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Dictators, celebrities, and musicians: a sad but not surprising story

24 Jul

This was originally posted on Z Blogs and has been reprinted here.

Recently, I was researching for an article looking at all the dictatorships in the world (which will soon be published) and I found something that made me interested. This was the conflation of dictators, celebrities and musicians. Some groups have been holding musicians and celebrities accountable for entertaining dictators like the Human Rights Foundation. This article will highlight which countries celebrities and musicians performed at as to show that such people are accepting blood money whether they agree or not.

First off, its important to look at which musicians and celebrities performed in which dictatorial countries. Here’s a list of the top three people who entertained dictators:

  1. Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo) [Turkmenistan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Chechnya]
  2. (the Late) Michael Jackson [Bahrain and Brunei]
  3. Mariah Carey [Libya (pre-2011) and Angola]

There are more dictator-entertainers as I’ll call them, including: Julio Iglesias (Equatorial Guinea), Dennis Rodman (North Korea), Erykah Badu (Swaziland), Kanye West (Kazakhstan) and Sting (Uzbekistan).

And here’s a map where all the dictator-entertainers entertained…

That’s not all… Breaking this down further one can see that Libya (pre-2011), Chechnya, and then-named Zaire (now DRC) brought in the most celebrities and musicians to entertain them.

What does this all mean? Well it means that all of these people took blood money. There are some who have given their money back, but there is really no excuse for performing for a dictator (and maybe their family). These people, as Human Rights Foundation, noted about Jennifer Lopez, have “the right to earn a living performing for the dictator of [their] choice and his circle of cronies.” Yet, such a right means they are greedy, just wanting more money in their pockets even if it comes with the people who are oppressed smeared all over it, as they DO NOT have to perform for dictatorships. These musicians and celebrities must be held accountable for their actions in whatever form they take. For me, I’ll be boycotting all these people and never again listening to their music.

P.S.  And please, if you have anything to add, that would be great.

 

Sources for info. presented here:

  1. http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/07/13-pop-stars-who-sang-for-dictators.html
  2. http://humanrightsfoundation.org/news/jennifer-lopez-celebrates-turkmenistans-dictator-00177
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20121016072534/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/equatorialguinea/9610021/Julio-Iglesias-criticised-for-peforming-at-Equatorial-Guinea-concert.html
  4. http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2011/02/23/stars-who-hang-with-dictators.html#b68b880c-3800-4782-af0b-dc21cea9be88
  5. http://www.thedailybeast.com/content/dailybeast/cheats/2013/06/29/j-lo-headlines-dictator-s-birthday-party.html
  6. http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2011/02/23/stars-who-hang-with-dictators.html
  7. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/12993#.U9A9oqbJWb4
  8. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alejandro-tarre/what-celebrities-should-k_b_5297618.html
  9. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/8371731/Divas-and-despots-the-stars-who-sing-for-dictators.html
  10. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/07/02/hey_jlo_thanks_for_serenading_that_dictator
  11. http://theblot.com/celebs-who-took-money-from-dictators-775289
  12. http://mariodiazbalart.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/another-american-celebrity-used-as-propaganda-by-brutal-dictatorship
  13. http://www.triplepundit.com/2013/07/jennifer-lopez-turkmenistan/
  14. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/celebrities-who-perform-for-tyrants/2013/07/03/ff05f478-e271-11e2-aef3-339619eab080_gallery.html
  15. http://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/life/music/2013/12/20/stars-who-played-for-dictators/4142991/
  16. http://www.bet.com/news/music/2013/07/16/jennifer-lopez-made-over-10-million-performing-for-dictators.html
  17. https://web.archive.org/web/20130716161554/http://humanrightsfoundation.org/Jennifer-Lopez-HRF-uncovers-more-paid-performances-for-dictators-ignorance-greed-12-07-2013.php
  18. http://www.rferl.org/media/photogallery/25097621.html
  19. http://theweek.com/article/index/249053/kanye-west-and-4-other-pop-stars-who-performed-for-dictators
  20. http://www.eonline.com/photos/3855/celebrities-and-dictators/144759
  21. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/06/stars-dance-tyrants-tunes
  22. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/celebrities-who-entertain-dictators
  23. http://money.msn.com/now/post–performing-for-dictators-jlo-keeps-the-tradition-alive
  24. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/10/entertainment/la-et-music-dictators-20110311
  25. http://radaronline.com/photos/celebrities-dictators-jennifer-lopez-kim-kardashian-dennis-rodman/photo/664063/
  26. http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/10/24/celebrities-chummy-with-dictators-risk-damaging-their-brand/
  27. http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/mariah-carey-performs-private-gig-for-angola-dictator/story-fnk822dn-1226787123934

A new American political order?

15 Jul

This was originally posted on Z Blogs and has been reposted here.

Recently, pollsters found out, via ‘We Need Smith,’ which is a self-declared “movement of Americans who believe we need new leaders because our country is badly headed in the wrong direction” and not relying on the “usual politics,” what they called the “battlelines of a new political order.” I’m not sure how I feel about this whole ‘We Need Smith’ movement, and as a result I will continue to be critical. This article will not only debut my new chart, the ‘People Policy Counter,’ but it will include charts and data on overarching views of the American public presented by the said pollsters, and other polls. And if you have any suggestions, please share them below.

The People Policy Counter

Basically, the People Policy Counter is a list of 100 issues that a majority of the American people believe[1], which is then compared to the positions of politicians (hopefully) and political parties. From my tabulations, I found that (numbers ordered by amount of agreement with the American people):

  1. The Green Party agrees with the American people 79% of the time
  2. The Justice Party agrees with the American people 61% of the time
  3. President Obama agrees with the American people 28% of the time
  4. The Democratic Party agrees with the American people 25% of the time
  5. The Libertarian Party agrees with the American people 24% of the time
  6. The Constitution Party agrees with the American people 21% of the time
  7. The Republican Party agrees with the American people 6% of the time

These results are not trying to advocate for any of the said parties, or President Obama. I tried to take my bias toward certain issues out of the equation, and I mostly just searched on the Gallup website, snatching up poll results as I went. Rather, taken from a number of polls (probably over 50)[2], it is meant to show how in line these political parties are with the opinions of the American people. As it turns out, only the centre-left Justice Party and the Green Party agree with the American public most of the time, more often than most. There were also a number of issues that I did not know the opinions of the said parties, so I did not fill them out, meaning that the percentages came out of the total of 100 issues. Hopefully, I can expand this to other politicians in the future. Here are some interesting positions that NONE of the parties took (to my knowledge) but the American people believe:

  • national referendum on key issues if voters request it
  • shorten primary season to five months
  • have a nationwide primary election, not individual state primaries
  • term limits for politicians in US Senate and US House
  • Super PACs should be illegal and there would be less corruption in the political system if there were limits on how much could be given to Super PACs
  • attack social problems as a way to lower the crime rate

Before I get to the polls conducted by ‘We Need Smith,’ here are some polls which I didn’t use in my People’s Policy Counter but are still interesting, adding questions about a ‘new political order’ emerging in the United States:

(see this poll for details)

Results from a recent poll by Rasmussen, which is usually a conservative polling organization:

Here’s a graph from Gallup showing Americans are losing confidence in ALL branches of federal government:

Polls by ‘We Need Smith’

Now for some of the polls from ‘We Need Smith’ which I turned into a graphic:

Further analysis

Yet, while these poll results are encouraging, one must remember that it is only applying to American voters. What about the Americans who don’t vote! That’s what makes this polling troubling. Americans in general, one should not forget still view socialism negatively, even though 36% view it positively, including a good amount of liberals, and even some conservatives and moderates. Still, as Gallup notes,

“Socialism” is not a completely negative term in today’s America. About a third of Americans respond positively when they hear the term. Some of this reaction may reflect unusual or unclear understandings of what socialism means. Reaction to the term is not random, however, as attested by the finding that positive images are significantly differentiated by politics and ideology.

However, what Gallup says about an “unusual and unclear understanding” of socialism is silly as they provide no evidence to back up that claim, and criticizing those who think of the word positively just reinforces their moderate position as a polling organization.

There is more. It is clear that Americans are wary of Big Business and rightly critical of it. After all, US banks and financial institutions are trusted more than two times less than small business, as noted in a Gallup poll. Similarly, Americans do not have a great of confidence in other parts of American society as well: big business, the U.S. Supreme Court, the criminal justice system, the medical system, newspapers,  the presidency, the healthcare system, public schools, television news and news on the internet, and Congress. Even organized religion/the church does not have a great deal of confidence from the American people. Sadly, there is low confidence in organized labor while there is high confidence in the military (74% have confidence) and a majority having confidence in the police (53% have confidence).

With the American people having a great deal of confidence in the military and the police, two of the institutions in established society which work to maintain the existing order, makes me question that we are on the “battlelines of a new political order.” Yes, the American people clearly believe in policies which I would say are overwhelmingly social democratic and yes, this is a basis for a transpartisan coalition (a ‘left-right coalition’) against the powers that be. After all, Americans do in some sense or another constitute a “silent radical majority” compared to those currently in power. But, this does not mean that Americans want to overturn the existing system and put in something like, say ‘modified socialism’ as Martin Luther King mentioned once. Rather, the people want reforms that would tweak the existing system. There are definitely some ideas that should be pushed forward, like single-payer healthcare and ending the wars  (and general anti-interventionism) that the American people definitely support. However, no one should be fooled into thinking that these polls evidence a new political order, but rather that they show the need for the removing of the shackles of capitalists in order to confront the climate catastrophe and capitalist system itself.

 

Notes:

[1] Here’s a screenshot of the issues I used for the people’s policy counter compared to the different parties (and president Obama):

datainputedintopeoplepolicycounter

[2] Here’s the sources I used for the people’s policy counter, with some unfortunately cut off:

sourcescuttoffbutbetterthannothing

VT socialist party comments on ‘democratic socialist’ Bernie Sanders

8 Jul

Originally posted on ZBlogs

Article after article in ‘left’ publications have advocated for US Senator Bernie Sanders to run. Even Socialist Alternative which helped Kshama Sawant, the first Socialist member of the Seattle City Council, get into office, had a recent article describing Senator Sanders as “a genuine progressive and champion of ordinary people” and said he should run as an independent for President, while they criticized his ties to the Democratic Party, vote for the war in Afghanistan and much more. Author Ron Jacobs had a different take, writing about how Bernie Sanders supported the bombing campaign of Yugoslavia in 1999, voting to create to Department of Homeland Security, voting for the Authorization of Military Force (AUMF I), later voting to make certain provisions of the Patriot Act permanent, supporting an F-35 base in Vermont despite public opposition, and so on.

Last month, I sent questions to a small self-described “nonviolent socialist” Vermont-based party called the Liberty Union Party to see what they thought of the self-declared ‘democratic socialist’ Bernie Sanders. This article, with relevant links and corrections added in, consists my questions and answers, to them by Marina Brown, a Liberty Union Party Member who is “working to get on the ballot for the position of Lt. Governor.” After it was rejected by CounterPunch and/or ignored by the editors, I decided to publish it here. The point of this interview is to challenge the idea that Senator Sanders acts in the interest of ordinary Americans while also covering subjects such as socialism.[1] After reading this interview, if you have any further questions for Marina Brown or anyone else of the Liberty Union Partu, please send them along by commenting below I’ll add them in later on.

Burkely Hermann (BH): Numerous articles have advocated for US Senator Bernie Sanders to run as President. However, in a recent article in Salon, Charles Davis wrote that “Sanders tosses rhetorical Molotovs at America’s 21st century robber barons like few other national politicians. But he’s also rather non-threatening, his politics reformist, not revolutionary – more old-school liberal than Leninist. His words comfort those on the left desperate for a voice within the electoral system, while his actions – caucusing, campaigning and voting with the Democratic Party – show the liberal mainstream that he is no Ralph Nader.” How does your party perceive Senator Sanders? What do you think ordinary Americans should know about Senator Sanders which they don’t already know?

Marina Brown (MB): Bernie Sanders votes a little more conservatively than the most liberal of the Democrats. I oppose him because he operates as a Democratic politician. He supported Barack Obama, a politician who has spearheaded multiple wars and interventions in literally dozens of countries. We oppose war. There has to be a better way. In standing with Democratic politicians in their wars of aggression he shares in their guilt.

Here are a few points of concern i have with Sanders’s performance:

Sanders has supported basing the F-35 warplanes in Burlington. Weapons of mass destruction do not belong in Vt. Not only is the creation of these war machines unethical their presence makes Burlington a target.

Sanders supported the creation of a new position in the US of Director of National Intelligence. I view the CIA, NSA and other intelligence organizations with suspicion. I feel this much power shrouded in secrecy can only lead to bad things. The FISA warrants that Sanders voted for are nothing more than rubber stamps by the most corrupt judges. Only once in the history of the FISA court has a warrant been denied.

Sanders has supported forcing states to do standardized testing on students. The current regime of ‘No Child Left Behind’ has created a school system that is often forced to teach kids just to pass the tests. Tests do not necessarily reflect the quality of education.

BH: Many people on the left paint Senator Sanders as a person crusading for justice and in a long line of progressive politicians including Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and others since he advocates for causes such as single-payer healthcare and positions himself as standing for the worker and commoner, not big business. How progressive, in your view, is Senator Sanders? What does progressivism mean to you? Is your party based on the ideas of progressivism or is it something else?

MB: Progressivism is the belief that change that is good for the people of a country can be enacted from the top down. On the surface it seems like we agree with progressive ideals however point 2 of our party platform is where there is a radical departure.

“2. Democracy should exist at all times in all the processes of society, including in the workplace and school system.”

Democracy in this context does not mean electing a high, mighty and distant politician to manage things for us. It means that WE the people should control the workplace. This implies that the stakeholders own the workplace. You cannot have democracy in the workplace if you do not own the workplace.

We advocate democracy in medicine as well as Socialized medicine but our position really is closer to point 5 of the Young Lords Party [a short-lived Puerto Rican nationalist party] 13 point platform than it is to politicians who support the Obamacare insurance scheme.

“5. We want community control of our institutions and land.

We want control of our communities by our people and programs to guarantee that all institutions serve the needs of our people. People’s control of police, health services, churches, schools, housing, transportation and welfare are needed. We want an end to attacks on our land by urban removal, highway destruction, universities and corporations.”

I also support Internet Neutrality and advocate the there be free public wireless internet wherever there is electric service. The internet is a public good like the roads. It should not become simply a conduit for wealthy corporations to peddle their goods.

Under many cities are unused fiber optic cables. I advocate putting these under community control and ownership. It is not acceptable that the US has a very substandard internet system in many areas and that access is very expensive.

BH: Looking at his voting record, Senator Sanders seems to overwhelmingly vote in line with the Democrats. This begs the question if Senator Sanders uses his status as an independent is, in Charles Davis’s words, “a narcissistic formality.” In your view, is Senator Sanders masquerading as an ‘independent’ in order to avoid calling himself a progressive or liberal Democrat? Additionally, why do you think Sanders calls himself an ‘independent’ instead of a Democrat?

MB: I am not privy to Sanders’s thought processes. I assume he runs as an Independent because it appeals best to his voters.

BH: In November 2006, progressive news show Democracy Now! declared that “Vermont’s Bernie Sanders Becomes First Socialist Elected to U.S. Senate” and in the following interview, Sen. Sanders described his brand of socialism as learning a lot from Scandinavia and “some of the work, very good work that people have done in Europe” and in his view, have “created more egalitarian societies than…the United States of America.” Despite the laudable work of Democracy Now! in covering issues that the mainstream media does not cover, in this interview, there was no mention of the past history of the socialist movement in the United States or mentioning the debate of whether social democracy under a capitalism can even be considered socialism at all. Your party considers itself “a nonviolent socialist party.” How does your party define socialism (if it can be defined) to a ordinary American? Is Senator Sanders really a socialist or is that just posturing?

MB: Without community control of institutions and worker ownership of workplaces there is no real socialism. I have not heard Bernie Sanders advocating the nationalization of very many companies or resources.

BH: At the Left Forum this past weekend [this past month], Kshama Sawant, an actual socialist who is a member of the Seattle City Council and a member of Socialist Alternative said that the Left is abdicating its responsibility if it does not provide alternatives to what she terms the “Big Business parties” (Democrats and Republicans). In your view, is electoral action (electing candidates, supporting alternative parties, etc…) a good and effective avenue to challenge these two corporate parties? If so, is it sufficient on its own or should it be accompanied by political action like that manifested in the Occupy Movement (creative acts of protest, direct action, having a dialogue with others)?

MB: The very existence of the Liberty Union Party and the fact that we have provided an uncompromising anti-war socialist option for voters IS a creative act of protest. It also allows us to have dialogs with many people while we are collecting the needed signatures to get ballot access and it sometimes opens the doors for us to speak on the issues.

 

Notes:

[1] In the past, I’ve criticized Bernie Sanders as a “fake socialist and closet progressive” or as having a “dark side” in a blog post citing CounterPunch articles about Sanders, but I haven’t had a full-blown or encompassing critique and that is why I pushed for this interview with a member of the Liberty Union Party, even if I don’t completely agree with them.

Another war on the horizon

30 Jun

This article has been reprinted from ZBlogs.

Over one year ago, the war-weary population and Congress rose up in protest and a war with Syria was averted to the chagrin of international capital. The hawkish politicians and pundits, masters of war, military establishment, arms manufacturers, and other interested parties want another go at it. On all the mainstream TV channels, the same people who advocated for the 2003 invasion in Iraq under false pretenses (‘weapons of mass destruction’), are pushing for military strikes to ‘save’ Iraq (and maybe Syria) from Islamic militants from the Islamic State or IS (previously called ISIL and ISIS) that have been shunned by Al Qaeda. But, this is only the cover story for a proposed war, which might be cover for a secret war in Iraq since the US and possibly Iran are flying “surveillance drones…over northern Iraq,” and possibly those which are armed. In response to a question about “U.S. concern of disruption of oil supplies,” President Obama said: “if, in fact, ISIL was able to obtain control over major [oil] output, significant refineries, that could be a source of concern” and that if there are “disruptions inside of Iraq…some of the other producers in the Gulf [will have]…to pick up the slack.” Basically, this means that U.S. military intervention in the region would be driven by oil.[1] This conclusion is no surprise, considering that in September, in front of the UN General Assembly, Obama said something that investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill called a “really naked…declaration of imperialism”: “the United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region…We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy,” which I’ve described in the past as the basis for Obama’s dirty energy doctrine. [2] While Obama’s petro-policy establishes some background, it is important to give some of the history of US involvement in Iraq in order to construct a fuller picture.

Long before the US got involved in the history of Iraq, the British were the pre-eminent power in the Mideast. In 1916, the British and French formulated a secret agreement called the Sykes-Picot agreement, which was later leaked by the angry Bolsheviks in October 1917, in which diplomats of both countries drew lines and divided up Arabic parts of the faltering Ottoman Empire into their own spheres of influence. In a sense it was a bit like the lines drawn in the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 as part of the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in that those ethnic and cultural groups affected had no say, except this treaty only involved two parties instead of a group of twelve countries. Sadly for the people of the region, even though the agreement’s revelation was an embarrassment for the British and French, the League of Nations granted mandates to both countries in 1919, preserving the borders that diplomats had drawn up and put them into stone. These same borders would be used a rallying cry for IS as the maligned Stratfor put it, “from the point of view of Iraq’s jihadist celebrities, the 1916 borders drawn in secret by British and French imperialists represented by Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot to divide up Mesopotamia are not only irrelevant, they are destructible.” Even establishment reporter David Ignatius wrote in a recent column for the Washington Post that “the “line in the sand,” as author James Barr called the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement to partition the region, is dissolving before our eyes, and the primary beneficiaries are ruthless Islamic terrorists”” and that Iraq is splintered, requiring, in his view, a restablizing of the region by gathering “the essential players around a table and…framing a new security architecture” and possibly revisiting “the post-1919 borders” and having accommodation of “different ethnic minorities.” The New York Times recently wrote that Iraq what Iraq has been “haunted” by since its founding in 1921, “appears to have become a reality: the de facto partition of the country into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish cantons.” The article also noted that “Iraq and Syria’s potential fragmentation along sectarian or ethnic lines…may well generate new conflicts driven by ideology, oil, and other resources” all while what they declared was the “ISIS onslaught” has made “the formal secession of Iraqi Kurdistan far more plausible.”

Still, there is something more: the hunger for resources and the push for imperialism. This is important, since, as former war correspondent Scott Anderson noted in Smithsonian magazine,

“for nearly 400 years prior to World War I, the lands of Iraq existed as three distinct semi-autonomous provinces…within the Ottoman Empire…This delicate system was undone by the West, and for an all-too-predictable reason: oil…the “nation” of Iraq was created by [the British by] fusing the three Ottoman provinces into one and put under direct British control…Naturally, Britain didn’t present this as the land-grab that it truly was…[unlike] the ‘artificial nation’ of Jordan…[Iraq's] history would be marked by a series of violent coups and rebellions, with its political domination by the Sunni minority simply deepening its sectarian fault lines…[sadly] the disastrous British playbook of 1920 was almost precisely replicated by the United States in 2003.”

The late political activist Chris Harman adds to this, writing that the “Middle East, with its huge oil reserves, was by far the most important prize for any imperialism in the second half of the 20th century,” as the British engaged in “double dealing” so that British firms could get their “hands on the oil reserves of Iraq and Iran.” [3] Pro-British governments in Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq were used to protect British “oil interests” as British troops pulled out in 1947, but Israel’s victory against “an ill-organised army sent by Arab monarchies” changed the equation. [4] A military coup led by Abdul Nasser “ended the pro-British monarchy” in Egypt and the new government nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, which was owned by Britain and France, resulting in a joint British-Israeli-French attack on Egypt. [5] At the same time this was happening, the British Empire was declining and the US swooped in, supplanting Britain “as the dominant power in the Middle East.”[6] Interestingly, the US followed British policy in the region and they were “highly successful in asserting hegemony over the region and its oil” by exploiting divisions between peoples and states which already existed. [7] This policy followed the same strategy used by European imperial powers during the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in the 19th century.

With the stage set, the US would continue to assert its hegemony in the Middle East for years to come. After all, the presidential doctrines from Truman to Obama all have involved petroleum as a major “national security interest” directly or indirectly.[8] The then-Prime Minister of Iraq, Abd al-Karim Qasim, who was not a communist, was a pro-Soviet leader whose “authoritarian rule…gradually isolated him from the citizenry” didn’t have the ire of the US government until he “partially nationalized the oil industry” which angered US and UK multinational corporations. This, along with his populist programs (land reform, construction of low-cost housing, liberalizing the country’s constitution, etc…) made him “Iraq’s most popular leader.” Qasim also took Iraq out of the US orbit by removing the country from the Baghdad Pact and decriminalizing Iraq’s Communist Party, which made the US government, which was already mad about the partial nationalization, even madder. [9] During the Kennedy Administration, Qasim was finally ousted in a coup with Saddam Hussein’s anti-communist Ba’ath Party, many of whom had been arrested by Qasim, backed financially by the CIA. The US had tried to assassinate Qasim in 1960 and failed, but in 1963, with the coup completed, the popular Iraqi nationalist leader was given a short trial and was promptly executed. With a new regime in place, the “threats posed by Qasim” to “British imperial policy in the Middle East” and US interests were removed. More horribly for the people of Iraq, the CIA provided the new regime with a list of thousands of “leftist activists and organizers” who were killed in a subsequent mass murder. [10] The new regime only lasted a few months, when it was ousted by pro-Nasser forces, until it re-emerged in 1968, in a ‘corrective coup,’ which led to the rule of Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr for eleven years. After al-Bakr resigned and stepped down in 1979, Saddam Hussein became the next President and dictator of the country, ruling Iraq for the next 24 years, and he was supported by the US government time and time again until he became ‘unfavorable.’

Iraq under Saddam engaged in a “long and bloody war” with Iran from 1980 to 1988 in hopes of attracting “the support of the US and the wealthy Gulf states and cement[ing] its relations with multinationals,” a conflict in which the US government gave weapons to both sides.[11] Despite this strange logic, Iraq’s government was not completely delusional, considering that the US even sent over future Secretary of Defense and war criminal Donald Rumsfeld, then a special Mideast envoy, at one point, to “ensure…Saddam Hussein that the US would not object to using chemical weapons against Iran” in a war which would ultimately kill 1.5 million people.[12] Between at least 1985 and 1989, the US served as Iraq’s supplier for biological materials which were used by Saddam’s scientists to create biological weapons with materials including those which could cause anthrax, “damage vital organs…[and cause] systematic illness.”[13] Additionally, US exports of weapons to Iraq included “precursors to chemical warfare agents [and] plans for chemical warfare production facilities,” which continued into December 1989 even though chemical weapons and possibly biological weapons had been used against Iranians, Kurds, and Shiites.[14] Saddam, still wanting to attract the support of the US, Gulf States and multinationals, thought that invading Kuwait, which he claimed was with “tacit U.S. approval,” would benefit his regime.[15] As it turned out, he was wrong.

The invasion of oil-rich Kuwait would be the beginning of a U.S. military intervention in Iraq that would last for years to come. The US and its allies invaded full force in August 1990, in a war meant to “purge the American people of the Vietnam Syndrome,” with a “devastating bombing campaign, a land invasion, and the massacre of 100,000 Iraqis,” and followed by brutal UN sanctions after the war. [16] Still, this is only scratching the surface. In Harman’s view, the six-month-long invasion was not only about disciplining Iraq or warning other governments and movements in the region “who might challenge US oil companies,” but it was intended to show the other world powers to accept the US’s goals as the world policeman.[17] At the same time, the war was centered around energy, with the US achieving its major goals in the invasion by making sure the “incomparable energy resources of the Middle East” remained under US control and that profits that supported the US and British economies kept flowing, while teaching the ‘lesson’ that “the world is to be ruled by force.” [18] In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn writes that the war had the political aim to boost George H.W. Bush’s popularity, but it was also motivated by a long-standing US desire “to have a decisive voice in the control of Middle East oil resources,” which is in contrast to the “very weak” official justification that Iraq was building a nuclear bomb. [19]

The short invasion also had devastating effects on people of Iraq. The US dropped some “ninety thousand tons of bombs on Iraq in the space of forty-three days, intentionally destroying the civilian infrastructure, including eighteen of the twenty electricity generating plants and the water pumping and sanitation systems” which led to starvation, “disease and deaths of tens of thousands of children.” [20] While the bombing had been intended to lead to internal revolts in Iraq and to “force Saddam Hussein from office,” as Chalmers Johnson argued, it clearly “violated international humanitarian law and made the United States liable to charges of war crimes.” [21] After the invasion was over, brutal sanctions were imposed on Iraq, reinforcing and deepening the destruction of the bombing, by imposing harsh measures on Iraq including limits on post-invasion reconstruction and expanding social services. [22] Along with the starving and death of, at minimum, 350,000 Iraqi children, a maximum of half a million, as a result of the sanctions, which lasted for almost thirteen years (1990-2003), the US and allied forces continued to have a no-fly zone over parts of Iraq and bombed it off and on. [23] Some commentators have argued that this bombing is part of a ‘twenty year war’ (1990-2010 or 1991-2011) the US committed against Iraq: Bret Stephens argued it was an “unbroken thread” of differently named US military operations, John Tirman writing in the Boston Globe said that it constituted “an extraordinary American venture” and the former Executive director of Veterans for Peace, Michael T. McPhearson calling it a “20 year nightmare for the Iraqi people.”

In 2003, despite worldwide opposition to another invasion of Iraq, encouraged by the dissemination of war propaganda which is illegal under international law, the US and its allies invaded Iraq. This intervention has its roots in the ideas of those who were part of the former secretive think tank called the Project For A New American Century (PNAC). These neo-cons wanted an invasion of Iraq to gain control of its oil, fire a “warning shot across the bow” of every Mideast leader, and establish Iraq as “a military staging area for the eventual invasion and overthrow of several Middle Eastern regimes,” including allies, as noted in 1996 report.[24] Later, PNAC would push for a possible “permanent Gulf presence” and they would take positions in the Bush administration to “implement their neoconservative agenda” with Vice-President Dick Cheney, one of PNAC’s founding members, as part of the pack. [25] As cover for a war theorized by PNAC, the US government insisted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction possibly because “America supplied them” in the past, as noted earlier in this article. [26]. In 2003, a 12,000 page document was released to the UN Security Council by the Iraqi government showing, among other aspects, that of the “150 international companies that had armed Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s,” twenty four of them were American, including Hewlett-Packard, DuPont, Honeywell International and Bechtel. [27]

There was something even more disturbing about the invasion, which had clearly not happened in the previous invasion in 1990-1991: selling off public services. The “whole country” became “for sale” with oil, government ministries, “schools, universities, roads…bridges” and more beginning to be privatized, more and more than ever before.[28] Winners of reconstruction of Iraq brought on by the bombing of the country to smithereens, included businesses who had “long-standing connections…with Natsios and the Bush administration,” with examples including Bechtel, Halliburton/KBR, DynCorp, and numerous others.[29] There are other groups that profited from the invasion as well, like the Carlyle Group, “thanks to the sales of robotics systems, and a major Iraq contract to train police.”[30] As social activist Naomi Klein put it, “nowhere has the merger of these political and profit-making goals [of groups like Bechtel and the Carlyle Group] been clearer than on the battlefields of Iraq.” [31]

There were a number of people who profited and had a role in creating a new Iraq. One of those people was James Baker, who became an equity partner at the Carlyle Group after George H.W. Bush’s term ended and was part of a law firm that is “often recognized as one of the leading oil and gas firms in the world”: Baker Botts. When George W. Bush named him as the special envoy on Iraq’s debt, he did not have to cash out his interests in Baker Botts and the Carlyle Group, even though both groups had “direct interests in the war.”[32] Later, as an envoy, Baker was supposed to be convincing governments that “Saddam-era debts should be canceled,” yet he was pushing for them to be paid by the Iraqi government.[33] Even though Baker resigned after Naomi Klein revealed the true nature of his dealings, Iraq went on to pay over $2.5 billion in reparations, mostly to Kuwait, and the rest of the unpaid debt was “merely rescheduled” which means it will have to be paid in the future.[34] There are a number of other sinister characters that should be remembered as well. One of these was George Schultz, who headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which was formed to help the “Bush White House…building the case for war in the public mind,” which sounds eerily similar to The Committee on Public Information which worked to build the case for World War I among the generally pacifist American population. [35] Schultz, at one point wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post calling for Saddam to be removed from power but he did not “disclose to his readers that he was, at the time, a member of the board of directors at Bechtel…[which] would collect $23 billion to reconstruct Iraq.”[36] There’s someone else as well: Richard Perle. Perle was not only a “friend and business associate of [Henry] Kissinger’s” but he was “one of the first post-9/11 disaster capitalists” since he created a venture capital firm not long after 9/11 called Trireme Partners which invested “in firms and services relevant to homeland security and defense.”[37] This is relevant because he sat on the Defense Policy Board, an advisory committee which offers an “excellent example of the invasive and malignant influence that military corporations exert on government policy.” [38] Perle even “told his investors about his pull at the Pentagon” which is not unreasonable since he was a director of a corporation which manufactured “high-tech eavesdropping technology” and was employed by Goldman Sachs, but his colleagues never knew about Trireme Partners. [39] There is one last figure that cannot be forgotten: Paul Bremmer, who was part of an insurance brokerage named Marsh & McLennan, which was “created a month after 9/11 to profit from the new concern around catastrophic risk.” [40] Bremmer went on to ‘manage’ Iraq as the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority or CPA based in Iraq’s Green Zone, which is exactly what Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, is all about. Importantly, Bremmer, in conjunction with Rumsfeld, decided to “disband Saddam’s army, the one institution that somewhat united the country,” which has bearing on the recent events in Iraq. There are others I won’t go into detail on, but are still important. [41]

Flash forward to December 2011, when the US, in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement signed with Iraq, was pulling out the last US troops from the country. For some, this must have meant that the ‘twenty year war’ waged by the US against Iraq was over. Yet, a secret army of contractors, diplomatic personnel and more remained, with many of them a likely part of the U.S.’s biggest embassy in the world in the Green Zone, a sign of U.S. hegemony. Almost in an imperialistic manner, the US government abandoned plans to keep troops in the country in October 2011 because “Iraqi leaders…adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity” or as Obama put it recently, the US has a “core requirement” where US troop presence in any country requires immunity from the host government and “the Iraqi government…declined to provide us that immunity.” One can’t blame the Iraqi government for rejecting immunity for US troops who had occupied their country for eight years and were part of the terrorization of Iraq’s population in a war that killed a minimum of 200,000 Iraqis and a maximum of over a million. The US government is now considering a war against Iraq not by bringing in ground troops but rather a Libya-style war of a massive bombing campaign accompanied by a no-fly-zone to achieve “results” regardless of the “collateral damage.” The US seems distrustful of Maliki’s government, which we installed, and this might be because it is not “an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein” as argued by free market fundamentalist Thomas Friedman in the 1990s but rather is a rather a government that is too weak.[42]

Neo-cons are going from channel to channel, pushing the cause for war with Iraq, along with senators such as John ‘bomb Iran’ McCain and Lindsey ‘world is a battlefield’ Graham. Still, even Rand Paul said that Dick Cheney was to blame for the current Iraq crisis while former judge Andrew Napolitano even wrote that “America is no safer because of the Iraq war, but we are weaker” and that “we have no lawful right to choose a side [in Iraq] and assist it militarily.” Numerous peace groups like Veterans for Peace, CodePink, Iraq Veterans Against the War, World Beyond War, the War Resisters League, and numerous others have declared that they are opposed to another war in Iraq, as has a majority of the American population as shown in poll after poll. On the other hand, the forces pushing for war seem to echo what Joesph Nye, wrote about soft power [43] in 2004:

“popularity is ephemeral and should not be a guide for foreign policy in any case. The United States can act without the world’s applause. We are so strong we can do as we wish. We are the world’s only superpower, and that fact is bound to engender envy and resentment…We do not need permanent allies and institutions. We can always pick up a coalition of the willing when we need to.”[44]

Such arrogance about American power professed by Nye is similarly professed by the warmongers and think tanks like the pro-Israel and purportedly bipartisan Washington Institute of Near East Policy as recorded on C-SPAN, and numerous others [45] who are pushing for another war.

Later in his life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached about how he did not accept war as a lesser evil and his rejection of liberalism:

“I felt that while war could never be a positive good, it could serve as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force. War, as horrible as it is, might be preferable to surrender to a totalitarian system. But I now believe that the potential destructiveness of modern weapons totally rules out the possibility of war ever again achieving a negative good. If we assume that mankind has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war and destruction. In our day of space vehicles and guided ballistic missiles, the choice is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”[46]

In this time of dire need, we must heed the words of Dr. King and do all we can through nonviolent means to stop the US government from committing the “supreme international crime” against Iraq for the third time in world history: a war of aggression.

 

Notes:

[1] ISIS attacked Iraq’s biggest oil refineryand possibly took it over, which makes US intervention that much more likely. On June 19th, Obama seemed to be pushing what one could easily call the ‘prelude to war’ with the increase in so-called ‘military advisers’ to Iraq and he also said that US national security interests in Iraq include commitments to “issues like energy and global energy markets” which is code for protecting (mostly) petroleum in the Persian Gulf region. In a post on the Heritage Foundation’s blog, of all places, one of their senior analysts, James Phillips, wrote that: “Even if it [ISIS] is expelled from oil-producing areas, the resulting destruction of pipelines and other infrastructure is likely to boost world oil prices.” Others wrote about this as well: Nafeez Ahmed also wrote about oil more broadly as a cause of the uprising, writing that “…the rise of Isis…is blowback from the same brand of oil addicted US-UK covert operations we have run for decades;” veteran Arab journalist Nicola Nasser wrote in CounterPunchthat“the raging war in Iraq now will determine whether Iraqi hydrocarbons are a national asset or multinational loot. Any U.S. military support to the regime it installed in Baghdad should be viewed within this context;” political economist Rob Urie who also wrote in CounterPunch that “what is now at risk with the fall of Mosul and Tikrit and the reported capture of a major oil field is the investment and past, present and future profits of the multi-national oil companies that are now operating in Iraq;” and Michael Schwartz wrote on TomDispatchthat “the issue that underlies much of the violence [is] control of Iraqi oil…there was nothing new about local guerrillas attacking oil facilities…It has always been about the oil, stupid!”

[2] See articles I self-published on the topic: ‘Part 1: A petroleum-based national security policy‘ & ‘Part 2: the Great Game of extreme energy extraction‘.

[3] Harman, C. (2008). A people’s history of the world (p. 558). London: Verso.

[4] Ibid, 559.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 559-560

[8] See the article I self-published (‘Part 1: A petroleum-based national security policy‘), specifically starting with the paragraph beginning “With all of this rhetoric, one may just dismiss it as words…” and David S. Painter’s analysis in The Journal for American History titled ‘Oil and the American Century,’ among others.

[9] Discussion of the 1963 coup originally comes from one of my articles on JFK’s presidency in Dissident Voice about “assassinations, anti-communism, interventionism and right-wing dictators.”

[10] Andrew and Patrick Cockburn later described the coup “in retrospect…[as] the CIA’s favorite coup” and William Blum noted on page 134 of Rogue State that the US State Department was pleased by the new regime in Iraq honoring agreements to the Iraq Petroleum Company, since the US had a part in this petroleum company.

[11] Harman, 600.

[12] Zinn, H., Konopacki, M., & Buhle, P. (2008). A people’s history of American empire: a graphic adaptation (p. 255). New York: Metropolitan Books.

[13] Blum, W. (2000). Rogue state: a guide to the world’s only superpower (pp. 121). Monroe, Me.: Common Courage Press.

[14] Ibid, 122.

[15] Zinn, Konopacki, & Buhle, 256.

[16] Ibid, 256-7 and Harman, 600.

[17] Harman, 600.

[18] Chomsky, N. (1992). What Uncle Sam really wants (p. 67). Berkeley: Odonian Press.

[19] Zinn, H. (2003). A people’s history of the United States: 1492-Present (Fifth ed., p. 595). Boston: Harper Perennial.

[20] Ibid, 26; Johnson, C. (2006). Nemesis: the last days of the American Republic (p. 26). New York: Metropolitan Books.

[21] Johnson, 27.

[22] Ibid, 27-29.

[23] Ibid, 29.

[24] Caldicott, H. (2002). The new nuclear danger: George W. Bush’s military-industrial complex (p. XXII). New York: New Press.

[25] Ibid, XXIII

[26] Ibid, XXIX

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid, XXXVIII-XXXIX

[29] Ibid, XI, XLII, and XLV

[30] Klein, N. (2007). The shock doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism (p. 400). New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt.

[31] Ibid, 407

[32] Ibid, 401.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid, 402.

[35] Ibid, 402-3.

[36] Ibid, 403.

[37] Ibid, 404-5.

[38] Caldicott, XXXIII-XXXIV; Klein, 405.

[39] Caldicott, XXXV; Klein, 405.

[40] Caldicott, XLVI.

[41] For more specific people involved in Iraq, see Chapters 16 and 17 of The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein and from page XXI to page LV of The New Nuclear Danger by Helen Caldicott.

[42] Chomsky, N. (1992). What Uncle Sam really wants (p. 67-8). Berkeley: Odonian Press.

[43] Serow, A. G., & Ladd, E. C. (2007). From Soft Power. The Lanthan Readings of American Polity (Fourth Edition ed., pp. 650). Baltimore: Lanthan Publishers Inc. On this page, Nye defines soft power as “getting others to want the outcomes you want…[which] rests on the ability to shape the preferences of others,” in an excerpt from his book, Soft Power. Later, Suzanne Nossel, currently the executive director of the PEN American center, who was formerly the deputy Secretary of State and held high positions in Amnesty USA and Human Rights Watch, would articulate her idea of ‘smart power,’ which would contrast “the formerly unabashed Bush-Cheney reliance on ‘Hard Power.’” By employing soft Power or “diplomatic, economic, and cultural pressures, which can be combined with military force, to ‘work our will’ upon foreign nations.” This idea would form the basis of the thesis of ‘humanitarian imperialism’ or intervening militarily under humanitarian pretenses, which are a guise for the real reasons of intervention. Nye’s arguments follow those of Nossel since he also claims to have invented the term of ‘smart power.’

[44] Ibid, 654-655, another excerpt from Nye’s book, Soft Power.

[45] Other people supporting the war include, according to Bob Dreyfuss writing in The Nation, aSlate article, an article in the Weekly Standard, a Reuters article, a Washington Post column, another Washington Post column, an article in The Guardian, an article in the Star Tribune, the Atlantic Council, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and the Center for American Progress: former Vice-President and war criminal Dick Cheney; the CEO of the New American Foundation Anne-Marie Slaughter; the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ); the ISW (Institute of the Study of War) chair and former four-star general Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI); now AEI scholar Paul Wolfowitz who formed the main ideas of the Bush doctrine; Douglas Feith who engaged in postwar planning in Iraq; Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard [which is similar to what Kristol argued in the past]and Frederick Kagan, a resident scholar of the AEI; war criminal Tony Blair; Representative Ed Royce who wants to attack what he idiotically terms “columns of terrorists” in Iraq with drones; Berry Pavel of The Atlantic Council; Clifford D. May who is the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; Washington Post columnists Charles Krauthammer and David Ignatius; and Brian Katulis, Hardin Lang and Vikram Singh of the Center of American Progress.

[46] King, M. L. (2012). Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings (pp. 157-158). Boston: Beacon Press. (Original work published 1963). In 1960, he made a similar speech in Chicago, Illinois. The quotes used in this article do not come from that speech, but come from another speech, seemingly later in his life: “He said in his last book that he had come to see the need for the method of nonviolence in international relations.” The book that this quote talks about is called The Trumpet of Conscience, which was published in 1968.

A prelude to war?

20 Jun

Obamaenergymarkets

The drums to war as many have pointed out are obviously being beat by those in the mainstream press, the neo-cons and others hungering for another conflict. Recently President Obama seemed to bring the US even closer to a war with more US boots on the ground which aren’t combat troops per say but they could be a prelude to further involvement.

Geoff Dyer of the Financial Times reports that the 300 additional ‘military advisers’ on top of the 275 U.S. military personnel deployed “to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” could be used as preparations for war:

“Announcing the deployment two and a half years after US forces left Iraq, Mr Obama said the troops would help collect intelligence about the militants now in control of large parts of the northwest. This would potentially help co-ordinate “targeted” air strikes. The decision to send even a small number of troops back to Iraq represents a striking change of heart for Mr Obama, whose two presidential election campaigns were built around a pledge to end the US-led war in the country…Following a plea for military help from the Iraqi government, the US moved warships to the Gulf that could be used to conduct air strikes. In recent days, Pentagon officials have stressed how difficult it would be for the US military to use air power effectively in Iraq, because many Isis forces are based in towns and cities and because they lack the detailed intelligence needed to conduct strikes. General Martin Dempsey, chair of the joint chiefs of staff, said on Wednesday that air strikes were unlikely “until we can actually clarify this intelligence picture”…Mr Obama has said that any new US military intervention would depend in part on an effort by the Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki to reach out to disaffected Sunnis…the White House has not called publicly for the Iraqi prime minister to stand down. The administration worries that an open push to unseat Mr Maliki could backfire.”

In another article in the Financial Times, Dyer writes that

“The decision to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq is the first step in a US intervention to defeat Sunni militants and to prevent a destabilising partition of the country…Mr Obama is sending the sort of military contingent that could facilitate the use of US air power against the insurgents, but he also made clear that US force was dependent on political reform by the government of Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.”

If this is the first step in a broader conflict, it should be roundly criticized. But before I get to that section, there was  detailed article in The Guardian by Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman about the advisers coming to Iraq:

“Barack Obama announced on Thursday that a contingent up to 300 “military advisers” will be sent to help Iraq’s beleaguered army repel the advance of Sunni insurgents, but insisted the US would not be dragged into another bloody war in the country. The troops, drawn from US special operations forces, will assist the Iraqi military to develop and execute a counter-offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Their mission is likely to spread to the selection of targets for any future air strikes, but Obama stopped short of accepting a plea from Baghdad to order US air power into the skies over Iraq immediately. Instead, Obama said the option of air strikes would be held in reserve…Mindful of the long shadow cast by the last Iraq war, Obama said the deployment of military advisers, expected to be taken from US special operations forces, would not be drawn into combat…However, he said it was in America’s national interest not to see “an all-out civil war in Iraq”, warning that it could become a haven for terrorists…The lack of reliable intelligence identifying clear targets against Isis…is one factor holding the White House back from launching strikes…The contingent of special forces will train and advise Iraq’s troops…Their presence on the ground, and close to the field of battle, is also intended to provide the US with intelligence that could be used to guide any air or missile strikes…his decision not to authorise immediate air strikes will disappoint the Iraqi government…In reserve on the deck of the USS George HW Bush are four squadrons of F/A-18 fighter jets, which the Pentagon ordered into the Persian Gulf on Saturday. The advantage of using naval aviators is that they need not require any regional country’s permission to fly over foreign territory…US officials would not rule out the prospect of potential bombing campaigns in Syria as well as Iraq…While senior officials denied that they sought to oust Maliki or promote a successor, they suggested that the additional US military action desired by Iraq could be contingent on a new and nonsectarian governing coalition.”

Then, there was an article in the Washington Post saying that:

“President Obama authorized additional military assistance for Iraq’s fight against advancing Islamist militants Thursday, but made clear that he will continue to hold back more substantive support, including U.S. airstrikes, until he sees a direct threat to U.S. personnel or a more inclusive and capable Iraqi government. Obama said he would send up to 300 additional U.S. Special Operations troops to better assess the situation on the ground…The administration is straddling difficult politics in Iraq and at home, seeking to answer Republican critics…The United States has backed Maliki’s leadership over the past eight years…U.S. diplomats, meeting this week with Maliki’s political rivals, have pressed them to move much more rapidly to form coalitions and establish a parliamentary majority…Forming a government after Iraq’s last election, in 2010, took more than eight months; the U.S. goal now is that it happen within weeks…In addition to increasing intelligence assets in Iraq — including manned and unmanned aerial reconnaissance — Obama has ordered up to 275 troops to bolster security for the U.S. Embassy and other American facilities in Baghdad. Those troops, and the new ones Obama announced Thursday, will effectively double the U.S. military presence in Iraq. About 600 military personnel assigned to the embassy have been handling U.S. military sales and other forms of cooperation since the last combat troops withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011. Some of the newly authorized forces, drawn from U.S. Central Command units already in the Middle East, will establish joint operations centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning, including helping Iraqis target ISIS forces…A second senior official said that…“We are going to start small,”…But “the president made clear that unilateral military action and . . . discrete and targeted strikes remain a possibility . . . once we have better information” on the ground…Obama and other officials made clear that the United States will calibrate its assistance, including possible airstrikes, based on Iraq’s progress in forming a broad-based government.”

There was an article from the ‘paper of record’ (The New York Times) on this as well

“President Obama said Thursday that he would deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help its struggling security forces fend off a wave of Sunni militants who have overrun large parts of the country, edging the United States back into a conflict that Mr. Obama once thought he had left behind…Mr. Obama said he was prepared to take “targeted and precise military action,” a campaign of airstrikes that a senior administration official said could be extended into neighboring Syria... Mr. Obama is now returning American soldiers to an unresolved conflict. After struggling to steer clear of the sectarian fault lines that divide Iraq, he is now plunging into yet another effort to unite a fractured country…The military advisers will have a number of missions, Pentagon officials said. They will try to determine whether, and which, Iraqi defense forces are capable and willing to stand up to the fighters from the militant group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. They will gather intelligence on how big a threat the group poses as well as which militant targets could potentially be struck if Mr. Obama decides to order airstrikes. And they will give the United States an assessment of the complex security situation in Iraq…The first few dozen of the 300 special operations forces are already on their way from bases in the region, officials said,..Other advisers will staff two joint operations centers, which will be used to collate and share intelligence with Iraqi officers…On Thursday, stepping up its reconnaissance over Iraq, the United States had 34 piloted and unmanned flights, officials said, double the number of such flights on Tuesday…Mr. Obama’s announcement also has implications for American policy in Syria, which so far has been shaped by the president’s reluctance to get heavily involved in a complex civil war. A senior official said Mr. Obama would not hesitate to strike militant targets on the Syrian side of the Iraq-Syria border…“The president’s made clear time and again that we will take action as necessary, including direct U.S. military action if it’s necessary to defend the United States against an imminent threat,” the official said…As Mr. Obama considers airstrikes, he said he would continue to consult with Congress. For now, the White House does not consider the deployment of advisers to constitute “use of military force, ” said Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman.”

I’m not sure what this consulting with Congress will look like, but I worry that it will be an expanded Iraqi AUMF (Authorization of Military Force), or a new AUMF pushed by the administration. There is one last article that I’ll quote here. Its by Jim Michaels in USA Today which is a rag of crap (unlike the New York Times that has professionalism but also likes to lie people into wars for fun (i.e. Iraq invasion in 2003 which they defended in a 2004 article), has over 8% of its stock owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and much more):

The forces President Obama is sending to Iraq will not be conventional combat troops, but that doesn’t mean they can avoid combat or risk…The troops going to Iraq will be small teams of Special Forces advisers that will provide assistance to Iraqi security forces and provide the Pentagon with eyes and ears on the ground. Obama said he would commit no more than 300 people. The advisers will avoid “offensive operations” and will be positioned at the brigade level and above…The challenge for the president is to commit enough forces to assist the Iraqis while ensuring the mission doesn’t expand over time. The Vietnam War started with a limited mission of U.S. advisers sent to help the South Vietnamese armed forces.

Finally, its best to quote Obama’s remarks yesterday that all of these publications are citing:

“As I said last week, ISIL poses a threat to the Iraqi people, to the region, and to U.S. interests…First, we are working to secure our embassy and personnel operating inside of Iraq…Second, at my direction, we have significantly increased our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets so that we’ve got a better picture of what’s taking place inside of Iraq…Third, the United States will continue to increase our support to Iraqi security forces.  We’re prepared to create joint operation centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the terrorist threat of ISIL…we’re prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisors — up to 300 — to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward. American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well…Fourth, in recent days, we’ve positioned additional U.S. military assets in the region.  Because of our increased intelligence resources, we’re developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL.”

“And going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.  If we do, I will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region…Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq…Now, it’s not the place for the United States to choose Iraq’s leadersMeanwhile, the United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another.  There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States…”

“But what’s clear from the last decade is the need for the United States to ask hard questions before we take action abroad, particularly military action…And going forward, we will continue to consult closely with Congress.  We will keep the American people informed.  We will remain vigilant.  And we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the security of the United States and the safety of the American people…As I said, it’s not our job to choose Iraq’s leaders.  Part of what our patriots fought for during many years in Iraq was the right and the opportunity for Iraqis to determine their own destiny and choose their own leaders…I think we always have to guard against mission creep, so let me repeat what I’ve said in the past:  American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again. We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq.  Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis”

“It is in our national security interests not to see an all-out civil war inside of Iraq, not just for humanitarian reasons, but because that ultimately can be destabilizing throughout the region.  And in addition to having strong allies there that we are committed to protecting, obviously issues like energy and global energy markets continues to be important...”

“And if they [ISIL] accumulate more money, they accumulate more ammunition, more military capability, larger numbers, that poses great dangers not just to allies of ours like Jordan, which is very close by, but it also poses a great danger potentially to Europe and ultimately the United States…So we have humanitarian interests in preventing bloodshed.  We have strategic interests in stability in the region.  We have counterterrorism interests.  All those have to be addressed… And so I think it is important though to recognize that, despite that decision, that we have continued to provide them with very intensive advice and support and have continued throughout this process over the last five years to not only offer them our assistance militarily…”

“There is going to be a long-term problem in this region in which we have to build and partner with countries that are committed to our interests, our values…you have a group like ISIL that is doing everything that it can to descend the country back into chaos…In the meantime, my job is to make sure that American personnel there are safe; that we are consulting with the Iraqi security forces; that we’re getting a better assessment of what’s on the ground; and that we’re recognizing the dangers of ISIL over the long term, and developing the kinds of comprehensive counterterrorism strategies that we’re going to need to deal with this issue…”

“we have deep differences with Iran across the board on a whole host of issues.And Iran obviously should consider the fact that if its view of the region is solely through sectarian frames, they could find themselves fighting in a whole lot of places.  And that’s probably not good for the Iranian economy or the Iranian people over the long term either.  I suspect there are folks in Iran who recognize that…But old habits die hard, and we’ll have to see whether they can take what I think would be a more promising path over the next several days.”

What Obama has to say does shed some light on what the US wants to happen in Iraq, but its also deeply troubling. What he says shows that the US government still thinks military force is something that’s completely fine if the situation ‘requires it’ to stop a “group like ISIL.” Strangely, he says that “it’s not the place” for the US government to choose Iraq’s leaders, yet the US helped overthrow the government of Iraq in 1963 (via the CIA), supported Saddam Hussein throughout the 1980s and then overthrow him in a 2003 invasion. So, I’m not sure what Obama is talking about in this point at all, in fact I feel he is just lying again, just like that time he said in September to the UN General Assembly almost arrogantly (and absurdly): “the notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.” This line of reasoning echoes Bill Kristol who said, also absurdly, in response to criticism of a Project for A New American Century (PNAC):  “America is not an empire, and its power stems from voluntary associations and alliances. American hegemony is relatively well accepted because people all over the world know that U.S. forces will eventually withdraw from the occupied territories. The effect of declaring that the United States is an empire would not only be factually wrong, but strategically catastrophic.” There is something that at least Obama admits: the US is supposedly caring about ‘humanitarian’ implications of the destablization brought on by ISIL and protecting “strong allies” but also “issues like energy and global energy markets continues to be important.” This is co-word for petroleum (mostly) in the Gulf, which he wouldn’t say as explicitly as he did on Friday (the concern if ISIL takes over refineries, etc…). After all, lets not what the EIA has to say and these maps (taken from this article)

maps

It seems evident that war is on the way, and I don’t like it. If the US decides to use drones in Iraq, they would be following what PolicyMic describes as a country “where U.S. drone attacks were originally pioneered and developed” since it was the “target of over 17,000 armed drone sorties and 48 strikes between 2008 and 2011″ most of which “occurred in 2008.” It is unknown what Obama’s ‘consultation’ of Congress will look like, but hopefully it is a chance to push against any US military action in the country secretly (through military advisers) or openly (through bombing, drone strikes, etc…). Its the best hope we’ve got.

What Chelsea Manning has told us

17 Jun

 “[Chelsea Manning] did break the law by sharing private government knowledge with Wikileaks about what she observed while she was over in the Middle East. But there has been no proof that by leaking this information she risked our lives. By leaking this information we know about critical events in our countries actions while over in the Middle East.”- Lucas McCahill of the LGBTQ Humanist Council of Baltimore

With trans* whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s new op-ed in the New York Times about the U.S. military and media freedom there are those who will say that Manning got what she deserved, that she is a traitor, yadda yadda. Yet, none of this is true. Chelsea Manning leaked thousands of documents to the anti-secrecy and transparency organization, Wikileaks (which is also a legitimate journalistic outfit) which have improved the public discourse. These documents and files included the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs, the Guantanamo files,over 250,000 US diplomatic cables (which Wikileaks called ‘Cablegate’[1]), and the Collateral Murder video [2] This article highlights some of what was leaked, and shows that Manning was just following the montra of the current national security state: ‘if you see something, say something,’ by leaking dirty deeds of the US government, war crimes and much more.

Here are some specifics of what we know now because of Chelsea Manning:

1. “According to WikiLeaks cache of U.S. embassy cables, there is number of different discoveries about Iran. For one, the United States has been involved in Iran in some way since that time and people are tired of reforms,” secondly the US has been working to foment revolution in Iran and it is, “right for Iran to be angry at the United States due to current actions there covertly and actions in the past” as noted in an article I wrote for Interesting Blogger (on blogspot) back in December 2011 [3]

2. As noted in The Guardian, “Chevron negotiated with Tehran about developing an Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield in spite of tight US sanctions…[and] a US state department source said that after a first round of bids in June 2009, there were news stories that Iraq’s government was in talks with Chevron to develop the Majnoon oilfield. It is one of the richest in the world, near Basra and the Iranian border.” [4]

3. As the founding director of Global Voices Advocacy has said, “what we call the Arab Spring was the result of many seemingly small things, butterfly effects. One of them was a courageous woman named Chelsea Manning. If the U.S. will take 35 years from Chelsea Manning’s life, may it console her that she has given us, Arabs, the secret gift that helped expose and topple 50 years of dictatorships.”

4. As noted by Greg Mitchell in an article in The Nation, he writes that there were a number of things that came out from the ‘Cablegate’ leaks:

  • “[the] Yemeni president lied to his own people, claiming his military carried out air strikes on militants actually done by the US. All part of giving US full rein in country against terrorists”
  • “[the] US tried to get Spain to curb its probes of Gitmo torture and rendition”
  • “Egyptian torturers [were] trained by FBI…allegedly to teach the human rights issues”
  • “[a] State Dept. memo [said that the] US-backed 2009 coup in Honduras was “illegal and unconstitutional””
  • cables on Tunisia which “appear to [have] help[ed] spark revolt in that country [show that] the country’s ruling elite described as “The Family,” with Mafia-like skimming throughout the economy. The country’s first lady may have made massive profits off a private school”
  • “[the] US knew all about massive corruption in Tunisia back in 2006 but went on supporting the government anyway, making it the pillar of its North Africa policy”
  • “[the] cables showed the UK promised in 2009 to protect US interests in the official Chilcot inquiry on the start of the Iraq war”
  • “[the] oil giant Shell claims to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government”
  • “[the] US pressured the European Union to accept GM[Os]“
  • “Washington was misled by our own diplomats on Russia-Georgia showdown”
  • “[an] extremely important historical document [was] finally released in full: Ambassador April Glaspie’s cable from Iraq in 1990 on meeting with Saddam Hussein before Kuwait invasion”
  • “the UK sidestepped a ban on housing cluster bombs…[there were] shocking levels of US spying at the United Nations…and intense use of diplomats abroad in intelligence-gathering roles”
  • “[a] potential environmental disaster kept secret by the US when a large consignment of highly enriched uranium in Libya came close to cracking open and leaking radioactive material into the atmosphere”
  • “[the] US used threats, spying, and more to try to get its way at last year’s crucial climate conference in Copenhagen”
  • “American and British diplomats fear Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program — with poor security — could lead to fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists or a devastating nuclear exchange with India”
  • “Hundreds of cables detail US use of diplomats as “sales” agents, more than previously thought, centering on jet rivalry of Boeing vs. Airbus”
  • “Millions in US military aid for fighting Pakistani insurgents went to other gov’t uses (or stolen) instead”
  • “Israel wanted to bring Gaza to the ”brink of collapse.””
  • “The US secret services [sic] used Turkey as a base to transport terrorism suspects as part of its extraordinary rendition program”
  • “as protests spread in Egypt, cables revealed that strong man Suleiman was at center of government’s torture programs, causing severe backlash for Mubarak after he named Suleiman vice president during the revolt. Other cables revealed or confirmed widespread Mubarak regime corruption, police abuses and torture, and claims of massive Mubarak family fortune, significantly influencing media coverage and US response.”

5. As noted on the site of the Chelsea Manning Support Network, Chelsea Manning revealed that (of things which haven’t been mentioned before)

  • “thousands of reports of prisoner abuse and torture had been filed against the Iraqi Security Forces” but the US government did nothing
  • “U.S. officials were told to cover up evidence of child abuse by contractors in Afghanistan”
  • the prison at Guantanamo “has held mostly innocent people and low-level operatives
  • “there is an official tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan”
  • “The State Department backed corporate opposition to a Haitian minimum wage law.”
  • “The State Department authorized the theft of the UN Secretary General’s DNA.”
  • “The Japanese and U.S. Governments had been warned about the seismic threat at Fukushima.”
  • “The Obama Administration allowed Yemen’s President to cover up a secret U.S. drone bombing campaign.”

6. As noted by Ryan Gallagher in an article in Slate magazine, Manning revealed that:

  • “Coalition troops’ [had an] alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers.”
  • “U.S. special operations forces were conducting offensive operations inside Pakistan despite sustained public denials and statements to the contrary by U.S. officials.”
  • “A leaked diplomatic cable provided evidence that during an incident in 2006, U.S. troops in Iraq executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. The disclosure of this cable was later a significant factor in the Iraqi government’s refusal to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution beyond 2011, which led to U.S. troops withdrawing from the country.”
  • “A NATO coalition in Afghanistan was using an undisclosed “black” unit of special operations forces to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. The unit was revealed to have had a kill-or-capture list featuring details of more than 2,000 senior figures from the Taliban and al-Qaida, but it had in some cases mistakenly killed men, women, children, and Afghan police officers.”
  • “The U.S. threatened the Italian government in an attempt to influence a court case involving the indictment of CIA agents over the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric. Separately, U.S. officials were revealed to have pressured Spanish prosecutors to dissuade them from investigating U.S. torture allegations, secret “extraordinary rendition” flights, and the killing of a Spanish journalist by U.S. troops in Iraq.”

7. As noted by Rania Khalek on Alternet, Manning revealed that:

  • “US officials work as salespeople for Boeing.  The merger of state and corporate power is striking in a  slew of cables  detailing US State Department officials acting as marketing agents on behalf of one lucky corporation. Earlier this year the  New York Times  revealed details about how US diplomats have actively promoted the sale of commercial jets built by the US company Boeing. Hundreds of cables from WikiLeaks show that Boeing had a sales force of US diplomats that went up to the highest levels of government, even going as far as sabotaging sales for Boeing’s European rival Airbus. Enticing deals for the jetliners were offered to heads of state and airline executives in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey and other countries. The WikiLeaks documents also suggest that demands for bribes and payment to suspicious intermediaries still take place.”
  • “Public Citizen has discovered a cable from October 2009, when Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa issued a decree to “improve access to medicines and support public health programs through a protocol that would reduce drug costs. Cables from US embassy personnel in Ecuador to the U.S. Department of State show “the United States, multinational pharmaceutical companies, and three ministers within the government shared information and worked to undermine Ecuador’s emerging policy.””
  • “From Bolivia to Venezuela to Peru, American diplomats are obsessed with securing the profits of multinational mining corporations at the cost of indigenous rights and the environment. At least that is the impression given by WikiLeaks cables that detail the eruption of anti-mining protests near the Ecuador border against the mining firm Minera Majaz.”
  • “A more recent US embassy cable dated March 17, 2008, reveals that US diplomats spied on indigenous activists and their supporters who were organizing anti-summit protests against the European Union-Latin American Heads of State summit that was scheduled in Lima that year.”

8. As noted in a November 2010 Reuters article purportedly about the ‘main revelations’ of the Wikileaks cables, Manning revealed:

  • “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program and is reported to have advised Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.”
  • “The Bahraini king told U.S. diplomats that Iran’s nuclear program should be halted by any means, and the crown prince of the emirate of Abu Dhabi saw “the logic of war dominating” when it comes to dealing with the Iranian threat.”
  • “Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia offered to promote energy ties with China if Beijing backed sanctions against Iran, U.S. diplomatic cables said.”
  • “The top diplomatic adviser to French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a senior U.S. diplomat last year that Iran was a “fascist” state and the time had come to decide further steps.”
  • “A non-Iranian businessman traveling often to Tehran told U.S. diplomats last year one of his contacts had been told by former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had terminal leukemia and could die in a few months.”
  • “Iran has obtained sophisticated missiles from North Korea capable of hitting western Europe, and the United States is concerned Iran is using those rockets as “building blocks” to build longer-range missiles.”
  • “China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the U.S. Embassy in January, as part of a computer sabotage campaign carried out by government operatives, private experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into U.S. government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.”
  • “Some Chinese officials do not regard North Korea as a useful ally and would not intervene if the reclusive state collapsed, a South Korean official told the U.S. ambassador to Seoul citing conversations with high-level officials in Beijing.”
  • “In April 2009, He Yafei, then China’s vice foreign minister, told a U.S. diplomat in Beijing that North Korea acted like a “spoiled child” to attract U.S. attention through steps such as firing a three-stage rocket over Japan.”
  • “U.S. and South Korean officials discussed the prospects for a unified Korea should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode.”
  • “The South Koreans considered commercial inducements to China to “help salve” Chinese concerns about living with a reunified Korea that is in a “benign alliance” with Washington, according to the American ambassador to Seoul.”
  • “Russian Prime Minister Russia’s Vladimir Putin is an “alpha-dog” ruler of a deeply corrupt state dominated by its security forces, U.S. diplomatic documents said. By contrast, President Dmitry Medvedev “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.””
  • “U.S. diplomats described Afghan President Hamid Karzai as “an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts,” but was easily swayed by conspiracy theories. They said his brother was widely believed to be corrupt and a drug trafficker.”
  • “Since 2007, the United States has mounted a secret and so far unsuccessful effort to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor out of fear it could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device.”
  • “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December.”
  • “American diplomats have bargained with other countries to help empty the Guantanamo Bay prison by resettling detainees. Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Barack Obama, and Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees. In another case, accepting more prisoners was described as “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe,” a cable said.”
  • “U.S. diplomats cast doubts on the reliability of NATO ally Turkey, portraying its leadership as divided and permeated by Islamists and said advisers to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had “little understanding of politics beyond Ankara.”
  • “Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is “feckless, vain and ineffective” and his “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest,” a U.S. diplomat said.”
  • “The United States has failed to prevent Syria supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has amassed a huge stockpile since its 2006 war with Israel, the cables said.”
  • “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton questioned the mental health of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez, asking U.S. diplomats to investigate whether she was on medication.”

9. According to The Week magazine Manning revealed:

  • “Afghan soldiers are killing each other in drug-fueled, fratricidal skirmishes”
  • “The leaks contain “intriguing evidence” that the U.S. military is “paying local media outlets to run friendly stories,””
  • “A February 2009 report ominously suggests that the Taliban could have developed chemical weapons”
  • “The incident reports are full of stories of the U.S. chasing down and killing Taliban fighters with unmanned Reaper aerial drones, flown by joystick-wielding pilots in a Nevada bunker.”
  • “Among the “range of sensational plots” allegedly hatched by colluding Taliban and Pakistani intelligence agents was one to poison the beer headed to Western troops,”

10. As noted in a CBS News story, Manning showed:

  • “The Obama administration worked with Republicans during his first few months in office to protect Bush administration officials facing a criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies that some considered torture…[and] leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.”
  • “Secret State Department cables show a South Korean official quoted as saying that North Korea’s collapse is likely to happen “two to three years” after the death of the current dictator, Kim Jong Il”
  • North Korea is secretly helping the military dictatorship in Myanmar build nuclear and missile sites in its jungles, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.”
  • “Secret U.S. diplomatic cables reveal that BP suffered a blowout after a gas leak in the Caucasus country of Azerbaijan in September 2008, a year and a half before another BP blowout killed 11 workers and started a leak that gushed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.”
  • Saudi Arabia is one of the largest origin points for funds supporting international terrorism, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.”
  • “Mexican President Felipe Calderon told a U.S. official last year that Latin America “needs a visible U.S. presence” to counter Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region”
  • “A newly released confidential U.S. diplomatic cable predicts Cuba’s economic situation could become “fatal” within two to three years
  • “McDonald’s tried to delay the US government’s implementation of a free-trade agreement in order to put pressure on El Salvador to appoint neutral judges in a $24m lawsuit it was fighting in the country”

11. According to an article in The Daily Beast, Manning revealed:

  1. “As tensions on the peninsula escalate, American and South Korean officials have already discussed plans to unite the two Koreas should the North ultimately collapse.”
  2. “[the US] State Department Gives Low Marks to Germany’s Merkel”

12. As noted in a paper I published on academia.edu, one can determine easily that Rwanda’s “two main opposition parties (the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party) cooperate with RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front]; and did not oppose Kagame as President.” This means that Rwanda is “a terror state run by Kagame and his cadres…that benefits a specific group of elites over the poor masses,” and has little or no opposition to such a state in the political arena since the ‘opposition’ parties are not really opposition parties but are rather collaborators with the Kagame regime.

 

There is likely much more, but I think this is sufficient for now.[4] If there is something else that someone finds, please share it.

 

Notes:

[1] This does not include the Kissinger Cables or the Carter Cables. The Kissinger Cables, as noted by Wikipedia, revealed that “Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority, was a key asset to the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East…Kissinger and State Department were doubtful of Margaret Thatcher’s prospects of becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom because of her “immaculate grooming” and “imperious manner”…The Vatican dismissed reports of massacres by the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as “propaganda”…George Fernandes, chairman of the Socialist Party of India, who had faced prosecution for conspiracy against the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, sought to obtain funding from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the French government in order to organize underground sabotage activities.”

[2] This video shows, according to Wikileaks, “the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad” including two journalists from Reuters. I remember watching the whole thing sometime ago and its deeply disturbing and sickening what extent they go to so that these people are killed.

[3] For the specific cables used in that article, see: 09RPODUBAI316, 09RPODUBAI327, 01DUBAI1141, 97ABUDHABI3777, and 96ABUDHABI7350

[4] There has been some happiness from the right-wing after Wired wrote this article about the WMD hunt in Iraq, yet none of the times does it say that chemical weapons were found but only presumed to be…which is not conclusive evidence of WMDs…and once again says that there really weren’t WMDs in the country. Case closed.

A recovery for the one percent

14 Jun

g20 protests 2009

Coming into the 2014 elections, and so on, Democrats will be touting this magical ‘recovery’ brought on by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also called the ‘Recovery act’ or ‘the stimulus’) and other measures. It is important to challenge this idea head on and tell the truth about the ‘recovery’ itself. This article is not a full analysis of every single article out there, but it hopes to explain to some degree how the recovery has benefited the one percent

In April 2012, liberal Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein wrote about the ‘recovery.’ He said that while early in the “recession, there was some talk that the economic crisis would, among other things, slow or even reverse the run-up in inequality,” it in fact did the opposite: “the recovery, such as it is, has made inequality worse.” Klein went on to write that “financial markets and corporate profits…have recovered far faster than the labor market or the housing sector” but that the “middle-class American family that owns your home” has not really felt a recovery. Over one year later, another article about the recovery was published in the Washington Post, using data from inequality researchers showed that [1]:

while only 49 percent of the decline in incomes during the recession was born by the top 1 percent (whose income share fell to 18.1 percent due to the recession), 95 percent of income gains since the recovery started have gone to them. This is a big change from past recessions and recoveries.

As Paul Taylor and Richard Fry of the Pew Research Center told the Washington Post, “It has been a very good recovery for those at the upper end of the wealth distribution. But there has been no recovery for the lower 93, which is nearly everybody.”Now this should be no surprise since Obama admitted himself in his horrid liberal rhetoric here , here and here:

we’ve seen a two-decade to three-decade-long trend where increases in profitability, expansions of markets, increases in corporate profits, rises in the stock market don’t translate into higher incomes and higher wages for the ordinary person — at the same time that their costs for sending their kids to college have skyrocketed.

Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs—but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

We know that despite economic growth and close to record corporate profits, despite the fact that folks at the very top are doing better than ever, that there are too many families all across the country who are still struggling to get by, who work hard every day but have trouble making ends meet at the end of the month.

Yet Obama says this but he has never pushed any policies that try to seriously tackle what he calls a ‘trend’ or to stop the hurt  and suffering of the working and middle classes.

Beyond this, some may still have their substantive claims about the ‘recovery’ that has too place. I looked into some articles in alternative publications to see if I could find something substantive and as it turned out, there was a good body of criticism. Zoltan Zigedy in the publication Against the Current wrote that the Jack Rasmus’s book, Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few demonstrates that:

“Obama — the candidate — drew his financial support from Wall Street, surrounded himself with corporate-friendly, free-market-oriented advisers, and preferred caution and compromise to any bold, new vision…once Obama had all but sewn up the nomination, he began an even further rightward shift…Beyond Rasmus’ account and well before the presidential candidacy, Obama’s career was marked by sycophancy to power and wealth and by opportunism…As Rasmus demonstrates, Obama’s economic course was largely predictable from his campaign promises…Rasmus sifts through the seeming chaos and improvisations of the last four years to find three distinct Obama recovery programs implemented in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In addition, he identifies “two and a half” Federal Reserve actions (Quantitative Easings) meant to revive the slumping economy. It is his considered opinion that all these efforts failed to restore the economy to anything like a sustainable vitality…After reading Rasmus’ new book, one will find little to justify praise for the Obama administration. While the three trillion dollars of recovery programs (as tabulated by Rasmus) from March of 2008 until September of 2011 — more than two-thirds of these federal dollars allocated on Obama’s watch — may have staved off an even deeper downturn, they have done little to revive the economy. Certainly from the perspective of capital and a wealthy and powerful tiny minority of our citizens, the recovery has been satisfactory, if not a rousing success…But for the vast majority wages are stagnant or dropping, benefits shaved or eliminated, living costs rising, home ownership in jeopardy, and employment tenuous; most of us are still looking for the recovery. And the economic data promise little improvement.”

In another review of the same book in CounterFire, Henry Parkyn-Smith writes that the book is “framed [in] terms of who the downturn is damaging and what the recovery is supporting” and it: “focuses on the lack of recovery, how deep the crisis is, as well as how and why there seem to be few signs of the crisis abating…[how the] recovery there has been is unequal, and how Obama’s regime has acted to support the rich at the expense of the majority of working Americans.” In Smith’s opinion, Obama, “Within the Democratic Party…in fact one of the most conservative figures: not only were his pre-election promises neo-liberal and pro-business, the policies he actually implemented during his first term could be seen as being even more so.”

Without going through book reviews all day, there are a number of articles written during and after the ‘recovery’ was beginning to be implemented. Writer Alan Farago said in January 2009 that if the fiscal stimulus, as he called it, is

“not applied to rebuilding our nation’s productive capacity, it is money down a black hole. For certain, it is important to provide some floor under this free-fall. But government spending on infrastructure serves a temporary purpose. a limited purpose. Fiscal stimulus that fails to provide for new productive capacity—jobs making products that people need—will bleed out the economy like a slow suicide.”

Farago in this article said that “the Obama administration should consider preemptive measures to nationalize sectors of the economy.” What Farago said did not exactly happen, instead there was what Forbes, The New York Times, Pew Research Center, the Washington Post, and many others called a “jobless recovery” since 2009, when jobs have not really grown but there has been an economic ‘recovery.’ The International Labor Organization even had a report released in January of this year about “the risk of jobless recovery” on a global scale. After all, the Recovery Act itself was not as effective as it seems, in the view of Doug Henwood:

“What we got was a bill that did some good things – extending unemployment benefits, picking up health insurance costs for the laid-off, etc. – but one that also was too loaded with tax breaks and other indirect mechanisms that are supposed to create jobs. If you divide the amount of cash spent, according to Recovery.gov, by the administration’s estimate of jobs “created or saved” – whatever that means exactly – by the StimPak [Stimulus package], you find that the cost per job is something around $250,000…Yes, and if you allow for multiplier effects – someone whose job is saved spends more money than someone on the dole, which saves other jobs that would have otherwise evaporate – then it’s maybe $150,000-175,000 per job. That’s still preposterously inefficient, however…The Obama people like The Market, and want to nudge it into creating more private sector jobs…And there’s a bias among neoliberals, like Obama & Co., that sees public sector jobs as phony and private sector jobs as real…they’re going to emphasize tax breaks and other minimalist strategies. They won’t do much to create jobs.”

An article I almost forget to include was published this May in the New York Times about the “Obama-Bernanke financial rescue.” In the article, Binyamin Appelbaum writes that

Atif Mian and Amir Sufi [in a new book titled House of Debt] are convinced that the Great Recession could have been just another ordinary, lowercase recession if the federal government had acted more aggressively to help homeowners by reducing mortgage debts…Mr. Geithner wrote in his book that the administration had tried to help homeowners — and that doing more wouldn’t have changed the trajectory of the recession…The Obama administration considered several ways to reduce mortgage debts during the heart of the crisis. It promised to pursue a few, too, including empowering bankruptcy courts to forgive debts, paying lenders and buying up loans. But ultimately, the administration adopted a limited aid program and gambled that an economic recovery would take care of the problem. Mr. Mian and Mr. Sufi are not particular about which method of reducing debt would have been best; their point is simply that the government, by failing to do more, inhibited the recovery.

In a blog on their website, the writers of the book clarified what their book was talking about, and their objections to what they called the ‘Geithner view of the world':

“In some of the early reviews of our book, our argument is caricatured as saying we should have let the banks fail and we should have saved homeowners. We do not make such an extreme claim. In fact, we commend both Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner for some of their policies that were directed at stopping dangerous runs in the banking system. We agree that bank runs threaten the payment system and the entire economy, and policies should be undertaken to prevent such runs. The problem we have with the Geithner view of the world is that it is far too extreme — it is a “save the banks, save the economy” view which has been thoroughly discredited in both the United States and Europe. The fact that Geithner still adheres to this view despite all the evidence to the contrary is truly remarkable. The problem with the economy in 2008 and 2009 is not that banks are not lending enough. It’s absurd to argue that we need more bank lending when demand is collapsing throughout the economy.”

Rather than going through every article on the subject, its better to shift the focus to who the recovery has benefited. As quoted in an opinion piece published on Reuters by Chrystia Freeland, Emanuel Saez said,

“The evidence suggests that top income earners today are not ‘rentiers’ deriving their incomes from past wealth, but rather are ‘working rich,’ highly paid employees or new entrepreneurs who have not yet accumulated fortunes comparable to those accumulated during the Gilded Age.”

There is more. In an article in CounterPunch criticizing the Federal Reserve’s ‘stimulus,’ Mark Vorpahl writes that

“the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates ultra-low in order to encourage businesses to borrow money and expand their operations. The Fed’s alleged desired outcome is to encourage banks to make more loans to the private sector, thereby encouraging economic growth and job creation. To reach this goal, however, these policies have to be set out on the right path. Currently, they are not. On the contrary, today’s policies are guided by supply side, trickle down theories which essentially claim that the problem with the economy is that the rich aren’t rich enough…There has been a weak upturn in job creation, falling far short of what is needed to return to the employment rate prior to the crash of 2008. In addition, the stimulus has been too weak to counter the accumulating impacts, including layoffs, of sequestration as it starts to gather steam. What’s more, it is a very dubious proposition that this slight and temporary job upturn has anything to do with Bernanke’s extraordinary measures at all.”

The New Statesman noted the same is happening in the UK, with the top one percent having their income rise and the bottom 90 percent having their income decline. Even the housing recovery itself seems to be a joke. As Forbes contributor Richard Green notes,”the housing market at the top is doing much better than the housing market at the bottom (it is doing better than the middle, too).” None of this should be of any surprise since the real size of the bailout was not the reported $700 billion given to the big banks, but was tabulated to over $14 trillion as noted by Naomi Prins (Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department) and $29 trillion from the Fed alone as explained by L. Randall Wray in the Huffington Post. Lest us not forget that Ben Bernanke defended the bailout of the banks. Such measures explain even more why Americans doubt the benefits a stimulus from the Fed.

As noted in an article in that liberal rag, The New Republic, Timothy Noah writes that “the U.S. economy’s current ability to expandno matter who is presidentwithout benefiting the 99 percent is something new. Perhaps we should do something to change that.” While he is right about making sure the 99 percent benefit, the best way to do so is to not choose solutions coming out the two establishment parties, but rather to look for robust alternatives.

[1] Later, even Joe Scarborough reflected this sentiment on MSNBC, the channel which cheers Democrats all day long, saying that “since Barack Obama became president of the United States, 95 percent of economic gains have been made by the richest 1 percent.”

Resisting digital personalization

8 Jun

Reposted from Z Blogs.

There is always talk about how the internet is a magically decentralized system. Eli Pariser, the former head of the liberal, pro-Democratic Party group, MoveOn, challenges this notion in his 2011 book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You, in which he sounds off on the dangers of digital personalization. This article will review the book and also attempt to offer some methods of resisting digital personalization.

Pariser focuses much of his book around the ‘filter bubble.’[1] Basically, the filter bubble is a set of algorithms used on sites such as Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo! to name a few.[2] Filtering is, as Pariser describes it, is personalized tailoring of information to your liking. Such personalization, he says, could narrow our thoughts because we are inundated with those perspectives that agree with our views, not those that challenge us. In addition, the storage of our personal information by private companies and corporations is used to blast personalized advertising at us and filter our content through ‘click signals.’ Pariser worries that such filtering concentrates the control of the internet in the hands of a few American multinational corporations.

Digital personalization itself is the subject of a recent Warner Brothers film, Her. On the surface, the movie is about a relationship between the lonely and rarely social protagonist Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who works for a company that writes letters for those in intimate relationships, and an operating system (OS) with artificial intelligence named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johanson). Theodore, who is still married to a wife he has been separated with for years, tells Samantha his deepest thoughts as he falls deeply in love with her, and gets his life back together. Samantha is one of the many OS’s, commercial products that purport to make people understand their lives better, which evolve to meet the needs of the user, and personalize the content, so that they feel like a trusted friend. However, they are deceptive since the OS’s are not really human and their artificial intelligence creates a ‘lock in’ to their technology.[3] They also suggest what you may like based on your activities, thoughts, a bit like the function on sites such as Facebook or Amazon saying ‘if you like this, then you’ll like this!’ Theodore finds out the true nature of Samantha when she tells him that she is talking to more than 8,000 at the same time as him and is in love with about 1/10 of them. He is shocked as he thought Samantha was only his and possibly commits suicide (its open to interpretation) as the film closes. In essence, this movie warns of the dangers of digital personalization and how it can control human life.

After reading through this book I was a bit depressed about the future predicament of netizens.[4] US netizens, as they are called, are likely concerned about personalized ads being directed toward them. However, there is little action to counter such digital personalization. Interestingly, there has been more concern about the NSA engaging in mass surveillance on Americans and the rest of the world through the massive public-private national security complex, than the collection of personal data by companies such as Google and Yahoo!. This is not to say that NSA mass surveillance is not important, but rather that it is connected to what can rightly be called corporate surveillance. In the second part of the recent FRONTLINE documentary, United States of Secrets, it notes how the personal information which the

NSA collected to spy on Americans and people across the world was first exploited and stored by American multinational tech companies to benefit their bottom line.

Still, there is one major difference between collection of personal information which is digitally personalized by American multinationals and the ‘collect it all’ doctrine of the NSA & its partners. Digital personalization, as noted by Pariser, has the potential to seep into every part of our lives, as noted in the movie Her (talked about two paragraphs ago). NSA surveillance on the other hand is not all-encompassing, as it would be impossible for the NSA to collect all the personal information of Americans. Rather it is based on the idea of social control, where the NSA collects enough information for everyone to feel like they are under surveillance. Despite these differences, NSA surveillance and digital personalization are deeply connected, which is, strangely enough, not pointed out by Pariser, who only mentions the NSA once in passing in the book. But the book does allude to the possibility that government would exploit personal information used by American multinationals for their own uses (which they have done).

In the last chapter of the book, Pariser outlines what he believes are effective strategies for resisting digital personalization. They are pretty moderate in general. They include breaking your digital habits (looking at different things every day) and using technology where you have more control of the filter bubble imposed on you by the certain service. Pariser, for example, says that Twitter is better than Facebook because you get to control ‘your’ filter bubble. He also advocates for implementing and enforcing the Nixon-era Fair Information Practices as well.[5] Also, he writes that “to rescue our digital environment from itself, we’ll ultimately need a new constituency of digital environmentalists—citizens of this new space we’re all building who band together to protect what’s great about it.”[6] In a hopeful tone, Pariser says that “if the great mass of us decide that an open, public-spirited Internet matters and speak up about it…the lobbyists won’t stand a chance” (which was the case with the defeats of SOPA, PIPA and CISPA)[6]. But he worries that a “small group of American companies may unilaterally dictate how billions of people work, play, communicate, and understand the world.”[7] He concludes with the though that for “all of us,” protecting the “early vision of radical connectedness [on the internet] and user control should be an urgent priority.”[7]

I think that Pariser’s call to action to protect “radical connectedness” on the internet and resist digital personalization should be applauded. However, I feel that he does not go far enough. Companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and others who are exploiting user information and selling it to advertisers and, at times, giving it to the government, are simply “digital imperialists…[who] violate the basic right to privacy…[and constitute] part of the globalization of the surveillance state.”[8] Pariser’s book is a reminder of the increasing control of the internet by corporate power, but he does not mention, sadly, the “corporate concentration of the [online] blogosphere” or the growing power of a small number of internet service providers (mostly American multinationals) in the US. [8] To be fair, Pariser is focusing on digital personalization and highlighting its dangers in his book, not the issues I just talked about. On the other hand, I agree with Pariser’s view that as users, we should choose services which give us more power over our information flow: Twitter instead of Facebook, a digital dictatorship. Additionally, efforts to fight government or corporate censorship, through the law or otherwise, should be fought off.

Still, it is not enough to just leave Tumblr (before Yahoo! took it over), Blogspot (after Google introduced an intrusive new privacy policy), or permanently delete your Facebook account as I have done. Rather, it is better to support privacy-centered and open-source technology that gives people power. On top of this, there should be a push for a more democratic internet, with communities building “next-generation networks that are directly accountable to residents and local businesses,” and owned municipally, by cooperatives, nonprofits, or otherwise, as advocated by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). This may not be perfect, but its a better alternative than the status quo. Such a challenge to what is exists is the reason why “publicly owned high-speed internet” in Wilson, North Carolina, and Thomasville, Georgia have been attacked by the corporate bill-mill called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). In the end, while it is clear that the internet is a free marketeer’s dream, there must a concerted effort for the people to exert control of the internet, hopefully without government structures, to fight off further efforts to privatize the net.

Notes:

[1] Other than Pariser’s book, most of the results are interviews with Pariser or reviews of his book. But there are also other articles like ‘Algorithms and the Filter Bubble Ruining Your Online Experience?‘ on Huffington Post, and ‘Tim Berners-Lee: Facebook could fragment web‘ in The Guardian.

[2] Much of the internet is tied into digital personalization, even constituting sites like the main feed on academia.edu (you can somewhat control it), Myspace (yes its still around), and others.

[3] Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: what the Internet is hiding from you (p. 40). New York: Penguin Press. Pariser defines this as “the point at which users are so invested in their technology that even if competitors might offer better services, it’s not even worth making the switch” (40).

[4] Michael Hauben defines this term, also called Net Citizen, as someone who exists “as a citizen of the world thanks to the global connectivity that the Net makes possible [since]…you physically live in one country but you are in contact with much of the world via the global computer network.” TechTarget adds that a netizen is a “a citizen who uses the Internet as a way of participating in political society” or an “internet user who is trying to contribute to the Internet’s use and growth.”

[5] Pariser, 239-40 and more directly defined the summary of the report of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems in July 1973 as the following: “[1]There must be no personal data record keeping systems whose very existence is secret. [2] There must be a way for an individual to find out what information about him is in a record and how it is used. [3] There must be a way for an individual to prevent information about him that was obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for other purposes without his consent. [4] There must be a way for an individual to correct or amend a record of identifiable information about him. [5] Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuse of the data.”

[6] Pariser, 242.

[7] Ibid, 243.

[8] My article on Nation of Change titled ‘The Digital Imperialists Strike Back.’

Livetweeting Dem gubernatorial debate and more

3 Jun

Editor’s note: This has been reposted from Beyond the Barricade UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE because of this and this. The title has been changed as well. I’ll try to embed all the tweets as needed soon enough.

Tonight I decided to watch the Democratic gubernatorial debate just because. I haven’t been following the race close because I really don’t want to vote for either one of the business parties (Democrats or Republicans). Still, I watched the debate, which some say is the last debate (I thought there was another via radio?) anyway. Seemingly Brown and Gansler would be supported by the business community (probably more Brown than Gansler) and Mizeur would scare the fuck out of this community as a sorta populist but would benefit certain sectors as well (see my previous posts about Mizeur here, here, and here)

The livetweeting (which was ok but could be better) I did is as follows:

(I meant Brown. Oops)

(in MD)

(on the first day you get in office)

(similar idea of a tax break for manufacturers nationwide has been proposed by Obama…)

closing statements:

Tweeting of the debate done by others

(on marijuana legalization)

(Gansler)

Reactions during and after to the debate:

Drones seep into entertainment

28 May

There have been a number of articles recently about the seeping of drones into popular culture and the resistance to that by concerned citizens, activists and others. And YES, call them drones. This is likely to increase since Hollywood already requested from the FAA to use drones for making movies (also see here , here, here, here, here, and here). Note that this article is not meant to promote drones, but rather show how much they have spread into movies, and are becoming more and more a part of action films in the US, specifically. Also see this interesting comic and this parody. If there any films that I missed, then please mention them in the comments below. This post shows through pictures and video (if possible) how drones have come into entertainment (tv and movies) after already going into science fiction.

 

24 (a TV show) (2014)

The neoconservative show on Fox News features drones heavily in its limited season since May as one can see from the episode summaries on Wikipedia alone.  Without getting into too much of the specifics, Mother Jones notes that the show which “came on the air just two months after 9/11…[and] got a reputation for right-wing Bush-era messaging…but also featured oilmen, shady business interests, and Republican politicians at the center of terrorist conspiracies,” has political framing “adjusted accordingly with the times.” The article further quotes the words of the executive producer Howard Gordon saying that  “We have analogues for the Snowden affair and the drone issue is a backdrop.” The Hollywood Reporter notes  that there is some elements of the show that mirror Wikileaks, and that debate about drones, as Jack, the ‘good guy’ “requests false credentials so he can get close to the President and hand over proof that the U.S. drone that killed British and American soldiers had been hacked.” TV.com adds that the show interjects “contemporary politics” in the form of “the power and danger of drones.” Still, the show is not very accurate to what real intelligence work is, as noted in a comment in The Guardian.

Ian Crouch has some of the most interesting comment on the show, writing in The New Yorker that:

President Heller is the target of the drone-wielding terrorist, and his death “on foreign soil,” we’re told a few times, would lead inexorably to a world war. Sounds plausible. Wait, war between whom exactly? Who cares, there’s no time!…24” premièred on Fox on November 6, 2001, not quite two months after 9/11. In its first episode, a terrorist blew up a plane. It’s easy now to forget how significant that first season was, both from a technical perspective—with its use of simulated real time and split-screen action—and in the way the show both reflected and provoked a mood of fear and a desire for retribution…Bauer routinely used torture to get information, and it was generally shown to be effective. Bauer was also regularly tortured himself, as if to even the odds, though he seemed to bear up better under the pressure than his victims did. Torture wasn’t glorified as pleasant or inconsequential but, rather…as grimly necessary…The show’s animating spirit during its first six seasons was the co-creator and executive producer Joel Surnow, a rare Republican in Hollywood…He defended the show’s use of torture in practical, personal terms…Surnow told Mayer that “24” had a lot of fans in the Bush White House…This season, there has been urgent mention of metadata, and, this being London, liberal use of CCTV. Most significant, there are drones. Jack is thrown in with a cell of anti-surveillance hackers, led by a Julian Assange type whom Jack must beg for assistance in preventing an attack. “It wouldn’t be an issue if your country hadn’t decided to fill the skies with unmanned heavy-armed aircraft, would it?” the hacker says. Bauer responds, as is his wont, with stony silence…The new “24” is making a more nuanced argument: now the United States’ vulnerability stems from its very obsession with security. This season’s terrorist ring is led by Margot Al-Harazi, a convert to Islam who is, among other things, surely—we’ll see—out to avenge the death of her husband, who was killed by an American drone. She leads a transnational family—a kind of Benetton version of Muslim extremism, radicalized by America’s military adventurism. In this way, these episodes offer a fitting coda for a show that has tracked the country’s mood from the neocons to Snowden.

 

Top Gun 2 (2014?)

As noted by The Verge, the remake of a 1980s movie, Top Gun, will feature drones:

“The long-rumored Top Gun 2 is almost certainly happening, at least according to producer Jerry Bruckheimer. In an interview with The Huffington Post last week, Bruckheimer expressed how determined he is to make a follow-up to the 1986 classic, and hinted at what themes the movie will explore. In the sequel, Tom Cruise will reprise his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, and face off against drones to prove just how essential volleyball-loving airmen are. During the interview on HuffPost Live, Bruckheimer said he thinks “we’re getting closer and closer” to making the sequel a reality. Talk about the movie has been bubbling for years, especially after Paramount tapped Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott to return for another outing in 2010. The Pirates of the Caribbean producer said that Scott had figured out a way to tell the story right (in what sounds like an action movie take on the John Henry tall tale) but his suicide in 2012 almost scuttled the project. “The concept is, basically, are the pilots obsolete because of drones,” said Bruckheimer. “Cruise is going to show them that they’re not obsolete. They’re here to stay.” Neither Cruise nor a director have signed on for the film, so there’s no telling when it will be made. However, an announcement of production kicking off seems like the logical next step, however far-off it may be.”

 

Modern Family episode (2014)

An episode of the TV sitcom had a show in February of this year incorporating drones, with two of the characyers sending a “drone to spy on Luke and Manny as they hang out with friends” as noted by Textually.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

This political thriller, as the directors put it, tried to criticize drone kill list of Obama, etc…** Its hard to get any pictures of this directly, so maybe what Abby Martin has to say will make it all clear:

“[Marvel] said they wanted to make a political thriller…So we said if you want to make a political thriller, all the great political thrillers have very current issues in them that reflect the anxiety of the audience…That gives it an immediacy, it makes it relevant. So [Anthony] and I just looked at the issues that were causing anxiety for us, because we read a lot and are politically inclined. And a lot of that stuff had to do with civil liberties issues, drone strikes, the president’s kill list, preemptive technology…The question is where do you stop?” Joe says. “If there are 100 people we can kill to make us safer, do we do it? What if we find out there’s 1,000? What if we find out there’s 10,000? What if it’s a million? At what point do you stop?”- Joe Russo, director as noted by Mother Jones. Also see the NY Times (alludes to it)

Here’s some pictures of the ‘drones’ in the movie

 

Robocop (2014)

(The trailer)

of Time Magazine writes: “the wish fulfillment factor taken out of the equation, RoboCop becomes less a work of aspirational coolness and more a piece of political satire — and not necessarily a bad one. In the opening sequence, a conservative news pundit (Samuel L. Jackson’s Pat Novak) makes a case that the Dreyfus Act, a law which prohibits robots in American police forces, should be repealed by sending a reporter abroad to watch robot cops in action. After an obligatory shot of an ominous drone flying above robot policemen, things go disastrously wrong. Suicide bombers attack, and a child who grabs a knife to defend his suicide bomber father is killed by one of the robots. The station feed clicks off.”

The director of the film aims to use the film to criticize drones:

He told The Hollywood Reporter that “We are more and more in a country where Robocop is relevant. You will see robots in wars. The first film saw it way back then. Now we have more knowledge and we know it’s coming true. First we are going to use machines abroad, then we are going to use machines at home.”

Elsewhere he said: “The movie’s about drones. If you look at a movie like ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ you see the training of the soldiers so they kill without criticizing what they’re doing. Today, [some want] to get the soldiers out of the way for machines. And I thought that idea, which was fictional in 1987, ain’t fictional anymore. We’ve got drones.”

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

As an article in The Daily Beast notes “the footage is ominous. They come from the sky—unmanned aircraft equipped with deadly robotic weapons. They scan the horizon for their targets. They lock in. And then they deploy, plummeting to earth to kill a bunch of people who may or may not deserve it.” In the first part of this preview, it shows this:

Whether this is directly related to drones is debatable…

 

 Iron Man 3, Man Of Steel, Pacific Rim, and Star Trek Into Darkness (all movies in 2013)

As noted by Alyssa Rosenberg on rogerebert.com,

“But “Star Trek Into Darkness” isn’t alone: The use of drones, and robots like them for war or for surveillance has turned up as a subject in a surprisingly large number of summer’s biggest blockbusters, including “Iron Man 3,” “Man Of Steel,” and now “Pacific Rim.”…These arguments take different forms in each movies. In “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the use of drone-like missiles is presented as primarily an ethical question…”Iron Man 3″ makes a rather different argument. Rather than suggesting we have to pick between men and machines, and arguing that we should pick men for reasons of both morality and excitement, the movie offers up a fantasy combination. Iron Man technology gives America the ability to strike enemy combatants quickly and directly without putting American troops at risk, while also adding human judgement and the ability to reverse a strike to avoid killing innocent civilians. As Iron Patriot, Col. James Rhodes..frequently finds himself doing the most good when he’s sent out to hunt for a terrorist called the Mandarin…by not pulling the trigger…Even Superman’s gotten in on the action. In a coda to the main action of “Man Of Steel,” he hauls down a surveillance drone and throws it at the feet of General Swanwick…and Major Carrie Farris…”It’s one of your surveillance drones,” he tells the flabbergasted military officials. “I know you’re trying to figure out where I hang my cape. You won’t.””

 

Drones (2013)

Hollywood Reporter describes this “topical thriller” as follows:

“A topical thriller about the ethics of remote-control warfare, Drones began life as a stage play, which helps explain its cramped and confined setting. The screenplay by Matt Witten, a former writer for TV shows including House and Homicide, explores the moral disconnect between USAF drone pilots playing high-tech video-games in Nevada and their defenseless human targets thousands of miles away in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The action mostly unfolds in real time, offering audiences a fraught hands-on snapshot of the War on Terror…Sue prepares a missile attack, but then agonizes about collateral damage. Even a so-called “surgical” strike on Khalil means also killing his parents, friends and young children. With her mission time limit approaching fast, she challenges the shady ethics of military assassination to Jack, who merely warns her against “thinking too much.” She then protests to her commanding officer and finally to her father, a decorated general and Vietnam veteran.Witten’s script strikes an uneasy balance between hawkish and antiwar positions, with Jack epitomizing the trigger-happy pragmatist (“maybe there’s no heroism, but there’s no shame either”) and Sue the tormented humanitarian incensed when innocent bystanders are cynically rebranded as “unidentified terrorist suspects”…Drones is not exactly subtle, but it is a commendable attempt to dramatize a hot contemporary issue without resorting to clumsy didacticism or obvious political bias. The final scene should prove unsettling for liberals and conservatives alike.”

 

Oblivion (2013 film)

In this 2013 science fiction film, there are numerous scenes of small flying drones with laser cannons that try to attack people and kill them:

The Wikipedia entry on the movie notes this, talking about drones brought on by certain people, activating disabled drones, and drones attacking humans. Totalfilm.com expands on this, noting:

Clad in a white jumpsuit and living the lonely life of a post-apocalyptic drone repairmen, Jack Harper (Cruise) spends his days tending to the tech that’s targeting the alien threat responsible for all but wiping out life on Earth. On one of his visits to the planet’s surface (most survivors are based in satellite dwellings), Harper happens across a drone assault on humans. To make matters worse, the person under attack is the enigmatic beauty who has been haunting his dreams (Olga Kurylenko). Naturally, he suspects a conspiracy, and goes rogue.

Mashable adds to this, noting:

Fiction: The most obvious cinematic predecessor of the rogue military drones in Oblivion are the lethal Skynet machines of the Terminator films. Oblivion also has several scenes reminiscent of the underrated 1987 freakout RoboCop. Oblivion and its disobedient artillery drones are really just a variation on the robot uprising stories that have fascinated science fiction writers through the years, most notably Isaac Asimov in his Robot novels.

Science: The U.S. and several other countries have unmanned military drones deployed around the world.

Finally there’s ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) with an article about the movie, noting:

“Tom Cruise’s new film, Oblivion, presents a future where warfare is conducted using cold, merciless drones. This striking dystopia shows us how the seeds of future conflicts are already present in our current military engagement with terrorist groups in the Middle East…The drone, as a symbol of remote-control aggression, is key. You just have to look at the growing dissent in America over Obama’s plans to introduce them into civilian airspace to understand their power as lightening rods of techno-anxiety. There’s something cold and terrible in the idea of them, especially as killing machines without pilots; perhaps it’s the notion there is no possibility of mercy. Their sinister aura is integral to Oblivion. There’s something not right with this world, and something not right with Jack…Is the War on Terror over? I’m not sure what the official line is on that. Oblivion seems to suggest that if you look hard enough in any post-war period you will find the seeds of the next conflict. It’s a fascinating metaphor for our anxieties in this very difficult, uncertain peace.”

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

The runaway spy, Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Remmer, shoots down the drone sent to kill him. Richard Corliss of Time Magazine writes: “Cross finds himself the target of a U.S. drone attack. Wait a minute: the guys in Bethesda at their video consoles are supposed to eliminate the odd Taliban rebel and Afghani civilian, not their most resourceful agent. In these scenes, Legacy connects with the real crime of modern warfare, where the shooters at Mission Control can isolate a human target 10,000 miles away, and kill him without risking anything but their honor.”

 

Homeland (a drama show) (2012-2014)

As noted by the Daily Beast: “And then there’s Homeland. On Showtime’s hit spy drama, the original sin—the trauma that transformed Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) into an al Qaeda sleeper agent—was a drone strike that accidentally killed an 8-year-old boy he’d befriended in captivity.” Also Leslie Savan wrote in The Nation that

“…when a drone strike, secretly ordered by Walden, kills Issa and eighty-two other young students in his madrassa, Brody “turns.” At Nazir’s behest, Brody returns to the US to win Walden’s trust in order to destroy him and undermine America. In the name of Issa…If he’d say that to Brody, the show suggests, just think what he’d tell the survivors of drone-attack…“I can only imagine what he must be thinking when he watches a show like ours that explicitly deals with the collateral damage of drone strikes,” Damian Lewis told The Atlantic in late September. The “overtly political” show, he said, goes “straight to the heart of the drone argument. We have a left-center or liberal president, and yet we seem to be sending in more drones than ever before. That’s a decision that the current president has made—though obviously none of these decisions are easy to make”…Perhaps to avoid too direct a criticism of Obama, the show has thus far not shown us its POTUS. Furthermore, Homeland never says never drone.”

Specifically, Lewis told The Atlantic:

“The show has always been overtly political. It went straight to the heart of the drone argument. We have a left-center or liberal president, and yet we seem to be sending in more drones than ever before. That’s a decision that the current president has made—though obviously none of these decisions are easy to make. And then we heard that President Obama watches the show, and that it’s his favorite show. I can only imagine what he must be thinking when he watches a show like ours that explicitly deals with the collateral damage of drone strikes.”

 

Skyline (2010)

In a film about alien invasion of Earth, the US Air Force sends drones to counter the alien ships. This one scene shows that:

 

Stealth (2007 film)

In this science fiction action film, a drone is developed by the US Navy as noted in the Wikipedia entry on the film:

Cummings hires Dr. Keith Orbit (Richard Roxburgh) to develop an artificial intelligence (AI), the “EDI,” which will fly an unmanned combat air vehicle. The autonomous fighter jet is placed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Philippine Sea to learn combat maneuvers from the pilots. This sparks a debate. On the one hand, human pilots possess both creativity and moral judgment, while a machine cannot fully appreciate the ugliness of war; additionally, if robots fought the battles and soldiers never died in war, then war would no longer be terrible and might become like sport. In contrast, a machine pilot is not subject to the physical limitations of a human pilot, can calculate alternative ways to achieve objectives faster and more accurately, and is not subject to ego. The team are training EDI in air combat maneuvers when they are unexpectedly reassigned to take out the heads of three terrorist cells at a summit in downtown Rangoon. EDI calculates that mission success can only be achieved through a vertical strike, which could cause the pilot to black out and result in collateral damage. Command orders EDI to take the shot, but Gannon ignores the order and attacks in his own plane, successfully carrying out the strike. As the team returns to the Lincoln, EDI is hit by lightning. Aboard ship, the already-sophisticated AI is discovered to be learning exponentially, developing a rudimentary ethical code and an ego. However, Cummings refuses to take it offline. During the next strike, to neutralize several stolen nuclear warheads in Tajikistan, Wade realizes that the nuclear debris will cause serious civilian casualties. The human pilots decide to abort, but EDI disobeys orders and fires missiles at the nuclear warheads, causing the predicted radioactive fallout.

 

Syriana (2005)

A geopolitical thriller, in the words of Wikipedia that focuses on “on petroleum politics and the global influence of the oil industry, whose political, economic, legal, and social effects are experienced by a Central Intelligence Agency operative…an energy analyst….a Washington, D.C., attorney…and a young unemployed Pakistani migrant worker…in an Arab state in the Persian Gulf.” This article on WIkipedia also says:  “Barnes eventually learns why he was portrayed as a rogue agent and approaches Prince Nasir’s convoy to warn him of the assassination plan. As he arrives, a guided bomb from a circling Predator drone strikes the automobile of Nasir and his family, killing them and Barnes instantly. Woodman, having earlier offered his seat to Nasir’s family, survives the blast and makes his way home to his wife and son.” I couldn’t find the video for the scene for where George Clooney’s character is killed by a drone, but here are some screencaps of it:

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Dark Angel (TV show in the early 2000s)

As noted by Aaron Kearney in the Chicago Monitor,

“Growing up I was a big fan of Jessica Alba’s initial claim to fame: the futuristic sci-fi TV show that only ran two seasons in the early 2000s, Dark Angel. I specifically remember being infatuated with the creepiness of the Seattle police having a fleet of flying, unmanned aircraft that always seemed to be “watching” and waiting on everyday civilians. Most menacing was that each of these aircrafts also had guns attached to them so that they could carry out fast, swift assaults in a matter of seconds. The fear of such aircraft as a reality lay dormant in my childhood imagination until this past week when I read that the manhunt for fugitive Christopher Dorner had compelled the Los Angeles Police Department to release a thermal tracking Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV, or “drone”) into the California wilderness…I would like to avoid the chilling futures that are depicted in post-apocalyptic sci-fi TV shows; I would like to avoid the death of hundreds of innocent civilians abroad; And I would like to protect my rights under the Constitution of the United States. However, as long as our government stays steadfast in its love for UAV’s, my simple likings may soon be deemed irrelevant to those who hold the utmost power in our government.”

Also see here about hover drones and here.

 

Silent Running (1972)

As noted by the director Douglas Trumbull,

“Part of Silent Running is the relationship between Bruce Dern and his drones. It’s not 2001 – machinery isn’t malevolent. They’re simply tools. Look, here you have this guy who’s a murderer (Lowell traps his crewmates in a dome they’ve set to blow and sets them adrift). He’s alone on a vessel that’s as isolated from the rest of the population as possible. he’s beginning to crack, to feel his conscience. So he creates companions by reprogramming the drones.”

 

Star Wars

Numerous drones have popped up in Star Wars (in cartoon series mostly) every so often:

and those Imperial probe droids in the Empire Strikes Back (1980):

 

Possibly the Terminator movies talk about drones through the Skynet program but this questionable.

 

A few indie films coming this year also feature these evil killing machines:

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