Archive | June 21st, 2014

Listen in to how the imperialists really talk in private

NOVANEWS
By Brian Becker

 butcher

President Richard Nixon told his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, in May 1972 in a taped phone call that he wanted to step up the bombing of North Vietnam and he “didn’t give a damn” about how many thousands of Vietnamese civilians died as a result.

“The only place where you and I disagree … is with regard to the bombing,” Nixon said. “You’re so goddamned concerned about the civilians and I don’t give a damn. I don’t care.”

Kissinger made it clear that his concern about civilian deaths was only about politics and appearances at a time when the people of the United States and the world were engaged in a fierce struggle opposing the U.S. carnage in Vietnam.

“I’m concerned about the civilians because I don’t want the world to be mobilized against you as a butcher,” Kissinger said. “We can do it without killing civilians.”

The taped call was part of the Nixon files released by the National Archives in 2002, thirty years after the conversation was recorded.

 

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Emergency Actions Nationwide: NO NEW U.S. WAR ON IRAQ

NOVANEWS

Actions at the White House, in LA, Chicago, Albuquerque and many more cities

The following is a call by the ANSWER Coalition originally posted on AnswerCoalition.org.

bombiiraq.jpg
The U.S. government killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis starting in March 2003
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Iraqi child maimed by U.S. bombs in 2003.
Please share these actions widely! 

Today, it has become increasingly likely that the U.S. government will once again take military action in Iraq. It is urgent that anti-war forces mobilize to tell the Obama Administration that the people of this country completely oppose any new war on Iraq.

The ANSWER Coalition is gearing up for such efforts, and is calling for nationwide demonstrations on Friday, June 20 and Saturday, June 21, as well as emergency actions the day U.S. bombing starts, in the event that it happens before these dates. 

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld should be arrested and prosecuted for their criminal acts in Iraq. It was the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq that destroyed the country and brought about the current crisis. There is nothing the Pentagon can do with more air strikes and destruction to undo that, or bring about peace now.

We in the anti-war movement fought too long and too hard to prevent and end that illegal and unjust war. We cannot sit by idly today when the Pentagon may be about to open a new chapter in its history of death and destruction.

Below is a initial list of actions to say “No New U.S. War on Iraq!” If you would like to endorse these emergency actions, or are organizing one in your own city, please fill out the form here to be listed.

Washington, D.C.

Monday, June 16, 5pm
White House, 1600 Penn. Ave
Initiated by Code Pink and other organizations

Sat., June 21, 1PM
White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave

Los Angeles, CA
Sat., June 21, 1PM
Pershing Square
(Corner of 5th & Hill)
Downtown LA

San Francisco, CA
Sat., June 21, 12noon
Corner of Powell and Market Sts

Sacramento, CA
Sat., June 21, 1PM
Arden Way & Heritage Ln.

Eureka, CA
Sat. June 21, 12 Noon
County Courthouse, 5th & I St.

Fresno, CA
Saturday, June 21st, 10am – 1pm
Peace Corner – Blackstone & Shaw

Tallahassee, FL
Sat., June 21, 12:30PM
Florida State Capitol
400 South Monroe Street

Chicago, IL
Friday, June 20, 5 pm
Water Tower
Michigan Ave. & Pearson St.
(1 block north of Chicago Ave.)

Twin Cities, MN
Wednesday, June 18, 5pm
Lake Street/Marshall Ave. bridge between Minneapolis & St. Paul
For more information, 612-522-1861 or 612-827-5364.

Albuquerque, NM
Fri., June 20, 6PM
UNM Bookstore
(intersection of Central & Cornell)

New York, NY
Tuesday, June 17, 5:30 pm
Outside Democratic Party where Obama is speaking
Gotham Hall 1356 Broadway between 36th and 37th Streets
Initiated by World Can’t Wait

Friday, June 20, 6pm
Harlem Armed Forces Recruitment Center
76 W. 125th St (2/3 trains)

Philadelphia, PA
Thursday, June 19, 1PM
15th and Market St.

Seattle, WA
Sunday, June 22, 1PM
Westlake Center
400 Pine St.

New Haven, CT
Saturday, June 21, 11AM
College & Chapel Streets

Boston, MA
Saturday, June 21, 1PM
Boston Common
outside Park St. Station

Minneapolis, MN
Saturday, June 21, 3PM
Hiawatha and Lake Street

Austin, TX
Sunday, June 22, 35PM
Texas State Capitol
1300 North Congress

Auburn, CA
Sat., June 21, 5PM
At the Fire Pit
Corner of Lincoln Way & High Street

Pittsburgh, Penn.
Saturay, June 21 at 1:00pm
Highland & Penn Avenues
Contact: info@pittsburghendthewar.org

New Orleans, LA
Friday, June 20, 4PM
Duncan Plaza in front of City Hall
1300 Perdido Street

Asheville, N.C.
Monday, June 23
Details TBD

Las Vegas, NV
Saturday, June 21, 10AM
Tropicana & I-15

The call for these actions include the ANSWER Coalition, Veterans For Peace, Code Pink, World Can’t Wait and others.

PLEASE SHARE WIDELY

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“Iraq” Is Still Arabic for “Vietnam”

NOVANEWS

President Barack Obama waves at the conclusion of his remarks to U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield in Bagram, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)When George W. Bush and the neocons launched their war in Iraq, critics coined the slogan, “‘Iraq’ is Arabic for ‘Vietnam.'” The point was obvious: Another long quagmire of a war in an inhospitable foreign land would lead once again to nothing but death, suffering, and defeat for America.

That was back in 2003 and 2004, when the parallel was to the Vietnam war of 1965 – 1973.

To see why “Iraq” is still Arabic for “Vietnam” we have to turn the historical memory dial back just a few more years, to 1962 and 1963. That was when John F. Kennedy struggled with the same dilemma now facing Barack Obama: How much, if it all, should we get involved militarily to help a corrupt leader who stays in power by terrorizing his political enemies?

Here’s what JFK told interviewers in September, 1963, about South Vietnam under President Ngo Dinh Diem: “I don’t think … unless a greater effort is made by the  Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there.”

Here’s what Barack Obama told reporters on June 13, 2014: “Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together. … and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.”

JFK: “In the final analysis it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it.”

Obama: “We can’t do it for them. …  The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together.”

JFK balanced his calls for Diem to reform with what sounded like a promise that the South Vietnamese government would get U.S. aid no matter what it did or failed to do: “I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw…. This is a very important struggle even though it is far away. … We also have to participate — we may not like it — in the defense of Asia.”

Obama sounded a similar note: “Given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well. Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces. …  They will have the support of the United States. …  We have enormous interests there.”

Just as Kennedy publicly denied that he contemplated any significant troop buildup, Obama insisted, “We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.” Yet JFK continued pouring “advisors” into Vietnam throughout his presidency, just as Obama promised that there would be “selective actions by our military …  We have redoubled our efforts to help build more capable counterterrorism forces so that groups like ISIL can’t establish a safe haven. And we’ll continue that effort. ”

Kennedy’s warning that military aid depended on South Vietnamese government reform was not merely for public consumption. A year earlier he had sent Diem a private letter promising more money for Diem’s army but adding a warning that the aid was “specifically conditioned up Vietnamese performance with respect to particular needed reforms” that would be “most effective to strengthen the vital ties of loyalty between the people of Free [i.e. South] Vietnam and their government.”

Whether Obama has sent such a letter to Iraq’s prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is anybody’s guess.

There’s another key difference. In his 1963 interviews JFK explained that Vietnam itself was not the crucial issue. It was more about the world’s perception of America’s power. Losing Vietnam would give “the impression that the wave of the future in southeast Asia was China and the Communists.”

Obama has not come out and said anything quite like this. Yet he must be keenly aware that his critics at home — and even some of his usual supporters — are urging him to make sure the world knows that the U.S. still runs the show.

Just a week before Mosul fell to the ISIS/ISIL forces, liberal commentator Fareed Zakariawrote that “the world today… rests on an order built by the United States that, since 1989, has not been challenged by any other major player.” The big question, he said, is: “How to ensure that these conditions continue, even as new powers — such as China — rise and old ones — such as Russia — flex their muscles?” Now a new power is rising in the Middle East, and the question of preserving the world order is likely central to the conversation in the Oval Office.

Indeed another usual supporter of Obama’s foreign policy, the New York Times, says that neocon Robert Kagan’s recent article “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire” “struck a nerve in the White House” — so much so that “the president even invited Mr. Kagan to lunch to compare world views.” “Events in Iraq Open Door for Interventionist Revival,” the Times‘ headline declared.

So Obama is stuck in much the same dilemma that faced Kennedy: feeling compelled, both by global geopolitical and domestic political concerns, to bolster an ally, but knowing that all the military aid in the world won’t help such a fatally flawed ally win the military victory that the U.S. government wants.

How to resolve the dilemma? JFK insisted on keeping all his options open. Obama said: “I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.”

JFK sent a seemingly endless round of envoys to Vietnam to study the situation and report back to him. Obama may well end up doing the same.

“We want to make sure that we have good eyes on the situation there,” the current president said. “We want to make sure that we’ve gathered all the intelligence that’s necessary so that if, in fact, I do direct and order any actions there, that they’re targeted, they’re precise and they’re going to have an effect.”

Have an effect? Looking back at the outcome in Vietnam, all one can say to Mr. Obama is, “Lotsa  luck, buddy.”

And one must wonder whether Obama has told Maliki in private what JFK told Diem: U.S. troops would not actually be doing the fighting; we would only send military aid and advisors. Nevertheless, the U.S. would “expect to share in the decision-making process in the political, economic, and military fields.” Looking back to Vietnam and ahead to Iraq, one can only say again, “Lotsa luck, buddy.”

To the end of his life Kennedy remained caught up in a typical American fantasy: If you just work hard enough at it, you can reason your way to the precisely perfect solution. You can walk the fine line that lets you avoid hard decisions and instead find the perfect balance that embraces both sides of the dilemma. You can have it all. And because you are America you can bend smaller nations to your will, enforce that perfect solution, and insure a happy ending for everyone.

If the ghost of JFK still wanders the White House he might be waking Barack Obama in the middle of the night, saying, “Lotsa luck on that one, too, buddy.”

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How to Forgive Your Torturer

NOVANEWS

The River Kwai passes through Latin America and Washington

(Credit: Michael Gomel/cc/flickr)What a way to celebrate Torture Awareness Month!

According to an Amnesty International Poll released in May, 45% of Americans believe that torture is “sometimes necessary and acceptable” in order to “gain information that may protect the public.” Twenty-nine percent of Britons “strongly or somewhat agreed” that torture was justified when asked the same question.

For someone like me, who has been haunted by the daily existence of torture since the September 11, 1973 coup that overthrew Chilean President Salvador Allende, such percentages couldn’t be more depressing, but perhaps not that surprising. I now live, after all, in the America where Dick Cheney, instead of being indicted as a war criminal, sneeringly (and falsely) claims to anyone who asks him — and he is trotted out over and over again as the resident expert on the subject — that  “enhanced interrogations” have been and still are absolutely necessary to keep Americans safe.

As for those Americans and Britons — and so many others around the world — who find such horrors justifiable, I wonder if they have ever met a victim of torture? Or do they think this endless pain is only inflicted on remote and dangerous people caught up in unfathomable wars and savage conflicts? If so, they should think again.

When I read these sorts of statistics a scene comes back to me. I remember a man I met 20 years ago, not in my native Latin America or in faraway lands where torture is endemic, but in the extremely English town of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Everybody in the room that day was crying, except for the man who had moved us all to tears, the former prisoner of war whom my son Rodrigo and I had traveled thousands of miles to meet. We had hoped to do justice to his story in a biopic, Prisoners in Time, that the BBC wanted to make for television — based on the same autobiographical material used recently in The Railway Man, the film starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman now showing in theaters across America.

And what an extraordinary story it was!

Eric Lomax, a British officer in World War II, had been tortured by the Japanese in Thailand while working on the infamous Bangkok-Burma railroad, the one most people know about through another film, The Bridge on the River Kwai. Eric, like so many victims of atrocities, was plagued by the experience, his life destroyed by memories of his agony and the desire for revenge. What differentiated him from so many others persecuted worldwide was not only that, more than 40 years later, he tracked down the man he held responsible for his suffering, the anonymous interpreter at his beatings and waterboardings, but the astounding fact that this tormentor, Takashi Nagase, once found and identified, turned out to be a Buddhist monk. Nagase had spent the postwar decades denouncing his own countrymen for their crimes and trying to atone for his role in the atrocities he had helped commit by caring for innumerable orphans of the Asians who had died building that railroad. The one scorching image from the war he could not escape was that of a brave young British lieutenant over whose torture he had presided and whom he had presumed to be dead.

Once Eric Lomax resurfaced, once the two former enemies, now old men accompanied by their second wives, met in Kanchanaburi next to the River Kwai where they had last parted, once they were face to face, Nagase begged for forgiveness. It was not instantly forthcoming. But some weeks later, in Hiroshima of all places, Lomax offered Nagase the absolution that he needed in order to live and die in peace.

The BBC had chosen me to tell this tale because, in my play Death and the Maiden, I had already probed the issues of torture, memory, mercy, and vengeance from the perspective of my beleaguered country, Chile. But in that play there had been no pardon offered and no pardon sought, so writing about Lomax’s dilemma seemed a way of furthering that original exploration with a series of new questions. Is reconciliation ever really possible when the wounds are searing and permanent? Does anything change if the victimizer claims to have repented? How can we ever know if those claims are legitimate, if that remorse is not merely an ego-trip, an accommodation for the sake of outward appearances?

There was also an aesthetic challenge: given the extreme reserve of both antagonists, their inability to articulate to one another — no less anybody else — what they had been feeling all those years, how to imagine, for the screen, dialogue our two silent former enemies would never have said but that would remain true to their affliction? How to bring their story to people who can’t possibly imagine what torture does to the ones who suffer it and those who create that suffering?

Our visit with Eric and his wife Patti at their home in the far north of England was a way of trying to coax from that emotionally repressed man some information — entirely absent from the memoir he had written — about how he had dealt with the barren wilderness of his sorrow, what it meant to survive torture and war more dead than alive. We were accompanied by director Stephen Walker and celebrated psychiatrist Helen Bamberg, who had helped Eric name his demons, and so saved him and his troubled marriage.

That day in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Eric confided to us, after several hours of halting monosyllables, a painful, unbelievable story. When he returned to England by ship after those traumatic years as a prisoner of war, he discovered just before disembarking that the British Army had deducted from his back pay the cost of the boots he had lost during his captivity. Bamberg, who had managed to get Eric to speak out after many distressing sessions, asked him if he had told anyone about this at the time.

“Nobody,” Eric said. And then, after a pause that felt infinite, “There was nobody there, at the dock.” He stopped and again long minutes of silence went by before he added, “Only a letter from my father. Saying he had remarried, as my mother had died three years before.” Another long pause followed. “She died thinking I was also dead. I had been writing to her all that time and she was dead.”

That’s when we all started to cry.

Not just out of sympathy for his grief, but because Eric had delivered this story about his loss in a monotone devoid of any apparent sentiment, as if all that despair belonged to someone else. Such dissociation is typical of torture victims. Their mental survival during their ordeal and its unending aftermath depends on distancing themselves from the body and its fate. And it is in that distance that they dwell.

We were crying, I believe, for humanity. We were crying in the Lomax living room because we were being confronted with a reality and a realization that most people would rather avoid: when grievous harm has been done to someone, the damage may be beyond repair. Eric Lomax had been able to tame the hatred raging in his heart and, reaching into the deepest wells of compassion, he had forgiven one of the men who had destroyed him. And yet there was still something irreparable, a terror that ultimately could not be assuaged.

The film we wrote two decades ago tried to be faithful to that desolate moment of revelation and at the same time not betray the inner peace that Eric had attained, the fact that he no longer heard Nagase’s voice in his nightmares demanding, “Confess, Lomax, confess and pain will stop.” He had triumphed over fear and fury, but that spiritual victory had not been achieved in solitude. In addition to the support of his wife Patti, it was due to the healing process he had gone through with Helen Bamberg. Not until he had fully come to terms with what had been done to him, until he faced his trauma in all its horror, was he able to “find” Nagase, whose identity and location had, in fact, been within reach for decades.

Eric’s tragedy and his attempt at reconciliation had a special meaning for me: it connected his life to that of so many friends in Chile and other countries who had been subjected to inhuman interrogations. It was a way of understanding the common humanity of all torture victims. More so, as the method that Bamberg employed to resurrect Eric’s memories and restore his mental health had first been elaborated as a therapeutic response to the flood of damaged Latin Americans exiled in England during the 1970s and 1980s, those years when grim dictatorships dominated that continent. Eric Lomax, she said, had the sad privilege of being the first World War II veteran with PTSD who was able to take advantage of this new psychological treatment.

We could not know, of course, that 9/11 awaited us seven years in the future, that the waterboarding inflicted on Eric in the 1940s by the Japanese, and on the bodies of so many Latin Americans decades later by their own countrymen, would go global as the United States and its allies fought the “war on terror.” Nor could we have guessed or would we have dreamed that so many millions would in that future prove so indifferent to a form of punishment that has been classified as a crime against humanity and is against international treaty and law signed onto by most of the world’s nations.

It would seem, then, that Eric Lomax’s story is more relevant today than ever — a story that, one would hope, brings home again, during Torture Awareness Month, the ultimate reality and anguish of being tortured. Or can we accept that the questions Eric Lomax asked himself about forgiveness and revenge, about redemption and memory, no longer trouble contemporary humanity?

How would our friend Eric, who died in 2012, react to the news that so many Americans and so many of the very countrymen he served in the war now declare torture to be tolerable? Perhaps he would whisper to them the words he wrote to Nagase when he forgave his enemy: “Sometime the hatred has to stop.”

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Where Is the Accountability on Iraq?

NOVANEWS

Paul Wolfowitz, one of the key architects of the Bush-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, appeared on Sunday’s Meet The Press. (Credit: screenshot)Can someone explain to me why the media still solicit advice about the crisis in Iraq from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)? Or Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)? How many times does the Beltway hawk caucus get to be wrong before we recognize that maybe, just maybe, its members don’t know what they’re talking about?

Certainly Politico could have found someone with more credibility than Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy in the George W. Bush administration and one of the architects of the Iraq war, to comment on how the White House might react to the rapidly deteriorating political situation in Iraq today. Certainly New York Times columnist David Brooks knows what folly it is to equate President Obama’s 2011 troop removal with Bush’s 2003 invasion, as he did during a discussion with me last Friday on NPR?

Just a reminder of what that 2003 invasion led to: Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes authoritatively priced Bush’s war at more than $3 trillionAbout 320,000 U.S. veterans suffer from brain injury as a result of their service. Between 500,000 and 655,000 Iraqis died, as well as more than 4,000 U.S. military members.

Yet as Brooks’s words reveal, the prevailing mindset in today’s media is to treat the 2003 invasion as if its prosecution were an act of God — like Hurricane Katrina, an inevitability that could not have been avoided. Seen this way, policymakers can ignore the idiocy of the decision to invade in the first place and can instead direct all of their critical attention to how to deal with the aftermath. It’s almost as though the mainstream media have demoted themselves from a corps of physicians, eager and able to diagnose, prognosticate and prescribe, to one of EMTs, charged instead with triaging, cleaning and cauterizing a catastrophe without investigating its underlying cause.

Since so many liberal hawks reached the same conclusion as did Bush et al., this notion of the 2003 invasion’s inevitability can falsely seem to have some credence (which is, perhaps why, as Frank Rich points out in New York magazine, so many erstwhile hawks, especially so-called liberal ones, feel no need to acknowledge their erroneous judgments of a decade ago).

But if so many were wrong about Iraq in 2003, why are they still being invited (and trotting themselves out) on Sunday morning talk shows and op-ed pages as authorities on U.S.-Iraq policy? Where is the accountability for the politicians’ and pundits’ warmongering of 11 years ago? James Fallows — who was “right” on Iraq in a 2002 Atlantic cover story — tweeted Friday, “Working hypothesis: no one who stumped for original Iraq invasion gets to give ‘advice’ about disaster now. Or should get listened to.” Amen.

In the current cacophony of Washington, we must remember that there is no equivalence to be drawn between Bush’s 2003 decision to invade Iraq and Obama’s 2011 decision to withdraw U.S. troops. Bush’s invasion, after all, was not just a mistake. At best a fool’s errand, at worst a criminal act, this great blunder helped set the stage for Iraq’s chaos today. The increased sectarian violence stems not from the 2011 withdrawal; rather, it is the fruit of the 2003 invasion, subsequent occupation and much-vaunted “surge” of 2007–08.

McCain and Graham insist that airstrikes are the only way forward in today’s Iraq. But what we need now are not armchair warriors calling for military strikes or sending weapons. (As an aside, I will say that, should members of the neoconservative movement feel so motivated, we would wholeheartedly respect their decision to enlist in the Iraqi army.) Obama, himself “right” on Iraq during the war’s run-up, is also right today to resist calls for direct U.S. military action — including airstrikes — in Iraq. The U.S. misadventure in Iraq ended in 2011; we do not need another. Experience and history have (clearly) taught us that there is no military solution in Iraq. Only a political reconciliation can quell the unrest, and this requires more than bellicose calls for violence from 5,000 miles away. To find a solution, we must commit to regional and international diplomacy.

We learned in 2003 that when we move in with guns blazing, we tend to spark a lot more fires than we extinguish. In 2014, we cannot afford to learn this same lesson. Regardless of how many are too blind (or proud or foolish) to realize it, we need to write a new scenario for 2014, so that 11 years from now, we can look back and ponder how, this time, we did things right.

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Don’t Trust the Bombers on Iraq: “Shock and Awe” Never Works

NOVANEWS

U.S. bombing of Baghdad in 2003. (Image: Screenshot)In March of 2003, we were treated to an intensive bombardment of Iraq, which the Bush White House propagandists termed “Shock and Awe.” As usual, the US Air Force practically promised us that if only they could throw down all their fancy munitions on the target country from the air, why, you might not even need those impossibly old-fashioned grunts in the US Army. We might be able to “decapitate” the nationalist, secular, state-socialist Baath regime that then ran Iraq, by killing its leader in an air strike.

Breathlessly, we were told that the US suddenly developed intelligence on Saddam’s whereabouts. The war began two days early because of this delicious possibility. The missiles were launched on a restaurant in Baghdad. Dozens of innocent diners were turned into red mist.

Saddam Hussein, of course, was never at the restaurant. Then the massive bombing campaign, 1,300 missiles, hit Baghdad, Mosul, KirkukUS military spokesmen insisted that the bombs were angled so as to reduce civilian casualties. But when you drop a five hundred pound bomb on a building, it creates shrapnel– the cement, the glass in the windows, go flying, into people’s skin and faces and eyes. Baath government and military buildings were targeted, in an attempt to destroy the Baath command and control.

The destruction rained down on Baghdad did nothing to forestall a war. The US and Britain still had to invade. As the troops rushed up to the capital some were surprised to see Iraqi troops discard their uniforms, put on civvies, and become guerrillas.

Lieutenant General William Scott Wallace got into trouble with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld because he revealed this development to the public: “The enemy we’re fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against because of these paramilitary forces.” (The propaganda administration of Rumsfeld did not want any elements of reality escaping onto the tv screens). The US was expecting a conventional tank army. That they did destroy from the air in a great slaughter, film of which has never surfaced. But the quick transformation of elements of the Iraqi army into guerrillas and paramilitary took the US by surprise.

Some of the Iraqi military survived as guerrilla fighters. When it was reported that last week at Mosul ex-Baathists forced allied with ISIS in taking over the city from the Shiite government, what was being said was that the very force the Air Force had promised to pulverize from the air over 11 years ago not only was still there in Sunni areas but managed to participate in a rollback of the American project to install a Shiite-majority government in Iraq. The “paramilitary forces” that the US had failed to war-game against, as it concentrated on “shock and awe” from the air, had over a decade later again provoked a US political firestorm.

In the meantime, the US Air Force intensively bombed Iraq throughout the years of the occupation. We have this article from late December 2004:

“U.S. troops and warplanes killed at least 25 insurgents as they attacked an American outpost in the northern city of Mosul with a car bomb and explosives, the U.S. military said Thursday. One U.S. soldier died in hospital after the firefight.

The clash on Wednesday occurred after rebels detonated a car bomb near a U.S. outpost in the restive city. As reinforcements arrived, they came under fire by guerrillas using automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, U.S. Staff Sergeant Don Dees said.

The Americans then called in an airstrike by warplanes, which attacked some 50 insurgents at the Yarmouk traffic circle, Dees said. “

The bombing campaigns targeted the resistance groups opposing the US occupation, some of which were bloodthirsty terrorists but others of whom were just… a resistance. The air strikes inevitably killed many civilians, despite US military denials. A study based on the conservative “Iraq Body Count” found that in Iraq, “46 per cent of the victims of US air strikes whose gender could be determined were female and 39 per cent were children.”

Shock and awe failed to awe the Iraqis, and all those years of air strikes on Mosul did not subdue it.

In Vietnam, the US Air Force engaged in what was called “carpet bombing,” using B-52s for wall to wall rolling strikes on the fields of the Vietnamese peasants. The Viet Cong just dug underground tunnels deep enough to escape the impact of the bombs, and hid out until the raids were over. All that carpet bombing did not prevent the US from being defeated by the Viet Cong.

Air power can be useful if it is employed in lending close air support to an attacking military force on the ground, which is itself made up of good fighters with popular support. American air power saved Kosovo from a Serbian massacre by helping repel Serbian armor and giving support to Kosovar irregulars. In Afghanistan, US air power helped the Northern Alliance win against the Taliban in fall 2001. But the Taliban were unpopular in Mazar, Herat and Kabul, and the Northern Alliance was welcome in those cities. The same tactics did not succeed in Qandahar, which is in some ways still significantly Taliban territory.

US air power alone would be unlikely to dislodge ISIS from Mosul at this point. The Sunni insurgents look more like Viet Cong (local defenders) than they do like outside attackers (Serbs, Taliban in Mazar). Where the enemy has some local support and is defending, air power has a long history of failure.

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ISIS Born from Occupation of Iraq, not Syrian Civil War ”VIDEO”

NOVANEWS

 

Vijay Prashad: Although it’s not clear where the Saudis stand in relation to ISIS, the group itself is a product of the Iraq War, and Western diplomats were in deep denial about its power prior to its major military offensive that began last week.

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American ‘Healthcare’ Exceptionalism: Highest Costs, Worst Care

NOVANEWS

New report exposes failures of for-profit system and prompts renewed calls for universal care

– Sarah Lazare

On October 26, 2013, Marylanders from across the state marched for the human right to healthcare. (Photo: United Workers / Flickr Creative Commons)A new report reveals that the the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world yet delivers the worst care among 11 industrialized nations, in what critics charge is further proof that the private insurance model is broken.

“The only solution is to move away from the private insurance model that keeps costs up and real care down,” Drew Joy, member of the Southern Maine Workers Center, told Common Dreams. “What we need is a publicly and equitably funded universal health care system, and in order to get it we must organize for our human rights.”

Released on Monday by the Commonwealth Fund, the report examines Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, looking at patient and physician surveys as well as data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Health Organization.

The U.S.’s dismal rating is not new. The country has come in dead last every year this survey has been produced—in 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2010—with lack of access to health care, failures in equitability, and inefficiencies cited as key reasons for its latest low-ranking. In the report, the U.S. scores last in “mortality amenable to medical care, infant mortality, and healthy life expectancy at age 60.”

Low-income people in the U.S., the report notes, are “much more likely than their counterparts in other countries to report not visiting a physician when sick; not getting a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up care; or not filling a prescription or skipping doses when needed because of costs.”

One of the key reasons for this is due to a U.S. private health insurance system that saddles people with high out-of-pocket expenses and “unstable coverage” that is rarely portable and often based on employment status.

“People don’t deserve health care in relation to how much money they have. They deserve health care because they are human beings.”

“In the U.S., if you lose your job you lose insurance. If your income changes you lose eligibility. People can quickly change from being insured to uninsured,” said David Squires, a co-author of the report, in an interview with Common Dreams. “There is also the issue of coverage that isn’t sufficient to cover the cost of care. We talk about the under-insured—people who have health insurance but it is not enough.”

Evidence of the insurance shortfall is buttressed by U.S. Census Bureau data, which found that as of 2012, 48 million people in the United States were without health insurance, and people of color were less likely to be insured than their white counterparts.

The report’s authors express hope that the Affordable Care Act, by expanding insurance coverage, will help lift health care outcomes in the United States.

Yet, critics charge that the ACA does not go far enough, leaving those who qualify in the clutches of the private insurance system responsible for the poor state of health care. Meanwhile, poor and working class people in the 25 states that have rejected Medicaid expansion are left out in the cold, as well as undocumented people, who are explicitly excluded from benefiting from state Medicaid expansions or new insurance marketplaces under the ACA.

“We need to be clear about the difference between health care and health insurance,” said Elizabeth Capone-Henriquez, member of the Southern Maine Workers Center, who is a parent of young children, and a Medicaid recipient. “People don’t deserve health care in relation to how much money they have. They deserve health care because they are human beings.”

Posted in USAComments Off on American ‘Healthcare’ Exceptionalism: Highest Costs, Worst Care

Mass Spying on Users of Social Media Totally Legal, says UK Government

NOVANEWS

Nation’s top spy defends surveillance of sites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter

– Jon Queally

(Credit: flickr / cc / Jason Howie)The British government has responded to a lawsuit by privacy and civil liberty advocates by releasing a 48-page document that justifies what it calls “legal” spying of its citizens who use foreign-based internet sites like Google and YouTube and social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and others.

The document itself (pdf) is a signed legal statement by Charles Farr, director general of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, which describes how his office has interpreted UK statutes in order to justify state surveillance by defining use of web platforms not based in the UK as ‘external communications’ not subject to normal privacy protections enjoyed by British citizens.

“If there was any remaining doubt that our snooping laws need a radical overhaul, there can be no longer. The agencies now operate in a legal and ethical vacuum; why the deafening silence from our elected representatives?” —James Welch, legal director of Liberty

According to Privacy International—one of the ten groups which filed the challenge—Farr’s represents the “first time the Government has openly commented on how it thinks it can use the UK’s vague surveillance legal framework to indiscriminately intercept communications through its mass interception programme, TEMPORA.”

The group says that the distinction between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ communications is crucial, because under the laws which regulate the surveillance powers of public bodies, ‘internal’ communications may only be intercepted under a warrant which relates to a specific individual or address while an individual’s ‘external communications’ may be intercepted indiscriminately, even where there are no grounds to suspect any wrongdoing.

Reporting on Tuesday afternoon by the Guardian—which first reported on GCHQ’s TEMPORA program utilizing documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reporting—included reactions from organizations involved with the suit:

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said: “Intelligence agencies cannot be considered accountable to parliament and to the public they serve when their actions are obfuscated through secret interpretations of byzantine laws.

“Moreover, the suggestion that violations of the right to privacy are meaningless if the violator subsequently forgets about it not only offends the fundamental, inalienable nature of human rights, but patronises the British people, who will not accept such a meagre excuse for the loss of their civil liberties.”

James Welch, legal director of Liberty, said: “The security services consider that they’re entitled to read, listen and analyse all our communications on Facebook, Google and other US-based platforms. If there was any remaining doubt that our snooping laws need a radical overhaul, there can be no longer. The agencies now operate in a legal and ethical vacuum; why the deafening silence from our elected representatives?”

Michael Bochenek, senior director of international law and policy at Amnesty International, said: “British citizens will be alarmed to see their government justifying industrial-scale intrusion into their communications. The public should demand an end to this wholesale violation of their right to privacy.”

And in a series of tweets, editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian highlighted key portions of the government document:

Rusbridger also took this jab at the British government for their continued stance on the program’s secrecy:

 

Posted in Campaigns, UKComments Off on Mass Spying on Users of Social Media Totally Legal, says UK Government

Nearly Two Years Caged in Embassy, Groups Demand Justice for Julian Assange

NOVANEWS

‘Unprecedented situation has not come about as a result of the alleged acts committed in Sweden, but rather due to the clear political interference by powerful interests.’

– Jon Queally

Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange rally outside the Ecuador Embassy in London in August of 2012. (Credit: flickr / cc / Vertigogen)Nearly sixty international human rights groups, press freedom advocates and civil society organizations have submitted reports to bodies at the United Nations calling on Swedish officials to remedy the “pre-trial detention” status of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who has remained under asylum protection at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost two years.

According to the groups, Assange’s legal treatment by the Swedish government—concerning charges of alleged sexual misconduct that took place in 2010—are in direct violation of his human rights and stems directly from his work as a publisher of leaked government material, most notably diplomatic cables and documents related to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two Swedish organizations, as well as jurist organizations from around the world—including the American Association of Jurists (AAJ), the National Lawyer’s Guild (NLG), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), and the Indian Association of Lawyers—submitted two reports, one in English and one in Spanish, each highlighting various attacks on Assange’s right to due process and legal protections.

According to the English report, signed by 16 organizations and sent to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review, “The methods employed by the prosecutor in Mr. Assange’s case are a clear violation of his fundamental human rights, yet they remain beyond the reach of judicial review.”

A third report, signed by 33 human rights groups, media and civil society organisations, and unions from around the world petitioned the Human Rights Commission in Geneva to intervene on Assange’s behalf and called him a ’political prisoner’ under threat.

“The entire international community has witnessed the opportunistic manipulation of the accusations against Mr. Assange, in an attempt to destroy his reputation and to prevent his freedom and his ability to act politically,” reads the report submitted to the UNHRC. “It is obvious that this unprecedented situation has not come about as a result of the alleged acts committed in Sweden, but rather due to the clear political interference by powerful interests in response to Mr. Assange’s journalistic and political activities. This situation has turned Julian Assange into a political prisoner, who is effectively condemned to house arrest without any charges having been brought against him, without being able to exercise his right to due process.”

Assange sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in 2012 and was granted asylum status for “political persecution” over fears that if he followed court orders to return to Sweden he would then be extradicted to the United States under the power of a sealed US Federal Grand Jury indictment.  White House officials have called Assange a criminal and “enemy of the state” for his work as a journalist and bringing numerous leaked government documents into the public forum, including those that exposed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to a press statement put out by Wikileaks:

On 19 June 2014, Julian Assange will have spent two years inside the Embassy of Ecuador in London (and a total of nearly four years in the UK under different forms of restrictions to his freedom of movement). He has been granted political asylum in relation to US attempts to prosecute him as the publisher of WikiLeaks. Sweden has refused to give assurances that Julian Assange will not be extradited to the United States. A Swedish prosecutor has kept a preliminary investigation open for nearly four years, but has not charged Julian Assange with any crime. The prosecutor refuses to question him in London, leading to a stalemate. At least four formal offers have been made to the prosecution to interview Mr. Assange in person, in writing, via telephone, or via video-link. All offers have been declined. The stalemate has cost over $10 million in the UK alone, where a costly police detail watches the Embassy and all of Mr. Assange’s visitors around the clock.

Posted in Human Rights, UKComments Off on Nearly Two Years Caged in Embassy, Groups Demand Justice for Julian Assange

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