Friday, April 03, 2009

Stanford laundered and siphoned money from wealthy Latin Americans to fund anti-leftist rebellions

Stanford laundered and siphoned money from wealthy Latin Americans to fund anti-leftist rebellions

April 2, 2009 --

An informed source close to the investigation of Sir Allen Stanford's failed Stanford Financial Group and Stanford International Bank has told WMR that there is another link between Stanford's activities and those of jailed Ponzi scammer Bernard Madoff. While Madoff defrauded a number of wealthy American Jewish investors, Stanford, according to our source, was doing the same with the investments of a number of Latin American Jews, especially those from Mexico and Venezuela.

In some cases, however, Stanford, with the knowledge of the Jewish investors, was laundering and forwarding their money to groups planning the overthrow of elected progressive leaders such as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Argentina, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. The leaders allegedly threatened the investments of Stanford's Jewish clients in each of the nations targeted for coups.

In 2007, Venezuelan police raided the La Hebraica Jewish Community Center in Caracas and searched for weapons and explosives. Earlier, in November 2004, the center was raided by police for clues in the car bombing assassination on November 18 of government prosecutor Danilo Anderson. Police suspected that Anderson's killers may have had help from "foreign groups."

However, not all Venezuelan Jews are opposed to Chavez. When the Simon Wiesenthal Center attacked Chavez in 2006, Fred Pressner, president of the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela (CAIV) criticized the center for misinterpreting Chavez's remarks and not consulting with CAIV before launching their tirade against Chavez.

In 2006, Chavez was challenged for the presidency by newspaper editor Teodoro Petkoff Malec, a one-time Communist guerrilla who abandoned communism to espouse neo-conservative economic doctrines. Petkoff's maternal heritage is Polish Jewish. Petkoff supported the U.S.-backed secessionist policies of oil-rich Zulia state governor Manuel Rosales, an opponent of Chavez. The Venezuelan Confederation of Israeli Associations has been a vocal opponent of Chavez. In Bolivia, a strong opponent of Morales is Francisco Hubsch, the president of Bolivia's Jewish community in the secessionist Santa Cruz region and Israel's honorary consul in the city of Santa Cruz.

"Stanford handled the money from wealthy Latin American Jews in much the same way that Madoff handled the money of his Jewish clients in the United States," said the source.

Another source likened the U.S. government's investigation of Stanford to nude sun bathing. "When the tide went out on Madoff, Stanford was also left exposed and naked," the source stated.

Perhaps fearing revelations coming from an indictment of Stanford, federal investigators have only thus far sued Allen Stanford for Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) violations. Stanford Financial Group Chief Investment Officer Laura Pendergest-Holt was indicted in February while Chief Financial Officer James Davis is reportedly cooperating with the FBI and SEC in their investigations.

WMR has also learned of a financial relationship between Stanford's operations in Antigua and principal players in the Russian-Israeli Mafia, which has long used the Caribbean island as a base for its money laundering operations.

WMR previously reported on Stanford's operations in Venezuela, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Mexico being used to launder drug money for the CIA.

Last November, Venezuelan intelligence agents raided Stanford's offices in Caracas and later charged that four of the firm's employees in the Caracas office were U.S. intelligence agents. The Venezuelan agents also confiscated a number of files at the office.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

U.S. Military Funded Mapping Project in Oaxaca: University Geographers Used to Gather Intelligence?

U.S. Military Funded Mapping Project in Oaxaca: University Geographers Used to Gather Intelligence? Print E-mail
Written by Cyril Mychalejko and Ramor Ryan
Wednesday, 01 April 2009
ImageSource: Z Magazine

"War was God's way of teaching Americans geography," once wrote Ambrose Bierce, an American journalist and social critic. Today, a University of Kansas (KU) professor may be using geography to teach Americans war.

Dr. Jerome Dobson, a geography professor and president of the American Geographical Society (AGS), sent out a one-and-a-half page white paper sometime in late 2004-early 2005 to the Department of Defense and civilian agencies looking for funding to promote a $125 million "academic" project that would send geographers to countries all over the globe to conduct fieldwork.

"The greatest shortfall in foreign intelligence facing the nation is precisely the kind of understanding that geographers gain through field experience, and there's no reason that it has to be classified information," wrote Dobson. "The best and cheapest way the government could get most of this intelligence would be to fund AGS to run a foreign fieldwork grant program covering every nation on earth."

This fieldwork program, named the Bowman Expeditions, was enthusiastically received by Dr. Geoffrey Demarest, a former Lieutenant Colonel and current Latin America specialist at the U.S. Army's Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO). The FMSO is a research center housed at Fort Leavenworth, about 50 miles down the road from KU. According to its website, FMSO "conducts analytical programs focused on emerging and asymmetric threats, regional military and security developments, and other issues that define evolving operational environments around the world." Demarest, a School of the Americas graduate who served multiple assignments in Latin America during his 23-year military career, has written extensively about counterinsurgency and believes mapping and property rights are necessary tools to advance U.S. security strategies, such as with Plan Colombia. He helped secure a $500,000 grant to partially fund México Indígena, the first Bowman Expedition, which until recently has been quietly mapping indigenous lands in Oaxaca, Mexico.

In January, a communiqué sent out by the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO) alleged that the project was carried out without obtaining free, prior, and informed consent of local communities as mandated by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. UNOSJO also questioned whether the project, which in addition to the involvement of the U.S. military office that runs the controversial Human Terrain System, involves the participation of Radiance Technologies—a weapons development and intelligence company that could in the future use the information collected to the detriment of the local population in terms of counter-insurgency, bio-piracy, or the privatization of land.

The communiqué generated a confined hurricane of criticism on Internet sites and listservs (and a flurry of articles in Oaxaca daily newspapers). But when reports of the conflict starting appearing on international media outlets like Pravda and Seoul Times, project directors Dobson and fellow KU professor Peter Herlihy (lead geographer for México Indígena) were prompted to defend the ethics, purpose, and scope of their projects.

"Because the Foreign Military Studies Office has been one of several sponsors of the first Bowman Expedition México Indígena," they wrote on the México Indígena website to address "misconceptions" on the project, "there has been some understandable confusion regarding the project's aims.... FMSO's goal is to help increase an understanding of the world's cultural terrain, so that the U.S. government may avoid the enormously costly mistakes which it has made due in part to a lack of such understanding."

On the gathering controversy in Mexico, they stated, "The México Indígena team is well aware that some people are suspicious of the fact that FMSO is one of its sponsors. We ask only that such potential critics keep an open mind, that they learn a little about what we really do, and that they reconsider their assumption that any action which involves any part of the U.S. government must necessarily be bad." These words only added fuel to the fire.

Community on Fire

In a small rural Zapotec community deep in the distinctly isolated Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca, southern Mexico, a regional gathering of indigenous peoples' autonomy took place from February 21 to 23. The 3rd Feria of the Cornfield-Globalization and the Natural Resources of the Sierra, convened by the UNOSJO coordination, drew together a couple of hundred local attendees to consolidate the ongoing process of autonomy and present a showcase of indigenous corn-based culture and food sovereignty. But the burning topic of the mapping controversy seemed to overshadow other discussions.

"We made it very clear that we don't want anyone mapping around here," said Juan Perez Luna, community leader of the host village, Asuncion Lachixila. "Yes, we want to map our own communities and, yes, we want to learn how to do it, but we don't believe what these (México Indígena) geographers were saying." Don Juan, an elderly grandfather who attended the gathering, was straightforward with his thoughts on the project: "We think these studies are about counter-insurgency."

The U.S. geographers promoting the México Indígena project first approached UNOSJO in 2006, as if recognizing the NGO as the informal conduit to the Zapotec communities. This coincided with the development of the popular social movements in Oaxaca that gave birth to the Oaxacan Peoples Popular Assembly (APPO) and a dynamic new kind of popular uprising marked by horizontal organizational structures and militant non-violent direct action. APPO seized the city of Oaxaca for seven months in what become known as the Oaxaca Commune, often mobilizing as many as a half-million citizens in support of their revolutionary demands. The state, unfamiliar with how to deal with this kind of social unrest (no obvious leaders to arrest, disappear, assassinate) repeatedly failed to quell the uprising and eventually sent over 5,000 members of the Policía Federal Preventiva (PFP), Mexico's heavily armed federal military-police force, to retake the city. The violent counter-offensive led to several deaths and hundreds of arrests, and was followed by intense repression against the social movement.

Indigenous communities across the Oaxaca state, representing the poorest and most oppressed segment of the population, sided with the inclusive social movement. The Zapotec communities of the Sierras threw their weight behind the APPO, supporting its demands for indigenous autonomy.

"Indigenous peoples' demand for land tenancy and territorial autonomy challenge Mexico's neoliberal policies—and democracy itself," wrote Professors Dobson and Herlihy in a July 2008 article published in the Geographical Review ("A Digital Geography of Indigenous Mexico: Prototype for AGS Bowman Expeditions"). This overtly political observation contrasts strikingly with Dobson's February 5 written response to the growing controversy around his project, where he claimed "our team's abiding dedication to the indigenous people of Oaxaca and our neutrality in all things political."

Aldo González. Photo by Ramor Ryan
"UNOSJO have been showing how Dobson, or better said, the U.S. military authorities who are behind the mapping project, have an interest in the privatization of communally held lands," explained Aldo González, director of the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juárez. "Throughout their mapping investigations, they are seeking to understand the communities' resistance to privatization and identify mechanisms to force them to join PROCEDE [a government privatization scheme]. Bowman Expeditions clearly state that they are collecting information so that the U.S. government can make better foreign policy decisions. So obviously they are going to take into consideration the information gathered here in these communities and apply it in general to all the communities in similar circumstances in Oaxaca and all over Mexico."

México Indígena's own website reveals, "Since the tumultuous period of political unrest in the summer and fall of 2006, Oaxaca has been in the news as a region where long-standing grievances among many indigenous communities are meshing with other movements in complex ways. Our work will illuminate neglected but important facets of these movements." This reinforces concerns, like Don Juan's and González's, that the project's real focus is on counter-insurgency and social engineering.

When asked about the stated goal of understanding social movements, Herlihy didn't initially recall that from the project's website. When asked in a follow-up interview to clarify the statement on the website, he defended his research and its purpose. "Land is often at the root of social conflict. Our participatory research mapping methodology helped illuminate the neglected and little-understood PROCEDE program and how the neoliberal privatization of 'social property' begins to threaten indigenous lifeways through the introduction of individualistic and capitalistic land tenure practices, changing historic guarantees of the inalienability of communal property," wrote Herlihy in an email. "Indeed, indigenous communities and organizations have only begun protesting the results and impact of the Mexican land certification program."

Another intrinsic part of the war of words in this bitter dispute is the Bowman Expeditions' insistence that UNOSJO, and particularly its director, Aldo González, have no right to speak on behalf of the communities. "UNOSJO is a small NGO that works with Zapotec and other indigenous communities in the Sierra Juárez (but) it is not the political or official voice of the Zapotec communities where we did our research," wrote Herlihy in an official statement with other students and professors participating in México Indígena.

ImageGonzález refutes the charge. UNOSJO—with the affiliation of 24 communities—is the largest Zapotec organization in the region. He said: "Mr. Herlihy and Mr. Dobson—and indeed the U.S. military—are used to speaking to individuals. For them it is sufficient to ask one person as the owner of a piece of land for permission. But for the indigenous communities things aren't like that. Today we are struggling for autonomy for our indigenous peoples, and this is a project bigger than any one single community. So what is happening in Tiltepec and Yagila is affecting other Zapotec communities. For this reason, we have the courage, the duty, and the reason to protest against Bowman Expeditions because it is not just the communities of Tiltepec or Yagila, but all the Zapotec communities in that region, and, ultimately, all of the indigenous communities in Mexico, who are being or will be affected by the studies."

"Let the indigenous people of Oaxaca speak for themselves," wrote Dobson in his February 5 response to critics. The problem in this is that the two communities who hosted the mapping project—San Miguel Tiltepec and San Juan Yagila—have not yet come out publicly on the matter.

Herlihy, the México Indígena team leader, wrote in the aforementioned statement "our (sic) community leaders have openly expressed heartfelt appreciation for our hard work. And you recognize the usefulness of the maps we produced together with you, as well as the training received by the community investigators and university students involved."

González offered a different version of events: "We have been talking to the communities involved in the U.S. studies and they maintain that they were not sufficiently informed about the source of finance and they feel angry because of this. For sure the Herlihy team will try and go to them to change their minds and convince them otherwise, and that will generate more debate."

Zoltan Grossman, a faculty member in Geography and Native American Studies at Evergreen State College who also serves as co-chair of the Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), has been following the project and the controversy surrounding it. "In this case of mapping collective land holdings, it seems like some indigenous communities are working with Herlihy's project, while others are suspicious of it," said Grossman, speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the AAG's Indigenous Group. "Personally, I don't think the support of some indigenous people for the project should be used as an answer to criticism by others."

He added that this could exacerbate internal divisions among the Native peoples, while it also creates a colonial divide-and-conquer dynamic that pits indigenous communities against each other. Meanwhile, in Oaxaca, everyone is taking a position. Don Juan from Lachixila is more disappointed with his neighbors in Tiltepec and Yagila: "They don't have enough awareness of what's really going on. They were fooled."

Melquiades Cruz, an indigenous communications worker from Santa Cruz Yagavila (the first community to stop work with the México Indígena project), admitted that people there were initially interested in the project as a way of empowering local students. "At first the community was interested in the México Indígena project primarily so that the youth would learn how to do this kind of graphic information work, to be useful for the community and the region. The community entered into communication with them, and there were three assemblies during which they presented their project," said Cruz. "It was during the third assembly that the community told them that this project doesn't appeal to us because we think that it seems like an awful lot of money and there must be something else behind it. But if you have the money to just leave your people here to train our people to do the work, that's all, then we can do it. So that this knowledge can be communal, and so that it is shared between the community and the academics that come from outside."

Cruz said the México Indígena team broke off relations after that. This led the community to determine it would not make a formal decision in the assembly. "These people from outside always come trying to sell a great idea—in this case to produce a graphic picture of the community—but this time we saw through it, and we said, it's not just a graphic map, maybe they are interested in the community resources," said Cruz. "We saw that there was something else behind it."

Among the Zapotec in Lachixila, the charge of counter-insurgency activities resounds. UNOSJO has also outlined its concerns in terms of both land privatization and bio-piracy. "It's not just about military control, but also about strategic control over the communities, controlling their land and their consumption," said González.

The bio-piracy issue has been taken up by groups working in food sovereignty and environmental advocacy. Silvia Ribeiro, a researcher from the environmental advocacy ETC Group wrote in the Mexican daily La Jornada, "These maps are of great utility for military ends and for counterinsurgency, but also for industrial purposes (exploitation of resources like minerals, plants, animals and biodiversity; mapping access roads already constructed or 'necessary,' sources of water, settlements, social maps of possible resistance or acceptance of projects, etc)."

"We're putting the power of maps into the hands of these communities," insists Herlihy. But could it also be that these University of Kansas geographers' mapping project is serving as an imperial alibi for the FMSO's Demarest, "champion" of the Bowman project, to further his agenda of strengthening the collaboration among "policymakers, officers and soldiers to have better on-the-ground information" through GIS mapping systems to conduct war?

Santa Cruz Yagavila's Cruz alleged that the geographers were not forthright with where their funding was coming from, thus suggesting either a lack of comfort with the project's relationship with the military, or a conscientious effort to conceal the military designs behind the project. "Herlihy made a presentation in the community showing what were the uses of the maps, where they had worked before, but he never told us where the funds for the project were coming from," said Cruz. "He said it was funded by the University of Kansas or by the University of San Luis, but he never mentioned the source of the funds coming from the Armed Forces of the United States, never."

"By not really revealing their intentions, by not revealing the sources of their funding, by not giving all the information, México Indígena are violating the communities. They are concealing the truth, they are lying," said González. "What they say is a façade, a deception. Yes, we recognize that the maps do have a certain usefulness for the communities, but what we see behind the project is not a helping hand. No, in reality, it's espionage, a form of spying on the communities."

Answering critics' attacks on the lack of transparency, Herlihy recalled how he gave numerous presentations about the project to local communities and "was sure to declare that the project was partially funded by the Foreign Military Studies Office." Nevertheless his description of the FMSO as a "small military research office within Fort Leavenworth down the road from the University of Kansas" seemed deficient, especially in light of the fact that the research being carried out by the office largely concerns counter-insurgency and focuses on "emerging and asymmetric threats."

ImageAn Indecent Proposal?

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan often spoke of America as "a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere," even as he was cozying up to Guatemala's genocidal former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, funding and training death squads in El Salvador, and being charged by the World Court for "unlawful use of force" (terrorism) for Washington's overt and covert support of the Contras in Nicaragua.

In a similar light, neither Dobson nor Herlihy seem to accept any type of radical critique of U.S. power, refusing to acknowledge the country's imperial designs for the region dating back to Manifest Destiny. "My whole rationale for Bowman Expeditions is based on my firm belief that geographic ignorance is the principal cause of the blunders that have characterized American foreign policy since the end of World War II," Dobson wrote in his February 5 statement answering his critics. He told me in an interview that, "America abandoned geography after World War 2 and hasn't won a war since." But statements like that seem to contradict assertions that the project in Oaxaca was conceived exclusively to "help" the local indigenous population.

"It's the prostitution of geography for the national ruling class," said Neil Smith, distinguished professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Smith, whose book American Empire: Roosevelt's Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization exposes Isaiah Bowman, whom KU's Dobson named his project after, as an imperialist and racist. "This project is aptly named the Bowman Expeditions," Smith said. "[It] follows in the tradition that he started."

México Indígena power point presentation
Dobson and Herlihy's July 2008 article in the Geographical Review reveals that General David Petraeus, co-author of the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, met with México Indígena's research team in October 2006, and commented how, "U.S. troops were unprepared for the 'cultural terrains' of Iraq and Afghanistan and how they needed ways 'to get troops smarter faster.'" Dobson shares with readers his reply, explaining "how geography combines the 'cultural' and 'geographical' terrains into the synthetic 'cultural landscape.'"

In the project's executive summary, prepared by defense contractor Radiance Technologies (whose role according to the company is to provide "requirements oversight"), México Indígena "represents the initial step in a much larger concept of reviving a tradition of research by university scholars providing 'open-source intelligence' on different parts of the world...[in light of] the unfortunate realization that the United States is now perceived as a mighty global power crippled by its own ignorance and arrogance about its dealings with its vast global domain."

The document also states, "Indigenous regions in Mexico, like in so many parts of Latin America and around the world, are where rebellions are fomented, where drugs are produced, where resource pirates operate, and where conditions of poverty and despair drive up the highest rates of our migration. Few would disagree that as we move into the 21st century, indigenous populations are among the most important social actors in struggles of the future of Latin American democracies. Today's populist struggle against neoliberalism has been central to the indigenous movement in Mexico as illustrated by the emergence of the Zapatista army in Chiapas, challenging the corruption and neoliberal strategies of past PRI-run governments at the onset of NAFTA."
Anti-ALCA (FTAA) cartoon posted in Oaxaca. Posted at

Amnesty International (AI), on February 9, issued a statement criticizing a Mexican government human rights report recently submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Mexico is one of 16 countries up for review this year by the world body's Universal Periodic Review Working Group. According to AI, the report "fails to acknowledge the worsening human rights climate in many parts of the country." AI also offered an alternative report, which concluded that "Mexican federal, state and municipal police officers implicated in serious human rights violations, such as arbitrary detention, torture, rape and unlawful killings, particularly those committed during civil disturbances in San Salvador Atenco and Oaxaca City in 2006, have not been brought to justice." It also noted that, "Human rights defenders, particular those in rural areas, often face persecution and sometimes prolonged detention on the basis of fabricated or politically-motivated criminal charges."

The FMSO, the principal sponsor of the Oaxaca mapping project, runs the Human Terrain System (HTS), an army program used by General Petraeus in Iraq and in Afghanistan, which embeds anthropologists with military units to conduct field research with the aim of assisting counterinsurgency efforts in the two countries. UNOSJO's first communiqué sent out in January claimed they believe that the Bowman Expeditions are a new manifestation of the counter-insurgency program.

Roberto González, an associate professor of anthropology at San Jose State University and author of American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and the Human Terrain, told CounterPunch in an interview that the program is "a scheme to whitewash counterinsurgency and to clean up the image of anti-revolutionary warfare, which is always a dirty business. Even though the U.S. military has more than a century of experience in counterinsurgency warfare (going back to the 'Indian Wars' of the 1800s and the cruel campaign against Filipino revolutionaries in the early 1900s), General David Petraeus and other battlefield technicians have portrayed the method as a 'gentler' means of fighting, while recruiting political scientists, anthropologists, and other social scientists to create the tools to do this." This led the American Anthropological Association's Executive Board to produce a statement officially condemning the Human Terrain program as a violation of the field's ethical tenets, such as ensuring both voluntary informed consent and ensuring the welfare of affected populations.

Dobson, in his Geographical Review article, claims allegations that México Indígena and the Bowman Expeditions are part of HTS are unfounded. "The AGS Bowman Expeditions offers a means of studying the human terrain, but they are substantially different from the human terrain system or human terrain teams as currently constituted: Our purpose is scholarly, not military," wrote Dobson.

"I feel that this particular controversy would not have the traction that it does if it were not for the direct role of the U.S. military, especially in light of the turmoil in Oaxaca," said Evergreen State College's Grossman. "Oaxaca is not just any old state in Mexico and southern Mexico is not just any old region in the Americas, it's an area that has had significant repression in very recent years against indigenous peoples by federal forces funded by the U.S."

Grossman said that given the political turmoil in the region, coupled with U.S. military pronouncements in recent years equating indigenous and anti-globalization movements with insurgency and terrorism, it's not surprising that some people believe that the maps could be used by the Mexican government for repressive actions in the name of stability. Specifically, FMSO analysts have lumped indigenous movements with insurgents and terrorists and suggests they are troublemakers and a threat to U.S. interests.

Adding to the specter of U.S. and state violence and repression in the region, the U.S Joint Forces Command released a report in November 2008 that stated Mexico risked becoming a failed state and, if that were to be the case, it would demand U.S. intervention. Meanwhile, the U.S. House passed a spending bill on February 25 which allocates $410 million for the Merida Initiative, a militarization project modeled after Plan Colombia, to "carry out counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and border security measures."

CUNY's Smith said he believes the motivation behind the Defense Department is very clear, especially in light of Dobson's words. "It's clear that the work they are doing could feed into the Human Terrain System," he said. "The question to ask is why wouldn't it go into the HTS?"

Grossman essentially agrees with Smith. He believes that the FMSO is interested in the research, if not "officially" for its Human Terrain System program, then to better understand the social and cultural human landscape of the region's research.

But México Indígena's Helihy passionately defended his project and intentions. "This is not an evil military plot to destroy indigenous lands. It's nothing of the sort," said Herlihy. "I knew it would be conflictive precisely because we had FMSO funding, but I hoped it would be a project that would make a difference in the world."

In addition, he stated, "We told the Tiltepec community Assembly, where UNOSJO Director presented the first public denouncement, that we would take down the maps if they wanted us too, and we would do the same for any other study community." Likewise, Dobson notes that one thing he insisted on with the FMSO was that the academic investigator in charge of any of the projects would have sole responsibility for choosing the topic of his or her expedition, which he believes quells any notion that this is a military-run research program.

The debate over this program, the contradictions surrounding it, and the broader question of whether it is ethical for academia to be working so closely with the U.S. military and intelligence community has been going on for decades. But, in a way, it seems closer to beginning rather than ending. Whether this project is "about science in the service of the state and science in the service of elites," as Smith contends, or about using participatory mapping to empower indigenous communities to protect their land and cultural rights, as Herlihy and the projects' other supporters argue, an answer probably won't be fleshed out any time soon.

Grossman said that dealing with research controversies and the ethical questions raised in cases such as this one could be a way for geography to overcome its colonial and imperial past. Indigenous peoples have been waiting over 500 years for the world to overcome its colonial and imperial past. What's uncertain is whether these indigenous communities in Oaxaca can afford to wait a few more.

Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at, an online magazine covering politics and activism in Latin America. Ramor Ryan contributed to this article from Oaxaca. He is an Irish journalist based in Chiapas, Mexico who wrote Clandestines: the Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile (AK Press, 2006).

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2009

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2009

Mourning & Resistance, from Warsaw to Gaza

How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow!...
She weeps sore into the night, and her tears are on her cheeks:
among all who loved her she has none to comfort her.

(Book of Lamentations)

Last week, after murdering 1400 people – of whom 400 were children – after bombing hospitals and mosques, schools, universities and humanitarian supplies, and tens of thousand of homes, Israel declared a cease-fire. A shameful parade of European leaders immediately went to Jerusalem to embrace the mass murderers and to pledge their support for the continuing siege of Gaza.

The primary purpose of this massacre was to break the spirit of the Palestinian people until they surrender and accept their fate as lesser human beings. As former Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon said in 2002, "The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people." European leaders support this goal, as did previous U.S. administrations, as do the ruling elites of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi-Arabia, despite the fury of their peoples. We wait to see if the freshly inaugurated Obama Administration will break with sixty long years of attack on the Palestinian people armed and financed by the U.S. and Europe.

We grieve with the people of Gaza. We see the faces of the children, of the women and the men; we hear their voices. We also hear the silence of the leaders of Western countries, intermittently broken by evasive platitudes. And we are reminded of the time when the world turned a blind eye while our forebears, our families, were slaughtered.

100,000 Palestinians were made homeless in Gaza this month. Most of them became refugees in 1948 when they were expelled at gunpoint from their towns and villages. Now they are homeless again, even in their land of exile, and at risk of being driven out from Palestine altogether.

Yet on January 27, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the leaders of the U.S. and Europe will be joined in honoring the memory of our dead. Even as we seek to remember and to honor the immensity of that loss, we struggle to find words to convey the hypocrisy of these ceremonies, in which those who are silent today pay homage to the victims of yesterday’s silence.

The radical Jewish writer Walter Benjamin, who died while fleeing the Nazis, wrote, "not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious." The Third Reich was defeated, and yet, "the enemy has not ceased to be victorious." Racism, mass murder, and genocide continue to be accepted tools of statecraft. Even our dead are not safe. They have been called up, disturbed, dredged from their mass graves and forced to testify against their fellow human beings in pain, to confess a hatred that was alien to them and to offer themselves up as justification for a new cycle of suffering in Palestine. Their ghosts have been enlisted to help displace fellow Jews from Arab homelands, and to bequeath to them that same alien hatred, conscripting those of us descending from Arab lands to become enemies of our own memory and past.

The Jewish British MP Gerald Kaufman spoke in anguish while the massacres in Gaza were taking place: "My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza." We share and echo that refusal. Let not the memory of Jews murdered by the Nazi regime serve as cover for the attempted destruction of the Palestinian people!

Although the guns are relatively silent, this genocidal assault on the Palestinian people isn’t over. The siege, the lack of food and fresh water, the disease-threatening broken sewage system, and economic collapse and humanitarian crisis persist in Gaza with the full support of the U.S., Europe and the Egyptian government. As the siege of Gaza continues, so does the slow ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the home demolitions, the building of the apartheid wall, the settlement build-up, the economic devastation of the towns and villages strangled by checkpoints, the assault on Palestinian neighborhoods in Jaffa, Akka, Lydda, the Galilee and the Negev, the mass imprisonment of Palestinians (over 11,000), and all the large and small ways by which Israel is seeking to crush the spirit and erase the presence of the Palestinian people in their homeland.

Faced with the threat of annihilation in Europe, Jews resisted. From ghettos to concentration camps and within countries under occupation, Jews led resistance to the Nazi regime. Today, from the ghetto of Gaza to the Bantustans of the West Bank and from the neighborhoods of Jaffa and Akka to cities across the globe, Palestinians resist Israel’s attempt to destroy them as a people. On January 27th, honoring the memory of our dead is for us inseparable from honoring more than sixty years of Palestinian survival and resistance. Only when the Palestinian people regain their freedom will the dead rest safely. Then we will all celebrate another victory for life.

Download Holocaust_Remembrance_Day_2009 (pdf)


Jornada internacional por la memoria del Holocausto

Lieberman and Wiping Countries off the face of the Map

Informed Comment

Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion

Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Lieberman and Wiping Countries off the face of the Map

Avigdor Lieberman, the Moldovan night club bouncer, is now foreign minister of Israel. The world has had a lot of fun laughing at the pronouncements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who stands falsely accused of threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the map. But Ahmadinejad has protested that it would be wrong to kill large numbers of civilians.

In contrast, Lieberman has threatened to wipe at least two countries, Egypt and Palestine, off the map. Monstrously, he suggested bombing the Aswan Dam, which would have the effect of murdering all 80 million Egyptians and sweeping them into the Mediterranean in a vast continental African tsunami.

Lieberman promptly announced on assuming office that the Mideast peace process is dead. Well, at least we have an outbreak of frankness.

Whereas Ahmadinejad was humiliated by Columbia University president Lee Bollinger on his visit to that university, which provoked public protests, Lieberman's acceptance into the Israeli government has been greeted mildly and he was allowed to come to the Brookings Institution and meet with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Lieberman is a Central/Eastern European ultra-nationalist in the mold of Slobodan Milosevic and Jorg Haider, and it is shameful that he was allowed into the government and more shameful that this travesty has passed without a peep in the civilized world.

The The Electronic Intifada lists "Some of Avigdor Lieberman's infamous statements":
' # In 1998, Lieberman called for the flooding of Egypt by bombing the Aswan Dam in retaliation for Egyptian support for Yasser Arafat.

# In 2001, as Minister of National Infrastructure, Lieberman proposed that the West Bank be divided into four cantons, with no central Palestinian government and no possibility for Palestinians to travel between the cantons.

# In 2002, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Lieberman in a Cabinet meeting saying that the Palestinians should be given an ultimatum that "At 8am we'll bomb all the commercial centers ... at noon we'll bomb their gas stations ... at two we'll bomb their banks ..."

# In 2003, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Lieberman called for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel to be drowned in the Dead Sea and offered to provide the buses to take them there.

# In May 2004, Lieberman proposed a plan that called for the transfer of Israeli territory with Palestinian populations to the Palestinian Authority. Likewise, Israel would annex the major Jewish settlement blocs on the Palestinian West Bank. If applied, his plan would strip roughly one-third of Israel's Palestinian citizens of their citizenship. A "loyalty test" would be applied to those who desired to remain in Israel. This plan to trade territory with the Palestinian Authority is a revision of Lieberman's earlier calls for the forcible transfer of Palestinian citizens of Israel from their land. Lieberman stated in April 2002 that there was "nothing undemocratic about transfer."

# Also in May 2004, he said that 90 percent of Israel's 1.2 million Palestinian citizens would "have to find a new Arab entity" in which to live beyond Israel's borders. "They have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost," he said.

# In May 2006, Lieberman called for the killing of Arab members of Knesset who meet with members of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.'


End/ (Not Continued)

posted by Juan Cole @ 4/02/2009 01:16:00 AM

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The secrets of Obama's surge

The President is not exactly telling all that’s going on in AfPak

President Obama's highly anticipated new strategy for what the Pentagon now calls AfPak - Afghanistan and Pakistan - is full of grey areas. Most extra troops will be deployed to poppy-growing areas, not to fight al-Qaeda, the President's stated number one objective. The President talks about building trust - but as the US cannot trust the Pakistani ISI, the Pakistani people don't trust the US or even their own government. Pepe Escobar argues there are many more strategic issues at play than meets the eye - and the President and his team's spin.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA: What we want to do is to refocus attention on al-Qaeda. We are going to root out their networks, their bases. We are going to make sure that they cannot attack US citizens, US soil, US interests, and our allies' interests around the world. In order for us to do that, we have to ensure that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan can serve as a safe haven for al-Qaeda.

PEPE ESCOBAR: Washington, we got a problem. Why do you need a surge of 17,000 troops deployed against the Taliban in the poppy-growing province of Helmand in the south, and not in the east and southeast in Afghanistan, plus 4,000 advisors to train the Afghan army, if you actually need to fight no more than 200 or 300 al-Qaeda roaming in Afghanistan plus another 400 maximum in the Pakistani tribal areas? And, by the way, they're not Afghans; they're mostly Arabs with a few Uzbeks, Chechens, and Uyghur thrown in. Anyway, the puppet in Kabul, he loved Obama's plan to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban, especially because it involves the improbable hunt for the good Taliban mixed with special ops inside Pakistan. The puppet in Islamabad, well, he loved it too, but his foreign office diplomats definitely didn't. Af-Pak has got to be 2009's prime theater of the absurd. It took The New York Times and usual American officials something like 13 years to discover that the Pakistani ISI, their CIA, helps the Taliban, and this while the CIA, alongside with the ISI pals, they are compiling a mega hit list in the Pashtun tribal areas inside Pakistan. So maybe this is what CENTCOM's supremo general David Petraeus means by trilateral love affair.

MAN: It's also important that this be trilateral. And, in fact, as Richard explains frequently, the intelligence services of these two countries, which have had quite a bit of enmity between them, they also have to cooperate. And we're going to work together, all of us, to try to foster that cooperation as well.

ESCOBAR: Dependent on Petraeus' preferred pal is Pakistani army's chief general, Ashfaq Kayani. He loved what is not in Obama's presentation of the surge—the drone war over Pashtun lands. As for the Pakistani people, who have no say in all of this, they see it as a charade and al-Qaeda as a threat to the US and not to Pakistan.

OBAMA: What we want to do is say to the Pakistani people: you are our friends, you are our allies, we are going to give you the tools to defeat al-Qaeda and to root out these safe havens, but we also expect some accountability, and we expect that you understand the severity and the nature of the threat. In addition what we want to do is to help Pakistan grow its economy, to be able to provide basic services to its people, and that, I think, will help strengthen those efforts. If the Pakistan government doesn't have credibility, if they are weakened, then it's going to be much more difficult for them to deal with the extremism within their borders.

ESCOBAR: So Obama is selling all this basically as nation-building based on trust. But the US cannot trust the ISI and the Pakistani government, while the Pakistani people, they cannot trust the US. Now, take a look at this manual prepared by US Army Training and Doctrine Command, TRADOC—one more wonderful Pentagon acronym for us to memorize. It's all spelled out. This is a US war against, yes, Pashtuns who are funded by drug-smuggling and US allies in the Gulf—they don't say that, but they are US allies in the Gulf—who are trained and assist by, yes, the ISI, with some, in fact, marginal al-Qaeda assistance. Al-Qaeda's a detail. The Americans don't understand al-Qaeda. They have a pan-Islamic agenda, while the various groups we call the Taliban are in a war against foreign occupation. On page 10, they finally admit that Karzai in Kabul is supported by a lot of warlord militias involved in crime, narcotrafficking, and smuggling. The key thing here is not terrorism; it is the control over the very, very lucrative poppy-heroin manufacturing and smuggling routes. Then there's the stark admission by a former Taliban that they are not the real enemy. If Kabul was not so corrupt, incapable of providing security for ordinary Afghans, most Pashtuns would not even be Taliban. Well, no wonder the Obama administration, they will love to get rid of Hamid Karzai. So this is not exactly about terrorists, is it? In Asia they know it. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which groups China, Russia, and the 'Stans of Central Asia, they're all neighbors of Afghanistan. They met in Moscow last week to discuss Afghanistan ahead of the NATO meeting in the Hague this week, privileged by the US. And this is how Asia sees it. And that's one of the key issues that are absolutely taboo for Obama to touch upon. They don't want US military bases in Central Asia. And no wonder Iran, which is currently observer and soon a full member, said the SCO [inaudible] way to solve the whole mess in Afghanistan, and not NATO. At least 40 percent of Afghans, they are either Shiites or they speak Dari, which is a Persian language. So the ties with Iran are very, very close. Well, at least Holbrooke admits it.

MAN: The door is open for Iran to participate in international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. Those must involve all the neighbors, including India, China, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, plus our NATO allies.

ESCOBAR: And if Holbrooke is clever, he should immediately buy dinner for legendary mujahid Ismael Khan, the Lion of Herat.

VOICEOVER TRANSLATION: Naturally, if there was friendship between Iran and America, it will not only benefit these two countries; it will help the region and very directly affect Afghanistan.

ESCOBAR: Did Obama's strategic reviewers read this report? Well, apparently not. It states, and I quote, "The mere presence of foreign soldiers fighting a war in Afghanistan is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban." So would you buy a used car—I'm sorry, war, from people like Mullen, Petraeus, McKiernan? Well, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who's seen them all since Kennedy, he wouldn't. They resemble all too closely the gutless general officers who never looked down at what was really happening in Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of that time have been called, not without reason, a sewer of deceit. So what if this has nothing to do with terrorists but, number one, Cold War mentality in action, a Vietnam-style surge expanding the war, then to Cambodia and now to Pakistan? The US empire of bases, close surveillance over Russia and China, and block Russia from a route to the Middle East via Pakistan. And last but not least, the energy wars. And this is what it's all about. I'll show you here in my non-digital, non-CNN magic map. Look, this is the 7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, the TAPI pipeline. It goes from here, Turkmenistan, crosses Herat to east of Iran (that's where Ismael Khan's territory is), crosses this very, very long Taliban-controlled area in the Helmand and [inaudible] provinces, crosses Balochistan in Pakistan, and goes to the Pakistani port of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea. So is Af-Pak the Pentagon's AIG—bail them out, don't let them fail? Would it be Obama's Vietnam? Whatever it is, it's not about terrorists. Not really. Follow the money, follow the energy, follow the map.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The secrets of Obama's surge

The secrets of Obama's surge
By Pepe Escobar

Is United States President Barack Obama telling it like it is as far as his new strategy for the Afghanistan and Pakistan war theater - AfPak, in Pentagonspeak - is concerned? There are reasons to believe otherwise.

Obama's relentless media blitzkrieg stressed the new strategy is refocusing on al-Qaeda. Washington, we got a problem. Why deploy 17,000 troops against "the Taliban" in the poppy-growing province of Helmand, not in the east near the Pakistani tribal areas, where "al-Qaeda" is holed up, plus 4,000 advisers to train the Afghan Army, when Washington actually wants to fight no more than 200 or 300 al-Qaeda jihadis roaming in Afghanistan, plus another 400 maximum in the Pakistani tribal areas? And by the way they are not Afghans - they are overwhelmingly Arabs, with a few Uzbeks, Chechens and Uyghurs thrown in.

President Hamid Karzai, the puppet in Kabul which has left Washington beyond exasperated, loved Obama's plan to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Especially because it involves the improbable "hunt for the good Taliban" (always bribable by loads of US dollars) mixed with Special Ops inside Pakistan, and not Afghanistan.

Former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto's widower, President Asif Ali Zardari, the puppet in Islamabad, loved it too. But as the Pakistani daily Dawn revealed, his Foreign Office diplomats definitely did not.

The Afghanistan-Pakistan war has got to be 2009's prime theater of the absurd. It took the New York Times and the usual "American officials" something like 13 years to "discover" that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) - a Central Intelligence Agency twin - helps the Taliban. And this while the CIA, alongside their ISI pals, is compiling a mega hit list in the Pashtun tribal areas inside Pakistan. Maybe this is what US Central Command supremo General David "I'm always positioning myself for 2012" Petraeus means by a "trilateral" love affair, as he told CNN's State of the Union.

The Pentagon's preferred pal is doubtless Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani, who happens to approve of what's not in Obama's presentation of the surge: the relentless drone war - with inevitable "collateral damage" - over what is for a fact Pashtunistan. As for the Pakistani masses, which have no say in all of this, they see the whole thing as a charade, and al-Qaeda as a threat to the US - not to Pakistan.

Obama is selling the surge basically as nation building, based on trust. A hard sell if there ever was one - as Washington cannot trust the ISI or the Pakistani government, while the Pakistani masses don't trust Washington.

Insistent rumors in Washington point to a troika - Holbrooke-Petraeus-Clinton - finally being able to convince Obama that the surge should be just the first step towards long-range nation building. Anyone with minimal familiarity with Afghanistan knows this is an impossible strategic target.

The Salvador option

And then Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy to AfPak, finally let it slip on CNN: the "people we are fighting in Afghanistan" are essentially ... Pashtuns. This was followed by a stark admission: "In the informational side ... we don't have a strong enough counter-informational program to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda."

So this amounts to the State Department admitting that the Pentagon/Petraeus "humint" (human intelligence) component of counter-insurgency in AfPak, hailed as a gift from the Messiah all across US corporate media, is essentially useless. This also means there's no way of winning local hearts and minds.

In the absence of "humint", what prevails is inevitably The Salvador option, performed by a Dick Cheney-supervised-style "executive assassination wing", as investigative icon Seymour Hersh first revealed in a talk at the University of Minnesota on March 10, "going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or to the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving". The "assassination wing" is in fact the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) - a shadowy, ultra-elite unit including Navy Seals and Delta Force commandos immune to Congressional investigations.

So if you have such a unit killing "al-Qaeda" jihadis at random from Iraq to Kenya, from Somalia to countries in South and Central America (these are not necessarily "al-Qaeda"; let’s say they are inimical to "US interests"), why not let them loose in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas? Instead of a $5 million bounty on his head, why not send a crack JSOC commando to South Waziristan and take out Pakistani Taliban superstar Baitullah Mehsud, who has just boasted his outfit will "soon launch an attack on Washington that will amaze everyone in the world?"

Well, maybe because US "humint" on South Waziristan is negligible - and even JSOC cannot infiltrate. JSOC by now should have been more than fully equipped to find Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Anyway, Vice-President Joseph Biden, to whom the unit would have to answer to, could at least come clean and state the "Salvador option" is not on the cards anymore. Or maybe it still is. The Obama administration is mum about it.

A priceless, self-described "hip pocket" manual prepared by the US Army Training and Doctrine Command - TRADOC, one more wonderful, Pentagon acronym to memorize - and available only to "US government personnel, government contractors and additional cleared personnel for national security purposes and homeland defense" spells out what's (visibly) going on. On page 5, one learns this is a US war against, yes, Pashtuns, as Holbrooke said on CNN. The overwhelming majority of the "insurgent syndicate", they are funded by drug smuggling and US allies in the Gulf such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Emirates, and are trained and assisted by, yes, the ISI, with some - in fact marginal - al-Qaeda assistance.

Al-Qaeda is a detail here. TRADOC does not seem to understand that al-Qaeda has a pan-Islamic agenda while the various groups bundled as "Taliban" are essentially in a war against foreign occupation and interference, with no dreams of establishing a Caliphate.

On page 7, TRADOC estimates the Taliban in Afghanistan to be around 30,000, half of them Pakistani, and supported by the ISI. That's correct. But they overestimate al-Qaeda to be 2,000; these "Arab-Afghans" plus some recently arrived "white moors" (European Arabs) are probably no more than 700.

On page 10, TRADOC finally admits that Karzai in Kabul is supported by a myriad of "warlord militias" profiting from crime, narco-trafficking and smuggling. The key element here is not "terrorism" - but regional wars for control over ultra-profitable poppy/heroin manufacturing and smuggling routes.

Then there's this stark admission, by former Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Salam, currently governor of a town in poppy-infested Helmand province. He told Reuters that the Taliban are not the real enemy. If Kabul was not so corrupt, and capable of providing security to the rest of the country, most Pashtuns would not even be Taliban. No wonder the Obama administration has stacks of reasons to get rid of Karzai.

An opening in The Hague

Asia knows this whole thing is upside down. The crucial Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), grouping China, Russia and the Central Asian "stans", all concerned neighbors of Afghanistan, met in Moscow last Friday to discuss it, ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting in The Hague this Tuesday privileged by the US.

This is how Asia sees it - and that's an absolutely taboo issue for Obama to touch upon every time he faces American public opinion: Asians simply don't want US military bases in Central Asia. No wonder Iran, which is currently an observer, and soon to become a full member, officially said the SCO is the right forum to solve the Afghan tragedy, not NATO. A minimum of 40% of Afghans are either Shi'ites or they speak Dari, a Persian language.

Well, at least Holbrooke admits "the door is open" for Iran to have a say on Afghanistan, but always with conditions attached ("plus our NATO allies"). If Holbrooke is clever, he should immediately buy dinner for legendary mujahid Ishmail Khan, the Lion of Herat, in Western Afghanistan. Khan, a complex mix of feudal warlord and economic developer, told al-Jazeera English "friendship between Iran and America" is essential to solve the Afghan riddle.
What Washington has to admit is that Iran has been deeply involved for years in visible, post-Taliban reconstruction in Afghanistan - from roads and railroads to restoration of mosques, financing of libraries and madrassas and the provision of electricity. The Iranian Consulate in Herat, for instance, houses no less than 40 diplomats. Khan - the key Iranian liaison in Herat - was so successful in spite of Kabul that Karzai, under US pressure, stripped him off his enormous powers as local governor and gave him an innocuous ministry in Kabul.

At the UN-sponsored, US-backed international conference on Afghanistan this Tuesday in The Hague, Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh - one of Iran's deputy foreign ministers - officially broke the ice, offering to help the rebuilding and stabilization of Afghanistan, something that Iran is already doing anyway.

Akhunzadeh was specifically referring to projects fighting drug trafficking - which badly affects Iranian society. But he was also very clear on how Iran views NATO: "The presence of foreign forces has not improved things in the country and it seems that an increase in the number of foreign forces will prove ineffective, too."

But, significantly, he tipped his hat to Obama's decision to send those 4,000 trainers for the Afghan Army, when he stressed "Afghanization should lead the government-building process". As for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she described corruption in the Kabul government, ie Karzai and his gang, as a "cancer" as threatening to Afghanistan as the Taliban. One more sign from Washington that Karzai’s days may be numbered.

Follow the money

Did Obama's "strategic reviewers" read this Carnegie Endowment report ( Apparently not. It states flatly "the mere presence of foreign soldiers fighting a war in Afghanistan is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban".

So the question Americans must ask themselves is this: Would you buy a used car - sorry - war from people like Mullen, Petraeus, McKiernan? Well, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who's seen them all since John F Kennedy, wouldn't. For him, "they resemble all too closely the gutless general officers who never looked down at what was really happening in Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the time have been called, not without reason, 'a sewer of deceit'."

So what if the AfPak quagmire had nothing to do with "terrorists" but with these facts:

1. A Cold War mentality in action still prevailing at the Pentagon. That explains a Vietnam-style surge - expanding the war to Cambodia then, expanding it to Pakistan now. As University of Michigan's Juan Cole has pointed out, the rationale is the same old fallacious domino theory (communism will take over Southeast Asia, terrorism will take over Central/South Asia). The Taliban are simply not able to take over and control the whole of Afghanistan (they didn't from 1996 to 2001). Al-Qaeda simply can't have bases in Afghanistan: they would be bombed to smithereens by the 80,000-strong Afghan Army plus Bagram-based US air strikes.

2. The US Empire of Bases still in overdrive, and in New Great Game mode - which implies very close surveillance over Russia and China via bases such as Bagram, and the drive to block Russia from establishing a commercial route to the Middle East via Pakistan.

3. The fear of a spectacular NATO failure. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, absolutely despised by progressives in Brussels and assorted European capitals, is pressuring everyone for more troops to avoid what he calls the "Americanization" of the war. No one is impressed - especially because Scheffer himself was forced to admit troops will have to stay on the ground "for the foreseeable future".

4. Last but not least, the energy wars. And that involves that occult, almost supernatural entity, the $7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which would carry gas from eastern Turkmenistan through Afghanistan east of Herat and down Taliban-controlled Nimruz and Helmand provinces, down Balochistan in Pakistan and then to the Pakistani port of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea. No investor in his right mind will invest in a pipeline in a war zone, thus Afghanistan must be "stabilized" at all costs.

So is AfPak the Pentagon's AIG - we gotta bail them out, can't let them fail? Is it a Predator drone war disguised as nation building? Will it become Obama’s Vietnam? Whatever it is, it's not about "terrorists". Not really. Follow the money. Follow the energy. Follow the map.

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

He may be reached at

Death on the Home Front Women in the Crosshairs By Ann Jones

Tom Dispatch

posted 2009-03-31 15:29:59

Tomgram: Ann Jones, Wars Abroad Continue at Home

Whether it's $900 billion, more than one trillion dollars, or even, in the long run, several trillion dollars, the spiraling costs of George Bush's wars -- one of which is now in the grim process of becoming "Obama's War" -- are indisputable. It's hardly less disputable that those wars to "protect" America from "global terror" have contributed significantly to the country's economic meltdown, that the harder we pursued (and continue to pursue) those wars abroad, the less safe the underpinnings of our world became. Thought of another way, that famous line of the cartoon character Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us," couldn't be more apt.

It's no less indisputable that the costs of these wars have been borne, above and beyond the norm, by those sent to fight them. Recently, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna of wrote a powerful series about the startling rise in suicides in the U.S. Army, tracing, in part, what happens when soldiers are repeatedly sent back to war zones, often already suffering from war's invisible wounds.

Some costs of war are, however, far harder to notice, no less tote up, though no less real for that. Ann Jones is a TomDispatch regular, as well as the author of Kabul in Winter (a beautifully written reminder of just how long America's war in Afghanistan has been going on) and of Women Who Kill, a contemporary classic to be reissued this fall by the Feminist Press. (That invaluable press, by the way, issued in two volumes the vivid, on-the-spot writings of the Baghdad blogger Riverbend, who, among millions of Iraqi refugees fleeing abroad, has not been heard from since October 27, 2007.) The following essay on war and women has been adapted from Jones's new introduction to that book.

Who said "women and children first"? I don't know about sinking ships, but when it comes to sinking societies at least, that phrase, as Jones makes clear, counts for little. Tom

Death on the Home Front

Women in the Crosshairs
By Ann Jones

Wake up, America. The boys are coming home, and they're not the boys who went away.

On New Year's Day, the New York Times welcomed the advent of 2009 by reporting that, since returning from Iraq, nine members of the Fort Carson, Colorado, Fourth Brigade Combat team had been charged with homicide. Five of the murders they were responsible for took place in 2008 when, in addition, "charges of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault" at the base rose sharply. Some of the murder victims were chosen at random; four were fellow soldiers -- all men. Three were wives or girlfriends.

This shouldn't be a surprise. Men sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for two, three, or four tours of duty return to wives who find them "changed" and children they barely know. Tens of thousands return to inadequate, underfunded veterans' services with appalling physical injuries, crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suck-it-up sergeants who hold to the belief that no good soldier seeks help. That, by the way, is a mighty convenient belief for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which have been notoriously slow to offer much of that help.

Recently Republican Senator John Cornyn from Texas, a state with 15 major military bases, noted that as many as one in five U.S. veterans is expected to suffer from at least one "invisible wound" of war, if not a combination of them, "including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury." Left untreated, such wounds can become very visible: witness, for example, the recent wave of suicides that have swept through the military, at least 128 in 2008, and 24 in January 2009 alone.

To judge by past wars, a lot of returning veterans will do themselves a lot of damage drinking and drugging. Many will wind up in prison for drug use or criminal offenses that might have been minor if the offenders hadn't been carrying guns they learned to rely on in the service. And a shocking number of those veterans will bring the violence of war home to their wives and children.

That's no accident. The U.S. military is a macho club, proud of its long tradition of misogyny, and not about to give it up. One decorated veteran of the first Gulf War, who credited the army with teaching him to repress his emotions, described his basic training as "long, exhausting marches" and "sound-offs [that] revolved around killing and mutilating the enemy or violent sex with women." (The two themes easily merge.) That veteran was Timothy McVeigh, the unrepentant Oklahoma City bomber, who must have known that blowing up a government office building during business hours was sure to kill a whole lot of women.

Even in the best of times, the incidence of violence against women is much higher in the military than among civilians. After war, it's naturally worse -- as with those combat team members at Fort Carson. In 2005, one of them, Pfc. Stephen Sherwood, returned from Iraq and fatally shot his wife, then himself. In September 2008, Pvt. John Needham, who received a medical discharge after a failed suicide attempt, beat his girlfriend to death. In October 2008, Spc. Robert H. Marko raped and murdered Judilianna Lawrence, a developmentally disabled teenager he met online.

These murders of wives and girlfriends -- crimes the Bureau of Justice Statistics labels "intimate homicides" -- were hardly the first. In fact, the first veterans of George Bush's wars returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from Afghanistan in 2002.

On June 11, 2002, Sgt. First Class Rigoberto Nieves fatally shot his wife Teresa and then himself in their bedroom. On June 29th, Sgt. William Wright strangled his wife Jennifer and buried her body in the woods. On July 9th, Sgt. Ramon Griffin stabbed his estranged wife Marilyn 50 times or more and set her house on fire. On July 19th, Sgt. First Class Brandon Floyd of Delta Force, the antiterrorism unit of the Special Forces, shot his wife Andrea and then killed himself. At least three of the murdered wives had been seeking separation or divorce.

When a New York Times reporter asked a master sergeant in the Special Forces to comment on these events, he responded: "S.F.'s [Special Forces members] don't like to talk about emotional stuff. We are Type A people who just blow things like that off..."

The killings at Fort Bragg didn't stop there. In February 2005, Army Special Forces trainee Richard Corcoran shot and wounded his estranged wife Michele and another soldier, then killed himself. He became the tenth fatality in a lengthening list of domestic violence deaths at Fort Bragg.

In February 2008, the Times reported finding "more than 150 cases of fatal domestic violence or [fatal] child abuse in the United States involving service members and new veterans" since the Afghan War began in October 2001. And it's still going on.

The Pentagon: Conveniently Clueless

In April 2000, after three soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, murdered their wives and CBS TV's "60 Minutes" broke a story on those deaths, the Pentagon established a task force on domestic violence. After three years of careful work, the task force reported its findings and recommendations to Congress on March 20, 2003, the day the United States invaded Iraq. Members of the House Armed Services Committee kept rushing from the hearing room, where testimony on the report was underway, to see how the brand new war was coming along.

What the task force discovered was that soldiers rarely faced any consequences for beating or raping their wives. (Girlfriends didn't even count.) In fact, soldiers were regularly sheltered on military bases from civilian orders of protection and criminal arrest warrants. The military, in short, did a much better job of protecting servicemen from punishment than protecting their wives from harm.

Years later the military seems as much in denial as ever. It has, for instance, established "anger management" classes, long known to be useless when it comes to men who assault their wives. Batterers already manage their anger very well -- and very selectively -- to intimidate wives and girlfriends; rarely do they take it out on a senior officer or other figure of authority. It's the punch line to an old joke: the angry man goes home to kick his dog, or more likely, his wife.

Anger may fire the shot, but misogyny determines the target. A sense of male superiority, and the habitual disrespect for women that goes with it, make many men feel entitled to control the lesser lives of women -- and dogs. Even Hollywood gets the connection: in Paul Haggis's stark film on the consequences of the Iraq War, In the Valley of Elah, a returned vet drowns the family dog in the bathtub -- a rehearsal for drowning his wife.

The military does evaluate the mental health of soldiers. Three times it evaluated the mental health of Robert H. Marko (the Fort Carson infantryman who raped and murdered a girl), and each time declared him fit for combat, even though his record noted his belief that, on his twenty-first birthday, he would be transformed into the "Black Raptor," half-man, half-dinosaur.

In February 2008, after the ninth homicide at Fort Carson, the Army launched an inquiry there too. The general in charge said investigators were "looking for a trend, something that happened through [the murderers'] life cycle that might have contributed to this." A former captain and Army prosecutor at Fort Carson asked, "Where is this aggression coming from?... Was it something in Iraq?"

What Are We Fighting For?

Our women soldiers are a different story. The Department of Defense still contends that women serve only "in support of" U.S. operations, but in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "support" and "combat" often amount to the same thing. Between September 11, 2001, and mid-2008, 193,400 women were deployed "in support of" U.S. combat operations. In Iraq alone, 97 were killed and 585 wounded.

Like their male counterparts, thousands of women soldiers return from Afghanistan and Iraq afflicted with PTSD. Their "invisible wounds," however, are invariably made more complex by the conditions under which they serve. Although they train with other women, they are often deployed only with men. In the field they are routinely harassed and raped by their fellow soldiers and by officers who can destroy their careers if they protest.

On March 17, 2009, the Pentagon reported 2,923 cases of sexual assault in the past year in the U.S. military, including a 25% increase in assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, assaults committed by men who serve under the same flag. What's more, the Pentagon estimated that perhaps 80% of such rapes go unreported.

And then, when women come home as veterans, they, like their male counterparts, may be involved in domestic homicides. Unlike the men, however, they are usually not the killers, but the victims.

Shortly after Sgt. William Edwards and his wife, Sgt. Erin Edwards, returned to Fort Hood, Texas, in 2004 from separate missions in Iraq, he assaulted her. She moved off base, sent her two children to stay with her mother, brought charges against her husband, got an order of protection, and received assurances from her husband's commanders that they would prevent him from leaving the base without an accompanying officer.

She even arranged for a transfer to a base in New York. However, on July 22, 2004, before she could leave the area, William Edwards skipped his anger management class, left the base by himself, drove to Erin Edwards's house, and after a struggle, shot her in the head, then turned the gun on himself.

The police detective in charge of the investigation told reporters, "I believe that had he been confined to base and had that confinement been monitored, she would not be dead at his hands." Base commanders excused themselves, saying they hadn't known Erin Edwards was "afraid" of her husband. Even if true, since when is that a standard of military discipline? William Edwards had assaulted a fellow soldier. Normally, that would be some kind of crime -- unless, of course, the victim was just a wife.

Back in North Carolina, near Fort Bragg and the nearby Marine base at Camp Lejeune, military men murdered four military women in nine months between December 2007 and September 2008. Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, eight months pregnant, went missing from Camp Lejeune in December 2007, not long before she was to testify that a fellow Marine, Cpl. Cesar Laurean, had raped her. In January, investigators found her burned body in a shallow grave in Laurean's backyard. By then, he had fled to Mexico, his native country, and been apprehended there; but Mexico does not extradite citizens subject to capital punishment.

On June 21st, the decomposing body of Spc. Megan Touma, seven months pregnant, was found in a motel room near Fort Bragg. In July, Sgt. Edgar Patino, a married man and the father of Touma's child, was arrested and charged with her murder.

On July 10th, Army 2nd Lt. Holly Wimunc, a nurse, failed to appear for work at Fort Bragg. Neighbors reported that her apartment was burning. Days later, her charred body was found near Camp Lejeune. She had been in the process of divorcing her estranged husband, Marine Cpl. John Wimunc, and had a restraining order against him. He and his friend Lance Cpl. Kyle Ryan Alden were charged with murder, arson, and felony conspiracy.

On September 30th, Army Sgt. Christina Smith was walking with her husband Sgt. Richard Smith in their Fayetteville neighborhood near Fort Bragg when an assailant plunged a knife into her neck. Richard Smith and Pfc. Mathew Kvapil, a hired hit man, were charged with murder and conspiracy.

Striking about these "intimate homicides" is their lack of intimacy. They tend to be planned and carried out with the kind of ruthless calculation that would go into any military plan of attack. Most were designed to eliminate an inconveniently pregnant lover and an unwelcome child, or to inflict the ultimate lesson on a woman about to make good her escape from a man's control. In some of them, in good soldierly fashion, the man planning the killing was able to enlist the help of a buddy. On military websites you can read plenty of comments of comradely support for these homicidal men who so heroically "offed the bitches."

Give Peace a Chance

The battered women's movement once had a slogan: World peace begins at home. They thought peace could be learned by example in homes free of violence and then carried into the wider world. It was an idea first suggested in 1869 by the English political philosopher John Stuart Mill. He saw that "the subjection of women," as he called it, engendered in the home the habits of tyranny and violence which afflicted England's political life and corrupted its conduct abroad.

The idea seems almost quaint in competition with the brutal, dehumanizing effectiveness of two or three tours of duty in a pointless war and a little "mild" brain damage.

We had a respite for a while. For nearly a decade, starting in 1993, rates of domestic violence and wife murder went down by a few percentage points. Then in 2002, the vets started coming home.

No society that sends its men abroad to do violence can expect them to come home and be at peace. To let world peace begin at home, you have to stop making war. (Europe has largely done it.) Short of that, you have to take better care of your soldiers and the people they once knew how to love.

Ann Jones is a journalist and the author of a groundbreaking series of books on violence against women, including Next Time She'll Be Dead, on battering, and Women Who Kill, a contemporary classic to be reissued this fall by the Feminist Press, with a new introduction from which this post is adapted. She serves as a gender advisor to the UN.

Copyright 2009 Ann Jones

JDL Terrorists threaten George Galloway's talk in Canada

Terrorist organization that planned to bomb Concordia University advised Canadian government to ban MP George Galloway

An organization that planned to blow up Concordia University, and that the FBI, the U.S. State Department, and U.S. courts have branded a 'terrorist organization', has given advice to the Harper government that led Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to barring a British MP from Canada.

A Kenney spokesman said Kenney first heard about British MP George Galloway's visit from a Jewish Defense League (JDL) March 16 letter.

The Jewish Defense League, is categorized by the FBI as a "right-wing Jewish terrorist group", founded in 1968 by ultra Zionist Meir Kahane. Kanahe then founded the terrorist group Khach in Israel. JDL leader Meir Weinstein (no relation to the author) boasts of getting the Canadian government to ban Galloway.

Mr. Galloway, labeled a terrorist threat by the Conservative government, is freely touring the U.S. now. Galloway is scheduled to speak in four Canadian cities from March 30 to April 2 on "Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar". He plans to speak against the Conservative government's war in Afghanistan and uncritical support for Israel, which is why his Canadian defenders - and even some opponents - feel he is banned from speaking here.

The JDL can now claim further success because Concordia University just forbade a planned Galloway live video feed into their auditorium, citing Canada's banning his entry into the country.

The JDL's well documented history of terrorism

It is impossible that the Harper government is unaware that the JDL's terrorism designation given how earnestly Canada and the US share such information, and how public information of some of their dozens of domestic terror acts is. (See here)

The US State Department designated the JDL's Israeli affiliates, Kach, founded by Kahane, and the Kahane Chai, named in honor of Kahane after his murder, as "foreign terrorist organizations" - a decision recently upheld by a US Appeals Court. The Israeli Cabinet declared them terrorist organizations in 1994.

Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians praying in a mosque in Hebron. The Jewish Defense League's states, "We view Dr. Goldstein as a martyr in Judaism's protracted struggle against Arab terrorism. And we are not ashamed to say that Goldstein was a charter member of the Jewish Defense League".

The JDL is still active with Hebron's Jewish settlers, most visibly remarkable for its hate graffiti such as: "Arabs to the Gas Chambers". (See here)

In a 1986 study of domestic terrorism, the US Department of Energy concluded: "For more than a decade, the Jewish Defense League (JDL) has been one of the most active terrorist groups in the United States. Since 1968, JDL operations have killed 7 persons and wounded at least 22."

Despite their terrorist designation, and the post 9-11 war on terror, JDL leaders, members and chapters still function unhindered by security agencies in North America. One can only attribute it to the similarity between the JDL's ideology and our governments' Middle East and Muslim policies.

In 2001, JDL leader, Canadian Irv Rubin and another member were convicted of planning a terror attack in California against an Arab American congressman and a mosque. Rubin was also accused of planning to bomb Concordia University. Both JDL members were murdered in prison, although authorities claim Rubin's slashed neck and two-story fall was a suicide.

Rubin's death appeared to be the end of the JDL in North America.

The JDL resurfaces in fertile Canada

Canadian Jewish critics of Israel have noted the Harper government's numerous unholy alliances to contain opponents of its Middle East and Afghanistan policies. Some believe that the little known Canada-Israel Security Agreement maybe behind the Galloway ban. Certainly, the Conservatives have provided a political terrain that is now fertile for the JDL to operate.

It is contemptible that the Conservative government for "national security reasons" bans outspoken anti-war critic and Palestinian supporter British MP George Galloway while allowing a known terrorist organization a free pass to operate in Canada and advise their policies.

Given that Concordia University's Security Department is run by a former RCMP officer, we should question their readiness to accept such a politicized chain of events leading to the University banning the Galloway video feed.

The recent past appears forgotten and forgiven for the JDL, which resurfaced in Toronto two years ago. Meir Weinstein answered the question by The Jewish Press if the JDL in Toronto adheres to the ideology of Meir Kahane? "I will always be a loyal disciple of Rabbi Kahane. Our ideology is based on the Jewish Idea as taught by Rabbi Kahane."

Last year Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) leader Bernie Farber's opinion on the JDL was "they have the right to exist" as long as they behave. The Canadian Jewish News on March 20, 2009 wrote the " CJC commends government for denying George Galloway entry to Canada".

The Jewish B'nai Brith and the JDL both targeted the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) in 2007 to prevent them from debating a motion critical of Israel. The JDL is now going after the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) for similar reasons. Liberal aide Warren Kinsella appeared last week at a meeting organized by the JDL as a surprise guest.

In last week's interview on British Channel 4 TV with George Galloway, JDL leader Meir Weinstein threatened any Canadian who attended or supported Galloway's presentation would be "monitored" by the Canadian government. (Video here)

Perhaps the Conservative government is testing whether Canadians still care about their rights, or Canada's policies in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Canada sinks into infamy when its government labels its enemies terrorist, while coddling its allies who are real terrorists.


Scott Weinstein is a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada
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