Thursday, July 02, 2015

The True Cost of the War on Terror

Last week’s two mass murders carried out by militants allegedly associated with the Islamic State (IS) took place shortly after the release of the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2014. Country Reports is 389 pages long, broken down by country and region. It also includes statistical charts, a focus on state sponsors, and analysis of transnational issues. It is worth a read if only to gain some insight into how the United States government views an issue as unwieldy and ultimately indefinable as “international terrorism.”

Initial reactions from interested parties and the media suggest that one can find something in the report to support nearly any point of view if one looks hard enough. The New York Times emphasized in its headline that “Iran still aids terrorism,” a conclusion also reached by the neoconservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Critics and friends of Israel, meanwhile, found the report’s explicit detailing of the Palestinian civilian deaths that occurred during the fighting in Gaza last summer either an “about time” moment or just one more indication that the White House is intent on punishing Benjamin Netanyahu.

I found the report to be somewhat perplexing, at times contradictory in terms of how it defines terrorism and what conclusions it draws. The 21st century might well be called the century of the terrorist. Terrorism is constantly in the news in one form or another and American newspapers have been reporting that “terrorism trend lines are ‘worse than at any other point in history.’” But what is terrorism? It has frequently been pointed out that “terrorism” is a tactic, not an actual physical adversary, though it is less often noted that a simple definition of what constitutes terrorism is hardly universally accepted, while the designation itself is essentially political. The glib assertion that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter fails to capture the distinction’s consequences as the terror label itself increasingly comes with a number of legal and practical liabilities attached. Describing an organization as terroristic in order to discredit it has itself become a tactic, and one that sometimes has only limited applicability to what the group in question actually believes or does.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Divided Country Under Kennedy’s Constitution

“Natural law—God’s law—will always trump common law,” said Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a Christian leader in her own right, “God will have the final word in this matter.” But, for now, Justice Anthony Kennedy has the final word.

Same-sex marriage is the law of the land, as the right of gays and lesbians to marry is right there in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1868. We just didn’t see it. Tony Kennedy spotted what no previous court had detected.

The absurdity of the decision aside, it represents another stride forward for the revolution preached by Antonio Gramsci. Before we can capture the West, the Italian Marxist argued, we must capture the culture. For only if we change the culture can we change how people think and believe. And then a new generation will not only come to accept but to embrace what their fathers would have resisted to the death.

Consider the triumphs of the Gramscian revolution in our lifetime.

First, there is the total purge of the nation’s birth faith, Christianity, from America’s public life and educational institutions. Second, there is the overthrow of the old moral order with the legalization, acceptance, and even celebration of what the old morality taught was socially destructive and morally decadent.

How dramatic have the changes been?

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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Privatization of Nuclear War

With tensions growing in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, a new generation of nuclear weapons technology is making nuclear warfare a very real prospect. And with very little fanfare, the US is embarking on the privatization of nuclear war under a first-strike doctrine.

“On August 6, 2003, on Hiroshima Day, commemorating when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima (August 6 1945), a secret meeting was held behind closed doors at Strategic Command Headquarters at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Senior executives from the nuclear industry and the military industrial complex were in attendance. This mingling of defense contractors, scientists and policy-makers was not intended to commemorate Hiroshima. The meeting was intended to set the stage for the development of a new generation of “smaller”, “safer” and “more usable” nuclear weapons, to be used in the “in-theater nuclear wars” of the 21st Century. 

“Nuclear war has become a multibillion dollar undertaking, which fills the pockets of US defense contractors. What is at stake is the outright “privatization of nuclear war”.

US-NATO weapons of mass destruction are portrayed as instruments of peace. Mini-nukes are said to be “harmless to the surrounding civilian population”. Pre-emptive nuclear war is portrayed as a “humanitarian undertaking”. 

US nuclear doctrine is intimately related to “America’s War on Terrorism” and the alleged threat of Al Qaeda, which in a bitter irony is con- sidered as an upcoming nuclear power.

Under the Obama administration, Islamic terrorists are said to be preparing to attack US cities. Proliferation is tacitly equated with “nuclear terrorism”. Obama’s nuclear doctrine puts particular emphasis on “nuclear terrorism” and on the alleged plans by Al Qaeda to develop and use nuclear weapons. 

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

China Syndrome

China’s meteoric rise has Washington worried, not because China is a threat to its neighbors or to US national security, but because China’s influence is expanding across the region. It’s creating the institutions it needs to finance its own development (AIIB and New BRICS Bank),  it’s building the infrastructure needed to connect the continents with state-of-the-art high-speed rail (New Silk Road), and its attracting allies and trading partners who want to participate in its plan for growth and prosperity. This is why Washington is worried; it’s because China has transformed itself into an economic powerhouse that doesn’t conform to the neoliberal model of punitive austerity, pernicious privatization,  and madcap asset inflation.  China has slipped out of the empire’s orbit and charted its own course, which is why Washington wants to provoke Beijing over its negligible land reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Washington thinks it can succeed militarily where it has failed economically and politically. Case in point; check this out from Bloomberg News:
“The U.S. and Japan are conducting separate military drills with the Philippines near the disputed South China Sea,…The annual CARAT Philippines joint exercise started Monday off the east coast of Palawan island and will run until June 26, according to U.S. Navy spokesman Arlo Abrahamson. The Philippine and Japanese navies are holding drills around the same island through June 27, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force said last week. 
The U.S. has backed Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines as tensions escalate with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea, while Japan is providing patrol vessels to the Philippine coast guard….The drill includes a sea phase with the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth, diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard and a P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft and at least one Philippine frigate, according to the U.S. Navy…. 
Japan’s exercises with the Philippines will take place adjacent to the Spratly Islands, where China has created more than 2,000 acres of land in waters also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia. Japan will send a P-3C anti-submarine, maritime surveillance aircraft and 20 personnel.”  (“U.S., Japan Join Philippines in Navy Drills Near South China Sea”, Bloomberg)
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Monday, June 22, 2015

Directed against Russian Cities, Pentagon Considers Deploying Nuclear Missiles to Europe

On June 4 a portion of a report by Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was declassified, in which he claims that Washington is considering deploying cruise missiles with nuclear warheads in Europe as a response to Russia’s alleged “violations” of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, which the United States and Soviet Union became party to back in 1987.

Four days later a similar statement was made by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who announced London’s willingness to once again accept US nuclear missiles, which were removed from British bases in 2006. In so doing, the United Kingdom has joined those who are criticizing Moscow for an “offense” that the Russians have never committed at any time or in any place.

The fact is that the new Russian R-500 operational and tactical cruise missile, which is mentioned in the American military documents, does not fall under any of the categories listed in the INF. That treaty required the destruction of two classes of nuclear missiles: ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles of “intermediate- and shorter-range,” meaning able to travel 1,000-5,500 km. and 500-1,000 km., respectively. The new Russian cruise missile in question has a maximum range of less than 500 km. The Russians have not officially released any other information regarding its range. Nor have the Americans officially issued such information. In addition, the US delegation did not file any specific complaints about the missile during the special US-Russian consultations on arms control held last fall and this past spring. They just claimed that the Russians have tested “some kind of missile and they know what we are talking about…” But this is not a serious conversation. As Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted on June 9 of this year, “We are ready to examine any concrete evidence that gives the Americans reason to think that we have violated something.”

Russia’s next-generation intercontinental nuclear ballistic missile mentioned by the US (the RS-26 or Rubezh) has a range of over 5,500 kilometers and is also not subject to the INF’s restrictions, since that treaty does not apply to nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles with a range of over 5,500 km. The numbers of those missiles are to be reduced principally through other agreements, such as strategic offensive reductions treaties.

Washington launched an extensive propaganda campaign a few years ago to discredit Russia in response to some type of INF “violations,” but has not yet provided any evidence of such “violations” by the Russians. That was the situation in JanuaryJuly, and November of last year, when US officials made unfounded allegations in this regard against Moscow. And the same scenario is being played out again this year.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Seven Days in May?

“Since its founding, the United States has consistently pursued a grand strategy focused on acquiring and maintaining preeminent power over various rivals, first on the North American continent, then in the Western hemisphere, and finally globally.” Robert D. Blackwill and Ashley J.Tellis, Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China, The Council on Foreign Relations Special Report, March 2015 
“It is for the people of Asia to run the affairs of Asia, solve the problems of Asia and uphold the security of Asia.” Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China
The United States will do whatever is necessary to maintain its dominant position in the world. Less than two years ago, no one thought that Washington would topple a regime on Moscow’s doorstep, insert a US-backed stooge in Kiev, arm and train neo-Nazi extremists in the Ukrainian Army, instigate and oversee a vicious war of aggression in the East, threaten to deploy NATO to within five hundred miles of the Russian capital, reassemble the Iron Curtain by building up forces, weaponry and missile systems in E. Europe and the Balkans, and repeatedly provoke a nuclear-armed adversary (Russia) by launching asymmetrical attacks on its economy, its financial system and its currency. The reason Washington pursued such a risky strategy is because EU-Russian economic integration posed a direct threat to US global hegemony, so steps had to be taken to thwart the project. The US used all the tools at its disposal to drive a wedge between Brussels and Moscow, to sabotage the plan to create a free trade zone from “Lisbon to Vladivostok”, and to prevent the emergence of a new rival. Washington powerbrokers did what they felt they had to do to preserve their lofty position in the current world order. Now their focus has shifted to the Asia-Pacific where they intend to take similar action against another potential rival, China.

According to the Economist, China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will surpass that of the United States by 2021. In other words, if present trends persist, China will become the world’s biggest economy in less than a decade. But what are the chances that present trends will continue if Beijing is embroiled in a conflagration with the US; a conflagration where the US turns China’s trading partners against Beijing like it did with Moscow, a conflagration in which more of China’s resources are devoted to national defense rather than economic growth, a conflagration in which oil shipments from the Middle East are interrupted or cut off completely?

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why Doesn’t The GOP Adopt The Ann Coulter Playbook?

Whatever you think about Ann Coulter, she cannot be accused of mincing her words. Beginning with her new book’s title—Adios, America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole—Coulter departs decisively from the usual GOP playbook—soften the “tone” on immigration, avoid any mention of that our immigration policy is making Europeans a minority in the country they founded, etc. Of course, this has gotten the GOP nowhere. Coulter’s playbook, on the other hand, seems to be working.

Often talk of “tone” is just a euphemism for supporting amnesty, but sometimes immigration patriots will make this argument, too. Even Senator Ted Cruz agreed that “The tone of immigration contributed” to Mitt Romney’s losing the Hispanic vote 71% to 27%. The Center for Immigration Studies’ Jerry Kammer[Email him] criticized John Tanton for having a “tin ear for the sensitivities of immigration.”

If Tanton has a tin ear, Coulter’s is tungsten. Most of the Main Stream Media coverage of the book is little more than what Steve Sailer calls “point and splutter” at her Political Incorrectness. As you can’t literally point and sputter on the internet, this literally involves tweeting: “Wow, just . . . wow” and ”I can’t even.” Last year, Hamilton Nolan at Gawker tried to justify not engaging or trying to refute Coulter’s arguments:

Ann Coulter is not a “serious” political commentator. Ann Coulter is a troll. To the extent that you take Ann Coulter’s words seriously, Ann Coulter wins. You cannot “win” an “argument” against Ann Coulter’s “position,” because her positions—which are plainly wrong, and which do not require lengthy arguments to refute—exist only to draw attention to Ann Coulter. This is how she eventually makes lots of money selling books and giving speeches to dumb people.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Dual Citizenship and US National Security

A brouhaha erupted when Diane Rehm, of National Public Radio, confronted Bernie Sanders during an interview with an allegation that’s been making the rounds on the Internet for years: “Now, you’re a dual citizen of Israel,” she averred. Startled, he replied:

“Well, no I do not have dual citizenship with Israel. I’m an American. I don’t know where that question came from. I am an American citizen, and I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions. I’m an American citizen, period."

He claimed to be “offended” by Rehm’s assertion, although I don’t know why anybody would be: after all, what’s wrong with being a dual citizen of Israel, or of any other country?

Ms. Rehm issued an official apology, in which she regretted not posing a question rather than making an assertion – and that underscores the problem with the whole issue of public officials holding dual citizenship: they aren’t required to disclose it. Rehm says she brought it up in the first place because of a Facebook comment, which referenced a list of alleged dual US-Israeli citizens in Congress. None of these lists, however, are sourced, a fact the research-challenged Rehm failed to notice. It’s virtually impossible to source such information, however, unless members of Congress are forthcoming with it – which they aren’t.

So why is this even an issue? Writing in The Hill, L. Michael Hager,of the International Development Law Organization, had a good answer:

“Anyone can become a dual citizen, even members of Congress, high court judges and top officials of the executive branch. There’s no law or regulation against it. Nor are they required to disclose such dual citizenship. 

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