed in each of the two “surges.”

And the results? The returns are in. The bloody chaos these days in Iraq and the faltering war in Afghanistan were entirely predictable. They were indeed predicted by those of us able to spread some truth around via the Internet, while being mostly blacklisted by the fawning corporate media.

Yet, because the “successful surge” myth was so beloved in Official Washington, saving some face for the politicians and pundits who embraced and spread the lies that justified and sustained especially the Iraq War, the myth has become something of a touchstone for everyone aspiring to higher office or seeking a higher-paying gig in the mainstream media.

Campaigning Wednesday in New Hampshire, presidential aspirant Jeb Bush gave a short history lesson about his big brother’s attack on Iraq. Referring to the so-called Islamic State, Bush said, “ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out … the surge created a fragile but stable Iraq. …”

We’ve dealt with the details of the Iraq “surge” myth before – both before and after it was carried out. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “Reviving the Successful Surge Myth”;  “Gen. Keane on Iran Attack”; “Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?”; and “Troop Surge Seen as Another Mistake.”]

But suffice it to say that Jeb Bush is distorting the history and should be ashamed. The truth is that al-Qaeda did not exist in Iraq before his brother launched an unprovoked invasion in 2003. “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” arose as a direct result of Bush’s war and occupation. Amid the bloody chaos, AQI’s leader, a Jordanian named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, pioneered a particularly brutal form of terrorism, relishing videotaped decapitation of prisoners.

Zarqawi was eventually hunted down and killed not during the celebrated “surge” but in June 2006, months before Bush’s “surge” began. The so-called Sunni Awakening, essentially the buying off of many Sunni tribal leaders, also predated the “surge.” And the relative reduction in the Iraq War’s slaughter after the 2007 “surge” was mostly the result of the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad from a predominantly Sunni to a Shia city, tearing the fabric of Baghdad in two, and creating physical space that made it more difficult for the two bitter enemies to attack each other. In addition, Iran used its influence with the Shia to rein in their extremely violent militias.

Though weakened by Zarqawi’s death and the Sunni Awakening, AQI did not disappear, as Jeb Bush would like you to believe. It remained active and – when Saudi Arabia and the Sunni gulf states took aim at the secular regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria – AQI joined with other al-Qaeda affiliates, such as the Nusra Front, to spread their horrors across Syria. AQI rebranded itself “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” or simply “the Islamic State.”

The Islamic State split off from al-Qaeda over strategy but the various jihadist armies, including al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, have now seized wide swaths of territory in Syria — and the Islamic State has returned with a vengeance to Iraq, grabbing major cities such as Mosul and Ramadi.

Jeb Bush doesn’t like to unspool all this history. He and other Iraq War backers prefer to pretend that the “surge” in Iraq had won the war and Obama threw the “victory” away by following through on George W. Bush’s withdrawal agreement with Maliki.

But the current crisis in Syria and Iraq is among the fateful consequences of the U.S./UK attack 12 years ago and particularly of the “surge” of 2007, which contributed greatly to Sunni-Shia violence, the opposite of what George W. Bush professed was the objective of the “surge,” to enable Iraq’s religious sects to reconcile.

Reconciliation, however, always took a back seat to the real purpose of the “surge” – buying time so Bush and Cheney could slip out of Washington in 2009 without having an obvious military defeat hanging around their necks and putting a huge stain on their legacies.

The political manipulation of the Iraq “surge” allowed Bush, Cheney and their allies to reframe the historical debate and shift the blame for the defeat onto Obama, recognizing that 1,000 more dead U.S. soldiers was a small price to pay for protecting the “Bush brand.” Now, Bush’s younger brother can cheerily march off to the campaign trail for 2016 pointing to the carcass of the Iraqi albatross hung around Obama’s shoulders.

Rout at Ramadi

Last weekend, less than a year after U.S.-trained and -equipped Iraqi forces ran away from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, leaving the area and lots of U.S. arms and equipment to ISIS, something similar happened at Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar. Despite heavy U.S. air strikes on ISIS, American-backed Iraqi security forces fled Ramadi, which is only 70 miles west of Baghdad, after a lightning assault by ISIS forces.

The ability of ISIS to strike just about everywhere in the area is reminiscent of the Tet offensive of January-February 1968 in Vietnam, which persuaded President Lyndon Johnson that that particular war was unwinnable. If there are materials left over in Saigon for reinforcing helicopter landing pads on the tops of buildings, it is not too early to bring them to Baghdad’s Green Zone, on the chance that U.S. embassy buildings may have a call for such materials in the not-too-distant future.

The headlong Iraqi government retreat from Ramadi had scarcely ended on Sunday when Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, described the fall of the city as “terribly significant” – which is correct – adding that more U.S. troops may be needed – which is insane. His appeal for more troops neatly fits one proverbial definition of insanity (attributed or misattributed to Albert Einstein): “doing the same thing over and over again [like every eight years?] but expecting different results.”

By Wednesday, as Jeb Bush was singing the praises of his brother’s “surge” in Iraq, McCain and his Senate colleague Lindsey Graham were publicly calling for a new “surge” of U.S. troops into Iraq. The senators urged President Obama to do what George W. Bush did in 2007 – replace the U.S. military leadership and dispatch additional troops to Iraq.

But Washington Post pundit David Ignatius, even though a fan of the earlier two surges, is not yet on board for this one. In a column published also on Wednesday, Ignatius warned that Washington should not abandon its current strategy:

“This is still Iraq’s war, not America’s. But President Barack Obama must reassure Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the U.S. has his back — and at the same time give him a reality check: If al-Abadi and his Shiite allies don’t do more to empower Sunnis, his country will splinter. Ramadi is a precursor — of either a turnaround by al-Abadi’s forces, or an Iraqi defeat.”

Ignatius’s urgent tone is warranted. But what he suggests is precisely what the U.S. made a lame attempt to do with then-Prime Minister Maliki in early 2007. Yet, President Bush squandered U.S. leverage by sending 30,000 troops to show he “had Maliki’s back,” freeing Maliki to accelerate his attempts to marginalize, rather than accommodate, Sunni interests.

Perhaps Ignatius now remembers how the “surge” he championed in 2007 greatly exacerbated tensions between Shia and Sunni contributing to the chaos now prevailing in Iraq and spreading across Syria and elsewhere. But Ignatius is well connected and a bellwether; if he ends up advocating another “surge,” take shelter.

Keane and Kagan Ask For a Mulligan

The architects of Bush’s 2007 “surge” of 30,000 troops into Iraq, former Army General Jack Keane and American Enterprise Institute neocon strategist Frederick Kagan, in testimony Thursday to the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned strongly that, without a “surge” of some 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops, ISIS will win in Iraq.

“We are losing this war,” warned Keane, who previously served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. “ISIS is on the offense, with the ability to attack at will, anyplace, anytime. … Air power will not defeat ISIS.” Keane stressed that the U.S. and its allies have “no ground force, which is the defeat mechanism.”

Not given to understatement, Kagan called ISIS “one of the most evil organizations that has ever existed. … This is not a group that maybe we can negotiate with down the road someday. This is a group that is committed to the destruction of everything decent in the world.” He called for “15-20,000 U.S. troops on the ground to provide the necessary enablers, advisers and so forth,” and added: “Anything less than that is simply unserious.”

(By the way, Frederick Kagan is the brother of neocon-star Robert Kagan, whose Project for the New American Century began pushing for the invasion of Iraq in 1998 and finally got its way in 2003. Robert Kagan is the husband of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who oversaw the 2014 coup that brought “regime change” and bloody chaos to Ukraine. The Ukraine crisis also prompted Robert Kagan to urge a major increase in U.S. military spending. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Family Business of Perpetual War.”] )

What is perhaps most striking, however, is the casualness with which the likes of Frederick Kagan, Jack Keane, and other Iraq War enthusiasts advocate dispatching tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers to fight and die in what would almost certainly be another futile undertaking. You might even wonder why people like Kagan are invited to testify before Congress given their abysmal records.

But that would miss the true charm of the Iraq “surge” in 2007 and its significance in salvaging the reputations of folks like Kagan, not to mention George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. From their perspective, the “surge” was a great success. Bush and Cheney could swagger from the West Wing into the western sunset on Jan. 20, 2009.

As author Steve Coll has put it, “The decision [to surge] at a minimum guaranteed that his [Bush’s] presidency would not end with a defeat in history’s eyes. By committing to the surge [the President] was certain to at least achieve a stalemate.”

According to Bob Woodward, Bush told key Republicans in late 2005 that he would not withdraw from Iraq, “even if Laura and [first-dog] Barney are the only ones supporting me.” Woodward made it clear that Bush was well aware in fall 2006 that the U.S. was losing. Suddenly, with some fancy footwork, it became Laura, Barney – and new Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus along with 30,000 more U.S. soldiers making sure that the short-term fix was in.

The fact that about 1,000 U.S. soldiers returned in caskets was the principal price paid for that short-term “surge” fix. Their “ultimate sacrifice” will be mourned by their friends, families and countrymen on Memorial Day even as many of the same politicians and pundits will be casually pontificating about dispatching more young men and women as cannon fodder into the same misguided war.

It has been difficult drafting this downer, this historical counter-narrative, on the eve of Memorial Day. It seems to me necessary, though, to expose the dramatis personae who played such key roles in getting more and more people killed. Sad to say, none of the high officials mentioned here, as well as those on the relevant Congressional committees, are affected in any immediate way by the carnage in Ramadi, Tikrit or outside the gate to the Green Zone in Baghdad.

And perhaps that’s one of the key points here. It is not most of us, but rather our soldiers and the soldiers and civilians of Iraq, Afghanistan and God knows where else who are Lazarus at the gate. And, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served 30 years as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and CIA analyst and is now a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).