Posts Tagged ‘ USA ’

“What is Inexcusable is Venezuela’s Political Independence”

Young supporter of Venezuela's President Chavez stands at a square in San Salvador
An interview with John Pilger, conducted by Michael Albert.

Why would the U.S. want Venezuela’s government overthrown?

There are straightforward principles and dynamics at work here. Washington wants to get rid of the Venezuelan government because it is independent of U.S. designs for the region and because Venezuela has the greatest proven oil reserves in the world and uses its oil revenue to improve the quality of ordinary lives. Venezuela remains a source of inspiration for social reform in a continent ravaged by an historically rapacious U.S. An Oxfam report once famously described the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua as ‘the threat of a good example’. That has been true in Venezuela since Hugo Chavez won his first election. The ‘threat’ of Venezuela is greater, of course, because it is not tiny and weak; it is rich and influential and regarded as such by China. The remarkable change in fortunes for millions of people in Latin America is at the heart of U.S. hostility. The U.S. has been the undeclared enemy of social progress in Latin America for two centuries. It doesn’t matter who has been in the White House: Barack Obama or Teddy Roosevelt; the U.S. will not tolerate countries with governments and cultures that put the needs of their own people first and refuse to promote or succumb to U.S. demands and pressures. A reformist social democracy with a capitalist base – such as Venezuela – is not excused by the rulers of the world. What is inexcusable is Venezuela’s political independence; only complete deference is acceptable. The ‘survival’ of Chavista Venezuela is a testament to the support of ordinary Venezuelans for their elected government – that was clear to me when I was last there.  Venezuela’s weakness is that the political ‘opposition’ — those I would call the ‘East Caracas Mob’ – represent powerful interests who have been allowed to retain critical economic power. Only when that power is diminished will Venezuela shake off the constant menace of foreign-backed, often criminal subversion. No society should have to deal with that, year in, year out.

What methods has the U.S. already used and would you anticipate their using to unseat the Bolivarian Revolution?

There are the usual crop of quislings and spies; they come and go with their media theatre of fake revelations, but the principal enemy is the media. You may recall the Venezuelan admiral who was one of the coup-plotters against Chavez in 2002, boasting during his brief tenure in power, ‘Our secret weapon was the media’. The Venezuelan media, especially television, were active participants in that coup, lying that supporters of the government were firing into a crowd of protestors from a bridge. False images and headlines went around the world. The New York Times joined in, welcoming the overthrow of a democratic ‘anti-American’ government; it usually does. Something similar happened in Caracas last year when vicious right-wing mobs were lauded as ‘peaceful protestors’ who were being ‘repressed’. This was undoubtedly the start of a Washington-backed ‘colour revolution’ openly backed by the likes of the National Endowment for Democracy – a user-friendly CIA clone. It was uncannily like the coup that Washington successfully staged in Ukraine last year.  As in Kiev, in Venezuela the ‘peaceful protestors’ set fire to government buildings and deployed snipers and were lauded by western politicians and the western media. The strategy is almost certainly to push the Maduro government to the right and so alienate its popular base. Depicting the government as dictatorial and incompetent has long been an article of bad faith among journalists and broadcasters in Venezuela and in the U.S., the U.K. and Europe. One recent U.S. ‘story’ was that of a ‘U.S. scientist jailed for trying to help Venezuela build bombs’. The implication was that Venezuela was harbouring ‘nuclear terrorists’. In fact, the disgruntled nuclear physicist had no connection whatsoever with Venezuela.

All this is reminiscent of the unrelenting attacks on Chávez, each with that peculiar malice reserved for dissenters from the west’s ‘one true way’. In 2006, Britain’s Channel 4 News effectively accused the Venezuelan president of plotting to make nuclear weapons with Iran, an absurd fantasy. The Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, sneered at policies to eradicate poverty and presented Chávez as a sinister buffoon, while allowing Donald Rumsfeld, a war criminal, to liken Chavez to Hitler, unchallenged. The BBC is no different. Researchers at the University of the West of England in the UK studied the BBC’s systematic bias in reporting Venezuela over a ten-year period. They looked at 304 BBC reports and found that only three of these referred to any of the positive policies of the government. For the BBC, Venezuela’s democratic initiatives, human rights legislation, food programmes, healthcare initiatives and poverty reduction programmes did not exist. Mission Robinson, the greatest literacy programme in human history, received barely a passing mention. This virulent censorship by omission complements outright fabrications such as accusations that the Venezuelan government are a bunch of drug-dealers.  None of this is new; look at the way Cuba has been misrepresented – and assaulted – over the years. Reporters Without Borders has just issued its worldwide ranking of nations based on their claims to a free press. The US is ranked 49th, behind Malta, Niger, Burkino Faso and El Salvador.

Why might now be a prime time, internationally, for pushing toward a coup? If the primary problem is Venezuela being an example that could spread, is the emergence of a receptive audience for that example in Europe adding to the U.S. response?

It’s important to understand that Washington is ruled by true extremists, once known inside the Beltway as ‘the crazies’. This has been true since before 9/11. A few are outright fascists. Asserting U.S. dominance is their undisguised game and, as the events in Ukraine demonstrate, they are prepared to risk a nuclear war with Russia. These people should be the common enemy of all sane human beings. In Venezuela, they want a coup so that they can roll-back of some of the world’s most important social reforms – such as in Bolivia and Ecuador. They’ve already crushed the hopes of ordinary people in Honduras. The current conspiracy between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to lower the price of oil is meant to achieve something more spectacular in Venezuela, and Russia.

What do you think the best approach might be to warding off U.S. machinations, and those of domestic Venezuelan elites as well, for the Bolivarians?

The majority people of Venezuela, and their government, need to tell the world the truth about the attacks on their country. There is a stirring across the world, and many people are listening. They don’t want perpetual instability, perpetual poverty, perpetual war, perpetual rule by the few. And they identify the principal enemy; look at the international polling surveys that ask which country presents the greatest danger to humanity. The majority of people overwhelmingly point to the U.S., and to its numerous campaigns of terror and subversion.

What do you think is the immediate responsibility of leftists outside Venezuela, and particularly in the U.S. 

That begs a question: who are these ‘leftists’? Are they the millions of liberal North Americans seduced by the specious rise of Obama and silenced by his criminalising of freedom of information and dissent? Are they those who believe what they are told by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the BBC? It’s an important question. ‘Leftist’ has never been a more disputed and misappropriated term. My sense is that people who live on the edge and struggle against US-backed forces in Latin America understood the true meaning of the word, just as they identify a common enemy.  If we share their principles, and a modicum of their courage, we should take direct action in our own countries, starting, I would suggest, with the propagandists in the media. Yes, it’s our responsibility, and it has never been more urgent.

Source: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/What-is-Inexcusable-is-Venezuelas-Political-independence-20150216-0011.html

Diplomatic Relations Between Cuba and the United States

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Fidel Castro speaking in Havana, September 1960, a few months before U.S. broke diplomatic
relations with Cuba.

On days like these, in late December 1960, all of Cuba was preparing to face a U.S. military aggression. The revolutionary government was convinced that the shift of power from Eisenhower to Kennedy, which would occur in January, would give Washington the opportunity to attack and increasing information came of preparations in Florida and Central America to confirm this. In October I had completed my first military training, like many young Cubans, and in the new year we expected to be digging trenches around Havana.

On January 3, 1961, the U.S. announced the breaking of diplomatic relations. Now, on December 17, 54 years later, and after trying to liquidate the Cuban Revolution through all kinds of aggressive actions, including military invasions, commercial and financial blockades, sabotage, bombings and the application of all the evil plots conceived in the broad arsenal of the CIA, in which more or less 11 U.S. administrations were involved — the Obama administration has acknowledged the failure of this policy, and announced the decision to restore and normalize relations.

“In this way we have for over half a century been trying and we have failed. Let’s change it,” he said, with a clear pragmatism.

Obama is neither better nor worse than other presidents before him. He represents the same imperial interests, but 54 years of failure of the anti-Cuba policy was too much. Each year in the UN General Assembly the U.S. had to face the vote on a resolution against the blockade of Cuba, which forced it to stand alone, totally isolated, joined only by the Zionist state, facing opposition from 188-189 countries, including most of its own allies.

Its influence in Latin America had lost ground at the same time as Cuba enjoyed increasing prestige. In the last year it had chaired the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which includes neither the U.S. nor Canada; hosted a meeting of the ALBA Summit (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) and another Cuba-CARICOM Summit meeting. Successful Cuban foreign policy is also evidenced in Africa and it has acted as one of the main leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement. If the United States had insisted on the same outdated position of trying to maintain Cuba’s isolation preventing its participation in the Summit of the Americas, to be held in Panama this coming April, it would likely have caused the failure of this meeting, since the majority of countries in the region had announced they would not permit Cuba’s absence once again.

However, there should be no illusions or delusions; the politics of the empire maintains its own hegemonic interests. Now we see they are making the same mistakes with respect to Venezuela as they did in their anti-Cuba policy for over 50 years.

Of course, the history of relations between the U.S. and Cuba has its own peculiarities, and to understand it, one must go much further back than the past half century. Nor is it only an ideological confrontation. Its roots are found in the early nineteenth century when Washington’s leaders openly declared their interest that Cuba cease being a colony of Spain in order to incorporate it as another state of the Union. This interest has prevailed until today in most American politicians. They neither agree with nor accept Cuba’s independence.

When this changes and they understand and accept that Cuba would fight forever if necessary to maintain its independence, then there will be normal relations between the two countries. Has Obama understood this?

By – Ernesto Gómez Abascal, Alahednews, December 26, 2014

Source: http://www.cpcml.ca/Tmlw2015/W45001.HTM

Most White People in America Are Completely Oblivious Black people have to learn everything about white people just to stay alive. White people just don’t get that.

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I suppose there is no longer much point in debating the facts surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. First, because Officer Darren Wilson has been cleared by a grand jury, and even the collective brilliance of a thousand bloggers pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in his version of events that August day won’t result in a different outcome. And second, because Wilson’s guilt or innocence was always somewhat secondary to the larger issue: namely, the issue of this gigantic national inkblot staring us in the face, and what we see when we look at it—and more to the point, why?

Because it is a kind of racial Rorschach (is it not?) into which each of these cases—not just Brown but all the others, from Trayvon Martin to Sean Bell to Patrick Dorismond to Aswan Watson and beyond—inevitably and without fail morph. That we see such different things when we look upon them must mean something. That so much of white America cannot see the shapes made out so clearly by most of black America cannot be a mere coincidence, nor is it likely an inherent defect in our vision. Rather, it is a socially-constructed astigmatism that blinds so many to the way in which black folks often experience law enforcement.

Not to overdo the medical metaphors, but as with those other cases noted above, so too in this one did a disturbing number of whites manifest something of a repetitive motion disorder—a reflex nearly as automatic as the one that leads so many police (or wanna-be police) to fire their weapons at black men in the first place. It is a reflex to rationalize the event, defend the shooter, trash the dead with blatantly racist rhetoric and imagery, and then deny that the incident or one’s own response to it had anything to do with race.

Reflex: To deny that there was anything racial about sending around those phony pictures claimed to be of Mike Brown posing with a gun, or the one passed off as Darren Wilson in a hospital bed with his orbital socket blown out.

Reflex: To deny that there was anything racial about how quickly those pictures were believed to be genuine by so many who distributed them on social media, even when they weren’t, and how difficult it is for some to discern the difference between one black man and another.

Reflex: To deny that there was anything racial about how rapidly many bought the story that Wilson had been attacked and bloodied, even as video showed him calmly standing at the scene of the shooting without injury, and even as the preliminary report on the incident made no mention of any injuries to Officer Wilson, and even as Wilson apparently has a history of power-tripping belligerence towards those with whom he interacts, and a propensity to distort the details of those encounters as well.

Reflex: To deny that there was anything racial about Cardinals fans taunting peaceful protesters who gathered outside a playoff game to raise the issue of Brown’s death, by calling them crackheads or telling them that it was only because of whites that blacks have any freedoms at all, or that they should “get jobs” or “pull up their pants,” or go back to Africa.

Reflex: To deny that there was anything racial about sending money to Darren Wilson’s defense fund and then explaining one’s donation by saying what a service the officer had performed by removing a “savage” like Brown from the community, or by referring to Wilson’s actions as “animal control.”

Reflex: To deny that there was anything racial about reaction to evidence of weed in Brown’s lifeless body, as with Trayvon’s before him, even though whites use drugs at the same rate as blacks, but rarely have that fact offered up as a reason for why we might deserve to be shot by police.

Reflex: To deny that there was anything racial behind the belief that the head of the Missouri Highway Patrol, brought in to calm tensions in Ferguson, was throwing up gang signs on camera, when actually, it was a hand sign for the black fraternity of which that officer is a member; and to deny that there is anything racial about one’s stunning ignorance as to the difference between those two things.

Reflex: To deny that there’s anything at all racial about the way that even black victims of violence—like Brown, like Trayvon Martin, and dozens of others—are often spoken of more judgmentally than even the most horrific of white perpetrators, the latter of whom are regularly referred to as having been nice, and quiet, and smart, and hardly the type to kill a dozen people, or cut them into little pieces, or eat their flesh after storing it in the freezer for several weeks.

And most of all, the reflex to deny that there is anything racial about the lens through which we typically view law enforcement; to deny that being white has shaped our understanding of policing and their actions in places like Ferguson, even as being white has had everything to do with those matters. Racial identity shapes the way we are treated by cops, and as such, shapes the way we are likely to view them. As a general rule, nothing we do will get us shot by law enforcement: not walking around in a big box store with semi-automatic weapons (though standing in one with an air rifle gets you killed if you’re black); not assaulting two officers, even in the St. Louis area, a mere five days after Mike Brown was killed; not pointing a loaded weapon at three officers and demanding that they—the police—”drop their fucking guns;” not committing mass murder in a movie theatre before finally being taken alive; not proceeding in the wake of that event to walk around the same town in which it happened carrying a shotgun; and not killing a cop so as to spark a “revolution,” and then leading others on a two month chase through the woods before being arrested with only a few scratches.

To white America, in the main, police are the folks who help get our cats out of the tree, or who take us on ride-arounds to show us how gosh-darned exciting it is to be a cop. We experience police most often as helpful, as protectors of our lives and property. But that is not the black experience by and large; and black people know this, however much we don’t. The history of law enforcement in America, with regard to black folks, has been one of unremitting oppression. That is neither hyperbole nor opinion, but incontrovertible fact. From slave patrols to overseers to the Black Codes to lynching, it is a fact. From dozens of white-on-black riots that marked the first half of the twentieth century (in which cops participated actively) to Watts to Rodney King to Abner Louima to Amadou Diallo to the railroading of the Central Park 5, it is a fact. From the New Orleans Police Department’s killings of Adolph Archie to Henry Glover to the Danziger Bridge shootings there in the wake of Katrina to stop-and-frisk in places like New York, it’s a fact. And the fact that white people don’t know this history, have never been required to learn it, and can be considered even remotely informed citizens without knowing it, explains a lot about what’s wrong with America. Black people have to learn everything about white people just to stay alive. They especially and quite obviously have to know what scares us, what triggers the reptilian part of our brains and convinces us that they intend to do us harm. Meanwhile, we need know nothing whatsoever about them. We don’t have to know their history, their experiences, their hopes and dreams, or their fears. And we can go right on being oblivious to all that without consequence. It won’t be on the test, so to speak.

We can remain ignorant to the ubiquity of police misconduct, thinking it the paranoid fever dream of irrational “race-card” playing peoples of color, just like we did after the O.J. Simpson verdict. When most of black America responded to that verdict with cathartic relief—not because they necessarily thought Simpson innocent but because they felt there were enough questions raised about police in the case to sow reasonable doubt—most white folks concluded that black America had lost its collective mind. How could they possibly believe that the LAPD would plant evidence in an attempt to frame or sweeten the case against a criminal defendant? A few years later, had we been paying attention (but of course, we were not), we would have had our answer. It was then that the scandal in the city’s Ramparts division broke, implicating dozens of police in over a hundred cases of misconduct, including, in one incident, shooting a gang member at point blank range and then planting a weapon on him to make the incident appear as self-defense. So putting aside the guilt or innocence of O.J,, clearly it was not irrational for black Angelenos (and Americans) to give one the likes of Mark Fuhrman side-eye after his own racism was revealed in that case.

I think this, more than anything, is the source of our trouble when it comes to racial division in this country. The inability of white people to hear black reality—to not even know that there is one and that it differs from our own—makes it nearly impossible to move forward. But how can we expect black folks to trust law enforcement or to view it in the same heroic and selfless terms that so many of us apparently do? The law has been a weapon used against black bodies, not a shield intended to defend them, and for a very long time.

In his contribution to Jill Nelson’s 2000 anthology on police brutality, scholar Robin D.G Kelley reminds us of the bill of particulars.* As Kelley notes, in colonial Virginia, slave owners were allowed to beat, burn, and even mutilate slaves without fear of punishment; and throughout the colonial period, police not only looked the other way at the commission of brutality against black folks, but were actively engaged in the forcible suppression of slave uprisings and insurrections. Later, after abolition, law enforcement regularly and repeatedly released black prisoners into the hands of lynch mobs and stood by as their bodies were hanged from trees, burned with blowtorches, body parts amputated and given out as souvenirs. In city after city, north and south, police either stood by or actively participated in pogroms against African American communities: in Wilmington, North Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, New York City, Akron and Birmingham, just to name a few. In one particularly egregious anti-black rampage in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1917, police shot blacks dead in the street as part of an orgy of violence aimed at African Americans who had moved from the Deep South in search of jobs. One hundred and fifty were killed, including thirty-nine children whose skulls were crushed and whose bodies were thrown into bonfires set by white mobs. In the 1920s, it is estimated that half of all black people who were killed by whites, were killed by white police officers.

But Kelley continues: In 1943 white police in Detroit joined with others of their racial compatriots, attacking blacks who had dared to move into previously all-white public housing, killing seventeen. In the 1960s and early ’70s police killed over two dozen members of the Black Panther Party, including those like Mark Clark and Fred Hampton in Chicago, asleep in their beds at the time their apartment was raided. In 1985, Philadelphia law enforcement perpetrated an all-out assault on members of the MOVE organization, bombing their row houses from state police helicopters, killing eleven, including five children, destroying sixty-one homes and leaving hundreds homeless.

These are but a few of the stories one could tell, and which Kelley does in his extraordinary recitation of the history—and for most whites, we are without real knowledge of any of them. But they and others like them are incidents burned into the cell memory of black America. They haven’t the luxury of forgetting, even as we apparently cannot be bothered to remember, or to learn of these things in the first place. Bull Connor, Sheriff Jim Clark, Deputy Cecil Price: these are not far-away characters for most black folks. How could they be? After all, more than a few still carry the scars inflicted by men such as they. And while few of us would think to ridicule Jews for still harboring less than warm feelings for Germans some seventy years later—we would understand the lack of trust, the wariness, even the anger—we apparently find it hard to understand the same historically-embedded logic of black trepidation and contempt for law enforcement in this country. And this is so, even as black folks’ negative experiences with police have extended well beyond the time frame of Hitler’s twelve year Reich, and even as those experiences did not stop seventy years ago, or even seventy days ago, or seventy minutes.

Can we perhaps, just this once, admit our collective blind spot? Admit that there are things going on, and that have been going on a very long time, about which we know nothing? Might we suspend our disbelief, just long enough to gain some much needed insights about the society we share? One wonders what it will take for us to not merely listen but actually to hear the voices of black parents, fearful that the next time their child walks out the door may be the last, and all because someone—an officer or a self-appointed vigilante—sees them as dangerous, as disrespectful, as reaching for their gun? Might we be able to hear that without deftly pivoting to the much more comfortable (for us) topic of black crime or single-parent homes? Without deflecting the real and understandable fear of police abuse with lectures about the danger of having a victim mentality—especially ironic given that such lectures come from a people who apparently see ourselves as the always imminent victims of big black men?

Can we just put aside all we think we know about black communities (most of which could fit in a thimble, truth be told) and imagine what it must feel like to walk through life as the embodiment of other people’s fear, as a monster that haunts their dreams the way Freddie Kreuger does in the movies? To be the physical representation of what marks a neighborhood as bad, a school as bad, not because of anything you have actually done, but simply because of the color of your skin? Surely that is not an inconsequential weight to bear. To go through life, every day, having to think about how to behave so as not to scare white people, or so as not to trigger our contempt—thinking about how to dress, and how to walk and how to talk and how to respond to a cop (not because you’re wanting to be polite, but because you’d like to see your mother again)—is work; and it’s harder than any job that any white person has ever had in this country. To be seen as a font of cultural contagion is tantamount to being a modern day leper.

And then perhaps we might spend a few minutes considering what this does to the young black child, and how it differs from the way that white children grow up. Think about how you would respond to the world if that world told you every day and in a million ways before lunch how awful you were, how horrible your community was, and how pathological your family. Because that’s what we’re telling black folks on the daily. Every time police call the people they are sworn to protect animals, as at least one Ferguson officer was willing to do on camera—no doubt speaking for many more in the process—we tell them this. Every time we shrug at the way police routinely stop and frisk young black men, even though in almost all cases they are found to have done nothing wrong, we tell them this. Every time we turn away from the clear disparities in our nation’s schools, which relegate the black and brown to classrooms led by the least experienced teachers, and where they will be treated like inmates more than children hoping to learn, we tell them this. Every time Bill O’Reilly pontificates about “black culture” and every time Barack Obama tells black men—but only black men—to be better fathers, we tell them this: that they are uniquely flawed, uniquely pathological, a cancerous mass of moral decrepitude to be feared, scorned, surveilled, incarcerated and discarded. The constant drumbeat of negativity is so normalized by now that it forms the backdrop of every conversation about black people held in white spaces when black folks themselves are not around. It is like the way your knee jumps when the doctor taps it with that little hammer thing during a check-up: a reflex by now instinctual, automatic, unthinking.

And still we pretend that one can think these things—that vast numbers of us can—and yet be capable of treating black folks fairly in the workforce, housing market, schools or in the streets; that we can, on the one hand, view the larger black community as a chaotic maelstrom of iniquity, while still managing, on the other, to treat black loan applicants, job applicants, students or random strangers as mere individuals. That we can somehow thread the needle between our grand aspirations to equanimity as Americans and our deeply internalized biases regarding broad swaths of our nation’s people.

But we can’t; and it is in these moments—moments like those provided by events in Ferguson—that the limits of our commitment to that aspirational America are laid bare. It is in moments like these when the chasm between our respective understandings of the world—itself opened up by the equally cavernous differences in the way we’ve experienced it—seems almost impossible to bridge. But bridge them we must, before the strain of our repetitive motion disorder does permanent and untreatable damage to our collective national body.

Source: http://www.alternet.org/most-white-people-america-are-completely-oblivious?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

America’s Bases of War in the Greater Middle East. From Carter to the Islamic State – 35 Years of Building Bases and Sowing Disaster

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With the launch of a new U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS), the United States has engaged in aggressive military action in at least 13 countries in the Greater Middle East since 1980. In that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed, or gone to war in at least one country in the region. The total number of invasions, occupations, bombing operations, drone assassination campaigns, and cruise missile attacks easily runs into the dozens.

As in prior military operations in the Greater Middle East, U.S. forces fighting IS have been aided by access to and the use of an unprecedented collection of military bases. They occupy a region sitting atop the world’s largest concentration of oil and natural gas reserves and has long been considered the most geopolitically important place on the planet. Indeed, since 1980, the U.S. military has gradually garrisoned the Greater Middle East in a fashion only rivaled by the Cold War garrisoning of Western Europe or, in terms of concentration, by the bases built to wage past wars in Korea and Vietnam.

In the Persian Gulf alone, the U.S. has major bases in every country save Iran. There is an increasingly important, increasingly large base in Djibouti, just miles across the Red Sea from the Arabian Peninsula. There are bases in Pakistan on one end of the region and in the Balkans on the other, as well as on the strategically located Indian Ocean islands of Diego Garcia and the Seychelles. In Afghanistan and Iraq, there were once as many as 800 and 505bases, respectively. Recently, the Obama administration inked an agreement with new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to maintain around 10,000 troops and at least nine major bases in his country beyond the official end of combat operations later this year. U.S. forces, which never fully departed Iraq after 2011, are now returning to a growing number of bases there in ever larger numbers.

In short, there is almost no way to overemphasize how thoroughly the U.S. military now covers the region with bases and troops. This infrastructure of war has been in place for so long and is so taken for granted that Americans rarely think about it and journalists almost never report on the subject. Members of Congress spend billions of dollars on base construction and maintenance every year in the region, but ask few questions about where the money is going, why there are so many bases, and what role they really serve. By one estimate, the United States has spent $10 trillion protecting Persian Gulf oil supplies over the past four decades.

Approaching its 35th anniversary, the strategy of maintaining such a structure of garrisons, troops, planes, and ships in the Middle East has been one of the great disasters in the history of American foreign policy. The rapid disappearance of debate about our newest, possibly illegal war should remind us of just how easy this huge infrastructure of bases has made it for anyone in the Oval Office to launch a war that seems guaranteed, like its predecessors, to set off new cycles of blowback and yet more war.

On their own, the existence of these bases has helped generate radicalism and anti-American sentiment. As was famously the case with Osama bin Laden and U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, bases have fueled militancy, as well as attacks on the United States and its citizens. They have cost taxpayers billions of dollars, even though they are not, in fact, necessary to ensure the free flow of oil globally. They have diverted tax dollars from the possible development of alternative energy sources and meeting other critical domestic needs. And they have supported dictators and repressive, undemocratic regimes, helping to block the spread of democracy in a region long controlled by colonial rulers and autocrats.

After 35 years of base-building in the region, it’s long past time to look carefully at the effects Washington’s garrisoning of the Greater Middle East has had on the region, the U.S., and the world.

“Vast Oil Reserves” 

While the Middle Eastern base buildup began in earnest in 1980, Washington had long attempted to use military force to control this swath of resource-rich Eurasia and, with it, the global economy. Since World War II, as the late Chalmers Johnson, an expert on U.S. basing strategy, explained back in 2004, “the United States has been inexorably acquiring permanent military enclaves whose sole purpose appears to be the domination of one of the most strategically important areas of the world.”

In 1945, after Germany’s defeat, the secretaries of War, State, and the Navy tellingly pushed for the completion of a partially built base in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, despite the military’s determination that it was unnecessary for the war against Japan. “Immediate construction of this [air] field,” they argued, “would be a strong showing of American interest in Saudi Arabia and thus tend to strengthen the political integrity of that country where vast oil reserves now are in American hands.”

By 1949, the Pentagon had established a small, permanent Middle East naval force (MIDEASTFOR) in Bahrain. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy’s administration began the first buildup of naval forces in the Indian Ocean just off the Persian Gulf. Within a decade, the Navy had created the foundations for what would become the first major U.S. base in the region — on the British-controlled island of Diego Garcia.

In these early Cold War years, though, Washington generally sought to increase its influence in the Middle East by backing and arming regional powers like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iran under the Shah, and Israel. However, within months of the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and Iran’s 1979 revolution overthrowing the Shah, this relatively hands-off approach was no more.

Base Buildup 

In January 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced a fateful transformation of U.S. policy. It would become known as the Carter Doctrine. In his State of the Union address, he warned of the potential loss of a region “containing more than two-thirds of the world’s exportable oil” and “now threatened by Soviet troops” in Afghanistan who posed “a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.”

Carter warned that “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America.” And he added pointedly, “Such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

With these words, Carter launched one of the greatest base construction efforts in history. He and his successor Ronald Reagan presided over the expansion of bases in Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the region to host a “Rapid Deployment Force,” which was to stand permanent guard over Middle Eastern petroleum supplies. The air and naval base on Diego Garcia, in particular, was expanded at a quicker rate than any base since the war in Vietnam. By 1986, more than $500 million had been invested. Before long, the total ran into the billions.

Soon enough, that Rapid Deployment Force grew into the U.S. Central Command, which has now overseen three wars in Iraq (1991-2003, 2003-2011, 2014-); the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2001-); intervention in Lebanon (1982-1984); a series of smaller-scale attacks on Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011); Afghanistan (1998) and Sudan (1998); and the “tanker war” with Iran (1987-1988), which led to the accidental downing of an Iranian civilian airliner, killing 290 passengers. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the CIA helped fund and orchestrate a majorcovert war against the Soviet Union by backing Osama Bin Laden and other extremist mujahidin. The command has also played a role in the drone war in Yemen (2002-) and bothovert and covert warfare in Somalia (1992-1994, 2001-).

During and after the first Gulf War of 1991, the Pentagon dramatically expanded its presence in the region. Hundreds of thousands of troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the war against Iraqi autocrat and former ally Saddam Hussein. In that war’s aftermath, thousands of troops and a significantly expanded base infrastructure were left in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Elsewhere in the Gulf, the military expanded its naval presence at a former British base in Bahrain, housing its Fifth Fleet there. Major air power installations were built in Qatar, and U.S. operations were expanded in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003, and the subsequent occupations of both countries, led to a more dramatic expansion of bases in the region. By the height of the wars, there were well over 1,000 U.S. checkpoints, outposts, and major bases in the two countries alone. The military also built new bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (since closed),explored the possibility of doing so in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, and, at the very least, continues to use several Central Asian countries as logistical pipelines to supply troops in Afghanistan and orchestrate the current partial withdrawal.

While the Obama administration failed to keep 58 “enduring” bases in Iraq after the 2011 U.S. withdrawal, it has signed an agreement with Afghanistan permitting U.S. troops to stay in the country until 2024 and maintain access to Bagram Air Base and at least eight more major installations.

An Infrastructure for War

Even without a large permanent infrastructure of bases in Iraq, the U.S. military has had plenty of options when it comes to waging its new war against IS. In that country alone, a significant U.S. presence remained after the 2011 withdrawal in the form of base-like State Department installations, as well as the largest embassy on the planet in Baghdad, and a large contingent of private military contractors. Since the start of the new war, at least 1,600 troops have returned and are operating from a Joint Operations Center in Baghdad and a base in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil. Last week, the White House announced that it would request $5.6 billion from Congress to send an additional 1,500 advisers and other personnel to at least two new bases in Baghdad and Anbar Province. Special operations and other forces are almost certainly operating from yet more undisclosed locations.

At least as important are major installations like the Combined Air Operations Center at Qatar’s al-Udeid Air Base. Before 2003, the Central Command’s air operations center for the entire Middle East was in Saudi Arabia. That year, the Pentagon moved the center to Qatar and officially withdrew combat forces from Saudi Arabia. That was in response to the 1996 bombing of the military’s Khobar Towers complex in the kingdom, other al-Qaeda attacks in the region, and mounting anger exploited by al-Qaeda over the presence of non-Muslim troops in the Muslim holy land. Al-Udeid now hosts a 15,000-foot runway, large munitions stocks, and around 9,000 troops and contractors who are coordinating much of the new war in Iraq and Syria.

Kuwait has been an equally important hub for Washington’s operations since U.S. troops occupied the country during the first Gulf War. Kuwait served as the main staging area and logistical center for ground troops in the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. There are still an estimated 15,000 troops in Kuwait, and the U.S. military is reportedly bombing Islamic State positions using aircraft from Kuwait’s Ali al-Salem Air Base.

As a transparently promotional article in the Washington Postconfirmed this week, al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates has launched more attack aircraft in the present bombing campaign than any other base in the region. That country hosts about 3,500 troops at al-Dhafra alone, as well as the Navy’s busiest overseas port.  B-1, B-2, and B-52 long-range bombers stationed on Diego Garcia helped launch both Gulf Wars and the war in Afghanistan. That island base is likely playing a role in the new war as well. Near the Iraqi border, around 1,000 U.S. troops and F-16 fighter jets are operating from at least one Jordanian base. According to the Pentagon’s latest count, the U.S. military has 17 bases in Turkey. While the Turkish government has placed restrictions on their use, at the very least some are being used to launch surveillance drones over Syria and Iraq. Up to seven bases in Oman may also be in use.

Bahrain is now the headquarters for the Navy’s entire Middle Eastern operations, including the Fifth Fleet, generally assigned to ensure the free flow of oil and other resources though the Persian Gulf and surrounding waterways. There is always at least one aircraft carrier strike group — effectively, a massive floating base — in the Persian Gulf. At the moment, theU.S.S. Carl Vinson is stationed there, a critical launch pad for the air campaign against the Islamic State. Other naval vessels operating in the Gulf and the Red Sea have launched cruise missiles into Iraq and Syria. The Navy even has access to an “afloat forward-staging base” that serves as a “lilypad” base for helicopters and patrol craft in the region.

In Israel, there are as many as six secret U.S. bases that can be used to preposition weaponry and equipment for quick use anywhere in the area. There’s also a “de facto U.S. base” for the Navy’s Mediterranean fleet. And it’s suspected that there are two other secretive sites in use as well. In Egypt, U.S. troops have maintained at least two installations and occupied at least two bases on the Sinai Peninsula since 1982 as part of a Camp David Accords peacekeeping operation.

Elsewhere in the region, the military has established a collection of at least five drone bases in Pakistan; expanded a critical base in Djibouti at the strategic chokepoint between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean; created or gained access to bases in EthiopiaKenya, and the Seychelles; and set up new bases in Bulgaria and Romania to go with a Clinton administration-era base in Kosovo along the western edge of the gas-rich Black Sea.

Even in Saudi Arabia, despite the public withdrawal, a small U.S. military contingent has remained to train Saudi personnel and keep bases “warm” as potential backups for unexpected conflagrations in the region or, assumedly, in the kingdom itself. In recent years, the military has even established a secret drone base in the country, despite the blowback Washington hasexperienced from its previous Saudi basing ventures.

Dictators, Death, and Disaster

The ongoing U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, however modest, should remind us of the dangers of maintaining bases in the region. The garrisoning of the Muslim holy land was a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and part of Osama bin Laden’s professed motivation for the 9/11 attacks. (He called the presence of U.S. troops, “the greatest of these aggressions incurred by the Muslims since the death of the prophet.”) Indeed, U.S. bases and troops in the Middle East have been a “major catalyst for anti-Americanism and radicalization” since a suicide bombing killed 241 marines in Lebanon in 1983. Other attacks have come in Saudi Arabia in 1996, Yemen in 2000 against the U.S.S. Cole, and during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Research has shown a strong correlation between a U.S. basing presence and al-Qaeda recruitment.

Part of the anti-American anger has stemmed from the support U.S. bases offer to repressive, undemocratic regimes. Few of the countries in the Greater Middle East are fully democratic, and some are among the world’s worst human rights abusers. Most notably, the U.S. government has offered onlytepid criticism of the Bahraini government as it has violently cracked downon pro-democracy protestors with the help of the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Beyond Bahrain, U.S. bases are found in a string of what the Economist Democracy Index calls “authoritarian regimes,” including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen. Maintaining bases in such countries props upautocrats and other repressive governments, makes the United States complicit in their crimes, and seriously undermines efforts to spread democracy and improve the wellbeing of people around the world.

Of course, using bases to launch wars and other kinds of interventions does much the same, generating anger, antagonism, and anti-American attacks. A recent U.N. report suggests that Washington’s air campaign against the Islamic State had led foreign militants to join the movement on “an unprecedented scale.”

And so the cycle of warfare that started in 1980 is likely to continue. “Even if U.S. and allied forces succeed in routing this militant group,” retired Army colonel and political scientist Andrew Bacevich writes of the Islamic State, “there is little reason to expect” a positive outcome in the region. As Bin Laden and the Afghan mujahidin morphed into al-Qaeda and the Taliban and as former Iraqi Baathists and al-Qaeda followers in Iraq morphed into IS, “there is,” as Bacevich says, “always another Islamic State waiting in the wings.”

The Carter Doctrine’s bases and military buildup strategy and its belief that “the skillful application of U.S. military might” can secure oil supplies and solve the region’s problems was, he adds, “flawed from the outset.” Rather than providing security, the infrastructure of bases in the Greater Middle East has made it ever easier to go to war far from home. It has enabled wars of choice and an interventionist foreign policy that has resulted in repeateddisasters for the region, the United States, and the world. Since 2001 alone, U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen have minimally caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and possibly more than one million deaths in Iraq alone.

The sad irony is that any legitimate desire to maintain the free flow of regional oil to the global economy could be sustained through other far less expensive and deadly means. Maintaining scores of bases costing billions of dollars a year is unnecessary to protect oil supplies and ensure regional peace — especially in an era in which the United States gets only around 10% of its net oil and natural gas from the region. In addition to the direct damage our military spending has caused, it has diverted money and attention from developing the kinds of alternative energy sources that could free the United States and the world from a dependence on Middle Eastern oil — and from the cycle of war that our military bases have fed.

David Vine,TomDispatch regular, is associate professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C.

Source: http://www.globalresearch.ca/americas-bases-of-war-in-the-greater-middle-east-from-carter-to-the-islamic-state/5414558

US approves drones for civilian use

RT.COM, July 27, 2013

 
AFP Photo / Don Emmert

AFP Photo / Don Emmert

 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued certificates for two types of unmanned aircraft for civilian use. The move is expected to lead to the first approved commercial drone operation later this summer.

The two unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are the Scan Eagle X200 and Aero Vironment’s PUMA. They both measure around 4 ½ feet long, weighing less than 55 pounds, and have a wing span of ten and nine feet respectively.

Both the Scan Eagle and the PUMA received “restricted category type certificates”which permit aerial surveillance. Prior to the FAA’s decision, the only way the private sector could operate UAS in US airspace was by obtaining an experimental airworthiness certificate which specifically restricts commercial operations.

The PUMA is expected to support emergency response crews for wildlife surveillance and oil spill monitoring over the Beaufort Sea to the north of Canada and Alaska. The Scan Eagle will be used by a major energy company off the Alaskan Coast to survey ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas.

The issuing of the certificates is seen as an important step to integrating UAS into US airspace. Both drone operations will meet the requirements of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which includes a mandate to increase Arctic UAS commercial operations.

Most non-military use of drones in the US has so far been limited to the police and other government agencies. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in March that drones will soon be used by the NYPD and will become as ubiquitous as security cameras. 

Documents released by the American civil Liberties Union (ACLU) via the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that the US Marshals Service has also experimented with the use of drones for domestic surveillance.

Military drones are used extensively by the US Air Force for targeting terrorist suspects in several countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.

The strikes have been highly controversial, as they are ordered without the knowledge or participation of the countries concerned, and are sometimes inaccurate and kill civilians.

Pakistan’s relations with the US have been soured because of drone strikes. Just last month, the new government in Islamabad summoned a top US envoy who was given a letter of protest against drone strikes by the US military.

In May, a Pakistani court ruled that US drone strikes in its tribal regions should be considered war crimes, and that the government should use force to protect its civilians.