Thursday, April 9, 2009

Eurasian Crossroads: The Caucasus In US-NATO War Plans

Eurasian Crossroads: The Caucasus In US-NATO War Plans

by Rick Rozoff

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The South Caucasus is rapidly becoming a critical strategic crossroads in 21st century geopolitics, encompassing the most ambitious energy transit projects in history and the consolidation of a military corridor reaching from Western Europe to East Asia, one whose command centers are in Washington and Brussels.

The culmination of eighteen years of post-Cold War Western designs is on the near horizon as oil and gas are intended to be moved from the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea to Central Europe and beyond and US and NATO troops and equipment are scheduled to be deployed from Europe and the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Nothing less is at stake than control of world energy resources and their transportation routes on one hand and the establishment of a global army under NATO auspices fanning out in South and Central Asia and ultimately Eurasia as a whole on the other.

The three nations of the South Caucasus - Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia - are increasingly becoming the pivot upon which that strategy turns. With the Black Sea and the Balkans to its west, Russia to its north, Iran and the Arab world to the south and southeast and the Caspian Sea and Central Asia to the east, the South Caucasus is uniquely situated to become the nucleus of an international geostrategic campaign by the major Western powers to achieve domination of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa and as such the world.

The overarching plan for the employment and exploitation of this region for the aforementioned purposes is and has long been an American one, but it also takes in the US's European allies and in addition to unilateral and bilateral initiatives by Washington includes a critically vital NATO component.

With the nearly simultaneous breakup of the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991 - one a cataclysmic and instantaneous and the other a prolonged process - prospects were renewed for the West to engage in a modern, expanded version of the Great Game for control of Central and South Asia and for that vast stretch of land that was formerly the socialist world excluding Far East Asia.

Since 1991 a 20th and now 21st century Silk Route has been opened up to the West, one beginning at the northeast corner of Italy and ranging to the northwest border of China and taking in at least seventeen new political entities, some little more than diminutive mono-ethnic statelets sovereign in name only. They are the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia and the international no man's land of Kosovo in the Balkans; Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in the South Caucasus; and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia, with Moldova and Ukraine representing the northern wing of this vast redrawing of historical borders and redefining of geopolitical space.

As previously noted, the South Caucasus lies at the very center of this new configuration. As in the days of empire, both ancient and modern, armies seeking plunder and states replenishing their treasuries with it must now pass through this region.

Pass through it, that is, if their intent is a hostile, confrontational and exclusionary one, a policy of containing Russia and Iran and effectively blockading both in their respective and shared neighborhoods, for example the Caucasus, the Caspian Sea Basin and Central Asia.

On the energy front American, British, French, Norwegian and other Western nations, sometimes individually but most always as consortia, are the prime movers; on the military one the task has been assigned to NATO.

Of the seventeen new nations listed above, all except for the aborted Kosovo entity, aptly described by a leading Serbian political figure as a NATO pseudo-state, have Partnership for Peace and in many cases Individual Partnership Action Programs with NATO and two former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia and as of three days ago Croatia, are now full Alliance members.

Of the seventeen only Serbia, Kosovo (so far), Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have not been dragooned into providing troops for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The way stations on NATO's 21st century caravan route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Chinese frontier progressively reveal the pathetic - and tragic - status of what awaits much of the world in this not so grand plan. The West's two latest mini-states, Montenegro which became the latest member of the United Nations in 2006 and Kosovo which was torn from Serbia a little more than a year ago, are both underworld enclaves, gangland smugglers' coves carved out of broader states, Yugoslavia and Serbia, for the sole purpose of serving as military and black market transit points.

NATO's latest additions, Albania and Croatia, belie in every particular NATO's and the United States' claims of the Alliance epitomizing alleged Euro-Atlantic values and a new international "union of democracies." Croatia, still beset by fascist nostalgia and risorgimento, is guilty of the worst permanent ethnic cleansing in post-World War II Europe, that of the US-directed Operation Storm of 1995 which drove hundreds of thousands of Serbs and other ethnic minorities out of the country. Albania is another crime-ridden failed state which played a key role in assisting the second worst irreversible ethnic cleansing in modern Europe, the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Roma, Gorans, Turks and other non-Albanians from Kosovo since June of 1999. (At the recently concluded NATO 60th anniversary summit Croatian President Stjepan Mesic boasted that his nation would contribute to NATO operations with its "war experience.")

After the US and NATO brought what they triumphantly designate as peace and stability to the former Yugoslavia, they moved the battleground eastward toward the Black Sea and the Caucasus. Bulgaria and Romania were ushered into NATO in 2004 and Ukraine and Georgia were placed on the fast track to follow them.

With Turkey already a long-standing member of the Alliance, Russia is the only non-NATO and non-NATO candidate nation on the Black Sea.

Georgia is the major objective in this drive east as its western flank is the Black Sea and its eastern is Azerbaijan, whose eastern border is the Caspian Sea.

The South Caucasus is the land route from Europe to Asia in the east and to Iran and its neighbors - Iraq, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan - to the south.

It is at the center of a strategy that alone ties together the three major wars of the past decade - Yugoslavia (1999), Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) - and that aims at preventing regional economic, security and infrastructural development cooperation between Russia, Iran, China, India and Turkey in the same Balkans-to-Asia Silk Route area.

As it was insightfully described by a Pakistani analyst recently, the current century is witnessing the final act in a drama that could be called the West versus the rest. The South Caucasus is the linchpin and the battleground of this geopolitical and historical denouement.

Yesterday the American warship the USS Klakring, docked in the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi (capital of Ajaria, subjugated in 2004 by the US-formed new Georgian army), welcomed aboard former US-based President Mikheil Saakashvili to him "a chance to visit with the crew and discuss the importance of a strong United States-Georgia relationship."

The Klakring was "hosting visits and participating in theater security cooperation activities which develop both nations' abilities to operate against common threats...." (1)

What "common threat" was meant is not hard to discern. Its capital is Moscow.

The Georgian Defense Minister appointed to that role after last August's war with Russia, David Sikharulidze, said on the occasion that the arrival of the US warship - fresh from taunting Russia with a visit to Sevastopol where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based - represented "a guarantee for stability in the NATO space." (2)

Sikharulidze let a cat out of a bag that the Pentagon and the White House would have preferred remain there. The two latter hide their military expansion into the Black Sea and the Caucasus under the masks of "guaranteeing maritime security" and "protecting a new democracy from its hostile northern neighbor," but in fact Georgia is NATO's beachhead and bridge for penetration of a tri-continental expanse of territory the West has set its sights on.

The Georgian Defense Minister was well-groomed for his current role. Prior to being appointed to his post last December Sikharulidze attended advance courses at the US Navy's Justice School, the NATO SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) School at Oberammergau, and the NATO Defense College.

In a news column he wrote for a Georgian newspaper in early March Sikharulidze asserted "We will develop well-equipped, properly trained and rapidly deployable forces to defend Georgia and to meet our international obligations. Our capabilities and tactics will be designed to meet a considerably superior force."

The considerably superior force in question doesn't need to be named.

To assist Georgia in preparing for a - larger, more decisive - showdown with Russia, he said, "To enhance this effort, we look forward to the arrival of an expert team from NATO's Allied Command Transformation."

Just as importantly, he added that "as NATO seeks alternative routes to Afghanistan, we understand our strategic responsibility as gateway to the East-West corridor. Georgia will provide logistical support to NATO, opening its territory, ports, airfields, roads and railroads to the alliance."(3)

Georgia's appointed role in providing the US and NATO with land, sea and air routes for the dangerously expanding war in South Asia will be taken up in more detail later. As to its defense minister's allusion to NATO's Norfolk, Virginia-based Allied Command Transformation (ACT) being tasked to assist the Pentagon in preparing the nation's armed forces for a confrontation with a "considerably superior force," on the very day Sikharulidze's article appeared, the Commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation for NATO, Gen. James Mattis, met with him and his commander in chief Saakashvili to plot "prospects for Georgia's stronger cooperation with NATO" shortly after the release of a "document entitled The Defence Minister's Vision 2009 that was made public on February 17 [and which stated that] one of the defence ministry's priorities is to 'adjust the Georgian armed forces with NATO standards.'"(4)

The day before the release of the Defence Minister's Vision 2009, the Georgian defense chief welcomed the NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia Robert Simmons to "discuss" it. Whether Simmons bothered to have the document translated into Georgian beforehand was not mentioned.

Simmons also briefed Sikharulidze on the Annual National Program NATO had bestowed on Georgia on December 2, 2009 (a parallel arrangement was made with Ukraine), less than three months after Georgia's attack on South Ossetia and war with Russia and following the launching of the NATO-Georgia Commission on September 15, barely a month after the war ended. (Washington signed a US-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership on January 9, 2009.)

The same month, February of this year, the Joint Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces announced that it was "conducting a formal process to derive Lessons Learned from the August 2008 war," which would confirm that "one of the main priorities of Georgia's foreign and security policy is integration into NATO....From this standpoint, improving NATO interoperability and compatibility with a view to developing NATO-standard deployable forces is an important GAF priority" and that "A team from NATO's Allied Command Transformation will advise on this effort," as it later did.(5)

On March 30, the day before the USS Klakring arrived in Georgia, so did the Pentagon's second major commander, General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He met with President Saakashvili and Defense Minister Davit Sikharulidze and inspected the "town of Gori, according to the Georgian MoD [Ministry of Defence], and visit[ed] the Gori-based first infantry brigade and the first artillery brigade."(6)

Gori was occupied by Russian forces at the end of last August's war and Cartwright's tour of inspection was a blunt message to Moscow. And to Saakashvili and his defense minister. One of confrontation with the first and uncritical support to the other.

During Cartwright's visit Saakashvili reminded him - and Russia and the world - that "Recently, I have met with General Petraeus [Commander of US Central Command] who also spoke highly of the Georgian army's prospects....Earlier, we trained our army for police and peacekeeping operations and not for large-scale military actions."(7)

What the Georgian strongman was alluding to was that the US was transitioning its American-made army from war and occupation zone training in NATO interoperability to preparations for "homeland defense" aimed at Russia.

During the meeting with the Pentagon's number two commander he reminded listeners and readers that "Since 2001, Georgia [has performed] peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. However, in August last year during the Russian aggression there were withdrawn the last 2,000 Georgian soldiers from Iraq.

"Earlier, Georgia declared its readiness to send 300 soldiers to Afghanistan."(8)

And: "'Earlier we were preparing the army for police peacekeeping operations, but not for large-scale military action," Saakashvili stressed, expressing confidence that the Georgian army "will continue to grow both quantitatively and qualitatively and will be equipped with all necessary weapons."(9)

At the time of Georgia's attempt on August 7, 2008 to advance its armored columns to the Roki Tunnel which connects South Ossetia to the Russian Republic of North Ossetia, thereby blocking off Russian reinforcements and capturing some 1,000 Russian peacekeepers - a humiliation for Russia in the eyes of the world had it succeeded - the US flew the 2,000 Georgian troops in Iraq (near the Iranian border, the third largest foreign contingent) on American military transport planes back to Georgia, a move that were the situation reversed, say in a hypothetical conflict between the US and Mexico, would have been treated as an act of war by Washington.

That airlift began the process of shifting battle-ready Georgian troops from supporting US and NATO operations abroad to what six years of the US Train and Equip Program and comparable NATO assistance had intended them for: War with Russia.

"Cartwright said that the United States will train the Georgian armed forces, with the main focus of the training being 'the defence of Georgia.'"(10)

What the "defense of Georgia" entailed was spelled out by Saakashvili, while Cartwright nodded approbation:

"Our struggle continues and it will end after the complete de-occupation of Georgia's territory and expelling the last soldier of the enemy from our country. I am absolutely sure of that."(11)

Cartwright added, "I want to say that you have a very good army and we know what they have done.

"We are glad that we will continue to cooperate with them in the future as well. Our strategic partnership is very important."

He also "highlighted that after the August war it became easier to understand the Georgian armed forces's training priorities and what new types of equipment were needed for defending the homeland."(12)

The point wasn't, could not be, missed in Moscow and "Russia sent a strong warning to the United States Thursday [April 2] about supporting Georgia in the U.S. ally's efforts to rebuild its military following last year's war.
"The Foreign Ministry said helping arm Georgia would be 'extremely dangerous' and would amount to 'nothing but the encouragement of the aggressor.'"(13)

A Russian news source reported "Turkey provided the Georgian Army, Air Force and Special Forces with unspecified military equipment, shortly after Georgia was visited by a high-ranking US General on Monday" in addition to having previously provided "60 armoured troop-carriers, 2 helicopters, firearms with ammunition, telecommunication and navigation systems and military vehicles worth $730,000," and that "more armour, Pakistan-manufactured missiles, speedboats and other ammunition is planned for delivery in the near future."(14)

Days later at the NATO Summit in Strasbourg the Alliance complemented the Pentagon's enhanced support of Georgia.

NATO reiterated its intention to absorb Georgia - and Ukraine - "when the countries fall in line with the alliance's standards." (15)

Among the bloc's "standards" are two preconditions for full membership worth recalling: The absence of territorial conflicts and of foreign (non-NATO) military forces in candidate countries. Abkhazia and South qualify doubly as "problems that must be resolved" as does the Crimea in general and the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol in particular with the Ukraine.

Hence Saakashvili, flanked and coached by the Pentagon's second-in-command, fulminating about the "complete de-occupation of Georgia's territory and expelling the last soldier of the enemy from our country."

In line with this plan, the Strasbourg summit issued a statement that "NATO will continue supporting the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of the South Caucasus countries and Moldova," and "NATO declares its deep concerns over the unsettled conflicts in the South Caucasus countries [Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh] and Moldova [Transdniester]."(16)

NATO Spokesman James Appathurai, in issuing the mind-boggling declaration that the Alliance wouldn't tolerate "spheres of influence" in post-Soviet space, stated: "We consider that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are integral part of Georgia. The issue of the territorial integrity is a very serious problem. NATO always supports the territorial integrity of countries." (As to the last sentence, see references to Kosovo and Montenegro above.) (17)

Georgia returned the favor by vowing to turn the Sachkhere Mountain Training School into a Partnership for Peace [NATO] Training Center and by hosting the annual NATO South Caucasus Cooperative Longbow/ Cooperative Lancer exercises beginning on May 3 with troops from twenty three nations.

The importance of Georgia, and of its neighbor Azerbaijan, is assuming heightened, indeed urgent, value for two not unrelated reasons: The activation of trans-Eurasian energy projects intended to knock Russia out of petrochemical sales and transit to Europe and the escalation of the war in South Asia.

At the 60th anniversary Summit, within the general framework of Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's demand that "The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, now more than ever, must hold together to solve some of the world's most pressing problems," was a renewed pledge to "protect Europe's energy security."

The main focus of the summit, however, was to formalize plans for the large-scale escalation of the war in Afghanistan and now in neighboring Pakistan.

Plans for unprecedented Western-dominated oil and gas pipelines from the eastern end of the Caspian Sea through the South Caucasus and the Black Sea north to the Baltic Sea and further on to all of Europe - and for the hub of that nexus, Turkey and the South Caucasus, to connect with more pipelines emanating from the Middle East, North Africa and eventually the Gulf of Guinea - have been addressed in some detail in an earlier article, Global Energy War: Washington's New Kissinger's African Plans.(18)

But a brief overview may be in order.

In October of 1998 United States Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson officiated over a meeting with the heads of state of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to launch the Ankara Declaration, a formalization of plans for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to run for 1,768 kilometers from the Caspian to the Mediterranean.

It was planned to be the world's longest fully functioning oil pipeline as the Soviet and Comecon era Friendship Pipeline (4,000 kilometers) was already in decline and moreover was to be supplanted by extension of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project through Ukraine to Poland and the Baltic Sea, the Odessa-Brody-Plock-Gdansk route.

The last-named was agreed upon in May 11, 2007 by the presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Georgia and Azerbaijan and a special envoy of the president of Kazakhstan.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was brought on line two years earlier in an inauguration attended by then US Energy Secretary Samuel Brodman and the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The presence of Kazakh officials at the two above events is significant because although the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline commences in Azerbaijan at the western end of the Caspian and ends at Turkey's Mediterranean coast, the successor to the 1994 "Contract of the Century" signed by major American and British government and oil company officials with Azerbaijan envisioned since its inception that oil from fellow Caspian nations Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan would be run under the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and be shipped further west and north.

As early as 1996 the US planned to import natural gas to Europe from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan through a submarine pipeline in order to circumvent Russia and Iran. The trans-Caspian gas pipeline would parallel its oil counterpart as the current Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum land natural gas pipeline does the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil one and would link up with the trans-Caspian submarine gas pipeline described at the beginning of this paragraph.

Part of this vast trans-continental corridor is the proposed Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway, the foundation of a much-touted "China to Great Britain" line.

The major NATO states, the US and EU members, are also working on the Nabucco pipeline, which is planned to transport natural gas from Turkey to Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. It will run from Erzurum in Turkey where the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline ends. Again the strategy is to circumvent Russia and Iran.

Furthermore, the West is pursuing a "strategic view to see the Arab Gas Pipeline, which links Syria to Egypt via Jordan, extended to Turkey and Iraq by some time this year. This, in turn, would link to the 30bcm-per year Nabucco pipeline, connecting the EU to new gas sources in the Caspian Sea and Middle East."

Last year "EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner met representatives of the Mashreq countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria), Iraq and Turkey on May 5 in Brussels to discuss the finalisation of the Trans-Arab gas pipeline, promote its role as a future supplier of the EU backed Nabucco project and encourage the full participation of Iraq in regional energy activities, including as a partner in the Trans-Arab project.

"The Trans-Arab pipeline, which currently runs from Egypt through Jordan to Syria, has a capacity of 10 bn cm per year. The pipeline, which will be interconnected with Turkey and Iraq by 2009, will provide a new transport route for gas resources from the Mashreq region to the EU." (20)

Recent discussions have included not only Egypt but Algeria as intended partners in this arrangement, which would extend the web of pipelines from the eastern extreme of the Caspian Sea to a nation that borders Morocco, on the Atlantic Ocean.

Wherever the oil and gas may originate - from the Western border of China to a few hundred kilometers distance from the Atlantic Ocean - they are to converge in Turkey and the South Caucasus. Though however indispensable a role Turkey plays, it is entirely dependent on Caspian Sea oil and gas being shipped through the Caucasus for its importance in grander schemes.

As a Greek analyst commented this past February, this elaborate energy nexus is anything other than a merely economic proposition:

"Making inroads into Central Asia to access the oil and natural gas resources in this region would give the US a strategic advantage in the Eurasian Corridor, and if Middle East oil was added to this mix, control of the direction of the world economy....The success of Washington's East European and Balkan-Caucasus-Central Asia strategies would have led to the encirclement of Russia, with a chain of military and economic links with countries stretching from the Baltic States and the former [Soviet Union] satellites in East Europe, via the Balkans, Caucasus, and Central Asia, to the borders of China."(21)

This confirms revelatory admissions by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (and former Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy) Matthew Bryza last June that "Our goal is to develop a 'Southern Corridor' of energy infrastructure to transport Caspian and Iraqi oil and gas to Turkey and Europe" and, to transition to the war in South Asia, "The East-West Corridor we had been building from Turkey and the Black Sea through Georgia and Azerbaijan and across the Caspian became the strategic air corridor, and the lifeline into Afghanistan allowing the United States and our coalition partners to conduct Operation Enduring Freedom." (22)

If the inextricable connection between the fifteen-year development of energy and transportation corridors by NATO states from Europe to Central Asia and the current "reverse flow" (the expression used for the short-lived transit of Russia oil through the Odessa-Brody pipeline before Kiev's ever-obedient Western clients put a halt to it) of NATO men and materiel to Central Asia and to the Afghan-Pakistani war front still appears unsubstantiated, US Navy Captain Kevin Aandahl, spokesman for the US Transportation Command, in speaking of the new American administration's plans for the massive escalation of the greater Afghan war, has put doubts to rest in saying, "[O]ne route...could involve shipping supplies to a port in Georgia on the Black Sea. Supplies would then be moved overland through Georgia to Azerbaijan, by ship across the Caspian to Kazakhstan and then south through other Central Asian countries to Afghanistan.

"The routes already exist. The facilities already exist. What we're talking about is tapping into existing networks and using a variety of military and contractor commercial enterprises to facilitate the movement of materiel supply, non-lethal supplies and everything else that is needed in Afghanistan through these existing commercial routes." (23)

The routes are about to be tested on a scale not previously used. In 2003, two years after the "lightning victory" of October of 2001, there were 10,000 US and allied NATO troops in Afghanistan. The following year there were 12,000. At the beginning of this year there were as many as 55,000 troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - 23,000 US soldiers and the rest from NATO, Partnership for Peace, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and "Asian NATO" states - and 28,000 American forces attached to Operation Enduring Freedom. (The exact figures are difficult to arrive at. Some sources list 38,000 US and 32,000 NATO troops without specifying how many US servicemen are assigned to which command.)

The White House has pledged another 30,000 combat troops and an additional 4,000 trainers for this year (with more to join them in 2010 already being mentioned) and NATO offered 5,000 more at its summit three days ago. If all the numbers are accurate, there may soon be 122,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan later this year. A tenfold increase in five years.

Ongoing attacks on NATO supply lines and depots in Western Pakistan and the closing of the Kyrgyz airbase at Manas to US and NATO forces will complicate the planned Iraq-style surge in Afghanistan and against targets in Pakistan.

Om March 31 US Central Command chief General David Petraeus met at the Pentagon with the defense ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to plan the logistics for his attempt to replicate the Iraq "surge" in Afghanistan, only this time with hostilities also raging in neighboring Pakistan, a country with a population almost three times that of Iraq and Afghanistan combined and with nuclear weapons.

The war theater is ever widening and the vortex is pulling in more and more regional and extra-regional actors. In addition to enmeshing the five Central Asian states, initially through transit and overflight commitments, NATO with ISAF has troops from some 45 nations serving under its command.

Never before have armed units from so many nations been deployed for a war in one country. Even Hannibal's motley contingents in the second Punic War were not as diverse nor was their composite provenance anywhere near as far-ranging.

The troops come from four continents and the Middle East. And the South Caucasus. After a visit from NATO's Caucasus and Central Asia representative Robert Simmons last June Azerbaijan announced it was doubling its troop deployment to Afghanistan. Georgia's Saakashvili recently boasted of writing US President Barack Obama to offer him more forces for the war.

"I have already stated this to General Cartwright, as before to the U.S. political leadership. I wrote about this to President Obama and we are ready to develop our relations in this direction." (24)

A year earlier "Georgia had filed an application with NATO, making a proposal to send its contingent to Afghanistan, considering that "to settle the situation in Afghanistan is one of the main issues for the whole world".(25)

Azerbaijan, like Georgia, is being built up as a forward operating base for action in the Caspian and into Afghanistan.

"NATO is going to ship supplies to Afghanistan via Poti-Baku-Aktau container trains through TRACECA [Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia] corridor, Azerbaijan, said Arif Asgarov, Chairman of Azerbaijan State Railways Company." (26)

In less than two weeks Azerbaijan is going to host the NATO Regional Reply - 2009 eight-day command and field exercises with troops from the US, Bulgaria, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Poland, Romania,Turkey and Ukraine.

Yesterday it was announced that US officials would arrive in the capital of Azerbaijan and that "maritime security, the results of US assistance, as well as work done within the Caspian Security Program added to the Working Plan of Military Cooperation are to be focused on at the meeting until April 10." (27)

Later this month a delegation from the Pentagon's European Command will visit Azerbaijan and "will hold meetings with the leadership of Azerbaijani armed forces and will attend the Bilateral Cooperation Planning Conference" and "discuss reports on the work done within the military cooperation program and details of working plan for US-Azerbaijani military cooperation in 2009-2010." (28)

Azerbaijani troops are participating in the NATO Cooperative Marlin/Mako 2009 exercises starting today. The Marlin drills are maritime Command Post Exercises focused on the NATO Response Force concept; the Mako drills are planned and conducted by Joint Force Command Naples, Italy.

The combined exercise is aimed at providing "familiarisation with NATO organisation, Command and Control structures and clear understanding of NATO doctrine and to enhance the mutual interoperability between NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP) /Mediterranean Dialogue Countries (MD) and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) nations, focusing on the NATO led operations with partners." (29)

Lastly, high-ranking Azerbaijani officers are to attend the NATO Partnership for Peace Silk Road General/Admiral workshop in Turkey in June, one which featured 104 generals and admirals from 49 countries last year and whose purpose this is to "discuss the security, military-political situation in the world, security of the transportation infrastructure, energy security and expected threats." (30)

Azerbaijan offers the US and NATO direct access to the Caspian Sea and to transport routes from the west for the deployment of troops, armor and warplanes and for the transfer of the same from Iraq to Afghanistan.

It borders northwest Iran on the Caspian and like Georgia can be used for attacks on that nation whenever the West orders it to permit the use of its territory and airbases for that purpose.

Last September Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said that "Russian intelligence had obtained information indicating that the Georgian military infrastructure could be used for logistical support of U.S. troops if they launched an attack on Iran.

"'This is another reason why Washington values Saakashvili's regime so highly,' Rogozin said, adding that the United States had already started 'active military preparations on Georgia's territory' for an invasion of Iran."(31)

Other Russian sources affirmed that Russia's defeat of Georgia last August preempted a planned attack on Iran, and commentators in the Caucasus have speculated that had Saakashvili succeeded in South Ossetia not only would he have immediately turned on Abkhazia but Azerbaijan would have launched a similar assault on Nagorno-Karabakh which would have led to Armenia certainly, Turkey probably and Iran possibly being dragged into a regional conflagration.

As to Western plans for Armenia, NATO has made incremental progress in integrating it through the Partnership for Peace and its own Individual Partnership Action Plan, but the nation remains a member of the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization and would first have to be weaned from the latter to be a likely candidate for an Alliance Membership Action Plan or an equivalent of Georgia's and Ukraine's Annual National Program.

The European Union's Eastern Partnership program, however, may be designed as a way of cutting through this Gordian knot, as with two fellow former Soviet republics "there are serious hopes in Ukraine and Georgia that the EPP will be one more step towards their integration with NATO and the EU as it requires that partner countries coming closer to adopting the mutual values of NATO and the EU."(32)

Early this year the former Indian diplomat and journalist M K Bhadrakumar synopsized the role the US intends for its South Caucasus surrogates to play:

"The US is working on the idea of ferrying cargo for Afghanistan via the Black Sea to the port of Poti in Georgia and then dispatching it through the territories of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. A branch line could also go from Georgia via Azerbaijan to the Turkmen-Afghan border.

"The project, if it materializes, will be a geopolitical coup - the biggest ever that Washington would have swung in post-Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus. At one stroke, the US will be tying up military cooperation at the bilateral level with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

"Furthermore, the US will be effectively drawing these countries closer into NATO's partnership programs."(33)

Just as the intensified and interminable war in Afghanistan and its extension into Pakistan provide the testing ground and training camp for a NATO global army, so the US and its allies are employing it to achieve military and political and economic objectives far broader that their limited stated goals. In the middle of the far-reaching swathe of Eurasia the West plans on thus acquiring lies the South Caucasus.


(1) United States European Command, April 6, 2009
(2) Trend News Agency, April 3, 2009
(3) Georgian Daily, March 10, 2009
(4) Itar-Tass, March 10, 2009
(5) Georgian Daily, February 24, 2009
(6) Civil Georgia, March 30, 2009
(7) Interfax, March 30, 2009
(8) Trend News Agency, March 30, 2009
(9) Trend News Agency, March 30, 2009
(10) The Messenger (Georgia), April 1, 2009
(11) Civil Georgia, March 31, 2009
(12) The Messenger, April 1, 2009
(13) Associated Press, April 2, 2009
(14) Russia Today, April 1, 2009
(15) Russian Information Agency Novosti, April 4, 2009
(16) Trend News Agency, April 4, 2009
(17) Azeri Press Agency, April 3, 2009
(18) Stop NATO, January 2009
(19) Russian and Eurasian Security, March 30, 2009
(20), May 12, 2008
(21) Oil, War and Russia, George Gregoriou; Greek News, February 2, 2009
(22) U.S. Department of State, June 24, 2008
(23) Agence France-Presse, February 6, 2009
(24) Trend News Agency. March 30, 2009
(25) Itar-Tass, March 31, 2009
(26) Azeri Press Agency, April 2, 2009
(27) Azeri Press Agency. April 6, 2009
(28) Azeri Press Agency, March 31, 2009
(29) NATO International, Cooperative Marlin 2009
(30) Azeri Press Agency. March 29, 2009
(31) Russian Information Agency Novosti, September 9, 2009
(32) The Messenger, March 31, 2009
(33) The Day After (India), January 2, 2009

Goodbye GWOT, Hello OCOs


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On Monday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced his version of the new Pentagon budget. Looked at one way, his suggested changes were significant, even startling given how deeply the giant armament companies have embedded themselves and their new generations of weaponry in the American landscape (and so in Congress). Gates stated that the F-22 Raptor program (at $350 millionradically scaled back, losing all eight of its vehicles; that the Navy would some distant day end up with one less aircraft carrier battle group and lose as well its futuristic stealth destroyers; that money going into missile defense would be shrunk, and so on. This is no small thing and, given the way the arms industry scatters weapons production over as many states as possible, some of these cuts may not make it through congressional review. a plane) and the C-17 cargo plane program were to end; that the Army's $200 billion techno-boondoggle, its Future Combat Systems, would be

Seen one way, it's certainly the first significant recognition from the Pentagon that the United States, the former "sole superpower" and planetary sheriff, has actually entered a universe of limits, even when it comes to the previous sacrosanct and ever soaring military budget. Think of it as a signal directly from Washington -- if you want one -- that the glory days are on the wane.

On the other hand, if you take the budget as a whole, the cuts, staggering as they might seem inside the capital's famed Beltway -- and screams of bloody murder rose from Congress within nanoseconds of the Gates announcement -- are rather modest. After all, once Gates had finished offering his own replacement shopping list, including more Special Forces troops, more unmanned aerial vehicles, more personnel for the military, and so on, the Pentagon's base budget had actually risen by 4% to $534 billion (not including war-fighting funds), $21 billion more than last year's already staggering version of the same.

Enter a world in which the glass that's half-full, as historian and TomDispatch regular Ira Chernus puts it, is also distinctly half empty. Which do you choose? It depends not just on what you care to see, but on what comes next, on what the future turns out to have to offer. Take, for instance, George Bush's Global War on Terror -- or rather, let Chernus take you on a tour of its shifting linguistic and political landscape, and consider which aspect of that glass you'd care to see. Tom

Requiem for the War on Terror

Goodbye GWOT, Hello OCOs
By Ira Chernus

This is the way the Global War on Terror (also known, in Bush-era jargon, as GWOT) ends, not with a bang, not with parades and speeches, but with an obscure memo, a few news reports, vague denials, and a seemingly off-handed comment (or was it a carefully calculated declaration?) from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "The administration has stopped using the phrase ["war on terror"] and I think that speaks for itself. Obviously."

This is often the way presidents and their administrations operate when it comes to national security and foreign policy -- not with bold, clear statements but through leaks, trial balloons, small gestures, and innuendo.

In this case, though, are we seeing the cleverly orchestrated plan of a shrewd administration, every move plotted with astonishing cunning? Or are the operators actually a bunch of newbies bumbling along from day to day, as a literal reading of press reports on the end of GWOT might suggest? Unless some historian finds a "smoking gun" document in the archives years from now, we may never know for sure.

If the motives remain obscure, some effects of this major shift in language are already evident, though whether the result is a glass half empty or half full may lie in the eye of the beholder. In some cases, the new administration's policies still look amazingly like those of the Global War on Terror, sans the name -- most notably in Afghanistan, where President Obama is pursuing many of the same old goals with renewed force, and in Pakistan, where he is steadily widening Bush's war. Sounding a lot like Bush, in fact, Obama played the 9/11 card repeatedly in his announcement justifying his program of stepped up action in the AfPak theater of operations.

There, as Pepe Escobar of Asia Times says, "for all practical purposes, strategically reviewed or not, GWOT goes on, with no end in sight." There, Obama's "new" policies seem to justify Jon Stewart's clever label for the recent language changes: "Redefinition Accomplished."

Yet there is good news, too. Just a few years ago, Dick Cheney told America's young people that the "war on terror" would be a generations-long struggle and the defining fact of the rest of their lives. A perpetual war for peace (and the endless terrors it unleashed) was then to be the single purpose to which the United States would bend all its strength and will for decades to come. Abandoning such terrible language really does make a difference.

Unlike his predecessor, President Obama is not staking his claim to historical importance on being a "war president." Both his personal history and his laser-like focus on HEE (health, energy, education) suggest that his true passion is his domestic agenda. He may see national security as filled with distractions or potential stumbling blocks rather than as a field of glory.

Without a "war" to wage, this administration cannot so easily claim, as its predecessor did, extraordinary powers for the president. It won't be able to use the argument "we're at war" to justify poking holes in the Constitution, or to get a mindless rubber-stamp for its national security policies from Congress and the public. That will open up at least a bit more space for debate about those policies.

Spending unconscionable sums of public money on military action may, in the long run, prove far harder, too. Americans will pony up endlessly when we are at war. They are less likely to shell out so quickly for the proposed successor phrase to the Global War on Terror: "Overseas Contingency Operations." As Escobar notes, this "delightfully Orwellian" term is known to the bureaucrats by its equally Orwellian acronym, OCO.

The Bad News of Empire

The bad news is that nobody can say exactly what an OCO is. A war requires at least a convincing illusion of threat to the nation. An OCO, on the other hand, can be just about anything. It doesn't have to be over any literal seas; it merely has to aim at a target outside U.S. borders (even as close as Mexico). It doesn't have to involve shoot-'em-up military action, only an action -- kidnapping, computer hacking, whatever -- carried out by U.S. government operatives.

An OCO is, in the end, any U.S. government response to some "contingency" outside our borders. Philosophers use the word "contingent" to mean something that could happen but doesn't have to happen -- that is, something that isn't necessary. In that case, a wag might say, we're really talking about "Overseas Unnecessary Operations." But for the "serious" people who make U.S. national security policy, a contingency is undoubtedly any new event that isn't fully predictable. In other words, just about anything that occurs beyond our borders can be deemed a contingency and so require an OCO.

Of course, by that definition the U.S. government has been carrying out dozens of OCOs every day for decades. As early as 1937, Secretary of State Cordell Hull said publicly: "There can be no serious hostilities anywhere in the world which will not one way or another affect interests or rights or obligations of this country." Since the late 1940s, U.S. policymakers have assumed that there were no serious "contingencies" of any kind, anywhere on the planet, that did not affect this country's interests. In public, they substitute polite euphemisms for the pursuit of those interests like "global responsibilities" or "leader of the free world."

Their critics call it by its true name: Empire. Empires can go for many years without fighting a war. But they have to carry out OCOs all the time.

That's why the administration's new military budget is geared to switching priorities, spending less on preparations for future conventional warfare against great power enemies who have yet to emerge and more on counterterrorism -- "to deter aggression, project power when necessary, and protect our interests and allies around the globe," as Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently put it. Though proposed military cuts like the F-22 Raptor are getting most of the attention this week, a Pentagon spokesman went out of his way to stress that Gates is "going to be adding a lot of things to capabilities that we need too."

The new Pentagon budget rollout is part of a larger public relations campaign to promote a simple idea: We're no longer at war, but there's still plenty of fighting to do. There will still be the requisite number of OCOs with substantial costs to bear, not only in dollars but in blood and misery.

Will Americans Still Want the War?

Will Americans buy it? Will they give up the war, yet keep paying the sky-high bills for OCOs? The popular reaction to the end of the unmourned Global War on Terror is hard to discern, because there really hasn't been any. The obituaries dutifully appeared, were noticed by only a few, and are already almost forgotten.

That gives the Obama administration reason to hope they'll win their linguistic gamble -- that Americans will let the War on Terror die as quickly as it was born, that they are as indifferent to it as they seem to be. Polls suggest that may be a safe bet. Throughout the 2008 election year, remarkably few Americans rated terrorism as their top concern. And that was even before economic collapse pushed the subject further down the list of national priorities.

On the other hand, reports of the death of the War on Terror could turn out to be premature. Maybe most Americans just assume that it continues, whatever anyone calls it. When given a chance to name several issues of concern, three-quarters or more of polling respondents typically put terrorism on their list.

Since the 1930s, Americans have, by and large, been willing to work together for common national goals only when they believed they were at war and following the orders of a commander-in-chief. Under the rubric of "the war against…," the federal government has had its greatest successes in mobilizing public support for major programs (as Michael Sherry has shown in his fine book, In the Shadow of War).

And we Americans go willingly to war only when we're convinced that our "way of life" is gravely threatened. The number one purpose of the government is to protect that way of life -- or so the official story goes. Unfortunately, since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's day we have lived in a permanent state of national insecurity, always at war with or against someone or something, because there is always someone or something to be afraid of.

If Americans do turn out to be perfectly willing to let go of the magic word "war," the end of GWOT may lighten the shadow of war, which hovers over us and ultimately leaves us afraid of considering fundamental political change of any sort. That might prove important in the long run, even if, in the short run, it gets little notice.

By Any OCO Necessary

Sometimes President Obama sounds like fundamental change is really what he has in mind: to shift the nation's priorities from protecting what we've got to creating a new and better way of life. At other times, he talks like just another commander-in-chief of the national insecurity state, warning us about al-Qaeda and all sorts of other "threats to our nation's security and economy [that] can no longer be kept at bay by oceans or by borders." (In case you forgot, the "theft of nuclear material from the former Soviet Union could lead to the extermination of any city on earth.")

This ambiguity reflects the fine political line Obama has chosen to walk. Ending the "war on terror" may please millions of his supporters who expect him to offer genuinely new policies, foreign as well as domestic. Continued dire warnings may satisfy millions of middle-of-the-road voters who opted for him despite fears that he might undermine national security.

Satisfying both groups is no small trick. But if, with linguistic substitutions and innuendo, he can pull it off, he'll be free to carry out the empire's daily round of OCOs, large and small, without having to worry about the meddlesome vagaries of public opinion. That's one big advantage OCOs have over wars: They tend not to attract too much attention. For most inhabitants of the imperial homeland, OCOs are too distant to be noticed. If one or two (or three or four or five) go wrong, who's watching?

The daily routine of OCOs may be expensive, but as long as life in the homeland is comfortable enough, few questions are likely to be asked. Even when life grows uncomfortable for many, as today, the links between domestic economic meltdown and the costs of empire remain largely obscured. As a result, the imperial government has a relatively free hand to keep "order" around the world, by any OCO necessary.

Still, for those who would stand against the empire, the death of GWOT is one more reminder that under Obama, the glass, though usually half empty, is also half full. If we no longer say we're at war, it may be easier to see the brute fact that we are at empire, day in, day out, year around.

On the other hand, if the government no longer relies on the word "war" to scare the public into paying the bills, it may be harder to bring the national insecurity state's fear-based worldview to bear on decisions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or any of those places where OCOs are in progress all the time. That could just bring us a step closer to a different kind of politics. So Obama's gamble on banishing the word "war" could, in the long run, drain support for OCOs of all kinds, even the ones that actually are wars, regardless of his intentions.

For that to happen, Americans will have to be persistently reminded of those ongoing OCOs and their single goal: protecting the empire. After all, Americans have never much liked the idea of using their tax dollars for imperial purposes. The more the links between OCOs and the defense of empire are apparent, the more we'll be ready for the politics and policies of genuine change.

CIA director providing cover for advisers complicit in agency torture: report

Panetta providing cover for advisers complicit in CIA torture: investigator

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In light of the revelations in the Red Cross torture report, one private investigator is speculating that the CIA director's continuing argument that the Justice Department shouldn't release three Bush-era torture memos is seeming more and more like an attempt to provide cover to CIA advisers who were likely complicit in the formulation of agency torture policies.

Writing in the Daily Beast Wednesday, John Sifton, a private investigator and attorney, says Leon Panetta is giving cover to two of his subordinates by pleading with the Obama administration to not release three torture memos by a former Office of Legal Counsel attorney that the American Civil Liberties Union has sued to gain access to.

"Take Stephen Kappes," writes Sifton. "At the time of the worst torture sessions outlined in the ICRC report, Kappes served as a senior official in the Directorate of Operations—the operational part of the CIA that oversees paramilitary operations as well as the high-value detention program. (The directorate of operations is now known as the National Clandestine Service.) Panetta has kept Kappes as deputy director of the CIA—the number two official in the agency."

Michael Sulick, a deputy of Kappes from 2002-2004, is now the director of the agency's National Clandestine Service, another very senior position at the CIA.

"Since the basic facts about their involvement in the CIA interrogation program are now known, Panetta’s actions are increasingly looking like a cover-up," asserts Sifton.

Earlier this week, The New York Review of Books published the full contents of a confidential International Committee of the Red Cross’s 40-page report on torture practices at Guantanamo Bay and at black site prisons abroad. The report’s leaking has made waves with its gruesome descriptions of interrogation practices such as suffocation by water, beatings by collar, assaults by dog and forced isolation.

While the ICRC did not give the names of any of the CIA officials involved in the harsh interrogation practices, as Sifton notes, the ICRC was told by former CIA Director Michael Hayden, that interrogation plans for detainees were submitted to CIA headquarters were approved by the “Director or Deputy Director of the CIA.” It can be inferred then, that knowledge (and acceptance) of the interrogation practices was held at the highest levels of the CIA and would likely include Panetta’s deputies.

Panetta himself is new to the intelligence field and was not involved in the creation of the criticized interrogation practices. Prior to President Obama's appointment of him as CIA director, Panetta held positions as President Clinton's Chief of Staff and as a member of the House of Representatives.

The Department of Justice has until April 16 to decide to disclose the three OLC torture memos, authored by Steven Bradbury in 2005. The ACLU agreed to the extension in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the government after the DOJ promised to also consider releasing an additional torture memo. This memo, written by OLC attorney Jay Bybee in August 2002, is believed to provide the first framework for the CIA's interrogation program.

Murder Trumps Torture Says Bugliosi

Murder Trumps Torture Says Bugliosi

by Michael Collins

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The legendary Los Angeles County prosecutor and top selling true crime author, Vincent Bugliosi, continues to make the case that he argued in detail in his New York Times best seller, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. His crime, according to the esteemed former prosecutor: deliberately deceiving the United States into an illegal war that resulted in the deaths of 4,200 U.S. soldiers and more than 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians.

He has the help of a citizens group called ABA Publishing headed by Arminda and Bob Alexander with Jude Morford. The all volunteer group recently sent Bugliosi's cover letter and book to 2,200 local prosecutors across the country.

Bugliosi is offended by the prominence of proposed torture charges to the exclusion of what he argues is the much larger charge: murder. .

Prof. Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University School of Law was asked what charges were the most likely if there's ever a serious investigation into Bush administration criminal activities. Turley noted:

The two most obvious crimes in this administration are the torture program and the unlawful surveillance program. Despite the effort to pretend that there is some ambiguity or uncertainty on these crimes, the law is quite clear.
Blog of Legal Times, Dec. 23, 2008

Torture and illegal wiretapping are important concerns to Bugliosi.

But murder is by far the larger crime with a much stronger case, Bugliosi argues.

The former top prosecutor demands justice for the deaths of 4,200 U.S. citizens, soldiers who gave their lives in a war based on calculated lies by the Bush administration. Their loss is the basis for his murder charge. While Bugliosi couldn't find a way to attach the 1.2 million dead Iraqi civilians to the indictment, those deaths are part of the larger record of Bush crimes Bugliosi stated with passion.

I interviewed Vincent Bugliosi about his book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder in August 2008. He outlined his case in detail and the challenges he'd faced in getting the word out after the corporate media blacked out advertising and interviews on his groundbreaking book.

Recently, I contacted Mr. Bugliosi to explore his reaction to President Obama's position on prosecuting Bush and others members of the regime and his opinion of the focus on a Bush prosecution for torture instead of the much more serious murder indictment.

Interview with Vincent Bugliosi

Conducted by Michael Collins

March 29, 2009

MC: Do you think that President Obama is reluctant to investigate and, presuming the findings we'd expect, prosecute Bush and others in his administration for their alleged crimes.

VB: President Obama was on the ABC news program This Week With George Stephanopoulos, and the issue came up about the prosecutions of the Bush administration, potential prosecutions, and he said words -- I can give you his exact words. He said that he was of "a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards" ABC News, Jan. 11, 2009.. Now, the interpretation that has been placed on these words, and I agree with that interpretation, is that he does not intend to pursue George Bush or his administration for any crimes they may have committed.

This is in contradistinction to what he said months ago before he became president. He said words to the effect that if he became president, he would have his attorney general investigate the Bush administration to see if things that they had done involved crimes or just merely bad policy. He said if they involved crimes, he said no man is above the law, and the implication was that he would ask his attorney general to proceed forward, so he's changed his position.

I was mentioning the interpretation on his words. The article in The New York Times that quoted him: "President-elect Barack Obama signaled in an interview broadcast Sunday that he was unlikely to authorize a broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like domestic eavesdropping or the treatment of terrorism suspects." New York Times, Jan. 12, 2009

I have to say that I'm disappointed in the president on his apparent position that he doesn't want the Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation.

MC: What would you say to the president if you had the opportunity?

VB: If I were to speak to President Obama, I would inform him of one thing and advise him of a couple of other things. I'd inform him, and I guess this sounds a little sarcastic, but I would inform him that when he talks about only looking forward and not backwards, I agree that most of his efforts have to be towards the future. I'm not quarreling with him on that, but you can't forget the past.

When he says that he intends to give Bush a free pass simply because whatever crime Bush may have committed was in the past, I would inform him of something he already knows: that all criminal prosecutions, without exception and by definition, have to deal, obviously, with past criminal behavior. Obviously we cannot prosecute someone for a crime that they may commit in the future.

And if we prosecute for even petty theft in America, what do we do with Bush, who I'm very convinced took this nation to war under false pretenses and has caused incalculable death, horror, and suffering?

I would advise him of two things, kind of using his words against him. If indeed Obama's sole emphasis seems to be the future, I don't think anything could improve our image around the world more, restore our credibility more than prosecuting George Bush for his monumental crimes. We would be telling the world's people that what George Bush did in taking this nation to war on a lie against a sovereign nation like Iraq, without any provocation whatsoever, was not the real America. That was only George Bush's America. The real America would never do something like that. And then in the real America, no man is so high he is above the law, and even presidents have to be accountable for their crimes. So talking about the future, using President Obama's own emphasis, I think it would be very advisable to bring Bush to justice if, in fact, he's guilty, as I say he is.

Talking about the future, if we want to deter future presidents from taking this nation to another war under false pretenses, some president in the future that gets a funny thought, I think that deterrence would increase immeasurably if he knew what America did to George Bush, put him on trial for murder, and if he was convicted, of course, the punishment would either be life imprisonment or the imposition of the death penalty.

I gave you a long answer to the question, but I had always suspected that if there was going to be a prosecution in this place, it would be at the local level. The ideal venue is, in fact, the Department of Justice.

MC: Ultimately, isn't it the responsibility of the attorney general to determine the crimes that are investigated and what aren't? For example, if Obama called up Holder and said, "Lay off any prosecutions against the Bush crew," Holder may take that advice or he may not. But wouldn't he have to ignore the request?

VB: Well, there's no question that independent of Obama, Holder has the authority to bring criminal charges against Bush, no question about it. There's also no question that each of the 93 U.S. attorneys around the country have the power and the authority to do so, but let's jump from there to reality. The reality is if there's some U.S. attorney in Chicago that wants to do it, it's possible, but he's not going to do it without checking with his boss. You don't take on the biggest most important murder case in American history without letting your boss know about it, you know -- that is, not if you want to remain a U.S. attorney; and likewise with Holder. He has the authority and he has the power to completely ignore Obama, but the reality is what do you do? If Obama indicated that he was opposed to it, it would take quite a man to overrule the president.

MC: Where does that leave the cause of justice for those who died?

Since Obama's not going to do anything and the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction, the reality is that the only game in town is what took place several weeks ago up in Seattle when Bob Alexander, just a regular citizen, but an American patriot, sent out with volunteers, copies of my book, The Prosecution of George Bush for Murder, to DAs all over the country, with a cover letter from me, asking the DAs to read the book, and, if they agreed that the evidence of guilt was clear and that there's jurisdiction to proceed against him, I offered to help out in any way that I could, any way that they deemed -- any way that they wanted me to, which would range all the way from being a consultant up to and including being appointed as special prosecutor.

" -- although I may not succeed, I'm not going to be satisfied until I see George Bush in an American courtroom being prosecuted for first degree murder. George Bush cannot be permitted to get away with murder. I realize my biggest obstacle is the perceptive observation made by Mark Twain: "Why is physical courage so common, but moral courage so very rare?" Cover letter for distribution of Bugliosi's book to 2200 local prosecutors,

MC: I've followed Professor Jonathon Turley of George Washington University, and he's come out and said there are two clear crimes to prosecute Bush for. One is torture, which Bush has essentially admitted, and the other is under the statutes against illegal surveillance. I'm trying to understand why Turley doesn't -- and I don't know if you've talked to him or not --

VB: No, no.

MC: I'm trying to understand where the murder charge is.

VB: I told you that I was disappointed with Obama. I have to take it a step further and say I am offended. I am offended by this movement by those who want to get, quote, even with Bush to just talk about torture. I find it very offensive. And I'll tell you why. I'm not saying that Bush and his people should not be prosecuted for torture, but I want to get into that in depth in a while. But it should only be at most a footnote to going after him for murder. It should only be a footnote.

The New York Times said in an editorial a month and a half or so ago that there were two dozen verifiable cases of torture at Abu Ghraib. Let's assume that that number is very conservative, very conservative. Let's say there's 100 cases; let's say there's 200 cases of torture that can be verified.

How do you compare 200 cases of torturing Iraqis with the unlawful death, if what I say is correct, of one million Iraqis and 4,200 American soldiers? How do you compare these two? Again, is there something that I don't know? Is there something that I have to be told? How do you compare the two?

They can't be compared, obviously, and yet all I hear is torture, torture, torture, torture, and I'm offended by that, not because I'm not saying that Bush shouldn't be prosecuted for torture, but because what's wrong with these people? To give Bush a free pass on taking this nation to war on a lie. The majority of American people believe that Bush took this nation to war on a lie, and I can't tell you the number of times there's been TV and radio shows and articles about the lies of the Bush administration in taking this nation to war. Now all of a sudden they want to forget all about that, these people, and just talk about torture, torture, torture, torture.

There was a cover story in, I think it was Harper's Magazine about two months ago, about prosecuting Bush. Obviously, I bought the magazine, and I opened it up to the prosecution. What was it all about? Torture. The New York Times had a pro and con in the op-ed section about two months ago, pro prosecution to Bush, anti prosecution to Bush. So I looked at what the prosecution was about -- torture. I'm offended by this.

Who's fighting to bring about justice for the perhaps one million innocent Iraqi men, women, and children and babies in their graves? Actually, I shouldn't say I'm going to bring about justice for them, or try to, because I was unable to establish jurisdiction to go after Bush for the deaths of the Iraqi citizens. I did establish jurisdiction to go after him for the deaths of the 4,200 American soldiers. In any event, it would be a symbolic effort to bring about justice for the million people in their graves. Let's say that number's high. In my book I say over 100,000. Certainly there's over 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, children and babies who died as a result of Bush's war. Some numbers put it in excess of one million, and we know there's 4,200 American soldiers.

Who's fighting to bring about justice for those in their graves, decomposing in their cold graves right now as I'm talking to you, Michael? Who's doing that out there?

MC: Right.

VB: No one seems to be interested in that. It's all torture, torture, torture, torture, so apparently torturing 24 or 200 Iraqi citizens or Iraqi insurgents or what have you is more important than bringing about justice, let's say, for 4,200 American soldiers who died in Bush's war. So you can see where I am offended about that.

I'm not saying that Bush should not be prosecuted for torture.

Let's talk about why it's even more offensive to me than I've already told you. I've given you the main reason why I'm offended by it, that that's all they talk about, as opposed to saying let's go after him for taking this nation to war under false pretenses, and then let's also add a count to the indictment for torture. Do you follow?

MC: Yes I do. Where does torture fit into the larger picture?

VB: I'm not saying he shouldn't be prosecuted if he's guilty of torture. I just don't think it should be all that people are talking about. But let's take it to another level. Who are these people who were tortured? Well, I guess virtually all of them were insurgents. There never should have been a war in Iraq. Iraq -- there were no terrorists in Iraq, and when you go to war, a war against terror, you go against the terrorists, and there were no terrorists in Iraq, but we're acting on a set stage here, so in Bush's -- in the Bush administration's mind, once they were in custody there, they viewed -- the Bush administration viewed these insurgents as enemies. So that's their state of mind. If these insurgents are enemies, why would the Bush administration be authorizing torture? Well, to coerce from them intelligence information that would be helpful to America?

MC: Right.

VB: Which does not eliminate the legal liability but diminishes the moral culpability.

But there was no justification whatsoever under the moon that was helpful to America in invading Iraq, nothing, zero, cipher. Hussein had nothing at all to do with 9/11. He was not an imminent threat to the security of this country. Bush and his people lied to convince the American people on both of those things, that he was an imminent threat and that he had been involved in 9/11. So that diminishes the torture thing even further.

The main guy we've got to go after, and there would be many named in the indictment, of course, many others, at least Rice and Cheney, of course, but I believe Rove; the main guy is George Bush. Why is he the main guy? Because he's the one that authorized it. If he didn't authorize it, none of these things would ever have happened. I don't care who influenced him, if anyone at all. He said, yes, let's do it.

MC: Since we last spoke, there've been more revelations on the outrages of the Iraq War, all a direct result of the lies Bush and Cheney used to sell the war.. How do those revelations build your case?

VB: While all of these revelations are very good, you have to know, Michael, they don't mean anything at all unless we do something about it. The revelations by themselves, by definition, don't go anywhere. And that's why when people hear these revelations, you know, they're prompted to ask, "What now? Where do we go from here?"

MC: Right.

VB: And, again, not boasting, it's just a fact that The Prosecution of George Bush for Murder is the what now, where do we go from here book, the only book, out of the probably over 100 out there attacking Bush, that provides a legal blueprint for bringing George Bush to justice

Jury finds Colorado professor was fired for political views, wins wrongful termination suit

Jury finds Colorado professor was fired for political views

By Patrick Martin

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In a verdict that suggests a definite growth in political understanding on the part of the American population, a Denver, Colorado jury ruled April 2 in favor of a university professor fired after writing an article that suggested that US government policies had brought on the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The six-member jury found that Ward L. Churchill, 61, was the victim of political retaliation, not discharged for academic misconduct, as the Colorado University administration claimed. The jurors found that his political views had been a “substantial or motivating” factor in his dismissal.

The jury awarded him only $1 in damages, but Churchill dismissed the amount as irrelevant, saying, “I didn’t ask for money. I asked for justice.” David Lane, his lawyer, said the jury’s action was a victory “for the First Amendment and academic freedom.”

Whether Churchill is restored to his position as a professor of ethnic studies at the CU Boulder campus will be decided by Chief Denver District Judge Larry Naves, who heard the case with the jury. The judge will also decide whether to award attorney’s fees.

Churchill is a long-time advocate of Native American rights who has published more than a hundred articles and a dozen books. An article he wrote shortly after the 9/11 attacks, under the title, “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” made the perfectly reasonable assertion that the terrorist attacks were a byproduct of US foreign policy in the Middle East.

He went further, however, and in an offensive and unwarranted slur on the victims in the World Trade Center, described them as “little Eichmanns” (after the Nazi functionary who played a key role in the Holocaust) because in their jobs at financial firms they were contributing to the destruction of people in the Third World.

This comment demonstrated the essentially reactionary character of the identity politics espoused by Churchill, which makes no class distinction between the billionaires and CEOs who direct the predatory activities of Wall Street, and the thousands of workers, both professional and clerical, employed in the financial industry.

Four years later, the right-wing media and capitalist politicians whipped up a firestorm over Churchill’s reference to “little Eichmanns” after it was publicized by a college newspaper. Colorado Governor Bill Owens demanded that Colorado University fire him, and when the university’s president, Elizabeth Hoffman, declined to do so, she was forced out of office.

Since Churchill was a tenured professor and could not be discharged except for cause, his enemies set about manufacturing the necessary pretext. After a year-long right-wing campaign, CU launched an investigation into Churchill’s academic work and three faculty committees, acting under the pressure of what the professor called “a howling mob,” ruled that he had committed plagiarism, fabrication and research misconduct in his writings on Native American history, his specialty.

The concocted character of the charges against Churchill is well described by Stanley Fish, a law professor who blogs regularly for the New York Times online. In a recent posting, Fish (who is politically conservative and no fan of Churchill’s views) writes: “I had read the committee’s report and found it less an indictment of Churchill than an example of a perfectly ordinary squabble about research methods and the handling of evidence. The accusations that fill its pages are the kind scholars regularly hurl at their polemical opponents. It’s part of the game. But in most cases, after you’ve trashed the guy’s work in a book or a review, you don’t get to fire him. Which is good, because if the standards for dismissal adopted by the Churchill committee were generally in force, hardly any of us professors would have jobs.”

Churchill took the stand on his own behalf in the course of the lawsuit, and sought to explain the basis of his comments on 9/11. “I’m not in favor of terror,” he told the jury, but reiterated his indictment of American foreign policy. “If you make it a practice of killing other people’s babies for personal gain,” he argued, “eventually they’re going to give you a taste of the same thing.”

The jurors were clearly able to overcome any lingering prejudice against the ponytailed former professor, engendered by the rabid media campaign led by right-wing TV pundits like Bill O’Reilly. Their decision demonstrates a willingness to stand up for basic democratic rights that is both courageous and encouraging.

Red Cross report details CIA war crimes

Red Cross report details CIA war crimes

By Tom Eley

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This week, the New York Review of Books released the full version of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report detailing US Central Intelligence Agency torture of 14 “high value” terrorist suspects at prison “black sites” from 2001 until 2006. Earlier, it had produced excerpts of the report and an analysis by author Mark Danner.

The report makes explicit that the CIA violated the laws of war and basic human rights in its treatment of the prisoners, which included beatings, humiliations, sleep deprivation, and suffocation by water (“waterboarding”), among dozens of specifically named acts of brutality.

At several points, the 40-page report refers to CIA actions as illegal according to international law. The ICRC, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is the body tasked with overseeing observance of the laws of war. That it has declared acts carried out by US intelligence personnel as torture carries enormous legal weight.

Yet the Obama administration has granted blanket immunity to CIA, military and Bush administration officials who ordered and carried out torture and other war crimes. An Obama administration spokesman, Mark Mansfield, told the New York Times that CIA head Leon Panetta “has stated repeatedly that no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the Department of Justice at the time should be investigated, let alone punished.”

The Obama administration is anxious to avoid prosecution of Bush administration officials for two reasons. First, the report stands as a condemnation not only of the Bush administration, but of leading Democrats, who were well aware of torture, illegal detention, extraordinary rendition and other major violations carried out by the US in the “war on terror.”

Second, the Obama administration wishes to maintain Washington’s full arsenal of repression at its disposal, including torture, in order to carry on longstanding imperialist objectives. Indeed, it is very likely the case that similar abuses as those outlined in the ICRC report continue at US military prison camps in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

By virtue of its silence, the US media has joined Obama in its defense of the Bush administration. It should be headline news that the body tasked with overseeing the laws of war, the ICRC, has written a report that all but proves that Washington carried out a large-scale torture operation over several years. But upon its release, the full ICRC report has been relegated to minor-story status by the New York Times, Washington Post and the television media. The story has been all but dropped since.

For its part, the ICRC has condemned the release of the report, which was produced for high-ranking members of the Bush administration and was declared confidential. Danner has not explained how he obtained a copy. However, the ICRC has verified the report’s authenticity.

The methods of the CIA

The testimony of the 14 detainees repeats descriptions of particular forms of abuse again and again. This demonstrates not only the systematic nature of the torture regime. Because the prisoners were held incommunicado in solitary confinement, the repetition of experiences demonstrates that their stories were not invented or otherwise planted.

Nine of the 14 detainees were arrested in Pakistan; three in Thailand; and one each in Dubai and Djibouti. Upon their arrest, the detainees were subject to imprisonment and interrogations in the countries where they were found.

They were then shackled hands and feet, and “made to wear a diaper.” According to the report: “Earphones would be placed over his ears.... He would be blindfolded with at least a cloth tied around the head and black goggles.... The detainee was not allowed to go to the toilet and if necessary was obliged to urinate or defecate into the diaper.”

In this way, the abducted men were transported via airplane to the secret gulag of US prisons around the world. The 14 prisoners report being shipped first to Afghanistan to face further interrogation. From there, they lost sense of their location and the lapse of time. Indeed, the ICRC notes that the detention “was specifically designed to cut off contact with the outside world and emphasize a feeling of disorientation and isolation.”

The CIA permitted the prisoners no contact with other prisoners, much less family members or lawyers:

“Throughout the entire period during which they were held [for 11 of the 14, more than three years] the detainees were kept in continuous solitary confinement and incommunicado detention. They had no knowledge of where they were being held, no contact with persons other than their interrogators or guards. Even their guards...did not communicate in any way with the detainees. None with other persons detained.... None had any contact with legal representation. The 14 had no access to news from the outside world.... None of the 14 had any contact with their families.... They were therefore unable to inform their families of their fate.”

The chapter headings of the ICRC report read as though they might describe prisoner treatment at the hands of the Nazi SS. These include, “Continuous solitary confinement and incommunicado detention,” “Suffocation by water,” “Beatings by use of a collar,” “Beating and Kicking,” “Confinement in a box,” “Prolonged nudity,” “Sleep deprivation and use of loud music,” “Exposure to cold temperature/cold water,” “Prolonged use of handcuffs and shackles,” “Threats,” “Forced Shaving” and “Deprivation/restriction provision of solid food.”

The ICRC describes “suffocation by water,” what the US media refers to by the more innocuous “waterboarding,” in the following manner:

“[T]he person to be suffocated was strapped to a tilting bed and cloth was placed over the face, covering the nose and mouth. Water was then poured continuously over the cloth, saturating it and blocking air so that the person could not breathe. This...induced a feeling of panic and the acute impression that the person was about to die. At a point chosen by the interrogator the cloth was removed and the bed was rotated into a head-up and vertical position so that the person was left hanging by the straps used to secure him to the bed. The procedure was repeated at least twice, if not more often, during a single interrogation session.”

The CIA used a form of torture called “stress standing” on 10 of the 14 prisoners. In these cases, American agents chained the prisoners—who were left naked—by the wrists “to a bar or hook in the ceiling above the head for periods ranging from two or three days continuously, and for up to two or three months intermittently.” One prisoner reported that interrogators removed an artificial leg during these sessions, leaving his one healthy leg to bear the load.

Six of the 14 inmates told the ICRC that thick collars were used to “slam [prisoners] against the walls.” Nine reported suffering daily beatings “involving repeated slapping, punching,” and sometimes kicking. Ten of the 14 report being denied solid food, eight of them for periods lasting from three days to one month.

Many prisoners reported being shackled continuously at the wrists and ankles for months at a time. Forced nudity was the most common form of torture; prisoners report they were kept naked for days, weeks, and even months at a time, often in cells that were maintained at cold temperatures.

In a chilling excerpt, the ICRC describes the CIA’s use of cold water as a torture method, which was reported by seven prisoners:

“In four cases the water was allegedly thrown or poured on the detainees with a bucket or a hose-pipe while held in the stress standing position with their arms shackled above their heads.... Several thought this was in order to clean away the faeces which had run down their legs when they defecated while held in the prolonged stress standing position.... In three cases cold water was also poured over the detainee while he was lying on a plastic sheet raised at the edges by guards to contain the water around his body creating an immersion bath with just the head exposed.”

The CIA made sadistic use of threats, including “electric shocks, infection with HIV, sodomy of the detainee and the arrest and rape of his family....” Other threats were made “by visual means.” In these cases, prisoners were forced to view photos of the images of the tortured bodies of other detainees.

“The role of medical staff”

The ICRC devotes a special section of the report to the role of medical personnel, who in clear violation of their professional and ethical obligations assisted with the torture of the inmates.

One prisoner, Khaled Shaik Mohammed, described medical personnel involved in suffocation by water (waterboarding). Here, the medical staff monitored the oxygen level in Mohammed’s blood stream, advising interrogators to either continue or halt suffocation.

Prisoners who had their hands shackled to the ceiling reported being “monitored by health personnel who in some instances recommended stopping the method of ill-treatment, or recommended its continuation....” One prisoner reported a health worker telling him, “I look after your body only because we need you for information.”

The ICRC admonishes Washington over the role of what appeared to be doctors, psychologists, and nurses involved in torture. “[T]he role of the physician and any other health professional involved in the care of detainees is explicitly to protect them from such ill-treatment and there can be no exception of circumstances invoked to excuse this obligation.”

It further noted that “any interrogation process that requires a health professional to either pronounce on the subjects’ fitness to withstand such procedure, or which requires a health professional to monitor the actual procedure, must have inherent health risks. As such, the interrogation process is contrary to international law and the participation of health personnel in such a process is contrary to international standards of medical ethics.”

The Red Cross lists Washington’s war crimes

The ICRC concludes its document by outlining, in explicit fashion, the war crimes carried out by the Bush administration.

Some of these violations of international law, the ICRC points out, pertain to “undisclosed detention,” whereby the thousands of individuals were swept up in the worldwide American dragnet known as the “war on terror.”

“It is a basic tenet of international law,” the report explains, “that any person deprived of liberty must be registered and held in an officially recognized place of detention.”

The report then lists some of the relevant international laws. “The entire system of detention provided for by the Geneva Convention of 1949,” the report notes, “is based on the idea that detainees must be registered and held in officially recognized places of detention.” The ICRC also lists relevant laws requiring the notification of family members and third parties of detainment.

The prisoners were also denied access to any judicial system, again a violation of international law and the laws of war. “The totality of the circumstances in which the 14 were held effectively amounted to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and enforced disappearance, in contravention of international law,” the ICRC concludes.

As for prisoner abuse, the ICRC concludes unambiguously that the prisoners’ experiences “amounted to torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

The ICRC then cites, once again, specific international laws defining torture, including common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and the 1984 United Nations Convention against Torture. The latter defined torture “as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted upon a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession....”

In concluding its report, the ICFI writes, “The totality of the circumstances in which they were held effectively amounted to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and enforced disappearance, in contravention of international law.”

“The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singularly or in combination, constituted torture.”

Settling accounts

There is now overwhelming evidence that the US military and intelligence apparatus has operated and maintained a systematic and long-standing system of secret prisons and torture. This operation was widespread and was utilized against far more individuals than the 14 inmates interviewed by the ICRC. Indeed, the report includes a section entitled “Fate of other persons who passed through the CIA detention program,” which indicates that such methods were likely the norm.

Obama’s pledge to protect CIA, military and Bush administration officials from investigation and prosecution must serve as a warning. Beyond the symbolic change in appearance and rhetoric, the change of administrations in Washington has done nothing to dismantle the US war machine and its monstrous methods.

Unless the perpetrators face justice for their acts, disappearances, torture and worse will ultimately be used against Washington’s political opponents and wider layers of the population.

There is no section of the political establishment that wishes to see Bush administration officials face justice for their crimes. In the end, the trampling of international law and human rights is an objective expression of the decline of American capitalism, and the ruling class’s evermore-ruthless defense of its interests.

The task of the defense, and further advance, of basic human rights falls to the working class.