Sunday, February 7, 2016

U.S. Now Overtly at War Against Russia

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on February 2nd that he approves of US ‘Defense’ Secretary Ash Carter’s proposal to quadruple US armaments and troops in Europe, against ‘Russian aggression’.
Secretary Carter said earlier that same day, in his announcement of America’s arming for war against Russia:
We are reinforcing our posture in Europe to support our NATO allies in the face of Russia’s aggression. In Pentagon parlance, this is called the European Reassurance Initiative and after requesting about $800 million for last year, this year we’re more than quadrupling it for a total of $3.4 billion in 2017.
That will fund a lot of things: more rotational US forces in Europe, more training and exercising with our allies, more preposition and war-fighting gear and infrastructure improvements to support all this.
And when combined with US forces already in and assigned to Europe – which are also substantial – all of this together by the end of 2017 will let us rapidly form a highly capable combined arms ground force that can respond across that theater, if necessary.
The US is preparing for an invasion of Russia.
«By the end of 2017» the US will be prepared to invade Russia.
Secretary Carter went on to say:
Russia and China are our most stressing competitors. They have developed and are continuing to advance military system[s] that seek to threaten our advantages in specific areas. And in some case[s], they are developing weapons and ways of wars that seek to achieve their objectives rapidly, before they hope, we can respond.
Because of this and because of their actions to date, from Ukraine to the South China Sea, DOD has elevated their importance in our defense planning and budgeting.
Since he is a Secretary of ‘Defense’ instead of a Secretary of Offense, he immediately added:
While we do not desire conflict of any kind with either of these nations – and let me be clear.
That’s all there was to the assertion there; he didn’t finish the sentence, nor even the thought. But in this offhanded way, he did at least try to give the impression that the US is never an aggressor – for example: that, though the US is expanding NATO right up to Russia’s borders, Russia is being the ‘aggressor’ to move troops and weapons up to those borders – up to Russia’s own borders (to counter the US & NATO invasion-threat, of course; but, no: it’s to threaten NATO, if you believe the West).
In the statements by Ash Carter, Barack Obama, and Jens Stoltenberg, that’s ‘Russian aggression’. In the allegory by George Orwell, 1984, America’s rhetoric is called simply «Newspeak».
It’s as if during the Soviet Union (i.e., before 1991), when Nikita Khrushchev was the aggressor in 1962 and John Kennedy was the defender (against Soviet missiles in Cuba), Khrushchev had refused to yield and said that Soviet nuclear missiles near the US had only a defensive, not offensive, purpose (no purpose for a blitz nuclear attack against the US too fast for the US to be able to get its missiles launched in retaliation). Kennedy said no to that idea then, and Putin says no to that idea (right on Russia’s very borders) now. The US, in post-Soviet, post-communist, Russia, has turned around and become the aggressor – against the now democratic nation of Russia. (And Putin’s approval-rating from the Russian people is at least 80%, whereas Obama’s approval-rating from the American people is near 50%.)
We’ve switched roles. The US has turned to dictatorship, while Russia has turned to democracy. It’s a super-switcheroo. ‘Democracy’ in the US has become, during recent decades, the election of Presidents and congresspersons who were campaigning on lies, and who then actually delivered more like the opposite, as their actual governmental policies.
A good example of this is that when Mr Obama was campaigning for re-election to the Presidency in 2012, he outright mocked his opponent Mitt Romney’s asserting (2:22 on the video) that, «Russia, this is without question our number one geopolitical foe». But the moment that Obama became re-elected, Obama activated a 1957 CIA plan to overthrow Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and a more-recent CIA and State Department plan to overthrow the actually neutralist Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine and replace him with a rabidly anti-Russian government. The head of Stratfor called it «the most blatant coup in history,» and it was an extremely bloody coup, followed by a civil war – and economic collapse, and even more corruption there. In addition, Obama carried out a French plan to overthrow Russia’s ally Muammar Gaddafi in Syria.
All of these plans were strongly welcomed by Russia’s main oil-market competitors, all of them fundamentalist Sunni Arab financial backers of jihadists: the Saud royal family of Saudi Arabia, and the Thani royal family of Qatar, as well as the Sabah royal family of Kuwait, and the six royal families of the UAE. Those royals own most of the world’s oil, and only Russia and its ally Iran are even in that league. All of those Sunni Arab royal families (especially the Sauds) are the main financial backers of al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other jihadist groups, all of which are fundamentalist Sunni terrorist groups, which especially aim to exterminate all Shiites – and Shiites just happen to be supported by Russia. (The US overthrew the democratically elected progressive President of Iran and installed the tyrannous Shah, back in 1953, and Iranians have loathed the US government ever since.)
President Obama, in his second Administration, ceased his previous focus against the Sunni group al-Qaeda, and refocused US policy to be against Russia, even to the extent of supporting al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other rabidly anti-Russian Sunni groups, who are driving millions of refugees from Syria, Libya, etc., into Europe. (Of course, Obama’s rhetoric remains against those Sunni extremists – just as his rhetoric was against Romney’s policies that Obama ended up imposing in his second term.) All of those terrorist groups are allied with the Sunni Arab royal families against Shiite-led Iran, and Shiite-allied Syria.
The fundamentalist Sunni beliefs of the Arab royal families have, since at least 1744, been committed to exterminating all Shiites. Now that Shiite and Shiite-allied nations are supported by Russia, the United States is more overtly than ever preparing to conquer Russia, for the benefit of the aristocracies of America, and of Arabia.
And there are many other examples of President Obama’s policies exposing him to be an example of «the election of Presidents and congresspersons who were campaigning on lies, and who then actually delivered more like the opposite, as policies», such as his claiming to champion democracy in Syria when his actual demand regarding Syria is to block democracy there because all the evidence shows that it would result in an overwhelming electoral victory for Bashar al-Assad. And another example is Obama’s support of the right of self-determination of peoples regarding Scotland and Catalonia, but not in Crimea, nor in Donbas, nor in Abkhazia. The United Nations supports the right of self-determination of peoples everywhere, and Ban Ki-moon has clearly stated that America’s demand for the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power is alien to the principles upon which the United Nations was founded.
 
So: the US regime is moving toward a nuclear confrontation against Russia, as a ‘defensive’ measure against ‘Russian aggression’.
Obama had previously used ‘The Iran Threat’ as his basis for placing anti-ballistic missiles in European countries near and bordering Russia, but he can’t do that anymore and so he’s now doing it with what had been his actual motive all along: to ‘protect’ Europe from ‘Russian aggression’.
What had led up to Romney’s assertion that Russia «is without question our number one geopolitical foe» was his having been baited by CNN to comment upon a private statement that Obama had made to Dmitry Medvedev, saying that, «This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility». CNN didn’t say what that matter was about, but simply baited Romney with it for Romney to play the Red-scare Joseph R. McCarthy role, which Romney did (McCarthy, of the anti-communist witch-hunts, being a Republican hero). Reuters explained what the context was, what Obama had been replying to there: Putin’s concern was that placing anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs) in Europe to strip Russia of its ability to retaliate against a first-strike from NATO forces in Europe, was unacceptable. Obama was telling that he would «have more flexibility» against Republican hate-mongers against Russia, after he’d win re-election. It was just another lie from him. He won re-election and turned out to be actually a black Mitt Romney. In fact, Obama had spent his entire first term deceiving the entire world to think that he rejected Republicans being «stuck in a Cold War mind warp», as he put it. It was all merely an act for him. He should be in Hollywood, not in the White House.
If this cat gets much farther out of the bag, it’s not just the cat but the whole world that will be lost.
The first priority for a President Bernie Sanders, or for a President Donald Trump, must be to undo the Bush-Obama foreign policy, because it certainly won’t be undone by a President Hillary Clinton, nor by a President Ted Cruz, nor by a President Marco Rubio – and this is the main thing that’s at stake in the current US Presidential contest. What’s at stake here is nothing less than whether civilization even survives another few decades. That’s now seriously at question, and trillions are being spent right now to bring it to an end.
This isn’t kid’s stuff. And it’s not really rocket science, either. It’s instead a fundamental and stark moral issue, that’s staring the entire world in the face right now. And it hasn’t got a thing to do with religion, but it has a lot to do with restoring democracy where it has been eroded down to virtually nothing.
Democracy requires a truthfully informed public. And that’s the truth. Let’s get with it, before it’s too late to do so.
The likelihood of a nuclear war has never been higher than it is now, except perhaps for the Cuban Missile Crisis, but the entire world was being informed about that then, and what about the situation now? This time around, the situation is perhaps even more serious. The urgency of the situation is critical.
Is this the type of ‘news’ coverage we’ll continue to get on the world’s top matter – that Russia is invading our territory, when we’re actually constantly invading (and perpetrating coups) in theirs, and they’re actually doing what they must do in order to defend the Russian people themselves from NATO?
End NATO now. Or else it (and its cooperative ‘news’ media in the West) will end us all. The whole expansion of NATO up to Russia’s borders has been based upon US President George Herbert Walker Bush’s lie to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, which induced Gorbachev to end not just the Soviet Union but their equivalent of NATO, the Warsaw Pact – all of which Russia did do in 1991. Russia has consistently fulfilled its part of the bargain, but GHWB’s vicious violation of his promise has been consistently followed, adhered to, by American Presidents ever since. The deceit goes on, and the US is now heading towards culminating the most dangerous lie in world history.

US Congressional memos highlight price-gouging strategies of drug companies

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Two recently released congressional documents outline the price-gouging strategies of Turing Pharmaceuticals and Valeant Pharmaceuticals and the companies’ public relations efforts to address the inevitable public backlash.
On Tuesday, Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued two supplemental memos to Democratic committee members in preparation for Thursday’s hearing on drug prices.
The memos summarize findings based on more than 300,000 pages of new documents obtained from Turing Pharmaceuticals (250,000 pages) and Valeant Pharmaceuticals (75,000 pages).
“These new documents provide a rare, inside look at the motivations and tactics of drug company executives,” said Cummings in a press release.
“They confirm what Americans across the country have experienced firsthand for years—that many drug companies are lining their pockets at the expense of some of the most vulnerable families in our nation,” Cumming said. “The documents show that these tactics are not limited to a few ‘bad apples,’ but are prominent throughout the industry.”

Turing Pharmaceuticals

Turing Pharmaceuticals made headlines last year after its former CEO Martin Shkreli purchased the drug Daraprim from Impax Laboratories for $55 million and then jacked up the price by 5,000 percent, from $13.50 to $750.
The drug, which is used to treat toxoplasmosis in individuals with compromised immune systems, had been affordable and widely available before it was acquired by Turing. As a Senate Hearing noted in December, the price hike made Daraprim prohibitively expensive and restricted patient access.
“The documents,” states the congressional Turing memo, “demonstrate that although Mr. Shkreli spent no funds on developing Daraprim, which has been on the market for decades, he purchased it for the purpose of increasing the price dramatically and making hundreds of millions of dollars by exploiting its existing monopoly before any competitors could enter the market, which Mr. Shkreli expected would not occur for a number of years.”
Shkreli, who was arrested in December on charges of securities fraud, was called to testify at Thursday’s hearing but refused to answer questions, repeatedly citing his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
By hiking the price, Shkreli expected sales revenues from Daraprim to jump from $10 million per year to an excess of $200 million. An internal financial forecast projected a “GROSS PROFIT” of $134 million in 2016. In an email dated May 27, 2015 to the chairman of the board of directors discussing the significant progress made towards acquiring Daraprim, Shkreli wrote: “$1bn here we come.”
“We raised the price from $1,700 per bottle to $75,000,” Shkreli wrote to a contact in an email dated August 27. “So 5,000 paying bottles at the new price is $375,000,000—almost all of it is profit and I think we will get 3 years of that or more. Should be a very handsome investment for all of us.”
While a “handsome investment” for Shkreli, the price hike entailed significant financial hardships for patients. Documents reveal that Turing was aware that patients were left with co-pays ranging from $1,000 to $16,000.
The company also received numerous letters and emails from hospitals and health care providers describing the negative impacts of the price increase. Even Dr. Rima McLeod of the University of Chicago, one of the few physicians to support Turing as it hiked the price of Daraprim, raised concerns on October 9 about patient access, writing:
“This sounds like smoke and mirrors when someone’s sight and life are threatened and is not acceptable. … There really cannot be delays. People will really be hurt lifelong. You have a monopoly on safe reliable medicine right now and it truly matters for people’s lives.”
According to the documents, Turing executives anticipated a backlash, “but believed that physicians generally are not sensitive to price increases and that HIV/AIDS advocates—while organized and vocal—could be managed,” says the memo.
For example, a July 7 company presentation stated: “Many feel the number of toxoplasmosis patients is too small to stimulate a significant lobbying effort were the cost of therapy to become an issue.” On September 21, an outside consultant advised senior management of the company on how to handle negative coverage: “If we can get HIV/AIDS activists to ‘sit this one out,’ we come out way ahead.”
The memo also details the public relations (PR) strategy employed by Turing, which sought to divert attention away from the price hikes by focusing on patient assistance programs (PAPs) and research and development (R&D) efforts.
“Internal communications,” states the memo, “show that Turing officials joked about this strategy and did not in fact intend to lower the price of Daraprim.”
As the controversy over the pricing of Daraprim grew, an outside consultant emailed a member of Turing’s board of directors on October 8 with PR advice aimed at “more long term reputation rehabilitation by forcing a focus on Turing as a research and development company—not a pharma hedge fund hybrid.”
Internal documents reveal that Turing Pharmaceutical’s claims that the added revenue from the drug sales would be invested in R&D was simply a ruse. On December 8, Dr. McLeod emailed company officials stating that she was unaware “of what makes Turing solvent and able to do research …”
“However,” she continued, “Martin [Shkreli] did say that he had to maximize profit for investors and that was why price is high. He did not say it was for research primarily that it was a high price. He called that the ‘dirty secret’ of pharma.”

Valeant Pharmaceuticals

Valeant Pharmaceuticals came to the attention of legislators after it acquired two heart drugs in February 2015 and raised their prices by 525 percent (Isuprel) and 212 percent (Nitropress). This was after the drug’s previous owner, Marathon Pharmaceuticals, had raised the prices of the respective drugs by 384 percent and 486 percent after acquiring them in 2013.
“The documents indicate,” states the congressional Valeant memo, “that [Valeant CEO] Pearson purchased Isuprel and Nitropress in order to dramatically increase their prices and drive up his company’s revenues and profits.”
Similar to Turing, Valeant’s R&D spending on the two drugs was “nominal.”
Valeant’s price-gouging activities went well beyond Isuprel and Nitropress, raising the prices of more than 20 additional products by over 200 percent from 2014 to 2015. “Valeant raised the prices of several of these products multiple times from 2014 to 2015, in some cases by as much as 800%,” says the memo.
Like Turing and other pharmaceutical companies, Valeant employed a PR strategy to distract from the price hikes and focus attention on patient assistance programs. “Kind of hard to paint us as greedy if we have removed financial barriers for patients,” states a September 20, 2013 letter from Valeant executives.
“In fact,” states the memo, “the documents indicate that Valeant used its patient assistance programs to justify raising prices and to generate increased revenues by driving patients into closed distribution systems.”
While the memos focused on only two companies, the practice of hiking prices to enrich shareholders and then obfuscating the issue through public relations is endemic to the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. Last year, drug prices rose by an average of 10.4 percent, the third year in a row of double-digit price increases.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pentagon budget: A blueprint for World War III

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Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s speech Tuesday previewing the Pentagon budget for fiscal year 2017 spelled out Washington’s advanced preparations for military confrontations with the world’s second- and third-largest nuclear powers, Russia and China.
Delivered to the Economic Club of Washington, DC, an appreciative audience whose sponsors include the major arms manufacturers Boeing and Northrop Grumman as well as financial giants like Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, the defense secretary’s speech presented an unabashed declaration of Washington’s intentions to assert its hegemony over the world’s markets and resources by whatever means necessary, up to and including a nuclear holocaust.
The presentation made by Carter, a longtime technocrat of America’s military industrial complex, provides a powerful vindication of the warnings made by the International Committee of the Fourth International and the World Socialist Web Site that the deepening crisis of US and global capitalism is posing a real and growing danger of a Third World War.
The biggest increase proposed in the Pentagon budget is the quadrupling of funding for the US military buildup against Russia in Europe—projected to rise from $800 million to $3.4 billion. In addition to the 65,000 troops Washington already garrisons on the European continent, the funding increase will pay for the “heel to toe” rotation of full armored combat brigades into the former Baltic republics, on Russia’s doorstep, as well as other eastern European countries.
This proposal represents a flagrant and provocative violation of the agreements reached with Moscow in the wake of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union not to station large numbers of NATO troops on Russia’s borders.
In addition, large quantities of military hardware, including tanks, artillery, infantry fighting vehicles and other weaponry, are to be stockpiled in close striking distance to Russia to allow for the speedy intervention of additional US combat brigades from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to Poland Bulgaria and Romania.
President Barack Obama issued a statement Tuesday declaring that the 400 percent increase in funding to encircle Russia “will enable the United States to strengthen our robust military posture in Europe and improve our ability to uphold our Article 5 commitments to NATO members.” By invoking Article 5, which requires NATO to militarily defend any member against attack, Obama was reiterating the vow he made in 2014 that the US would put “boots on the ground” to defend the Baltic republics, thereby making their right-wing and virulently anti-Russian regimes the trip wire for a war that would have incalculable consequences.
The other major focus of Carter’s speech and of the proposed budget itself is the buildup of US military pressure against China under the banner of the “pivot to Asia,” with particular emphasis on the modernization of the US war fleet for confrontations in the South China Sea.
Carter did not mince words about Washington objectives, which are to use military force to maintain US hegemony in Asia and quell any threat to its dominant position from the rising economic power of China, subordinating China to US economic and strategic interests and reducing it to a semi-colony of US imperialism.
The US, the defense secretary said, would act to “maintain the stability in the region that we have underwritten for 70 years,” warning China that “to disrupt the security environment where half of humanity lives and half of humanity’s economic behavior is not a good idea.”
Washington, he continued, was carrying out its military buildup to be able “to impose unacceptable costs on an advanced aggressor that will either dissuade them from taking provocative action or make them deeply regret it if they do.”
Employing the language of total war, Carter added, “In this context, Russia and China are our most stressing competitors.”
All of these proposals to escalate military confrontations that lead in the direction of global catastrophe are being made without even the semblance of a public debate, never mind the support of the American people, who have repeatedly demonstrated their hostility to militarism and war. The drive toward World War III is unfolding largely behind the backs of the public, with the corporate media and the two major parties showing no interest whatsoever in making the chilling implications of the Pentagon’s preparations known to the population.
As for Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president, his role as a rubber stamp for the US military and intelligence apparatus was briefly noted in Carter’s remarks Tuesday. Asked whether there would be a further increase in the number of US troops deployed in Iraq and Syria—where funding for military operations is also being increased by 50 percent to $7.5 billion—he responded in the affirmative, adding, “Every time the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and I have asked the president for more capability to do that, he said yes, and I expect that will continue.”
The massive spending on war preparations is to be paid for through ever more draconian attacks on the living standards, jobs and social conditions of the broad masses of working people. The extent of the diversion of social resources to militarism can be seen in the Pentagon’s proposal to increase its spending on research and development for the production of newer and more deadly weapons to nearly $72 billion. This amount alone exceeds the entire US federal budget for education in 2015, never mind the trillions more that are to be spent in the coming years for new generations of nuclear submarines, bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
In July 2014, the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) issued a statement entitled “Socialism and the Fight Against Imperialist War.” The statement drew out the fundamental dynamics of the drive toward world war that find expression in Carter’s speech and the Pentagon’s proposed budget. It declared:
“The danger of a new world war arises out of the fundamental contradictions of the capitalist system—between the development of a global economy and its division into antagonistic nation states, in which the private ownership of the means of production is rooted. This finds its most acute expression in the drive of US imperialism to dominate the Eurasian landmass, above all those areas from which it was excluded for decades by the Russian and Chinese revolutions. In the west, the US, in league with Germany, has orchestrated a fascist-led coup to bring Ukraine under its control. But its ambitions do not stop there. The ultimate objective is to dismember the Russian Federation, reducing it to a series of semi-colonies to open the way for the plunder of its vast natural resources. In the east, the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia is aimed at encircling China and transforming it into a semi-colony. Here, the objective is to ensure domination of the cheap labour that is one of the key global sources of the surplus value extracted from the working class and the life-blood of the capitalist economy.”
The ICFI went on to explain that the objective roots of the US drive for world domination ensure that an imperialist world war is inevitable outside of the revolutionary intervention of the international working class to put an end to the capitalist system and establish socialism. It stressed that the same contradictions that are the driving forces for war provide the objective impulse for socialist revolution.
In the year and a half since the ICFI issued its statement, these contradictions have only sharpened, intensifying existing wars and heightening the danger of new ones from the Middle East, to Eastern Europe, to the South China Sea, while at the same time driving the working class into increasingly bitter struggles against austerity and exploitation.
The historic question confronting humanity is the necessity for the working class to carry out the world socialist revolution before the capitalist ruling class can complete its descent into a war that threatens nuclear extinction. This places the greatest urgency on the political task of building the Fourth International as the revolutionary leadership of the world working class.

Pentagon budget directed toward war with Russia and China

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Presenting a preview of the Pentagon’s $583 billion budget, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stressed that the US military is shifting its focus toward war against both Russia and China even as it escalates ongoing interventions in the Middle East.
Speaking before the Economic Club of Washington Tuesday morning, Carter said the gargantuan budget for fiscal year 2017, which is to be presented next week, had been prepared to confront what he called “a new strategic era.” The thrust of Carter’s speech, delivered in the dry cadence of a longtime technocrat in the field of mass destruction, was that US imperialism is preparing for a new world war.
The biggest single change in the budget is the quadrupling of funding for the so-called European Reassurance Initiative, which is being increased from $789 million to $3.4 billion. This initiative was introduced by the Obama administration in the wake of the crisis provoked in Ukraine two years ago, when the US and Germany orchestrated a coup spearheaded by neo-fascist forces that overthrew the Moscow-aligned government of President Viktor Yanukovych.
In September 2014, Obama, speaking in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, committed the US to the military defense of the three former Soviet Baltic republics, vowing that this pledge was “unwavering” and “eternal” and would include “American boots on the ground.”
According to a report published Tuesday in the New York Times, the increased funding will be used to ensure that the US and NATO maintain a full armored combat brigade at all times on Russia’s western border, along with the forward deployment of weapons and military hardware in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as in other eastern European countries such as Hungary and Romania.
The Times quoted a Pentagon official as saying that what was being prepared was a “heel to toe” rotational troop presence in the region, meaning that combat units would be continuously deployed. This provocative and reckless tactic is designed to evade a 1997 agreement with Moscow known as the NATO-Russia Founding Act, in which both sides pledged not to station large numbers of troops on each other’s borders.
The US, Carter insisted, must have the capacity to counter Russia “theater-wide,” meaning it must maintain forces capable of attacking Russia wherever it sees fit.
The money for this anti-Russian escalation is to be taken from the Overseas Contingency Operations account, the war-fighting fund that has paid for US wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. While from an accounting standpoint this is meant to circumvent spending caps on the Pentagon’s regular budget, it also signals that what is involved is the active preparation for a military confrontation between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
Included in the budget proposal are plans for a substantial buildup of US imperialism’s nuclear war arsenal. It calls for the allocation of $13 billion over the next five years to develop and produce a fleet of new submarines armed with nuclear ballistic missiles. Pentagon sources said it also provides for a new Air Force bomber as well as new generation of land-based nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Pentagon’s proposed budget emphasizes the development of naval firepower, with the aim of escalating the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia,” which has seen increasingly provocative US military operations in the South China Sea. “We’re making all these investments that you see in our defense budget that are specifically oriented towards checking the development of the Chinese military,” Carter said.
The pretense that funding for the vast US military apparatus is driven by the need to keep up with the growth of the Chinese or Russian military is absurd on its face. American military spending last year was greater than that of the next seven largest powers combined. It spent nearly three times as much as China and roughly seven times as much as Russia.
Carter listed five “challenges” that he said the Pentagon budget must seek to counter. At the top of the list were Russia and China, followed by North Korea and Iran. Dead last were the ongoing US interventions against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which was lumped together with the so-called war on terror generally, which for nearly 15 years has been presented to the American people as the justification for the uninterrupted growth of American militarism.
Nonetheless, the Pentagon budget provides a substantial increase in funding in this area as well. Totaling $7.5 billion, it includes $1.8 billion to pay for 45,000 bombs and rockets needed to replenish the stockpile that has been depleted by continuous air strikes in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
The US defense secretary emphasized that the shift in strategy was based on a “return to great power competition.” This required the US military to prepare to confront “a high-end enemy” with the “full spectrum” of armed power. This situation, he added, was “drastically different than the last 25 years,” referring to the period since the Moscow Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Carter insisted that “America is still today the world’s leader” and the “underwriter of stability and security in every region across the globe, as we have been since World War II.”
The US military, he said, had to prepare for confrontation with those “who see America’s dominance and want to take that away from us… in the future so we can’t operate effectively around the globe.”
The mission spelled out by the US defense secretary is essentially a military struggle to impose US control over every corner of the planet. America’s residual military superiority is to be employed to counter the effects of the protracted decline of American capitalism and its domination of the global economy. To this end, US imperialism must confront every real or potential rival for both global and regional hegemony. The path outlined in Carter’s speech leads inexorably toward World War III.

Obama and the Pentagon Plan Massive Military Escalation and the Media Barely Seem to Care

U.S. troops are going back into Iraq, our presence in Libya is escalating, and Obama has widened the war in Afghanistan—all without much of a public debate.

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Almost five years after the United States and its NATO allies launched a campaign in Libya to overthrow Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the United States is on the verge of massively escalating its military operations in the war-torn country. According [3] to the New York Times, the new effort is “expected to include airstrikes and raids by elite American troops.” It is unclear how long this newest effort will last.

The announcement comes on the heels of U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announcing combat troops were going back to Iraq last week [4]. While U.S special forces have been conducting “clandestine reconnaissance missions in Libya to identify militant leaders and map out their networks” over the past year, the New York Times report marks the first time overt combat troops will be deployed in the North African nation.

The 2011 campaign was itself something of a bait and switch. What was originally sold as simply a no-fly zone quickly became regime change. A few weeks after the UN-sanctioned bombing of Libya’s infrastructure and air capacity, the scope of the campaign pivoted when President Obama, along with Presidents Sarkozy and Cameron of France and the UK respectively, announced the entirely new objective [5]: NATO airstrikes, in concert with ongoing CIA support of rebels, to overthrow the Qaddafi government.

After this was quickly achieved, the pundit classes rallied to congratulate a job well done. As Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept noted Wednesday [6]:
War advocates such as Anne-Marie Slaughter [7] and Nicholas Kristof [8] were writing columns celebrating their prescience and mocking war opponents as discredited, and the New York Times published a front-page article [9] declaring: “U.S. Tactics in Libya May be a Model for Other Efforts.”
It was widely expected that Hillary Clinton, one of the leading advocates for and architects of the bombing campaign, would be regarded as a Foreign Policy Visionary for the grand Libya success: “We came, we saw, he died,” Clinton sociopathically boasted [10] about the mob rape and murder of Qaddafi [11] while guffawing on 60 Minutes.
Despite the fanfare at the “overthrow” of Qaddafi (who suffered a brutal death [11] at the hands of a mob), not much has been made of the U.S. military’s slow escalation of its involvement in Libya over the past year. This time the objective, much like in Iraq after the U.S. deposed its leader, is destroying the presence of ISIS, a process that could take, in the words [12] of former Defense Secretary Panetta, “thirty years.” And it's an escalation that has largely gone under the public's radar.

Slowly trickling wars are a common feature in U.S. policy. The latest war in Iraq against ISIS was originally sold as “limited,” “humanitarian” airstrikes [13] to save the Yezidi trapped on a mountain from ISIS, and it has now gone on for over a year and a half, spans two countries, and soon will include “boots on the ground.” All this with neither the corporate media nor Congress, which hasn’t yet brought military authorization to a vote, paying much attention.

This new level of indifference on the part of the public about what is an ISIS war spiraling into a massive global effort has even bothered the normally hawkish Times. In the context of Libya, it wrote [3]:
This significant escalation is being planned without a meaningful debate in Congress about the merits and risks of a military campaign that is expected to include airstrikes and raids by elite American troops.
That is deeply troubling. A new military intervention in Libya would represent a significant progression of a war that could easily spread to other countries on the continent. It is being planned as the American military burrows more deeply into battlegrounds in Syria and Iraq, where American ground troops are being asked to play an increasingly hands-on role in the fight.
It’s always difficult to tell if public indifference is what leads to a media blackout or the other way around, but the Times is correct that a broad public discussion about the wisdom of committing to potentially decades-long military efforts is disturbingly absent.

When the U.S. began its anti-ISIL efforts in August 2014, ISIL was in two countries. Now, after tens of thousands of aerial ordinances have been dropped on two continents, ISIS now has a presence in over 20 countries [14]. The U.S. has even expanded its war in Afghanistan [15] to include ISIS, the White House announced last Thursday. None of the major presidential candidates, including the most progressive member of the U.S. Congress, Bernie Sanders, outwardly opposes the U.S.' current anti-ISIL efforts, including the once-unpopular drone program. 

Over the past two weeks, the Defense Department and the Obama administration have been peppering the media with their plans to massively increase the war effort in Libya as well as Iraq, Afghanistan and potentially elsewhere. All the evidence points to the fact that war-makers in Washington and Brussels are gearing up for a major effort that could very well last a long time. The question is, will we ever have a public debate about it? 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Western Aggression is the Highest Form of Terrorism

Go To Original
Aggression is arguably the highest form of terrorism as it invariably includes the frightening of the target populations and their leaders as well as killing and destruction on a large scale. . And millions of Iraqis suffered in this massive enterprise. Benjamin Netanyahu himself defined terrorism as “the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends.” This would seem to make both the Iraq war (2003 onward) and the serial  Israeli wars on Gaza (2008-2009; 2012; 2014) cases of serious terrorism.

Disclaiming Deliberateness

How do the responsible U.S. and Israeli leaders escape this designation? One trick is the disclaiming of any “deliberateness” in the killing of civilians. It is “collateral damage” in the  pursuit of proper targets (Iraqi soldiers, Hamas, etc.). This is a factual lie, as there is overwhelming evidence that in both the Iraq and Gaza wars the killing of civilians was on a large scale and often not comprehensible in terms of  genuine military objectives. (I give many illustrations in “They kill reporters, don’t they? Yes—as Part of a System of Information Control That Will Allow the Mass Killing of Civilians,” Z Magazine, December 2004. That this goes back a long way is well documented in Nick Turse’s  Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, Metropolitan, 2014.) But even if  the killings were only collateral damage, the regular failure to avoid killing civilians—including a built-in carelessness and/or reliance on undependable sources of information—is  both a war crime and terrorism.
Recall that the Geneva Conventions state that combatants “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and, accordingly, shall direct their operations only against military objectives” (Part IV, Chap. 1, Article 48). Also, if civilian casualties are extremely likely in bombing attacks against purported military targets, even if the specific civilians killed were not intended victims, their deaths—some deaths—were predictable, hence in an important sense deliberate. Michael Mandel, while dismantling the claim of non-deliberateness in the usual collateral damage killing of civilians, points out that even in Texas a man who shoots someone dead while aiming at somebody else is guilty of murder (How America Gets Away With Murder, Pluto). A second line of defense of U.S. and Israeli killing of civilians, only occasionally made explicit, is that the civilians killed are helping out the enemy armed forces—they are the sea in which the terrorist fish swim—so this makes them legitimate targets. This opens up vast possibilities for ruthless attacks and the mass killing of civilians, notorious in the Vietnam war, but also applicable in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gaza. Civilian killings are sometimes admitted to be an objective by official sources, but not often, and the subject is not focused on by the mainstream media.
This rationale may placate the home population, but it does not satisfy international law or widely held moral rules. The same is true of the retaliation defense. The United States and Israel are always allegedly retaliating for prior aggressive acts of their targets. Deadly actions by the target military or their supporters, even if they clearly follow some deadly action by the United States or Israel, are never deemed retaliatory and thus justifiable. It has long been a claimed feature of the Israeli ethnic cleansing project that Israel only retaliates, the Palestinians provoke and virtually compel an Israeli response. In fact, the Israelis have long taken advantage of this bias in Western reporting at strategic moments by attacking just enough to induce a Palestinian response, that justifies a larger scale “retaliatory” action by Israel.

The Supreme Crime

Of course all of these tricks work only because an array of Western institutions, including, but not confined to, the media, follow the demands of Western (and mainly U.S.) interests. For example, although the Nuremberg judgment against the Nazis features aggression as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,” because the United States is virtually in the full-time business of committing aggression (attacking across borders without Security Council approval), the UN and “international community” (i.e. Western and even many non-Western leaders, not public) do nothing when the United States engages in aggression. The brazen 2003 invasion of Iraq called forth no UN condemnation or sanctions against the U.S. aggression, and the UN quickly began to cooperate with the invader-occupiers. The word aggression is rarely applied to that massive and hugely destructive attack either in the media or learned discourse, but it is applied with regularity to the Russian occupation of Crimea which entailed no casualties and could be regarded as a defensive response to the U.S.-sponsored February 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was surely not defensive, and was rationalized at the time on the basis of what were eventually acknowledged to be plain lies. (For an exception to the establishment’s villainization of Russia in the Ukraine conflict, see John Mearsheimer, “The Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault,” Foreign Affairs, Sept.-Oct. 2014.)

The Most Murderous?

Perhaps the most murderous aggression and ultra-terrorism of the last 40 years, involving millions of civilian deaths, has been the Rwanda-Uganda invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), beginning in 1996 and still ongoing. But the invasion’s leaders, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, were (and still are) U.S. clients, hence they have been subject to no international tribunal nor threat from the Security Council or International Criminal Court, and there has been no media featuring of the vast crimes carried out in this area. You have to be a U.S. target to get that kind of attention, as with Iran, Syria, and Russia. These rules also apply to the major human rights groups.
Both Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) have a rule that they will not focus on the origins of a conflict, but will attend only to how the conflict is carried out. This is wonderfully convenient to a country that commits aggression on a regular basis, but it flies in the face of logic or the UN Charter’s foundational idea that aggression is the supreme international crime that the world must prevent and punish.
Thus, neither HRW nor AI condemned the United States for invading Iraq or bombing Serbia, but confined their attention to the war crimes of both the aggressor and target, but mainly the target. HRW is especially notorious for its huge bias in featuring the war crimes of U.S. targets, underplaying the criminality of the aggressor, and calling for international action against the victim (see Herman, Peterson and Szamuely, “Human Rights Watch in the Service of the War Party,” Electric Politics, February 26, 2007). During the period leading up to the U.S.-UK attack on Iraq, HRW head Kenneth Roth had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Indict Saddam” (March 22, 2002).
Thus beyond failing to oppose the imminent war of aggression, this human rights group leader was providing a public relations cover for the “supreme international crime.” His organization also failed to report on and condemn the “sanctions of mass destruction” against Iraq that had devastating health effects on Iraqi civilians, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths. For HRW these were “unworthy victims.”
In the case of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s invasion and massacres of 1990-1994, HRW and its associates (notably Alison Des Forges) played an important role in focusing on and condemning the defensive responses of the Rwanda government to the military and the subversive advances of the U.S.-supported invading army of Tutsi from Uganda, thereby making a positive contribution to the mass killings in Rwanda and later in the DRC (see Herman and Peterson, Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later, Real News Books, 2014).
Similarly, the ad hoc international tribunals established in the last several decades have always been designed to exclude aggression and to focus on war crimes and “genocide.” And they are directed at U.S. targets (Serbia, the Hutu of Rwanda) that are actually the victims of aggression, who are then subjected to a quasi-judicial process that is fraudulent and a perversion of justice (On the Yugoslavia tribunal, see John Laughland, Travesty, Pluto, 2007; on Rwanda, Sebastien Chartrand and John Philpot, Justice Belied: The Unbalanced Scale of International Criminal Justice, Baraka Books, 2014).
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was also organized with “aggression” excluded from its remit, in deference to the demands of the Great Aggressor, who still refused to join because there remained the theoretical possibility that a U.S. citizen might be brought before the court. The ICC still made itself useful to the Great Aggressor by indicting Gadaffi in preparation for the U.S.-NATO war of aggression against Libya.
In short, terrorism thrives. That is, state terrorism, as in the serial U.S. wars—direct, joint and proxy—against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, and Syria—and the still more wide-ranging drone assassination attacks. In the devastating wars in the DRC by Kagame and Museveni. And in Israel’s wars on Gaza and Lebanon and ordinary pacification efforts in Gaza and the West Bank. And in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and Turkey’s proxy war in Syria and war against the Kurds. All of these wars have evoked mainly retail terrorist responses to the invading, bombing, and occupying forces of the United States and its allies, responses that have been shocking and deadly, but on a much smaller scale than the state terrorism that has evoked them. But in the Western propaganda systems it is only the responsive terrorism that surprises and angers politicians, pundits, and the public and is called “terrorism.” There is no recognition of the true flow of initiating violence and response, no recognition of the fact that the “global war on terrorism” is really a “global war of terrorism.” The propaganda system is in fact a constituent of the permanent war system, hence a reliable supporter of wholesale terrorism.