Saturday, July 05, 2014

How Washington protects itself By Noam Chomsky

How Washington protects itself
By Noam Chomsky 

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs. In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons. First, the US is unmatched in its global significance and impact. Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it. Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the US - and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices. The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond. 

There is a "received standard version", common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse. It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the US and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat. 

There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine. One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989? Answer: everything continued much as before. 

The US immediately invaded Panama, killing probably thousands of people and installing a client regime. This was routine practice in US-dominated domains - but in this case not quite as routine. For first time, a major foreign policy act was not justified by an alleged Russian threat. 

Instead, a series of fraudulent pretexts for the invasion were concocted that collapse instantly on examination. The media chimed in enthusiastically, lauding the magnificent achievement of defeating Panama, unconcerned that the pretexts were ludicrous, that the act itself was a radical violation of international law, and that it was bitterly condemned elsewhere, most harshly in Latin America. Also ignored was the US veto of a unanimous Security Council resolution condemning crimes by US troops during the invasion, with Britain alone abstaining. 

All routine. And all forgotten (which is also routine). 

From El Salvador to the Russian border
The administration of George H W Bush issued a new national security policy and defense budget in reaction to the collapse of the global enemy. It was pretty much the same as before, although with new pretexts. It was, it turned out, necessary to maintain a military establishment almost as great as the rest of the world combined and far more advanced in technological sophistication - but not for defense against the now-nonexistent Soviet Union. Rather, the excuse now was the growing "technological sophistication" of Third World powers. Disciplined intellectuals understood that it would have been improper to collapse in ridicule, so they maintained a proper silence. 

The US, the new programs insisted, must maintain its "defense industrial base". The phrase is a euphemism, referring to high-tech industry generally, which relies heavily on extensive state intervention for research and development, often under Pentagon cover, in what economists continue to call the US "free-market economy". 

One of the most interesting provisions of the new plans had to do with the Middle East. There, it was declared, Washington must maintain intervention forces targeting a crucial region where the major problems "could not have been laid at the Kremlin's door". Contrary to 50 years of deceit, it was quietly conceded that the main concern was not the Russians, but rather what is called "radical nationalism", meaning independent nationalism not under US control. 

All of this has evident bearing on the standard version, but it passed unnoticed - or perhaps, therefore it passed unnoticed. 

Other important events took place immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, ending the Cold War. One was in El Salvador, the leading recipient of US military aid - apart from Israel-Egypt, a separate category - and with one of the worst human rights records anywhere. That is a familiar and very close correlation. 

The Salvadoran high command ordered the Atlacatl Brigade to invade the Jesuit University and murder six leading Latin American intellectuals, all Jesuit priests, including the rector, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, and any witnesses, meaning their housekeeper and her daughter. The Brigade had just returned from advanced counterinsurgency training at the US Army John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and had already left a bloody trail of thousands of the usual victims in the course of the US-run state terror campaign in El Salvador, one part of a broader terror and torture campaign throughout the region. All routine. Ignored and virtually forgotten in the United States and by its allies, again routine. But it tells us a lot about the factors that drive policy, if we care to look at the real world. 

Another important event took place in Europe. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to allow the unification of Germany and its membership in NATO, a hostile military alliance. In the light of recent history, this was a most astonishing concession. There was a quid pro quo. President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker agreed that NATO would not expand "one inch to the East", meaning into East Germany. Instantly, they expanded NATO to East Germany. 

Gorbachev was naturally outraged, but when he complained, he was instructed by Washington that this had only been a verbal promise, a gentleman's agreement, hence without force. If he was na?ve enough to accept the word of American leaders, it was his problem. 

All of this, too, was routine, as was the silent acceptance and approval of the expansion of NATO in the US and the West generally. President Bill Clinton then expanded NATO further, right up to Russia's borders. Today, the world faces a serious crisis that is in no small measure a result of these policies. 

The appeal of plundering the poor
Another source of evidence is the declassified historical record. It contains revealing accounts of the actual motives of state policy. The story is rich and complex, but a few persistent themes play a dominant role. One was articulated clearly at a western hemispheric conference called by the US in Mexico in February 1945 where Washington imposed "An Economic Charter of the Americas" designed to eliminate economic nationalism "in all its forms". There was one unspoken condition. Economic nationalism would be fine for the US whose economy relies heavily on massive state intervention. 

The elimination of economic nationalism for others stood in sharp conflict with the Latin American stand of that moment, which State Department officials described as "the philosophy of the New Nationalism [that] embraces policies designed to bring about a broader distribution of wealth and to raise the standard of living of the masses". As US policy analysts added, "Latin Americans are convinced that the first beneficiaries of the development of a country's resources should be the people of that country". 

That, of course, will not do. Washington understands that the "first beneficiaries" should be US investors, while Latin America fulfills its service function. It should not, as both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations would make clear, undergo "excessive industrial development" that might infringe on US interests. Thus Brazil could produce low-quality steel that US corporations did not want to bother with, but it would be "excessive", were it to compete with US firms. 

Similar concerns resonate throughout the post-World War II period. The global system that was to be dominated by the US was threatened by what internal documents call "radical and nationalistic regimes" that respond to popular pressures for independent development. That was the concern that motivated the overthrow of the parliamentary governments of Iran and Guatemala in 1953 and 1954, as well as numerous others. In the case of Iran, a major concern was the potential impact of Iranian independence on Egypt, then in turmoil over British colonial practice. In Guatemala, apart from the crime of the new democracy in empowering the peasant majority and infringing on possessions of the United Fruit Company - already offensive enough - Washington's concern was labor unrest and popular mobilization in neighboring US-backed dictatorships. 

In both cases the consequences reach to the present. Literally not a day has passed since 1953 when the US has not been torturing the people of Iran. Guatemala remains one of the world's worst horror chambers. To this day, Mayans are fleeing from the effects of near-genocidal government military campaigns in the highlands backed by President Ronald Reagan and his top officials. As the country director of Oxfam, a Guatemalan doctor, reported recently, 

"There is a dramatic deterioration of the political, social, and economic context. Attacks against Human Rights defenders have increased 300% during the last year. There is a clear evidence of a very well organized strategy by the private sector and Army. Both have captured the government in order to keep the status quo and to impose the extraction economic model, pushing away dramatically indigenous peoples from their own land, due to the mining industry, African Palm and sugar cane plantations. In addition the social movement defending their land and rights has been criminalized, many leaders are in jail, and many others have been killed". 

Nothing is known about this in the United States and the very obvious cause of it remains suppressed. 

In the 1950s, President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles explained quite clearly the dilemma that the US faced. They complained that the Communists had an unfair advantage. They were able to "appeal directly to the masses" and "get control of mass movements, something we have no capacity to duplicate. The poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich". 

That causes problems. The US somehow finds it difficult to appeal to the poor with its doctrine that the rich should plunder the poor. 

The Cuban example
A clear illustration of the general pattern was Cuba, when it finally gained independence in 1959. Within months, military attacks on the island began. Shortly after, the Eisenhower administration made a secret decision to overthrow the government. John F Kennedy then became president. He intended to devote more attention to Latin America and so, on taking office, he created a study group to develop policies headed by the historian Arthur Schlesinger, who summarized its conclusions for the incoming president. 

As Schlesinger explained, threatening in an independent Cuba was "the Castro idea of taking matters into one's own hands". It was an idea that unfortunately appealed to the mass of the population in Latin America where "the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes, and the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living". Again, Washington's usual dilemma. 

As the CIA explained, "The extensive influence of 'Castroism' is not a function of Cuban power... Castro's shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change", for which his Cuba provides a model. Kennedy feared that Russian aid might make Cuba a "showcase" for development, giving the Soviets the upper hand throughout Latin America. 

The State Department Policy Planning Council warned that "the primary danger we face in Castro is... in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries… The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the US, a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half" - that is, since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, when the US declared its intention of dominating the hemisphere. 

The immediate goal at the time was to conquer Cuba, but that could not be achieved because of the power of the British enemy. Still, that grand strategist John Quincy Adams, the intellectual father of the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny, informed his colleagues that over time Cuba would fall into our hands by "the laws of political gravitation", as an apple falls from the tree. In brief, US power would increase and Britain's would decline. 

In 1898, Adams's prognosis was realized. The US invaded Cuba in the guise of liberating it. In fact, it prevented the island's liberation from Spain and turned it into a "virtual colony" to quote historians Ernest May and Philip Zelikow. Cuba remained so until January 1959, when it gained independence. Since that time it has been subjected to major US terrorist wars, primarily during the Kennedy years, and economic strangulation. Not because of the Russians. 

The pretense all along was that we were defending ourselves from the Russian threat - an absurd explanation that generally went unchallenged. A simple test of the thesis is what happened when any conceivable Russian threat disappeared. US policy toward Cuba became even harsher, spearheaded by liberal Democrats, including Bill Clinton, who outflanked Bush from the right in the 1992 election. On the face of it, these events should have considerable bearing on the validity of the doctrinal framework for discussion of foreign policy and the factors that drive it. Once again, however, the impact was slight. 

The virus of nationalism
To borrow Henry Kissinger's terminology, independent nationalism is a "virus" that might "spread contagion". Kissinger was referring to Salvador Allende's Chile. The virus was the idea that there might be a parliamentary path towards some kind of socialist democracy. The way to deal with such a threat is to destroy the virus and to inoculate those who might be infected, typically by imposing murderous national security states. That was achieved in the case of Chile, but it is important to recognize that the thinking holds worldwide. 

It was, for example, the reasoning behind the decision to oppose Vietnamese nationalism in the early 1950s and support France's effort to reconquer its former colony. It was feared that independent Vietnamese nationalism might be a virus that would spread contagion to the surrounding regions, including resource-rich Indonesia. That might even have led Japan - called the "superdomino" by Asia scholar John Dower - to become the industrial and commercial center of an independent new order of the kind imperial Japan had so recently fought to establish. That, in turn, would have meant that the US had lost the Pacific war, not an option to be considered in 1950. The remedy was clear - and largely achieved. Vietnam was virtually destroyed and ringed by military dictatorships that kept the "virus" from spreading contagion. 

In retrospect, Kennedy-Johnson National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy reflected that Washington should have ended the Vietnam War in 1965, when the Suharto dictatorship was installed in Indonesia, with enormous massacres that the CIA compared to the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. These were, however, greeted with unconstrained euphoria in the US and the West generally because the "staggering bloodbath", as the press cheerfully described it, ended any threat of contagion and opened Indonesia's rich resources to western exploitation. After that, the war to destroy Vietnam was superfluous, as Bundy recognized in retrospect. 

The same was true in Latin America in the same years: one virus after another was viciously attacked and either destroyed or weakened to the point of bare survival. From the early 1960s, a plague of repression was imposed on the continent that had no precedent in the violent history of the hemisphere, extending to Central America in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan, a matter that there should be no need to review. 

Much the same was true in the Middle East. The unique US relations with Israel were established in their current form in 1967, when Israel delivered a smashing blow to Egypt, the center of secular Arab nationalism. By doing so, it protected US ally Saudi Arabia, then engaged in military conflict with Egypt in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, of course, is the most extreme radical fundamentalist Islamic state, and also a missionary state, expending huge sums to establish its Wahhabi-Salafi doctrines beyond its borders. It is worth remembering that the US, like England before it, has tended to support radical fundamentalist Islam in opposition to secular nationalism, which has usually been perceived as posing more of a threat of independence and contagion. 

The value of secrecy
There is much more to say, but the historical record demonstrates very clearly that the standard doctrine has little merit. Security in the normal sense is not a prominent factor in policy formation. 

To repeat, in the normal sense. But in evaluating the standard doctrine we have to ask what is actually meant by "security": security for whom? 

One answer is: security for state power. There are many illustrations. Take a current one. In May, the US agreed to support a UN Security Council resolution calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Syria, but with a proviso: there could be no inquiry into possible war crimes by Israel. Or by Washington, though it was really unnecessary to add that last condition. The US is uniquely self-immunized from the international legal system. In fact, there is even congressional legislation authorizing the president to use armed force to "rescue" any American brought to the Hague for trial - the "Netherlands Invasion Act", as it is sometimes called in Europe. That once again illustrates the importance of protecting the security of state power. 

But protecting it from whom? There is, in fact, a strong case to be made that a prime concern of government is the security of state power from the population. As those who have spent time rummaging through archives should be aware, government secrecy is rarely motivated by a genuine need for security, but it definitely does serve to keep the population in the dark. And for good reasons, which were lucidly explained by the prominent liberal scholar and government adviser Samuel Huntington, the professor of the science of government at Harvard University. In his words: "The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen. Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate". 

He wrote that in 1981, when the Cold War was again heating up, and he explained further that "you may have to sell [intervention or other military action] in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting. That is what the United States has been doing ever since the Truman Doctrine". 

These simple truths are rarely acknowledged, but they provide insight into state power and policy, with reverberations to the present moment. 

State power has to be protected from its domestic enemy; in sharp contrast, the population is not secure from state power. A striking current illustration is the radical attack on the Constitution by the Obama administration's massive surveillance program. It is, of course, justified by "national security". That is routine for virtually all actions of all states and so carries little information. 

When the NSA's surveillance program was exposed by Edward Snowden's revelations, high officials claimed that it had prevented 54 terrorist acts. On inquiry, that was whittled down to a dozen. A high-level government panel then discovered that there was actually only one case: someone had sent $8,500 to Somalia. That was the total yield of the huge assault on the Constitution and, of course, on others throughout the world. 

Britain's attitude is interesting. In 2007, the British government called on Washington's colossal spy agency "to analyze and retain any British citizens' mobile phone and fax numbers, emails, and IP addresses swept up by its dragnet", the Guardian reported. That is a useful indication of the relative significance, in government eyes, of the privacy of its own citizens and of Washington's demands. 

Another concern is security for private power. One current illustration is the huge trade agreements now being negotiated, the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic pacts. These are being negotiated in secret - but not completely in secret. They are not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers who are drawing up the detailed provisions. It is not hard to guess what the results will be, and the few leaks about them suggest that the expectations are accurate. Like NAFTA and other such pacts, these are not free trade agreements. In fact, they are not even trade agreements, but primarily investor rights agreements. 

Again, secrecy is critically important to protect the primary domestic constituency of the governments involved, the corporate sector. 

The final century of human civilization?
There are other examples too numerous to mention, facts that are well-established and would be taught in elementary schools in free societies. 

There is, in other words, ample evidence that securing state power from the domestic population and securing concentrated private power are driving forces in policy formation. Of course, it is not quite that simple. There are interesting cases, some quite current, where these commitments conflict, but consider this a good first approximation and radically opposed to the received standard doctrine. 

Let us turn to another question: What about the security of the population? It is easy to demonstrate that this is a marginal concern of policy planners. Take two prominent current examples, global warming and nuclear weapons. As any literate person is doubtless aware, these are dire threats to the security of the population. Turning to state policy, we find that it is committed to accelerating each of those threats - in the interests of the primary concerns, protection of state power and of the concentrated private power that largely determines state policy. 

Consider global warming. There is now much exuberance in the United States about "100 years of energy independence" as we become "the Saudi Arabia of the next century" - perhaps the final century of human civilization if current policies persist. 

That illustrates very clearly the nature of the concern for security, certainly not for the population. It also illustrates the moral calculus of contemporary Anglo-American state capitalism: the fate of our grandchildren counts as nothing when compared with the imperative of higher profits tomorrow. 

These conclusions are fortified by a closer look at the propaganda system. There is a huge public relations campaign in the US, organized quite openly by Big Energy and the business world, to try to convince the public that global warming is either unreal or not a result of human activity. And it has had some impact. The US ranks lower than other countries in public concern about global warming and the results are stratified: among Republicans, the party more fully dedicated to the interests of wealth and corporate power, it ranks far lower than the global norm. 

The current issue of the premier journal of media criticism, the Columbia Journalism Review, has an interesting article on this subject, attributing this outcome to the media doctrine of "fair and balanced". In other words, if a journal publishes an opinion piece reflecting the conclusions of 97% of scientists, it must also run a counter-piece expressing the viewpoint of the energy corporations. 

That indeed is what happens, but there certainly is no "fair and balanced" doctrine. Thus, if a journal runs an opinion piece denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin for the criminal act of taking over the Crimea, it surely does not have to run a piece pointing out that, while the act is indeed criminal, Russia has a far stronger case today than the US did more than a century ago in taking over southeastern Cuba, including the country's major port - and rejecting the Cuban demand since independence to have it returned. And the same is true of many other cases. The actual media doctrine is "fair and balanced" when the concerns of concentrated private power are involved, but surely not elsewhere. 

On the issue of nuclear weapons, the record is similarly interesting - and frightening. It reveals very clearly that, from the earliest days, the security of the population was a non-issue, and remains so. There is no time here to run through the shocking record, but there is little doubt that it strongly supports the lament of General Lee Butler, the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, which was armed with nuclear weapons. In his words, we have so far survived the nuclear age "by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion". And we can hardly count on continued divine intervention as policymakers play roulette with the fate of the species in pursuit of the driving factors in policy formation. 

As we are all surely aware, we now face the most ominous decisions in human history. There are many problems that must be addressed, but two are overwhelming in their significance: environmental destruction and nuclear war. For the first time in history, we face the possibility of destroying the prospects for decent existence - and not in the distant future. For this reason alone, it is imperative to sweep away the ideological clouds and face honestly and realistically the question of how policy decisions are made, and what we can do to alter them before it is too late. 

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among his recent books are Hegemony or SurvivalFailed StatesPower SystemsOccupy, and Hopes and Prospects. His latest book, Masters of Mankind, will be published soon by Haymarket Books, which is also reissuing twelve of his classic books in new editions over the coming year. His website is 

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook andTumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit'sMen Explain Things to Me. 

(Copyright 2014 Noam Chomsky) 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

THE ROVING EYE Arab Spring, Jihad Summer By Pepe Escobar

Arab Spring, Jihad Summer
By Pepe Escobar 

Welcome to IS. No typo; the final goal may be (indiscriminate) regime change, but for the moment name change will do. With PR flair, at the start of Ramadan, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, or ISIL - the Islamic State of the Levant - to some) solemnly declared, from now on, it will be known as Islamic State (IS). 

"To be or not to be" is so … metaphysically outdated. IS is - and here it is - in full audio glory. And we're talking about the full package - Caliph included: "the slave of Allah, Ibrahim Ibn 'Awwad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn 'Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Badrial-Hashimi al-Husayni al-Qurashi by lineage, as-Samurra'i by birth and upbringing, al-Baghdadi by residence and scholarship". Or, to put it more simply, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 

IS has virtually ordered "historic" al-Qaeda - yes, that 9/11-related (or not) plaything of one Osama bin Laden - as well as every other jihadi outfit on the planet, to pledge allegiance to the new imam, in theological theory the new lord over every Muslim. There's no evidence Osama's former sidekick, Ayman "the doctor" al-Zawahiri will obey, not to mention 1.5 billion Muslims across the world. Most probably al-Qaeda will say "we are the real deal" and a major theological catfight will be on. 

After all, in Syria, ISIL as well as Jabhat al-Nusra were initially fighting under the banner of al-Qaeda, until the brand - in spectacular fashion - decided to dump al-Baghdadi. He and ISIL went too far - with all those videos of decapitations and crucifixions and serial profanation of Shi'ite, Sufi and Christian sanctuaries. 

Al-Baghdadi, born Ibrahim al-Badri in Samarra, is an average Sunni Iraqi cleric with a degree in pedagogy from the University of Baghdad. His alter ago was born after Shock and Awe in 2003, and soon metamorphosed into a de facto serial killer - blowing up Shi'ite kids at ice-cream shops or scores of women at Shi'ite weddings. 

ISIL's track record in Syria includes banning every flag apart from its own; the destruction of any "polytheist" temple or sanctuary (except if it is Sunni); and strict imposition of Islamically correct women wear. Most of all, it is a track record of terror. This is not an army, rather a well-trained militia of professional mujahid, European passport holders included, with battlefield experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and, to a lesser degree, Chechnya. Heavy weaponizing is petrodollar-financed - the usual, wealthy "Gulf donors", which does not exclude official connections. 

Sources of income diversified mightily when ISIL captured the oilfields surrounding Deir Ezzor in Syria; and after the recent offensive across Niniveh province in Iraq, they were able to lay their hands on vast arsenals of heavy artillery, lots of cash and gold bullion and, why not, US Humvees left behind. Their trademark, of course, are those columns of brand new white Toyota Land cruisers - free off road advertising Toyota HQ in Japan may not find particularly welcome. 

Loaded with oil and profiting from tax revenue, IS is now firmly on its way to provide (minimal) services and support a (mighty) Jihadi Army - much like the Taliban from 1996 to 2001. One may be sure IS will continue its massive "social engagement" strategy; talk about a chatty Caliphate which loves YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. No wonder they are a hit among Google generation recruits - as well as becoming fund-raising aces via gruesome videos. In thesis, indoctrination progresses hand in hand with "charity work"; residents of Aleppo, for instance, can dwell on how ISIL (gruesomely) looks and feels on the ground. 

Mission forever unaccomplished
It's unclear how the new IS reality will play on the ground. The new Caliph has in fact declared a jihad on all that basket of corrupt and/or incompetent Middle East "leaders" - so some fierce "battle for survival" reaction from the Houses of Saud and Thani, for instance, is expected. It's not far-fetched to picture al-Baghdadi dreaming of lording over Saudi oilfields - after decapitating all Shi'ite workers, of course. 

And that's just a start; in one of their Tweeter accounts IS has published a map of all the domains they intend to conquer within the span of five years; Spain, Northern Africa, the Balkans, the whole Middle East and large swathes of Asia. Well, they are certainly more ambitious than NATO. 

Being such a courageous bunch, the House of Saud is now tempted to accept that imposing regime change on Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq is a bad idea. That puts them in direct conflict with the Obama administration, whose plan A, B and C is regime change. 

Turkey - the former seat of the Caliphate, by the way - remains mute. No wonder; Ankara - crucially - is the top logistical base of IS. Caliph Erdogan's got to be musing about his own future, now that he's facing competition. In theory, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan are all saying they're ready to fight what would be a "larger-scale war" than that gift that keeps on giving, the original, Cheney junta-coined GWOT (global war on terror). 

And then there's the future of the new $500 million Obama fund to "appropriately vetted" rebels in Syria, which in fact means the expansion of covert CIA "training facilities" in Jordan and Turkey heavily infiltrated/profited from by IS. Think of hordes of new IS recruits posing as "moderate rebels" getting ready for a piece of the action. 

It's easier for Brazil to win the World Cup with a team of crybabies with no tactical nous than having US Secretary of State John Kerry and his State Department ciphers understand that the Syrian "opposition" is controlled by jihadis. But then again, they do know - and that perfectly fits into the Empire of Chaos's not so hidden Global War on Terror (GWOT) agenda of an ever-expanding proxy war in both Syria and Iraq fueled by terror financing. 

So 13 years ago Washington crushed both al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then the Taliban were reborn. Then came Shock and Awe. Then came "Mission Accomplished". Then al-Qaeda was introduced in Iraq. Then al-Qaeda was dead because Osama bin Laden was dead. Then came ISIL. And now there's IS. And we start all over again, not in the Hindu Kush, but in the Levant. With a new Osama. 

What's not to like? If anyone thinks this whole racket is part of a new live Monty Python sketch ahead of their reunion gig this month in London, that's because it is. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

Swine flu virus which killed half-million modified to 'incurable'

‘Humdinger’: Swine flu virus which killed half-million modified to 'incurable'

Published time: July 02, 2014 10:07
Edited time: July 02, 2014 11:37
AFP Photo / Thomas Lohnes
AFP Photo / Thomas Lohnes
A controversial flu researcher has modified the flu virus responsible for the 2009 pandemic to allow it evade the human immune system. His lab’s previous works include recreating the Spanish flu and making a deadly bird flu strain highly transmittable.
The yet-to-be-published research by Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka and his team is meant to give scientists better ways to fight influenza outbreaks, but gives chills to some people in academia, who are fearful that accidental release of the strain would result in a global disaster, according to a report by the Independent.
At his level-3 biosafety lab at Wisconsin University’s Institute for Influenza Virus Research in Madison, Kawaoka experimented with the H1N1 flu strain that was responsible for the pandemic in 2009, dubbed the swine flu pandemic by the media. The work resulted in a mutated strain that is able to evade the human antibodies, effectively rendering humans defenseless against the virus.
“He took the 2009 pandemic flu virus and selected out strains that were not neutralized by human antibodies. He repeated this several times until he got a real humdinger of a virus,” a scientist familiar with Kawaoka’s research told the British newspaper.
“He’s basically got a known pandemic strain that is now resistant to vaccination. Everything he did before was dangerous but this is even madder. This is the virus,” he added.
This 2009 Centers For Disease Control and Prevention handout image taken through a microscope, shows a negative-stained image of the swine flu virus H1N1 strain. (AFP Photo)
This 2009 Centers For Disease Control and Prevention handout image taken through a microscope, shows a negative-stained image of the swine flu virus H1N1 strain. (AFP Photo)

H1N1 flu had caused serious outbreaks and two recorded pandemics, the first being the notorious Spanish flu of 1918. Kawaoka’s newest work is partially derived from his experience in recreating the deadly strain.
The first H1N1 pandemic left between 50 and 100 million people dead, according to estimates. The 2009 pandemic death toll is debated, with some estimates putting the number as high as 560,000, most of them in Africa and Southeast Asia.
The professor assured the newspaper that the mutant virus is well under control in his lab and that making a strain that can beat human immune system will help epidemiologists be prepared for a contingency of a similar mutation occurring naturally.
“Through selection of immune escape viruses in the laboratory under appropriate containment conditions, we were able to identify the key regions [that] would enable 2009 H1N1 viruses to escape immunity,” he said in an email.
“Viruses in clinical isolates have been identified that have these same changes in the [viral protein]. This shows that escape viruses emerge in nature and laboratory studies like ours have relevance to what occurs in nature,” he added.
A man sprays a disinfectant against the swine flu virus on November 18, 2009 in a classroom of the Georges Brassens school in Baillargues, southern France. (AFP Photo / Pascal Guyot)
A man sprays a disinfectant against the swine flu virus on November 18, 2009 in a classroom of the Georges Brassens school in Baillargues, southern France. (AFP Photo / Pascal Guyot)

The research was approved by Wisconsin’s Institutional Biosafety Committee, although a minority of the 17-member board is critical of Kawaoka’s line of study. One such vocal critic at the committee is Thomas Jeffries, who argues that an accidental release of the virus from the safe lab is possible, citing the recent incident at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which potentially exposed some 80 people to anthrax bacteria.
"I think we can sometimes fool ourselves into thinking we have more control over a situation in a laboratory than we do," he told Wisconsin State Journal last week. "Accidents do happen."
When The Independent approached Jeffries for comments on Kawaoka’s new research, he said he was not made aware of details of the study at the time the approval was given.
“What was present in the research protocols was a very brief outline or abstract of what he was actually doing…there were elements to it that bothered me,” Professor Jeffries said.
Demonstration at the Red Cross Emergency Ambulance Station in Washington, D.C., during the influenza pandemic of 1918. (Image from
Demonstration at the Red Cross Emergency Ambulance Station in Washington, D.C., during the influenza pandemic of 1918. (Image from

Rebecca Moritz, who is responsible for overseeing Wisconsin’s work at the institute, said it is needed to create new vaccines.
“The work is designed to identify potential circulating strains to guide the process of selecting strains used for the next vaccine…The committee found the biosafety containment procedures to be appropriate for conducting this research. I have no concerns about the biosafety of these experiments,” she said.
Kawaoka said he presented preliminary results of his research to the World Health Organization and they had been “well received.”
“We are confident our study will contribute to the field, particularly given the number of mutant viruses we generated and the sophisticated analysis applied,” he explained.
“There are risks in all research. However, there are ways to mitigate the risks. As for all the research on influenza viruses in my laboratory, this work is performed by experienced researchers under appropriate containment and with full review and prior approval by the [biosafety committee],” he added.
University Research Park, where Kawaoka conducts flu GOF experiments. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison /
University Research Park, where Kawaoka conducts flu GOF experiments. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison /

Flu virus strains are notorious for changing rapidly, with new strains emerging and causing seasonal flu epidemics. Scientists have to try and predict what kind of flu they would have to face each year and have a vaccine ready. When they succeed, an outbreak causes much less damage that it could have otherwise.
Research of ‘gain of function’ by viruses like the works of Kawaoka is focused on exploring how a virus can become deadlier and more transmittable or resistant to existing vaccines. Critics of such studies say they are too dangerous, both due to the risk of accidental or even deliberate release.
For instance some people in the academia called on Kawaoka to withhold parts of his research on H5N1 bird flu. Normally the virus is highly lethal, but does not transmit well, but a series of experiments with ferrets resulted in an easily transmittable strain. The experiments were simple enough for any person with expertise in microbiology to replicate, which critics said some group of would-be bioterrorists would eventually do.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

THE ROVING EYE Fear and loathing at Hotel Babylon By Pepe Escobar

Fear and loathing at Hotel Babylon
By Pepe Escobar

So now a huge Hardcore Sunnistan stretches all the way from the suburbs of Aleppo to Tikrit and from Mosul to the Jordanian/Iraqi border - the same one that dissolved in 2003 when Shock and Awe turned into Mission (Un)Accomplished.

In an eerie echo of Dick Cheney's army's footprints reverberating in the sands of Anbar province, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and their coalition of the willing (jihadis, Islamists,
Ba'athists and tribal sheikhs) now pose as the "liberators" of Iraqi Sunnis from the clutches of an "evil" Shi'ite majority government in Baghdad.

In addition, ISIS also controls the PR wars. Here, a jihadi details how any sort of possible Washington "kinetic" involvement will be interpreted as an unholy alliance between the Empire and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against the underdogs.

From a Sunni perspective, it's down with Iraq's Counter-terrorism law; down with de-Ba'athification (with the ascent of neo-Ba'athist Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia - JRTN, led by former Saddam honcho Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri); down with the Interior Ministry in Baghdad going after Sunni politicians; down with protests being crushed.

At the same time, it's the return of the US-sponsored Sahwa (Sons of Iraq) - who fiercely fought al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2007, the mother of ISIS - and the return of assorted Shi'ite militias (Muqtada al-Sadr not only repelled the new wave of US "military advisers" - that's how it started in Vietnam - but also warned that his own badass Men in Black will "shake the ground" fighting ISIS.) The mid-2000s are the new normal; it's gonna be militia hell all over again.

Mesopotamia, we got a problem. Neo-Ba'athists want nothing but a secular Iraq run by Sunnis, Saddam-style (rather former neocon darling Ahmad Chalabi.) ISIS wants a Caliphate extending all across the Levant under Sharia law. Something's got to give.

What will give will be the Iraqi nation itself - the balkanized, protracted (intended) consequence of the 2003 invasion and occupation, finally transmogrified into Jihad Central.

It's payback time
The Obama administration's "strategy" (remember "Don't Do Stupid Shit", the Ukraine strategy?) is to impose regime change on al-Maliki; after all, he had the bad taste of refusing to let US troops keep occupying Iraq past the 2012 deadline, and on top of it his government is close to Tehran.

Thus the answer to the now legendary question of how the US intel satellite maze failed to capture that long column of ISIS Men in Black in their gleaming white Toyota Land Cruisers crossing the Syrian-Iraq desert wasteland. Call it the Mother of All Intel Failures (remember Saddam's talk of Mother of All Battles?)

Here we have trademark Empire of Chaos "revenge" against Baghdad, Tehran and - why not - Moscow (after all Russian president Vladimir Putin offered full support to al-Maliki to fight the jihadis.) Iraq duly merges with Ukraine. And as for payback redux, it's - almost - all spelled out here.

As for the Beltway-peddled myth - once again - of "good terrorists" and "bad terrorists", this week Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria pledged its allegiance to ISIS. This means that ISIS now virtually controls both sides of the border, at Albu Kamal in Syria and Al-Qaim in Iraq. As a bonus, ISIS and allied Sunni tribal sheikhs also surrounded the US-controlled Camp Anaconda in Iraq and are ready for a long-term mortar game. Will Beltway "analysts" ever learn?

That little fiction known as Jordan - run by King Playstation, aka Abdullah - will be ripe for the taking as soon as hardcore Salafis from Zarqa (Zarqawi's hometown) totally align with ISIS. Add that piece of real estate to the embryo Levantine Caliphate and we'll be talking major business - oil refineries possibly included.

"Don't Do Stupid Shit", applied to Syria and Iraq, means that the Obama administration has gone (almost) no holds barred in its "Assad must go" policy, by the way a Ba'ath government; what's implied is that Washington is an ally of ISIS in Syria, while a (determined?) foe of ISIS in Iraq. Assad's "sin" is that he's an ally of both Tehran (like al-Maliki) and, most of all (from an American perspective), Hezbollah. And now comes the Obama administration's latest "Stupid Shit" - in the form of weaponizing "appropriately vetted" rebels in Syria.

Lording over this suspension of disbelief scenario, the whole Beltway, White House included, sells the illusion it is thoughtfully deliberating whether the real dangerous Men in Black here are in fact from ISIS - and what to do about them.

As some sort of Washington-Tehran cooperation against ISIS becomes self-evident, that poses a major problem for the perennial Bomb Iran crowd in the Beltway, as well as for hardliners in Tehran; after all ISIS has erected a massive geostrategic barrier between Iran and Syria, threatening Tehran's connection with Hezbollah.

Likudniks will go no holds barred to prevent any cooperation. But that will be a detail anyway. Baghdad may get all the help it needs from Iranian special forces and militias such as Muqtada's. ISIS does not have the manpower or the expertise to lay siege to Baghdad; people in Sadr City alone would rip them to shreds. Not to mention attack Najaf and Karbala, the Shi'ite holy cities, which are already protected by heavily armed popular brigades.

Will NATO meet Jihadistan? 
Kirkuk is now under virtual Kurd control. Its "devolution" to Baghdad will be immensely problematic - and that's a major euphemism. Kirkuk produces around 670,000 barrels of oil a day. Up to 300,000 are exported via the pipeline to Ceyhan, in Turkey. Yet only 120,000 barrels a day have been online these past few weeks.

Iraq's total production is 3.3 million barrels a day - the bulk concentrated in the south, around Basra. There's no realistic evidence ISIS would ever be able to capture Basra.

So the problem remains some refineries in the north such as Baiji. Elite Iraqi counter-terrorism forces can deal with it. If ISIS by any chance would be able to hang on to some oil and gas - a major if - that's certified joy for, most of all, market speculators. And soon there might be thousands of US special forces "securing" Iraqi oil fields and the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Assad's Syrian Army can - and it's already - contributing to fight ISIS. In the end, ISIS can realistically be repelled by the Syrian Army, elite Iranian special forces, Shi'ite brigades and yes - animminent cameo by those second-hand fighter jets from Russia and Belarus.

ISIS won't take over Baghdad. But like a freak mutant, in a Hardcore Sunnistan goes Hollywood fashion, it might go even more bonkers and try to take over Amman, Doha and even Riyadh.

The Empire of Chaos will keep betting on - what else - chaos. And it's going swimmingly its way - from the real possibility of a final push towards a Great Kurdistan (in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and even Iran) to sectarian militia hell all across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Yemen. Not to mention all possible ramifications in Northern Africa, Central Asia and the North Caucasus.

What will Hillary Clinton, the Hillarator, do? In this case, one's gotta wait for early 2017. She could always pull another "We came, we saw, he died" and triumphantly stage a second coming in the Levant as a droned Athena singing Light My Fire.

In the end, NATO won't meet Jihadistan. No "responsibility to protect" (R2P) Arabs from killing Arabs. NATO will be - gleefully - "watching" in the sidelines. Because from Northern Africa and across the Middle East to the Caucasus and all the way to Western China, the name of the (burning) game is to keep Dr Zbig Brzezinski's "Eurasian Balkans" ever simmering in a funeral pyre.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at