The 14 Year War the US Lost

Two days ago, Obama announced he was redeploying  several hundred more troops to Afghanistan as “advisers” to the Afghan army, while grossly minimizing the reality that the Taliban controls most of the country outside of Kabul. 

This is Taliban Country

Al Jazeera (2014)

Film Review

In This is Taliban Country a Danish journalist visits Afghanistan to examine the ongoing campaign by the Taliban to win the “hearts and minds” of the civilian population in the regions under their control.

It’s an open secret that the US lost their 14 year war on the Taliban, even before Obama’s partial draw down of US troops in 2014-2015.* The Taliban, which controls large swathes of territory outside of Kabul, generally enjoys the support of civilians under their rule. They provide the security and stability most Afghans crave after decades of civil war. Moreover they do so far more benevolently than either the corrupt Afghan government with their network of warlords or US occupiers.

For civil complaints (land disputes, unpaid bills, etc), most residents prefer the Taliban courts to the corrupt government courts (the verdict always depends on who you know). The interpretation of Shariah law varies depending on locale, but most inflict “cruel and unusual” punishments (stoning, chopping off hands and occasionally heads) for serious “crimes” such as adultery.

The Taliban is currently engaged in an ambitious PR campaign to improve their public image as they consolidate their power in Afghanistan. They have allowed some state schools to reopen, including a few primary schools for girls. There is little support for girls’ secondary education, as most Afghan girls marry when they reach puberty.

Taliban leaders claim to have learned from past mistakes. It’s no longer a crime for men to shave their beards or women to appear in public without a burqa. Unlike fifteen years ago, when they first took power, they now allow smoking cigarettes and marijuana and watching TV. Music is still banned.


*Obama halted the withdrawal of US troops in October 2015, when he announced five to ten thousand troops would remain in Afghanistan through 2017.

The History of Wikileaks

WikiRebels

Directed by Bosse Lindquist, Jesper Huor (2010)

Film Review

WikiRebels is a documentary about the history of Wikileaks. It traces Julian Assange’s early history from his first arrest for computer hacking at 21. A short time later, posting a secret Church of Scientology manual on-line would lead to a run-in with with a private investigator they hired to track him down in Australia.

Convinced that disclosure of government corruption could serve as a preventative against abuse of power, he and a global network of hactivists registered Leak.com in 1999. Inspired by the collaborative nature of Wikipedia, they changed their name to Wikileaks in 2006. Their goal was to publish evidence of government criminality while simultaneously guaranteeing whistleblowers absolute anonymity.

Some of Wikileaks’s earliest disclosures include the Kenyan president who was embezzling funds and organizing death patrols to target political opponents; the private company dumping toxic waste in the Ivory Coast; email messages from the private account Sarah Palin used to conduct government business; and lists of websites being censored by China, Thailand and Iran.

Enter Bradley Manning

In early 2010, Private Bradley Manning leaked over 100,000 classified military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks.  These files provide an hour by hour chronicle of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including details of casualties (on both sides) that the Bush and Obama administration had deliberately concealed.

Recognizing he had no way of releasing such a massive amount of data in in a meaningful way, Assange shared the leaked documents with the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, in the hope of widely publicizing them.

The most famous file Manning released is the July 12, 2007 “Collateral Murder File” showing US attack helicopter personnel deliberately firing on unarmed civilians in Baghdad.

US Government Retaliation

The US government instantly retaliated against Assange by leaning on Visa, Mastercard and PayPal to discontinue payment services on the Wikileaks website. This was in addition to threats made in Congress to either assassinate him or kidnap him and try him for espionage.

In August 2010, Assange receives a rock star welcome in Sweden when he arrives for a speaking tour. Within days, he finds himself accused of sexual assault. After comparing notes, two female fans approached Swedish police about compelling him to have an HIV test. After bringing him in for questioning, the police release him without charge.

Filmed in 2010, the documentary ends here – before Assange leaves Sweden for England, a second prosecutor reinstates the charges, a British court orders his extradition to Sweden and he seeks sanctuary in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy. Assange fears, as do his supporters, that the Swedish authorities will extradite him to the US, which has laid the groundwork to try (and execute) him on espionage charges.

According to Mother Jones, the sexual assault charges are extremely murky, especially since the woman he’s accused of raping has asked to have the charges dropped. Assange denies forcing either woman to have sex with him. In both cases, the actual accusation is that he had sex without a condom. In one instance, the condom broke. In the other, after having sexual intercourse with a condom, he allegedly initiated intercourse a second time while the woman was half asleep and refused to put on a condom.

In Sweden, the official term is “withdrawal of consent.” Without knowing all the facts, it’s impossible to ascertain, it’s impossible to ascertain whether one or both women did, in fact, withdraw consent.

However the timing of the charges, the fact that one woman has CIA links and the possible role Republican puppet master Karl Rove (a long time adviser to Swedish Swedish Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt) Karl Rove played in the affair all suggest Assange may have been framed.

Recently it was announced  that the Swedish prosecutor has finally agreed to come to London to question Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

 

Deja Vu All Over Again

With the US, Britain, France and Russia rapidly escalating military aggression against Syria, I thought it would be useful to look back at this Al Jazeera documentary from 2004. Al Jazeera analysts were the first to predict (2003) that the US and their allies would lose the war in Iraq.

The Control Room – Propaganda of the Iraq War

Directed by Jehane Noujaim (2004)

Film Review

The Control Room is about the Qatar TV network Al Jazeera and their coverage of the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq. It alternates between footage of the Doha control room and the US Central Command media center. Highlights include vignettes of US officials condemning Al Jazeera for showing footage of civilian casualties and dead and captured Americans.

Because of the Pentagon’s tight control over US media, Al Jazeera was the only mainstream outlet to address the issue of civilian or GI deaths.

Al Jazeera was first launched in 1996 and several Arab countries banned it for criticizing their regimes. In 2003, they would broadcast coverage of the US invasion to 40 million Arab viewers, eventually becoming the most popular Arab TV station.

Their analysts would also be the first to predict (in 2003) that the US had “miscalculated” by invading Iraq – that the Iraqi resistance would eventually defeat the occupation.

The commentary by Al Jazeera senior producer Samir Khader is definitely the high point of the film, especially his discussion of the importance of propaganda in war. I was really surprised by his strenuous efforts to balance pro-US and pro-Iraqi propaganda.

I was astounded by his comment that he would take a job at Fox News if they offered it to him – to “trade the Arab nightmare for the American dream.” He speaks openly about his plans to send his children to the US to study.

The most heart-wrenching part of the film involves the deliberate assassination (via a US missile) of Al Jazeera reporter Tarek Ayyoub as he was broadcasting from the roof of the Al Jazeera building in Baghdad. His death would result the first of many anti-occupation protest marches.

Inside the Brutal Reality of Saudi Arabia

Inside the Dark Kingdom: Butchery, Slavery and History of Revolt

Abby Martin (2015)

Film Review

Inside the Dark Kingdom is a documentary celebrating the irony of Saudi Arabia’s selection to head the UN Panel of Human Rights. The blatant hypocrisy of the (successful) US campaign for this tyrannical kingdom to champion global human rights is obvious from the simple statement of facts. As is the duplicity of trying to depose the so-called “bloody dictator” of Syria while openly supporting the Saudi reign of terror.

The film investigates Saudi Arabia’s brutal and arbitrary criminal justice system, their brutal oppression of women, their virtual enslavement of migrant workers, their recent invasion of Yemen, their role in 9-11 and their reliance on US military assistance to suppress human rights organizing.

Saudi trials take place in secret, often without legal representation for the accused. Saudi subjects can be beheaded, stoned or crucified for crimes such as adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality and drug use and imprisoned and lashed for human rights advocacy or being victimized by sexual assault (typically rape victims receive more lashes than the men who rape them). Forty-five percent of Saudi executions are for non-violent drug crimes.

Saudi Uprisings

You rarely hear about Saudi Arabia’s long history of popular uprisings (and their brutal suppression) in the corporate media. The US first began collaborating with the Saudi royal family to suppress human rights in 1953, when Aramco (Arabian Oil Company workers) went on strike demanding a union. The US responded by establishing the US Training Mission in Saudi Arabia, which assisted the Saudi government in torturing and assassinating union leaders.

Saudi Arabia had their first failed revolution in 1962, when a Shia-led uprising demanded that oil profits be used to address poverty rather than to increase the wealth of American oil companies and the Saudi royal family.

Inspired by the 1979 revolution in Iran, rebels in the eastern Shia region of Saudi people launched massive street protests. These were crushed when the government tortured and assassinated key leaders and destroyed (via bombing) of dissident civilian enclaves.

The Saudi Arab Spring

Following the Arab Spring rebellions that blossomed in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011, there were Arab Spring rebellions in three major Saudi cities. The royal family responded by declaring martial law and banning any mainstream or social media favorable to the Arab Spring or unfavorable to the royal family. After arresting, torturing and/or assassinating of key organizers (and their families), the government immediately quadrupled their arms imports from the US.

The primary purpose of all this military hardware is to suppress dissent, not only in Saudi Arabia, but in Bahrain (the Saudi Army invaded Bahrain to suppress their Arab Spring uprising) and Yemen. Since April, 150,000 Saudi troops have invaded Yemen and killed 4,000 Yemenis – more than half of them civilians.

The 1945 Oil Protection Agreement

Martin also traces the history of the unique US-Saudi relationship, which started in 1945 with the signing of an official Oil Protection Agreement and the installation of a US naval base.

Dating back to 1988 the last four US presidents have had close business and personal relationships with the Saudi royal family. At present the Saudi princes are major donors to the Clinton Foundation.

Who’s Winning the War on Terror?

Guest Post

My friend Sajjad Shaukat has given me permission to re-publish an excerpt of his recent article in Veterans Today  about predictions he made in his 2005 book US vs Islamic Militants: Invisible Balance of Power. The book, which I reviewed last year, lays out Sajjad’s theory that the rise of stateless terrorist groups has created an “invisible balance of power.” The latter performs the same function in curbing US state terrorism as the Soviet Union did prior to its collapse.

The Veterans Today article calls attention to numerous predictions his book made which have come true. Among other predictions, Sajjad forecast the Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq, increasing sectarian violence in other Muslim countries, US/NATO attacks on new Muslim countries, increasing state terrorism by western countries and increasing global economic instability.

He raises a good point in his first paragraph. The US clearly isn’t winning the war on terror. All the evidence would suggest the “terrorists” are winning.

Global War on Terror: Pakistani Author’s Future Assessments Proved True

By Sajjad Shaukat

Given the prolonged US-led global war on terror, some media analysts are forecasting the defeat of the United States and its allies, pointing to the acceleration of terror-attacks in volatile countries, financial crises and the heavy cost of endless American war. But no one talks about the future assessments Pakistani author Sajjad Shaukat made in his book, US vs Islamic, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations, which was published in 2005.

In his research-based book, while taking this new style conflict as an interaction between the “group terrorism” led by Al-Qaeda or Islamic militants and state terrorism by the US, Shaukat points out that Muslim militants have been checking the hegemony of the sole super power.

Read more here:  Veterans Today

invisible-balance-of-power

Sajjad Shaukat is a journalist/author from Lahore Pakistan with a master’s degree from Punjab University in journalism, English and international relations.

Former CIA Station Chief to Face Murder Charges

Predator_Drone_021

According to the Guardian, Pakistan’s high court justice Shaukat Asiz Siddi has ruled that murder charges be brought against Jonathan Banks, the former CIA station chief in Islamabad. The charges relate to CIA drone strikes against innocent civilians in North Waziristan. It’s an extremely explosive story, which the US media has largely ignored.

Siddiqui also ordered criminal charges brought against John A Rizzo, the former CIA lawyer who signed off on the legality of drone strikes against Pakistan.

Banks’s undercover CIA role first became public in 2009 when tribesman Karin Khan filed a civil lawsuit against him over a drone attack that killed his father and son.

With his cover was blown, Banks was forced to resign his post and leave Pakistan.

The incident sparked major speculation how Khan and his lawyer Shahzad Akbar could possibly have known the identity of the CIA station chief. Many suspected Pakistani intelligence of leaking the name out of frustration with the illegal undeclared US war on their country.

It’s considered highly unlikely the Obama administration will extradite either Banks or Rizzo to stand trial in Pakistan.

Also posted at Veterans Today

His Weirdness Donald Rumsfeld

The Unknown Known

Errol Morris (2013)

Film Review

The Unknown Known is the weirdest documentary I’ve ever seen. The subject is former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his reflections on the disastrous War in Iraq. A third of the footage is archival and the other two-thirds consists of face-to-face interviews via a device director Errol Morris refers to as the Interrotron.

The film appears to have two goals: 1) to capture the essence of the major architect of America’s illegal wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq and 2) to allow him to reflect, in hindsight, exactly where things went wrong. As he expresses in the post-film discussion below, he fails on both scores. Morris totally fails to penetrate what Forbes describes as Rumsfeld’s “linguistic obfuscation.”

Unlike Robert McNamara (Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson), who expressed genuine regret over Vietnam in Morris’s 2003 documentary The Fog of War, Rumsfeld maintains his management of the US war in Iraq was flawless.

The documentary is framed around the tens of thousands of memos Rumsfeld issued over the course of his career. There were so many of them that his subordinates referred to them as “snowflakes.” This approach works well because all Rumsfeld’s decisions around the War on Terror are reflected in specific memos.

The most consistent criticisms around Rumsfeld’s role in the Iraqi occupation were his failure to involve other members of the Bush administration in decision making and his failure to make specific plans for a post-invasion government. When Morris asks about these critiques of his job performance, Rumsfeld bats them away, as he did in many press briefings, with clever word play or by quibbling over definitions.

For example when asked about the non-existent weapons of mass destruction the Bush administration used as a pretext for invading Iraq, he repeats the infamous line he gave reporters: “Absence of evidence doesn’t prove something doesn’t exist.”

Morris uses early memos to reconstruct Rumsfeld’s term in Congress (1962-1970) and his service in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administration. My favorite part of the film is an excerpt from the infamous Nixon White House tapes in which Nixon, Haldeman and Kissinger agree to fire Rumsfeld for being manipulative and untrustworthy.

As Ford’s Secretary of Defense, he strongly opposed détente, a policy started under Nixon to improve understand and ease tensions with the Soviet Union. As he expresses in one of his memos, the prospect of peace with the Soviets was making Congress and the American public reluctant to invest in defense infrastructure.

As the quagmire in Iraq caused George W Bush’s popularity to plummet, the President would sack Rumsfeld in December 2006 and replace him with Robert Gates, an official from Bush senior’s administration.

The title of the documentary is taken from an infamous example of Rumsfeld verbal gymnastics during a press briefing:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1uhheq_the-unknown-known_shortfilms

 

In the clip below, Morris frankly discusses his own feelings about the documentary

Reducing Foreign Policy to Good vs Evil

Bitter Lake

by Adam Curtis (BBC) 2015

Film Review

By now, people will have noticed I’m a bit of an Adam Curtis fanatic (Curtis also produced The Century of the Self). Like all his documentaries, Bitter Lake focuses on propaganda and ideological manipulation by the political elite. This film traces how fanatical Muslim sects like the Taliban and ISIS are the direct result of western colonization of the Middle East – and how US and British leaders deliberately deceive their citizens by reducing foreign policy to a simple metric of good and evil.

In Afghanistan, this oversimplification created an extraordinary dilemma for US and British troops and confronting the spontaneous Afghan insurgency that opposed the occupation. They naively believed they were bringing democracy to Afghanistan. In reality, they were substantially increasing the power and brutality of corrupt, heroin-trafficking war lords. The documentary artfully intersperses great footage of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with video from the more recent US occupation. The parallels between the two are uncanny.

Roosevelt’s Meeting with the Saudi King

The film takes its title from a 1945 meeting Roosevelt had with Ibn Saud, the king of Saudi Arabia, at Bitter Lake on the Suez Canal. The purpose of the meeting was to draw up a mutual security agreement that would keep Saudi oil fields under US control.

Curtis goes on to trace the rise of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, starting with the Wahhabist Bedouins who first brought the House of Saud to power in 1932. There was constant tension between the Saudi princes, who sought to modernize Saudi Arabia, and the Whahhabists, who opposed all imperialist development and sought to transform the country into a seventh century caliphate.

In 1964, King Faisal sought to alleviate this tension by sending the Wahhabists abroad to fight the growing influence of communism in the Muslim world. With US support, he used them to set up up madrassa throughout the Muslim world to train low income boys in Wahhabism.

The Economic Impact of Higher Oil Prices

In 1973 the US-Saudi relationship experienced a major breakdown when the US sided with Israel in its war against its Arab neighbors. By quintupling the price of oil, King Faisal forced the US and Israel to agree to a ceasefire.

The higher oil prices led to a total transformation of the global economic system. It caused mucho petrol dollars to flood into the Middle East, which the Saudis and other Mid East governments turned over to US and British banks to invest for them. This would provide the impetus for the “financialization” of the global economy, in which western capitalism would abandon manufacturing to focus on creating and selling financial products.

Higher prices for all commodities would also result in massive economic instability in the western world over the next seven years. A steep reduction in manufacturing jobs and wages would led to widespread popular unrest, which would bring right wing governments to power in most western democracies.

The Soviet Invasion

Curtis carefully outlines the historical events in Afghanistan that would lead to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1973, the Marxist revolution in 1978, the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the US/Saudi collaboration to recruit Saudi Wahhabists to defeat the Soviet occupation. The most prominent of these freedom fighters, known as the Mujahideen, was a Saudi highway engineer and CIA asset known as Osama bin Ladin.

Reducing Foreign Policy to Good vs Evil

Like Ronald Reagan, George W Bush attempted to reduce the US role in Afghanistan to a simple battle of good vs evil. The political reality was far more complex. US and Saudi intervention during the Soviet occupation brought corrupt warlords to power who supported their fiefdoms through Afghanistan’s heroin trade.

The Taliban, consisting mainly of Afghan orphans raised in Pakistani Madrassa, were primarily driven by a desire to end the heroin trade and this endemic corruption, which they (rightly) blamed on the interference of western imperialists in their country’s domestic affairs.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2hdcji_bitter-lake-2015-adam-curtis-documentary-1-of-3-720p_shortfilms

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2hdd54_bitter-lake-2015-adam-curtis-documentary-2-of-3-720p_shortfilms

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2hde2l_bitter-lake-2015-adam-curtis-documentary-3-of-3-720p_shortfilms

The Global Refugee Scandal

Europe or Die

VICE News (2015)

Film Review

According to UNHCR (the UN High Commission for Human Rights), more than 50 million people have been permanently displaced through wars in the Middle East, political persecution, climate change and grinding poverty. Of these, hundreds of thousands face such life threatening conditions at home that they risk death by crossing the Mediterranean in rusty, leaky, overcrowded boats.

Refugees typically take one of four routes in their desperation to reach Europe: illegal entry into one of the two Spanish enclaves in Morocco, a short choppy boat trip from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos or across the Avros River into mainland Greece, jumping a wire fence from Greece into Bulgaria or crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Europe or Die is a four part documentary follows some of these migrants on their dangerous voyage and closely examines their treatment by EU countries on their arrival.

This documentary was a real eye opener for me. Given the majority of these refugees are the helpless victims of proxy wars started and funded by the US and wealthy EU countries, their refusal of to adopt consistent and humane immigration policies is clearly a crime against humanity under international law.

Part I: For most sub-Saharan refugees seeking illegal entry to Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish enclaves on the Moroccan coast, the best option is to jump three high razor wire topped fences. Under EU law, the first fence demarcates the Spanish border. Refugees who make it past the first fence (it’s really a kind of game) are home free and must be given the option of moving to mainland Spain. They’re also entitled to legal assistance and an interpreter to help them apply for asylum.

The most common is for thousands to storm the fence simultaneously and overwhelming the border guards. Typically two out of 1,000 will get through. It’s illegal, under EU law, for Spanish police to forcibly return them. However “pushbacks,” as they are called are common. As is shooting their hands and feet to make it harder to climb the fence. This is also against the rules.

Part 2: A second common route for migrants is to take the “death boat” from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos or across the Avros River to mainland Greece. Refugees can pay smugglers several thousand dollars to cram them into shabby, overcrowded boats that frequently capsize.

Greece is experiencing a five-fold increase in illegal migration as a direct result of the civil war in Syria. Recently they have experienced a big influx of Iraqi refugees (mainly Yazidis*) with the rise of ISIS. As part of the game, the EU has another law, called the Dublin rule, that political refugees become the responsibility of the country where they are first picked up, irregardless of the country’s ability to provide jobs or social services.

Part 3: A third route is to cross the razor wife fence separating Turkey from Bulgaria, the poorest country in the EU. Bulgaria keeps political refugees in unheated tents without access to clean water. Once they are granted asylum they are forced to leave the camp and end up homeless on the streets.

Part 4: The final, most common method of reaching Europe is to cross from Libya to the Italian Island of Lampedusa. Up until a few months ago, the Italian Navy operated the only search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean. Called Mare Nostrum, it was made up of 900 personnel and 26 naval vessels – at a cost of $9 million euros a month.

In 2013, Mare Nostrum saved 150,000 migrants from boats that had capsized. Owing to the refusal of the EU to support this fantastically expensive program, it had to be cancelled in 2014.

It’s been replaced by Triton, an air surveillance program that requests nearby merchant vessels (if there are any) to rescue migrants in leaky votes.

In 2014, 170,000 migrants made it safely to Italy and 3,000 drowned.


*Yazidis are a Kurdish ethnic group ISIS attempted to exterminate in August 2014.

Iranian “Terrorist” Commands Assault on ISIS

soleimani

Our Man in Tikrit

According to Reuters, Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite militia fighters (with the support of Canadian special forces and US weapons, trainers and air strikes) are presently engaged in a major assault to retake the Iraqi city of Tikrit from ISIS. Until recently, the western media rarely mentioned the figure commanding these forces.

His name is Major General Qasem Soleimani, and he’s the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force. This creates an embarrassing situation for Obama because the US still officially designates Soleimani as a terrorist for his alleged role in a 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US

Given all the saber rattling against Iran by congressional Republicans (cheered on by Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu), the US media has been loathe to acknowledge that Iran has been spearheading the offensive against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. In Syria, Soleimani is widely credited with helping President Bashar al-Assad turn the tide against rebel forces and recapture key cities and towns.

The US political elite prefers to spoon feed Americans the cartoon version of US foreign policy, in which Americans only go to war against evil doers. For this reason, they have greatly downplayed the role of Soleimani and other Iranian military “advisers” in the battle against ISIS. A recent explosion of interest in General Soleimani on Twitter and Facebook has forced them to come clean.

According to the BBC, this isn’t the first time Soleimani has aided US military efforts in the Middle East. In 2001, he provided military intelligence to the US to support its invasion to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan, and in 2007 in participated in US-led talks in Baghdad over the deteriorating situation in Iraq.

As best I can ascertain, Soleimani has been a prominent figure in containing Iraqi sectarian violence since 2011

He has commanded Iranian forces active in the Syrian civil war since the latter half of 2012.

photo credit: www.yjc.ir

Also posted at Veterans Today