Archive | September 3rd, 2014

Over 50 Organizations Call on Google to Drop Membership in American Legislative Exchange Council

NOVANEWS

WASHINGTON – Just weeks after Microsoft Corporation dropped its support for the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, major organizations across the country have written a letter to Google executives asking for the corporation follow suit. Microsoft’s exit was likely due to ALEC’s extreme views that have become increasingly out of touch with Microsoft’s culture and corporate ideology.

During ALEC’s recent meetings held in Dallas, ALEC officers and corporate lobbyists held training seminars to teach legislators how to block legislation that encourages clean energy solutions. Just two weeks ago, ALEC wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission in support of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in which they signal their opposition to net neutrality. Both Microsoft and Google have been global leaders on net neutrality and expanding clean energy.

“Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of Americans have signed petitions in order to ask that you take this step because of the role ALEC has played in subverting our democratic process,” the letter states. “The public knows that the ALEC operation—which brings state legislators and corporate lobbyists behind closed doors to discuss proposed legislation and share lavish dinners—threatens our democracy. The public is asking Google to stop participating in this scheme.”

Over the past two years over 80 corporations and at least 400 state legislators have dropped their membership in ALEC due to its unpopular stances and increasingly tight relationship with right-wing dark money groups. ALEC has been called a “dating service” for politicians and corporate lobbyists and is known for pushing an extreme corporate agenda at the expense of the American people.

You can read a copy of the letter here.

The list of organizations who have signed the letter is below.

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Jobs With Justice
American Family Voices League of Conservation Voters
American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Money Out Voters In (MOVI)
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Montana Envronmental Information Center
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) MoveOn
Americans United for Change New Energy Economy
Alliance for Retired Americans Northwest Colition for Responsible Investment
Center for Effective Government People For the American Way
Center for Media and Democracy/ALECExposed Progress Now
Christopher Reynolds Foundation Progress Florida
Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW) Progress Missouri
Climate Parents Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order Milwaukee
ColorofChange.org Public Campaign
Common Cause Public Citizen
Communication Workers of America (CWA) RootsAction
Courage Campaign Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
CREDO Action Sierra Club
Democracy for America Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Demos Share Action
Energy Action Coalition Social Security Works
Forecast the Facts Stand Up to ALEC
Free Press SumOfUs
Friends Fiduciary Corporation United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)
Good Jobs First United Steelworkers (USW)
Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters U.S.A. USAction
In the Public Interest We Act Radio
International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Working America
Zevin Asset Management

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NATO: Part of Solution — Or Problem

NOVANEWS

WASHINGTON – DAVID N. GIBBS, dgibbs at arizona.edu

Author of First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, Gibbs is a professor of history and government at the University of Arizona. He has written extensively on NATO.

He said today: “Foreign policy specialists have rightly condemned Russian intervention in the Ukraine, which has aggravated political divisions in that country. At the same time, we should recognize that the United States and NATO have also contributed to the destabilization. Russia’s actions are at least partly a response to policies adopted by the U.S. and NATO immediately following the Cold War.

“People often forget that post-Soviet Russia was at first highly cooperative with U.S. and Western policy, and they disbanded the Cold War era Warsaw Pact alliance. Russians assumed that in response the U.S. would gradually disband NATO, as a symmetrical action, or at the very least the U.S. would not expand NATO. Instead, the U.S. orchestrated NATO’s expansion, beginning in the late 1990s, incorporating several post-Soviet states. More recently, there has been open discussion of further expanding NATO, with possible membership for the Ukraine and Georgia. Russia views its interventions in the Ukraine as defensive actions, against NATO threats to its border security. NATO expansion must be viewed as a short-sighted action, one that was bound to provoke the Russians, and it laid the groundwork for the Ukraine’s civil war.”

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A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.

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Does the American Public Want More War?

NOVANEWS

(Photo: FAIR.org)

If you’ve been tuning in to TV news lately, there’s been a lot of chatter about what sort of military action the United States should take against the Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria. While the public isn’t eager for any new wars, the front page of USA Today was trying to change that narrative.

The paper’s August 29 edition boasted the front-page headline “More Want US to Flex Muscle.” As if that militaristic tone wasn’t obvious enough, right next to it is a graphic labeled “Is Obama Tough Enough?”

The evidence comes from a new Pew poll, so it’s worth noting how that data is transformed into a desire for US “muscle-flexing.” Reporter Susan Page  (8/29/14) explains in her lead:

After years of retrenchment in the wake of two costly wars, a new USA Today/Pew Research Center Poll finds that Americans increasingly are open to a larger US role in trying to solve problems around the world.

Wait a second. People who want the US to “solve problems” are asking the US to “flex muscle”? That’s what USA Today sees. Page notes that the “initial shifts in public opinion could make it easier for President Obama to order more muscular options in striking Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq.”

The poll asks whether the Americans think the government is doing enough about “solving world problems.” If one sees the “too little” answer as being equivalent to an eagerness to launch military attacks, it’s worth noting that the majority, 63 percent, say the government does “too much” or the “right amount.”

A side note: For anyone with a progressive critique of US foreign policy, what would be the correct answer to this question?

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Liar in a Tan Suit: Obama’s Distortions from Ukraine to Iraq

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President Obama in the White House press briefing room August 28, 2014.  (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On August 28th, president Obama delivered remarks in the White House press room. That is hardly newsworthy but on that day the president wore a tan suit, not the usual presidential dark blue uniform. This simple fashion choice exposed many things that are wrong with America, from shallow media reporting to popular obsession with trivialities. The substance of the president’s statements was lost in the repetition of nonsense and silly jokes. That is unfortunate because the president used this occasion to tell terribly dangerous lies about this country and the rest of the world.

The primary motivation for the press conference was to repeat the Obama doctrine of enacting regime change against sovereign nations and violating the right of human beings to live without fear of death from the American empire. The president called ISIL “a cancer” not once but twice during the briefing. Of course he neglected to mention that ISIL is the Frankenstein monster created by the United States and NATO interventions which always includes supporting jihadists who inevitably end up turning on their sponsors.

The man who bombed Libya into ruin had the gall to condemn Syrian president Assad for “killing tens of thousands of people.” Assad has the right to protect his country from western intervention and the resulting death toll and massive displacement of people can be laid at the halls of power in Washington, London and Paris. Assad’s ability to withstand the assault has made the West nervous and caused the NATO leadership to begin making desperate and foolish decisions. One of the worst was provoking a coup against the elected leadership of Ukraine and turning it into a western vassal state on Russia’s border.

The western ginned up conflict in Ukraine was of course on the menu of deceit for the guy in the light colored outfit. According to Obama the loss of life and destruction of property in Ukraine is all Russian president Putin’s fault. There is no evidence of a “homegrown, indigenous uprising in eastern Ukraine” said the Peace Prize winner. This assertion would be laughable were it not so dangerous. The western gambit in Ukraine created a civil war pitting one region of that country against another and forcing citizens who didn’t want to be part of the puppet government to take up arms to defend themselves.

They have done a good job of fighting against the western mob and that has sent Obama and his minions into a vortex of panic and impulse. Just days after the great taupe debate NATO announced the formation of a “strike force” meant to counter what it calls Russian aggression. Even as the man in tan blamed Russia for ignoring diplomatic solutions, it is in fact the western nations which have blocked these efforts at every turn. They created the crisis themselves and so have no incentive to undo their dirty work.

So while the West acts like the injured party, it continues to create havoc everywhere on the planet. Obama didn’t announce it on the day of the big fashion reveal but just days later he ordered drone attacks on Somalia, where killing thousands of people isn’t called a war crime because America is the perpetrator. The excuse of fighting al-Shabab “terrorists” should have worn thin by now, but the destruction of Somalia was never a big news story and even if it were, the corporate media would provide the White House with all of the propaganda it wants.

Just one day after Obama’s sartorial choices made headline, Russian president Vladimir Putin also made public remarks and the contrast was striking. It is clear that the saber rattling and talk of strike forces and sanctions are a result of Putin’s ability to give as good as he gets.

Not only can he put the crooks in their place but he can get his digs in too. “Do you remember the joke: ‘Whatever Russians make, they always end up with a Kalashnikov?’ I get an impression that whatever Americans touch they always end up with Libya or Iraq.” All jokes aside, Putin was blunt and warned that “it is better not to mess with us” and in case anyone forgot reminded Obama and company that “Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear states. It’s not words, it is the reality.”

While he was chided by Americans for pointing out the obvious he should have been applauded. NATO behaves as if Russia is a weak nation like Libya or Iraq that can be overthrown easily. The more it is pointed out to them that Russia is their military equal, the safer the world may be.

The only hope for humanity is to have more Vladimir Putins. That is not to say that Putin is somehow virtuous. None of the major world leaders are. All of them have committed human rights abuses and brought war to innocent people. In an age with so much wrongdoing, we are forced to cheer for those people who can stop some of it.

The end of August is always a slow week for news. Perhaps that is why the suit made headlines and set social media ablaze. It is important to comb through the clutter and note that our government’s agenda is to destroy and then acquire. Just ask Iraqis, Libyans or Somalis. The only question is who will be next and how many lies will the White House occupant tell in order to get the dirty job done.

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One- or two-state solution? The answer is both (or neither)

NOVANEWS

The two-state solution is not a progressive cause and neither is a single-state solution — they are just possible means to an end. The only possible goal for progressive politics in Israel/Palestine can be full human, civil and political rights for everyone living on this land. 

[Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com]

Every now and then a comment on this blog attributes a position to me — one I thought I had been very careful to avoid taking. A misunderstood writer should blame only himself and not the readers. However, there is a specific point I always have trouble getting across, maybe because of the way it diverges from the way people tend to frame the political debate — and not just in Israel.

The issue at hand is a so-called final-status agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I often get comments that assume I am preaching for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and for the evacuation of settlements. Other comments take for granted that I am calling on Israel to annex the West Bank and give citizenship to all of the Palestinians.

The truth is that I am not a follower of either of these ideas – or if you prefer, I accept both of them under certain circumstances.

My principle political position is opposition to the occupation. By “occupation” I don’t mean the legal status of the land administrated by Israel. I am referring to the existence of a regime that separates the two populations on ethnic lines and grants them different rights, and to all the policies that are part and parcel of that regime: the military court system, the extra juridical assassinations of people living under Israeli sovereignty, the lack of freedom of movement, the limits on freedom of speech, and many more such measures.

I support equal rights for all people living in this land, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Theoretically this can happen as part of a two-state solution, a single-state solution and in various hybrids of the two. All these solutions could just the same preserve a situation where there are no equal rights and Jews continue to rule over the Palestinians but through different measures, much like what happened in Gaza following the withdrawal of IDF forces and 9,000 settlers in 2005. A person can state that he or she is in favor of the two-state solution or that he or she supports applying Israeli civilian law – instead of a military regime – in the West Bank, but such making such statements guarantees nothing.

Even when such final status plans are presented in their ideal form they all have considerable flaws. The game in which progressives bring up ideas for resolving the conflict and the Right finds holes in them is a lost cause. In fact, the entire debate on solutions might be intellectually intriguing but its only importance is as counterweight to the claim that the conflict is some type of given state of affairs or a natural disaster that cannot be solved. One needs to put alternatives on the table, but they shouldn’t be turned into a cult.

One of the major problems in Israel is that the two-state solution was transformed from a means — to ending the occupation and its evils — into a goal. This is a disastrous development. There is no “peace camp” in Israel and no major political force seeking justice; there is only a “two-state camp,” which is something completely different. If a peace camp is having trouble implementing the two-state solution, it looks for just alternatives which will end the occupation and diminish its evils. But when a two-state camp has trouble implementing a two-state solution, it stops looking for any sort of solution and instead becomes a supporter of the status quo with all its inherent policies, such as the need to kill 2,000 people in Gaza in order to maintain the current state of affairs.

This is why progressives need to go back to opposing the occupation, and they need to do it actively — not just through lip service about “a diplomatic process” or two states or peace and all the newspeak Shimon Peres trademarked.

One must be very wary not to delve too deeply into the debate about solutions. More often than not, this conversation is a waste of time and political capital. Solutions are not the result of debate clubs but of political interests at a given moment in time. In other words, once Israeli society decides to end the occupation irrespective of the political circumstances, the power relations and various interests will determine the nature of the arrangements on the ground.

That is the moment in time where we, Israelis, will need to conduct an honest conversation about the kind of arrangement we would rather negotiate (Palestinians would do the same probably). Such a debate cannot exist now because the one thing we can all agree on is prolonging the status quo. This is what happens every day in the Israeli political system: Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Liberman, Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni (or Labor’s Yitzhak Herzog, for that matter) can be part of the same coalition despite their contradictory options because they can live with the status quo. That is the common denominator that defines the entire system.

One final note: even when the final status agreement presents itself, it will be neither final nor static and we will need to continue working so that relations between Jews and Palestinians are conducted within an egalitarian and accountable political system and not through though exploitation or military force. There are no endgames in politics, certainly not here.

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I$raHell ‘Land for Lives’ Is Theft. Pure and Simple

NOVANEWS

Israel takes land, Palestine loses land; that’s the way it works

“If an innocent Israeli life – cruelly taken – is worth around 330 acres of land,” argues Fisk, “then an innocent Palestinian life – equally cruelly taken – must surely equal the same.” (Photo: Archive/The Independent)

So a bit more of Palestine has slidden down the plughole. A thousand more acres of Palestinian land stolen by the Israeli government – for “appropriation” is theft, is it not? – and the world has made the usual excuses. The Americans found it “counter-productive” to peace, which is probably a bit less forceful than its reaction would be if Mexico were to bite off a 1,000-acre chunk of Texas and decided to build homes there for its illegal immigrants in the US. But this is “Palestine” (inverted commas more necessary than ever) and Israel has been getting away with theft, albeit not on quite this scale – it is the biggest land heist in 30 years – ever since it signed up to the Oslo agreement in 1993.

The Rabin-Arafat handshake, the promises and handovers of territory and military withdrawals, and the determination to leave everything important (Jerusalem, refugees, the right of return) to the end, until everyone trusted each other so much that the whole thing would be a doddle – no wonder the world bestowed its financial generosity upon the pair. But this latest land-grab not only reduces “Palestine” but continues the circle of concrete around Jerusalem to cut Palestinians off from both the capital they are supposed to share with Israelis and from Bethlehem.

It was instructive to learn the Israeli-Jewish Etzion council regarded this larceny as punishment for the murder of three Israeli teenagers in June. “The goal of the murders of those three youths was to sow fear among us, to disrupt our daily lives and to call into doubt our right [sic] to the land,” the Etzion council announced. “Our response is to strengthen settlement.” This must be the first time that land in “Palestine” has been acquired not through excuses about security or land deeds – or on God’s personal authority – but out of revenge.

And it raises an interesting precedent. If an innocent Israeli life – cruelly taken – is worth around 330 acres of land, then an innocent Palestinian life – equally cruelly taken – must surely equal the same. And if even half the 2,200 Palestinian dead of Gaza last month – and this is a conservative figure – were innocent, then the Palestinians presumably now have the right to take over 330,000 acres of Israeli land, in reality much more. But however “counter-productive” this might be, I’m sure America would not stand for it. Israel takes land, Palestinians lose land; that’s the way it works. And thus it has been since 1948, and that is how it will continue.

There will never be a “Palestine” and the latest territorial robbery is merely another small punctuation mark in the book of sorrow which the Palestinians must read as their dreams of statehood wither. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman for the Palestinian “President”, Mahmoud Abbas, said his boss and the “moderate forces” in Palestine had been “stabbed in the back” by the Israeli decision, which is putting it mildly. Abbas has a back covered in knife wounds. What else did he expect when he wrote a book about Palestinian-Israeli relations without once using the word “occupation”?

So we’re back to the same old game. Abbas cannot negotiate with anyone unless he speaks for Hamas as well as the Palestinian Authority. As Israel knows. As America knows. As the EU knows. But each time Abbas tries to put together a unity government, we all screech that Hamas is a “terrorist” organisation. And Israel says it cannot talk to a “terrorist” organisation which demands the destruction of Israel – even though Israel used to say the same of Arafat and, in those days, helped Hamas to build more mosques in Gaza and the West Bank as a counterweight to Fatah and all the other “terrorists” up in Beirut.

Of course, if Abbas speaks only for himself, Israel will tell him what it has told him before: that without his control of Gaza, Israel has no one to negotiate with. But does it matter any more? There should be a special strap headline above all reports of this kind: “Goodbye, Palestine”.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on I$raHell ‘Land for Lives’ Is Theft. Pure and Simple

Nation’s Poor Remain Hungry as Wall Street Feasts

NOVANEWS

Persistent rates of food insecurity reveal vast inequities of so-called “economic recovery” in US, say anti-poverty advocates

ALIVE Food Bank Distribution in Alexandria VA (Photo: Bread for the World)

Critics and anti-poverty advocates are questioning the so-called economic recovery as a USDA study (PDF) published Wednesday revealed that while the nation’s wealthiest enjoyed record gains, nearly 50 million Americans continue to struggled with food insecurity in 2013.

According to the government figures, while a majority of people who were not always able to afford food last year were adults, 16 million children also went hungry at times, with 360,000 households reporting that their kids skipped meals or did not eat for an entire day because there was not enough money.

Joel Berg, executive director of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, said the country’s widespread hunger problem is deeply connected to the government’s pro-corporation, anti-worker policies. “A country that combines massive hunger with record Wall Street markets is so derailed we can’t even find our tracks anymore,” Berg said. “These startling numbers prove there has been no true economic recovery for tens of millions of struggling U.S. families.”

Overall, food insecurity is 35 percent higher than in 2007, before the recession began. In 2013, the average food-secure household spent 30 percent more on food than the average food-insecure household of the same size.

“Too many people at the top don’t understand the difference between Wall Street and Main Street,” Berg told Common Dreams. Corporations resettling overseas to avoid paying higher taxes in the U.S.—as exemplified by Burger King’s recent merger with Canadian food chain Tim Horton’s—is “supremely unpatriotic,” Berg said. Asked whether government officials are willfully ignoring hunger statistics, Berg said, simply and emphatically, “Yes.”

The research comes shortly after the Harvard School of Public Health released a studyshowing that the healthy diet gap between rich and poor Americans doubled between 1999 and 2010. That study, published earlier this week, found that differences in diet are directly related to both cost and access, as low-income people are more likely to live in “food deserts” — areas that have few to no grocery stores selling healthy produce, forcing families who cannot afford to travel outside of their neighborhoods to rely on corner stores selling boxed and processed food.

“The overall improvement in diet quality is encouraging, but the widening gap related to income and education presents a serious challenge to our society as a whole,” said the study’s senior author, Walter Willett, professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at HSPH.

Of all the food-insecure households that participated in the 2013 survey, 62 percent received assistance from federal food and nutrition assistance programs. “It is vital to note that this new data was collected before most of the recent SNAP (food stamps) cuts kicked in,” Berg wrote in a press release for the coalition. “Given the pain measured in these numbers, I can only imagine that next year’s report, which will include the impact of the recent cuts, will more formally document the mass suffering we are already seeing on the ground from coast to coast.”

The Food Research and Action Center also noted that the “severe” food insecurity rate was 5.6 percent in 2013, compared to 4.1 percent in 2007 before the recession.

“Hunger continues to plague too many Americans,” said FRAC president Jim Weill. “We can end hunger in this country, but that takes political will. It is up to our nation’s leaders – Congress, the President, state and local officials – to make sure that workers can earn family supporting wages, and that income supports and nutrition assistance programs reach more people in need and provide more adequate benefits. That means strengthening, not cutting or limiting nutrition programs.”

Fast food workers in 150 cities across the U.S. on Thursday will launch strikes and sit-ins to demand a $15 minimum wage, the right to organize in the workplace, and an end to wage theft, a move that the coalition supports. “It’s appalling that the people who grow our food and serve our food can’t afford to eat,” Berg said.

The day of action is being organized by employees of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and KFC, who are expected to be joined by thousands of home healthcare providers, with an end goal of building a movement of low-wage workers.

“Sometimes things have to bottom out… before people wake up,” Berg said. “I think that waking up is happening now.”

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Pivoting on ISIS Brutality, Obama Orders 350 More Troops to Iraq

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More than 1,000 U.S. soldiers will now be in Iraq after order for additional forces comes in immediate wake of released video from ISIS that showed beheading of second American journalist

President Obama has said that the U.S. won’t be intimidated by ISIS, though critics warn that such a response misses the point of ISIS’ true intentions when it comes to its brutality against American journalists. (Photo: Reuters)

The Pentagon has announced that an additional 350 U.S. soldiers will be deployed to Iraq, bringing the total to more than 1,000 troops as President Obama escalates his war against the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (alternately known as both ISIS and ISIL).

Word of the expanded ground force came late on Tuesday just hours after a new video surfaced which appeared to show American journalist Steven Sotloff being killed by ISIS. U.S. intelligence officials later confirmed their belief that the video was authentic. Prior to being brutally beheaded in the video, Sotloff was forced to speak directly to the camera and state that his death was direct retribution for the U.S. bombing of ISIS forces and military interference in both Iraq and Syria. Two weeks ago, a similar video was posted showing the beheading of another American journalist, James Foley.

In a statement on Wednesday, President Obama deplored the killing of both journalists and said the U.S. would not forget the “terrible crime against these two fine young men” and—despite the threats from from ISIS—that U.S. forces would continue to fight the “barbaric and ultimately empty vision” the group represents.

“Our reach is long and justice will be served,” vowed Obama.

The Guardian reports:

Intentionally or not, Obama has effectively responded to Isis by signaling an intensification of the latest US war in Iraq. Obama has now launched 124 airstrikes against Isis since 8 August, while swearing not to introduce “combat boots on the ground”.

The new deployment brings US troops protecting the Baghdad embassy alone up to 820, the Pentagon said – a number that apparently does not include hundreds of special operations “advisers” bolstering the Iraqi military in Baghdad and Kurdish Peshmerga militia in Irbil. Should Isis attempt to attack the embassy, those troops would likely perform combat functions.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the State Department’s “critical mission” would now receive “a more robust and sustainable security presence”.

The looming threat of a protracted military engagement in Iraq seems more and more likely now for U.S. forces. Though critics who warned against Obama’s decision to bomb Iraq and re-deploy troops had specifically raised the alarm about “mission creep” from the beginning, the brutality of ISIS—viscerally represented by the videos of beheaded journalists—has created widespread support among both Republican and Democrat lawmakers—not to mention large sections of the population—for Obama to continue U.S. military action against the group. In fact, many on Capitol Hill are urging Obama to expand the fight in Iraq and Syria dramatically—pushing for airstrikes inside Syria and sending additional weapons to other factions on the ground who are engaged in the fight against ISIS.

Critics of such policies, however, continue to remind the public that it was the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and broader U.S. foreign policy that created the conditions for ISIS to rise in the region and warn that further military escalation in either Iraq or Syria is a mistake that plays right into the hands of jihadist groups like ISIS.

As Tom Engelhardt, editor of the online magazine TomDispatch.comwrote on Tuesday:

Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington.  Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them.  They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy — and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing U.S. counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation.  In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise.  After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington’s weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who wouldoppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country.

And Engelhardt warns that for Obama to be so easily goaded into escalation by the brutal videos released by ISIS would be a foolish, and rather transparent, mistake. Argues Engelhardt:

Don’t consider its taunting video of James Foley’s execution the irrational act of madmen blindly calling down the destructive force of the planet’s last superpower on themselves.  Quite the opposite.  Behind it lay rational calculation.  ISIS’s leaders surely understood that American air power would hurt them, but they knew as well that, as in an Asian martial art in which the force of an assailant is used against him, Washington’s full-scale involvement would also infuse their movement with greater power.  (This was Osama bin Laden’s most original insight.)

It would give ISIS the ultimate enemy, which means the ultimate street cred in its world.  It would bring with it the memories of all those past interventions, all those snuff videos and horrifying images.  It would help inflame and so attract more members and fighters.  It would give the ultimate raison d’être to a minority religious movement that might otherwise prove less than cohesive and, in the long run, quite vulnerable.  It would give that movement global bragging rights into the distant future.

ISIS’s urge was undoubtedly to bait the Obama administration into a significant intervention.  And in that, it may prove successful.

Posted in USA, Iraq, SyriaComments Off on Pivoting on ISIS Brutality, Obama Orders 350 More Troops to Iraq

As Senate Dem Pushes Air Strikes on Syria, Experts Say ‘No Military Solution’

NOVANEWS

“You can’t bomb extremism out of existence,” says Middle East expert.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) plans to introduce a bill that authorizes the president to bypass Congress and launch air strikes on Syria. Picture from Sept. 27, 2007. (Photo: Shawn P. Eklund/Public Domain)

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) announced Tuesday he is planning to introduce a bill that would authorize the president to launch strikes on Syria, despite warnings that an expansion of the ongoing air war on neighboring Iraq would only make ISIS stronger and further embroil the region in violence.

Nelson — senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee — revealed his intentions to propose the legislation following the release Tuesday of a video depicting ISIS beheading U.S./Israeli journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, whose execution was preceded by that of U.S. journalist James Foley. The representative of Sotloff’s home state of Florida, Nelson said he will file the still-unspecified legislation as soon as Congress reconvenes next week. The senator directly referenced  the political debate over whether the president has the constitutional authority to levy air strikes without Congressional approval, stating, “This will ensure there’s no question that the president has the legal authority he needs to use airstrikes in Syria.”

Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at Institute for Policy Studies, told Common Dreams, “Obviously there is a need for Congress to be engaged on this issue.” However, she argued that the solution is not for Congress to “give the White House carte blanche to bomb whoever it wants, wherever it wants, whenever it wants. That’s what they did after 9/11, and it led to the chaos in the region that we see now.”

Following news of Sotloff’s execution, Obama declared Wednesday in a news conference from Estonia that “justice will be served.” The President stated, “Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy [ISIS] so that it’s no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States.” However, he went on to acknowledge that it will be impossible to completely eradicate the organization. Obama’s speech followed hisdeclaration last week that the U.S. has “no strategy” for fighting ISIS and comes amidescalating rhetoric from war hawks, as well as voices from within Obama’s party, calling for military intervention.

But experts on the region warn that U.S. war with ISIS will only play into the hands of an organization that is itself the product of U.S. invasion and occupation.

“ISIS has grown strong and gained recruits, money, and territory from the violence in Syria and Iraq,” Stephen Miles of Win Without War told Common Dreams. “They depend on those conflicts. If you are exacerbating them by taking part in Syrian civil war you will play right into their hand. The U.S. will give them a rallying cry in the war against us.”

He added, “It is pretty clear that Syrian conflict is one in which there has never been a solution that involves American military power.”

“When you look at Iraq, when the U.S. bombs ISIS, the press spin in the U.S. is that we are going after the bad guys. But what people in Iraq see, especially Sunnis, is that the U.S. is weighing in on the side of the Kurds and Shia against Sunnis,” said Bennis. “When the U.S. bombs ISIS, it undermines every effort they want to make to persuade Sunnis to break with ISIS. It means [Sunni] alliances stay with ISIS despite their violence and brutality.”

Since August 8, the U.S. has been rapidly expanding its war on ISIS in nearby Iraq, launching at least 124 air strikes, deploying more than 1,000 troops, and accelerating weapons shipments to Iraqi and Kurdish armed groups. Meanwhile, U.S. drones arecurrently conducting surveillance flights over Syria, in what could signal coming air strikes in that country as well. Few details about the military escalation — including combatant and civilian casualties, the specific air craft and military branches used to launch strikes, and ground cooperation with Iraqi and Kurdish forces — have been released to the public.

The push for renewed strikes on Syria comes almost one year after a political U.S. push to launch air strikes against the Assad regime — an effort that was met with strong resistance  by the U.S. public. Critics warn that the rush to launch air strikes on Assad’s most powerful opponents illustrates the confusion and emptiness of U.S. foreign policy.

“Maybe next month we will be on verge of bombing someone fighting ISIS,” said Bennis. “Anytime you identify a force that is beyond-the-pale evil and all you can do is bomb them, you are doomed to failure. You can’t bomb extremism out of existence.”

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on As Senate Dem Pushes Air Strikes on Syria, Experts Say ‘No Military Solution’

Will NATO Saber Rattling Derail Hopes for Ukraine-Russia Détente?

NOVANEWS

On the eve of NATO summit, Obama calls for a united front against Russian “aggression” while Putin and Poroshenko negotiate ceasefire

Russian President Vladimir Putin (second from left) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (center), along with European officials, at an August 26 meeting in Minsk. (Photo: European External Action Service)

On the eve of a NATO summit in Wales at which member-states will consider admitting Ukraine into their alliance and formally announce expansion of military operations in Eastern Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko are close to agreeing on a plan to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

While President Obama, in remarks delivered at Nordea Concert Hall in Estonia, talked of Russia’s “aggression,” “unrestrained nationalism,” and “brazen assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the leaders of both Russia and Ukraine appeared — amidst significant confusion and despite such saber-rattling — to be making progress toward possible political settlement.

“Yes, this morning President Poroshenko and I spoke over the phone and our views, as far as I understand, on settling the conflict are very similar,” Putin said Wednesday, accordingto Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

According to news reports, Putin has drafted a seven-point ceasefire plan. Among its conditions: that separatists halt all offensive operations; that Ukrainian armed forces move their artillery back out of range of cities and large towns in the rebel-held area and cease airstrikes; the establishment of an international monitoring mission and humanitarian aid corridors; a total prisoner exchange; and the creation of “rebuilding brigades” to repair damaged infrastructure.

The rhetoric around Russia’s — and more specifically, Putin’s — aggression is misplaced, some experts warn, and threatens to undermine reconciliation. In fact, it could have the opposite effect, provoking a large-scale confrontation between NATO-aligned countries and Russia.

David Gibbs, a professor of history and government at the University of Arizona who has written extensively on NATO, says:

Foreign policy specialists have rightly condemned Russian intervention in the Ukraine, which has aggravated political divisions in that country. At the same time, we should recognize that the United States and NATO have also contributed to the destabilization. Russia’s actions are at least partly a response to policies adopted by the U.S. and NATO immediately following the Cold War.

People often forget that post-Soviet Russia was at first highly cooperative with U.S. and Western policy, and they disbanded the Cold War era Warsaw Pact alliance. Russians assumed that in response the U.S. would gradually disband NATO, as a symmetrical action, or at the very least the U.S. would not expand NATO. Instead, the U.S. orchestrated NATO’s expansion, beginning in the late 1990s, incorporating several post-Soviet states. More recently, there has been open discussion of further expanding NATO, with possible membership for the Ukraine and Georgia. Russia views its interventions in the Ukraine as defensive actions, against NATO threats to its border security. NATO expansion must be viewed as a short-sighted action, one that was bound to provoke the Russians, and it laid the groundwork for the Ukraine’s civil war.

In his speech in Estonia Wednesday, which drew comparisons between the historic plight of the post-Soviet Baltic States and that of modern-day Ukraine, Obama called on NATO nations to “stand united against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”

With regard to Ukraine’s possible entry into NATO, Obama remained cagey: “We must reaffirm the principle that has always guided our alliance,” he said. “Countries that meet our standards and that can make meaningful contributions to allied security: the door to NATO membership will remain open.”

Poroshenko has been invited to address the NATO summit on Thursday. But the more crucial conversation will come the following day, Friday, at a Contact Group meeting between Russia, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Kiev government, and eastern Ukraine’s independence supporters. Those talks are sure to be clouded, but hopefully not eclipsed, by whatever transpires in Wales.

In advance of the NATO summit, a group of former U.S. intelligence officials called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity wrote a memo to German Chancellor Andrea Merkel, encouraging her to bring a “degree of judicious skepticism” to the talks in order to avoid repeating mistakes made in the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003.

“You need to know…that accusations of a major Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence,” the memo reads. “If the photos that NATO and the U.S. have released represent the best available “proof” of an invasion from Russia, our suspicions increase that a major effort is under way to fortify arguments for the NATO summit to approve actions that Russia is sure to regard as provocative.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians continue to suffer. The UN Refugee Agency estimated Tuesday that 260,000 people have been displaced in Ukraine since the conflict began.

In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said: “If this crisis is not quickly stopped, it will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences but it also has the potential to destabilize the whole region. After the lessons of the Balkans, it is hard to believe a conflict of these proportions could unfold in the European continent.”

Posted in USA, Europe, Russia, UkraineComments Off on Will NATO Saber Rattling Derail Hopes for Ukraine-Russia Détente?

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