Archive | March 20th, 2017

President Blowback: How the Invasion of Iraq Came Home

US Army soldiers move toward their next watch location in Baqubah, Iraq, June 19, 2007. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Christopher Hubenthal / US Air Force)

US Army soldiers move toward their next watch location in Baqubah, Iraq, June 19, 2007. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Christopher Hubenthal / US Air Force)

If you want to know where President Donald Trump came from, if you want to trace the long winding road (or escalator) that brought him to the Oval Office, don’t look to reality TV or Twitter or even the rise of the alt-right. Look someplace far more improbable: Iraq.

Donald Trump may have been born in New York City.  He may have grown to manhood amid his hometown’s real estate wars.  He may have gone no further than Atlantic City, New Jersey, to casino-ize the world and create those magical golden letters that would become the essence of his brand.  He may have made an even more magical leap to television without leaving home, turning “You’re fired!” into a household phrase.  Still, his presidency is another matter entirely.

Despite his denials that he was ever in favor of the 2003 invasion of that country, Donald Trump is a president made by war.  His elevation to the highest office in the land is inconceivable without that invasion, which began in glory and ended (if ended it ever did) in infamy.  He’s the president of a land remade by war in ways its people have yet to absorb.  Admittedly, he avoided war in his personal life entirely.  He was, after all, a Vietnam no-show.  And yet he’s the president that war brought home.  Think of him not as President Blowhard but as President Blowback.

“Go Massive. Sweep It All Up”

To grasp this, a little escalator ride down memory lane is necessary — all the way back to 9/11; to, that is, the grimmest day in our recent history.  There’s no other way to recall just how gloriously it all began than amid the rubble.  You could, if you wanted, choose the moment three days after the World Trade Center towers collapsed when, bullhorn in hand, President George W. Bush ascended part of that rubble pile in downtown Manhattan, put his arm around a firefighter, and shouted into a bullhorn, “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you!… And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”

If I were to pick the genesis of Donald Trump’s presidency, however, I think I would choose an even earlier moment — at a Pentagon partially in ruins thanks to hijacked American Airlines flight 77.  There, only five hours after the attack, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, already aware that the destruction around him was probably Osama bin Laden’s responsibility, ordered his aides (according to notes one of them took) to begin planning for a retaliatory strike against… yes, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.  His exact words: “Go massive.  Sweep it all up.  Things related and not.”  And swept almost instantly into the giant dust bin of what would become the Global War on Terror (or GWOT), as ordered, would be something completely unrelated to 9/11 (not that the Bush administration ever admitted that).  It was, however, intimately related to the deepest dreams of the men (and woman) who oversaw foreign policy in the Bush years: the elimination of Iraq’s autocratic ruler, Saddam Hussein.

Yes, there was bin Laden to deal with and the Taliban and Afghanistan, too, but that was small change, almost instantly taken care of with some air power, CIA dollars delivered to Afghan warlords, and a modest number of American troops.  Within months, Afghanistan had been “liberated,” bin Laden had fled the country, the Taliban had laid down their arms, and that was that.  (Who in Washington then imagined that 15 years later a new administration would be dealing with a request from the 12th U.S. military commander in that country for yet more troops to shore up a failing war there?)

Within months, in other words, the decks were clear to pursue what George W. Bush, Dick Cheney & Co. saw as their destiny, as the key to America’s future imperial glory: the taking down of the Iraqi dictator.  That, as Rumsfeld indicated at the Pentagon that day, was always where they were truly focused.  It was what some of them had dreamed of since the moment, in the first Gulf War of 1990-1991, when President George H.W. Bush stopped the troops short of a march on Baghdad and left Hussein, America’s former ally and later Hitlerian nemesis, in power.

The invasion of March 2003 was, they had no doubt, to be an unforgettable moment in America’s history as a global power (as it would indeed turn out to be, even if not in the way they imagined).  The U.S. military that George W. Bush would call “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known” was slated to liberate Iraq via a miraculous, high-tech, shock-and-awe campaign that the world would never forget.  This time, unlike in 1991, its troops would enter Baghdad, Saddam would go down in flames, and it would all happen without the help of the militaries of 28 other countries.

It would instead be an act of imperial loneliness befitting the last superpower on planet Earth.  The Iraqis would, of course, greet us as liberators and we would set up a long-term garrison state in the oil heartlands of the Middle East.  At the moment the invasion was launched, in fact, the Pentagon already had plans on the drawing boards for the building of four permanent U.S. mega-bases (initially endearingly labeled “enduring camps“) in Iraq on which thousands of U.S. troops could hunker down for an eternity.  At the peak of the occupation, there would be more than 500 bases, ranging from tiny combat outposts to ones the size of small American towns — many transformed after 2011 into the ghost towns of a dream gone mad until a few were recently reoccupied by U.S. troops in the battle against the Islamic State.

In the wake of the friendly occupation of now-democratic (and grateful) Iraq, the hostile Syria of the al-Assad family would naturally be between a hammer and an anvil (American-garrisoned Iraq and Israel), while the fundamentalist Iranian regime, after more than two decades of implacable anti-American hostility, would be done for.  The neocon quip of that moment was: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad.  Real men want to go to Tehran.” Soon enough — it was inevitable — Washington would dominate the Greater Middle East from Pakistan to North Africa in a way no great power ever had.  It would be the beginning of a Pax Americana moment on planet Earth that would stretch on for generations to come.

Such was the dream. You, of course, remember the reality, the one that led to a looted capital; Saddam’s army tossed out on the streets jobless to join the uprisings to come; a bitter set of insurgencies (Sunni and Shia); civil war (and local ethnic cleansing); a society-wide reconstruction program overseen by American warrior corporations linked to the Pentagon that resulted in vast boondoggle projects that achieved little and reconstructed nothing; prisons from hell (including Abu Ghraib) that bred yet more insurgents; and finally, years down the line, the Islamic State and the present version of American war, now taking place in Syria as well as Iraq and slated to ramp up further in the early days of the Trump era.

Meanwhile, as our new president reminded us recently in a speech to Congress, literally trillions of dollars that might have been spent on actual American security (broadly understood) were squandered on a failed military project that left this country’s infrastructure in disarray. All in all, it was quite a record. Thought of a certain way, in return for the destruction of part of the Pentagon and a section of downtown Manhattan that was turned to rubble, the U.S. would set off a series of wars, conflicts, insurgencies, and burgeoning terror movements that would transform significant parts of the Greater Middle East into failed or failing states, and their cities and towns, startling numbers of them, into so much rubble.

Once upon a time, all of this seemed so distant to Americans in a Global War on Terror in which President Bush quickly urged citizens to show their patriotism not by sacrificing or mobilizing or even joining the military, but by visiting Disney World and reestablishing patterns of pre-9/11 consumption as if nothing had happened. (“Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”)  And indeed, personal consumption would rise significantly that October 2001.  The other side of the glory-to-come in those years of remarkable peace in the United States was to be the passivity of a demobilized populace that (except for periodic thank-yous to its military) would have next to nothing to do with distant wars, which were to be left to the pros, even if fought to victory in their name.

That, of course, was the dream.  Reality proved to be another matter entirely.

Invading America

In the end, a victory-less permanent war across the Greater Middle East did indeed come home.  There was all the new hardware of war — the stingrays, the MRAPs, the drones, and so on — that began migrating homewards, and that was the least of it.  There was the militarization of America’s police forces, not to speak of the rise of the national security state to the status of an unofficial fourth branch of government.  Home, too, came the post-9/11 fears, the vague but unnerving sense that somewhere in the world strange and incomprehensible “aliens” practicing an “eerie religion” were out to get us, that some of them had near-super powers that even the world’s greatest military couldn’t crush, and that their potential acts of terror were Topeka’s greatest danger. (It mattered little that actual Islamic fundamentalist terror was perhaps the least of the dangers Americans faced in their daily lives.)

All of this reached its crescendo (at least thus far) in Donald Trump. Think of the Trump phenomenon, in its own strange way, as the culmination of the invasion of 2003 brought home bigly.  His would be a shock-and-awe election campaign in which he would “decapitate” his rivals one by one.  The New York real estate, hotel, and casino magnate who had long swum comfortably in the waters of the liberal elite when he needed to and had next to nothing to do with America’s heartland would be as alien to its inhabitants as the U.S. military was to Iraqis when it invaded.  And yet he would indeed launch his own invasion of that heartland on his private jet with its gold-plated bathroom fixtures, sweeping up all the fears that had been gathering in this country since 9/11 (nurtured by both politicians and national security state officials for their own benefit).  And those fears would ring a bell so loud in that heartland that it would sweep him into the White House.  In November 2016, he took Baghdad, USA, in high style.

In this context, let’s think for a moment about how strangely the invasion of Iraq, in some pretzeled form, blew back on America.

Like the neocons of the Bush administration, Donald Trump had long dreamed of his moment of imperial glory, and as in Afghanistan and again in Iraq in 2001 and 2003, when it arrived on November 8, 2016, it couldn’t have seemed more glorious. We know of those dreams of his because, for one thing, only six days after Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama in the 2012 election campaign, The Donald first tried to trademark the old Reagan-inspired slogan, “Make America great again.”

Like George W. and Dick Cheney, he was intent on invading and occupying the oil heartlands of the planet which, in 2003, had indeed been Iraq.  By 2015-2016, however, the U.S. had entered the energy heartlands sweepstakes, thanks to fracking and other advanced methods of extracting fossil fuels that seemed to be turning the country into “Saudi America.”  Add to this Trump’s plans to further fossil-fuelize the continent and you certainly have a competitor to the Middle East.  In a sense, you might say, adapting his description of what he would have preferred to do in Iraq, that Donald Trump wants to “keep” our oil.

Like the U.S. military in 2003, he, too, arrived on the scene with plans to turn his country of choice into a garrison state.  Almost the first words out of his mouth on riding that escalator into the presidential race in June 2015 involved a promise to protect Americans from Mexican “rapists” by building an unforgettably impregnable “great wall” on the country’s southern border.  From this he never varied even when, in funding terms, it became apparent that, from the Coast Guard to airport security to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as president he would be cutting into genuine security measures to build his “big, fat, beautiful wall.”

It’s clear, however, that his urge to create a garrison state went far beyond a literal wall. It included the build-up of the U.S. military to unprecedented heights, as well as the bolstering of the regular police, and above all of the border police. Beyond that lay the urge to wall Americans off in every way possible. His fervently publicized immigration policies (less new, in reality, than they seemed) should be thought of as part of a project to construct another kind of “great wall,” a conceptual one whose message to the rest of the world was striking: You are not welcome or wanted here. Don’t come. Don’t visit.

All this was, in turn, fused at the hip to the many irrational fears that had been gathering like storm clouds for so many years, and that Trump (and his alt-right companions) swept into the already looted heartland of the country.  In the process, he loosed a brand of hate (including shootings, mosque burnings, a raft of bomb threats, and a rise in hate groups, especially anti-Muslim ones) that, historically speaking, was all-American, but was nonetheless striking in its intensity in our present moment.

Combined with his highly publicized “Muslim bans” and prominently publicized acts of hate, the Trump walling-in of America quickly hit home.  A drop in foreigners who wanted to visit this country was almost instantly apparent as the warning signs of a tourism “Trump slump” registered, business travel bookings took an instant $185 million hit, and the travel industry predicted worse to come.

This is evidently what “America First” actually means: a country walled off and walled in.  Think of the road traveled from 2003 to 2017 as being from sole global superpower to potential super-pariah. Thought of another way, Donald Trump is giving the hubristic imperial isolation of the invasion of Iraq a new meaning here in the homeland.

And don’t forget “reconstruction,” as it was called after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  In relation to the United States, the bedraggled land now in question whose infrastructure recently was given a D+ grade on a “report card” issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Donald Trump promises a trillion-dollar infrastructure program to rebuild America’s highways, tunnels, bridges, airports, and the like. If it actually comes about, count on one thing: it will be handed over to some of the same warrior corporations that reconstructed Iraq (and other corporate entities like them), functionally guaranteeing an American version of the budget-draining boondoggle that was Iraq.

As with that invasion in the spring of 2003, in 2017 we are still in the (relative) sunshine days of the Trump era.  But as in Iraq, so here 14 years later, the first cracks are already appearing, as this country grows increasingly riven. (Think Sunni vs. Shia.)

And one more thing as you consider the future: the blowback wars out of which Donald Trump and the present fear-gripped garrison state of America arose have never ended. In fact, just as under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, so under Donald Trump, it seems they never will. Already the Trump administration is revving up American military power in Yemen, Syria, and potentially Afghanistan. So whatever the blowback may have been, you’ve only seen its beginning. It’s bound to last for years to come.

There’s just one phrase that could adequately sum all this up: Mission accomplished!

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Saudi Arabia’s Southeast Asia Terror Tour

NOVANEWS
Tony Cartalucci – NEO
Saudi Arabia’s king, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has recently undertaken a sweeping tour of Southeast Asia in what the media and analysts are claiming is a bid to firm up economic and political ties with Muslim-majority nations in the region.

However, both the media and analysts are sidestepping or entirely omitting the role Saudi Arabia has played in fueling global terrorism, extraterritorial geopolitical meddling, and even divisive and terroristic activities the notorious state sponsor of terrorism has been implicated in across the planet including within Southeast Asia itself.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) in an article titled,Saudi King Salman’s Southeast Asia trip affirms Muslim friendship,” would report:

The Saudi monarch’s rare month-long trip takes him to strategically important nations in the economically fast-growing region, with which Riyadh wants to deepen commercial engagement and socio-political ties.

DW would also report that:

Salman’s visit to the Southeast Asian countries also underscores cooperative and mutually reinforcing ties between Muslim-majority countries and affirms the Islamic credentials as well as image of the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia…

However, Saudi Arabia indisputably represents perhaps the greatest danger to Islam on Earth. The brand of politicized religion propagated by Saudi Arabia both within its borders and well beyond them known as Wahhabism was initially created and is still used today to establish, maintain, and expand Saudi political influence behind a tenuous veil of religion.

Saudi Arabia Exports More Than Just Oil and for More Than Just Petrodollars 

Saudi Arabia as a protectorate of the United States, the United Kingdom, and other special interests across Europe, grants these nations a vector for power and influence through the use of Wahhabism in any nation it is allowed to take root and flourish.

In Southeast Asia specifically, Saudi-funded Wahhabi madrases dot Malaysia, Indonesia, and to a lesser extent elsewhere fueling extremism that often manifests itself politically against parties and political leaders the West seeks to coerce or replace.

In Myanmar, Saudi-funded terrorists are attempting to infiltrate the nation’s Rohingya minority, turning the group’s persecution into a regional security crisis and a pretext for greater US involvement, including US political and military expansion.

In reality, the United States and its Saudi proxies have no interest in the Rohingya beyond leveraging the crisis – nor does the US genuinely believe extremist infiltrators constitute a genuine security risk, The US does however seek to place a further wedge between Myanmar and China, and placing US military advisers in Myanmar to deal with a manufactured security risk Saudi Arabia is engineering serves that objective well.

In the Philippines, Saudi-funded and indoctrinated terrorist organizations help maintain constant pressure on the Philippine government and serves as a perpetual pretext for America’s continued military presence in the Philippines.

The United States has repeatedly attempted to transform separatist violence in Thailand’s southern most provinces into a religious-themed conflict to likewise put additional pressure on Bangkok and serve as a potential vector for introducing US military influence.

Just as US-Saudi meddling serves to disrupt Myanmar-Chinese relations, US-Saudi attempts to fuel terrorism in the Philippines and Thailand are also intended to prevent the two nations from strengthening ties with China at the expense of America’s longstanding regional hegemony.

US-Saudi Terror Serve Policy Aimed At China  

And in China itself, US-backed terrorism in the nation’s western province of Xinjiang serves as one of several pressure points America maintains in an attempt to divide and overturn Beijing’s influence both in the region and even within China’s own borders.

While the majority of the population in Xinjiang – regardless of their religion or ethnicity – prefer stability and socioeconomic progress, the US has created, funds, and directs opposition groups to create political upheaval and serve as cover for organized terrorism carried out against both the people and government of Xinjiang province.

Xinjiang’s extremist minority has also served as a recruiting ground for joint US-Saudi terror abroad, including in Syria where Uyghur terrorists were trafficked out of China, through Southeast Asia, and into Turkey where they would be armed and deployed into Syria itself.

Thailand’s detainment and extradition of several suspects believed to be part of this terror pipeline became a source of serious political contention between Bangkok and Washington, culminating in a deadly bombing carried out in the center of Bangkok killing 20 and injuring many more – with all evidence suggesting it was carried out as reprisal for Bangkok’s defiance.

In addition to Thailand’s very public defiance of Washington’s demands, the Southeast nation has been incrementally divesting from its Cold War ties to the US and building more diversified ties with China, Russia, and other significant centers of power across Eurasia. Finding additional points of leverage against Bangkok is essential for Washington, and using Saudi Arabia’s talent for creating sectarian firestorms is a likely option.

Stronger Saudi Presence Means Stronger US Influence 

The United States throughout decades of foreign policy have used Saudi Arabia as a means of laundering political support, weapons, and cash through when attempting to co-opt and use groups within Muslim-majority nations.

A stronger Saudi presence in Southeast Asia means greater opportunities for the US itself to tap into Muslim communities, cultivate extremism, and recruit human resources to use in destructive proxy wars across the planet, as well as across Southeast Asia itself.

Attempts to create religious divisions within the culturally diverse and tolerant populations of Southeast Asia have been ongoing for years but with little success. While it is uncertain whether a greater Saudi presence in the region can significantly improve the odds in Washington’s favor, it is certain that tensions, chaos, and division will follow.

While some may argue Saudi Arabia is simply attempting to diversify its ties abroad with Salman’s visit, the overt sectarian nature of his itinerary suggests otherwise. Without a concerted effort both regionally and within Southeast Asia’s respective nations to expose and disarm this dangerous geopolitical weapon the US and Saudi Arabia are attempting to deploy, the unprecedented trip of Salman may be looked back upon as the calm before an “Arab Spring” style wave of chaos swept the region.

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US may send 1,000 troops to Syria

NOVANEWS
US may send 1,000 troops to Syria; Trump’s ‘hard-power budget’; The messy future of Russian spying; New kinds of war demand a new defensive alliance; and just a bit more…

The Pentagon is considering sending 1,000 more ground troops to Syria to help shape the offensive against Islamic State-held Raqqa before it formally kicks off, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. The plans are described as one of many granular additions to the “broad outline” for defeating ISIS that Defense Secretary James Mattis presented to President Trump at the end of February, the Post writes. “Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, has been filling in more details for that outline, including by how much to increase the U.S. ground presence in Syria. Votel is set to forward his recommendations to Mattis by the end of the month, and the Pentagon secretary is likely to sign off on them, according to a defense official familiar with the deliberations.”

The mission: “The new troops, if sent, would be focused on supporting Kurdish and Arab fighters in northern Syria battling the Islamic State. Under the plan, the added American forces would act primarily as advisers, offering expertise on bomb disposal and coordinating air support for the coalition of Kurds and Arabs, also known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

The additional U.S. elements “would probably come from parts of both the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit — a flotilla of ships loaded with 2,200 Marines that is now steaming toward the region — and the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, from which 2,500 troops are headed to Kuwait. These conventional troops would supplement the Special Operations forces already on the ground and operate much like their counterparts fighting in the Iraqi city of Mosul.”

Where the U.S. troop count currently stands in Syria: “About 500 U.S. Special Operations forces are already in Syria operating alongside the SDF, in addition to about 250 Rangers and 200 Marines.”

If approved by Trump, the plans “would potentially double the number of U.S. forces in Syria and increase the potential for direct U.S. combat involvement in a conflict that has been characterized by confusion and competing priorities among disparate forces.”

For example, “Turkey has said it will send ground forces to help seize Raqqa, but that option is complicated by Turkish insistence that its participation depends on the United States severing ties with Syrian Kurdish fighters, called the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. While the Pentagon considers the YPG to be the most effective local Syrian fighting force, Turkey has labeled it a terrorist group.”

Speaking of Turkey, its defense minister wants answers on the “diplomatic” situation in Manbij, Syria, saying “a military approach would only be considered if diplomacy failed,” Reuters reports this morning.

And on the diplomatic note, Syrian Kurds are asking President Trump to establish safe zones in territory held by the Syrian Democratic Forces in the north. Kurdish ARA News has more on a region of Syria the Kurds say more than 150,000 have come for protection during Raqqa offensive shaping operations.

Video dispatch from Raqqa: The Syrian Democratic Forces have found a complex ISIS tunnel system complete with pillboxes and blast walls in the vicinity of Raqqa. Watch footage of their recent finds, here.

Apropos of nothing: Take a look at Syria’s newest troops—many of whom appear to be quite old, as the Middle East Institute’s Charles Lister points out.

Trump’s “hard power” budget due today. “The Trump administration will roll out two budget plans on Thursday: one that amends the Obama administration’s 2017 spending plan, and another for fiscal 2018, which begins on Oct. 1,” Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports. The updated 2017 plan includes a $30 billion supplemental fund for “defense and primarily border” security, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Wednesday.

About that border security: The Department of Homeland Security’s budget would see a 6 percent increase under the Trump plan, which includes $4.1 billion for the southern border wall: $1.5 billion in the 2017 supplemental and $2.6 billion in 2018.

The dominant message: Under Trump’s plan, money would shift from foreign aid projects into military and security programs, Weisgerber writes.

(ICYMI: The White House proposal, like similar ones under Obama, tries to ignore legal spending caps.)

Want to make sense of the defense budget math? The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Todd Harrison has a chart for you, here.

How Reuters frames the plan: “Military wins; environment and aid lose big.” And check out the Reuters graphic that lays out “winners and losers,” here.

How AP frames it: “The $54 billion boost for the military is the largest since President Ronald Reagan’s Pentagon buildup in the 1980s, promising immediate money for troop readiness, the fight against Islamic State militants and procurement of new ships, fighter jets and other weapons. The 10 percent Pentagon boost is financed by $54 billion in cuts to foreign aid and domestic agencies that had been protected by former President Barack Obama.”

More from Reuters: “The plan earmarks the new funds to accelerate the fight against Islamic State militants, reverse Army troop reductions, build more ships for the Navy and ramp up the Air Force – including by purchasing additional F-35 fighter jets, built by Lockheed Martin…The budget also requests $12 billion in so-called Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, funding for extraordinary costs, chiefly in war zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. No comparison was provided for the current year’s OCO spending.”

And on the foreign aid side, “The combined budget for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, would fall by 28 percent, with funding cuts for the United Nations, climate change and cultural exchange programs. The plan preserves $3.1 billion in security aid to Israel.” That, here. (ICYMI: the generals fighting ISIS say cutting soft-power funds will hurt their war efforts.)

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The Resolve of the Republic Day 2017 for an India of Liberty and Equality

NOVANEWS
Image result for Indian Republic DAY CARTOON

On the 67th anniversary of its proclamation, the Indian Republic finds itself in a veritable state of siege. The government of the day and the corporate-communal cabal that it represents and serves so brazenly have mounted a multi-pronged assault on the constitutional basis and framework of the Republic of India. The principles and values enunciated in the Constitution are being subverted in every possible way and the institutions that had been built to promote and protect the rights of the citizens and the collective interests and aspirations of the people are being systematically hijacked and destroyed.

Indeed, the RSS has time and again made it clear that it does not recognise the Constitution as the basis of the modern Indian Republic. For the RSS, the Republic is just an ornamental attire for the ancient civilization of India; and the RSS notion of civilization is more a matter of mythology than history. Manusmriti, that obnoxious charter of social slavery and human indignity is the real constitution for the RSS. Just the other day, speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival RSS ideologue Vaidya yet again questioned the inclusion of the word ‘secular’ in the Preamble to the Constitution while calling for an end to the system of reservations. Caste is the essential pillar of the RSS’s its cherished Brahminical order so reservation continues to be an anathema.

What makes the situation really alarming is that the RSS war on the Constitution and the secular democratic character of the Indian Republic is today being waged from the vantage position of state power. And Narendra Modi is spearheading this war with his brazenly dictatorial style of governance. The absolutely arbitrary way the government has imposed the disastrous demonetization decision on an unsuspecting citizenry has no parallels in the history of the Republic. Defying every tenet of economic rationality and established procedures of collective functioning and parliamentary accountability, the Prime Minister subjected the country to an unprecedented spell of economic disruption and devastation. NarendraModiis invoking the common people’s desire to punish the corrupt and check growing inequality, but the fact is in the first two years of his rule, the share of the top 1% has jumped from 49% to 58% of the total wealth in the country.

Nearly three months since the scrapping of 86% of currency in circulation, the cash crunch still continues to dog the people. And the chaos on the cash front has now triggered a serious economic slowdown. What is really galling is that instead of making any efforts to address the grave situation and mitigate the crisis, the government is coercing the predominantly cash-reliant unorganised sector and small and medium enterprises that account for the lion’s share of employment in India to go for digital transactions, thereby subjecting the entire economy to a severe squeeze. The coercive push for cashless transactions is exposing the cash-dependent and digitally ill-equipped Indian economy to increased financial uncertainty and unprecedented domination of global capital and big corporations.

The Modi government is also trying to redefine the Republic by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955. In keeping with the BJP’s well-known concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to introduce a distinction among refugees on the basis of their religious affiliation and identity. According to theAmendment Bill, non-Muslim refugees coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan without valid travel documents would not be treated as illegal migrants and would be allowed to apply for Indian Citizenship on easier terms than are currently prescribed for persons seeking the status of naturalised Indian citizens. This is a brazen attempt to define citizenship on a religious basis and sanctify the hounding of Muslim immigrants as infiltrators.

People with diverse religious affiliations may and do come to India to seek refuge and asylum. They are propelled by a variety of circumstances ranging from social and political persecution to economic misery, natural calamities and climate change. In a secular democratic republic, religious affiliation must not be made the basis to decide on either citizenship or the question of treating refugees with justice, dignity and humanitarian considerations. The Bill also seeks to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizens of India if they are found to violate any Indian law ‘for the time being in force’. While the government provides safe passage to economic offenders like Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya, it evidently seeks to stifle dissent among NRIs and OCIs by threatening them with deregistration for opposing injustice and oppression in India which can easily invite prosecution under one of the many draconian laws currently in force.

Clearly, the Sangh brigade wants Indians to behave like docile subjects blindly obeying the rulers and not as free citizens equipped with fundamental rights including the right to dissent which is absolutely central to democracy. Their idea of citizenship is derived from the obnoxious Manuvadi order that justifies coercion and domination while incriminating every quest for justice, freedom and equality. The Sangh brigade champions the worst of India’s feudal traditions and colonial customs, albeit with the full backing of India’s crony capitalists and the masters of the imperialist world order. We can see this idea in action whether in the treatment meted out to Indian citizens in the name of demonetization or in every other coercive attempt to impose their parameters of pseudo-patriotism and communal nationalism.

Republic Day 2017 therefore calls upon us to uphold the dreams and rights of free citizens to develop modern India on the cardinal principles of liberty, equality and fraternity and defeat every dictatorial attempt to subject the Indian people to a renewed reign of social slavery and submission.

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India: BJP’s Poisonous Poll Campaign

NOVANEWS
Image result for imaginary Muslim enemy CARTOON

IN THE ONGOING ASSEMBLY ELECTION CAMPAIGN in various states, most notably the state of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has once again unleashed a communal campaign aimed at consolidating Hindu voters against the imaginary Muslim enemy.

The BJP Manifesto for Uttar Pradesh promises to set up ‘anti-Romeo quads’ outside college campuses. While the BJP President Amit Shah claims these are aimed at curbing incidents of sexual harassment of women students, the BJP’s national co-convenor Sunil Bharala has made the communal and anti-women agenda of ‘anti-Romeo squads’ amply clear. Bharala declared that the squads are aimed at acting against Muslim men involved in “love jehad” – the BJP’s term for consensual relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.

This is not the first time the BJP has invoked the bogey of “love jehad” in an election campaign. Bharala also recalled that danger of “love jehad” was the rallying cry for the communal violence of Muzaffarnagar in 2013 that had helped Modi win the 2014 polls. During the 2014 poll campaign, BJP President Amit Shah had invoked the Muzaffarnagar communal violence to ask the Jat community to vote BJP, saying “people are forced to riot” when “a community violates the honour of our daughters and sisters.” A recently leaked audio clip also revealed Amit Shah appealing to the Jat community not to desert the BJP in 2017, reminding them that their proximity to “BJP ideology” goes back several centuries, “farther back than riots.” Shah, in this appeal, reminded the Jats that Sanjeey Balyan (Modi Cabinet Minister accused in Muzaffarnagar riots) had “aged 7 years in the past 2 years helping to free riot-accused (Jat) boys.” In flagrant violation of EC rules against communal and casteist campaigns, the BJP is invoking imaginary rapes and real anti-Muslim riots to appeal to Jats and Hindus to vote for the BJP.

The BJP’s star campaigner in UP Yogi Adityanath has also repeatedly invoked the “dangers of love jehad” and campaigned for “anti-Romeo squads.” It may be remembered that the same Adityanath was among the BJP MPs who, in 2010, publicly declared their defiance against the party whip issued to vote for the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament. Adityanath’s attitude sums up the BJP’s ideology towards women: their posture of ‘protection’ only masks their hostility to women’s own autonomy and assertion.

Along with “love jehad”, Adityanath is leading BJP’s UP campaign with another mythical bogey: that of the “exodus of Hindus from Kairana.” Adityanath has compared Kairana in Western UP to Kashmir in 1990, claiming that Hindus are being forced to flee – in spite of the fact that Hindu residents of Kairana have declared such claims of a communal exodus to be bogus. Adityanath claims that Eastern UP is free from such eviction of Hindus and crimes against Hindu women, because of the countervailing presence of his own vigilante Hindutva brigade.

The BJP Manifesto and campaign in UP also promises to abolish the practice of triple talaq – declaration of divorce in one sitting – prevalent among Muslims. A whole gamut of personal laws – including but not confined to Muslim personal laws – require reform to ensure gender justice. By focusing on triple talaq alone, the BJP projects the Muslim community as uniquely opposed to gender justice and progress. The BJP Manifesto’s promises of ‘anti-Romeo squads’ (with the undertone of protecting Hindu women from Muslim men) and ‘abolition of triple talaq’ (to protect Muslim women from Muslim men) offers a platform for anti-Muslim consolidation in a progressive and pro-women guise.

Modi, addressing election rallies, taunted the former PM Manmohan Singh for his ability to ‘wear a raincoat while taking a shower’ – i.e maintain a clean image while being surrounded by scams. The metaphor applies much more aptly to Modi himself. Manmohan Singh could project an appearance for personal honesty in spite of his Government’s involvement in rampant scams and crony capitalism, but he and his Government did face the brunt of public anger for the same. Modi both as CM of Gujarat and as PM of the country has managed to evade scrutiny and accountability not only for cold-blooded encounter killings on his watch, but also for violations of civil liberties and witch-hunt of activists as well as for a series of scams and instances of crony capitalism benefiting corporations like Adani, the Ambani brothers, Raheja, Mallya and Lalit Modi.

Modi has mastered the art of wearing a raincoat not only in a scam-shower but in a bloodbath. His lieutenants are openly using communal mud and blood to tarnish the poll climate – even as Modi himself cloaks himself in the raincoat of ‘development.’ In fact, Modi, Amit Shah and the BJP hope that the communal hate-mongering will be able to deflect from widespread public resentment against the Note Ban diktat. The ongoing Assembly polls are an occasion to administer a firm rebuff to the communal propaganda of the BJP and assert the democratic concerns of the people.

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Dance of Fascism in Delhi University

NOVANEWS

Image result for Fascism in Delhi CARTOON

The events of Delhi University are ominous. ABVP, the stormtroopers of the RSS, rioted for two consecutive days in Delhi University, using bricks, stones and sticks to prevent a seminar from taking place. The Delhi Police colluded with this assault, with its men joining ABVP in assaulting women students and journalists. Three constables have now been suspended – but this gesture only begs the question about who was giving the orders to Delhi Police to permit a riot on the University campus?

Several facts are notable here. The Delhi Police refused to file an FIR against the ABVP cadre that were indulging in open, wanton violence and celebrating by dancing atop a Delhi Police bus. Instead the Delhi Police did a lathi charge on the students peacefully waiting outside the police station for an FIR to be lodged. Rights activists have pointed out that the Supreme Court judgement in Lalita Kumari vs State of UP (2013) has laid down mandatory guidelines for police to register an FIR in case of a cognizable offence. On whose orders did the Police refuse to file an FIR against the many instances of openly recorded violence by cadre of the ruling party’s student outfit?

It emerges that the DCP in charge of the Delhi University North Campus is the same Jatin Narwal who, as DCP in charge of Patiala Court last year, had allowed goons to rough up JNUSU President Kanhaiya as well as teachers, lawyers, journalists and activists inside the Court premises last year. Narwal still faces an ongoing case in the Supreme Court regarding his role on that occasion. There appears to be a clear pattern where the Police officer knowingly allows a pre-planned assault by an organised mob, as the police force stays away from acting to arrest or disperse the mob.

The remarks of Minister for State for Home Kiren Rijiju on the episode further reinforce the conviction that the ABVP riot had the sanction of the Home Ministry under which the Delhi Police operates. Mr Rijiju has declared that “No anti-India slogans will be allowed in the name of freedom of speech. Freedom of expression in the country does not give anyone the right to make college campuses hub of anti-national activity.” This statement begs many questions.

First, the ABVP violently attacked a seminar – on the pretext of the speakers it invited and not on the basis of any slogans. Second, is the Minister implying that the ABVP has the freedom to throw stones and bricks and assault teachers, journalists and students but students do not have the freedom to debate? Third, as a representative of the country’s Home Ministry Mr Rijiju should answer, whether he believes it is nationalist of the police in Bastar to rape and murder adivasi women – but anti-national of a JNU activist to speak about such rapes and murders? Is his Ministry approving of the police-approved vigilante groups that attacked Bela Bhatia or Soni Sori in Bastar, just as the police-approved ABVP attacked students and teachers in Delhi University?

Fourth, how can ABVP or the BJP have any right to brand Umar Khalid as ‘anti-national’? The Delhi Police is yet to chargesheet Khalid for his alleged acts of ‘sedition’ last year. Yet the ABVP is using Khalid’s presence at a Seminar to unleash a riot against thousands of students and teachers waiting to hear him speak. Fifth, a number of men accused of being ISI agents have been found linked to the BJP and VHP. Why do arrests of their men for ISI links not make BJP and VHP ‘anti-national,’ but Umar Khalid or Shehla Rashid are declared ‘anti-national’? Is it because of their outspoken views against Hindutva and the Modi Government?

Finally, what views are ‘anti-national’? ABVP leader, former Joint Secretary of JNUSU Saurabh Sharma declares on Twitter that JNU is anti-national because it is a hurdle to India’s becoming a Hindu Nation. Why is it not ‘anti-national’ for ABVP to call for turning secular India into a Hindu Nation, but ‘anti-national’ for students to support – or discuss and debate – Kashmir’s right to self-determination or Bastar’s right to democracy?

On campuses and in the country, the freedom to express dissent, and debate freely is the essence of democracy. For ruling party-backed goons to attack democracy with open violence in the capital city, is a sign of growing fascist forces in India. The students and teachers of Universities are at the forefront of the resistance to fascism however – as displayed by an inspiring march in Delhi University that defended the ‘right to debate and dialogue’ from the violence unleashed by goons.

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Janjaweed militiamen gang-rape 3 Darfur women: IDP spokesman

NOVANEWS

Janjaweed may head to Sanaa 

Three Darfuri women were gang-raped after they left their camps to gather firewood, a spokesperson for Darfur displaced said today.
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Sudanese women made homeless during the five-year Darfur conflict, crowd to see President Omar al-Beshir during his trip to El-Fasher, north Darfur on July 23, 2008 (AFP)

 

“This happens at a time when government officials claim that Darfur is enjoying security. The crimes and human right violations continue” Hussein Abu-Sharati the spokesperson of Darfur displaced and refugees at the Kalma camp in South Darfur told Sudan Tribune.

Abu-Sharati said that the women were intercepted by a group of Janjaweed militiamen who were present in the area of Wadi Bargo in South Darfur.

He listed the names of the victims as Tayba Adam Al-Tahir 15 years old; Aicha Youssef 17 years old; Kaltouma Salih 55 years old.

“The three women are at the Kass hospital in South Darfur in case anyone has doubts” he added.

The Janjaweed is a heavily armed militia blamed for waging a campaign of rape, killing and pillage in Darfur.

Rights groups and Western governments say that Khartoum used the Janjaweed as a proxy militia against Darfur rebels and civilians suspected of rebel sympathies. However the government denies this and says that the Janjaweed are outlaws.

Abu-Sharati said that an Egyptian officer with the United Nations – African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was notified of the incident “but took no action”.

“We also informed the UN officer in charge of humanitarian aid to be our witness. There can be no peace in Darfur without giving us security” he said.

In mid-July the ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo submitted to the judges of Pre-Trial Chamber I an application for an arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.

Ocampo filed 10 charges against Al-Bashir: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder against the African tribes of Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.

Ocampo alleged that rape in Darfur “has been committed systematically and continuously for 5 years”.

“Rape is an integral part of the pattern of destruction that the Government of the Sudan is inflicting upon the target groups in Darfur” the prosecutor stated in the summary of his application submitted to the judges.

In a separate incident Abu-Sharati said that Sudanese security officers arrested families of the IDP’s who came to visit them.

“Last week they took away around 73 people. They stopped cars at checkpoints leading to Kalma and Abu-Shouk camps and ask passengers to get out. They picked a number of them and took them to an unknown location” Abu-Sharati said.

“Their families know nothing about them. The Sudanese authorities must release them and guarantee their legal rights” he added.

UN experts estimate some 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million driven from their homes. Sudan blames the Western media for exaggerating the conflict and puts the death toll at 10,000.

Posted in Sudan, YemenComments Off on Janjaweed militiamen gang-rape 3 Darfur women: IDP spokesman

Germany hits back at Trump over NATO after icy meeting

NOVANEWS

Germany has hit back at US President Donald Trump’s claims that Berlin owed “vast sums of money” to Nato, following a less than cordial meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.

The comments from German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen came as Trump’s spokesman denied that the US leader had refused to shake hands with Merkel, arguably the most powerful woman in world.

The stark differences between Trump and Merkel on everything from trade to immigration were in full view during their frosty first White House meeting on Friday.

Although the visit began cordially enough, with the pair shaking hands at the White House entrance, Merkel’s suggestion of another handshake in the Oval Office went unheard or ignored by Trump – an awkward moment in what are usually highly scripted occasions.
“I don’t believe he heard the request,” Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer told German weekly Der Spiegel published yesterday.

But Germany’s top-selling Bild newspaper said that was “improbable”, saying that throughout the meeting, Trump did not once look Merkel in the eye.

The difficult encounter came as a new row erupted over environment at a G20 meeting of finance ministers in Germany, when Trump’s administration defied the international community by refusing to renew a pledge on climate change.

The ministers were forced on Saturday to leave out an entire section related to the Paris accord on combating climate change after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that green issues were “not in my track”.

“Donald Trump is trying to ruin Merkel’s G20 summit” being hosted by Germany in July, Die Welt newspaper charged.

Trump had lashed out at the media in a Saturday morning tweet over its view of the Merkel meeting.

“Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS,” he said, “I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

But he then added: “Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defence it provides to Germany!”

Germany’s defence minister Von der Leyen, a close Merkel ally, rebuffed his comments yesterday.

“There is no account where debts are registered with Nato,” she said in a statement, adding that Nato spending should not be the only criteria used to measure Germany’s military efforts.

Merkel said Berlin was committed to increasing its military spending to 2% of GDP, a 10-year- target that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) member states formally agreed to in 2014.

Trump had made European defence spending an issue during his election campaign, saying that the US – which spends just over 3% of its GDP (gross domestic product) on defence – carries too much of the financial burden for supporting Nato.

Germany, whose war-time past has led it traditionally to be reticent on military matters, currently spends 1.2% of GDP on defence.
Von der Leyen said yesterday that Germany’s increased military spending would not go only to Nato but would also be used for participating in UN and European peacekeeping missions and to contribute to the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremists.

“To try to link the 2% (of (GDP) that we are aiming by the middle of the decade is erroneous,” she said.

Trump critics pointed out that Nato members don’t pay the United States for security, but contribute by spending on their own militaries.
“Sorry, Mr President, that’s not how Nato works,” tweeted Ivo Daalder, a former US ambassador to Nato. “This is not a financial transaction, where Nato countries pay the US to defend them. It is part of our treaty commitment.”

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Russia Deploys Bastion Coastal Defense Missile Systems

NOVANEWS

Russia Deploys Bastion Coastal Defense Missile Systems On Kuril Islands Deploys Bastion Coastal Defense Missile Systems On Kuril Islands

The Bastion (NATO reporting name: SS-C-5 Stooge) coastal defense missile battalions recently stationed on the Kuril Islands shall defend Russia’s territorial waters, straits and naval bases in the region, according to the Izvestia daily.

The Russian Defense Ministry has deployed Bal (SS-C-6 Sennight) and Bastion antiship missile systems on Iturup and Kunashir. They will beef up the defenses of the naval bases and on-shore infrastructure. In expert opinion, the advanced missile systems in the region indicate the Russian Federation’s resolve to retain the territory.

The Bastion coastal defense missile system developed and made by NPOMash in the town of Reutov eliminates surface ships and land threats at a range of 300-500 km. Until recently, it has been believed to be effective against ships alone. However, the advanced missile system took out several land targets in Syria on November 15, 2016 as part of the surgical strike delivered by the Russian Navy. The Kh-35 (AS-20 Kayak) missile-equipped Bal system from the Tactical Missiles Corporation deals with surface targets out to 300 km or so.

According to the Boyevaya Vakhta daily, the official newspaper of the Pacific Fleet, a reinforced Bastion battalion has gone on alert duty on Iturup Island, while a Bal battalion has set up shop on Kunashir nearby. Both units are organic to the 72nd Coastal Defense Missile Brigade activated in 2014.

According to NPOMash, a Bastion battalion includes eight launchers on the MZKT-7930 high-mobility chassis. Each launcher carries two Oniks (SS-N-26 Strobile) supersonic missiles ready for launch on warning. There also are launcher-loaders with reloads.

According to the Tactical Missiles Corporation’s website, the table of organization and equipment of the Bal battalion resembled that of the Bastion battalion much. However, each Bal launcher has eight missiles for the enemy, rather than two.

Expert Dmitry Boltenkov reminds that coastal defense missile battalions were stationed on the Kurils in Soviet times.

“Units equipped with the Redut [SS-C-1 Sepal] and Rubezh [SS-C-3 Styx] antiship systems were stationed on the Kuril Islands in the 1980s,” Boltenkov says, “specifically at Simushir and Iturup. However, they were withdrawn from the islands and disbanded in the earlier 1990s.”

According to former Russian Ambassador to Japan Alexander Panov, Russia’s reinforcement of its Kurils-based forces is a signal of its resolution to retain the southern Kurils, presumably.

“Most probably, the Japanese will turn the blind eye to the Russian Federation’s steps, because there have been positive dynamics in the bilateral relations,” the diplomat says. “No one needs a row. It is possible, however, that they will ask for an explanation of the military build-up via the diplomatic channels. Tokyo is quite content with the status quo.”

Panov stressed that the dynamics of the Russian-Japanese relations have been very positive.

“Premier Abe has a good strategic view and realizes that Japan should become more independent and needs close partnership with the Russian Federation for this purpose,” the expert tells the Izvestia daily. “This will allow offsetting the growing influence of China and ensure an economic growth through cooperation with the Russian Far East.”

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UK to Buy Hellfire II Semi-Active Laser Missiles

The IFPC Inc 2-I Multi Mission Launcher launches a Longbow Hellfire missile against a UAS representative target on White Sands Missile Range. The MML is a new air defense system undergoing testing on WSMR to integrate new control systems and missiles.

The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the United Kingdom for Hellfire missiles. The estimated cost is $150 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.

The Government of the United Kingdom (UK) requested a possible sale of 1,000 AGM-114-R1/R2 Hellfire II Semi-Active Laser (SAL) missiles with logistics support services and other related program support. The estimated cost is $150 million.

This proposed sale directly contributes to the foreign policy and national security policies of the United States by enhancing the close air support capability of the UK in support of NATO and other coalition operations. Commonality between close air support capabilities greatly increases interoperability between our two countries’ military and peacekeeping forces and allows for greater burden sharing.

The proposed sale improves the UK’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing close air support to counter enemy attacks on coalition ground forces in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility (AOR) and other areas, as needed.The UK already has Hellfire missiles in its inventory and will have no difficulty absorbing these additional missiles.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

There is no principal contractor for this sale as the missiles are coming from U.S. stock.

Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to the UK.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

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