Sunday, December 13, 2009

The "Obama Doctrine": Eternal War For Imperfect Mankind

The "Obama Doctrine": Eternal War For Imperfect Mankind

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President and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States Barack Obama delivered his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance address in Oslo on December 10, which has immediately led to media discussion of an Obama Doctrine.

With obligatory references to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi (the second referred to only by his surname) but to no other American presidents than Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy - fellow peace prize recipients Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter weren't mentioned - the U.S. head of state spoke with the self-assurance of the leader of the world's first uncontested superpower and at times with the self-righteousness of a would-be prophet and clairvoyant. And, in the words of German philosopher Friedrich von Schlegel, a prophet looking backward.

Accompanied by visionary gaze and cadenced, oratorical solemnity, his comments included the assertion that "War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man." Unless this unsubstantiated claim was an allusion to the account in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible of Cain murdering his brother Abel, which would hardly constitute war in any intelligible meaning of the word (nor was Cain the first man according to that source), it is unclear where Obama acquired the conviction that war is coeval with and presumably an integral part of humanity.

Paleontologists generally trace the arrival of modern man, homo sapiens, back 200,000 years, yet the first authenticated written histories are barely 2,400 years old. How Obama and his speechwriters filled in the 197,600-year gap to prove that the practice of war is as old as mankind and implicitly inseparable from the human condition is a question an enterprising reporter might venture to ask at the next presidential press conference.

Perhaps delusions of omniscience is the answer. The Oslo speech is replete with references to and appropriations of the attributes of divinity. And to historical and anthropological fatalism; a deeply pessimistic concept of Providence.

Obama affirmed that "no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint." Then shortly afterward stated "Let us reach for the world that ought to be - that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls." An adversary's invocation of the divine is false, heretical, sacrilegious; Washington's is true, unerring, sufficient to justify any action, however violent and deadly. As unadulterated an illustration of secular Manicheaism as can be found in the modern world.

Toward the beginning of his speech the first standing American president in ninety years to receive the Peace Prize acknowledged that "perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars."

Understandably he exerted no effort to justify one of the two wars in question, that in Iraq, but endorsed and pledged the continuation of the other, that in Afghanistan and increasingly Pakistan - while elsewhere speaking disparagingly of the European Crusades of the later Middle Ages.

Neither the Nobel Committee nor its honoree seemed inordinately if at all concerned by the unprecedented awarding of the prestigious and generous ($1.4 million) Peace Prize to a commander-in-chief in charge of two simultaneous wars far from his nation's shores and in countries whose governments and peoples never threatened it in any manner.

In language that never before was heard during a peace prize acceptance speech, Obama added "we are at war, and I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed."

With not a scintilla of national self-awareness, balance or irony, he also derided the fact that "modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale," as he orders unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) linked by space satellites to launch deadly missile attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The central themes of Obama's speech are reiterations of standing U.S. policy going back over a decade with the waging of war against Yugoslavia in early 1999 without United Nations authorization or even a nominal attempt to obtain one; that the U.S. and its Western military allies can decide individually and collectively when, to what degree, where and for what purpose to use military force anywhere in the world. And the prerogative to employ military force outside national borders is reserved exclusively for the United States, its fellow NATO members and select military clients outside the Euro-Atlantic zone such as Colombia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Israel and Saudi Arabia of late.

What is arguably unique in Obama's address is the bluntness with which it reaffirmed this doctrine of international lawlessness. Excerpts along this line, shorn of ingenuous qualifications and decorative camouflage, include:

"We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."

He offered a summary of the just war argument that a White House researcher could have cribbed from Wikipedia.

"[A]s a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their [Gandhi's and King's] examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world."

"I - like any head of state - reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation."

Evil, as a noun rather than an adjective, is used twice in the speech, emblematic of a quasi-theological tone alternating with coldly and even callously pragmatic pronouncements.

Indicative of the second category are comments like these:

"[T]he instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace."

"A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism....

"I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower."

Comparing a small handful of al-Qaeda personnel to Hitler's Wehrmacht is unconscionable. Whatever else the former are, they barely have arms to lay down. But Obama does, the world's largest and most deadly conventional and nuclear arsenal.

His playing the trump card of Nazi Germany is not only an act of rhetorical recklessness, it is historically unjustified. There would have been no need to confront the Third Reich's legions if timely diplomatic actions had been taken when Hitler sent troops into the Rhineland in 1936; if Britain and France had not collaborated with Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy to enforce the naval blockade of Republican Spain while German aircraft devastated Guernica and other towns and German and Italian troops poured into the country by the tens of thousands in support of Generalissimo Franco's uprising. If, finally, Britain, France, Germany and Italy had not met in Munich in 1938 to sacrifice Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland to Hitler to encourage his murderous drive to the east. The same four nations met 70 years later, last year, to reprise the Munich betrayal by engineering the secession of Kosovo from Serbia, to demonstrate how much had been learned in the
interim.

As to the accusation that many nations bear an alleged "deep ambivalence about military action" and even more so "a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower," it bespeaks alike arrogance, sanctimony, and an absolute imperviousness to the reality of American foreign policy now and in the recent and not so recent past. According to this imperial "sole military superpower" perspective, the White House and the Pentagon can never be wrong. Not even partially, unavoidably or unintentionally.

If others find fault with anything the world's only military juggernaut does, it is a reflection of their own misguided pacifism and ingrained, pathological "anti-Americanism." Perhaps this constitutes the aforementioned "threats to the American people," as there aren't any others in Afghanistan or in the world as a whole that were convincingly identified in the speech.

What may be the most noteworthy - and disturbing - line in the address is what Obama characterised as the "recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason." Lest this observation be construed as an example of personal or national humility, other - grandiose Americocentric - comments surrounding it leave no doubt that the inadequacies in question are only applied to others.

One would search in vain for a comparable utterance by another American head of state. For a nation that prides itself on being the first one founded on the principles of the 18th century Enlightenment and the previous century's Age of Reason, that its leader would lay stress on inherent and ineradicable human frailty and at least by implication on some truth that is apart from and superior to reason is nothing less than alarming. The door is left open to irrationalism and its correlates, that the ultimate right can be might and that there are national imperatives beyond good and evil.

And if people are by nature flawed and their reasoning correspondingly impaired, then for humanity, "Born but to die and reasoning but to err" (Alexander Pope), war may indeed be its birthright and violent conflicts will not be eradicated in its lifetime. War, which came into existence with mankind, will last as long as it does. They may both end, as Obama believes they originated, simultaneously.

How the leader of the West, both the nation and the individual, has arrived at this bleak and deterministic impasse was also mentioned in Obama's speech in reference to pivotal post-Cold War events that have defined this new century.

It is only a single step from:

"I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That's why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace."

To:

"The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That's why NATO continues to be indispensable."

In proclaiming these and similar sentiments, Obama made reference to his host country in alluding to the war in Afghanistan: "[W]e are joined by 42 other countries - including Norway - in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks."

Again, threats are magnified to inflated and even universal dimensions. All nations on the planet are threatened and some of them - 43 NATO states and partners - are fending off the barbarians at the gates. It is difficult to distinguish the new Obama Doctrine from the preceding Blair and Bush ones except in regard to its intended scope.

It is a mission outside of time, space and constraints. "The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms....America's commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure the peace. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia....And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.

"The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries, and other friends and allies, demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they've shown in Afghanistan."

The U.S. president adduced other nations - by name - that present threats to America and its values, its allies and the world as a whole in addition to Afghanistan and Somalia, which are Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe. All five were either on George W. Bush's post-September 11 list of state sponsors of terrorism or on Condoleezza Rice's later roster of "outposts of tyranny" or both.

Hopes that the policies of Obama's predecessor were somehow outside of the historical continuum, solely related to the aftermath of September 11, 2001, have been dashed. The rapidly escalating war in South Asia is proof enough of that lamentable fact. War is not a Biblical suspension of ethics but the foundation of national policy.

In his novel La Bête Humaine (The Human Beast) Emile Zola interwove images of a French crowd clamoring for a disastrous war with Prussia ("A Berlin!") and a locomotive heading at full steam down the track without an engineer. Obama's speech in Oslo indicates that America remains bent on rushing headlong to war even after a change of engineers. Veteran warhawks Robert Gates, James Jones, Richard Holbrooke, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal have stoked the furnace for a long run.

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Mercenaries and assassins: The real face of Obama's "good war"

Mercenaries and assassins: The real face of Obama’s “good war”

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Reports that mercenaries employed by the notorious Blackwater-Xe military contracting firm participated in CIA assassinations in Iraq and Afghanistan have further exposed the real character of so-called “good war” that is being escalated by the Obama administration.

Citing former employees of the firm and US intelligence agents, the New York Times reported Friday that Blackwater gunmen, ostensibly contracted as security guards, “participated in some of the CIA’s most sensitive activities—clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees.”

These “snatch and grab” operations—many of them involving killings of individuals suspected of participating in the resistance to US occupation—“occurred on an almost nightly basis during the height of the Iraqi insurgency from 2004 to 2006, with Blackwater employees playing central roles,” the Times reports.

Both the Times and the Washington Post quoted unnamed intelligence officials and ex-Blackwater operatives as asserting that the involvement of the company’s mercenaries in assassinations and abductions was not planned. Rather, they claimed, it was a matter of the division of labor between CIA operatives and private guards supposedly hired for the purpose of protecting them becoming “blurred.”

According to the Times, the Blackwater guards “were supposed to only provide perimeter security during raids, leaving it up to CIA officers and Special Operations military personnel to capture or kill suspected insurgents.” The newspaper added, “But in the chaos of operations, the roles of Blackwater, CIA and military personnel sometimes merged.”

The pretense that armed Blackwater contractors, most of them former US Special Operations troops themselves, would be used merely as security guards for CIA personnel is absurd on its face. Whatever justification was given for the contract, the “skill set” that Blackwater offered was precisely that of highly trained assassins.

A spokesman for Blackwater-Xe responded to the press reports by insisting that there was never any contract for the firm to participate in raids with CIA or Special Forces troops “in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else.” He added: “Any allegation to the contrary by any news organization would be false.”

The absence of a contract spelling out Blackwater’s role in assassination missions is hardly surprising, given that the mercenary outfit’s chief attraction for the CIA is precisely its ability to act without regard to any government oversight or regard for civil or military law. As the Post put it, citing a retired intelligence officer, “For government employees, working with contractors offered ways to circumvent red tape.”

Blackwater’s role as an extra-legal extension of the Central Intelligence Agency tasked with dirty operations with which the CIA did not want its employees directly associated is more than evident.

An article published in the current (January) edition of Vanity Fair, written by Adam Ciralsky, a former CIA attorney, cites intelligence sources in reporting that Eric Prince, the multi-millionaire Republican founder-owner of Blackwater, was not merely a private contractor, but a “full-blown asset” recruited by the agency precisely for such operations.

The central role played by Blackwater in the CIA’s activities became increasingly clear as key agency officials left the CIA and took up positions in Blackwater’s management. These included J. Cofer Black, the former head of the agency’s Counter Terrorism Center, Enrique Prado, the center’s former chief of operations, and Rob Richer, formerly the second-in-command of the CIA’s clandestine service.

In Iraq, Blackwater’s employees acted with complete impunity, killing large numbers of civilians without being held to account by either the Iraqi regime or US military commanders. The scope of this violence came to public attention in September 2007, when a convoy of Blackwater operatives stopped in Baghdad’s Nisour Square and without provocation opened fire on unarmed civilians, killing 17 Iraqis.

Six of the Blackwater mercenaries have been charged by federal prosecutors with voluntary manslaughter over the killings. One of them has pled guilty and is expected to testify against the others in a trial starting in February.

Meanwhile, the company is being sued in separate civil cases brought on behalf of 70 Iraqis over killings by the firm’s employees in Iraq. Two ex-employees of Blackwater have filed affidavits in these cases charging that company head Prince may have either murdered or ordered the murders of individuals cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation of the firm.

Friday’s report in the Times follows a series of revelations that have surfaced since last June, when CIA Director Leon Panetta briefed Congressional intelligence committees about a covert assassination program involving Blackwater, which he claimed to have only just discovered and terminated. Panetta asserted that the program had never been implemented. Until then, it had been kept secret from Congress, reportedly on the orders of former vice president Dick Cheney.

It was subsequently revealed that employees of Blackwater, since renamed Xe Services in an attempt to shed the firm’s infamous reputation, were actively involved in an ongoing assassination program on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, carried out by means of Predator drones. The Blackwater mercenaries were assembling and loading the 500 pound bombs and Hellfire missiles used to carry out so-called “targeted killings,” which have taken the lives of hundreds of civilians. In addition, they provided security for the drone bases and according to some reports, participated in intelligence operations that determined the targets for the attacks.

There have been at least 65 such aerial assassination strikes in Pakistan since August 2008, with a reported death toll of over 625 people. Some estimates put the number killed at over 1,000, many of them women and children. Most of these attacks have taken place since the Obama administration took office.

In addition to the more than 30,000 additional US troops being sent into Afghanistan, Obama has authorized the CIA to dramatically escalate the drone attacks. US officials have also warned the Pakistani government that these attacks are to be extended beyond the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan into Baluchistan, and potentially against the crowded city of Quetta, where Afghan Taliban leaders have reportedly taken refuge.

It is far from clear, based on the Times report, to what extent Blackwater’s role in targeted assassinations, both from the air and on the ground, is continuing. Since 2001, the firm has netted over $1.5 billion in government contracts, providing armed mercenaries for the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon.

One thing is certain, assassinations of the kind involving Blackwater mercenaries are going to be carried out on a far greater scale as part of Obama’s escalation of the US war in Afghanistan.

These plans were hinted at by Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus during his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday. “There’s no question you’ve got to kill or capture those bad guys that are not reconcilable,” Petraeus told the senators. “And we are intending to do that.”

The general continued, “In fact, we actually will be increasing our counterterrorist component of the overall strategy.” He said that additional “national mission force elements” will be arriving in Afghanistan by next spring.

The “elements” cited by Petraeus include Special Operations units like the Army’s classified Delta Force, as well as CIA hit squads and, in all probability, mercenary forces like those fielded by Blackwater.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, tapped by Obama to direct the Afghan war, was previously the head of the super-secret Joint Special Operations Command, which consists of such special forces troops and assassination squads. Petraeus said that McChrystal could brief members of the Senate committee on this element of the Obama surge in a closed session.

It is noteworthy that the controversy in the major media is centered on whether the use of Blackwater mercenaries to hunt down and murder individuals suspected of opposing the US occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan represented an illegitimate use of private contractors in carrying out a core government function.

The murders themselves are not an issue. In 1976, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order barring the CIA from directly carrying out assassinations or contracting them out to others. The decision followed a wave of public outrage over a series of revelations of CIA assassination plots around the globe that earned the agency the epithet “Murder, Inc.”

In 2001, President George W. Bush overturned Ford’s ruling, issuing his own intelligence finding that such restrictions no longer applied in the “global war on terrorism.” The Democrats offered no objections, and the media has treated it entirely as a matter of course, while blacking out any serious reporting on the resulting carnage and victims.

As with every other essential question, President Barack Obama has adopted Bush’s policy. “Targeted assassinations,” extraordinary rendition, the use of mercenaries, all of the sordid crimes carried out under the Bush administration continue. These brutal methods are about to be unleashed with redoubled force against the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan as Obama oversees new war crimes.

The Nation and the Obama Doctrine

The Nation and the Obama Doctrine

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President Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech has been hailed virtually unanimously across the entire spectrum of the American political establishment.

Bristling with imperialist arrogance, Obama’s speech amounted to a full-throated defense of US aggression and a brief for the unlimited use of military violence to recolonize large parts of the world. Delivered by a president who only a week before had announced an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan that will lead to the deaths of many thousands, the speech essentially asserted the right of the United States to invade any country in the world.

“The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace,” Obama insisted. The US, he said, has the right to "act unilaterally if necessary" and to launch wars whose purpose "extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor." This was a reassertion of the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemptive war, which is a violation of international law.

Obama referred to the historical concept of “just war,” which maintains that wars must be waged only in self-defense, must employ proportional force and do so in a manner that avoids civilian casualties. He then said it was necessary to “think in new ways” about these notions, implying that such quaint ideas had to be rejected and the world had to accept the right of the US and other imperialist powers to inflict death and destruction on targeted populations as they saw fit.

Obama was not just defending the ongoing wars in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. As in his December 1 West Point speech, he made clear that these are only the first of many future wars. Speaking in Oslo, he singled out as potential targets a series of countries, including Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Congo, Zimbabwe and Myanmar.

In an implicit threat to rival powers, Obama made a point of referring to the US as "the world's sole military superpower.”

The White House clearly decided to use Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech as an opportunity to stage an international defense of American militarism and imperialist war. It was confident that the different factions of the US political and media establishment could be brought on board behind a policy—dubbed by media commentators the “Obama Doctrine”—that both reiterates and extends that elaborated by the Bush administration.

On the right, the speech won the support of the former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, House Minority Leader John Boehner, Karl Rove and Sarah Palin, among others. One Republican strategist, Bradley Blakeman, remarked, "The irony is that George W. Bush could have delivered the very same speech. It was truly an American president's message to the world."

The Wall Street Journal wrote that the speech put paid any notion that Obama would give a "wooly-headed address about peace in our time." Instead, Obama "stated clearly that sometimes war is necessary…”

“Congratulations, Mr. President," wrote the organ of the Republican right.

The New York Times, the voice of American liberalism, said the speech was "appropriately humble" as well as "somber and soaring," It drew particular attention to Obama's defense of the war in Afghanistan as "morally just and strategically necessary."

Hastening to align itself with the imperialist establishment and declare its support for the speech was the Nation magazine, the main organ of what passes for “left” liberalism. John Nichols, one of the magazine’s principal commentators, in a blog entry published almost immediately after the speech and featured as the lead item on the magazine’s web site, wrote that it was "an exceptionally well-reasoned and appropriately humble address."

Nichols gushed, "The president's frankness about the controversies and concerns regarding the award of a Peace Prize to a man who just last week ordered 30,000 US new troops into the Afghanistan quagmire, and the humility he displayed…offered a glimpse of Obama at his best."

"As such," he continued, "the speech was important and, dare we say, hopeful."

In an interview on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” news program, the Nation’s editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, praised the speech’s supposed "humility and grace." The host of the show, evidently expecting more criticism, noted that vanden Heuvel "seemed to be resolving the conflict between the wartime president…and the speech about peace rather easily…”

Vanden Heuvel responded with blather about the "complexity" of American life. It was a "complex speech," she said, and she was "interested in its complexity."

Contrary to vanden Heuvel, there was nothing “humble” or “graceful” about Obama’s speech. Nor was it complex. It was an open brief for unrestrained aggression and colonial oppression.

There should be no confusion as to the position of the Nation and the privileged upper-middle-class layers for which the magazine speaks, including former radicals and one-time critics of US imperialism. They have moved squarely into the camp of American imperialism. They support Obama’s wars in Central Asia and Iraq and, more generally, the efforts of the United States to assert global hegemony.

In the run-up to the 2008 elections, the Nation was among the most enthusiastic supporters of the Obama campaign, presenting his victory as the first stage in a radical reform and revitalization of American democracy. It vouched for Obama’s supposedly antiwar credentials.

One year later, the candidate of “change” and “hope” presides over a right-wing administration that is expanding US military aggression while it bails out Wall Street and attacks the jobs and living standards of the working class.

The unmasking of Obama before the entire world has not in any way lessened the support he receives from the Nation. On the contrary, the coming to power of an African-American president has served as the vehicle for American liberalism, including its supposedly “left” wing, which long ago abandoned any serious reform agenda and rejected class as the basic category of social life in favor of race, gender and other categories of identity politics, to lurch further to the right.

It has provided the means by which the Nation has completed its passage into the camp of American imperialism and political reaction.

Remarking on Obama’s speech, Walter Russell Mead, the Henry Kissinger senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, remarked, “If Bush had said these things the world would be filled with violent denunciations. When Obama says them, people purr.”

The “purring” of the Nation comes at a time of growing popular opposition to the Obama administration and its policies. In his speech, Obama himself made reference to the fact that his expansion of war is deeply unpopular, noting the “disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the population.” He made clear, however, that this “disconnect” will have absolutely no effect on the policy of his government.

What will happen as the “disconnect” turns into anger and opposition? How will the Nation respond? Its greatest concern is the growth of a political movement that breaks free of the Democratic Party. While it responds now with lies and political hucksterism, under different conditions the Nation will support repression—the purring kitten will turn out to have sharp claws.

The evolution of the Nation underscores the fact that a genuine movement against imperialist war must develop in opposition to the defenders of the Obama administration, the Democratic Party and American capitalism.

As the economic crisis intensifies and aggressive war expands, the working class will emerge as the leading political force in the opposition to war and imperialism. The critical task is the construction of a political leadership based on the understanding that imperialist war is rooted in the capitalist system, and that the fight against war must be an international struggle linked to the socialist reorganization of society.

US Soldiers Forced to Go AWOL for PTSD Care

US Soldiers Forced to Go AWOL for PTSD Care

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With a military health care system over-stretched by two ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more soldiers are deciding to go absent without leave (AWOL) in order to find treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Eric Jasinski enlisted in the military in 2005, and deployed to Iraq in October 2006 as an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Army. He collected intelligence in order to put together strike packets - where air strikes would take place.

Upon his return to the U.S. after his tour, Jasinski was suffering from severe PTSD from what he did and saw in Iraq, remorse and guilt for the work he did that he knows contributed to the loss of life in Iraq.

"What I saw and what I did in Iraq caused my PTSD," Jasinski, 23-years-old, told IPS during a phone interview, "Also, I went through a divorce - she left right before I deployed - and my grandmother passed away when I was over there, so it was all super rough on me."

In addition, he lost a friend in Iraq, and another of his friends lost his leg due to a roadside bomb attack.

Upon returning home in December 2007, Jasinski tried to get treatment via the military. He was self-medicating by drinking heavily, and an over- burdened military mental health counsellor sent him to see a civilian doctor, who diagnosed him with severe PTSD.

"I went to get help, but I had an 8 hour wait to see one of five doctors. But after several attempts, finally I got a periodic check up and I told that counsellor what was happening, and he said they’d help me… but I ended up getting a letter that instructed me to go see a civilian doctor, and she diagnosed me with PTSD," Jasinski explained, "Then, I was taking the medications and they were helping, because I thought I was to get out of the Army in February 2009 when my contract expired."

As the date approached, a problem arose.

"In late 2008 they stop-lossed me, and that pushed me over the edge," Jasinski told IPS, "They were going to send me back to Iraq the next month."

During his pre-deployment processessing "they gave me a 90-day supply of meds to get me over to Iraq, and I saw a counsellor during that period, and I told him "I don’t know what I’m going to do if I go back to Iraq."

"He asked if I was suicidal," Jasinski explained, "and I said not right now, I’m not planning on going home and blowing my brains out. He said, ‘well, you’re good to go then.’ And he sent me on my way. I knew at that moment, when they finalised my paperwork for Iraq, that there was no way I could go back with my untreated PTSD. I needed more help."

When Jasinski went on his short pre-deployment leave break, he went AWOL, where he remained out of service until Dec. 11, when he returned to turn himself in to authorities at Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas.

"He has heavy duty PTSD and never would have gone AWOL if he’d gotten the help he needed from the military," James Branum, Jasinski’s civilian lawyer who accompanied him to Fort Hood told IPS. "This case highlights the need of the military to provide better mental health care for its soldiers."

Branum, who is also co-chair of the Military Law Task Force, added, "Our hope is that his unit won’t court-martial him, but puts him in a warrior transition unit where they will evaluate him to either treat him or give him a medical discharge. He’d be safe there, and eventually, they’d give him a medical discharge because his PTSD symptoms are so severe."

He’s turning himself in "because he is not a flight risk and wants to take responsibility for what he’s done," Branum stressed.

"It’s been a year, I want to get on with my life and go to college and become a social worker to help people," Jasinski said of why he is turning himself in to the military at this time. "I want to get on with life, and I don’t want to hide."

Kernan Manion is a board-certified psychiatrist, who treated Marines returning from war who suffer from PTSD and other acute mental problems born from their deployments, at Camp Lejeune - the largest Marine base on the East Coast.

While he was engaged in this work, Manion warned his superiors of the extent and complexity of the systemic problems, and he was deeply worried about the possibility of these leading to violence on the base and within surrounding communities.

"If not more Fort Hoods, Camp Liberties, soldier fratricide, spousal homicide, we’ll see it individually in suicides, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, family dysfunction, in formerly fine young men coming back and saying, as I’ve heard so many times, ‘I’m not cut out for society. I can’t stand people. I can’t tolerate commotion. I need to live in the woods,’" Manion explained to IPS. "That’s what we’re going to have. Broken, not contributing, not functional members of society. It infuriates me - what they are doing to these guys, because it’s so ineptly run by a system that values rank and power more than anything else - so we’re stuck throwing money into a fragmented system of inept clinics and the crisis goes on."

"It’s not just that we’re going to have an immensity of people coming back, but the system itself is thwarting their effective treatment," Manion explained.

According to the Army, every year from 2006 onwards there has been a record number of reported and confirmed suicides, including in 2009.

There has also been an escalation of soldier-on-soldier violence, as the Nov. 5 shooting spree at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hassan indicates. In 2008 there was also a record number of suicides for the Marine Corps.

Jasinski’s case is representative of a growing number of soldiers returning from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan who are going AWOL when they are unable to get proper mental health care treatment from the military for their PTSD.

A 2008 Rand Corporation report revealed that at least 300,000 veterans returning from both wars had been diagnosed with severe depression or PTSD.

Jaskinski’s experience with the military has inspired him to offer advice for other soldiers who need PTSD treatment but are not receiving it.

"Do not, do not let a 5-10 minute review by a military doctor determine if you go to Iraq," he told IPS. "Even if you have to pay out of pocket, go civilian to a doctor… the military mental health sector is so overwhelmed, they won’t take care of you. Go see a civilian, and hopefully that therapist will help you… even then I’m not sure that will help… but you have to take that chance."

When asked what he feels the military needs to do in order to rectify this problem, he said: "A total overhaul of the mental health sector in the military is needed… we had nine psychiatrists at our centre, and that’s simply not enough staff, they are going to get burned out, after seeing 50 soldiers each in one day. We need an overhaul of the entire system, and more, good psychiatrists, not those just coming for a job, but good, experienced mental health professionals need to be involved."

2009-2010: An Economic Crossroads

2009-2010: An Economic Crossroads

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The crisis of 2008-2009 exposed the U.S. financial system as being unstable, subject to abuse, and tending to favor the rich while putting everyone else deeper into debt.

The housing bubble was based on the biggest credit inflation in history. It raised the prices of homes to unprecedented levels but created the deepest recession in a generation when it collapsed. $6 trillion in wealth has now simply disappeared.

Meanwhile, unregulated global capitalism continues to concentrate wealth, outsource jobs to the cheapest possible labor markets, accelerate U.S. unemployment, and destroy local and regional economies.

Even if the recession results in a modest recovery, it is likely to be of the “jobless” variety, or else jobs at low wages, with the U.S. still the most wasteful, resource-intensive, debt-oriented economy in history. A budget for war expenditures of almost $1 trillion doesn’t help.

Steps toward recovery are being fueled by enormous increases in the national debt due to federal budget deficits now over $1.4 trillion a year, with the U.S. economy carrying a total debt load of $200,000 for every man, woman, and child in the nation.

The huge debts of government at all levels, combined with reliance on government employment as a Keynesian economic driver, have raised the total government tax and fee burden (federal/state/local) to up to 40-50% of an individual’s income.

The “elephant in the room” is the debt-based monetary system run by the Federal Reserve, which since its inception in 1913 has based the U.S. money supply almost entirely on bank lending, including lending to government for its deficits. The Federal Reserve Act gave the banking system the incredible privilege of creating money out of thin air and charging interest for its use. The federal government now pays the banking system, trust funds, and investors, including foreign governments, almost $400 billion a year just for interest.

When you add it up, interest and taxes today probably consume over half the entire U.S. gross domestic product.

Final elimination of the gold standard in 1971 removed any objective measure of the value of Federal Reserve currency. Since then, the dollar has lost 85 percent of its value. Despite the rhetoric, government and Fed policies inflate the currency in order to pay off debt with dollars of less value.

Some members of Congress are trying to rein in the Fed, but so far with little success. Numerous proposals for monetary reform are coming from all quarters, but the power of the Fed and banking system in favor of maintaining the status quo is enormous.

With the power wielded by the privileges of big banking, combined with big government and its Keynesian deficit-based financial system, we have completely forgotten that time in our history when money was viewed as a medium of exchange for producers of goods and services. Prior to 1913, the creation and use of money was much less centralized and mainly served the marketplace.

The true purpose and meaning of money was rediscovered during the Great Depression when many businesses and local jurisdictions produced their own money in the form of scrip. Scrip is actually a more stable form of currency than bank-created fiat money where people are forced to accept it as legal tender. The same goes for the use of self-generated “trading units” by trade exchanges acting as producer currency coops.

Today a similar movement has begun through the creation and use of legal alternative currencies. It may be our best immediate hope of achieving a semblance of real economic democracy and restoring local/regional economic sustainability. Proponents should also lobby government to accept alternative currencies for payment of taxes.

National Debt Set To Top GDP

Huge National Debt Set to Outpace Total U.S. Gross Domestic Product

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THE BELTWAY BANDITS are suffering delusions of grandeur. The Pentagon wants to fight two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while continuing its military occupation of 130 countries. The Treasury Department wants to prop up Wall Street. Congress wants to borrow more money to encourage Americans to buy homes and cars. The Democrats want to provide free healthcare for all, including illegal immigrants. The problem for Washington is that it is quickly becoming apparent that the debt the federal government has accumulated in the past two decades could bring all of these plans to a grinding halt.

The federal budget deficit is at a record high, adding over $1 trillion to the national debt. Total U.S. debt now exceeds $12 trillion—not including future liabilities—and Congress will have to vote soon to let it go higher or else the Treasury will not be able to pay the interest it owes or float new bonds to take on even more debt.

Contrast that with working-class American families, who have been working hard to whittle down their debt. Every month, Americans are doing the responsible thing by cutting costs to reduce their overall burden. In the past year, despite record unemployment and a collapse of the economy, consumers still managed to knock off $200 billion in debt, bringing down their total from an unprecedented high of $2.6 trillion in the third quarter of 2008 to just over $2.4 trillion as of September 2009, according to the latest figures provided by the Federal Reserve.

Meanwhile, Washington continues to spend what it doesn’t have. Democrats want $1 trillion for “healthcare reform.” The White House wants hundreds of millions of dollars more to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan—a bloody war that has already gone on longer than WWII and Vietnam and has cost taxpayers nearly $1 trillion.

Congress is already negligent, failing to pass seven out of the 12 major appropriations bills for fiscal year 2010, including those that determine the largest budgets in Washington—the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services and Transportation. The 2010 fiscal year for the federal government actually began on Oct. 1, 2009, so bureaucrats in those agencies have been living month to month via continuing measures passed by legislators.

Cash-strapped states are also looking to the federal government for handouts to fund transportation programs and create jobs for struggling Americans. Nowhere has there been a peep about financial responsibility or any of those promised jobs.

The federal government’s debt will soon surpass the entire U.S. gross domestic product—the sum of everything American companies produce—which totals $14.5 trillion. Never before has this country seen such irresponsibility.

US jobless claims rise, job openings decline

US jobless claims rise, job openings decline

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Initial US jobless claims in the week ending December 5 rose 17,000 from the previous week, confounding economists who had predicted a decline. The increase in the number of workers filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits brought the total of such claims for the week to a seasonally adjusted 474,000.

In releasing the figures Thursday, the Labor Department reported that the total number of people claiming jobless benefits, both regular state benefits and extended state and federal benefits, topped 10 million.

The report gives the lie to attempts to portray last Friday’s unemployment report for November as a harbinger of a rapid recovery from the worst jobs crisis in the US since the Great Depression. The report issued December 4 said the official jobless rate had declined to 10 percent from 10.2 percent in October, and payroll losses for November had declined sharply to 11,000.

The lower net loss of jobs was likely due in large part to temporary hiring for the holiday season. The basic economic tendencies all point to months, if not years, of double-digit unemployment.

The government estimates the number of unemployed at 15.7 million. But this excludes millions more who have either given up looking for work or are involuntarily working on a part-time basis. When these workers are included, the number of unemployed rises to 30 million.

The official jobless rate, moreover, obscures the growth of long-term unemployment. For the first time on record, more than half of those who file an initial claim for benefits exhaust their eligibility before finding work.

As of November, according to the Labor Department, about 5.9 million people—38 percent of those officially classified as unemployed—had been looking for work longer than six months.

In its Thursday report, the Labor Department said that 5,157,000 people filed continuing jobless benefit claims in the week ended November 28. That is 303,000 down from the preceding week’s revised figure of 5,460,000. However, the decline largely reflects the growing numbers of laid off workers who are dropping off of state jobless rolls because they have exhausted normal state benefits, which generally last 26 weeks, and are living on extended federal benefits, or because they have exhausted all benefits, state and federal.

Extended federal jobless benefits, which were authorized under the Obama administration’s stimulus bill passed last February, expire at the end of this month. The National Employment Law Project held a press conference Monday in Washington and reported that 3 million Americans will exhaust their benefits if the federal program is not extended by Congress.

Jobless workers will also lose an extra $25 in weekly benefits and a 65 percent government subsidy for health care premiums under the COBRA program, which allows laid off workers to temporarily maintain their employer-sponsored health insurance, but at their own expense.

The organization said that in California alone, nearly 600,000 jobless workers could exhaust their benefits by April.

Underscoring the desperate jobs situation, the Labor Department in a separate report issued Tuesday said job opening and hirings both contracted in October. The report said the number of job openings shrank to a seasonally adjusted 2.5 million in October from about 2.6 million the prior month.

The number of hires dropped to 3.9 million, falling below the 4 million mark for the first time since last June. Using the government’s official figure of 15.7 million unemployed, the ratio of unemployed to the number of job openings in October was more than six to one. This is the highest differential since the Labor Department began tracking job openings in December 2000, and compares with 1.7 jobless workers per opening in December 2007, when the recession officially began.

In reality, the number of unemployed workers competing for each job opening is substantially higher.

In another report, also released on Tuesday, the Labor Department said that the proportion of workers doing full-time, year-round work fell to 65.6 percent last year from 68.4 percent in 2007, and the number of people who experienced unemployment jumped to 21.2 million from 15.1 million.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses on Tuesday released an index showing that small business optimism fell sharply in November from October. The job-creation component of the index fell by two points to a reading of minus 3 percent.

The social devastation fueled by mass unemployment is reflected in the latest report on home foreclosures, issued Thursday by the foreclosure data specialist RealtyTrac. The report showed that in November, more than 306,000 homeowners filed for foreclosure. While the figure was lower than October’s, it was 18 percent higher versus a year earlier.

Nevada topped the list with one in every 119 homeowners filing for foreclosure. In Hawaii, foreclosures were up 122 percent as compared to November 2008.

The US Conference of Mayors released a report Tuesday on the impact of the crisis, concluding that in the past year urban areas have seen the largest increase in demand for food assistance since 1991, as well as a sharp rise in family homelessness.

The Federal Reserve, in its Flow of Funds report issued Thursday, revised sharply upward its estimate of the loss of household wealth resulting from the financial crisis and recession. The Fed put the loss of wealth between the third quarter of 2007 and the first three months of 2009 at a record $17.3 trillion, compared with its previous estimate of $13 trillion.

Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities, said of the report, “American households are having to lower their sights as to how much wealth they can hope to accumulate over their lifetimes. This is going to impact consumption habits for years to come.”

These statistics, which provide a pale reflection of the spreading social disaster, place in sharp relief the reactionary, pro-business policies of the Obama administration. On Tuesday, the same day as the mayors’ report and the Labor Department report on declining job openings, Obama delivered what was touted as major address on his administration’s policy to create jobs.

Obama once again made clear that his economic policies were driven by the interests of private business and that nothing would be done to address the jobs crisis that impinged on corporate profits. He reiterated his calls for fiscal austerity and proposed a token allocation of federal funds, in the form of tax credits for companies that hired workers and incentives to banks to lend money to small businesses. He ruled out government public works projects or any other form of direct government funding to put people to work.

He concluded with the provocative claim that “The storms of the past are receding. The skies are brightening. And the horizon is beckoning once more.”

Meanwhile, a Bloomberg National Poll conducted December 3-7 showed that a majority of Americans want the government to create jobs by means of public works programs and two-thirds support taxing the rich to reduce the budget deficit. Less than a fourth back cuts in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare or a new national consumption tax.

The poll showed that support for taxing the wealthy crosses party lines, with more than a half of Republicans supporting the idea and a greater percentage of Democrats and independents in favor.

The opinions of the public, however, have no impact on government policy, which is dictated by the interests of the capitalist class, beginning with the financial elite on Wall Street.

Accepting peace prize, Obama makes case for unending war

Accepting peace prize, Obama makes case for unending war

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In the most bellicose Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech within living memory, President Barack Obama made an argument Thursday in Oslo for ever-widening war and neo-colonial occupation, putting the world on notice that the American ruling elite intends to push ahead with its drive for global domination.

Obama defended his dispatch of tens of thousands more US troops to Afghanistan, and ominously referred to Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Darfur in Sudan, Congo, Zimbabwe and Burma, any or all of which may become targets for future American military intervention.

There was a darkly farcical element to the award ceremony, as Obama acknowledged that he is the “Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars.” He presented war as a legitimate means of pursuing national interests.

In Orwellian fashion, he declared that “the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace,” that “all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace,” and that imperialist troops should be honored “not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace.”

Awarded a prize supposedly intended to promote world peace, Obama made the case for past, present and future military action. The US president communicated the “hard truth” to his audience that “we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes.” He promised that nations would continue to “find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified,” and emphasized that squeamish populations would have to get over their “deep ambivalence about military action” and “reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.”

He admitted that masses of people around the globe were hostile to imperialist war, noting regretfully that “in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public.” But the popular will and democracy be damned: “The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice.”

Obama arrogantly spelled out Washington’s belief that it can intervene in defense of US interests when and where it likes, no matter what the human cost.

This was wrapped, rather miserably, in the language of moral uplift, the “law of love” and, inevitably, the “spark of the divine.” He indicated, although the speech and his mode of presentation offered no sign of it, that he felt an “acute sense of the cost of armed conflict.” On the contrary, Obama delivered his remarks about war and peace with all the depth of feeling of a university administrator issuing a set of campus parking regulations.

Obama was even blunter when answering questions from Norwegian journalists prior to the ceremony. Speaking of his administration’s first 11 months, he explained, “The goal is not to win a popularity contest or to get an award, even one as prestigious as the Nobel peace prize. The goal has been to advance America’s interests.”

Obama offered his audience—which included Norwegian royalty and politicians, along with Hollywood celebrities—a potted, misanthropic history of human civilization (“War … appeared with the first man … Evil does exist in the world”), before launching into a spirited and lying defense of America’s global role.

The president presented the post-war period as one of peace and prosperity bestowed by a benevolent US. “America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace … The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. … We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will.” The levels of hypocrisy and falsification are staggering.

Obama later made the extraordinary claim that “America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens.” Aside from the historical fact that the US has fought wars with Britain, Germany and Austria-Hungary, when all of them had parliamentary systems, Obama deliberately sidestepped the long, sordid history of US interventions against peoples of the oppressed countries, from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean region in the first part of the 20th century, to Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Indonesia, Chile, and Nicaragua in the postwar period.

As for Washington’s “closest friends,” that list presently includes brutal and corrupt regimes in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Uzbekistan (along with the puppet governments in Iraq and Afghanistan), among others, all of which practice torture and widespread repression.

After referring to the concept of “just war,” associated with a nation acting to defend itself, and claiming, falsely, that the US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 was based on that principle, Obama made it clear that Washington needs no such legitimation.

He spoke in favor of military action whose purpose “extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor.” “Humanitarian grounds,” determined of course by Washington, were sufficient to justify “force,” which could be employed against much of Africa, Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe. This is nothing more than colonialism cloaked in the mantle of “just war.”

Obama defended a version of the Bush doctrine of preemptive war, with a more multilateral coloration as part of the effort to reinforce the European powers’ support for the US-led wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. “America cannot act alone,” said the US president.

The European ruling elites, whose interests find expression in the decisions of the Nobel committee, were glad to oblige Obama with a stage from which he could defend these wars and paint imperialist aggression as an act of humanitarianism. They hope that Obama, unlike Bush and Cheney, will offer Europe a role in enforcing “global security” (and sharing in the spoils) in “unstable regions for years to come.”

Obama made reference to the Nobel prize speech delivered 45 years ago by Martin Luther King Jr., in order to repudiate its oppositional content. King, unlike Obama, delivered a short address, calling attention to the ongoing repression of blacks and opponents of racism in the South. King insisted that “Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts.”

Before his assassination, King became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. It is his identification of militarism with oppression and barbarism that Obama and the entire American political establishment instinctively find threatening and seek to discredit.

The Nobel speech is a further stage in the political unmasking of Obama. The candidate of “change” is revealing himself not only as the continuator, in every important aspect, of the Bush-Cheney policies, but as a deeply reactionary, foul figure in his own right. He is not feigning his obvious relish for the military and war; this is who and what he has become over the course of his political career.

Jabir Aftab, a 27-year-old engineer in Peshawar, Pakistan, told the Agence France-Presse Thursday, “The Nobel prize is for those who have made achievements, but Obama is a killer.” That understanding will come to permeate the thinking of vast numbers of people in the coming period.

Obama Orders 1 Million US Troops to Prepare for Civil War

Obama Orders 1 Million US Troops to Prepare for Civil War

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Russian Military Analysts are reporting to Prime Minister Putin that US President Barack Obama has issued orders to his Northern Command’s (USNORTHCOM) top leader, US Air Force General Gene Renuart, to “begin immediately” increasing his military forces to 1 million troops by January 30, 2010, in what these reports warn is an expected outbreak of civil war within the United States before the end of winter.

According to these reports, Obama has had over these past weeks “numerous” meetings with his war council about how best to manage the expected implosion of his Nations banking system while at the same time attempting to keep the United States military hegemony over the World in what Russian Military Analysts state is a “last ditch gambit” whose success is “far from certain”.

And to Obama’s “last ditch gambit”, these reports continue, he is to announce in a nationwide address to his people this coming week that he is going to expand the level of US Military Forces in Afghanistan by tens of thousands of troops, while at the same time using the deployment of these soldiers as a “cover” for returning to the United States over 200,000 additional American soldiers from the over 800 bases in over 39 countries they have stationed around the Globe bringing the level of these forces in America to over 1 million, a number the US Military believes will be able to contain the “explosion of violence” expected to roil these peoples when they learn their economy has been bankrupted.

These reports further state that at the same time Obama will be attempting to keep his Nation from violent disintegration, the tens of thousands of additional troops he will send to Afghanistan are to be ordered to Kandahar where the Americans and their NATO allies will begin their final attempt to secure their TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) pipeline, which without the Western Nations, due to their grave lack of alternative energy resources, and being cut off from these vast Central Asian supplies (which both Russia and China are seeking to insure), are warned will totally collapse.

Making the American’s (and by extension the West’s) situation even worse are new reports coming from the International Energy Agency stating that “under pressure” from the US government they have been “deliberately underplaying” a looming Global oil shortage for fear of triggering panic buying and raising the Americans fear over the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to our World’s last remaining oil resources.

To the scariest “end game” maneuvers being made by Obama, in his attempt to protect Americas Global hegemony, is his record shattering move in plunging the United States $3.5 Trillion further into debt, and which raises the total amount owed by the United States, to its citizens and the World, to the unprecedented height of over $106 Trillion.

So alarming has Obama’s actions become (especially since they are being imitated by all of the Western powers) that the managing-director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, warned this past week that the “stimulus actions” of the West (which in essence is nothing more than the printing of money with nothing to back it up) has now become a “threat to democracy” as millions of people are expected to erupt in violence against their governments over the theft of their money and their futures.

Most unfortunately for the American people though is that this IMF warning fell on “deaf ears” in the United States with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President, James Bullard, saying this week that the US would continue its “stimulus actions” because they “would give more flexibility to US policymakers”, a most absurd statement especially when viewed in the light of the unprecedented debt payments currently looming over the American economy they have no ability whatsoever to pay.

To the ability of the West’s banking giants to save their Nation’s economies, even worse news came this week with the US ratings giant Standards & Poors issuing a warning that “every single bank in Japan, the US, Germany, Spain, and Italy included in S&P’s list of 45 Global lenders remain unsafe”, a warning which then lead to one of Europe’s largest banks, Société Générale, warning its clients to prepare for a “total Global Economic Collapse”.
To the fears of Obama over the United States erupting into civil war once the full extent of the rape and pillaging of these peoples by their banks and government becomes known to them, grim evidence now shows the likelihood of this occurring much sooner than later, especially in new poll figures showing that Obama’s approval rating among white Americans has now fallen to 39%. A number made more significant when one realizes that the white population of the United States comprises 74% of their estimated 398 million citizens, or put more ominously in these reports as “over 220 million American people armed to the teeth and ready to explode”.

And so fearful has the white population of the United States become that upon the election of Obama to the Presidency he was named as the “Gun Salesman of the Year” by the Outdoor Wire, the US’s largest daily electronic news service for the outdoor industry, who report “panic buying” of weapons and ammunition by those fearful of the destruction of their country at the hands of man they believe is not even an American citizen and had been foisted upon them by their elite classes seeking to enslave them.
Though the coming civil war in the United States is being virtually ignored by their propaganda media, the same cannot be said of Russia, where leading Russian political analyst, Professor Igor Panarin has long warned that the economic turmoil in the United States has confirmed his long-held view that the US is heading for collapse, and will divide into separate parts.

Professor Igor Panarin further stated in his warning that “the US Dollar is not secured by anything. The country’s foreign debt has grown like an avalanche, even though in the early 1980s there was no debt. By 1998, when I first made my prediction, it had exceeded $2 trillion. Now it is more than 11 trillion. This is a pyramid that can only collapse.”

What remains to be seen, and these reports do not speculate upon, is if the citizen-soldiers of the United States will fire upon and kill their fellow countrymen during the coming conflict, but if history is to be our guide clearly shows this will be the case as the once great American Nation continues its headlong plunge into the abyss of history. May God have mercy upon all of them.

ACLU: Obama creating ‘a sweeping immunity doctrine for torturers'

ACLU: Obama creating ‘a sweeping immunity doctrine for torturers’

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The nation's pre-eminent civil rights organization ACLU on Thursday slammed President Obama for shielding the Bush administration from accountability for its "dangerous torture policy," and insisted that this "lack of transparency" severely threatens the future of constitutional liberty in the United States.

"The Bush administration constructed a legal framework for torture," Jameel Jaffer, Director of ACLU's National Security Project, said in a conference call with reporters. "Now the Obama administration is constructing a legal framework for impunity."

While he credited Obama for having disavowed torture under his watch, Jaffer said that "on every front, the administration is actively obstructing accountability by shielding Bush officials from civil liability, criminal investigation and even public scrutiny for their role in authorizing torture."

"It's the last month of 2009, and not a single torture victim has had his day in court," said ACLU Attorney Ben Wizner. "Not a single court in a torture case has ruled on the legality of the Bush administration’s torture policies."

In response to a question from Raw Story, Jaffer said refusing to prosecute past acts of torture sets "an extremely dangerous precedent" in the legal system. "Torture victims can be denied their day in court solely based on assertions made by their torturers," he said.

"We still don't have a definitive binding determination that what went on in the last eight years was illegal," he added. "And without that kind of determination, it will be all too easy for an unscrupulous lawyer in an unscrupulous future administration to write another memo saying that there is no legal prohibition against monstrous conduct."

"Torture is not an issue where there should be one person on both sides of the table on Hardball -- torture is universally prescribed as clearly illegal."

The Obama administration has evaded transparency by "seeking to cover up details of enhanced interrogation programs," said Alex Abdo, ACLU's attorney for torture FOIA lawsuits, citing the president's refusal to release photos, memos and documentation that detail instances of torture -- largely under the pre-text of state secrets.

"The effect of the Obama administration's argument across these civil cases is the creation of a sweeping immunity doctrine for torturers," said Abdo, citing as one example Obama's defense of torture memo author John Yoo.

"The government can engage in torture, declare it a state secret or a matter of national security, and by virtue of that declaration avoid any accountability for conduct that the entire world and the United States have always recognized as illegal in all instances," he said.

"We're frustrated by the growing gap between Obama administration's rhetoric on accountability and the reality," Jaffer said.

"I think there is an obvious connection between what the president is saying about the commitment we've got to human rights and the work we're doing here inside the United States to hold people accountable for the violations of both domestic and international law," Jaffer said, referring to Obama's acceptance of the Nobel Prize today.

Last week, ACLU Legislative Counsel Michelle Richardson told Raw Story that Obama's support for key Patriot Act provisions is "a major travesty."

What Peace Did He Achieve?

What Peace Did He Achieve?

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Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Barack Obama have all been given Nobel Peace Prizes.

Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher have not.

Since 1901, the Nobel Committee has awarded the annual Prize to an entity, group or individual who works for peace in a significant way. Well, technically there have been 19 times that the Committee felt as if no one deserved the Prize and chose not to name a winner. The last time no winner was named was 1972.

Nancy Reagan must surely be disappointed that her husband helped bring Communism to its knees and yet President Reagan didn't get the Prize, Mikhail Gorbachev did in 1990. Although maybe there is still hope for Reagan since Dag Hammarskjold won the prize in 1961 after he was dead. And Jimmy Carter was first ignored in 1978 after bringing Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat together to forge a peace deal between Egypt and Israel. Begin and Sadat won that year instead and Carter won a make-up award in 2002. Gore didn't win as a sitting U.S. Vice President - he also got a make-up win later in 2007. Although Charles Dawes was a sitting U.S. Vice President in 1925 when he won for the Allied Reparation Commission.

Although you don't have to be Mother Teresa to win one (she won in 1979), Bill Clinton still hasn't been awarded the Prize and I am sure he must be furious. All that work on the Dayton Peace Accords and handshakes on Middle East peace at Camp David weren't enough to get President Clinton the nod. Although other sitting Presidents have won - Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.

While some people talk about Obama's win as an award for the hope of peace, last week's escalation of war in Afghanistan with the announcement of an additional 30,000 American troops certainly is awkward timing.

And if the criteria to win the Prize is about hope, then why not John Danforth in 2004 for bringing the Northern and Southern Sudanese leaders together to sign an agreement in front of the United Nations Security Council whom he brought to Kenya, Africa in a special session? Or George Mitchell could have been this year's make-up win, like Carter was, for the plethora of issues he has worked on or is currently working on. At least hoping for Mitchell is based on past performances.

The United Nations seems to win without the Committee looking at its performance record. And UN Secretary-Generals are a shoe-in to win the Prize just by getting their title. Kofi won in 2001, the UN peacekeepers in 1988, UNHCR in 1981. And although UNICEF hasn't won since 1965, they are currently led by a Republican so we all understand why they aren't currently eligible.

The Nobel Prize Committee has damaged its credibility by giving the 2009 Prize to Barack Obama. It should have chosen a make-up award from past credible peace makers or it could have made this the 20 time it hasn't named a winner.

An Exercise in Irony From West Point to Oslo

An Exercise in Irony From West Point to Oslo

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While it may have seemed fitting at West Point's Eisenhower Hall last week that President Obama chose to quote Ike in explaining his decision to expand U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, the choice was, on a deeper level, revealing of the contorted reasoning with which the President and his advisors are charting the nation's course.

"I'm mindful of the words of President Eisenhower," Obama declared, "who -- in discussing our national security -- said, 'Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.'"

What President would not want to lend Eisenhower's peerless military imprimatur to the tough sell of what he knows many see as a road to nowhere? Yet Obama didn't choose just any Eisenhower speech - he chose a quote from Eisenhower's legendary Farewell Address - the same one in which the war-weary general warned America about the dangers of militarism and the rise of the "military-industrial complex."

On a personal level, I understand Obama's choice. In recent years, I myself have become nearly consumed with admiration for Eisenhower's farewell words, which inspired both my 2006 film Why We Fight and my 2008 book The American Way of War. But it was troubling for me to hear the speech cited in the context of an address which, as a devoted student of Eisenhower, I saw as deeply contradictory of his values.

The Farewell Address, as Eisenhower wisely makes clear, is fundamentally about the tension between security and liberty, between the military challenges of an increasingly interconnected world and the pressure that preparing for such challenges exerts upon the delicate framework of the republic. Both a fiscal conservative and a military one - Eisenhower saw the friction between guns and butter, how a dollar spent on war is a dollar taken from other areas of national health. While, by quoting Ike, Obama paid lip service to this tension, no well-spun words can quite reconcile sending 30,000 men at a cost of $1 million a man with the need to address the vast range of challenges we face.

Interestingly, a close look at what Obama omitted from Eisenhower's speech highlights the dangerously selective reasoning with which the current President invoked his forebear. In the passage directly preceding the one he cited, Eisenhower cautioned against precisely the naïve brand of militarism Obama is undertaking:

"Crises there will continue to be," Eisenhower warned. "In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties."

If Obama were truly seeking to apply Eisenhower's wisdom, he would need to examine whether his Afghan plan is not perhaps this very kind of "spectacular and costly action" against which Eisenhower warns. He would also have to reflect honestly on the appropriateness of its cost at a time of such desperate need in other areas of our national life. Instead, by carefully omitting this crucial contextual passage, Obama allowed himself to give a token nod to Eisenhower's thinking without applying it sincerely to his decision to spend a minimum entry fee of $30 billion on a campaign of blurrily preemptive goals and a hazy timeline. (Obama's own Secretary of State and National Security Advisor have stepped away from the speech's only silver lining - the President's stated target of a July 2011 withdrawal). Worst of all, Eisenhower was above everything a brilliant strategist who, having inherited a war in Korea had the good sense to withdraw from it, was vehemently opposed to preemption of any kind, and was never one to enter a conflict without a clear and rigorously developed exit strategy.

Like Chris Matthews, at Ike's Alma Mater I saw the response by the cadets as somewhat muted. Their respectful but perfunctory applause hearkened Cordelia's expressions of subdued respect to King Lear: "I love your Majesty According to my bond, no more nor less." Unlike Chris Matthews, though, I did not see West Point as an "enemy camp," but rather as a haven of scholarly rigor on questions of war and peace. As a filmmaker and author critical of the Iraq War, I have had the honor of being invited several times to address the faculty and students at West Point, standing at a podium before the same kind of bright and shining faces as those addressed by the President. What I learned repeatedly from those experiences has reversed my previously held biases - the same misguided prejudice exhibited by Chris Matthews in seeing West Point as enemy territory presumably to a President who once expressed antiwar sentiments. Instead, I have been consistently impressed by the depth, texture, and breadth of thought that is promoted by West Point's faculty among their student body.

Indeed, 2010 West Point senior class member Ben Salvito has published a written response to Chris Matthews in which he summarized well how the values of the institution were reflected in the students' conduct.

"In response to what was said," wrote Salvito, "it is unclear what alternative reaction was expected. To applaud or to boo at the announcements made last night would have both been equally inappropriate for the Corps of Cadets. In fact, the stoic reaction by all ought to leave the world confident in the Corps' and the military's ability to be apolitical and execute the policies of the President and Congress with fervor and duty."

Salvito's impression of West Point is consistent with my own experiences with the institution. When an incredulous reporter for the New Yorker once expressed surprise to Colonel Michael Meese, the Dean of West Point's School of Social Science, that at a time of war I had been invited to show my critical film "Why We Fight," Meese gave the winning reply that "critical thinking is not insubordination."

Today, President Obama faces a new audience when he accepts the Nobel Peace Prize just ten days after declaring his expansion of U.S. military activity in Afghanistan. While one can hardly imagine the verbal calisthenics such an exercise in irony requires of the President and his speechwriters, one can at this point expect to hear a speech similar to the one he gave at West Point -- an extension of the hackneyed argument that the broader long-term goal of peace requires organized military escalation in the short-term. The problem, of course, is that, through his own judgment and the advice he is receiving, Obama is opting for a path that is internally contradictory. So it is that he is required to employ his formidable verbal gift to weave a tangled web of Orwellian doublespeak in which escalation is "withdrawal" and deep involvement in a failing state's affairs is not "nation-building."

While the wisdom of escalation in Afghanistan is, by any historical standard, deeply questionable, Obama's willingness to employ clever rhetoric where statesmanship and vision are needed is disheartening. One might have hoped that, given the groundswell of support with which he was elected, the President might have felt buoyed to exercise greater resistance to the usual runnings of Washington and the ceaseless repetition of history. But, as he closes his acceptance speech today, one has to wonder how those in Oslo will respond. Should they only clap perfunctorily, will Chris Matthews be justified to claim that the peace-seeking Nobel committee has become an enemy camp to our once anti-war President?

Catch-22: Credit checks on jobless keep jobless unemployed

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In Catch-22, those whose credit scores fell after losing jobs now find scores hurt hiring odds

Without a job, a laid-off worker can't pay bills and his or her credit history takes a beating. Without decent credit, they're rejected by potential employers and can't get a job. More bills go unpaid, and credit crumbles further

By Jim Stratton
Orlando Sentinel
December 13, 2009

In the murky waters of the labor pool, a toothy surprise is waiting for unemployed Floridians who've fallen behind on their bills.

It bit Tommy Powers when he applied for a job at a motorcycle dealer this fall. Powers, who was laid off in April 2008, had just graduated from mechanic's school and figured he had a shot at getting back into the workforce.

But the dealer checked his credit history, and the job prospect vanished.

"They said I needed better credit," said Powers, 54, of Orlando. "I've been laid off so long, mine's not as good as it used to be."

Employment experts say companies of all kinds are increasingly reviewing the credit histories of job candidates before making a decision about whom to hire. The idea, disputed by many labor advocates, is that credit history serves as a barometer for how dependable someone might be – or how tempted they might be to dip into the till.

But with unemployment stuck at double digits, and with more than 35 percent of the jobless out of work for more than six months, the practice creates an insidious feedback loop, critics say.

The pattern goes like this: Without a job, a laid-off worker can't pay bills and his or her credit history takes a beating. Without decent credit, they're rejected by potential employers and can't get a job. More bills go unpaid, and credit crumbles further.

"It's a vicious cycle," said Adam Klein, a New York employment lawyer, who says there's "no nexus" between credit problems and job performance. "It's a completely arbitrary barrier to employment."

Experts say 40 to 45 percent of employers now use some credit screening when evaluating job candidates. The reports they review don't contain actual credit scores, but do include information about payment history and outstanding debt.

Historically, a candidate's credit history mattered only in jobs where candidates would be handling cash or valuables. Credit reviews also are common in law enforcement and the security industry.

In recent years, as background checks have become cheaper and easier to conduct, employers have used them for all manner of jobs.

Nikki Trotter is a Lake Mary-based recruiter looking to fill a procurement job. Trotter said "it's imperative" the candidate have an acceptable credit history.

The information, she said, "can help you make a distinction" between potential employees.

But Art Durocher says the distinction may not be meaningful.

Durocher was a bank executive before being laid off in November 2007. In 2005, he wanted to hire a candidate for a teller job, but his boss was reluctant because the woman had credit problems.

Durocher's supervisor viewed it as "a character flaw," but Durocher, who'd talked to the woman, was convinced she'd just run into a rough patch. He pushed back and ultimately got approval to hire the woman.

"She was one of the best employees I had," he said.

Durocher said companies are being unreasonable if they reject job candidates without first looking at why the person's credit history is weak.

"There are a lot of people who could be good productive employees," he said. "But they're being profiled out simply because they lost their job."

Proposed federal legislation would curb the practice, prohibiting employers from using credit histories as part of the hiring process for many jobs.

Introduced last summer by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., the Equal Employment for All Act has been endorsed by several worker and consumer advocacy groups, including the National Consumer Law Center, Consumer Action, the National Employment Law Project and the NAACP.

The bill would make exceptions and allow credit histories to be considered for jobs that require national security clearance, state or local government jobs and certain jobs in the financial industry.

In announcing the proposal, Cohen said, "It is unfair and makes no sense" to punish job candidates "who want to work hard but have had financial difficulties."

"At a time when people are struggling to find jobs, credit checks should not be used as a basis to deny employment to otherwise qualified candidates," he said.

Especially, Cohen said, when many credit issues are the result of "circumstances outside of the person's control, such as medical problems or layoffs."

Jim Stratton can be reached at jstratton@..orlandosentinel...com or 407-420-5379.

Tips to boost your credit rating

Thirty-five percent of your credit score is based on your payment track record. Budget your income, cut back where you can and use the cash you save to pay off late bills and pay all others on time.

Know your ratio of unsecured debt to available credit. Pare back your unsecured debt if it's more than 50 percent of your cards' credit limits added together. A maxed-out credit card also can hurt your score.

Go to annualcreditrep..ort.com and obtain your free credit reports from Equifax, Transunion and Experian, the three major credit-..reporting companies. Review what they have on file for you. Look for errors; if any exist, dispute them and get them corrected.

-- Richard Burnett, Orlando Sentinel

Extent of Blackwater and CIA Collaboration Uncovered

Extent of Blackwater and CIA Collaboration Uncovered

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New details of Blackwater participation in clandestine CIA raids detail the extent to which private security contractors were involved in covert government antiterror operations.

According to former employees and current and former American intelligence officials, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because they feared repercussions, Blackwater security guards participated in clandestine raids to capture or kill suspected insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and in transportation of detainees on CIA flights.

The raids against suspects were said to occur almost nightly between 2004 and 2006, the height of the Iraqi insurgency. Several of the former Blackwater employees said the lines dividing the government-sanctioned agencies (the CIA and the military) and Blackwater began to blur.

This information highlights a more extensive relationship between the CIA and Blackwater, now re-named Xe Services, than government investigation had previously acknowledged.

This was confirmed recently by an article about Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, published in Vanity Fair. In it, Prince spoke about the extent of his involvement with the CIA, which ranged from putting together, funding and executing operations to bring personnel into "denied areas" to targeting specific people for assassination who were deemed enemies by the US government.

Though Prince alleged that he participated as a private citizen and used his personal funds to carry out operations, the Blackwater employees interviewed by The New York Times confirmed both their full knowledge of and participation in the raids.

Xe spokesman Mark Corallo, however, continued to deny this. "Blackwater USA was never under contract to participate in covert raids with CIA or Special Operations personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else."

Blackwater's initial connection with the CIA begin in the spring of 2002, when Prince offered to help guard an American government station in Afghanistan. Shortly after, he signed a contract for his employees, many of them former military personnel, to provide security for the area. Blackwater was also initially hired for security work in Iraq, and provided personnel accompaniment for CIA officers, meaning they were even present during offensive operations.

A former CIA official said that Blackwater's role became more comprehensive as the Bush administration's counter-terror efforts progressed. When the CIA banned its officers from leaving the Green Zone in Baghdad without security, they effectively allowed a Blackwater employee to be consistently armed and present.

"It became a very brotherly relationship," said one former top CIA officer. "There was a feeling that Blackwater eventually became an extension of the agency.

The program was kept secret for nearly eight years until it was revealed by CIA Director Leon Panetta during a closed door briefing to lawmakers. During this meeting, Panetta named both Prince and Blackwater as major players. "They were supposed to be the outer layer of the onion, out on the perimeter," said one former Blackwater official of the security guards. Instead, "they were the drivers and the gunslingers," a former intelligence official said.

According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told CIA officers in 2002 that they did not need to inform Congress about the program because they were already legally authorized to kill al-Qaeda leaders.

Blackwater's history in Iraq and Afghanistan has been stormy. A shooting by Blackwater bodyguards in Baghdad in September 2009 resulted in the death of 17 civilians, and the Justice Department has since charged six people with voluntary manslaughter, among other offenses, calling the use of force both unjustified and unprovoked.

A contractor also shot and killed a man standing on a roadside who later turned out to be a father of six, and also killed a bodyguard who was assigned to protect Iraq's vice president. In both cases, the contractors were fired but not prosecuted.

Following these incidents, Iraqi officials have refused to give Blackwater an operating license. As a result of this, its revenue dropped 40 percent, and Prince says he is now paying more than $2 million a month in legal fees.

The company is also facing a grand jury investigation, bribery accusations, the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees for Iraqis killed in September 2007 and the House Intelligence Committee is investigating the company's role in the CIA's assassination program.

American agencies have in the past outsourced interrogations, but many worry that contracting out the authority to kill brings a new set of problems.

George Little, a CIA spokesman, would not comment on Blackwater's ties to the agency. But he said the CIA employs contractors to "enhance the skills of our own work force, just as American law permits."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "It is too easy to contract out work that you don't want to accept responsibility for."

P.W. Singer, an expert in contracting at the Brookings Institution, said the types of jobs that have been outsourced by the government have severely undermined the rules surrounding "inherently governmental" functions.

"We keep finding functions that have been outsourced that common sense, let alone US government policy, would argue should not have been handed over to a private company," he said. "And yet we do it again, and again, and again."

Blackwater, which received more than $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009, regularly offers its training area in North Carolina to CIA operatives and continues to help fly killer drones along the border between and Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Obama is said to have authorized more than three dozen of these hits.