Search Results for: migrant crisis

The Generators, Agent Provocateurs & Opportunists of the Refugee Crisis

The Refuges Crisis: Synthetically-Created? How, Why & Beneficiaries

In this episode of Newsbud Roundtable, Sibel Edmonds, James Corbett, and Professor Filip Kovacevic join Spiro Skouras to discuss what is being called the 'worst humanitarian crisis' of our time. Our team takes a peek behind the curtain to find the root causes for why and how millions of people are migrating from war torn countries, and who benefits. We also examine the history and context of synthetically-created refugee crises since 1951. Join this highly stimulating discussion, and bring in your thoughts and responses with your comments.

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Show Notes

Saving Refugees to Save Europe

Migrant crisis a failure of European policy, UN says

World Bank, Accenture Call for Universal ID

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De-Manufacturing Consent- Open Borders: The Answer to the “Immigration Crisis”

Guillermo Jimenez Presents Sheldon Richman

On this edition of De-Manufacturing Consent: Guillermo is joined by Sheldon Richman, Vice President of the Future of Freedom Foundation. We discuss the current "humanitarian crisis" along the southern border of the United States regarding the influx of immigrants from Central America. We discuss the politicization of the immigration issue, the protests in Murrietta, California, and other cities, and how this can potentially be resolved. We go over the many flawed US policies dealing with immigration, drugs, and military intervention in Latin America that have led to the current situation.

Richman explains why the US government has no moral authority to round people up, house them in "detention centers," and ship them off to countries that in many cases the United States helped destroy. We round out our discussion with the moral, philosophical, and economic arguments for open borders, and why the answers to the immigration issue can only be found in more liberty and freedom of movement, not larger DHS budgets and bigger walls.

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Yemen, Energy Crisis, and the Nigerian Crotch Bomber: The Privatization of Security and the Militarization of Society-Part I

Breakdown of Standard Security Procedures

nigerianOn Christmas Day, 2009, 23-year old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, allegedly tried to blow up a plane on route from Amsterdam to Detroit by detonating a device stitched to his underwear. Fortunately, in yet another example of the level of sophistication of the new league of violent extremists, Abdulmutallab succeeded only in setting fire to his own crotch, before being apprehended by fellow passengers.

Security officials now reveal that the attack was planned by an al-Qaeda network in Yemen, where Abdulmutallab was apparently radicalized and trained, although he had been originally recruited, they say, in London. During his stint in London as a student, Abdulmutallab had been President of the Islamic Society at University College London.

The incident has been described as a major intelligence failure exposing the ongoing weakness of US and British security infrastructures and procedures. According to President Barack Obama, intelligence agencies were unable to “connect and understand” separate strands of information that would have alerted them to the attempted attack. “What we have here is a situation in which the failings were individual, organizational, systemic and technological,” said one US official. "We ended up in a situation where a single point of failure in the system put our security at risk, where human error was compounded by systemic deficiencies in a way that we cannot allow to continue."

More simply: no one is to blame.

British Security Surveillance

The problem is that the official narrative is already hopelessly littered with contradictions. Abdulmutallab was apparently first added to the UK Border Agency’s immigration watch list in May 2009 after failing to get a UK entry visa. “His refusal was not on national security grounds”, claimed an early BBC report rather earnestly, but because he had been tagged as a potential illegal immigrant because he had applied to study at a bogus college... This would, in theory, have prevented him from entering the UK - but not from passing through the country, if he was in transit to another country.

We now know that MI5 had him “tagged” as far more than a “potential illegal immigrant.” “The security services knew three years ago that the Detroit bomber had “multiple communications’ with Islamic extremists in Britain”, reported the Times of London. “Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was ‘reaching out’ to extremists whom MI5 had under surveillance while he was studying at University College London.” And then, another crucial caveat: “None of the information was passed to American officials, which will prompt questions about intelligence failures prior to the attack.”

Unfortunately, it now turns out that MI5’s files on Abdulmutallab were, indeed, passed on to the Americans - despite their initial claims that they had received nothing. As the Scotsman reported: “On Monday, Downing Street revealed that intelligence on Abdulmutallab had been passed to the US authorities before the Detroit incident. That revelation prompted suggestions of a rift between Gordon Brown and the White House, and increased pressure on US security agencies to explain why they had failed to identify the alleged bomber.

CIA and NSA

The narrative from the American side has now also taken shape. Security analyst Tom Burghardt provides a meticulous overview: Abdulmutallab was placed in a “catch-all” US terrorism watch list, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), containing 550,000 individuals. This by itself was not enough to put him on a no-fly list. But in September 2009, the National Security Agency (NSA) reportedly picked up intercepts among al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen planning an imminent terror plot by a Nigerian man. The intercepts were translated and disseminated “across classified computer networks”, including the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) run by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Then in November, Abdulmutallab’s father, a former top Nigerian government official, provided detailed information to the US embassy in Nigeria warning that his son was a violent extremist. [Read more...]

Trump Climbs aboard the China Lobby’s Hellbound Train

Great news for March of Folly fans!  Donald J. Trump has made his peace with the Beltway Asianist establishment so the China Containment Reign of Error can resume!  Bad news for the rest of us, though.

Expect plenty of chaos as the US struggles to come to terms with China’s rise and America’s relative decline…and look to China Watch for tips on how to try to avoid the collateral damage.  You need China Watch…Now More Than Ever.

This week on China Watch, the Washington think tank gang is back in the China tent and back at the government trough!  Meanwhile, Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party get down to business after the 19th Party Congress.  In an exclusive Newsbud catch, it’s the embarrassment of fake news for China hawk darling Randy Schriver!  And a special report on Bollywood and bigotry and the biggest movie of the year: Padmavati!

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Show notes

Interview with Li Hongzhi

Dislocated Migrant Workers Left in Cold and Confusion in Beijing

Beijing Police Detain Two Suspects in Alleged Preschool Child Abuse Case

China is pumping a lot of cash into its economy to calm investors

Syria courts China for rebuilding push after fall of Islamic State strongholds

Why China’s Three-Step Approach Won’t Be Enough to Solve the Rohingya Crisis

Is Narendra Modi the Leader of the World’s Largest Democracy…Or the World’s Most Successful Fascist?

Beheading, burning: the many threats against Bhansali, Padukone for Padmavati movie

Official Padmavati Trailer

What Padmavati gets wrong about Alauddin Khilji

Armitage’s Leak

President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts

Strategic Standoff: The U.S.-China Rivalry and Taiwan

General MacArthur’s Conspiracy to Start a War with China! New Documentary Release & Interview! For purchase at Newsbud Store or for Purchase or View via Amazon or Vimeo

Newsbud Exclusive – The ‘Humanitarian’ Destruction of Libya – Part 1: Real & Invented War Crimes

This article is part of a three-part series called “The ‘humanitarian’ destruction of Libya” that analyses the 2011 war in Libya and the motives behind it. The first article contrasts the invented war crime allegations against the Libyan government to the very real underreported war crimes by the insurgents; the second exposes a history of deceptive terrorist attacks on European soil wrongly attributed to Gaddafi and the role of NATO in the war; and the third discusses Gaddafi’s plan at creating a pan-African currency as one of the central motives lurking behind the mainstream explanation of the intervention as a just one that sought to “protect civilians” from a ruthless dictator.

On 21 February 2011, a week into the Libyan uprising, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Libyan League for Human Rights (LLHR), two main sources for the claim that Gaddafi was killing his own people, called for the immediate suspension of Libya from the UN Human Rights Council and urged the UN Security Council to “review the situation and consider its referral to the ICC [International Criminal Court].”  According to the two NGOs, “the crackdown has killed at least 300 to 400 people since February 15” and “the Libyan regime is apparently using mercenaries from Chad, Niger [and] Zimbabwe.”[1] Later that day, UN Watch, a pro-Israel NGO, initiated a letter signed by 70 other NGOs in collaboration with the LLHR and the National Endowment for Democracy, infamous for its involvement in manipulating elections and instigating “colour revolutions” around the world, in which it too echoed the need to suspend Libya from the Human Rights Council, in addition to urging the Security Council to invoke the “responsibility to protect” principle to protect the Libyan people.[2] On 25 February, the Human Rights Council followed the recommendation, thereby preventing the Libyan government from countering the undocumented allegations, let alone demanding that proof be submitted. Three weeks later, the Security Council adopted resolutions 1970 and 1973, authorising a no-fly zone on Libyan military aviation. Although article 2 of resolution 1973 stressed the need to use diplomacy to find a peaceful solution,[3] the bombing began two days later.

The public was told that NATO went into Libya because the American, British and French officials felt the dire need to protect civilians from a brutal dictator. They sought legitimisation for their modern version of the “just war” theory in the “responsibility to protect” doctrine. Philosophers and political thinkers had been debating if and when war is morally justifiable for centuries, but it was only in recent times that the idea gained a modern legal dimension above that of the sovereign nation-state. A commission set up under the auspices of the Canadian government in 2001 postulated that if a state is unable to halt or avert serious harm to its population, the international community has a “responsibility to protect.” Just like the “just war” theoreticians, the commission argued that military intervention is justified if a strict set of criteria - having the right intention, military measures being the last resort and the principle of proportionality, among others - are applicable, adding that “there is no better or more appropriate body than the United Nations Security Council to authorize military intervention for human protection purposes.”[4] In 2004, a panel set up by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan confirmed that there is a collective international responsibility to protect “exercisable by the Security Council authorizing military intervention as a last resort, in the event of genocide and other large-scale killing, ethnic cleansing and other serious violations of humanitarian law which sovereign governments have proved powerless or unwilling to prevent.”[5] From 2005 onwards, the “responsibility to protect” doctrine was up and running, as it was endorsed by all member states of the General Assembly at that year’s UN World Summit.[6]

Made-Up War Crimes

During Israel’s onslaught on Gaza in 2008, in which hundreds of civilians were killed, or any of the subsequent attacks on the coastal enclave, the Security Council did not even think about the “responsibility to protect.” But when allegations that Gaddafi was killing his own people were floating in early 2011, the world body did not hesitate to invoke it. Although the necessity of seeking adequate verification of facts before authorising military intervention resonated through all the above-mentioned documents, the UK, France and the US bombed Libya on the basis of undocumented allegations provided by NGOs in the first three months of NATO’s intervention, using only the Security Council resolutions as legal justification. It was only in late June that the ICC issued a warrant for the arrest of Gaddafi, proclaiming the Libyan leader to be guilty of crimes against humanity. At the ICC’s press conference following the verdict, a reporter asked Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo for concrete evidence proving Gaddafi’s guilt, after which Moreno-Ocampo referred her to a document, “most of which is public.”[7] The document is indeed public; the whole section in which the “proof” is enumerated, comprising about two thirds of the document, however, is not.[8]

As Prof. Maximilian Forte concluded in his book Slouching towards Sirte, the justification for intervention was based on three main interlinked myths: 1) that “African mercenaries” were employed by Gaddafi; 2) that these “mercenaries” were flown in from other African countries by Gaddafi, which increased the cry for a no-fly zone; and 3) that only intervention could stop an imminent genocide.[9] Although these myths were invented by the rebels, it were the major Western news outlets, NGOs and politicians who spread them worldwide in their attempt to legitimise their “just war.” Amnesty International, for instance, played a leading role in propagating the “black mercenary” narrative. The president of the French branch of the organisation, Geneviève Garrigos, spoke to France 24 on 22 February 2011, saying that Amnesty had received information that the Libyan government had sent in “foreign mercenaries” to fight against the protestors in order to “accelerate the oppressive process.” Later, however, she admitted that “we have no evidence Gaddafi employed mercenary forces. [...] We have no sign nor evidence to corroborate these rumours.” She repeated that Amnesty investigators never found any “mercenaries,” agreeing with her interviewer’s characterisation of their existence as a legend spread by the mass media.[10] The British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in a 2016 report, too, found that the UK government “failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element:”[11]

“Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence. The Gaddafi regime had retaken towns from the rebels without attacking civilians in early February 2011. [...] The disparity between male and female casualties [known to UN investigators in late February] suggested that Gaddafi regime forces targeted male combatants in a civil war and did not indiscriminately attack civilians. [Moreover,] an Amnesty International investigation in June 2011 could not corroborate allegations of mass human rights violations by Gaddafi regime troops. However, it uncovered evidence that rebels in Benghazi made false claims and manufactured evidence. [...] While Muammar Gaddafi certainly threatened violence against those who took up arms against his rule, this did not necessarily translate into a threat to everyone in Benghazi. In short, the scale of the threat to civilians was presented with unjustified certainty. [...] We have seen no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya. [...] It could not verify the actual threat to civilians posed by the Gaddafi regime; it selectively took elements of Muammar Gaddafi’s rhetoric at face value; and it failed to identify the militant Islamist extremist element in the rebellion. UK strategy was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of evidence.”[12]

There you have it from the horse’s mouth: Libya, just like Iraq in 2003, was invaded on false pretexts. This included the allegation that Gaddafi was bombing his own people, a myth that further stressed the need to implement a no-fly zone on Libyan military aircraft. On 21 February, the BBC claimed that “witnesses say warplanes have fired on protesters in the city [of Tripoli],”[13] echoing statements made by opposition activists and defected Libyan diplomats. Other mass media media outlets such as al-Jazeera, al-Arabiya, CNN and the Telegraph made similar accusations.[14] At a Department of Defense press conference on 1 March, however, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Mullen were asked if they had independent confirmation that Gaddafi “actually has fired on his own people from the air?”, to which they both replied they had none.[15] An Amnesty International investigation from June 2011 corroborated that there is no evidence that Gaddafi used helicopters, aircraft or anti-aircraft machine guns against civilian protesters.[16]

Another pretext that triggered NATO operations was the alleged massacre Gaddafi forces were about to inflict on the people of Benghazi. The city had fallen to opposition fighters in February, but when the Security council was set to vote on establishing a no-fly zone in mid-March, Gaddafi warned that an attack on the rebel stronghold was imminent. As acknowledged by the New York Times, he promised amnesty to those “who throw their weapons away” but “no mercy or compassion” for those who fight.[17] Obama, however, claimed later that month that “Qaddafi declared he would show ‘no mercy’ to his own people,” and that “if we waited one more day, Benghazi [...] could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”[18] He repeated this rhetoric in a joint letter with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in April published in the New York Times, which proclaimed that “the bloodbath that he [Gaddafi] had promised to inflict on the citizens of the besieged city of Benghazi has been prevented [because our countries] responded immediately. Tens of thousands of lives have been protected.”[19] To date, these heads of state are yet to provide evidence that would support the claim that Benghazi would have witnessed the loss of “tens of thousands of lives.” In fact, prior to the operation to retake Benghazi, Gaddafi recaptured a number of other cities either fully or partially without perpetrating genocide. In the case of Misrata, for instance, only three percent of the 257 deaths that were counted by April were women, which strongly suggests that most of the deceased were fighters, and that the killing was not of indiscriminate nature.[20] Even the Washington Post Company-owned Foreign Policy magazine, along with other mainstream analysts, scrutinised the notion that there was going to be a Benghazi massacre.[21]

In a conversation between radio hosts James Corbett of the Corbett Report and Lionel of Lionel Nation, the idea was put forward that regarding false media stories, the greater the horror, the easier to fake, because the public is reluctant to question horrific stories.[22] Such is the case for the most heinous allegation made against Libyan government troops. On 28 March, al-Jazeera launched the story that Gaddafi used rape “as a weapon of war” as he distributed Viagra to his soldiers.[23] The story was then picked up by the usual war hawks, from US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. The latter went even as far as to say that “we have information that there was a policy to rape in Libya those who were against the government”[24] and that “Viagra is a tool of massive rape.”[25] Eventually however, the same Amnesty International report that is quoted above did not find any victim of rape or doctor who knew about somebody being raped, let alone of a policy of mass rape.[26] Similarly, the Human Rights Council inquiry into war crimes in Libya, released in 2012, concluded that although sexual violence occurred in Libya, “the commission did not find evidence to substantiate claims of a widespread or a systematic attack, or any overall policy of sexual violence against a civilian population.”[27]

Actual War Crimes

While Obama & co were crying crocodile tears about alleged atrocities by Gaddafi forces, they failed to notice the very real war crimes perpetrated by the insurgents. The true nature of the rebels became especially clear after the Battle of Sirte, in which they killed Gaddafi and captured the last stronghold of the Libyan government. Not only did Reuters and Associated Press reporters witness looting and ransacking of houses[28] and did an Amnesty International report detail the widespread torture of (especially dark-skinned) ex-officials, soldiers and civilians, at least 12 of whom died in the process,[29] but in the aftermath of the “liberation” of Sirte it was also revealed that the insurgents had gone on a killing spree. Human Rights Watch investigators on the ground found 53 decomposing bodies, presumed to be Gaddafi supporters, at an abandoned hotel on 23 October. “The bloodstains on the grass directly below the bodies, bullet holes visible in the ground, [...] the spent cartridges of AK-47 and FN-1 rifles scattered around the site [and the fact that] some of the bodies had their hands tied behind their backs with plastic ties [...] strongly suggest that some, if not all of the people, were shot and killed in the location where they were discovered,” the report read. At another site, the investigators saw the badly decomposed bodies of 10 people who, too, had been executed and were dumped in a water reservoir. At a third site, the investigators found the remains of at least 95 people. Although the vast majority of them probably died in combat, at least six appeared to have been executed at the site with gunshot wounds to the head and body.[30] Two days later, CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reported that

“nearly 300 bodies, many of them with their hands tied behind their backs and shot in the head, have been collected from across Sirte and buried in a mass grave. [...] There are no names in one graveyard, only numbers: 572 so far and counting. That’s because the graves hold the bodies of alleged mercenaries. Most were killed in the fighting, but local officials freely admit that some were summarily executed.”[31]

The insurgents’ brutal executions, however, were already documented by their own admissions from the very onset of the Libyan crisis. On 18 February, three days into the uprising, the Guardian quoted an al-Jazeera interview with “political activist” Amer Saad, who said:

“The protesters in al-Bayda have been able to seize control of the military airbase in the city and have executed 50 African mercenaries and two Libyan conspirators. Even in Derna today, a number of conspirators were executed. They were locked up in the holding cells of a police station because they resisted, and some died burning inside the building.”[32]

There has never been found any credible evidence of foreign African fighters employed by the Libyan government. These “African mercenaries” were thus killed merely for being sub-Saharan migrants or black Libyans who may or may not have served in the Libyan army. Compare this one event in which the “revolutionaries” by their own admission extrajudicially slaughtered more than 50 people to Human Rights Watch’s estimate of 84 people killed by government forces across the whole country from the day the protests erupted on 15 February until that same day of 18 February. While this latter number appears credible since it was based on telephone interviews with local hospital staff, the contention that they were all “peaceful protesters” killed “simply because they’re demanding change and accountability” relied solely on the claims made by unnamed protesters and eyewitnesses.[33] With the ruthlessness of the armed insurgency in mind, it is much more likely that at least some died in combat with government troops.

Conclusion

Although a number of unsubstantiated war crime allegations targeting the Libyan government turned out to be completely made-up, they were nonetheless reported upon without much scrutiny and taken serious for several months by the Western and Gulf mass media. Mounting evidence of very real war crimes by the NATO-backed insurgents, on the other hand, did not receive saturation coverage and were downplayed and covered-up to the extent possible, only to receive proper investigation after the regime change mission was concluded. This ultra-biased reporting influenced both public opinion and international policy makers in favour of NATO’s “humanitarian” intervention, not only in the days surrounding the implementation of the no-fly zone but also during the subsequent crucial months of bombardments. Reminiscent of the mainstream coverage in the critical months leading up to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003, in addition to the blatant propaganda against the Syrian government today, this again shows how the mass media have become mouthpieces for the continuous cycle of war.

Since NATO declared Libya “liberated” after Gaddafi’s murder in October 2011, the country has plunged into chaos. Libya today is a hotbed for Islamist brigades including ISIS, rival governments and tribes are competing for power and migrants on their way to Europe are being sold at open slave markets.[34] As Libyan intelligence reports from 2011 obtained by the Washington Times found that NATO weapons being funnelled to Libya ended up with al-Qaeda-linked rebels,[35] a Libyan rebel commander in March 2011 admitted that his fighters had ties to al-Qaeda and the White House was well aware (though “concerned”) that Qatar was sending weapons to jihadis inside Libya from the beginning of the war onwards, Washington once again, just like in Syria today or Afghanistan in the 1980s, has clearly teamed up with the very same Islamist terrorist organisations against whom it is supposedly fighting a “war on terror.” Taking this into account, as well as the fact that there were significant rallies in favour of Gaddafi[36] and several reports revealed that civilians volunteered to take up arms to defend Sirte against the joint NATO-rebel operation against the city,[37] the question remains: was this a peaceful uprising for the ideals of democracy and human rights as the “humanitarian” interventionists would have us believe, or were the Arab Spring protests, just like in Syria, used as a pretext to enhance NATO imperialism?

# # # #

Bas Spliet, Newsbud  Analyst,  is a bachelor’s student History and Arabic at the University of Ghent, Belgium. He is interested in geopolitics, focusing most of his time in getting a better understanding of wars in the Middle East. His analyses can be found atwww.scrutinisedminds.com. He can be reached at bas.spliet@gmail.com.

Notes

[1] International Federation for Human Rights, “Massacres in Libya: the international community must respond urgently,” 21.02.2011, http://fidh.org/en/region/north-africa-middle-east/libya/Massacres-in-Libya-The.

[2] UN Watch, “Urgent appeal to end atrocities in Libya: sent by 70 NGOs to the US, EU, and the UN,” 21.02.2011, http://secure.unwatch.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=bdKKISNqEmG&b=1330815&ct=9135143.

[3] United Nations Security Council resolution 1973, article 2 (United Nations, 17.03.2011), 2.

[4] Gareth Evans and Mohamed Sahnoun, ed., The responsibility to protect: report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (Ottawa: International Development Research Center, 2001), XI-XIII, http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/ICISS%20Report.pdf.

[5] United Nations General Assembly, Follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit, A/59/565, (United Nations, 02.12.2004), http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/instree/report.pdf.

[6] United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/1, (United Nations, 16.09.2005), 20-2.

[7] Press Conference International Criminal Court, 28.06.2011, available in Julien Tiel, “Libya: the humanitarian war. There is no evidence,” http://youtube.com/watch?v=pU9IzXsALwo.

[8] The International Criminal Court, Situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, public redacted version, ICC-01/11, 16.05.2011, http://nifcrimes.com/Libya_redacted.pdf.

[9] Maximilian Forte, Slouching towards Sirte: NATO’s war on Libya and Africa (Montreal: Baraka Books, 2012), 238.

[10] Forte, Slouching towards Sirte, 250.

[11] House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Libya: examination of intervention and collapse and the UK’s future policy options (House of Commons, third report of session 2016-17, 14.09.2016), 3, http://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmfaff/119/119.pdf.

[12] House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Libya, 14-5.

[13] “Libya protests: Tripoli hit by renewed clashes,” BBC, 21.02.2011, http://bbc.com/news/world-africa-12531637.

[14] “Libya protests spread and intensify,” Al-Jazeera, 22.02.2011, http://aljazeera.com/news/africa/2011/02/2011221133557377576.html; “‘Massacre’ in Tripoli as jets strike civilians: witnesses,” Al-Arabiya, 21.02.2011, http://alarabiya.net/articles/2011/02/21/138622.html; “Report: helicopters fire on Libya protesters,” CNN, 19.02.2011, http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/19/report-helicopters-fire-on-libya-protesters/; Nick Meo, “Libya protests: 140 ‘massacred’ as Gaddafi sends in snipers to crush dissent, Telegraph, 20.02.2011, http://telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8335934/Libya-protests-140-massacred-as-Gaddafi-sends-in-snipers-to-crush-dissent.html.

[15] US Department of Defense, “DOD news briefing with Secretary Gates and Adm. Mullen from the Pentagon,” Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, 01.03.2011, http://archive.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4777.

[16] Patrick Cockburn, “Amnesty questions claim that Gaddafi ordered rape as a weapon of war,” Independent, 24.06.2011, http://independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/amnesty-questions-claim-that-gaddafi-ordered-rape-as-weapon-of-war-2302037.html.

[17] David Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim, “Qaddafi warns of assault on Benghazi as U.N. vote nears,” New York Times, 17.03.2011, http://nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/africa/18libya.html?pagewanted=all.

[18] Barack Obama, “Remarks by the president in address to the nation on Libya,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 28.03.2011, http://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/28/remarks-president-address-nation-libya.

[19] Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, “Libya’s pathway to peace, New York Times, 14.04.2011, http://nytimes.com/2011/04/15/opinion/15iht-edlibya15.html.

[20] Forte, Slouching towards Sirte, 244.

[21] David Bosco, “Was there going to be a Benghazi massacre?”, Foreign Policy, 07.04.2011, http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/04/07/was-there-going-to-be-a-benghazi-massacre/.

[22] James Corbett, “Interview 973 - Lionel on media fakery and historical distortion,” Corbett Report, 12.05.2014, http://corbettreport.com/interview-973-lionel-on-media-fakery-and-historical-distortion/.

[23] “Rape used ‘as a weapon’ in Libya,” Al-Jazeera, 28.03.2011, http://aljazeera.com/video/africa/2011/03/201132845516144204.html.

[24] Cockburn, “Amnesty questions claim that Gaddafi ordered rape as weapon of war.”

[25] “ICC to investigate reports of Viagra-fueled gang-rapes in Libya,” CNN, 18.03.2011, http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/05/17/libya.rapes.icc/.

[26] Cockburn, “Amnesty questions claim that Gaddafi ordered rape as weapon of war.”

[27] UN Human Rights Council, Report on the international commission of inquiry on Libya (United Nations, 02.03.2012), 14, article 70, http://ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session19/A.HRC.19.68.pdf.

[28] “Libya fighters loot Qaddafi tribe, show divide,” Fox News, 05.10.2011, http://foxnews.com/world/2011/10/05/libya-fighters-loot-qaddafi-tribe-show-divide.html; “Bulldozers raze Gaddafi compound,” BBC, 16.10.2011, http://bbc.com/news/world-africa-15329119; Rania el Gamal, “In Gaddafi’s hometown, residents accuse NTC fighters of revenge,” Reuters, 16.10.2011, http://reuters.com/article/us-libya-sirte-looting-idUSTRE79F2DL20111016.

[29] Amnesty International, Militias threaten hopes for new Libya (London: Amnesty International Publications, 2012), 14-25, http://amnesty.org/en/documents/MDE19/002/2012/en/.

[30] Human Rights Watch, “Libya: apparent execution of 53 Gaddafi supporters,” 24.10.2011, http://hrw.org/news/2011/10/24/libya-apparent-execution-53-gaddafi-supporters.

[31] Allen Pizzey, “Signs of ex-rebel atrocities in Libya grow,” CBS News, 25.10.2011, http://cbsnews.com/news/signs-of-ex-rebel-atrocities-in-libya-grow/.

[32] Ian Black and Owen Bowcott, “Libya protests: massacres reported as Gaddafi imposes news blackout,” Guardian, 18.02.2011, http://theguardian.com/world/2011/feb/18/libya-protests-massacres-reported.

[33] Human Rights Watch, “Libya: security forces kill 84 over three days,” 18.02.2011, http://hrw.org/news/2011/02/18/libya-security-forces-kill-84-over-three-days.

[34] Brandon Cole, “Migrants are being sold at open slave markets in Libya, International Business Times, 12.04.2017, http://ibtimes.co.uk/migrants-are-being-sold-open-slave-markets-libya-1616492.

[35] Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, “Secret Benghazi report reveals Hillary’s Libya war push armed al Qaeda-tied terrorists,” Washington Times, 01.02.2015, http://washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/1/hillary-clinton-libya-war-push-armed-benghazi-rebe/.

[36] “Thousands attend pro-Gaddafi rally,” BBC, 01.07.2011, http://bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-13998833/thousands-attend-pro-gaddafi-rally; Mahdi Darius Nazmroaya, “Libya in pictures: what the mainstream media does not tell you,” Global Research, 16.07.2011, http://globalresearch.ca/libya-in-pictures-what-the-mainstream-media-does-not-tell-you/25630.

[37] Ruth Sherlock, “Libya: exodus from Sirte as thousands flee rebel offensive,” Telegraph, 28.09.2011, http://telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8794617/Libya-exodus-from-Sirte-as-thousands-flee-rebel-offensive.html; Hadeel al-Shalchi, “Fleeing Gadhafi bastion, bitter at the new Libya,” Boston.com, 04.10.2011, http://archive.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2011/10/04/fleeing_gadhafi_bastion_bitter_at_the_new_libya/; Rania El Gamal, “Sirte residents turn anger on Libya’s new rulers,” Reuters, 05.10.2011, reprinted on Eco Diario, http://ecodiario.eleconomista.es/internacional/noticias/3426676/10/11/Sirte-residents-turn-anger-on-Libyas-new-rulers.html.

The New Great Game Round-Up: November 15, 2016

Examining the impact of Turkish-Russian rapprochement on NATO's Chechen 'Rebels' & Pakistan’s Taliban Warning

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Turkish-Russian Rapprochement Bodes Ill for NATO's Chechen 'Rebels'

Long before NATO member Turkey started flooding neighboring Syria with arms and fighters, the country already played a major role in destabilizing Russia's North Caucasus with a similar approach. Back in the day, the "Syrian rebels" were called "Chechen rebels" and NATO was doing its best to support them.

The Turkish government generously provided refuge to Chechen fighters and refugees, using them later as cannon fodder in Syria or as bargaining chips vis-à-vis Russia.

Turkey has long been a mecca for Russian-speaking jihadists, even before the Syrian conflict, but this could be changing very soon as a result of the recent Turkish-Russian rapprochement.

On October 26, Turkish authorities launched a nationwide counter-terrorism operation, raiding a total of 31 addresses in five provinces and detaining 81 people, including 60 foreign nationals.

Turkish newspaper Hürriyet described the detained suspects as "militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)" and said the operation was carried out "after receiving new information on a group that recruits militants and provides logistical support for the jihadists in Syria and Iraq."

According to the Russian news site rusvesna.su ("Russian Spring"), the operation was actually the result of "joint operative-investigative activities between Russian and Turkish intelligence" and targeted "representatives of the Crimean branch of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the North Caucasus wing of ISIS."

The detained suspects were primarily from Russia's North Caucasus and the post-Soviet states, causing Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) to wonder whether Erdogan has decided to surrender the North Caucasus to Putin.

A security source told Russian Spring that Turkey's cooperation was a gesture of thanks for intelligence warnings about the attempted coup against President Erdogan in July of this year.

Neither Russian nor Turkish authorities have been willing to confirm reports claiming that Russian intelligence warned Erdogan of an imminent coup just hours before it happened.

As Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu stressed, Ankara "received unconditional support from Russia, unlike other countries" during this difficult time. Ever since, Erdogan has spared no effort to restore relations between Turkey and Russia "to the pre-crisis level and beyond."

Turkish-backed "Syrian rebels" in and around Aleppo have already suffered from the Turkish-Russian rapprochement and it seems that NATO's "Chechen rebels" are also facing uncertain times.

On November 4, Russia's LifeNews announced that Turkish police had detained eight North Caucasus fighters, including the prominent Chechen commanders Aslambek Vadalov, Tarkhan Gaziyev and Mahran Saidov. A security source said the men fled the North Caucasus and joined the fight in Syria before moving to Turkey when it became too dangerous.

Upon hearing the good news, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov immediately issued a statement, praising Turkish President Erdogan and urging him to extradite Vadalov, Gaziyev and Saidov:

"Chechnya together with all Russian people hailed your decisive steps aimed at maintaining peace, stability, preventing a state coup and eradicating terrorism. The detention of dozens of dangerous criminals signals the firmness of your intensions. I make a request to you to allow the extradition of the gunmen."

A few months earlier, Kadyrov had already called on the Turkish authorities to crack down on Chechen terrorists hiding in Turkey after Turkish media identified Chechen "freedom fighter" turned Islamic State commander Akhmed Chatayev as the mastermind behind the June 28 Atatürk Airport attack. At the time, Kadyrov published a list of 12 Chechens that he wanted to see detained and extradited. Vadalov, Gaziyev and Saidov were on that list.

The Chechen Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate for Chechnya had just offered a reward of 3 million rubles for the capture of Saidov shortly before Russian media reported his arrest.

Erdogan won't be swayed by a few million rubles, but Russia's unconditional support over the coup attempt could prompt him to do something that seemed completely impossible only a few months ago.

The extradition of the prominent Chechen commanders would signal a significant shift in Turkish foreign policy, causing the United States to pay a heavy price for backing the wrong side on that fateful night of July 15.

Taliban Postpone Talks with Kabul after Pakistan's Warning

After Pakistan had not been invited to secret talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Qatar, everyone was waiting for Islamabad's reaction.

According to a report by The Associated Press, the Pakistani government didn't take the news very well.

When a three-person Taliban delegation traveled from Qatar to Pakistan to brief Pakistani officials about the talks, they were given an ultimatum: Consult with Islamabad during the negotiations or have all top Taliban leaders leave Pakistan along with their families.

While the Taliban were weighing their options, Sayed Ishaq Gailani, a former MP and leader of the National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan, told Pakistan's The Express Tribune that several Afghan political leaders were in contact with the Taliban office in Qatar, spearheading efforts to broker further meetings. Gailani complained about the "lukewarm" response from the Kabul government, saying: "The government is not yet cooperating with us, but we will continue our efforts."

According to Gailani, around 15 political and former mujahideen leaders are involved in the peace initiative. They approached China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, looking for a possible venue for talks with the Taliban. Turkey reportedly declined to host such talks in the current post-coup environment and Saudi Arabia's participation seems unlikely.

Nevertheless, Gailani and other Afghan leaders were very optimistic that peace talks with the Taliban's Quetta Shura would begin soon. "We had exchanged views and held talks with the Quetta Shura; the only issue is a proper venue which needs to be certified for the talks," Gailani stressed.

However, a few days later, The Express Tribune announced that the Taliban are not ready to hold talks with Kabul, quoting a Taliban source as saying:

"The Taliban representatives have wrapped up their nearly two-week visit and conveyed to Pakistani officials that they have not yet decided to enter into dialogue with the Kabul administration. The Taliban leaders insisted they could only say whether or not the group will join talks after two or three months."

It seems that the Taliban need more time to think about Islamabad's ultimatum and their next moves.

The Afghan government is lurching from one crisis to another and the situation on the battlefield is developing in favor of the Taliban. There is no need to make any rash decisions.

Moreover, it is not clear how Donald Trump's surprising election victory is going to affect the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Both the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who recently signed a peace deal with Kabul, have called on Trump to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

Judging by his cabinet shortlist, President Trump's foreign policy isn't going to be as isolationist as many people assume. But the rising number of dead Americans is making it increasingly difficult to sell the unpopular Afghanistan war to the American public.

According to a study carried out by Afghanistan's TOLOnews, October was the deadliest month in the past two years with more than 6,000 insurgents, nearly 500 security forces and more than 700 civilians killed.

Despite the disastrous security situation, Afghanistan may have to accomodate 1.5 million Afghan refugees by the end of 2016. Most of them return from Pakistan or Iran but the International Organization of Migrants (IOM) has also recorded an increase of 400% in the number of Afghans returning from Europe. The European Union (EU) wants to increase the number even further.

Tens of thousands of Afghans who have immigrated to Europe in the last year or two could be deported as part of a controversial agreement between the EU and Kabul, allowing the EU to deport an unlimited number of Afghan asylum seekers. The European Union had threatened Afghanistan with a reduction in aid, leaving Kabul no other choice but to agree to the deal.

A recent report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Bank predicted that "additional returns from Pakistan, Iran, or Europe are likely to result in further secondary displacement, unemployment and instability."

15 years after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, the situation is worse than ever before. The only ones that can afford to sit back and weigh their options are the Taliban.

# # # #

Christoph Germann- Newsbud Author & Analyst

Christoph Germann, Newsbud Analysts, is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The Jaber al-Bakr Story: How a White Helmets Volunteer Almost Blew Up Berlin Airport

Chemnitz Terror Plot Turns the Spotlight on NATO’s Terrorist Breeding Ground in ‘Rebel-Held’ Syria

The two-day manhunt, spectacular arrest and shocking death of a Syrian terrorism suspect in Germany have attracted a lot of attention and raised a lot of questions.

On October 8, German police raided an apartment in the eastern city of Chemnitz after being tipped off by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. They found 1.5 kilograms of TATP, the explosive of choice for ISIS terrorists, but the target of the raid, a 22-year-old Syrian refugee named Jaber al-Bakr, managed to escape.

Three alleged associates of al-Bakr were detained in connection with the raid, two of whom were later released. A 33-year-old Syrian refugee, identified only as Khalil A., remains in custody. Kahlil A. was renting the Chemnitz apartment where al-Bakr was staying. He is accused of allowing al-Bakr to use his apartment and of ordering bomb-making materials for him online. Security sources referred to the apartment as “a virtual bomb-making lab.”[1]

After the botched raid on Saturday, German police immediately launched a nationwide manhunt for al-Bakr.

On Sunday evening, three Syrians contacted police in the city of Leipzig, about an hour’s drive from Chemnitz, and informed them that they had captured the wanted suspect.

36-year-old Syrian refugee Mohamed A. later told German media that he and two of his friends had picked up al-Bakr at Leipzig main station after he sent out a request via a Syrian refugee online network for a place to stay. When they noticed that a manhunt for al-Bakr was underway, they decided to tie him up and informed the police.

At 0:42 a.m. local time on Monday, special police forces entered the apartment in Leipzig and found the terrorism suspect tied up.

Mohamed A. and his friends were hailed as heroes by German politicians and media. Some politicians even called for awarding them the Federal Cross of Merit, Germany’s highest civilian honor.[2]

Jaber al-Bakr, on the other hand, told investigators during his interrogation that the three Syrians from Leipzig were involved in the planning of the attack.[3] A few hours later, the most important witness in the case was dead.

Al-Bakr was found hanged in his jail cell at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday. He had been held in solitary confinement at Leipzig prison since his arrest on Monday. Wardens initially checked on him every 15 minutes. This interval was extended on Wednesday afternoon to every 30 minutes. During the last regular check-in at 7:30 p.m., al-Bakr was still alive. When a trainee guard decided 15 minutes later to check again, she found him hanging from the bars of his cell with his T-shirt. Attempts to revive al-Bakr were unsuccessful and at 8:15 p.m. he was declared dead.

His defense lawyer, Alexander Hübner, accused the authorities of a "justice scandal" and stressed that al-Bakr's suicidal tendencies had been well documented. Hübner pointed out that his client went on hunger strike directly after his arrest on Monday.[4]

One day before his apparent suicide, al-Bakr had already pulled a lamp in the cell out of its fitting and tampered with power sockets. Prison authorities dismissed it as vandalism.[5] The suspected would-be suicide bomber was not classified as an “acute suicide risk.”[6]

Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary group leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), described the al-Bakr story as an “unprecedented sequence of failures by the police and judicial system."[7]

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere demanded a “rapid and comprehensive inquiry” and stressed that al-Bakr's death had made the task of investigating the possible Berlin airport bomb plot much harder.[8]

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said that al-Bakr initially wanted to target trains in Germany before finally deciding on one of Berlin’s airports.[9] The agency believes that the attack was planned for this week.[10]

The information came from U.S. intelligence, which had tapped phone calls between al-Bakr and an ISIS member in Syria. In a call on October 7, al-Bakr reportedly told his contact in Syria that 2 kilograms of explosives were ready and that a "big airport in Berlin" was "better than trains." According to German security sources, al-Bakr had already spent a night in the German capital during the second half of September to spy out Berlin Tegel Airport.[11]

Jaber al-Bakr was born on January 10, 1994 in Sa’sa’, south of Damascus. He left Syria in 2014 and arrived in Germany in February 2015, receiving asylum in June 2015.

Al-Bakr’s family and former roommates confirmed that he traveled at least twice to Turkey after arriving in Germany. During these trips, al-Bakr also spent a lot of time in Syria. One of his former roommates recalled talking to him over the phone while he was in the northwestern city of Idlib.

According to his roommates, al-Bakr was never particularly religious, but after returning from Turkey, he changed radically. His 18-year-old brother, who is living in Syria, said in a live chat with Germany’s Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR) that someone must have brainwashed or manipulated Jaber.[12]

The suspect’s 31-year-old brother Alaa al-Bakr told Der Spiegel by phone from Sa’sa’ that Jaber first returned to Syria via Turkey in September 2015 and then joined ISIS in Raqqa.[13]

In an interview with Reuters, Alaa said he believed imams in Berlin brainwashed Jaber into returning to Syria for jihad. According to his older brother, Jaber explained his trip to Syria earlier this year by saying that he wanted to volunteer with the White Helmets: “He went to Turkey seven months ago and spent two months in Syria. He called us and told us 'I'm volunteering with the White Helmets (emergency teams) in Idlib'.”[14]

Jaber also mentioned that he was with Ahrar al-Sham in Idlib and doing "humanitarian aid work."[15]

When Alaa talked to his brother two months ago, Jaber said that he was in Idlib and asked him how to get back to Germany. “He asked me if there was a way to go back to Germany but he had burned his documents,” Alaa told The Wall Street Journal, adding that he didn’t know his brother got back.[16]

Jaber al-Bakr’s Facebook page indicates that he sympathized with ISIS since at least January 2016. According to investigators, al-Bakr returned from Turkey at the end of August after spending several months abroad. Shortly thereafter, he caught the attention of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.[17]

If Alaa al-Bakr’s account is accurate and his brother Jaber was able to travel between Germany and Syria at will, possibly without documents, authorities in Turkey and Germany have a lot to answer for.

Even more explosive is the revelation that Jaber al-Bakr spent a lot of time in Idlib, supposedly volunteering with the NATO-funded White Helmets, working with NATO-backed Ahrar al-Sham and doing “humanitarian aid work,” while becoming a bomb-making ISIS terrorist.

In contrast to the city of Raqqa, Idlib is not an ISIS stronghold. The northwestern province of Idlib and its provincial capital of the same name are “rebel-held” territory, at least according to Western governments and media.

Idlib province is reportedly roughly divided into areas controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra, areas controlled by Ahrar al-Sham, and areas where they share control.[18]

Al-Nusra was until recently the official Syrian branch of al-Qaeda and is still considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the United Nations. Ahrar al-Sham, on the other hand, enjoys the support of the U.S. and its allies and is being protected from the terrorist label despite its close ties to al-Qaeda and other designated terrorist organizations.[19]

In March 2015, the military alliance “Jaish al-Fatah” (“Army of Conquest”), led by al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, seized Idlib city from government forces. Idlib was only the second provincial capital to be captured from the government since the start of the conflict, the other one being Raqqa.

The attack on Idlib city had been planned for months. In November 2014, NATO member Turkey and close U.S. ally Qatar began providing increased logistical and military support to Ahrar al-Sham and several other factions active in northwestern Syria, thereby enabling Jaish al-Fatah’s series of victories in spring 2015.[20]

When Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was later asked about the fall of Idlib, he emphasized that “the main factor was the huge support that came through Turkey; logistic support, and military support, and of course financial support that came through Saudi Arabia and Qatar."[21]

Needless to say, all of this constituted a clear violation of international law.

The process that followed Jaish al-Fatah’s takeover of Idlib province has been described as the “Talibanization of Idlib.” As Joshua Landis and Steven Simon noted, “rebel-held” Idlib doesn’t present an attractive or viable alternative to government-held Syria, quite the contrary:

“Schools have been segregated, women forced to wear veils, and posters of Osama bin Laden hung on the walls. Government offices were looted, and a more effective government has yet to take shape. With the Talibanization of Idlib, the 100-plus Christian families of the city fled. The few Druze villages that remained have been forced to denounce their religion and embrace Islam; some of their shrines have been blown up. No religious minorities remain in rebel-held Syria, in Idlib, or elsewhere.”[22]

When Jaber al-Bakr traveled to Idlib earlier this year, he traveled to a city where youths are being publicly flogged for accompanying girls in public or exchanging “indecent pictures.”[23]

“Rebel-held” Idlib is a place where terrorist groups like al-Nusra and the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), which are accused of organizing terrorist attacks abroad,[24] can do as they please while enjoying NATO protection due to their “intermingling” with Ahrar al-Sham and other so-called “moderate opposition forces.”

It is not hard to imagine how spending time in Idlib could have contributed to al-Bakr’s radicalization. More difficult to answer is what an ISIS member was doing in Idlib and if he really worked with Ahrar al-Sham and volunteered with the White Helmets.

If Jaber al-Jabkr was a White Helmet “rescue worker,” this would add to the growing evidence that there is no clear line between the self-described “unarmed und neutral rescue workers” and combatants - or even members of designated terrorist organizations.

The White Helmets are not a legitimate Syrian Civil Defense group, as Western governments and media would have you believe.[25]

The White Helmets are a propaganda tool funded by the same governments that are funding the armed opposition in Syria. The U.S. and its NATO allies have provided millions of dollars to the White Helmets while trying to shield themselves from the obvious threat posed by members of the group. When White Helmets leader Raed Saleh was denied entry into the U.S. earlier this year, State Department spokesman Mark Toner explained it as follows:

“And any individual – again, I’m broadening my language here for specific reasons, but any individual in any group suspected of ties or relations with extremist groups or that we had believed to be a security threat to the United States, we would act accordingly. But that does not, by extension, mean we condemn or would cut off ties to the group for which that individual works for.”[26]

After the Germany’s Foreign Ministry “recently increased its financial contribution by two million euros to a total of seven million euros for this year,” the German authorities would be well advised to rethink their support of the White Helmets in light of the al-Bakr revelations.[27]

The story of Jaber al-Bakr provides more evidence that the NATO-funded White Helmets serve as a cover for extremists and that “rebel-held” Idlib is turning into a terrorist breeding ground, similar to Afghanistan under Taliban rule. This terrorist breeding ground is being fostered by NATO members and their GCC allies - and innocent people in Syria, Germany and elsewhere are going to pay the price for that.

# # # #

Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

Notes

[1] “Germany manhunt: 'IS link' to bomb suspect Al-Bakr – police,” BBC, 10 October 2016:  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37604247.

[2] Madeline Chambers, “Germans say ‘hero refugees’ deserve medals for tying up suspected bomber,” Reuters, 12 October 2016: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-bomb-migrants-idUSKCN12C18B.

[3] “Al-Bakr beschuldigt Leipziger Syrer des Mitwissertums,” Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, 12 October 2016: http://www.mdr.de/sachsen/leipzig/al-bakr-beschuldigt-syrer-aus-leipzig-des-mitwissertums-100.html.

[4] Michael Nienaber and Paul Carrel, “Germany aghast after Syrian bomb suspect kills himself in jail,” Reuters, 13 October 2016: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-bomb-suspect-suicide-idUSKCN12C2K6.

[5] Johannes Graf, “Suizid trotz Vorschriften: Die letzten Tage des Jaber Al-Bakr,” n-tv, 13 October 2016: http://www.n-tv.de/politik/Die-letzten-Tage-des-Jaber-Al-Bakr-article18851046.html.

[6] Ben Knight, “Terror suspect Albakr not classified as 'acute suicide risk' before Leipzig jail death,” Deutsche Welle, 13 October 2016: http://www.dw.com/en/terror-suspect-albakr-not-classified-as-acute-suicide-risk-before-leipzig-jail-death/a-36030348.

[7] Ibid., Nienaber and Carrel.

[8] “German terror suspect Jaber al-Bakr's jail death a scandal, says lawyer,” BBC, 13 October 2016: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37641263.

[9] “IS bomb suspect planned to target Berlin airport: official,” Deutsche Welle, 11 October 2016: http://www.dw.com/en/is-bomb-suspect-planned-to-target-berlin-airport-official/a-36010910.

[10] “Justizminister: Keine akute Selbstmordgefahr bei Albakr,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 13 October 2016: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/kampf-gegen-den-terror/suizid-von-jaber-al-bakr-anwalt-kritisiert-saechsische-justiz-14478174.html.

[11] Michelle Martin, “Syrian bombing suspect in Germany spoke to IS contact about attack plans: newspaper,” Reuters, 15 October 2016: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-bomb-suspect-idUSKBN12F07R.

[12] “Terrorverdächtiger Syrer sympathisierte mit IS,” Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, 12 October 2016: http://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/politik/inland/Terrorverdaechtiger-hatte-facebook-kontakt-zu-is-100.html.

[13] “Albakr soll sich in Deutschland radikalisiert haben,” Spiegel Online, 14 October 2016: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/jaber-albakr-soll-sich-in-deutschland-radikalisiert-haben-a-1116645.html.

[14] Joseph Nasr, “Berlin bombing suspect radicalized by imams in Germany, brother says,” Reuters, 14 October 2016: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-bomber-idUSKBN12E2ET.

[15] Eva Marie Kogel, “„Die Polizei hat meinen Bruder umgebracht“,” Welt, 15 October 2016: https://www.welt.de/print/die_welt/politik/article158777693/Die-Polizei-hat-meinen-Bruder-umgebracht.html.

[16] Ruth Bender and Mohammad Nour Alakraa, “Terror Suspect Found Dead in German Jail Cell Had Traveled to Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, 13 October 2016: http://www.wsj.com/articles/terror-suspect-found-dead-in-german-jail-cell-had-traveled-to-syria-1476375285.

[17] Florian Flade, Annelie Naumann, “Die mysteriöse Türkei-Reise des Dschaber al-Bakr,” Welt, 12 October 2016: https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article158688067/Die-mysterioese-Tuerkei-Reise-des-Dschaber-al-Bakr.html.

[18] Sam Heller, “The Home of Syria’s Only Real Rebels,” The Daily Beast, 17 June 2016: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/17/the-home-of-syria-s-only-real-rebels.html.

[19] Christoph Germann, “Syria ‘Cease-Fire’ Brings U.S. & Russia Closer to War,” NewsBud, 10 October 2016: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2016/10/10/syria-cease-fire-brings-u-s-russia-closer-to-war/.

[20] Charles Lister, The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency (London: C. Hurst & Co., 2015).

[21] Tom Perry, Humeyra Pamuk and Ahmed Tolba, “Assad says Turkish support 'main factor' in Idlib takeover,” Reuters, 17 April 2015: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-assad-idUSKBN0N80N820150417.

[22] Joshua Landis and Steven Simon, “Assad Has It His Way,” Foreign Affairs, 19 January 2016: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2016-01-19/assad-has-it-his-way.

[23] Ullin Hope, “Idlib youths flogged for unsanctioned contact with girls,” NOW, 22 January 2016: https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/NewsReports/566524-idlib-youths-flogged-for-unsanctioned-contact-with-girls.

[24] Olga Dzyubenko, “Kyrgyzstan says Uighur militant groups behind attack on China's embassy,” Reuters, 7 September 2016: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kyrgyzstan-blast-china-idUSKCN11C1DK.

[25] Vanessa Beeley, “EXCLUSIVE: The REAL Syria Civil Defence Exposes Fake ‘White Helmets’ as Terrorist-Linked Imposters,” 21st Century Wire, 23 September 2016: http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/09/23/exclusive-the-real-syria-civil-defence-expose-natos-white-helmets-as-terrorist-linked-imposters/.

[26] Mark Toner, U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing, 27 April 2016: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2016/04/256667.htm.

[27] Federal Foreign Office, “Federal Foreign Office to support Syrian White Helmets with seven million euros, Press release, 23 September 2016: https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/Infoservice/Presse/Meldungen/2016/160923_Weisshelme.html.

 

A Culture of Fear & the Epigenetics of Terror

Fear Makes People Stupid!

No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.”—Edward R. Murrow, Broadcast Journalist

America is in the midst of an epidemic of historic proportions.

The contagion being spread like wildfire is turning communities into battlegrounds and setting Americans one against the other.

Normally mild-mannered individuals caught up in the throes of this disease have been transformed into belligerent zealots, while others inclined to pacifism have taken to stockpiling weapons and practicing defensive drills.

This plague on our nation—one that has been spreading like wildfire—is a potent mix of fear coupled with unhealthy doses of paranoia and intolerance, tragic hallmarks of the post-9/11 America in which we live.

Everywhere you turn, those on both the left- and right-wing are fomenting distrust and division. You can’t escape it.

We’re being fed a constant diet of fear: fear of terrorists, fear of illegal immigrants, fear of people who are too religious, fear of people who are not religious enough, fear of Muslims, fear of extremists, fear of the government, fear of those who fear the government. The list goes on and on.

The strategy is simple yet effective: the best way to control a populace is through fear and discord.

Fear makes people stupid.

Confound them, distract them with mindless news chatter and entertainment, pit them against one another by turning minor disagreements into major skirmishes, and tie them up in knots over matters lacking in national significance.

Most importantly, divide the people into factions, persuade them to see each other as the enemy and keep them screaming at each other so that they drown out all other sounds. In this way, they will never reach consensus about anything and will be too distracted to notice the police state closing in on them until the final crushing curtain falls.

This is how free people enslave themselves and allow tyrants to prevail.

This Machiavellian scheme has so ensnared the nation that few Americans even realize they are being manipulated into adopting an “us” against “them” mindset. Instead, fueled with fear and loathing for phantom opponents, they agree to pour millions of dollars and resources into political elections, militarized police, spy technology and endless wars, hoping for a guarantee of safety that never comes.

All the while, those in power—bought and paid for by lobbyists and corporations—move their costly agendas forward, and “we the suckers” get saddled with the tax bills and subjected to pat downs, police raids and round-the-clock surveillance.

Turn on the TV or flip open the newspaper on any given day, and you will find yourself accosted by reports of government corruption, corporate malfeasance, militarized police and marauding SWAT teams.

America has already entered a new phase, one in which children are arrested in schools, military veterans are forcibly detained by government agents because of the content of their Facebook posts, and law-abiding Americans are having their movements tracked, their financial transactions documented and their communications monitored

These threats are not to be underestimated.

Yet even more dangerous than these violations of our basic rights is the language in which they are couched: the language of fear. It is a language spoken effectively by politicians on both sides of the aisle, shouted by media pundits from their cable TV pulpits, marketed by corporations, and codified into bureaucratic laws that do little to make our lives safer or more secure.

Fear, as history shows, is the method most often used by politicians to increase the power of government. Even while President Obama insists that “freedom is more powerful than fear,” the tactics of his administration continue to rely on fear of another terrorist attack in order to further advance the agenda of the military/security industrial complex.

An atmosphere of fear permeates modern America. However, with crime at a 40-year low, is such fear of terrorism rational?

Even in the wake of the shootings in San Bernardino and Paris, statistics show that you are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack. You are 11,000 times more likely to die from an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane. You are 1,048 times more likely to die from a car accident than a terrorist attack. You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack. You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocating in bed than from a terrorist attack. And you are 9 more times likely to choke to death in your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack.

Indeed, those living in the American police state are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist. Thus, the government’s endless jabbering about terrorism amounts to little more than propaganda—the propaganda of fear—a tactic used to terrorize, cower and control the population.

So far, these tactics are working.

The 9/11 attacks, the Paris attacks, and now the San Bernardino shooting have succeeded in reducing the American people to what commentator Dan Sanchez refers to as “herd-minded hundreds of millions [who] will stampede to the State for security, bleating to please, please be shorn of their remaining liberties.”

Sanchez continues:

I am not terrified of the terrorists; i.e., I am not, myself, terrorized. Rather, I am terrified of the terrorized; terrified of the bovine masses who are so easily manipulated by terrorists, governments, and the terror-amplifying media into allowing our country to slip toward totalitarianism and total war…

I do not irrationally and disproportionately fear Muslim bomb-wielding jihadists or white, gun-toting nutcases. But I rationally and proportionately fear those who do, and the regimes such terror empowers. History demonstrates that governments are capable of mass murder and enslavement far beyond what rogue militants can muster. Industrial-scale terrorists are the ones who wear ties, chevrons, and badges. But such terrorists are a powerless few without the supine acquiescence of the terrorized many. There is nothing to fear but the fearful themselves…

Stop swallowing the overblown scaremongering of the government and its corporate media cronies. Stop letting them use hysteria over small menaces to drive you into the arms of tyranny, which is the greatest menace of all.

As history makes clear, fear leads to fascistic, totalitarian regimes.

It’s a simple enough formula. National crises, reported terrorist attacks, and sporadic shootings leave us in a constant state of fear. Fear prevents us from thinking. The emotional panic that accompanies fear actually shuts down the prefrontal cortex or the rational thinking part of our brains. In other words, when we are consumed by fear, we stop thinking.

A populace that stops thinking for themselves is a populace that is easily led, easily manipulated and easily controlled.

As I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the following are a few of thenecessary ingredients for a fascist state:

  • The government is managed by a powerful leader (even if he or she assumes office by way of the electoral process). This is the fascistic leadership principle (or father figure).
  • The government assumes it is not restrained in its power. This is authoritarianism, which eventually evolves into totalitarianism.
  • The government ostensibly operates under a capitalist system while being undergirded by an immense bureaucracy.
  • The government through its politicians emits powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
  • The government has an obsession with national security while constantly invoking terrifying internal and external enemies.
  • The government establishes a domestic and invasive surveillance system and develops a paramilitary force that is not answerable to the citizenry.
  • The government and its various agencies (federal, state, and local) develop an obsession with crime and punishment. This is overcriminalization.
  • The government becomes increasingly centralized while aligning closely with corporate powers to control all aspects of the country’s social, economic, military, and governmental structures.
  • The government uses militarism as a center point of its economic and taxing structure.
  • The government is increasingly imperialistic in order to maintain the military-industrial corporate forces.

The parallels to modern America are impossible to ignore.

“Every industry is regulated. Every profession is classified and organized,” writes Jeffrey Tucker. “Every good or service is taxed. Endless debt accumulation is preserved. Immense doesn’t begin to describe the bureaucracy. Military preparedness never stops, and war with some evil foreign foe, remains a daily prospect.”

For the final hammer of fascism to fall, it will require the most crucial ingredient: the majority of the people will have to agree that it’s not only expedient but necessary. In times of “crisis,” expediency is upheld as the central principle—that is, in order to keep us safe and secure, the government must militarize the police, strip us of basic constitutional rights and criminalize virtually every form of behavior.

Not only does fear grease the wheels of the transition to fascism by cultivating fearful, controlled, pacified, cowed citizens, but it also embeds itself in our very DNA so that we pass on our fear and compliance to our offspring.

It’s called epigenetic inheritance, the transmission through DNA of traumatic experiences.

For example, neuroscientists observed how quickly fear can travel through generations of mice DNA. As The Washington Post reports:

In the experiment, researchers taught male mice to fear the smell of cherry blossoms by associating the scent with mild foot shocks. Two weeks later, they bred with females. The resulting pups were raised to adulthood having never been exposed to the smell. Yet when the critters caught a whiff of it for the first time, they suddenly became anxious and fearful. They were even born with more cherry-blossom-detecting neurons in their noses and more brain space devoted to cherry-blossom-smelling.

The conclusion? “A newborn mouse pup, seemingly innocent to the workings of the world, may actually harborgenerations’ worth of information passed down by its ancestors.”

Now consider the ramifications of inherited generations of fears and experiences on human beings. As the Post reports, “Studies on humans suggest that children and grandchildren may have felt the epigenetic impact of such traumatic events such as famine, the Holocaust and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

In other words, fear, trauma and compliance can be passed down through the generations.

Fear has been a critical tool in past fascistic regimes, and it now operates in our contemporary world—all of which raises fundamental questions about us as human beings and what we will give up in order to perpetuate the illusions of safety and security.

In the words of psychologist Erich Fromm:

[C]an human nature be changed in such a way that man will forget his longing for freedom, for dignity, for integrity, for love—that is to say, can man forget he is human? Or does human nature have a dynamism which will react to the violation of these basic human needs by attempting to change an inhuman society into a human one?

We are at a critical crossroads in American history, and we have a choice: freedom or fascism.

Let’s hope the American people make the right choice while we still have the freedom to choose.

# # # #

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

The Age of Imperial Wars

The War Epidemic Is Not Receding

2015 has become a year of living dangerously. Wars are spreading across the globe. Wars are escalating as new countries are bombed and the old are ravaged with ever greater intensity. Countries, where relatively peaceful changes had taken place through recent elections, are now on the verge of civil wars.

These are wars without victors, but plenty of losers; wars that don’t end; wars where imperial occupations are faced with prolonged resistance.

There are never-ending torrents of war refugees flooding across borders. Desperate people are detained, degraded and criminalized for being the survivors and victims of imperial invasions.

Now major nuclear powers face off in Europe and Asia: NATO versus Russia, US-Japan versus China. Will these streams of blood and wars converge into one radiated wilderness drained of its precious life blood?

Living Dangerously: The Rising Tide of Violent Conflicts

There is no question that wars and military threats have replaced diplomacy, negotiations and democratic elections as the principal means of resolving political conflicts. Throughout the present year (2015) wars have spread across borders and escalated in intensity.

The NATO allies, US, Turkey and the EU have openly attacked Syria with air strikes and ground troops. There are plans to occupy the northern sector of that ravaged country, creating what the Erdogan regime dubs a ‘buffer zone’ cleansed of its people and villages.

Under the pretext of ‘fighting ISIS’, the Turkish government is bombing Kurds (civilians and resistance fighters) and their Syrian allies. On Syria’s southern border, US Special Forces have accelerated and expanded operations from their bases in Jordan on behalf of the mercenary terrorists - funded by the monarchist Gulf States.

Over 4 million Syrians have fled their homes as refugees and over 200,000 have been killed since the US-EU-Turkey-Saudi-sponsored war against the secular Syrian government was launched four years ago.

Dozens of terrorist, mercenary and sectarian groups have carved up Syria into rival fiefdoms, pillaged its economic and cultural resources and reduced the economy by over ninety percent.

The US-EU-Turkish military intervention extends the war into Iraq, Lebanon and…. Turkey – attacking secular governments, ethnic minority groups and secular civil society.

The feudal, monarchist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have invaded Yemen with tanks, launching air strikes against a country without any air defenses. Major cities and towns are devastated. Saudi ground troops and armored carriers are killing and wounding thousands – mostly civilians. The brutal Saudi air and sea blockade of Yemen’s ports have led to a humanitarian crisis, as ten million Yemenis face starvation deliberately imposed by a grotesque and obscenely rich monarchy.

The Yemeni resistance fighters, driven out of the major cities, are preparing for prolonged guerrilla warfare against the Saudi monsters and their puppets. Their resistance has already spread across the frontiers of the absolutist Saudi dictatorship.

The brutal Israeli occupation troops, in collaboration with armed ‘settler’ colonists, have accelerated their violent seizure of Palestinian lands. They have stepped up the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Bedouins, Druze and Christian inhabitants replacing their communities with racist ‘Jews-only’ colonial settlements.

Daily assaults against the huge ‘concentration camps’ of Gaza accompany an armed blockade of land, air and water, preventing the reconstruction of the tens of thousands of homes, schools, hospital, factories and infrastructure, destroyed by last year’s Israeli blitzkrieg.

Israel’s continued annexation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian territory precludes any diplomatic process; colonial wars have been and continue to be Israel’s policy of choice in dealing with its Arab neighbors and captive populations.

Africa’s wars, resulting from earlier US-EU interventions, continue to ravage-the Continent. Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Libya are riven by bloody conflicts between US-EU backed regimes and armed Islamic and nationalist resistance movements.

Throughout North and Sub-Sahara Africa, US-EU backed regimes have provoked armed upheavals in Libya, Nigeria (Boko Harem), Egypt (ISIS, Moslem Brotherhood et al), Chad, Niger, South Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere.

Imperial client Egyptian and Ethiopian dictators rule with iron fists – financed and armed by their EU and US sponsors.

Imperial wars rage throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Hundreds of experienced Baathist Iraqi military officers, who had been expelled or jailed and tortured by the US Occupation army, have now made common cause with Islamist fighters to form ISIS and effectively occupy a third of Iraq and a strategic swath of Syria.

There are daily bombings in Baghdad undermining its US client. Strategic advances by ISIS are forcing the US to resume and escalate its direct combat role

The US-Baghdad retreat and the defeat of the US-trained Iraqi military in the face of the Baathist-Islamist offensive is the opening salvo of a long-term, large-scale war in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish air-war against the Kurds in Iraq will escalate the war in Northern Iraq and extend it into southeast Turkey.

Closer to ‘home’, the EU-US-backed coup (‘regime change’) in Kiev and the attempt to impose dictatorial-pro-West oligarchic rule in Ukraine have detonated a prolonged civil-national war devastating the country and pitting NATO’s proxies against Russian-backed allies in the Donbas.

US, England, Poland and other NATO powers are deeply committed to pushing war right up to Russia’s borders.

There is a new Cold War, with the imposition of wide-ranging US-EU economic sanctions against Russia and the organizing of major NATO military exercises on Russia’s doorsteps. It is no surprise that these provocations are met with a major counter-response – the Russian military build-up. The NATO power grab in Ukraine, which first led to a local ethnic war, now escalates to a global confrontation and may move toward a nuclear confrontation as Russia absorbs hundreds of thousands of refugees from the slaughter in Ukraine.

The US puppet regime in Afghanistan has faced a major advance of the Taliban in all regions, including the capital, Kabul.

The Afghan war is intensifying and the US-backed Kabul regime is in retreat. US troops can scarcely advance beyond their bunkers.

As the Taliban military advances, its leaders demand total surrender of the Kabul puppets and the withdrawal of US troops. The US response will be a prolonged escalation of war.

Pakistan, bristling with US arms, faces a major conflict along its borders with India and permanent war in its semi-autonomous Northwest frontier states with Islamist and ethnic Pashtu guerrilla movements backed by mass regional political parties. These parties exercise de facto control over the Northwest region providing sanctuary and arms for Taliban militants operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Armed ethno-religious conflicts persist in western China, Myanmar and northern India. There are large-scale popular resistance movements in the militant northeast Thailand opposed to the current military-monarchist dictatorship in Bangkok.

In the 21st century, in South and Southeast Asia, as in the rest of the world, war and armed conflicts have become central in resolving ethnic, social, tribal and regional differences with central states: diplomacy and democratic elections have been rendered obsolete and inefficient.

Latin America – On the Verge

Burgeoning violent extra-parliamentary right-wing movements, intent on overthrowing or ‘impeaching’ elected center-left Latin American governments face major confrontations with the state and its mass supporters.

In Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, US-backed opposition groups are engaged in violent demonstrations, directed toward ousting the elected regimes. In the case of Ecuador, ‘popular sectors’, including some indigenous leaders and sectors of the trade union movement, have called for an ‘uprising’ to oust President Correa. They seem oblivious of the fact that the hard-right oligarchs who now control key offices in the three principal cities (Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca) will be the real beneficiaries of their ‘uprisings’.

The resurgent Right envisions violent ‘regime change’ as the first step toward ‘wiping the slate clean’ of a decade of social reforms, independent regional organizations and independent foreign policies.

‘Civil war’ may be too strong a word for the situation in Latin America at this time – but this is the direction which the US-backed opposition is heading. Faced with the mess and difficulty of dislodging incumbent regimes via elections, the US and its local proxies have opted for the choreography of street violence, sabotage, martial law and coups - to be followed by sanitized elections – with US-vetted candidates.

War and violence run rampant through Mexico and most of Central America. A US-backed military coup ousted the popularly elected, independent President Zelaya in Honduras. The ensuing US-proxy regime has murdered and jailed hundreds of pro-democracy dissidents and driven thousands to flee the violence.

The 1990’s US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ in El Salvador and Guatemala effectively blocked any agrarian reform and income redistribution that might have led to the rebuilding of their civil societies. This has led to over two decades of mass disaffection, the rise of armed ‘gangs’ numbering over 100,000 members and an average of six to ten thousand homicides a year with El Salvador becoming the ‘murder capital of the hemisphere’ on a per capita basis. The annual murder toll under the US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ now exceeds those killed each year during the civil war.

The real ‘carnage capital’ of the hemisphere is Mexico. Over 100,000 people have been murdered during the decade-long, US-backed ‘war on drugs’ – a war which has become a state-sponsored war on the Mexican people.

The internal war has allowed the Mexican government to privatize and sell the crown jewels of the national economy – the petroleum industry. While thousands of Mexicans are terrorized and slaughtered, the US and EU oil companies are curiously shielded from the drug lords. The same Mexican government, its police, officials and military, who collaborate with the drug lords in dividing up the billions of drug dollars, protect foreign oil companies and their executives. After all, narco-dollars are laundered by banks in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and London to help fuel the speculation!

From Regional to Nuclear Wars

Regional and local wars spread under the shadow of a looming world war. The US moves its arms, planes, bases and operations to the Russian and Chinese borders.

Never have so many US troops and war planes been placed in so many strategic locations, often less than an hour drive from major Russian cities.

Not even during the height of the Cold War, did the US impose so many economic sanctions against Russian enterprises.

In Asia, Washington is organizing major trade, military and diplomatic treaties designed to exclude and undermine China’s growth as a trade competitor. It is engaged in provocative activities comparable to the boycott and blockade of Japan which led to the Second World War in Asia.

Open ‘warfare by proxy’ in Ukraine is perhaps the first salvo of the Third World War in Europe. The US-EU-sponsored coup in Kiev has led to the annexation of Western Ukraine. In response to the threat of violence toward the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea and the loss of its strategic naval base on the Black Sea, Russia annexed Crimea.

In the lead-up to the Second World War, Germany annexed Austria. In a similar manner the US-EU installed a puppet regime in Kiev by violent putsch as its own initial steps toward major power grabs in Central Asia. The military build-up includes the placement of major, forward offensive military bases in Poland.

Warsaw’s newly elected hard-right regime of President Andrzej Duda has demanded that Poland become NATO’s central military base of operation and the front line in a war against Russia.

Wars and More Wars and the Never-ending Torrents of Refugees

The US and EU imperial wars have devastated the lives and livelihoods of scores of millions of people in South Asia, North and Sub-Sahara Africa, Central America, Mexico, the Balkans and now Ukraine.

Four million Syrian refugees have joined millions of Afghan, Pakistani, Iraqi, Yemeni, Somali, Libyan, Palestinian and Sudanese refugees fleeing US-EU bombs, drones and proxy mercenaries ravaging their countries.

Millions of war refugees escape toward safety in Western Europe, joining the millions of economic refugees who have fled free market destitution in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Balkans and other EU satellites.

Panic among the civilian population of Western Europe sets in as hundreds of thousands cross the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Balkans.

Droves of refugees perish each day. Tens of thousands crowd detention centers. Local labor markets are saturated. Social services are overwhelmed.

The US builds walls and detention camps for the millions trying to escape the harsh consequences of imperial-centered free markets in Mexico, narco-terror and the fraudulent ‘peace accord’-induced violence in Central America.

As Western wars advance, the desperate refugees multiply. The poor and destitute clamber at the gates of the imperial heartland crying: ‘Your bombs and your destruction of our homelands have driven us here, now you must deal with us in your homeland’.

Fomenting class war between the refugees and ‘natives’ of the imperial West – may not be on the agenda . . . for now, but the future for ‘civil’ society in Europe and the US is bleak.

Meanwhile, more and even bigger wars are on the horizon and additional millions of civilians will be uprooted and face the choice of starving, fleeing with their families or fighting the empire. The ranks of seasoned and infuriated resistance fighters are swelling in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.

The US and EU are becoming armed fortresses. US police deal with the marginalized citizenry as an occupying army, assaulting African-Americans, immigrants and dissidents – while looting poor communities . . . and protecting the rich…

Conclusion

War is everywhere and expanding: No continent or region, big or small, is free from the contagion of war.

Imperial wars have spawn local wars . . . igniting mass flights in a never-ending cycle. There are no real diplomatic success stories! There are no enduring, viable peace accords!

Some pundits may protest this analysis: They point to the recent US – Cuba rapprochement as a ‘success’. They conveniently forget that the US is still subverting Cuba’s biggest trading partner, Venezuela; that Washington’s major regional proxies are demanding regime change among Cuba’s allies in Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia and that Washington is increasingly threatening Cuba’s alternative markets in Russia and China. The vision of the US flag flapping in the breeze outside its embassy in Havana does little to cover Washington’s iron fist threatening Cuba’s allies.

Others cite the US – Iran peace accord as a major ‘success’. They ignore that the US is backing the bloody Saudi invasion of neighboring Yemen and the massacre of Shiite communities; that the US has provided Israel with a road map detailing Iran’s entire defense system and that the US and EU are bombing Iran’s Syrian ally without mercy.

As for the US – Cuba and Iranian agreements– are they enduring and strategic or just tactical imperial moves preparing for even greater assaults?

The war epidemic is not receding.

War refugees are still fleeing; they have no homes or communities left.

Disorder and destruction are increasing, not decreasing; there is no rebuilding the shattered societies, not in Gaza, not in Fallujah, not in the Donbas, not in Guerrero, not in Aleppo.

Europe feels the tremors of a major conflagration.

Americans still believe that the two oceans will protect them. They are told that placing NATO missiles on Russia’s borders and stationing warships off China’s shores and building electrified walls and laying barbed wire along the Rio Grande will protect them. Such is their faith in their political leaders and propagandists.

What a packet of lies! Inter-continental missiles can ‘rain down’ on New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

It is time to wake up!

It is time to stop the US – EU headlong race to World War III!

Where to start? Libya has been irrevocably destroyed; it is too late there! Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are aflame. We are being plunged deeper into war while being told we are withdrawing! Ukraine sucks in more guns and more troops!

Can we really have peace with Iran if we cannot control our own government as it dances to the Israelis tune? And Israel insists on war – our waging war for them! As the Israeli war criminal General and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told some worried American Zionists: “Trouble with the US? We lead them by the nose . . . !”

Just look at the terrified families fleeing carnage in the Middle East or Mexico.

What is to be done?

When will we cut our losses and shake off the bonds of these war makers – foreign and domestic?

# # # #

Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

They Live, We Sleep: A Dictatorship Disguised as a Democracy

Ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy on our way towards fascism

You see them on the street. You watch them on TV. You might even vote for one this fall. You think they’re people just like you. You're wrong. Dead wrong.”—They Live

There’s the world we see (or are made to see) and then there’s the one we sense (and occasionally catch a glimpse of), the latter of which is a far cry from the propaganda-driven reality manufactured by the government and its corporate sponsors, including the media.

Indeed, what most Americans perceive as life in America—privileged, progressive and free—is a far cry from reality, where economic inequality is growing, real agendas and real power are buried beneath layers of Orwellian doublespeak and corporate obfuscation, and “freedom,” such that it is, is meted out in small, legalistic doses by militarized police armed to the teeth.

All is not as it seems.

This is the premise of John Carpenter’s film They Live (1988), in which two migrant workers discover that the world’s population is actually being controlled and exploited by aliens working in partnership with an oligarchic elite. All the while, the populace—blissfully unaware of the real agenda at work in their lives—has been lulled into complacency, indoctrinated into compliance, bombarded with media distractions, and hypnotized by subliminal messages beamed out of television and various electronic devices, billboards and the like.

It is only when homeless drifter John Nada (played to the hilt by the late Roddy Piper) discovers a pair of doctored sunglasses—Hoffman lenses—that Nada sees what lies beneath the elite’s fabricated reality: control and bondage.

When viewed through the lens of truth, the elite, who appear human until stripped of their disguises, are shown to be monsters who have enslaved the citizenry in order to prey on them. Likewise, billboards blare out hidden, authoritative messages: a bikini-clad woman in one ad is actually ordering viewers to “MARRY AND REPRODUCE.” Magazine racks scream “CONSUME” and “OBEY.” A wad of dollar bills in a vendor’s hand proclaims, “THIS IS YOUR GOD.”

When viewed through Nada’s Hoffman lenses, some of the other hidden messages being drummed into the people’s subconscious include: NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT, CONFORM, SUBMIT, STAY ASLEEP, BUY, WATCH TV, NO IMAGINATION, and DO NOT QUESTION AUTHORITY.

This indoctrination campaign engineered by the elite in They Live is painfully familiar to anyone who has studied the decline of American culture. A citizenry that does not think for themselves, obeys without question, is submissive, does not challenge authority, does not think outside the box, and is content to sit back and be entertained is a citizenry that can be easily controlled.

In this way, the subtle message of They Live provides an apt analogy of our own distorted vision of life in the American police state, what philosopher Slavoj Žižek refers to as dictatorship in democracy, “the invisible order which sustains your apparent freedom.”

We’re being fed a series of carefully contrived fictions that bear no resemblance to reality. The powers-that-be want us to feel threatened by forces beyond our control (terrorists, shooters, bombers). They want us afraid and dependent on the government and its militarized armies for our safety and well-being. They want us distrustful of each other, divided by our prejudices, and at each other’s throats. Most of all, they want us to continue to march in lockstep with their dictates.

Tune out the government’s attempts to distract, divert and befuddle us and tune into what’s really going on in this country, and you’ll run headlong into an unmistakable, unpalatable truth: the moneyed elite who rule us view us as expendable resources to be used, abused and discarded.

In fact, a 2014 study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens. Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called “economic elite.” Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups.

In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism—a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere subjects to be controlled.

Consider this: it is estimated that the 2016 presidential election could cost as much as $5 billion, more than double what was spent getting Obama re-elected in 2012.

Not only do you have to be rich—or beholden to the rich—to get elected these days, but getting elected is also a surefire way to get rich. As CBS News reports, “Once in office, members of Congress enjoy access to connections and information they can use to increase their wealth, in ways that are unparalleled in the private sector. And once politicians leave office, their connections allow them to profit even further.”

In denouncing this blatant corruption of America’s political system, former president Jimmy Carter blasted the process of getting elected—to the White House, governor’s mansion, Congress or state legislatures—as “unlimited political bribery… a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over.”

Rest assured that when and if fascism finally takes hold in America, the basic forms of government will remain. As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, fascism will appear to be friendly. The legislators will be in session. There will be elections, and the news media will continue to cover the entertainment and political trivia. Consent of the governed, however, will no longer apply. Actual control will have finally passed to the oligarchic elite controlling the government behind the scenes.

By creating the illusion that it preserves democratic traditions, fascism creeps slowly until it consumes the political system. And in times of “crisis,” expediency is upheld as the central principle—that is, in order to keep us safe and secure, the government must militarize the police, strip us of basic constitutional rights, criminalize virtually every form of behavior, and build enough private prisons to house all of us nonviolent criminals.

Clearly, we are now ruled by an oligarchic elite of governmental and corporate interests. We have moved into “corporatism” (favored by Benito Mussolini), which is a halfway point on the road to full-blown fascism.

Vast sectors of the economy, government and politics are managed by private business concerns, otherwise referred to as “privatization” by various government politicians. Just study modern government policies. “Every industry is regulated. Every profession is classified and organized,” writes economic analyst Jeffrey Tucker. “Every good or service is taxed. Endless debt accumulation is preserved. Immense doesn’t begin to describe the bureaucracy. Military preparedness never stops, and war with some evil foreign foe, remains a daily prospect.”

In other words, the government in America today does whatever it wants.

Corporatism is where the few moneyed interests—not elected by the citizenry—rule over the many. In this way, it is not a democracy or a republican form of government, which is what the American government was established to be. It is a top-down form of government and one which has a terrifying history typified by the developments that occurred in totalitarian regimes of the past: police states where everyone is watched and spied on, rounded up for minor infractions by government agents, placed under police control, and placed in detention (a.k.a. concentration) camps.

For the final hammer of fascism to fall, it will require the most crucial ingredient: the majority of the people will have to agree that it’s not only expedient but necessary. But why would a people agree to such an oppressive regime? The answer is the same in every age: fear.

Fear makes people stupid.

Fear is the method most often used by politicians to increase the power of government. And, as most social commentators recognize, an atmosphere of fear permeates modern America: fear of terrorism, fear of the police, fear of our neighbors and so on.

The propaganda of fear has been used quite effectively by those who want to gain control, and it is working on the American populace.

Despite the fact that we are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack; 11,000 times more likely to die from an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane; 1,048 times more likely to die from a car accident than a terrorist attack, and 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist, we have handed over control of our lives to government officials who treat us as a means to an end—the source of money and power.

We have allowed ourselves to become fearful, controlled, pacified zombies.

In this regard, we’re not so different from the oppressed citizens in They Live. Most everyone keeps their heads down these days while staring zombie-like into an electronic screen, even when they’re crossing the street. Families sit in restaurants with their heads down, separated by their screen devices and unaware of what’s going on around them. Young people especially seem dominated by the devices they hold in their hands, oblivious to the fact that they can simply push a button, turn the thing off and walk away.

Indeed, there is no larger group activity than that connected with those who watch screens—that is, television, lap tops, personal computers, cell phones and so on. In fact, a Nielsen study reports that American screen viewing is at an all-time high. For example, the average American watches approximately 151 hours of television per month.

The question, of course, is what effect does such screen consumption have on one’s mind?

Psychologically it is similar to drug addiction. Researchers found that “almost immediately after turning on the TV, subjects reported feeling more relaxed, and because this occurs so quickly and the tension returns so rapidly after the TV is turned off, people are conditioned to associate TV viewing with a lack of tension.” Research also shows that regardless of the programming, viewers’ brain waves slow down, thus transforming them into a more passive, nonresistant state.

Historically, television has been used by those in authority to quiet discontent and pacify disruptive people. “Faced with severe overcrowding and limited budgets for rehabilitation and counseling, more and more prison officials are using TV to keep inmates quiet,” according to Newsweek.

Given that the majority of what Americans watch on television is provided through channels controlled by six mega corporations, what we watch is now controlled by a corporate elite and, if that elite needs to foster a particular viewpoint or pacify its viewers, it can do so on a large scale.

If we’re watching, we’re not doing.

The powers-that-be understand this. As television journalist Edward R. Murrow warned in a 1958 speech:

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

This brings me back to They Live, in which the real zombies are not the aliens calling the shots but the populace who are content to remain controlled.

When all is said and done, the world of They Live is not so different from our own. As one of the characters points out, “The poor and the underclass are growing. Racial justice and human rights are nonexistent. They have created a repressive society and we are their unwitting accomplices. Their intention to rule rests with the annihilation of consciousness. We have been lulled into a trance. They have made us indifferent to ourselves, to others. We are focused only on our own gain.”

We, too, are focused only on our own pleasures, prejudices and gains. Our poor and underclasses are also growing. Racial injustice is growing. Human rights is nearly nonexistent. We too have been lulled into a trance, indifferent to others.

Oblivious to what lies ahead, we’ve been manipulated into believing that if we continue to consume, obey, and have faith, things will work out. But that’s never been true of emerging regimes. And by the time we feel the hammer coming down upon us, it will be too late.

# # # #

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

The New Great Game Round-Up: June 4, 2015

Saakashvili's Appointment Spells More Trouble for Transnistria, Tajikistan's War on Islam Backfires as OMON Commander Joins ISIS & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

The disappearance of Colonel Gulmurod Halimov, commander of Tajikistan's Interior Ministry paramilitary squad (OMON), has caused a great stir in the Central Asian country. Tajik media reports suggested early on that Halimov had traveled to Syria in order to join the West's beloved terrorist army ISIS but his family dismissed these reports as "baseless" and portrayed him as a dedicated policeman and father of eight. While his brother insisted that Halimov had never spoken about ISIS, Asia-Plus quoted a friend as saying that he had turned into an ISIS fanatic. The story got even more confusing when Tajik law enforcement agencies denied a report by news agency TojNews claiming that Halimov had been arrested in Turkey while trying to cross into Syria with a fake passport. As the speculations were getting out of hand, ISIS eventually cleared up the mystery of Halimov's disappearance by releasing a new shiny propaganda video featuring none other than Tajikistan's missing OMON commander:

Missing Tajik Police Commander Appears On Internet, Says Has Joined IS A top Tajik police commander who has been missing for weeks has reappeared on the Internet, claiming that he has joined the Islamic State (IS) militant group in protest at official restrictions on religious observance back home.

In a video posted on YouTube, Colonel Gulmurod Halimov, the commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry's Special Forces, known as OMON, singled out Tajikistan's crackdown on Islamic dress and limitations on public prayer as reasons for his radicalization.

Halimov, a father of eight, says that Tajik labor migrants "must stop serving infidels" in Russia and join IS in Syria and Iraq in order to establish Shari'a law in other countries, including Tajikistan.

Tajikistan's War on Islam Backfires as OMON Commander Joins ISIS

After vowing to bring jihad to Tajikistan and Russia, Halimov also added a threat for the United States: "We will come to your cities, to your homes, and we will kill you." The OMON commander turned ISIS fighter pointed out that he is well-prepared for future battles thanks to the counterterrorism training that he received on American soil: "Listen, you American pigs: I've been to America three times. I saw how you train soldiers to kill Muslims." State Department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala confirmed to CNN that Halimov participated in five counterterrorism training courses in the U.S. and in Tajikistan, through the Department of State's Diplomatic Security/Anti-Terrorism Assistance program. While much of the media coverage focused on Halimov's training by Blackwater and his references to the U.S., some analysts suggested that his threats to Russia might be more significant. But one thing is certain: the radicalization of the OMON commander was driven by Tajikistan's repression against religious activities, which is now reaching grotesque proportions:

Tajiks Probe Fake Permits For Hijab, Beards Tajik prosecutors have launched an investigation into suspected fraud in connection with the sale of bogus permits to unsuspecting people hoping to avoid falling afoul of official efforts to combat religious extremism.

The "permits" -- which grant permission to Muslims to wear long beards in the case of men, or head scarves (hijabs) in the case of women -- purport to be from the State Committee for Religion and Traditions and Rites Regulations.

Officials at the Prosecutor-General's Office told RFE/RL on May 18 that investigations are targeting the "repeated forgery of documents" and the "incitement of religious, ethnic, racial, and social hatred."

In addition to targeting hijabs and beards, the Tajik government is now mulling a ban on names which sound too Arabic. This won't do much to calm the waves as more and more people question President Rahmon's ongoing secularization campaign. Halimov's defection to ISIS shows that radicalization of the population is a major problem and by no means limited to Tajikistan's poorer citizens, as is often said, but banning hijabs, beards and Arabic names is clearly not the solution. Shutting down schools affiliated with the shadowy movement of CIA puppet Fethullah Gülen makes much more sense. At the beginning of this year, the Tajik authorities announced that they are going to review the licenses of Gülen's schools and the review didn't end well for the Gülen movement. According to Tajikistan's Minister of Education and Science, the schools will be be shut down and reopened as state-run schools with different names. After taking the first step in the right direction, the Tajik regime should also consider taking measures against jihadi TV channels brainwashing the population:

Undeclared information war going on against Tajikistan

Several radical Islamic TV channels now broadcast to Tajikistan from abroad, Tajik journalist Nourali Davlat told Asia-Plus in an interview.

“These are Ahli Bayt, Tavhid, Fadak and Nour and Visoli Haq joined them this spring,” said the journalist. “These TV channels are engaged in brainwashing the youth in the Islamic world, especially in the Persian-speaking countries – Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.”

“Meanwhile, Afghan newspaper 8 Subh says this radical Islamic TV channels broadcasting to Afghanistan and Tajikistan have been established by Arabic sheikhs from the Persian Gulf countries,” said the journalist. “According to the newspaper, the Arabic sheikhs intend to spread war from Afghanistan to Central Asia’s countries. For this, the radical Islamic TV channels use problems existing in relationships between the governments and Muslim communities, in particular the problem of wearing beard or hijab, which is widely discussed in Tajik society.”

The democracy-loving petro-monarchies in the Gulf use every opportunity to find new comrade-in-arms in the fight for freedom and democracy in Syria, or wherever Washington deems it necessary. Halimov was not the first Tajik to join the terrorist gangs in Syria and he won't be the last one. Another high-profile Tajik fighter, Nusrat Nazarov, who came to prominence after claiming that 2,000 Tajiks are fighting for ISIS, was reportedly killed in Syria just recently. Tajikistan's Prosecutor General's Office has already opened criminal cases against 417 citizens on charges of mercenary activities. Halimov is the latest addition to the list. The defection of the former OMON commander highlights Tajikistan's struggle with extremism and it comes at the worst possible time considering that the country is currently trying to prevent a spillover of violence from Afghanistan. Dushanbe has lifted the ban on entry of foreign citizens to Gorno-Badakhshan but the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border remains volatile:

A joint military exercise conducted for Tajik and Russian servicemen in Gorno Badakhshan

A joint military exercise with a final phase featuring live-fire mission has been conducted for units of the Tajik national army and the 201st Russian military base in the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on May 21.

In connection with the possible deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan, Russia pays a special attention to strengthening its borders with Central Asia’s nations and helps train personnel for the national armies of the Central Asian countries, the Russian Central Military District press center was cited by RIA Novosti as saying.

Renewed Hope for Afghan Peace Talks

Strengthened by the arrival of foreign fighters who were forced to leave Pakistan due to a large-scale military operation, the Taliban and other groups have been making inroads in northern Afghanistan. The neighboring Central Asian countries are keeping a very close eye on the situation as NATO-trained Afghan forces are struggling to fend off the insurgents. China is equally concerned. This year's spring offensive by the Taliban is particularly noteworthy for the strong involvement of foreign fighters. According to eyewitness reports, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Pakistanis, Arabs, Chechens and Uyghurs are involved in the fighting. Beijing has been trying for months to restart the stalled Afghan peace talks and the presence of Uyghur fighters in northern Afghanistan is certainly an extra motivation for the Chinese to get the Afghan chaos under control. China's efforts to bring Kabul and the Taliban to the negotiation table have been undermined by Obama's decision to slow the "withdrawal" but Beijing won't give up that easily:

Taliban and Afghan Peace Officials Have Secret Talks in China

A peace envoy from Afghanistan met in western China last week with former Taliban officials with close ties to Pakistan’s intelligence agency, in an attempt to keep open the possibility of formal Afghan peace talks, officials said Monday.

The meeting, hosted by China and, in part, organized by Pakistani officials, took place Wednesday and Thursday in Urumqi, capital of the western region of Xinjiang, which has mountainous borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan and is home to many Muslims.

The fact that China agreed to host the talks was the latest sign that Beijing is encouraging peace efforts and an end to Afghanistan’s 13-year civil war. In late 2014, two Afghan Taliban officials came to Beijing with Pakistani officials to discuss peace moves.

Although Beijing denied any knowledge of the talks and the Taliban rejected the reports as "propaganda," it is fair to assume that talks did take place and that they were brokered by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on behalf of the Chinese government. In recent months, China has been putting a lot of pressure on its all-weather friend to crack down on foreign fighters in North Waziristan and play a constructive role in the Afghan peace talks. It remains to be seen whether China's efforts to stabilize the region will be successful but they might have contributed to a rapprochement between Kabul and Islamabad. A few weeks ago, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan's ISI signed a intelligence-sharing deal despite lots of opposition. Opponents of the agreement include NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil, former President Hamid Karzai and Afghanistan's Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah. Nevertheless, President Ashraf Ghani got his way:

Afghan Unity Government Split On Intelligence-Sharing Deal

Cracks in Afghanistan's unity government are appearing following the signing of a controversial intelligence deal with neighbor and archrival Pakistan.

According to an inside source, the divide over the memorandum of understanding signed this week between the two countries' spy agencies is evident at the highest levels of the Afghan government.

The source -- a government official who spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity -- said Abdullah considers the document "unacceptable" and has made his opposition known to Ghani and senior security officials.

Since many other people share Abdullah's opinion, Ghani came under fire at home for selling out to Pakistan. In order to silence the critics, the Afghan President quickly wrote a letter to Islamabad demanding that the Pakistanis take stronger action against the Taliban. But behind the scenes Kabul and Islamabad are apparently pulling together. NED-sponsored Afghan newspaper Hasht-e-Subh quoted a source as saying that the Afghan government is going to issue 210 political passports to Taliban leaders. During the recent visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Kabul, it was reportedly agreed that the Taliban will be allowed to reopen their political office and that some of the Taliban leaders will be removed from the United Nations blacklist. One of the first steps is exchanging the Pakistani passports that they are currently using for Afghan passports. As the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, peace talks with the Taliban are probably the only way to stop the violence:

Wars in Pakistan and Afghanistan leave 150,000 dead, US study estimates

The wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan have left nearly 150,000 soldiers and civilians dead since 2001, a new US study estimates.

Another 162,000 have been wounded since the US-led offensive that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, says the study by the Costs of War project, based at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

The war in Afghanistan is intensifying rather than moving toward an end, it added, as the number of deaths and injuries has increased significantly in recent years.

Saakashvili's Appointment Spells More Trouble for Transnistria

Although the U.S. and its allies have not achieved any of their objectives in Afghanistan, except for boosting the opium production, they are still hailing the Afghan war as a major success. When Georgian civil society activist turned Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli recently visited the war-torn country during her first foreign trip, she congratulated the Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan for proving that "Georgia struggles for global security alongside with the civilized world." These are of course exactly the words one would expect from a Rose Revolution veteran and Soros-approved politician. Khidasheli picked up where her predecessors left off and she will certainly do her best to lead Georgia into NATO. Meanwhile, her former Rose Revolution ally Mikhail Saakashvili is dominating the headlines once again. The disgraced Georgian ex-president has spent a lot of time in Kiev since the Euromaidan protests. Lately, he has been advising President Petro Poroshenko, presumably on how to start a war with Russia, but now he can finally do this himself - one more time:

Ex-Georgian president, wanted at home, becomes governor in Ukraine

Georgia's former President Mikhail Saakashvili, wanted by his country's prosecutors for embezzlement, abuse of power and politically-motivated attacks, has been appointed governor of Ukraine's Odessa region.

President Petro Poroshenko personally appointed Saakashvili to the post, saying the former Georgian leader is "a friend of Ukraine." In a statement at Saakashvili's nomination in Odessa, Poroshenko said the two had known each other for 25 years, since university days.

According to Poroshenko, Saakashvili "has proven with deeds, not words that he can not only give birth to creative ideas, but also put them into practice." He added Georgia's ex-president had changed his country "in the direction of transparency, effectiveness, anti-corruption, appeal for foreign investors, fair justice, protection of citizen's rights, democracy," something Poroshenko "would like to see very much" in Odessa.

"Delusional" does not even begin to describe Poroshenko's statement. Saakashvili's appointment as governor of Odessa is crazy, to say the least. It came as a huge surprise because the former Georgian President had rejected previous offers to take a post in the government saying that he doesn't want to give up his Georgian citizenship. He reiterated this only a few weeks ago but he suddenly changed his mind. This begs the question of whether Saakashvili had a change of heart or whether his friends in Washington told him to take the governor post. The timing of Saakashvili's appointment is curious. Some have suggested that Poroshenko is trying to reduce the influence of his rival Igor Kolomoisky but there might be more to this story. Odessa Oblast borders Moldova and more importantly Transnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway state in Moldova. Only a few days before Saakashvili was named as governor of Odessa, Ukraine and Moldova began restricting Russian access to Transnistria:

Russian Troops In Transnistria Squeezed By Ukraine And Moldova

Ukraine and Moldova are restricting Russian military access to the breakaway territory of Transnistria, where Russia maintains about 1,500 troops.

Last week Ukraine's parliament voted to suspend military cooperation with Russia. And while much cooperation was of course already suspended, throughout the current crisis Russia has been able to use Ukrainian territory to supply its troops in Transnistria, a slender territory on Ukraine's western border. No longer.

Further complicating Russia's predicament, on May 25 the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that Moldova has quietly been arresting and deporting Russian soldiers who try to fly into Moldova en route to Transnistria. Moldova hasn't stopped all Russian soldiers from traveling through its territory -- only those not in the Moldova-supported peacekeeping mission, and only those who don't give a month's notice that they will be traveling to Moldova. (Of the roughly 1,500 Russian troops stationed in Moldova, about 1,000 are in the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Moldova, which Moldova does not support; the rest are peacekeepers regulated by the Joint Control Commission, which includes authorities from Moldova, Transnistria, and Russia.)

As The Saker and others have pointed out, there is a very real danger that Washington and its lackeys will try to provoke a conflict with Russia by squeezing Transnistria. A columnist in the Russian newspaper Izvestia warned a few days ago that Russia "seriously faces the prospect of a repeat of 08.08.08, now around Transnistria." Who better to run the crucial Ukrainian region of Odessa at this moment in time than the man who started the Russo-Georgian War in 2008? And Saakashvili is not alone. Ukrainian media reported that he will be joined by his former Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili, who is also wanted in Georgia. Adeishvili was reportedly appointed as chief prosecutor of Odessa. A few months ago, Tbilisi asked Kiev to extradite both Saakashvili and Adeishvili, to no avail. The Georgian authorities didn't object to Saakashvili's appointment as governor of Odessa but they heavily criticized the former president for renouncing his citizenship and they will certainly cancel it - sooner or later:

‘We’ll cancel Saakashvili’s citizenship when we want’

The Georgian government is not in a hurry to go through with the formal procedures that will strip ex-President Mikheil Saakashvilli of his native citizenship after being appointed governor of Odessa and acquiring Ukrainian citizenship.

“Let this issue hang over his head like a sword of Damocles. This is a political decision and we will make it when it is necessary,” Justice Minister Thea Tusulukiani said. In January Ukraine appointed as its Deputy Justice Minister former Georgian official Gia Getsadze, who served on various high-ranking positions in ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration till mid-2005.

# # # #

Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

BFP Exclusive- The Balkans Presidential December: A Test for the US-NATO Empire

Greece & Croatia: The clear presence of a political alternative to the hegemonic US-NATO Empire

 This month the presidential elections will take place in two Balkan countries: Croatia and Greece. The electoral systems in these two countries are different, but what they have in common is the clear presence of a political alternative to the hegemonic US-NATO Empire. This is yet another sign that the people of the region are beginning to resist and reject the imperial grip and are in the process of making possible a different, more autonomous political future.

Croatia

The elections in Croatia will take place on December 28. They will be the sixth presidential elections since Croatia separated from the Yugoslav Federation and became an independent state in 1992. So far there have been only three presidents: the nationalist Franjo Tudjman (1992-1999), the ex-Communist functionary Stipe Mesić (2000-2010) and the current president, law professor and composer Ivo Josipović (2010-). Josipović is also one of the candidates in the current elections. Both of his predeccesors were able to get the second mandate.

The incumbent Josipović, who is nominally an independent but is supported by the ruling Social-Democrat party (SDP) of the prime minister Zoran Milanović, has three challengers. The challenger who comes from the main opposition party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), is Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. She is the "picture-perfect" candidate of the US-NATO Empire. She was the Croatian minister of foreign affairs during the key preparatory work for NATO membership (2005-2008), the Croatian ambassador to the U.S (2008-2011) and, most recently, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Democracy.[1] She is also a member of the Trilateral Commission and hence an accomplice in the US-centric neoliberal domination of the globe. In fact, it is precisely her election results that will show the present strength of the unipolar conception of the world in the Balkans. 

The second challenger is the medical doctor Milan Kujundžić, the founder of the party Croatian Dawn, an extreme nationalist party to the right of the mainstream conservative HDZ.[2] The emergence of this party is consistent with the populist-rightist trend in the European Union, which offers what are, in essence, false solutions to the very real social problems caused by neoliberal economic policies. These solutions are false because the real culprits for the crisis remain veiled and protected while others, who are likewise victims (immigrants, minorities, etc.), are vilified and attacked. 

This serious political mistake of taking the effect for the cause is exactly what the third challenger Ivan Vilibor Sinčić does not make and that is why he is, in my opinion, the most progressive and humanist candidate in the elections. Sinčić is the 25-year old leader of a grassroot organization "Živi zid" (the literal translation is the "human wall" or "human shield"), which has become widely popular in Croatia due to their actions of helping fight the numerous evictions and other abuses of human and social rights of ordinary citizens.[3] It is very important to note that Sinčić's organization is entirely locally funded and depends on the work of volunteers. His geopolitical conceptions is likewise  straightforward: the withdrawal from all US-NATO-led international projects and adventures and the return of the sovereign decision-making to the people of Croatia. Sinčić has already acquired a wide following in the Balkans which means that the anti-imperial political conceptions are gaining ground beyond Croatia.[4] He has also received support from noted European intellectuals and alter-globalists, such as Daniel Estulin, the author of the best-selling book on the Bilderbergs.[5] 

According to one of the most recent polls, Sinčić is in the third place with 9.2 percent of the vote, while Josipović is ahead with 46.5%, trailed by Grabar-Kitarović with 34.9%.[6] What is fairly clear at this time is that no candidate will win the outright majority in the first round and that the two highest placed candidates will have to go to the second round. This means that the voters of Sinčić, who most likely will not make the second round, will be crucial in defeating the candidate of US-NATO Empire Grabar-Kitarović. The incumbent Josipović, if he means to win, will therefore have to find a way to accomodate Sinčić's ideas and will be forced to move away from the open support for the further European fragmentation plans of the US-NATO Empire. Moreover, the present strong showing of Sinčić will also enable his organization to get a head-start on the next Croatian parliamentary elections, and we may well have another SYRIZA in the making.

Speaking of SYRIZA, let's take a look at the presidential elections in Greece.

Greece

While in Croatia the president is chosen directly by the people, in Greece, the election of the president takes place in the Parliament. There are three rounds of voting (three ballots). In the first and the second ballot, the candidate has to get 2/3 of the vote to get elected (200 out of 300 deputies), and, in the third, the threshold is lowered to 180 votes. If the candidate does not win the required number of votes in the final, third ballot, the government falls and the immediate parliamentary elections are triggered.

The first round was already held on December 17 and the candidate of the coalition government of the prime minister Antonis Samaras, Stavros Dimas, failed to win the necessary 200 votes.[7] Just like Grabar-Kitarović in the Croatian case, Dimas is a favorite of the US-NATO Empire. He is truly the "member of the club," having been the Greek foreign minister (2011-2012) and the EU Commissioner for the environment for six long years (2004-2010).[8] He was also a Wall Street lawyer and the functionary of the World Bank. It appears certain that he will not get enough votes on the second ballot on December 23. The key question, however, remains as to what will happen on the final ballot on December 29.

Namely, the early parliamentary elections could endanger the plans of the US-NATO Empire and the neoliberal policies of the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund).According to the relevant public opinion polls, the likely winner of the parliamentary elections would be the progressive leftist party SYRIZA led by the charismatic young engineer Alexis Tsipras.[9]

The reason for this is simple. In the last several years, Troika's imposed policies have brought Greece to the brink of economic and social collapse, in addition to fueling violent right-wing extremism.When the implementation of these policies began, the Greek public debt was at the 115% of the GDP. Now, five years later, it is at the 175% of the GDP with the projection that it will go even beyond the 200% level.[10] It is therefore clear that the so-called austerity measures only worsened the situation.

On the hand, SYRIZA proposes radical economic changes and has a concrete political program to implement them. These policies resemble Roosevelt's "New Deal": massive infrastructure investments and employment opportunities financed by zero interest central bank credits and writing off the public debt.[11] SYRIZA also advocates the withdrawal of Greece from NATO and the radical restructuring of the EU institutions.

This is definitely something that can send the chill down the spines of the US-NATO Empire apparatchiks and their handlers in the corridors of Wall Street and other centers of neoliberal capitalism. In fact, the Empire's favorite media amplifier, the Wall Street Journal, admitted so in a recent article.[12] This is why one should not exclude the possibility of a massive corruption scheme of buying parliamentary votes for Dimas in between the second and the third ballot. This kind of the"carrot" also always goes hand-in-hand with the "stick" of blackmail.   

However, even if the dark, undemocratic forces prevail in this particular case and Dimas gets elected, SYRIZA's march to power appears unstoppable. It is grounded in the deeply felt desires of the Greek population to change the way it is treated by the powerful financial interests which have shown not to care about its wellbeing at all.

On the other hand, the defeat of the US-NATO Empire's candidates Grabar-Kitarović and Dimas will be a clear sign that the Balkan countries are beginning to chart a new, more independent geopolitical future. The political alternative offered by Tsipras and Sinčić will then be set to enlarge its electoral base in the near future. It may even be that all the other countries in the Balkans will soon have their own political equivalents. 

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Boiling Frogs Post contributing author and analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco, and can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com



NOTES

[1] http://www.dnevno.hr/zivotopis/121448-kolinda-grabar-kitarovic-zivotopis-biografija.html

[2] http://www.jutarnji.hr/milan-kujundzic-osnovao-stranku-hrvatska-zora-stranka-naroda/1115511/

[3] http://www.dnevno.hr/vijesti/hrvatska/139013-predsjednicki-kandidat-ivan-sincic-zeli-van-iz-eu-ponistenje-pretvorbe-broj-zastupnika-na-100-deblokadu-racuna.html

[4]http://mnmne.org/marko-milacic-zivi-zid-kolumna/

[5]https://hr-hr.facebook.com/zivizidd/posts/10203664027149379

[6] http://www.vecernji.hr/predsjednicki-izbori2014/evo-kako-predsjednicki-kandidati-stoje-u-anketama-980297

[7] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/12/17/why-everything-is-at-stake-and-yet-nothing-will-be-decided-in-todays-greek-presidential-election/

[8] http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2014/12/09/pm-samaras-stavros-dimas-is-the-presidential-candidate/

[9]http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30481307

[10]http://rt.com/op-edge/185052-greece-crisis-eu-default/

[11]http://links.org.au/node/2888

[12]http://www.wsj.com/articles/greek-leftist-party-syriza-spooks-some-investors-1418310035

 

NarcoNews- U.S. Military: More Counter-Narcotics Funding Will Help Stem Exodus of Children from Central America

Critics Argue Drug-War Money is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

By Bill Conroy

Some 58,000 migrant children, mostly Central Americans, have made the treacherous journey to the U.S. southern border alone over the past 10 months, but actions being considered by U.S. officials to combat the problem with more military and drug-war aid to their countries, critics warn, may worsen the violence that provokes this unprecedented exodus.

The number of unaccompanied children that have arrived at the U.S. border so far this fiscal year is up 106 percent from the same period a year earlier — with the total expected to reach 90,000 before Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

To put that latter number in perspective, it is nearly five times larger than the number of Border Patrol agents now stationed along the entire southern border.

The Obama administration paints the crisis as a humanitarian issue sparked by poverty, violence and the tug of family bonds. Congressional Republicans point the finger at the Obama administration’s lax enforcement of immigration laws.

Seemingly lost among the fray of political talking points over the child-migrant flight, however, is the stance of the U.S. military — which, unlike the president or Congress, is openly talking about the drug war as being a primary driver of the exodus.

Jose Ruiz, spokesperson for the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), said the transnational criminal organizations now entrenched in Central America have created elaborate networks “capable of moving drugs, money, arms and people” around the world.

“Sadly, crime syndicates that profit from human smuggling prey on victims willing to put themselves and their loved ones at great risk by entrusting ruthless criminals with their safety,” he added.

Gen. John Kelly, commander of SOUTHCOM, recently penned an opinion piece for the military press that lays out the nexus he sees between the flight of unaccompanied children and the pervasive narco-trafficking networks in Central America — particularly in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the major source nations for the child-migrant surge.

“… It has been the malignant effects of immense drug trafficking through these nonconsumer nations [in Central America] that is responsible for accelerating the breakdown in their national institutions of human rights, law enforcement, courts, and eventually their entire society as evidenced today by the flow of children north and out of the conflictive transit zone,” Kelly wrote. “… I believe that the mass migration of children we are all of a sudden struggling with is a leading indicator of the negative second- and third-order impacts on our national interests that are now reality due to the near unimpeded flow of drugs up the isthmus [Central America], as well as the unbelievable levels of drug profits (approximately $85 billion) available to transnational criminal organizations to literally buy police departments, court systems and even governments.”

SOUTHCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in Latin America, says its resources are stretched to the limit, and consequently it is hamstrung in addressing adequately the many dire problems plaguing the region as a result of the growing influence of these criminal networks.

“The fiscal challenges our country is currently experiencing has not spared our command, and we too face funding and resource allocation reductions that have seriously impacted our ability to conduct important missions and achieve significant results,” Ruiz said.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, Kelly said “severe budget constraints are significantly degrading our ability to defend the southern approaches to the United States.”

But there appears to be a more global agenda in play as well with respect to U.S. military operations in the Northern Triangle region of Central America (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala). Specifically it is SOUTHCOM’s growing concern over the rising influence of Russia and China in the region.

Some experts on U.S. foreign policy in Latin America contend, though, that whatever the agenda, the U.S. push to militarize the region in support of the drug war is actually accelerating the breakdown of civil society in the Northern Triangle — with the surge in unaccompanied children fleeing Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador being a prime example of the blowback.

CARSI

A major vehicle for extending U.S. influence in the Northern Triangle has been the Central American Regional Security Initiative, a counter-narcotics effort launched some six years ago in conjunction with the Mérida Initiative — a multi-year, multi-billion dollar U.S.-backed effort to combat drug trafficking in Mexico.

Ruiz said CARSI has provided “more than $640 million in assistance since 2008 to assist security forces, build law-enforcement and justice-sector capacity, and advance community policing, crime prevention and socioeconomic programs” to the seven nations of Central America.

“SOUTHCOM contributes to CARSI goals by providing security assistance through various programs that fund infrastructure, donate equipment and provide training,” Ruiz added.

More funding for CARSI translates into more U.S. operations and influence in the region. But it also is likely to feed the fire that is causing children to flee the Northern Triangle, according to Molly Molloy, a research librarian and a specialist on Latin America at New Mexico State University. Molloy founded and edits Frontera List, an online forum for news and debate around border issues.

“It is our militarization of the region, both as a base for our counter-insurgency forces and for our support of the corrupt local armies, that lie at the root of the social dysfunction in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,” Molloy said. “[It’s worth noting that] the two Central American countries that seem not to be expelling their children are Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Costa Rica did away with its army in 1948 and Nicaragua fought a revolution to get rid of the U.S.-imposed Somoza dictatorship and its corrupt National Guard in 1979.”

Critics of U.S. policy in the region argue that those historical dynamics are clearly in play in Honduras, which is leading the pack in the recent surge of unaccompanied children exiting the Northern Triangle, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. Nearly 17,000 kids from that nation have crossed the U.S. border through June of fiscal 2014.

“The police [in Honduras] are overwhelmingly corrupt and widely documented to kill people, including children with impunity,” said Dana Frank, professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an expert on human rights and U.S. policy in Honduras. “Rather than clean up the corrupt police, [Honduran] President [Juan Orlando] Hernández's answer has been a dangerous and escalating militarization of the police, especially a new 5,000-strong Military Police that has already committed major human rights abuses with impunity…. Yet the U.S. continues to pour funds into the dangerous Honduran police and military, and act as if Hernández is an amiable and successful partner in the drug war.”

In late June, the White House announced that in response to the unaccompanied-children crisis, it is providing Honduras with $18.5 million under CARSI “to support community policing and law enforcement efforts to confront gangs and other sources of crime.” SOUTHCOM, via Joint Task Force Bravo, currently has a military force of about 600 airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines stationed at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras, which also is home to the Honduran Air Force Academy.

Honduran President Hernández, echoing SOUTHCOM’s Kelly, sees a strong link between drug-related violence and the escalating flight of children from his nation. He recently called for more U.S. assistance and a ramp-up in funding for counter-narcotics operations in the Northern Triangle.

Frank said the United States, through existing counter-narcotics programs like CARSI, is already helping to prop up a regime in Honduras that is “countenancing the spectacular violence children are fleeing.”

Cold War Redux

Beyond combating the very real problem of narco-trafficking syndicates and the associated government corruption in the Northern Triangle and Latin America in general, SOUTHCOM also has a broader reason for assuring funding levels for CARSI and other military operations in the region remain robust.

Kelly, in his report to the House committee this past February, argued that budget cuts are eroding SOUTHCOM’s “security cooperation activities,” such as CARSI, in Latin America and opening the door for other world powers to fill the vacuum — principally Russia and China.

“Russian continues to build on its existing strategic partnerships in Latin America, pursuing an increased regional presence through arm sales, counterdrug cooperation and bilateral trade agreements,” Kelly stated. “… In contrast to the Russians, Chinese engagement is focused primarily on economics, but it uses all elements of national power to achieve its goals [in the region].”

That broader agenda, which also implicate U.S. business interest in the Latin America, arguably may create a higher tolerance among U.S. policymakers for supporting regimes in Central America that have less-than-stellar track records in protecting human rights and democracy.

“The 2009 military coup that deposed democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, itself a great criminal act, opened the door to a free-for-all of criminality in Honduras,” Frank said. “Since then, organized crime, drug traffickers and gangs have flourished, worming their way ever-higher within the Honduran government, courts, attorney general's office, and congress. New President Juan Orlando Hernández himself has a stellar track record of subverting the rule of law — prominently supporting the coup, overthrowing part of the Supreme Court and stacking it with his loyalists, and helping illegally name a new attorney general to a five-year term.”

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Read the entire investigative report here @ Narco News: Click Here

The New Great Game Round-Up: July 7, 2014

West's Attempts to Woo Kazakhstan Doomed to Fail, China's Ramadan Ban & WUC Propaganda & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

The situation in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has been very tense since the start of the one-year-long anti-terror campaign but the people in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi were particularly anxious on this Saturday because it marked the fifth anniversary of the July 2009 Urumqi riots, when almost 200 people were killed and over 1.700 injured in a series of violent riots over several days. Beijing accused the NED-funded Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and its leader Rebiya Kadeer of planning the riots. Although the Chinese government did not back up this allegation with sufficient evidence, it is not implausible considering the WUC's close ties to Western intelligence and its key role in Washington's East Turkestan project. As usual, Kadeer and the WUC blamed the violence on government repression and the police's use of excessive force. This does not explain the takfiri mobs terrorizing Uyghurs and Han Chinese alike during the riots but nobody is going to deny the repression of the Uyghur population, which is now making the headlines once again:

China Restricts Ramadan Fasting In Xinjiang

Students and civil servants in China's far western region of Xinjiang have been ordered not to take part in fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Statements posted on July 2 on websites of schools and government agencies say the ban aims at protecting students' wellbeing and preventing the promotion of religion in schools and government offices.

Statements on the websites of local Communist Party organizations said members of the officially atheist party also should not fast.

China's Ramadan Ban & WUC Propaganda

It is important to note that the ban applies first and foremost to government officials and to a lesser extent to teachers, whereas students are not allowed to pratice their religion in school anyway. This policy has been in place for years and thousands upon thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang are still openly celebrating Ramadan but the Western media likes to make fuss about it year after year using the same headline: "China bans Ramadan." And who is the go-to-guy for Western media when it comes to this issue? Of course Dilxat Raxit, the Sweden-based spokesman of the WUC, who laments that Chinese authorities are encouraging Uyghurs to eat free meals and warns that "these kind of coervice measures [...] will create more conflict". Raxit is very busy these days since the anti-terror campaign provides ample opportunity to attack the Chinese government:

China Sentences 113 to Prison in Xinjiang Region

Courts in the Kashgar area of the western Chinese region of Xinjiang have sentenced 113 people to prison terms for a wide range of crimes, including organizing and taking part in terrorist organizations, according to a state media report from Xinjiang.

Four of the people were given life sentences, and the prison terms for the others varied. The report, which was posted online Sunday afternoon, also listed other crimes among the violations: inciting ethnic hatred, harboring criminals, bigamy, drug trafficking and possession, and attempting to destroy evidence.

The Associated Press did not forget to include Dilxat's warning of "extreme forms of resistance". Otherwise the Western public might ask the wrong questions after the next terrorist attack in Xinjiang. Chinese authorities were only recently reminded of the fact that the 'East Turkestan forces' are supported from abroad. A high-level delegation from China was told during its trip to Israel that about 1.000 Chinese jihadists are receiving military training at a base in Pakistan. Jacques Neriah of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) presented this information to the Chinese visitors as well as material on the involvement of thousands of terrorists from China and Central Asia in the Syrian conflict. Beijing is of course aware of Pakistan's role in the various jihadi operations but the Chinese government has indulged so far. However, a few weeks ago, after the major terrorist attack on a market in Urumqi, Beijing stepped up the pressure on Islamabad and the Pakistani government has been conducting a major anti-terror operation in North Waziristan ever since:

Jet fighters target militant hideouts, kill Uzbek militants in North Waziristan

Pakistani jets bombed militant hideouts in a North Waziristan tribal agency on Saturday, killing scores of Uzbek and local insurgents in a massive ongoing offensive against the Taliban, the military said.

"Most of the terrorists killed in strikes were Uzbeks," the statement added without providing casualty figures. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an Al Qaeda affiliate, has had a large presence in tribal belt since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

A local news service reported that the suspected militant hideouts in Daigan, Poikhel and Muhammadkhel areas were targeted and destroyed during the airstrikes. So far, more than 400 suspected militants – mostly foreigners – have been killed during the operation.

As previously discussed, the "success" of this operation is questionable for several reasons but China is apparently content with the actions of its close ally. If Pakistan's handling of the situation will contribute to solving China's East Turkestan problem, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Beijing is looking to ensure the stability of another country neighboring Xinjiang: Kyrgyzstan. China's support of infrastrucutre projects in the Central Asian country was already mentioned last week and more details about Chinese investements emerged this week. China will contribute over $1 billion to the construction of Kyrgyzstan's section of the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline and Chinese state-run corporation Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) will invest more than $1 billion in the modernization of Kyrgyzstan's Manas, Batken and Issyk-Kul airports. So the Chinese might be taking over Manas after Russia's Rosneft refused to buy the majority of shares of the airport. Despite all of this, some problems strain Sino-Kyrgyz relations:

Kyrgyzstan: Chinese Workers Deported After Riot at Strategic Refinery

According to Kyrgyz and Russian press reports, 39 Chinese migrants downed tools, blocked entry to the facility and took several Kyrgyz employees hostage on June 30. Police fired shots into the air to break up the protest, according to a police source

Twenty-five of the migrants were working illegally, police say, and have been deported. The rest have been fined.

The riot coincided with payday and the Chinese appear to have felt shortchanged. According to Kyrgyz media outlet Knews, citing local police in contact with the refinery’s Chinese director, the migrants were angered that pay was being withheld to cover the cost of their transport from China.

West's Attempts to Woo Kazakhstan Doomed to Fail

While China is primarily focused on economic cooperation with Kyrgyzstan, Russia is also striving to maintain close military ties with the strategically located Central Asian republic. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu used this week's meeting of the CIS Defense Ministers' Council in Astana to discuss with his Kyrgyz counterpart the supply of arms and military equipment. Shoygu also held bilateral meetings with the Defense Ministers of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. He had ample time to concentrate on these meetings given the limited cooperation within the CIS. In fact, it can be argued that the CIS is dead, although some people are still in denial about it. It is of little help that CIS member state Azerbaijan is now a NATO proxy and that the U.S-led military alliance is trying hard to remove one post-Soviet state after another from Russia's sphere of influence:

Estonia to represent NATO in Kazakhstan

Estonian Embassy in Astana will represent NATO in Kazakhstan starting from January 1, 2015, Tengrinews reports citing RIA Novosti. Estonia will acts as NATO’s representative for two years.

According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia Urmas Paet, Central Asian countries are important partners for NATO. “In response to the recent changes in the realm of security and the end of the Afghanistan mission, it is important to develop friendly relations with Central Asian countries. In this regard, Estonia can act as a secure bridge in NATO and Kazakhstan relations,” Paet said.

Paet believes that designation of Estonia for the diplomatic role in Central Asia testifies of trust of the North Atlantic Alliance to Estonia. “The main goal of the embassy is to popularize the work and plans of NATO and strengthen relations with the host country (Kazakhstan),” the Minister added.

NATO's chances for success in Kazakhstan are minimal at best. Astana is admittedly concerned about becoming too dependent on Moscow and likes to emphasize its "multi-vectored foreign policy" but that does not mean that the Kazakh authorities are considering closer ties with NATO. It comes as no real surprise that Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet is doing NATO's bidding in Central Asia considering his role in the Ukraine crisis. If it wasn't for the leaked phone call between Paet and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, many people would still fail to realize how far Washington and Brussels are willing to go in order to remove a country from Russia's sphere of influence. The Eastern Partnership initiative of the European Union has played a decisive role in this regard and Brussels is of course also at work in Central Asia:

Brussels hosts negotiations on new agreement between Kazakhstan and EU

The seventh round of negotiations on the new agreement on expanded partnership and cooperation between Kazakhstan and the European Union was held in Brussels, according to the press service of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry. 

"Kazakhstan and the European Union reaffirmed their interest in conclusion of agreement in the least time possible designed to expand and upgrade the existing agreement on partnership and cooperation signed in 1995," the report said.

The increased strategic interest in Kazakhstan once again noted in Brussels as a regional power, while stressing that the country is the only country in Central Asia, with which the European Union is negotiating on the agreement of the second generation.

Both sides agreed to hold a final round of negotiations in the fall of this year in the Kazakh capital Astana. But in the light of the birth of the Eurasian Economic Union, there will be some limits to cooperation betweeen Kazakhstan and the EU. Although Armenia's accession to the economic bloc is currently being delayed, the involved parties are very much convinced of the project and are now even considering the creation of a regional payment system:  

Central Bank Mulls United Payment System for Customs Union

The Russian Central Bank is considering creating a payment system that would extend across the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, a senior Central Bank official said Wednesday at a banking conference in St. Petersburg.

"We are discussing this issue within the Customs Union and it would be interesting to implement this project together with our partners from Kazakhstan and Belarus," said Georgy Luntovsky, the regulator's deputy head.

Luntovsky declined to give a time frame for the system's implementation across the Custom Union, but said he believed it "would be executed."

Azerbaijan Shuts Down NDI, Looks East

Armenia and Kyrgyzstan will eventually join the soon-to-be Eurasian Economic Union and other post-Soviet states might follow but it is highly unlikely that Azerbaijan is one of them. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized last month that Azerbaijan had not been formally invited either to the Customs Union or the Eurasian Economic Union and there are good reasons for this. After all, we are talking about a country, where it is difficult so say who is more subservient to the United States and the EU, the government or the opposition:

Azerbaijani opposition calls government to sign association agreement with EU

A broad range of Azerbaijani oppositional forces have urged the government to promptly sign the association agreement with the European Union. At the same time, they expressed their negative attitude to the prospect of Azerbaijan's accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEC).

About 100 Azerbaijani representatives of political parties, civil society activists and media professionals have adopted a document entitled "Declaration on Azerbaijan's attitude to the Association Agreement with the European Union".

The Aliyev regime has been doing its best to please the West and is regularly praised for its contributions to NATO but there are some contentious points, such as the fight against NGOs or the recent crackdown on the Gülen movement. Especially the government's campaign against the U.S-backed Azerbaijani opposition has strained relations between Baku and Washington. It is not a secret that the Azerbaijani opposition is being directed from the Baku office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Therefore, the Aliyev regime has tried to put an end to NDI's meddling in Azerbaijan on numerous occasions and, according to Turan news agency, these efforts were finally successful:

NDI office in Baku is officially closed 

Today, the office of the U.S. National Democratic Institute in Baku was officially closed, according to informed sources in Washington. In fact, the Office ceased to function in March, after the authorities accused this structure of financing subversive youth against the government of Azerbaijan.

In particular, the head of the presidential administration, and previously, the law enforcement agencies have stated that with money from the NDI youth groups prepared in Azerbaijan  the analogue of the "Arab Spring." The NDI representative in Baku, Alex Grigorevs, was declared the chief "saboteur", and the government was so afraid of him, that banned his return to Baku and pick up his personal belongings and dog.

A number of sites working for the Azerbaijani authorities  "suddenly" got copies of bank documents proving that the representative of NDI debited during the year about 2 million dollars. Those sites who call themselves human rights, argued that money was sent to facebook revolution in Azerbaijan. Irrefutable "proof", according to the authors of publications, was that NDI has provided a grant for the youth organization NIDA, seven members of which were arrested and announced the organizers of the failed revolution.

After the U.S. and the EU had toppled the Yanukovych-led government in Ukraine, the Azerbaijani authorities became increasingly wary of Washington's activities in Azerbaijan and they made it perfectly clear that similar "Maidan events" will be stopped in Azerbaijan. Some people even called for the removal of U.S. Ambassador Richard Morningstar in response to an interview by the American diplomat. In public, Morningstar is still hailing the strong partnership between the U.S. and Azerbaijan but there are some continuing differences and it is safe to say that Washington kept a very close eye on the recent China trip of Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister [emphasis mine]:

China, Azerbaijan pledge stronger ties

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in Beijing on Tuesday, and both agreed to boost China-Azerbaijan ties.

Calling the two countries good friends and partners, Yang said they have maintained sound momentum in the development of diplomatic ties since their forging, citing enhanced political trust, fruitful cooperation and strengthened friendship.

Mammadyarov, for his part, said Azerbaijan attaches great importance to its ties with China, and firmly supports China on issues regarding Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Azerbaijan hopes to beef up cooperation with China in all fields, he said.


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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

Has the Dept. of Homeland Security Become America’s Standing Army?

DHS: A beast that is accelerating our nation’s transformation into a police state

“A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”—James Madison

“Here [in New Mexico], we are moving more toward a national police force. Homeland Security is involved with a lot of little things around town. Somebody in Washington needs to call a timeout.” —Dan Klein, retired Albuquerque Police Department sergeant

If the United States is a police state, then the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its national police force, with all the brutality, ineptitude and corruption such a role implies. In fact, although the DHS’ governmental bureaucracy may at times appear to be inept and bungling, it is ruthlessly efficient when it comes to building what the Founders feared most—a standing army on American soil.

The third largest federal agency behind the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, the DHS—with its 240,000 full-time workers, $61 billion budget and sub-agencies that include the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—has been aptly dubbed a “runaway train.”

In the 12 years since it was established to “prevent terrorist attacks within the United States,” the DHS has grown from a post-9/11 knee-jerk reaction to a leviathan with tentacles in every aspect of American life. With good reason, a bipartisan bill to provide greater oversight and accountability into the DHS’ purchasing process has been making its way through Congress.

A better plan would be to abolish the DHS altogether. In making the case for shutting down the de facto national police agency, analyst Charles Kenny offers the following six reasons: one, the agency lacks leadership; two, terrorism is far less of a threat than it is made out to be; three, the FBI has actually stopped more alleged terrorist attacks than DHS; four, the agency wastes exorbitant amounts of money with little to show for it; five, “An overweight DHS gets a free pass to infringe civil liberties without a shred of economic justification”; and six, the agency is just plain bloated.

To Kenny’s list, I will add the following: The menace of a national police force, a.k.a. a standing army, vested with so much power cannot be overstated, nor can its danger be ignored. Indeed, as the following list shows, just about every nefarious deed, tactic or thuggish policy advanced by the government today can be traced back to the DHS, its police state mindset, and the billions of dollars it distributes to police agencies in the form of grants.

Militarizing police and SWAT teams. The DHS routinely hands out six-figure grants to enable local municipalities to purchase military-style vehicles, as well as a veritable war chest of weaponry, ranging from tactical vests, bomb-disarming robots, assault weapons and combat uniforms. This rise in military equipment purchases funded by the DHS has, according to analysts Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz, “paralleled an apparent increase in local SWAT teams.” The end result? An explosive growth in the use of SWAT teams for otherwise routine police matters, an increased tendency on the part of police to shoot first and ask questions later, and an overall mindset within police forces that they are at war—and the citizenry are the enemy combatants.

Spying on activists, dissidents and veterans. In 2009, DHS released three infamous reports on Rightwing and Leftwing “Extremism,” and another entitled Operation Vigilant Eagle, outlining a surveillance program targeting veterans. The reports collectively and broadly define extremists as individuals and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.” In 2013, it was revealed that DHS, the FBI, state and local law enforcement agencies, and the private sector were working together to conduct nationwide surveillance on protesters’ First Amendment activities.

Stockpiling ammunition.  DHS, along with other government agencies, has been stockpiling an alarming amount of ammunition in recent years, which only adds to the discomfort of those already leery of the government. As of 2013, DHS had 260 million rounds of ammo in stock, which averages out to between 1,300 to 1,600 rounds per officer. The US Army, in contrast, has roughly 350 rounds per soldier. DHS has since requisitioned more than 1.6 billion rounds of ammo, “enough,” concludes Forbes magazine, “to sustain a hot war for 20+ years.”

Distributing license plate readers. DHS has already distributed more than $50 million in grants to enable local police agencies to acquire license plate readers, which rely on mobile cameras to photograph and identify cars, match them against a national database, and track their movements. Relying on private contractors to maintain a license plate database allows the DHS and its affiliates to access millions of records without much in the way of oversight.

Contracting to build detention camps. In 2006, DHS awarded a $385 million contract to a Halliburton subsidiary to build detention centers on American soil. Although the government and Halliburton were not forthcoming about where or when these domestic detention centers would be built, they rationalized the need for them in case of “an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs” in the event of other emergencies such as “natural disasters.” Viewed in conjunction with the NDAA provision allowing the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, it would seem the building blocks are already in place for such an eventuality.

Tracking cell-phones with Stingray devices. Distributed to local police agencies as a result of grants from the DHS, these Stingray devices enable police to track individuals’ cell phones—and their owners—without a court warrant or court order. The amount of information conveyed by these devices about one’s activities, whereabouts and interactions is considerable. As one attorney explained: “Because we carry our cellphones with us virtually everywhere we go, stingrays can paint a precise picture of where we are and who we spend time with, including our location in a lover’s house, in a psychologist’s office or at a political protest.”

Carrying out military drills and lockdowns in American cities. Each year, DHS funds military-style training drills in cities across the country. These Urban Shield exercises, elaborately staged with their own set of professionally trained Crisis Actors playing the parts of shooters, bystanders and victims, fool law enforcement officials, students, teachers, bystanders and the media into thinking it’s a real crisis.

Using the TSA as an advance guard. The TSA now searches a variety of government and private databases, including things like car registrations and employment information, in order to track travelers’ before they ever get near an airport. Other information collected includes “tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information.”

Conducting virtual strip searches with full-body scanners. Under the direction of the TSA, American travelers have been subjected to all manner of searches ranging from whole-body scanners and enhanced patdowns at airports to bag searches in train stations. In response to public outrage over what amounted to a virtual strip search, the TSA has begun replacing the scanners with equally costly yet less detailed models. The old scanners will be used by prisons for now.

Carrying out soft target checkpoints. VIPR task forces, comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams have laid the groundwork for the government’s effort to secure so-called “soft” targets such as malls, stadiums, bridges, etc. Some security experts predict that checkpoints and screening stations will eventually be established at all soft targets, such as department stores, restaurants, and schools. DHS’ Operation Shield, a program which seeks to check up on security protocols around the country with unannounced visits, conducted a surprise security exercise at the Social Security Administration building in Leesburg, Fla., when they subjected people who went to pick up their checks to random ID checks by federal agents armed with semi-automatic weapons.

Directing government workers to spy on Americans.  Terrorism Liaison Officers are firefighters, police officers, and even corporate employees who have received training to spy on and report back to government entities on the day-to-day activities of their fellow citizens. These individuals are authorized to report “suspicious activity” which can include such innocuous activities as taking pictures with no apparent aesthetic value, making measurements and drawings, taking notes, conversing in code, espousing radical beliefs, and buying items in bulk.

Conducting widespread spying networks using fusion centers. Data collecting agencies spread throughout the country, aided by the National Security Agency, fusions centers—of which there are at least 78 scattered around the U.S.— constantly monitor our communications, collecting and cataloguing everything from our internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails. This data is then fed to government agencies, which are now interconnected: the CIA to the FBI, the FBI to local police. Despite a budget estimated to be somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion, these fusion centers have proven to be exercises in incompetence, often producing irrelevant, useless or inappropriate intelligence, while spending millions of dollars on “flat-screen televisions, sport utility vehicles, hidden cameras and other gadgets.”

Carrying out Constitution-free border control searches. On orders from the DHS, the government’s efforts along the border have become little more than an exercise in police state power, ranging from aggressive checkpoints to the widespread use of drone technology, often used against American citizens traveling within the country. Border patrol operations occur within 100 miles of an international crossing, putting some 200 million Americans within the bounds of aggressive border patrol searches and seizures, as well as increasingly expansive drone surveillance. With 71 checkpoints found along the southwest border of the United States alone, suspicionless search and seizures on the border are rampant. Border patrol agents also search the personal electronic devices of people crossing the border without a warrant.

Funding city-wide surveillance cameras. As Charlie Savage reports for the Boston Globe, the DHS has funneled “millions of dollars to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera networks, accelerating the rise of a ‘surveillance society’ in which the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will be lost.” These camera systems, installed on city streets, in parks and transit systems, operating in conjunction with sophisticated computer systems that boast intelligent video analytics, digital biometric identification, military-pedigree software for analyzing and predicting crime and facial recognition software, create a vast surveillance network that can target millions of innocent individuals.

Utilizing drones and other spybots. The DHS has been at the forefront of funding and deploying surveillance robots and drones for land, sea and air, including robots that resemble fish and tunnel-bots that can travel underground. Despite repeated concerns over the danger surveillance drones used domestically pose to Americans’ privacy rights, the DHS has continued to expand its fleet of Predator drones, which come equipped with video cameras, infrared cameras, heat sensors, and radar. DHS also loans its drones out to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies for a variety of tasks, although the agency refuses to divulge any details as to how, why and in what capacity these drones are being used by police. Incredibly, the DHS has also been handing out millions of dollars in grants to local police agencies to “accelerate the adoption” of drones in their localities.

It’s not difficult to see why the DHS has been described as a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast.” If it is a beast, however, it is a beast that is accelerating our nation’s transformation into a police state through its establishment of a standing army, a.k.a. national police force.

This, too, is nothing new. Historically, as I show in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the establishment of a national police force has served as a fundamental and final building block for every totalitarian regime that has ever wreaked havoc on humanity, from Hitler’s all-too-real Nazi Germany to George Orwell’s fictional Oceania. Whether fictional or historical, however, the calling cards of these national police agencies remain the same: brutality, inhumanity, corruption, intolerance, rigidity, and bureaucracy—in other words, evil.

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John W. Whitehead-BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.