Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dick Gregory moderator for New York 9/11 seminar panel

Longtime comedian and peace activist Dick Gregory moderated the "How the World Changed after 9/11 seminar panel in New York at which this editor spoke on September 12.

Gregory is beginning a liquid fast until 2012 until questions about 9/11 are answered by the government.

On a lighter note, this editor stayed in New York a block from the Riverdale condominium where television host Ed Sullivan once lived. I mentioned that tidbit to Gregory knowing that he appeared on Sullivan's variety show a number of times. Gregory mentioned that he was a guest on the very last Ed Sullivan show in 1971. Gregory said that Sullivan, aware of Gregory's anti-war stance, was scared to death what Gregory might say on the show. Gregory's description of Sullivan was a bit more colorful than described here.

Gregory said that he will be 80 in 2012 and that the fast concerned his friends who asked him, "what does your doctor think about going on a fast?" Gregory responded, "my doctor's been dead for 30 years."

Dick Gregory (left) and Wayne Madsen speaking (right)

Don't mess with my burqa, monsieur By Pepe Escobar

When it comes to Islamophobia, good old Europe - which after all invented the Crusades - certainly has nothing to envy the United States.

I'm already making plans to arrive at Terminal 2 of Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris in the spring of 2011 sporting my burqa. The cruel doubt is, which one? Shall I deplane swathed in the classic light blue I used to cross to Talibanistan? Or the slick black number I once used to cross to the tribal areas? The ultra-chic dark green I got at Peshawar's bazaar, perhaps?

The mere thought of the possibilities once I disembark from Air France business class - where they won't dare tamper with my burqa - and hit immigration, gives me such a thrill. Will they fine me 150 euros (US$195) right away? Will they dispatch me to a "civic education" course? Will they simply denounce me to the fashion police? Better yet - will they call a Chanel representative and book me a show?

And what if I tell them that my wife made me do it? Will they throw her in jail and fine her 30,000 euros? Will they deport me on the first flight to Dubai and its burqa-congested duty free? Well, since I'm a man, and also a journalist, I can always tell them that I'm trying to infiltrate evil al-Qaeda cells in Europe, and this was a counter-insurgency burqa approved by General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan. In this case, would I be able to walk away scot-free?

All these feverish considerations are taking place because the French Senate - with a momentous 246 to 1 vote - has just approved the motion for banning the Islamic veil all across the land, despite serious criticism by the State Council, Amnesty International and leaders of the Muslim community, who insist that the law "risks stigmatizing Islam" (that hefty 30,000 euro fine, by the way, applies to men guilty of forcing their women to wear the burqa).

Well, that's exactly what minute French President Nicolas Sarkozy ("Sarko", as the multitudes call him) always wanted; for Sarko the "veil is not welcome in the republic's territory". As for his justice minister, the uber-bourgeois, always impeccable coifed, and certified member of the Chanel-Hermes set, Michelle Alliot-Marie, she could not be more graphic, "The republic must be lived with an open face." Sounds like a bad Lancome commercial.
Eminent jurists duly note that France risks being condemned by the European Court of Human Rights. Anyway, now the premier Muslim community in Europe, comprising up to 6 million people, amongst whom only 2,000 wear a burqa or a niqab, is part of the first European state to censor the burqa. And it will not be the last; Belgium is considering a follow-up, and the truculent cripto-fascists of the Lega Nord in Italy are already extolling its cultural and security merits.

But it's not just about the burqa. This being advanced, militarized capitalism, it's about "dissimulation of the face in a public space". And that also means all those suspicious hoods in anti-government demonstrations. Beat the dissenters - and when in doubt, deport them. It remains to be seen whether the law will be equally applied to those who when on a Maserati convertible resort to a Hermes scarf in order to prevent the wind from messing their coiffure.

All roads don't lead to Roma
Quelle horreur. Over 221 years after the French Revolution gave the world the Declaration of Human Rights, France is being accused of a serious violation of human rights. And the plot thickens - it's not about the burqa.

The righteous Viviane Reding, vice president of the European Commission (EC) responsible for Justice and Human Rights, has said it in plain English (being from Luxembourg, she's also fluent in French): "This is a disgrace."

The disgrace in question is the dodgy behavior of French ministers vis-a-vis the commission. Reding was fuming - according to legendary European parliamentary Danny Cohn-Bendit, former "the rouge", now "the green" - because those suave French ministers lied to her straight-faced about the mass expulsion of Roma, gypsies from Romania and Bulgaria (15,000 of them live in France). Sarkozy fought tooth and nail for this deportation en masse - subcontracted to mayors via an avalanche of ministerial memos.

As virtually nothing of value can be learned by reading or watching the cowardly, Sarko-co-opted, bling-bling, trash-saturated French media, it was up once again to the invaluable satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine to reveal that a crucial memo by the Ministry of Interior expressly calling for systematic "important operations in priority against the Roma" came out of a meeting in Paris in early August. The Immigration Ministry had flatly denied it. The commission found out about it on the Internet.

For Reding, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. She had to stress that the role of the commission as "guardians" of the European Union (EU) treaties was being sabotaged by Immigration Minister Eric Besson and European Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche. And she went straight to the point, "There's no place in Europe for discrimination based on ethnic origins or race." As much as any legal procedure by the commission may take months, France was in fact politically condemned, and reminded that the country is not above EU laws.

Obviously, the Sarko bling-bling brigade reacted with fury, starting with His Master's Voice, who with trademark politeness suggested the Roma should be deported to Reding's own Luxembourg instead of Romania. The deportation is in theory "voluntary". But there are not that many takers, even with a sendoff gift of 300 euros.

What drove the Sarko gang really ballistic was Reding, no holds barred, saying what many do not dare articulate; that these expulsions were eerily reminiscent of what had happened in Europe during World War II - when Vichy France collaborated with Nazi roundups of Jews and gypsies. Sarkozy as new Vichy is not exactly a sexy campaign slogan.

Guilty on two counts
Ever since his intolerant speech late July on security and immigration, the "incredibly shrinking" Sarko (The Economist got it absolutely right has been ridiculed across the European board. For the millions of Frenchmen and women who really cherish the myth of this being the nation of human rights, it's a serious blow - worse than opening a tanked bottle of Petrus. Imagine the shame of France facing charges at the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg on two counts (violation of law governing behavior toward an ethnic group; and not providing Roma deportees with judicial appeal in accordance with EU regulations).

But what did they expect? Sarko has the mentality of a provincial cop. Forget the glories of Voltaire, Montaigne, Flaubert, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Sartre; under his reign an ageing, fearful, reactionary, increasingly unemployed, increasingly trashy and manic-depressive France has been wallowing in a mire of hate and bling-bling. To top it off, it was Sarko himself who framed his mass deportation scheme as a top security priority even as his government remains embroiled in a maze of political scandals.

Woody Allen has used insanely glamorous Sarko wife Carla Bruni - which wackos in Iran have defiled as an "Italian prostitute" - in his latest movie, Midnight in Paris. Pity Woody didn't clad Carla in a burqa - just to spice up the debate. Or he could have played her as a Roma - deported to Rome ... A constantly fuming Sarko simply can't get over the fact that his wife is taller, cuter, and infinitely more desirable than him. And on top of it she does not expel people living in France - well, as long as they buy her latest CD. Anyway, I'm definitely looking forward to my burqa face off next spring at the immigration counter at Charles de Gaulle airport.

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nobody expects the American inquisition!

Nobody expects the American inquisition!
By Pepe Escobar

(A hat tip to Monty Python's legendary Spanish Inquisition sketch.)

[The White House Oval Office]
Vice President Joe Biden [anxiously pacing the room]: Mr President. Mullah Omar, you know, the one-eyed Taliban leader, he just said we have to get the hell out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. And he said the Taliban were winning the war. [1]

United States President Barack Obama [contemplating a basketball]: No wonder I cannot run a business here. Why can't these COINistas bring me Omar's head on a plate? Even I know he lives in Quetta [in Pakistan]. And why can't they track Osama bin Laden? What are these Special Forces doing, watching Mad Men on cable?

Biden: Mr President, believe me, it's we who are winning, not them.

Obama: Oh no, no, no, Joe. Get a grip on this AfPak business. The COINistas want nation-building and war against the Taliban, which for them is the same as al-Qaeda. You want only counter-terrorism against al-Qaeda on both sides of AfPak. Whatever we do, we will get clobbered in the November polls. I need a narrative arc of victory here, Joe!

Biden: Mr President, you did finish the Iraq War last week ...

Obama: I was not awesome enough, Joe. Besides, [George W] Bush did it before me, and it didn't work.

Biden: I'm afraid there's more trouble ahead, Mr President. The Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth were in congress and at the National Press Club telling everybody that the Twin Towers collapsed in near free-fall because of pre-set demolition explosives. It says here, Mr President, and I quote, "An international team of scientists found nanothermitic composite material in World Trade Center dust, providing the first hard evidence of the presence of advanced pyrotechnics or explosives in the disaster debris." They want a Grand Jury investigation of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Mr President.

Obama: For Heaven's sake Joe, can you imagine if I decided to reopen 9/11? Did you see that poll last week where a majority of Republicans said, let me see if I remember correctly, that I "definitely sympathize with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world"? Who are these people? Whatever I do I'm a racist, a communist, a radical Islam-hugger ... I didn't expect a kind of American Inquisition.

[Jarring chord]

[The Oval Office door flies open and messianic Fox News host and self-appointed God's spokesperson to the United States Glenn Beck enters, flanked by former vice-presidential candidate and Tea Party icon Sarah Palin, former speaker of the house (and aspiring presidential candidate) Newt Gingrich, former US ambassador to the United Nations (and aspiring presidential candidate) John Bolton, the Texas energy conglomerate billionaires the Koch brothers, and Glenville, Florida fringe extremist Christian pastor Terry Jones, a mini-Koran burning in his hands in homage to his proposed, then aborted, International Burn-a-Koran Day on 9/11.]

Beck [bombastic]: Nobody expects the American Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise ... surprise and fear ... fear and surprise ... Our two weapons are fear and surprise ... and catchy sound bites ... Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and catchy sound bites ... and an almost fanatical devotion to God ... Our four ... no ... Amongst our weapons ... Amongst our weaponry ... are such elements as fear, surprise ... I'll come in again.

[The Inquisition exits]

Obama: I didn't expect a kind of American Inquisition.

[Jarring chord]

[The group burst in, minus Terry Jones, who had his hands burned by his burning Koran.]

Palin [squeakily]: Nobody expects the American Inquisition! We love weapons! Oh you betcha! We have so many of them, fear, surprise, catchy sound bites, an almost fanatical devotion to shooting wolves from my helicopter, these nice red leather pumps ... And I can see Russia from my house! Oh darn!?[To Bolton]: I can't say it - you'll have to say it.

Bolton: What??

Palin: You'll have to say the bit about "Our chief weapons are ..."

Bolton: [rather impatient]: Nah, let's get on with it, we gotta rush to the part where we frame all Muslims as neo-nazis.

[The group bundles outside again]

Obama: I didn't expect a kind of American Inquisition.
[Jarring chord] [The group enters]

Bolton: Er ... Nobody ... um ... expects ... Nobody expects the ... um .. the American ... um ...

Beck: Inquisition.?

Bolton: I know, I know! Nobody expects the American Inquisition. In fact, those who do expect know that we can't be at the mercy of terrorists, we have to reclaim the date of September 11 from these deceptive Islamic supremacists, and that's why I'll be running for President in 2012.

Gingrich: OK! OK! OK! Stop! Stop. Ah! ... our chief weapons are surprise ... blah blah blah. Alright. Glenn, read the charges.

Beck: You are hereby charged that you did on diverse dates commit heresy against the American flag. You are a racist ... a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, the white culture, I don't know what it is. You are a Muslim. You were not even born in the United States. You are a servant of Islam ...

Gingrich: That's enough. [To Obama] Now, how do you plead?

Obama: This is ridiculous. Of course I'm innocent.

Gingrich: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! [diabolical laughter]

The Koch brothers [surreptitiously]: We'll soon change your mind about that!

Bolton: Fear, surprise, and while we're at it, at war with all servants of Islam, which is taking over the world and it is now America's turn to fall. Hush, Glenn, grab the prayer rug!

[Beck produces a stinky prayer rug he got from a Special Forces officer who bought it on Chicken Street in Kabul for $10. Gingrich looks at it and clenches his teeth in an effort not to lose control. He hums heavily to cover his anger]

Gingrich: You ... Right! Make him hug the rug.

[The Koch brothers make a pathetic attempt to rub the rug against President Obama's lap]

Gingrich: Right! How do you plead?

Obama [imperturbable]: Innocent.

Beck: Ha! Right! Newt, don't you think he should kneel down and pray?

[Gingrich stands awkwardly, shrugs his shoulders]

Gingrich: I ...

Beck: [gritting his teeth] I know, I know you can't.

Gingrich: I ...

Beck: Just pretend for God's sake. Ha! Ha! Ha!

[Gingrich dreamily grabs the rug and lays it on the floor. Fuzzy focus, dreamy soundtrack...] [Cut abruptly to the group torturing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton]

Beck: Now, old woman - you are accused of heresy on three counts - heresy by thought, heresy by word, heresy by deed, and heresy by action - four counts. Do you confess?

Clinton: I haven't the faintest idea what I'm accused of. Don't you ever watch my press conferences?

Bolton: Ha! Then we'll make you understand! Glenn! Fetch ... the Islamic cushions!

[Jarring chord] [Beck holds out two Islamic-green, made in China cushions]

Beck: There you are. Can you believe they sell these in Manhattan only a few yards away from Ground Zero?

Gingrich: Now, old lady - you have one last chance. Confess the heinous sin of heresy, reject the works of the ungodly - two last chances. And you shall be free - three last chances. You have three last chances, the nature of which I have divulged in my previous utterance.

Clinton: I don't know what you're talking about.

Gingrich: Right! If that's the way you want it - Bolton! Poke her with the Islamic cushions!

[Bolton carries out his pathetic torture] Gingrich: Confess! Confess! Confess!

Bolton: It doesn't seem to be hurting her. I always thought this woman was evil.

Gingrich [angrily hurling away the cushions]: Hmm! She is made of harder stuff! Glenn! Fetch ... the comfy mosque!

[Jarring chord] [Beck pushes in a miniature comfy mosque - a model of the Islamic Center projected for Ground Zero]

Gingrich: So you think you are strong because you can survive the Islamic cushions. Well, we shall see! Give her the comfy mosque!

[They roughly push the comfy mosque into Clinton's lap]

Gingrich [with a cruel leer]: Now - you will be prostrated in front of the comfy mosque until dinner, with only a cup of green tea at sunset. Time to pray, lady! [aside, to Beck]: Is that really all there is?

Beck: That should be enough.

Gingrich: I see. I suppose we make it worse by shouting a lot, do we? Confess, woman. Confess! Confess! Confess! Confess!

Palin [squeakily]: I confess!

Gingrich: Not you!

1. See for example, Mullah Omar Says in Statement Afghan Taliban Near Victory Over US Forces

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

'Dude, you have no Koran'

'Dude, you have no Koran'
By Pepe Escobar

As Islamophobia in the United States reaches bonfire of the vanities proportions - involving a composite of talk show hosts, Republican politicians, Tea Party agitators and wacko preachers (see Nobody expects the American Inquisition Asia Times Online, Sept 11, 2010) - concerned citizens across the world should note that the anti-mosque hate festival this past Saturday in front of the proposed site of Cordoba House, the Islamic community center a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero in New York, totally fizzled out; according to ground witnesses, there were way more reporters present than rabid Islamophobes.

But as a graphic illustration of Islamophobia defeated, nothing beats what happened in Amarillo, Texas, the same day. David Grisham, the wacko director of one Repent Amarillo organization, who had planned his own Koran-burning session in support of Gainesville, Florida, pastor and instant global celebrity Terry Jones, was about to commit the act in front of around 200 people when, out of nowhere comes ...

... the unlikeliest of heroes; Jacob Isom, a 23-year-old, bespectacled local skateboarder. Isom himself described what happened to the Amarillo-Globe News: "I snuck up behind him and took his Koran, he said something about burning the Koran, I said 'Dude you have no Koran,' and ran off." The righteous skateboarder even had time to add to a startled Grisham, "You’re just trying to start holy wars," then handed the unburned Koran to a local Muslim leader.

Repent Amarillo is one of those typical wacko militia American groups, referring to itself as the "Army of God" and with a promotional material modeled on army recruiting pamphlets. Everyone is a target: gays, Muslims, liberal Christians, environmentalists, breast cancer events that do not highlight abortion, Halloween, "spring break events" and pornography shops. Repent Amarillo even led a boycott against the city of Houston after it elected Mayor Annise Parker - a lesbian. Their motto is, "We are the special forces of spiritual warfare, we're looking for a few good warriors."

A lot of people at the would-be Koran-burning site in Amarillo put their hands over a barbecue grill to prevent Grisham from lighting the fire. So this is not only a story about a righteous dude acting like a model citizen. It’s in the same spirit of another citizen observing the Hate Festival near Ground Zero, holding a piece of carton with the words "Real Americans don't burn Korans". At the center of this response is the respect for the constitution of the United States - which ensures the inalienable right of anyone to freely practice the religion of one’s choice.

Cairo, Kabul, Kashmir, Peshawar should read into this that the vast majority of Americans won't be cowed by fear and hate no more, and won't succumb to a new, politically engineered, religious crusade. (Radical) maneuvers by free thinkers and righteous skateboard dudes are showing the way; no paramilitary Christian fascist resists being reduced to ridicule. Now if only Americans could redirect their outrage against the Pentagon drone war against Afghan civilians.

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

The Wild And Wacky World of American War

The American Way of War Quiz
This Was the War Month That Was (Believe It or Not)

By Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse

Yes, it would be funny if it weren’t so grim. After all, when it comes to squandering money and resources in strange and distant places (or even here at home), you can count on the practitioners of American-style war to be wildly over the top.

Oh, those madcap Pentagon bureaucrats and the zany horde of generals and admirals who go with them! Give them credit: no one on Earth knows how to throw a war like they do -- and they never go home.

In fact, when it comes to linking “profligate” to "war," with all the lies, manipulations, and cost overruns that give it that proverbial pizzazz, Americans should stand tall. We are absolutely #1!

Hence, the very first TomDispatch American Way of War Quiz. Admittedly, it covers only the last four weeks of war news you wouldn’t believe if it weren’t in the papers, but we could have done this for any month since October 2001.

Now’s your chance to pit your wits (and your ability to suspend disbelief) against the best the Pentagon has to offer -- and we’re talking about all seventeen-and-a-half miles of corridors in that five-sided, five-story edifice that has triple the square footage of the Empire State Building. To weigh your skills on the TomDispatch Scales of War™, take the 11-question pop quiz below, checking your answers against ours (with accompanying explanations), and see if you deserve to be a four-star general, a gun-totin’ mercenary, or a mere private.

1. With President Obama’s Afghan surge of 30,000 U.S. troops complete, an administration review of war policy due in December, and fears rising that new war commander General David Petraeus might then ask for more troops, what did the general do last week?

a. He informed the White House that he now had too many troops for reasonable operations in Afghanistan and proposed that a drawdown begin immediately.

b. He assured the White House that he was satisfied with the massive surge in troops (civilian employees, contractors, and CIA personnel) and would proceed as planned.

c. He asked for more troops now.

Correct answer: c. General Petraeus has already reportedly requested an extra mini-surge of 2,000 more troops from NATO, and probably from U.S. reserves as well, including more trainers for the Afghan military. In interviews as August ended, he was still insisting that he had “the structures, people, concepts, and resources required to carry out a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaign.” But that was the summer silly season. This is September, a time for cooler heads and larger demands.

2. With President Obama’s announced July 2011 drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in mind, the Pentagon has already:

a. Begun organizing an orderly early 2011 withdrawal of troops from combat outposts and forward operating bases to larger facilities to facilitate the president’s plan.

b. Launched a new U.S. base-building binge in Afghanistan, including contracts for three $100 million facilities not to be completed, no less completely occupied, until late 2011.

c. Announced plans to shut down Kandahar Air Base’s covered boardwalk, including a TGI Friday’s, a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a Mamma Mia’s Pizzeria, and cancelled the opening of a Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs as part of its preparations for an American drawdown.

Correct answer: b. According to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, construction is slated to begin on at least three $100 million air base projects -- “a $100 million area at Shindand Air Base for Special Operations helicopters and unmanned intelligence and surveillance aircraft”; another $100 million to expand the airfield at Camp Dwyer, a Marine base in Helmand Province, also to support Special Operations forces; and a final $100 million for expanded air facilities at Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan. None of these projects are to be completed until well after July 2011. “[R]equests for $1.3 billion in additional fiscal 2011 funds for multiyear construction of military facilities in Afghanistan are pending before Congress.” And fear not, there are no indications that the fast-food joints at Kandahar are going anywhere.

3. The U.S. military has more generals and admirals than:

a. Al-Qaeda members in Yemen.

b. Al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan.

c. Al-Qaeda members in Pakistan.

d. Al-Qaeda members in all three countries.

Correct answer: a, b, c, and d. According to CIA Director Leon Panetta, there are 50 to 100 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, possibly less. Best estimates suggest that there are perhaps “several hundred” al-Qaeda members in poverty-stricken, desertifying, strife-torn Yemen. There are also an estimated “several hundred” members and leaders of the original al-Qaeda in the Pakistani borderlands. The high-end total for al-Qaeda members in the three countries, then, would be 800, though the actual figure could be significantly smaller. According to Ginger Thompson and Thom Shanker of the New York Times, the U.S. military has 963 generals and admirals, approximately 100 more than on September 11, 2001. (The average salary for a general, by the way, is $180,000, which means that the cost of these “stars,” not including pensions, health-care plans, and perks, is approximately $170 million a year.) The U.S. military has 40 four-star generals and admirals at the moment, which may represent more star-power than there are al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has suggested that, as a belt-tightening measure, he might cut the top-heavy U.S. military by 50 positions -- that is, by half the increase since 9/11.

4. With the U.S. military obliged, by agreement with the Iraqi government, to withdraw all U.S. military personnel from Iraq by the end of 2011, the Pentagon has:

a. Decided that, in the interests of Iraqi sovereignty and to save U.S. taxpayers money, all U.S. troops will depart ahead of schedule, leaving Iraq no later than next February.

b. Instituted austerity measures, halted renovations on remaining American bases, and handed over all base construction efforts to the Iraqi government.

c. Continued to sink hundreds of millions of dollars into military base improvements.

Correct answer: c. Jackie Soohen recently toured Balad Air Base in Central Iraq for Democracy Now! That base, described in the past as an American town, has, she points out, “three large gyms, multiple shopping centers, recreation areas, and a movie theater,” not to speak of multiple bus routes and the usual range of fast-food parlors, PXs, and the like. The base, she reports, is still expanding and “on bases like this one..., the military continues to invest hundred of millions in infrastructure improvements, and it is difficult to imagine them fully abandoning everything they are building here.” They are, in fact, not likely to do so anytime soon. There are still more than 5,800 U.S. Air Force personnel in Iraq. Thanks to previous American policies, that country, which once had a large air force, today has only a rudimentary one. The new Iraqi air force is now eager to purchase its first jet fighters, F-16s from Lockheed Martin, but no agreement has been signed or date set for delivery. The Iraqis will still need further years of pilot training to fly those planes when they do arrive in 2013 or later. In the meantime, the U.S. Air Force is almost guaranteed to be the Iraqi Air Force, and U.S. Air Force personnel will undoubtedly remain at Balad Air Base in significant numbers, “withdrawal” or no.

5. What did the Pentagon recently hand over to Iraq?

a. A check for one trillion dollars to reconstruct a country which the U.S. invasion and occupation plunged into a ruinous civil war that cost millions of Iraqis their homes, their jobs, their economic security, their peace of mind, or their lives.

b. An IOU for two trillion dollars to reconstruct a country which the U.S. invasion and occupation plunged into a ruinous civil war that cost millions of Iraqis their homes, their jobs, their economic security, their peace of mind, or their lives.

c. Some hot air.

Correct answer: c. We’ll bet you didn’t know that, in 2003, the U.S. military occupied not only the land of Iraq, but its air, too. Just recently, according to a Pentagon press-release-cum-news-story, “the U.S. Air Force handed over the Kirkuk sector of airspace, 15,000 feet and above, to the ICAA [Iraq Civil Aviation Authority] at Baghdad International Airport.” In November, the U.S. plans to hand over even more hot air, this time in the south of the country -- but not all of it. Iraq will not control all of its air until some time in 2011. Of course, once they have their air back, the Iraqi Air Force will only need planes and trained pilots to make use of it. (See question 4.)

6. The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a “combat-capable brigade-sized unit,” has been deployed three times (according to the U.S. Army) “during Operation Iraqi Freedom -- serving successfully in tough areas including Fallujah, Tall Afar, Ramadi, and Baghdad.” Its lead elements were recently sent from Fort Hood, Texas, to where?

a. Afghanistan as the final installment of President Obama’s surge of U.S. troops into that country.

b. Camp Justice, the U.S. military base in Oman, as a warning to insurgents in neighboring Yemen.

c. Camp Darby in Livorno, Italy, because the war there didn’t end all that long ago and, besides, Switzerland sits threateningly to the north.

d. Juarez, Mexico, because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently declared Mexico’s drug war an “insurgency,” and insurgencies are now an area of U.S. military expertise.

e. Iraq, the country that the “last U.S. combat troops” left less than a month ago.

Correct answer: e. Of course, the "Brave Rifles," as the unit is known, are not -- we repeat not -- combat troops. They’re just, says the Army, “combat capable.” Yes, they’re trained for combat. But take our word for it, they’re NOT combat troops. Yes they’re well armed. But NOT for combat. And yes, they’re an “Armored Cavalry” unit. But it’s NOT about combat, OK? They’re in Iraq strictly in an “advise and assist” capacity. Did we mention that they aren’t a combat unit?

7. With the U.S. military occupation of Iraq due to end in 2011, the American mission there is officially being left to the State Department, representing the civilian side of U.S. foreign policy, which is planning to:

a. Spend about $1.5 billion dollars to set up and run two embassy branch offices and two or more “enduring presence posts” (they used to be called “consulates”), including hiring the necessary armed private contractors.

b. Employ 2,400 people in its (“largest in the world”) embassy, the size of the Vatican (but far better defended) in Baghdad’s Green Zone and at its other posts.

c. More than double its force of private civilian contractors to 6,000-7,000, arm them with cast-off Pentagon heavy weaponry and Apache helicopters, and form them into “quick reaction teams.”

d. Spend another $800 million on a program to train the Iraqi police.

e. Take on more than 1,200 specific tasks previously handled by the U.S. military.

Correct answer: a, b, c, d, and e (and even they don’t cover the subject adequately). Michael Gordon of the New York Times supplied most of the numbers above. Who knows what those 1,200 previously military tasks may be, but, reports the Nation’s Jeremy Scahill, those five “enduring presence posts” are to be set up on what are now U.S. military bases, assumedly so that the Pentagon's costly base-building won’t go completely to waste. It all represents a unique arrangement, since the civilian State Department’s corps of mercenary warriors will then be used to “operate radar to warn of enemy fire, search for roadside bombs, and fly surveillance drones,” among other jobs. Oh, and good news -- if you happen to be a private contractor at least -- that police-training program will be run by private contractors; and even better, just in case the private contractors don’t act on the up-and-up, there will be people specially assigned to provide oversight and they will be... private contractors, of course. How can the new diplomats from the remodeled five-sided State Department go wrong, advancing as they are encased in the latest mine-resistant vehicles known as MRAPS and ever prepared to give peace a chance?

8. When private military contractor Blackwater (now known as Xe Services) found itself in hot water after some of its guards slaughtered 17 Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad square in 2007, the company responded by:

a. Admitting error, while begging forgiveness from, and rapidly paying generous compensation to, the families of the dead Iraqi civilians.

b. Vowing to avoid all armed work in the future and to transform the company into a community-services and elderly care operation.

c. Setting up at least 31 shell companies and subsidiaries through which it could still be awarded contracts by the State Department, the CIA, and the U.S. Army without embarrassment to anyone.

Correct answer: c. So James Risen and Mark Mazzetti reported earlier this month in the New York Times. The company, which is “facing a string of legal problems, including the indictment in April of five former Blackwater officials on weapons and obstruction charges, and civil suits stemming from the 2007 shootings in Iraq,” hasn’t suffered in pocket-book terms. Just this year, it received contracts for $120 million to provide the State Department with security in Afghanistan, and another $100 million to protect the CIA in Afghanistan and elsewhere. (The Agency has awarded Blackwater and its shell companies $600 million since 2001, according to Risen and Mazzetti.)

9. Recently, Iran unveiled a new armed drone, billed as a long-range unmanned aerial bomber and dubbed the “Ambassador of Death” by the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Afterwards, the Pentagon:

a. Cut out drone strikes in Pakistan to send Iran a message that conducting regular attacks on a country with which you are not officially at war is impermissible.

b. Announced plans to rethink the fast-and-loose rules of robotic assassination used in its Terminator wars for the better part of a decade so that Iran could not cite U.S. actions as precedent.

c. Stepped up drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, sometimes carrying out more than one a day.

Correct answer: c. In discussing Washington’s desire to export drone technology to allies, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has termed Iranian drones a “concern.” The U.S. has, however, not only continued to pave the way for Iran (and every other nation and non-state actor) to conduct drone attacks with utter impunity, but accelerated the process. For his part, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley recently echoed Gates, calling Iran’s drones a concern to us and concern to Iran’s neighbors.” Of the new Iranian drone’s hyperbolic unofficial moniker, he said with a laugh, “It’s a curious name for a system.” Perhaps he’s unaware that his own government has dubbed its two marquee armed drones -- with a straight face, mind you -- Predator and Reaper (as in “Grim...”) and that those aircraft launch “Hellfire” missiles. The official name of the Iranian drone is actually the least inflammatory of the three: “Karrar” or "striker."

10. Five hundred million dollars is approximately the amount:

a. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged in July to development projects for Pakistan to “build broader support for the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.”

b. Afghanistan’s troubled Kabul Bank had in cash just weeks ago before its panicked depositors bled it dry.

c. The amount of money the U.S. military will spend on its musical bands this year.

Correct answer: a, b, and c. According to the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus, the U.S. military may now spend $500 million or more annually on its musical bands -- the U.S. Army alone has more than 100 of them -- the same amount used to sway a critically impoverished country of 166 million people in what’s been portrayed as a multigenerational war of paramount importance. At least Kabul Bank now knows where to go for a loan, assuming that Afghans will accept trombones instead of cash.

Blast-from-the-Past Bonus Question

11. Who said, “I think for us to get American military personnel involved in a civil war inside Iraq would literally be a quagmire”?

a. Bob Dylan, mumbled during a live performance in April 2002.

b. Dick Cheney in 1991 when he was George H.W. Bush's Secretary of Defense.

c. George Steinbrenner in an interview with the New York Daily News after the Yankees won the 1998 World Series.

Correct answer: b. If only Cheney had listened to himself when he became vice president. “Several years after occupied Iraq had become the quagmire he once warned about,” writes historian John Dower in his striking new book Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq, “Cheney was asked how to reconcile what he argued in 1991 and disregarded later. ‘Well, I stand by what I said in ’91,’ he replied. ‘But look what’s happened since then -- we had 9/11.’” Sigh.

And believe it or not, folks, that’s it for the wild and wacky world of American war this month. If you answered at least 10 of the American Way of War Quiz questions correctly, consider yourself a four-star general. If you answered 5 to 9 correctly, you qualify as a gun totin’ mercenary (with all the usual Lord of the Flies perks). If you did worse, you’re a buck private in a U.S. Army woodwind ensemble that’s just been dispatched to Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books), has just been published. You can catch him discussing war American-style and his book in a Timothy MacBain TomCast audio interview by clicking here or, to download it to your iPod, here.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. His latest book, The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books), has just been published. He discusses why withdrawal hasn't been on the American agenda in Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast audio interview, which can be accessed by clicking here or downloaded to your iPod here. Turse is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook. His website is

Copyright 2010 Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blackwater./Xe cells conducting false flag terrorist attacks in Pakistan

WMR has learned from a deep background source that Xe Services, the company formerly known as Blackwater, has been conducting false flag terrorist attacks in Pakistan that are later blamed on the entity called "Pakistani Taliban."

Only recently did the US State Department designate the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, a terrorist group. The group is said by the State Department to be an off-shoot of the Afghan Taliban, which had links to "Al Qaeda" before the 9/11 attacks on the United States. TTP's leader is Hakimullah Mehsud, said to be 30-years old and operating from Pakistan's remote tribal region with an accomplice named Wali Ur Rehman. In essence, this new team of Mehsud and Rehman appears to be the designated replacement for Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri as the new leaders of the so-called "Global Jihad" against the West.

However, it is Xe cells operating in Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad and other cities and towns that have, according to our source who witnessed the U.S.-led false flag terrorist operations in Pakistan. Bombings of civilians is the favored false flag event for the Xe team and are being carried out under the orders of the CIA.

However, the source is now under threat from the FBI and CIA for revealing the nature of the false flag operations in Pakistan. If the source does not agree to cooperate with the CIA and FBI, with an offer of a salary, the threat of false criminal charges being brought for aiding and abetting terrorism looms over the source.

The Blackwater/Xe involvement in terrorist attacks in Pakistan have been confirmed by the former head of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), General Hamid Gul, according to another source familiar with the current Xe covert operations. In addition, Pakistani ex-Army Chief of Staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg, reportedly claimed that while serving as president, General Pervez Musharraf approved Blackwater carrying out terrorist operations in Pakistan. Blackwater has been accused of smuggling weapons and munitions into Pakistan.

Earlier this year WMR reported that "intelligence sources in Asia and Europe are reporting that the CIA contractor firm XE Services, formerly Blackwater, has been carrying out 'false flag' terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sinkiang region of China, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq, in some cases with the assistance of Israeli Mossad and Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) personnel . . . A number of terrorist bombings in Pakistan have been blamed by Pakistani Islamic leaders on Blackwater, Mossad, and RAW. Blackwater has been accused of hiring young Pakistanis in Peshawar to carry out false flag bombings that are later blamed on the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. One such bombing took place during the Ashura procession in Karachi last month. The terrorist attacks allegedly are carried out by a secret Blackwater-XE/CIA/Joint Special Operations Command forward operating base in Karachi. The XE Services component was formerly known as Blackwater Select, yet another subsidiary in a byzantine network of shell and linked companies run by Blackwater/Xe on behalf of the CIA and the Pentagon. On December 3, 2009, the Pakistani newspaper Nawa-i-Waqtreported: 'Vast land near the Tarbela dam has also been given to the Americans where they have established bases for their army and air forces. There, the Indian RAW [Research and Analysis Wing] and Israeli Mossad are working in collaboration with the CIA to carry out extremist activities in Pakistan.'"

The bombing of a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan last December was blamed on the TTP but may have actually involved the covert Xe/CIA program to stage false flag attacks and something went drastically wrong with the operation that resulted in the deaths of seven CIA personnel, including the Khost station chief. The TTP was also linked to the failed Times Square "bombing" last May.

Responsibility for the recent bomb attack of a pro-Palestine Shi'a rally in Quetta that killed 54 people was claimed by the Pakistan Taliban, but it was actually carried out by one of the Xe covert cells in the country, acting in concert with the CIA, Israeli Mossad, and Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). The ultimate goal is to destabilize Pakistan to the point where it has no choice but to allow the Western powers to secure its nuclear weapons and remove them from the country in a manner similar to the procurement by the West of South Africa's nuclear weapons prior to the stepping down of the white minority government in the early 1990s.

WMR has been informed that any American, whether or not he or she holds a security clearance, is subject to U.S. national security prohibitions from discussing the U.S.- sponsored terrorist attacks in Pakistan. In one case, a threat was made against an individual who personally witnessed the Xe/CIA terrorist operations but is now threatened, along with family members.