Archive | August 14th, 2016

The Invisible Man: George W. Bush and a Hole in History


By William Rivers Pitt

Former President George W. Bush speaks during a campaign rally for his brother Jeb Bush, a Republican presidential hopeful, at the Coliseum & Performing Arts Center in North Charleston, South Carolina, on February 15, 2016. (Jim Wilson / The New York Times)Former President George W. Bush speaks during a campaign rally for his brother Jeb Bush, a Republican presidential hopeful, at the Coliseum & Performing Arts Center in North Charleston, South Carolina, on February 15, 2016. (Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

After Donald Trump blew into his dog saxophone and invited “Second Amendment people” to assassinate Hillary Clinton before she could appoint any judges, American politics went into China Syndrome meltdown mode in a way not seen since Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner very nearly to death in the well of the Senate, 160 years ago almost to the day. Republicans who had endorsed Trump immediately fled en masse to Outer Mongolia to become anonymous yak herders, and witnesses reported seeing House Speaker Paul Ryan climb a large oak tree while muttering, “I hate this job, I hate this job, there’s no place like home, I hate this job.”

This flame-decked train wreck has been a long time coming, and the GOP has nothing to blame but itself. Begin with the serial defections from the Democratic Party after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, augment with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” to promote racism and xenophobia within the party base, and then inject that strategy with steroids under Reagan by embracing right-wing fire-and-brimstone evangelical Christianity. Lose a war and collapse the economy in the middle.

Despise the immigrant, demonize the Other. Spend eight years howling THERE’S A BLACK KENYAN MUSLIM TERRORIST COMMUNIST SOCIALIST FASCIST MAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE, YOU GUYS, EVERYONE FREAK OUT, season to taste with millions of guns and the paranoia they pack, put it all in a bag and shake it, and what you get when you crack the seal is Donald Trump: a racist, sexist, xenophobic fool who doesn’t know that he doesn’t know anything, surrounded by a growling herd of loyalists.

There’s a missing page to this recipe, one that has been deliberately deleted like a classified email from The Book Of Days. Trump runs around blaming Secretary Clinton for the state of the economy while arguing in tandem that Clinton and President Obama created ISIS out of thin air. “He’s the founder of ISIS,” Trump said on Wednesday. “He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS. I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.” The corporate “news” media lap it up because it’s “good television,” and even his most ardent opponents fail to say the one missing word.


Noam Chomsky explained the phenomenon best, and it is remarkable to watch it unfold in real time. According to Chomsky, the most effective way to control a populace is to severely limit the parameters of debate, but have the debate within those hedged parameters be vigorous so people think something of worth is actually taking place. Hence, they shout and stomp about responsible budget priorities without ever discussing the bloated “defense” budget, because that topic has been deemed off limits. Likewise, they shout and stomp about ISIS and the economy without ever mentioning George W. Bush, because he is simply too embarrassing to too many people sitting behind important desks with a lot to lose.

Think on it. Even with his towering hubris, Donald Trump knows better than to bring up Bush, but instead will lay the whole mess on Obama and Clinton regardless of the incoherence of the argument, because it’s red meat for the base. Clinton wants no part of having Bush in the discussion because it underscores her craven Iraq War vote and its calamitous consequences. The corporate “news” media? Forget it. They hauled water for him like Gunga Din in the name of ratings and advertising dollars, and are now slicked to the elbows in innocent blood. Best not to bring all that up. Eight long years have been summarily erased.

Here’s the thing, though: Like many of us, I remember. They can ignore it all they want, but I was there and I wrote it down every day. I watched two towers explode while Bush was “protecting” us, watched two foolish wars collapse into a bloodbath of folly as the Treasury was looted, watched the budget surplus be given away to rich people by way of ruinous tax cuts, watched lawfully produced subpoenas be ignored by the highest office in the land, watched torture become mainstream, watched the dark wings of total surveillance unfold over the nation entire, and watched Dick Cheney say the Vice President was not part of the Executive Branch because he didn’t want to give his official papers to the National Archive as required by three different laws.

More than that, I remember plastic sheeting and duct tape, and an administration all too happy to peddle fear to lubricate the rails toward its goals. I remember a cowed populace being told to watch what they say, I remember terror alerts popping like firecrackers whenever the administration found itself in political hot water, I remember the serial lies, and I remember the adoration of the Republican base poured upon a strongman president who gave no damns for decorum or due process. George W. Bush and his crew trashed the economy, trashed Iraq and by proxy Syria, created ISIS by disbanding the Iraqi army and walked away with money falling out of their pockets.

Fear and hatred are powerful elixirs, and George W. Bush trained the nation well to imbibe them, and thus accept what he foisted upon us for personal gain. He is one page in a recipe that is more than 50 years old, and none of the people who pushed that poison want you to remember him. Trump is no mystery, no anomaly. He is the culmination of decades, the perfect avatar of the effort.

Posted in USAComments Off on The Invisible Man: George W. Bush and a Hole in History

We Can’t All Be “Radicals,” but We Should All Support Them

Chicago activist sits atop a ladder to shut down the notorious Chicago Police Department "black site" of Homan Square on July 20, 2016, in Chicago, IL. (Photo: Sarah Ji)A Chicago activist sits atop a ladder to shut down the notorious Chicago Police Department “black site” of Homan Square on July 20, 2016, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Sarah Ji)

“Violence is never the answer” is a sentiment I often hear parroted by people who celebrate the 4th of July in America, a holiday commemorating a violent and deadly rebellion. People have a habit of glorifying violence in history, while condemning violence in modern times.

I’ve seen people who claim to love Malcolm X denounce modern day revolutionaries who embody the same principals that made X who he was. It seems that there are many people who only like the idea of revolution if they’re reading about it in a history book.

History has shown us that, when dealing with oppressive systems, a violent rebellion is the most efficient way to gain freedom. In the words of Assata Shakur, “Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” Whether you’re looking at the Haitian Revolution or the Boston Tea Party, substantive change is always attained when people who are considered “radical” decide to fight back. True revolution requires there to be people willing to attain their freedom by any means necessary.

In the wake of the Korryn Gaines incident, in which a black woman was shot by the police in her home over traffic tickets, this conversation has become more necessary than ever. I’ve seen people who are the beneficiaries of the work of radicals during the 60s now actively disrespecting the work of radicals today. I’ve seen people go from “Assata taught me” to “she should have just complied” in a matter of days.

We need to understand that during the time the Black Panther Party was patrolling the streets there were people then too who thought it wasn’t necessary. Fast forward to today, and those same people reap the rewards of the Panthers’ labor

There are no successful revolutions in history without radicals taking the movement to the next level. Nat Turner did not politely request that he be freed. Harriet Tubman did not barter with slave owners to free black people. No, history’s heroes went against systems created to oppress them. They stopped respecting the boundaries placed by their oppressors and sought liberation by their own means.

We are not dealing with an entity that can be reasoned with through morality alone. Radical resistance is necessary. And those willing to be radicals know that they will likely not live to see the fruits of their labor. They put their lives on the line for your future, and for the future of your children.

During his time, Martin Luther King Jr. was considered a radical. He actively went against the law to expose the injustice of white America. Even in his completely non-violent approach, he was a radical extremist. And as much as white people today applaud his peacefulness, they love to forget that they still killed him anyway.

Remember that while MLK was alive, many people of all races were completely against him and his radical ways, and those same people today all say they supported him. You are at a crucial point in history where you can choose to be the person who supports the radicals while they are still alive, or you can be the person in 50 years lying to your grandchildren about how you loved what Korryn Gaines stood for, even though today you just posted a dissertation explaining why she deserved to die.

This is not a call for anyone to become the next radical. Rather, this is a reminder that the next radical is doing the work necessary to free you, even if you don’t realize it at the moment. If you can’t join them in their action or voice support, then, at the very least, you should be silent.

You should not use your voice or your words to demean their efforts. Whether you believe that politics are a better conduit for liberation, or whether you think an economic revolution would be best, one thing we should all agree on in this fight is that we’re on the same side. So, to paraphrase a famous refrain, if you don’t have anything revolutionary to say, don’t say anything at all.

Posted in USAComments Off on We Can’t All Be “Radicals,” but We Should All Support Them

Surveillance Isn’t Colorblind


Image result for Surveillance CARTOON

During the 1960s, the FBI and NSA followed, wiretapped, and bugged Martin Luther King Jr. — all under the veil of proper legal process. Today, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security spy on Black Lives Matter activists under the guise of “counterterrorism” and “situational awareness.”

“Everyone is being watched, but not equally,” Georgetown Law’s Alvaro Bedoya noted in a recent panel discussion in Washington, DC.

Indeed, invasive technology has made it easier for law enforcement to target groups or individuals. Homeland Security has been monitoring Black Lives Matter protests for nearly two years and collecting information on activists’ activities from Facebook, Twitter, Vine, and other social media platforms.

While mass surveillance is a problem for everyone, these tools aren’t used blindly. Due to biases shaping police practices, people of color, religious and ethnic minorities, and political dissidents are far more likely to be victims of unwarranted monitoring.

The growing use of facial-recognition technology and massive databases that store and record sensitive information — from fingerprints to iris scans — has helped make it all way too easy. Government agencies use such tools to spy on our online activities, monitor our movementsscan our bodies and faces, and record our interactions with authorities.

The FBI, along with state and local police, is able to search the databases storing this information without any real oversight. The FBI has even requested that its new database, which contains more than 411 million photos, be exempt from federal privacy laws, judicial review, and appeals processes designed simply to update records and correct factual errors.

These databases contain a disproportionate number of records on communities of color and immigrants. Why? Because racial bias in law enforcement skews the number of police stops and arrests of people of color, and immigration policies sweep up anyone applying to become residents or naturalized citizens.

Also troubling is the fact that black people are much more likely to be misidentified than white people in facial-recognition programs. The end result is a dangerous mix of bad data, bad oversight, and bad outcomes.

Stingray technology is also a major concern: It allows police to collect sensitive data by intercepting wireless signals sent by thousands of phones in a targeted area.

Law enforcement often uses stingrays in a discriminatory fashion to target certain communities. These tools are increasingly used to investigate minor infractions, exposing some neighborhoods and demographic groups to near-constant surveillance and over-policing.

While new surveillance tools are rapidly developing, our privacy laws aren’t keeping up. For example, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the main law protecting our online communications from unauthorized government access, hasn’t been updated since 1986, when the internet was in its infancy and there was no such thing as the World Wide Web.

Far too often, police race to adopt new technologies without considering the potential harms or consulting with the communities they serve. Law enforcement should be required to be fully transparent about the adoption of any new technology. And if police want to deploy new tools, the proper privacy safeguards must be in place.

We must remember the surveillance that haunted Dr. King — and do better.

Posted in USAComments Off on Surveillance Isn’t Colorblind

Gaza’s Sick Pay Price of Blockade

By Isra Saleh el-Namey
Yasser Assaf leans on the shoulder of his wounded son Abdul Rahman, 14, at the Kamal Odwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014. (Wissam Nassar / The New York Times) Yasser Assaf leans on the shoulder of his wounded son Abdul Rahman, 14, at the Kamal Odwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014. (Wissam Nassar / The New York Times)

Huda Jalal is still mourning the death of her baby in late May.

The 32-year-old went into premature labor and gave birth before her baby’s lungs had developed sufficiently.

The hospital put the baby, Sami, in an incubator at which point he should have received a Betamethasone injection. Betamethasone is used to stimulate growth of the lungs in premature babies.

But the drug, which is not expensive according to Mahmoud Deeb Daher, head of the World Health Organization’s Gaza sub-office, was not available. Sami passed away after only one day in the incubator.

“I know that it is not easy to give birth in the eighth month, but there are drugs and advanced medical care that can help save lives,” Jalal, whose two other children suffered no complications at birth, told The Electronic Intifada.

Hamsa Abu Ajeen, a doctor at al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip where Jalal lost her baby, said there is a shortage of medicine as a result of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, now nearly a decade old. Increasingly, the Ministry of Health in Gaza is struggling with a lack of funds for drugs and vital equipment. The funding shortfall is a direct consequence of the siege harming the economy.

Israel, furthermore, prohibits a whole host of goods and construction materials from entering Gaza, citing “security reasons” and the possibility of “dual use,” military and civilian.

But the list is in some cases vague and general, including things like “communications equipment,” and while medicines and vital health care products are not meant to be included, X-ray machines and other visual imaging equipment have proven difficult to import and are often held up in Israel.

Putting Babies at Risk

International observers like the World Health Organization, the United Nations and individual politicians have on numerous occasions reported that the blockade negatively affects the delivery of medical services in Gaza and leads to a shortage of potentially life-saving drugs.

Abu Ajeen said Betamethasone injections should be given to women undergoing difficult pregnancies and who are likely to give premature birth, and should preferably be administered before and not after birth. If administered in time, babies’ lives stand a better chance of being saved. Betamethasone can also be administered after birth as would have been done in Sami’s case had it been available.

“At our ward, the lack of very important drugs, injections and medical equipment has eroded our ability to offer advanced medical care to our patients,”  Abu Ajeen told The Electronic Intifada.

There is not enough medicine for injections to stimulate uterus contractions to accelerate labor, the doctor said, while there is a limited number of working electrocardiogram machines to check the hearts of newborn babies. The ward also suffers a shortage of incubators and beds compared to local need.

“In many cases, we have had to discharge women who have just given birth to free up bed space, even though the woman might still need medical attention,” the doctor said.

In addition, frequent power cuts — Gaza’s authorities are unable to import the necessary equipment to fix the Strip’s sole power plant — and the shortage of fuel to power generators mean doctors are always concerned that incubators and other life-saving equipment will stop functioning, Abu Ajeen said.

Critical Shortage

According to Munir al-Bursh, head of the pharmacy department at Gaza’s Ministry of Health, hospitals, pharmacies and clinics in Gaza are short of 149 medicines, equipping them with only 69 percent of what is needed.

The depleted stores of drugs include some used to treat chronic diseases like hemophilia, thalassemia, cancer and blood diseases, al-Bursh said. Also, a severe shortage of vaccines and antibiotics has further hindered doctors’ abilities to treat their patients.

In response, an increasing number of Gaza’s patients try to seek medical care abroad, but they are stymied again by the Israeli blockade and the near-continuous closure on the Egyptian side at Rafah, the sole crossing available to the Strip’s nearly 1.9 million residents.

But it is not just the Israeli blockade that is causing shortages. The political division between Hamas, which administers internal affairs in the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which heads the US and EU-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank plays a role.

Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra, the health ministry spokesperson in Gaza, said his ministry does not receive its agreed allocation of medicines from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health in the occupied West Bank. He said Gaza gets only 16 percent of what it ought to receive of drugs and other medical requirements.

“Gaza should have 40 percent of its medical needs provided from the West Bank. We get less than 20 percent. This means that we are in imminent danger of a health crisis that could put patients’ lives at risk,” he said.

The lack of funds and the depletion of both human and material resources have forced the ministry to terminate some of its essential medical services, said al-Qedra.

Wael Alyan has his own complaint in this regard.

The 43-year-old has suffered from kidney failure for five years and needs to have dialysis treatment four times a week. “It’s hard to adjust to this new life,” Alyan told The Electronic Intifada. “Every time, I make sure that I arrive early at the hospital to wait for the treatment.”

He hopes to have surgery outside Gaza, but for now he cannot afford the cost. He’s heard of patients who were lucky enough to find a suitable kidney replacement, and he looks to the day when he can end his own ordeal.

“I hope I can one day secure the funds needed to undergo this operation so that I can lead a normal life again,” he said.

Looking for Solutions

The difficulty in securing enough stores of medicine has propelled a team of pharmacists to look for methods to prolong the life-cycle of some vital drugs.

The team worked for four years and finally succeeded in validating — allowing drugs to be used beyond their stated expiration dates — 23 kinds of drugs used in treating cancer and kidney disease, and for which hospitals do not have alternatives should they run out.

Nahed Shaat, the head of the team, said the group gained valuable insight from past American military experiences.

“The ghastly reality of Gaza has pushed us to look for other alternatives, and the attempts made by the [Department of Defense] in 1986 to validate 122 drugs were very useful to guide us in our own project,” Shaat said.

Naima Siam, a member of the team, noted that the process is not easy, because they have to follow very strict rules prescribed by the World Health Organization.

“Each drug has to be validated on its own terms and in the right way. So far, we have been able to extend life-cycles by up to three months,” she said.

She estimates that the team’s work has saved the Ministry of Health some $200,000 and is giving patients greater access to essential drugs.

“The wellbeing of our patients is our first priority,” said Siam, who voiced anger at both Israel and the West Bank Palestinian Authority for policies that keep vital medicines away from Gaza.

“The right to access drugs and working medical services should be respected for all Gazans, not be held hostage to this political game.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human RightsComments Off on Gaza’s Sick Pay Price of Blockade

Congressional Investigation Affirms Military Leaders Manipulated ISIS War Intelligence


By Sam Knight

(Photo: US Army)

US Army tanks line up in preparation to assault a town during a training exercise on February 10, 2009 at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex. (Photo: US Army)

A report issued on Thursday by a Republican congressional task force confirmed that military leaders doctored intelligence analyses in order to paint a rosier picture of the war on the Islamic State (ISIS).

The investigation confirms Daily Beast reporting first published last year on the integrity of those intelligence reports, which originated from US Central Command (CENTCOM) — the arm of the Pentagon that oversees operations in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), one of the task force’s members, noted that the findings are preliminary. There is still a Pentagon inspector general investigation into the allegations, which were brought to the watchdog last year by fifty whistleblowers.

“We still do not fully understand the reasons and motivations behind this practice and how often the excluded analyses were proven ultimately to be correct,” Wenstrup said, according to The Hill.

In its report, the task force noted that it “did not receive access to all the materials it requested.” The group said it would “continue its work following the conclusion of the [Department of Defense inspector general] investigation and other ongoing efforts.” That probe is supposed to wrap up by the fall.

Thursday’s report did not point any fingers at the White House. Rather, the intel manipulation appears, at this point, to have been the result of bad practices by senior CENTCOM leaders. The Republican task force said they relied too heavily on information “provided by US and coalition units directly engaged in countering ISIS.”

“According to multiple interviewees, operational reporting was used as a justification to alter or ‘soften’ an analytic product so it would cast US efforts in a more positive light,” the task force reported. “No interview provided any instances where operational reporting was used as a justification to come to a more pessimistic conclusion.”

The investigation stated that this was done specifically to offer a “more positive [view] regarding the capabilities of [Iraqi Security Forces] and the progress of the fight against ISIS.”

The report also noted this was also being done in contradiction of “vetted, serialized intelligence reporting on which analysts customarily rely.”

The task force additionally shed light on a survey — one that had been previously discussed in an open congressional hearing — which had revealed that 40 percent of CENTCOM analysts reported “problems with analytical integrity and CENTCOM processes.”

Thursday’s paper analyzed written responses to the survey, and found, “[o]f note, four separate comments” alleging that intelligence was doctored or slow-walked “to avoid conflicting with senior officials testimony to Congress.”

As noted in a press release, by task force member Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), the intelligence manipulation mostly occurred “from the middle of 2014 to the middle of 2015” — right as US forces were stepping up their military operations against ISIS.

Posted in USAComments Off on Congressional Investigation Affirms Military Leaders Manipulated ISIS War Intelligence

I’m Sick of the So-Called “News”


By Thom Hartmann

The CNN control room, in a photo taken on March 27, 2009. (Photo: Michael Newman)The CNN control room, in a photo taken on March 27, 2009. (Photo: Michael Newman)

I’m sick of the so-called “news” in this country.

If you turn on MSNBC or CNN any morning, all you’ll hear is the hosts and guests arguing about the latest absurd thing that Donald Trump has said.

On Monday, Trump laid out his economic plan, but the media ignored the details and the fact that his plan is Voodoo Economics 2.0, and they instead focused on the fact that he called Hillary Clinton unfit to serve as president.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

On Tuesday, the networks focused on the fact that dozens of establishment Republicans and national security advisers had signed a letter calling Trump dangerous, but, again, never mentioned issues, just personality.

By Wednesday, Trump had broken new ground by apparently encouraging “2nd amendment people” to assassinate Hillary Clinton or her Supreme Court nominees.

And today, if you were to turn on any of the 24-hour stations you’d know that Trump declared last night that Obama literally founded ISIS.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what day of the week or what time of day a person tunes into the 24-hour news networks, he or she can always find out the latest vapid and boorish insult that’s spewed from Trump’s lips.

The problem is… it isn’t news!

It’s nothing but pure infotainment.

The corporate commercial networks are much, much happier presenting personal drama in the form of packaged infotainment and faux outrage rather than any sort of programming in the public interest.

This isn’t just me saying this either, I’ve put this challenge to my radio listeners for the past several weeks: If any listener or reader can find a moment where CNN or MSNBC has hosted a real substantive policy discussion on any significant issue, we’ll reward that listener or reader with a copy of one of my books of their choosing.

So, how many books have we given away?

Zero, zilch, none.

It’s not because the candidates aren’t saying things that are worth serious discussion, it’s because the so-called “news” refuses to cover those things.

On Monday for instance, Trump basically presented Paul Ryan’s House Republican economic plan as his own, but Trump is still claiming that he wants to protect Social Security and Medicare, even though the Republican party has been openlly working for decades to gut both programs.

These are important issues that Americans care about, but you haven’t heard any host on the 24-hour news networks confront a Trump supporter about how the GOP and Trump at least appear to disagree on the issues of Social Security or Medicare.

When Hillary Clinton gives speeches, it’s one policy position after another, and she lays out her visions with a substantial amount of detail.

But after the speech is over and it’s time for CNN and MSNBC to discuss it, you don’t hear soundbites about rebuilding our roads, water and sewage systems on MSNBC or CNN.

No, despite the fact that average Americans care about rebuilding our roads and water systems, it’s a relatively “boring” topic, so you’re much more likely to hear this soundbite.

The corporate media drives viewership and profits by airing personal drama over public policy, and the end result is that viewers turn off the TV at the end of the day as ill-informed as they were when they tuned in.

There’s no silver bullet for this problem, because this crisis in our media is the result of more than 40 years of conservative policies that have radically altered our news media.

One problem is that corporate commercial broadcasters don’t have any reason to talk in-depth about real issues, their only aim is to get more viewers so that they can get more advertisers, CBS chief Les Moonves made that unsettlingly clear during the primaries last year.

Another problem is that groups like Northrop Grumman, the American Petroleum Institute and the Pete Peterson Foundation buy the ad spots, so networks don’t want to talk about reining in the military industrial complex, or the realities of human-made climate change, or about the popularity and success of Social Security that Peterson wants to privatize to his buddies on Wall Street.

Likewise, anti-union telecom giants like Comcast and Verizon don’t just own the broadband infrastructure, Comcast actually owns MSNBC! So you’re unlikely to hear anything of substance about any real labor issues, or net neutrality, or about the Trans-Pacific Partnership which they and/or their trade groups and lobbyists helped negotiate.

Step one to fixing this problem is to break up the telecom and media monopolies that rapidly formed after Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and we need to demand that they require broadcasters to cover issues fairly and in the public interest, to provide real news.

It’s reached the point where the stranglehold that multinational corporations have over our media is actually harming our ability to have a functioning democratic republic.

And that requires us all to wake up and demand some real changes to our media landscape.

Posted in USAComments Off on I’m Sick of the So-Called “News”

Magical Thinking in US Foreign Policy


Exclusive: The U.S. foreign policy establishment cloaks its desire for global dominance in the language of humanitarianism and “democracy promotion” even when the policies lead to death and chaos, as James W Carden describes.

By James W Carden

Despite America’s myriad problems domestically and internationally, its geo-strategic position remains the envy of the world. Protected in the east by the Atlantic, in the west by the Pacific, to the north by Canada and to the south by Mexico, the United States is, for all intents and purposes, impervious to a foreign invasion.

Its advanced and mobile nuclear arsenal and conventional force projection capabilities further serve as a deterrent against attacks from rival nation-states. The country’s strategic position is enhanced, too, by what Valéry Giscard d’Estaing has referred to as the “exorbitant privilege” – that of possessing the world’s reserve currency. As such, the U.S. does not face the same restraints on spending that other nations do.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power flanked by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on July 20, 2016. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivering remarks at the Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on July 20, 2016. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

Because the dollar accounts for so high a proportion of the balance sheets of other countries, the rest of the world is tacitly committed to propping up its value. Taken together, America’s isolated and protected geo-strategic position combined with the “exorbitant privilege” of the dollar means, in effect, that the U.S. has an unrivaled geo-strategic position.Yet since the end of the Cold War, the foreign policy establishment and three successive administrations have committed the U.S. to a dangerous and ill-conceived pursuit of global military and economic hegemony which has only served to undercut the country’s economy and security. It is a pursuit that is frequently cloaked in the rhetoric of humanitarianism and “democracy promotion.”

United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power recently declared in the pages of theNew York Review of Books that it is “our self-interest that requires us to get better at improving human security in the service of national security.”

Power – like nearly all members of the foreign policy establishment today – believes (or says she believes) that the way foreign governments treat their own citizens “matters because it can have a direct impact on international peace and security – and on our respective national interests.”

To bolster her argument she takes the example of the Russian government which, she claims, habitually lies to its own people about what it is really up to in Ukraine. “The elimination of critical voices inside Russia,” writes Power, “helps enable acts that are profoundly destabilizing outside of Russia.”

Power’s claims are part of the widely shared, bipartisan consensus among the post-Cold War foreign policy elites who believe that the problem is not that the United States has intervened around the world too much and too often but rather that it has intervened too little. In Power’s view, “we must never be ashamed to ask whether we have been too reticent in pressing certain governments to reform and to respond to the demands of their citizens.”

This last point is a curious claim that, I suspect, quite intentionally skirts the question of whether the U.S., by actively pushing its “pro-democracy” agenda abroad, is itself the instigator of many of those “demands” (by financing and organizing many of the groups clamoring for U.S. intervention).

Financing Destabilization

Efforts – almost too numerous to count – by USAID, the International Republican Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy, often in conjunction with various think tanks, TOR developers (software that enables anonymous communications), and George Soros-funded Open Society Institutes – have sought to materially aid a plethora of  opposition groups across the globe. (They, in turn, seek more U.S. intervention to enhance their political positions within their societies.)

A screen shot of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland speaking to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013, at an event sponsored by Chevron, with its logo to Nuland’s left.

A screen shot of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland speaking to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013, at an event sponsored by Chevron, with its logo to Nuland’s left.

Contrary to what the scholar, diplomat George Kennan urged – that diplomacy, properly executed, was necessarily a government-to-government interaction – Power believes that “we need to broaden the spectrum of whom we engage with our diplomacy.”

She writes that diplomats must court “civil society organizations” and other groups such as “teachers association, workers’ unions and leaders in the business community” – never mind the very plain fact that State Department diplomats and Commerce Department officials, among others, have been doing outreach of that sort for some time.

The results of all this U.S. meddling have been little short of disastrous. Take, for instance, the failed state of Ukraine, where USAID and other U.S. institutions spent $5 billion in the quarter century since the fall of the Soviet Union, according to Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (and that was before the U.S.-backed overthrow of the elected government in February 2014 and the current civil war which has claimed the lives of some 10,000 Ukrainians).

This generation of American “humanitarian” crusaders, as exemplified by the career of Ambassador Power, continually seeks to sacrifice stability on the altar of “democratic” idealism (even when that involves reversing democratic results and contributing to humanitarian suffering). Further, the problem that these efforts engender for U.S. national security interests are legion: war continues to rage in eastern Ukraine, Libya is completely destabilized, likewise Syria and Iraq.

Contrary to what Power would have us believe, the “democratization” crusade undermines, rather than strengthens U.S. national security. As the Greek statesman Pericles famously observed: “I am more afraid of our own mistakes than of our enemies’ designs.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Magical Thinking in US Foreign Policy

Federal Investigation Lays Bare How Baltimore Police Systematically Abuse Black Residents’ Civil Rights


By Sarah Lazare

Image result for US POLICE CARTOON

When Baltimore erupted in an uprising last year following the violent death of Freddie Gray in police custody, angry protesters, most of them black youth, were widely denounced as criminals and thugs. Maryland’s governor deployed the national guard as riot police poured in from across the state and residents faced a city-wide curfew. At one point, cops surrounded and maced high school students in the Mondawmin neighborhood, a provocation described as “absolutely vile” by Brian Arnold, an eyewitness and former Baltimore City high school teacher. As rumors of a “gang truce” circulated, no holds were barred in the clampdown on protests.

Yet, as in Ferguson, Missouri, it was the sustained mobilization to Baltimore’s streets that forced the world to see the systemic racism of the city’s police department, and forced Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to ask the Department of Justice to launch an investigation. Poor black residents of the deeply segregated city described a police department that behaved like an occupying force, brutalizing and disproportionately targeting them with unnecessary stops and deadly force.

“They are killing us. They are actually killing us, and then they make this seem like we’re out of control,” 26-year-old Antwion Robinson told the Baltimore Sun in April 2015. “But they’re killing our neighbors and brothers. We’re just supposed to sit back and take that?”

Now, the Department of Justice has released the findings of its investigation in a damning report that confirms police systematically abuse the civil rights of residents, disproportionately targeting African Americans with unjustified stops, searches, arrests and violent force, and committing horrific acts of degradation. The Department of Justice concludes that “there is reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law.”

In other words, the report echoes the truths that protesters have been telling for a long time. They were expressing outrage at a police force whose atrocities against their community are now confirmed and documented in harrowing detail by the federal government.

“I’m glad we were able to make them see what’s been going on forever,” Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West suspiciously died in police custody in 2013 after he was picked up during a traffic stop, told AlterNet. “They were doing anything to us and literally getting away with it.”

The report cites the city’s “zero tolerance” policing practices, dating to the late 1990s, as responsible for “repeated violations of the constitutional and statutory rights, further eroding the community’s trust in the police.”

Such policies target black communities, the report confirms. “BPD officers recorded over 300,000 pedestrian stops from January 2010–May 2015, and the true number of BPD’s stops during this period is likely far higher due to under-reporting,” the investigation states. “These stops are concentrated in predominantly African-American neighborhoods and often lack reasonable suspicion.”

Meanwhile, approximately 44 percent of pedestrian stops occur in just “two small, predominantly African-American districts that contain only 11 percent of the city’s population,” the report states. “Consequently, hundreds of individuals — nearly all of them African American — were stopped on at least 10 separate occasions from 2010–2015. Indeed, seven African-American men were stopped more than 30 times during this period.”

Pedestrian stops often occur without any reasonable suspicion. According to the report, only 3.7 percent of pedestrian stops resulted in an actual citation or arrest, and “many of those arrested based upon pedestrian stops had their charges dismissed upon initial review by either supervisors at BPD’s Central Booking or local prosecutors.”

“In some cases, unconstitutional stops result from supervisory officers’ explicit instructions,” the report states. “During a ride-along with Justice Department officials, a BPD sergeant instructed a patrol officer to stop a group of young African American males on a street corner, question them, and order them to disperse. When the patrol officer protested that he had no valid reason to stop the group, the sergeant replied, ‘Then make something up.'”

Once stopped by police, individuals are subject to dehumanizing treatment. The investigation describes degrading strip searches performed in public with no apparent grounds, such as in the following account:

In one of these incidents — memorialized in a complaint that the Department sustained — officers in BPD’s Eastern District publicly strip-searched a woman following a routine traffic stop for a missing headlight. Officers ordered the woman to exit her vehicle, remove her clothes, and stand on the sidewalk to be searched. The woman asked the male officer in charge “I really gotta take all my clothes off?” The male officer replied “yeah” and ordered a female officer to strip search the woman. The female officer then put on purple latex gloves, pulled up the woman’s shirt and searched around her bra. Finding no weapons or contraband around the woman’s chest, the officer then pulled down the woman’s underwear and searched her anal cavity. This search again found no evidence of wrongdoing and the officers released the woman without charges. Indeed, the woman received only a repair order for her headlight. The search occurred in full view of the street, although the supervising male officer claimed he “turned away” and did not watch the woman disrobe. After the woman filed a complaint, BPD investigators corroborated the woman’s story with testimony from several witnesses and by recovering the female officer’s latex gloves from the search location. Officers conducted this highly invasive search despite lacking any indication that the woman had committed a criminal offense or possessed concealed contraband. The male officer who ordered the search received only a “simple reprimand” and an instruction that he could not serve as an officer in charge until he was “properly trained.”

According to the report, police exhibit hostility toward the public they are entrusted to protect:

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Federal Investigation Lays Bare How Baltimore Police Systematically Abuse Black Residents’ Civil Rights

We Will Create Our Freedom: The Importance of the Movement for Black Lives Platform


By Aislinn Pulley

A sign marking the number of days activists have occupied Freedom Square, an encampment across the street from the Chicago Police Departments's "black site" of Homan Square. (Photo: Sarah Ji)A sign marking the number of days activists have occupied Freedom Square, an encampment across the street from the Chicago Police Departments’s “black site” of Homan Square. (Photo: Sarah Ji)

There is a movement rumbling through the streets of this country. There is sustained organizing, national and local collaborations that are enduring the grueling work of refusing to allow extrajudicial Black death to continue to be hushed up, accepted as normal.

There is debate occurring, and at times, rigorous examination of the current conditions that have produced outrage and misery. We are collectively grappling with the hypocrisy at the root of what it is to be “American” and what it is to be Black on the soil of this settler colonial land. The continued onslaught of death forces into view the chasm between the myth of American exceptionalism and the reality of our blood-stained streets.

In Chicago, the Let Us Breathe Collective is continuing to lead an occupation across the street from the notorious police torture site, Homan Square, where over 7,000 people have been disappeared. Today marks Day 21 of the uprising against Homan Square, aptly called #FreedomSquare.

Today also marks the 31st day that Black Lives Matter activists in Los Angeles have occupied LA’s City Hall, calling for the firing of Charlie Beck for leading the most murderous police force in the United States.

In this historic moment, we are challenged as a movement to define what systemic change could actually look like. What are the steps necessary to permanently end the police and state violence that will undoubtedly continue to produce death and misery?

New York City’s response to protesters of police violence earlier this month sheds light on these questions. On the second day of an occupation of City Hall Park, coordinated by the anti-police violence organization, Millions March NYC, New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton announced his resignation. Immediately, Mayor Bill de Blasio named his successor, NYPD veteran, James P. O’Neall, and vowed a seamless transition. This situation both exemplifies the pressure police forces are facing nationwide to respond to increasing public demands to end police violence, and also reflects the superficial nature of municipal governments’ response to this outcry. Merely replacing figureheads does not get to the root of the problem of police violence, such as Chicago’s replacement of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy with Eddie Johnson. The victory lies only in the fact that the state has been forced to act as a result of persistent public pressure. It is not, however, evidence of systemic change in any form or fashion.

The easiest thing the state can do is replace figureheads and call that change. Officials will do this, however reluctantly, while providing a counter-narrative stating that the relationship between the community and police is mending. They are also avidly working to create false equivalencies in order to end public resistance. For example, some officials claim that police are “also under attack” and therefore, need hate crime legislation — an argument which posits that there is a historic oppression linked to policing — which is, of course, absurd. Policing is a profession. Police officers take off their uniforms and badges when their shift is over, like doctors, or nurses, or Starbucks baristas. They are not an oppressed class of people.

The police, in their current formation, will not stop killing us. The Baltimore police killed a 23-year-old mother, Korryn Gaines, in her house and shot her 5-year-old son on August 1. A few days prior, Chicago police had shot and killed 18-year-old Paul O’Neal. Reportedly, witnesses have claimed that they saw police officers turn off their cameras before shooting him; however, official reports state that the body cameras simply “didn’t work.” And the family of 16-year-old Pierre Lourry, whom the Chicago police shot on April 11, 2016, has still not received the police report about the shooting.

The police will continue to murder us extrajudicially because that is how the police in the United States are currently organized to function. They are taught to shoot first. They are taught to operate as if they are at war with the Black and Brown communities, immigrants, the poor, the unemployed, the sick and anyone who does not immediately lie down into a form of submission they deem acceptable. And they are protected heavily by the collective bargaining agreements brokered by the Fraternal Order of Police.

US policing will remain violent and continue to be militarized until a movement large and powerful enough forces the state into restructuring. Currently, the Obama administration is preparing to re-authorize the military weaponry to local police departments that was halted after the Ferguson uprising. The weaponry will include grenade launchers and armored tracked vehicles. There is no doubt that there will be more Philandos, more Korryns, more Pauls. The violence of the state will not end by way of the next election cycle. Only the collective power of the people can force an end to this violence — the collective power of our very selves forging a movement capable of stopping the violent apparatus that continues to wage war on our lives.

The Movement for Black Lives platform, released by over 50 organizations on August 1, 2016, seeks to set forth clear demands to enable Black life to be lived without threat of state terror, murder or subjugation. It advocates for the intentional restructuring of society to end the system’s most brutal current components. With six categories, the platform expands the definition of freedom to encompass a vision of a future that addresses historical oppressions rooted in the founding of the United States as not only a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, but also as an imperialist settler colonial nation. These definitions are important because they make visible the traumas that maintain the status quo: those of continued Indigenous subjugation and invisibilization, the international exploitation of our diasporic family abroad, and the role of US imperialism in maintaining global power. We can never forget that the populations killed at the highest rates by US police are our Indigenous brothers and sisters. This continued murder and exploitation must be seen within the continuum of genocide that is constantly erased and ignored as a necessary function of settler colonialism and legitimization of the American empire.

The Movement for Black Lives platform provides a necessary contribution to how we, as members of this movement, can focus our fight on toppling the oppressive structures and systems that made possible the murder of Korryn Gaines inside her own home, under the excuse that she had outstanding traffic warrants.

When we say that the police are waging “war” on our communities, it may be a bit misleading. “War” presupposes a time of peace that existed within this paradigm and suggests an alternative normal mode of functioning. We know that there has never existed an alternate safe epoch of Black life under US capitalism. Black wage theft, terror, murder and rape under slavery; the white supremacist violence used to destroy Reconstruction; the subjugation enforced under Jim Crow; and the current policing and prison nation under which we now exist all speak to the evolution of Black subjugation at the hands of the American empire. Therefore, to “End the War on Black Lives,” as the Movement for Black Lives platform states, is really to completely reconfigure Black livelihood and by proxy, all livelihood on this land. It is to take up again the serious and ultimately revolutionary question of what real post-slavery “Reconstruction” would mean. This is a vital and necessary task and the only way we will begin to craft a future on this land that does not necessitate the murder, death and misery of the many in order to benefit the few.

We refuse disillusionment at the pathetic farce of democracy the national elections attempt to portray. It is by our own hands and our own minds that we will have to study, create, debate and fight to figure out how we will make a world and a country that enable our existence to flourish. Our resilience has never been in question. What remains important and undetermined is whether we will build a movement capable of understanding the details of how our current system works to maintain itself — and capable of working to dismantle the system’s nooses from our necks.

It’s important to study the Movement for Black Lives policy platform — to discuss and debate it. We should view this as a living document with which we can build, edit, explore and/or create other proposals. This means that the increasing number of us who are called to be a part of the fight to end Black oppression in this country will have to challenge ourselves to make connections with other parts of our community that we have not yet connected with or have not yet been called to actively organize. We will have to enter into conversation and struggle with everyone in our community. That means being in the factories talking to workers, being in fast food restaurants with employees fighting for a livable wage, being on the corner, on the block, in the hood, in the laundromat, in the barber shop. We must build a mass movement that encompasses the reality of who we are, that contains class consciousness and deepens our understanding of how class oppression combined with white supremacy is the deadliest beast we have historically fought against. We must make these connections intentionally, in order to politically understand the social forces necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of ending the current policing system, and by necessary inclusion, the system that demands that such violent state apparatus exist.

We are creating our future together, and we are rejecting all preconceived notions of what we can and can’t do. We built up this country’s infrastructure through our blood, sweat, tears and death and, we will create our freedom. We are striving to create the world in which our children and children’s children will be able to live without threats of police murder, poverty, unemployment and lack of access to education and health care.

We have no choice but to resist because we cannot breathe and we cannot live in this current state. Ours is an actual fight for the right to live. We are the true right-to-life movement. Our lives matter, and we have the right to exist on this land unmarred, unthreatened and free of terror.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on We Will Create Our Freedom: The Importance of the Movement for Black Lives Platform

What Really Led to the Killing of Osama bin Laden?


By Seymour Hersh

Pakistani policemen stand guard outside the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 5, 2011. (Warrick Page / The New York Times)Pakistani policemen stand guard outside the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 5, 2011. (Warrick Page / The New York Times)

What really happened on the night of Osama bin Laden’s death? Famed investigative journalist Seymour examines this critical question in his new book, but The Killing of Osama Bin Laden is also a broader indictment of the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly concerning Syria and Turkey. Order your copy today by making a donation to support Truthout’s reporting!

The following excerpt from The Killing of Osama Bin Laden introduces the reader to dramatically different details than the official narrative disseminated by the White House, Pentagon and CIA:

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy SEALS assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

(Image: Verso Books)

(Image: Verso Books)The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders — General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI — were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of March 19, 2014. Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a “Pakistani official” that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who — reflecting a widely held local view — asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation. The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an Al Jazeera interviewer that it was “quite possible” that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, “but it was more probable that they did [know]. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed.

“And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo — if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.” This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the SEALS to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the SEAL team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.

“When your version comes out — if you do it — people in Pakistan will be tremendously grateful,” Durrani told me. “For a long time people have stopped trusting what comes out about bin Laden from the official mouths. There will be some negative political comment and some anger, but people like to be told the truth, and what you’ve told me is essentially what I have heard from former colleagues who have been on a fact finding mission since this episode.” As a former ISI head, he said, he had been told shortly after the raid by “people in the ‘strategic community’ who would know” that there had been an informant who had alerted the US to bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, and that after his killing the US’s betrayed promises left Kayani and Pasha exposed. The major US source for the account that follows is a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. He also was privy to many aspects of the SEALS’ training for the raid and to the various after-action reports. Two other US sources, who had access to corroborating information, have been longtime consultants to the Special Operations Command. I also received information from inside Pakistan about widespread dismay among the senior ISI and military leadership — echoed later by Durrani — over Obama’s decision to go public immediately with news of bin Laden’s death. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

It began with a walk-in. In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001. Walk-ins are assumed by the CIA to be unreliable, and the response from the agency’s headquarters was to fly in a polygraph team. The walk-in passed the test. “So now we’ve got a lead on bin Laden living in a compound in Abbottabad, but how do we really know who it is?” was the CIA’s worry at the time, the retired senior US intelligence official told me.

The US initially kept what it knew from the Pakistanis. “The fear was that if the existence of the source was made known, the Pakistanis themselves would move bin Laden to another location. So only a very small number of people were read into the source and his story,” the retired official said. “The CIA’s first goal was to check out the quality of the informant’s information.” The compound was put under satellite surveillance. The CIA rented a house in Abbottabad to use as a forward observation base and staffed it with Pakistani employees and foreign nationals. Later on, the base would serve as a contact point with the ISI; it attracted little attention because Abbottabad is a holiday spot full of houses rented on short leases. A psychological profile of the informant was prepared. (The informant and his family were smuggled out of Pakistan and relocated in the Washington area. He is now a consultant for the CIA.)

“By October the military and intelligence community were discussing the possible military options. Do we drop a bunker buster on the compound or take him out with a drone strike? Perhaps send someone to kill him, single assassin style? But then we’d have no proof of who he was,” the retired official said. “We could see some guy is walking around at night, but we have no intercepts because there’s no commo coming from the compound.”

In October, Obama was briefed on the intelligence. His response was cautious, the retired official said. “It just made no sense that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad. It was just too crazy. The president’s position was emphatic: ‘Don’t talk to me about this any more unless you have proof that it really is bin Laden.’ ” The immediate goal of the CIA leadership and the Joint Special Operations Command was to get Obama’s support. They believed they would get this if they got DNA evidence and if they could assure him that a night assault of the compound would carry no risk. The only way to accomplish both things, the retired official said, “was to get the Pakistanis on board.”

During the late autumn of 2010, the US continued to keep quiet about the walk-in, and Kayani and Pasha continued to insist to their American counterparts that they had no information about bin Laden’s whereabouts. “The next step was to figure out how to ease Kayani and Pasha into it — to tell them that we’ve got intelligence showing that there is a high-value target in the ncompound, and to ask them what they know about the target,” the retired official said. “The compound was not an armed enclave — no machine guns around, because it was under ISI control.” The walk-in had told the US that bin Laden had lived undetected from 2001 to 2006 with some of his wives and children in the Hindu Kush mountains, and that “the ISI got to him by paying some of the local tribal people to betray him.” (Reports after the raid placed him elsewhere in Pakistan during this period.) Bank was also told by the walk-in that bin Laden was very ill, and that early on in his confinement at Abbottabad, the ISI had ordered Amir Aziz, a doctor and a major in the Pakistani army, to move nearby to provide treatment. “The truth is that bin Laden was an invalid, but we cannot say that,” the retired official said. “ ‘You mean you guys shot a cripple? Who was about to grab his AK-47?’

“It didn’t take long to get the cooperation we needed, because the Pakistanis wanted to ensure the continued release of American military aid, a good percentage of which was anti-terrorism funding that finances personal security, such as bullet-proof limousines and security guards and housing for the ISI leadership,” the retired official said. He added that there were also under-the-table personal “incentives” that were financed by off-the-books Pentagon contingency funds. “The intelligence community knew what the Pakistanis needed to agree — there was the carrot. And they chose the carrot. It was a win-win. We also did a little blackmail. We told them we would leak the fact that you’ve got bin Laden in your backyard. We knew their friends and enemies” — the Taliban and jihadist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan — “would not like it.”

A worrying factor at this early point, according to the retired official, was Saudi Arabia, which had been financing bin Laden’s upkeep since his seizure by the Pakistanis. “The Saudis didn’t want bin Laden’s presence revealed to us because he was a Saudi, and so they told the Pakistanis to keep him out of the picture. The Saudis feared if we knew we would pressure the Pakistanis to let bin Laden start talking to us about what the Saudis had been doing with al-Qaida. And they were dropping money — lots of it. The Pakistanis, in turn, were concerned that the Saudis might spill the beans about their control of bin Laden. The fear was that if the US found out about bin Laden from Riyadh, all hell would break out. The Americans learning about bin Laden’s imprisonment from a walk-in was not the worst thing.”

Despite their constant public feuding, American and Pakistani military and intelligence services have worked together closely for decades on counterterrorism in South Asia. Both services often find it useful to engage in public feuds “to cover their asses,” as the retired official put it, but they continually share intelligence used for drone attacks and cooperate on covert operations. At the same time, it’s understood in Washington that elements of the ISI believe that maintaining a relationship with the Taliban leadership inside Afghanistan is essential to national security. The ISI’s strategic aim is to balance Indian influence in Kabul; the Taliban is also seen in Pakistan as a source of jihadist shock troops who would back Pakistan against India in a confrontation over Kashmir.

Adding to the tension was the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, often depicted in the Western press as an “Islamic bomb” that might be transferred by Pakistan to an embattled nation in the Middle East in the event of a crisis with Israel. The US looked the other way when Pakistan began building its weapons system in the 1970s, and it’s widely believed it now has more than a hundred nuclear warheads. It’s understood in Washington that US security depends on the maintenance of strong military and intelligence ties to Pakistan. The belief is mirrored in Pakistan.

“The Pakistani army sees itself as family,” the retired official said. “Officers call soldiers their sons and all officers are ‘brothers.’ The attitude is different in the American military. The senior Pakistani officers believe they are the elite and have got to look out for all of the people, as keepers of the flame against Muslim fundamentalism. The Pakistanis also know that their trump card against aggression from India is a strong relationship with the United States. They will never cut their person-to- person ties with us.”

Like all CIA station chiefs, Bank was working undercover, but that ended in early December 2010 when he was publicly accused of murder in a criminal complaint filed in Islamabad by Karim Khan, a Pakistani journalist whose son and brother, according to local news reports, had been killed by a US drone strike. Allowing Bank to be named was a violation of diplomatic protocol on the part of the Pakistani authorities, and it brought a wave of unwanted publicity. Bank was ordered to leave Pakistan by the CIA, whose officials subsequently told the Associated Press he was transferred because of concerns for his safety. The New York Times reported that there was “strong suspicion” the ISI had played a role in leaking Bank’s name to Khan. There was speculation that he was outed as payback for the publication in a New York lawsuit a month earlier of the names of ISI chiefs in connection with the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008. But there was a collateral reason, the retired official said, for the CIA’s willingness to send Bank back to America. The Pakistanis needed cover in case their cooperation with the Americans in getting rid of bin Laden became known. The Pakistanis could say: ‘You’re talking about me? We just kicked out your station chief.'”

Posted in USAComments Off on What Really Led to the Killing of Osama bin Laden?

Shoah’s pages