Thursday, December 29, 2011

40 Hard Questions That The American People Should Be Asking Right Now

40 Hard Questions That The American People Should Be Asking Right Now

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If you spend much time watching the mainstream news, then you know how incredibly vapid it can be. It is amazing how they can spend so much time saying next to nothing. There seems to be a huge reluctance to tackle the tough issues and the hard questions. Perhaps I should be thankful for this, because if the mainstream media was doing their job properly, there would not be a need for the alternative media. Once upon a time, the mainstream media had a virtual monopoly on the dissemination of news in the United States, but that has changed. Thankfully, the Internet in the United States is free and open (at least for now) and people that are hungry for the truth can go searching for it. Today, an increasing number of Americans want to understand why our economy is dying and why our national debt is skyrocketing. An increasing number of Americans are deeply frustrated with what is going on in Washington D.C. and they are alarmed that we seem to get closer to becoming a totalitarian police state with each passing year. People want real answers about our foreign policy, about our corrupt politicians, about our corrupt financial system, about our shocking moral decline and about the increasing instability that we are seeing all over the world, and they are not getting those answers from the mainstream media.

If the mainstream media will not do it, then those of us in the alternative media will be glad to tackle the tough issues. The following are 40 hard questions that the American people should be asking right now....

#1 If Iran tries to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, what will that do to the price of oil and what will that do to the global economy?

#2 If Iran tries to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, will the United States respond by launching a military strike on Iran?

#3 Why is the Federal Reserve bailing out Europe? And why are so few members of Congress objecting to this?

#4 The U.S. dollar has lost well over 95 percent of its value since the Federal Reserve was created, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has a track record of incompetence that is absolutely mind blowing. So what possible justification is there for allowing the Federal Reserve to continue to issue our currency and run our economy?

#5 Why does the euro keep dropping like a rock? Is this a sign that Europe is heading for a major recession?

#6 Why are European banks parking record-setting amounts of cash at the European Central Bank? Is this evidence that banks don't want to lend to one another and that we are on the verge of a massive credit crunch?

#7 If the European financial system is going to be just fine, then why is the UK government preparing feverishly for the collapse of the euro?

#8 What did the head of the IMF mean when she recently said that we could soon see conditions "reminiscent of the 1930s depression"?

#9 How in the world can Mitt Romney say with a straight face that the individual health insurance mandate that he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts was based on "conservative principles"? Wouldn't that make the individual mandate in Obamacare "conservative" as well?

#10 If the one thing that almost everyone in the Republican Party seems to agree on is that Obamacare is bad, then why is the candidate that created the plan that much of Obamacare was based upon leading in so many of the polls?

#11 What did Mitt Romney mean when he stated that he wants “to eliminate some of the differences, repeal the bad, and keep the good” in Obamacare?

#12 If no Republican candidate is able to accumulate at least 50 percent of the delegates by the time the Republican convention rolls around, will that mean that the Republicans will have a brokered convention that will enable the Republican establishment to pick whoever they want as the nominee?

#13 Why are middle class families being taxed into oblivion while the big oil companies receive about $4.4 billion in specialized tax breaks a year from the federal government?

#14 Why have we allowed the "too big to fail" banks to become even larger?

#15 Why has the United States had a negative trade balance every single year since 1976?

#16 Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of all jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs. How in the world could we allow that to happen?

#17 If the United States has lost an average of 50,000 manufacturing jobs a month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, then why don't our politicians do something about it?

#18 If you can believe it, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have permanently closed down since 2001. So exactly what does that say about our economy?

#19 Why was the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall made in China? Wasn't there anyone in America that could make it?

#20 If low income jobs now account for 41 percent of all jobs in the United States, then how are we going to continue to have a vibrant middle class?

#21 Why do the poor just keep getting poorer in the United States today?

#22 How can the Obama administration be talking about an "economic recovery" when 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be "low income" or are living in poverty?

#23 Why has the number of new cars sold in the U.S. declined by about 50 percent since 1985?

#24 How can we say that we have a successful national energy policy when the average American household will spend a whopping $4,155 on gasoline by the end of this year?

#25 Why does it take gigantic mountains of money to get a college education in America today? According to the Student Loan Debt Clock, total student loan debt in the United States will surpass the 1 trillion dollar mark in early 2012. Isn't there something very wrong about that?

#26 Why do about a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who don’t pay their bills to be put in jail?

#27 If it costs tens of billions of dollars to take care of all of the illegal immigrants that are already in this country, why did the Obama administration go around Congress and grant "backdoor amnesty" to the vast majority of them? Won't that just encourage millions more to come in illegally?

#28 Why are gun sales setting new all-time records in America right now?

#29 Why are very elderly women being strip-searched by TSA agents at U.S. airports? Does that really keep us any safer?

#30 The last words of Steve Jobs were "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow." What did he mean by that?

#31 How in the world did scientists in Europe decide that it was a good idea for them to create a new "killer bird flu" that is very easy to pass from human to human?

#32 If our founding fathers intended to set up a limited central government, then why does the federal government just continue to get bigger and bigger?

#33 Are we on the verge of an absolutely devastating retirement crisis? On January 1st, 2011 the very first of the Baby Boomers started to reach the age of 65. Now more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will be turning 65 every single day for the next two decades. So where in the world are we going to get all the money we need to pay them the retirement benefits that we have promised them?

#34 If the federal government stopped all borrowing today and began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the U.S. national debt. So does anyone out there actually still believe that the U.S. national debt will be paid off someday?

#35 If the U.S. economy is getting better, then why are an all-time record 46 million Americans now on food stamps?

#36 How can we say that we have the greatest economy on earth when we have a child poverty rate that is more than twice as high as France and one out of every four American children is on food stamps?

#37 Since 1964, the reelection rate for members of the U.S. House of Representatives has never fallen below 85 percent. So are the American people really that stupid that they would keep sending the exact same Congress critters back to Washington D.C. over and over and over?

#38 What does it say about our society that nearly one-third of all Americans are arrested by the time they reach the age of 23?

#39 Why do so many of our politicians think that it is a good idea to allow the U.S. military to arrest American citizens on American soil and indefinitely detain them without a trial?

#40 A new bill being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives would give the U.S. government power to shut down any website that is determined to "engage in, enable or facilitate" copyright infringement. Many believe that the language of the new law is so vague that it would allow the government to permanently shut down any website that even links very briefly to "infringing material". Prominent websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube would be constantly in danger of being given a "death penalty". The American people need to ask their members of Congress this question: Do you plan to vote for SOPA (The Stop Online Piracy Act)? If the answer is yes, that is a clear indication that you should never cast a single vote for that member of Congress ever again.

Obama’s global Murder, Inc.

Obama’s global Murder, Inc.

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The Obama administration has erected a vast apparatus of global assassination involving unmanned aerial drones operated by the CIA and the military. This network of “targeted killing” machines is run in secrecy, behind the backs of the American people and with virtually no congressional oversight.

The US drone program is the subject of an exposé published in the Washington Post on Wednesday, headlined “Under Obama, an emerging global apparatus of drone killing.” While restrained in its presentation, the Post article is a chilling account of a government that has asserted for itself the right to kill anyone, anywhere in the world, without even a pretense of legal proceedings. The lives of thousands of people have been wiped out in this manner.

The US drone program, according to the Post, “involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in six countries on two continents.”

A study by the Congressional Budget Office concluded that the US had 775 Predator and other drone aircraft, plus an unknown number operated by the CIA as part of covert operations. Not including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, assassinations have been carried out in at least three countries. The recent downing of a drone over Iran, however, points to much broader operations.

One of Obama’s first actions as president was to order a Predator drone attack on Pakistan. Since then, nearly 240 attacks have been carried out against the country, killing thousands, mostly civilians. Some 15 strikes have been launched against Yemen, and several others in Somalia.

The Post provides a description of competing “kill lists” drawn up by the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), with no publicly available information on the criteria used to select targets for assassination. The CIA’s list is apparently shorter than the military’s, which some in the drone program attribute to the fact that it has had less time to compile it. “Over time, officials said, the agency would catch up.”

Among those killed have been three US citizens, including Anwar Al-Awlaki by the CIA on September 30 and his 16-year old son by the JSOC a few weeks later, both in Yemen. In the latter attack, the Post claims, the young Awlaki was not the intended target. “A US citizen with no history of involvement with al-Qaeda,” he was, instead, “an unintended casualty.”

In explaining the increase in drone assassinations, the Post cites the official closure of CIA detention programs and an end to new transfers to Guantanamo Bay. This left “few options beyond drone strikes…” In other words, instead of locking alleged “terrorists” in prison camps and torture centers, the Obama administration decided it would be more efficient to simply kill them in secrecy.

Separate congressional panels supposedly have oversight over these two different programs. However, “Neither panel is in a position to compare the CIA and JSOC kill lists or even arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the rules by which each is assembled,” the newspaper reports.

Congressional leaders of both parties are entirely complicit, with leaders of intelligence and military committees submitting to restrictions on public discussion. “Senior Democrats barely blink at the idea that a president from their party has assembled such a highly efficient machine for targeted killing of suspected terrorists,” the Post comments.

President Lyndon Johnson, coming to power in the wake of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, famously acknowledged that the CIA had been operating a “damned Murder, Inc. in the Caribbean,” which included plots to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The Nixon administration was involved in many assassination plots, which contributed to the scandals and impeachment inquiries that eventually forced his resignation. Investigations by the US Senate’s Church Committee in the mid-1970s led up to an executive order officially barring the practice of assassination.

The actions of the Obama administration, and the vast growth in the secret powers of the CIA and the military, go far beyond these past crimes.

Extra-judicial state-sanctioned killing is a metastasis of the global “war on terror,” an escalation of international criminality that has included the launching of aggressive wars, indefinite detention, and torture. It has become a central component of US military policy, including the war in Libya, which was concluded with the US-backed assassination of Muammar Gaddafi. Obama has singled out the extra-legal killing of Osama bin Laden as a high point and defining moment of his administration.

Unbridled violence and the suppression of democracy are two sides of the same process. The revelations by the Post come less than two weeks after the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which for the first time provides an explicit congressional imprimatur on the indefinite military detention of US citizens and non-citizens alike, at the discretion of the president. The act effectively abolishes the writ of habeaus corpus and basic constitutional guarantees of due process.

The administration that is overseeing this assertion of quasi-dictatorial powers, headed by Obama, is essentially an alliance of powerful financial interests and the military-intelligence apparatus.

This government of extreme reaction has the crucial support of sections of the affluent middle class, which, on the basis of identity politics, has reconciled itself to policies that go beyond even those carried out by the Bush administration. Anything is acceptable, even “progressive,” so long as it is carried out by an African-American president.

The operation of a global assassination network receives at most a pro-forma rebuke from the likes of the Nation and other “left” backers of the Democratic Party. One liberal commentator, Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor for the Atlantic magazine, blithely commented in response to the Post piece: “Drones are the perfect weapons of democracy. One gets all the credit for killing the country’s enemies, and none of the blame for military casualties. The occasional slaughter of a 16-year-old boy is surely regrettable, but of almost zero political import.”

The defense of democratic rights and the defeat of American imperialism, along with the struggle against social inequality, depend on the emergence of a mass political movement of the working class on the basis of a socialist program. This movement will come into direct conflict with the Obama administration, the Democratic Party and its “left” apologists.

Marginalizing Ron Paul

Marginalizing Ron Paul

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Red Lines and Ticking Clocks: U.S. War Plans Against Iran

Red Lines and Ticking Clocks: U.S. War Plans Against Iran

The possibility of Russia's Military Involvement...

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Before the first bomb falls disinformation specialists prepare the ground. Leading media outlets, foreign policy journals and a plethora of think tanks funded by elite foundations, energy and weapons' conglomerates, "right," "left" or "center" take your pick, churn out war propaganda disguised as "analysis."

From the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to the neoliberal Center for American Progress (CAP), rhetorical skirmishes aside, the line is remarkably similar. Indeed, for "conservative" and "liberal" elite bloviators alike, Iran poses an "existential threat" to Israel and America's regional "allies," a disparate crew of land-grabbing colonizers, murderous princes and profligate potentates.

Only U.S. intervention, in the form of an overt military attack now or crippling economic sanctions followed by military action later, can save the day and bring "democracy" to the benighted Iranian people.

If we're to believe neocon acolyte Thomas Donnelly, "The rapid ticking of the Iran nuclear clock also marks an increasingly dark hour for the United States and its closest allies and partners, because it coincides with a third clock ... the timetable of retreat set in motion by Barack Obama."

Meanwhile, liberal interventionists Rudy deLeon and Brian Katulis over at CAP tell us that "President Barack Obama and his administration are ratcheting up the pressure on the Iranian regime, building an international coalition that is increasingly isolating and weakening Iran--making it pay a price for not living up to its international responsibilities."

While AEI and their fellow-travelers claim that "in the after-midnight hour when the Obama retreat is complete, the United States would find itself with few options at the chiming of the nuclear clock," CAP's liberal hawks loudly proclaim that the "Obama administration has adopted a tough approach to Iran, centered on three main components: Unprecedented defense cooperation with regional allies that enhances their security and independence; An international coalition that holds Iran accountable for its actions; Smart, targeted economic sanctions."

In other words, while elite Washington factions may disagree over tactical issues, they are in full agreement on the wider strategic goals: undisputed American hegemony over energy corridors in Central Asia and the Middle East.

From the darkest days of the Cold War to the present moment, American policy is designed with one goal in mind: smash the competition, firstly China and Russia, but also the crisis-ridden European Union, whose main task is to keep quiet and fall in line.

Red Lines

Last week in an interview with the CBS Evening News, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that "despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less."

"So are you saying that Iran can have a nuclear weapon in 2012?," reporter Scott Pelley asked. Panetta replied, "It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less. But one proviso, Scott, is if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel."

Never mind that the U.S.-controlled International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not discovered a so-called "secret facility," or that two National Intelligence Estimates produced by all 16 U.S. secret state agencies, the latest one this year, reported there is not a shred of credible evidence supporting claims that Iran has diverted uranium towards the development of a bomb.

No matter; as we learned in the aftermath of the disastrous invasion of Iraq, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" and therefore, the march to war with Iran will continue, indeed accelerate in the near term.

"If the Israelis decide to launch a military strike to prevent that weapon from being built," Pelley asked, "what sort of complications does that raise for you?"

Panetta replied, "Well, we share the same common concern. The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it."

When Pelley asked what "it?" is, Panetta said: "If they proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it."

Pelley: "Including military steps?"

Panetta: "There are no options off the table."

Ticking Clocks

While the media have gone to great lengths to portray the Israelis as proverbial loose cannons who just might launch an Iran attack without first consulting their American partners, this is a smokescreen providing political cover for the Obama administration during an election year.

As analyst Michel Chossudovsky pointed out on Global Research, "In late December 2008, coinciding with the onslaught of Israel's 'Operation Cast Lead' directed against Gaza, the Pentagon dispatched some 100 military personnel to Israel from US European Command (EUCOM) to assist Israel in setting up a new sophisticated X-band early warning radar system as part of a new and integrated air defense system."

Chossudovsky observed this development indicates that there has been "a fundamental turning point in the structure of Israel's Air Defense system and its relationship to the US global missile detection system."

Although "casually heralded as 'military aid,'" Chossudovsky wrote, "the project consisted in strengthening the integration of Israel's air defense system into that of the US, with the Pentagon rather than Israel calling the shots."

Since the Obama regime came to power, Chossudovsky noted there has "been a significant hike in US military aid to Israel," and "in fact much of this so-called military aid constitutes a veiled increase in the U.S. Defense budget."

This has been borne out by several reports in the Israeli press.

Last week, Israel National News disclosed that the "United States will double the special aid it gives Israel for the development and implementation of anti-missile systems, the Globes financial newspaper reported on Thursday."

Indeed, "the House and Senate's Committees on Appropriations approved the aid following a request by the U.S. Administration to approve aid totaling $106.1 million for the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic long-range air defense system, for the program to improve the basic capabilities of the Arrow systems, and for the David's Sling mid-range anti-missile system."

Significantly, both "Appropriations Committees went far beyond the request, the report noted, and raised the amount of aid from $129 million to $235.7 million in 2012," Israel National News reported.

These developments were underlined in a report last week by the right-wing Jerusalem Post.

According to the Post's defense correspondent Yaakov Katz, "Israel is moving forward with plans to hold the largest-ever missile defense exercise in its history this spring amid Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear weapons."

"Last week," Katz wrote, "Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the US's Third Air Force based in Germany, visited Israel to finalize plans for the upcoming drill, expected to see the deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel."

The Jerusalem Post disclosed that "the drill, which is unprecedented in its size, will include the establishment of US command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany--with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East."

"The US," Katz noted, "will also bring its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and shipbased Aegis ballistic missile defense systems to Israel to simulate the interception of missile salvos against Israel," and that the "American system will work in conjunction with Israel's missile defense systems--the Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome."

Similar deployments are also underway in Turkey, the staging area for terrorist attacks targeting the Syrian government for "regime change" à la Libya.

As analyst Sibel Edmonds pointed out for Boiling Frogs Post, a "joint US-NATO secret training camp in the US air force base in Incirlik, Turkey, began operations in April-May 2011 to organize and expand the dissident base in Syria."

Edmonds noted that "weekly weapons smuggling operations have been carried out with full NATO-US participation since last May."

According to Edmonds' Turkish and Pentagon sources, "the HQ also includes an information warfare division where US-NATO crafted communications are directed to dissidents in Syria via the core group of Syrian military and Intelligence defectors."

It now appears that U.S.-NATO war plans against Iran will also rely heavily on Turkish participation.

The PanArmenian News Agency reported Saturday (h/t Stop NATO) "NATO's Malatya-based ballistic missile early warning radar system will begin functioning next week, a senior Turkish official said Dec 23, reiterating that the device 'is defensive and not directed at any particular country, especially Iran'."

However, with U.S.-NATO plans already underway to install so-called Ballistic Missile Defense systems in Eastern Europe which threaten Russia with a nuclear first-strike, the deployment of these systems in Turkey can only be viewed as a shot across the bow by both Iran and Russia.

After all, as The New York Times reported earlier this month, "the American commitment to work with NATO allies and deploy the missile shield is founded on a belief that Iran is accelerating its program to field missiles capable of reaching across NATO territory in Europe."

The American ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daadler, told the Times, "our estimate of the threat has gone up, not down. It is accelerating--this is the Iranian ballistic missile threat--and becoming more severe than even we thought two years ago."

Dismissing Russian concerns that "the alliance's system of radars and interceptors could blunt Moscow's own arsenal of missiles, and thus undermine Russia's strategic deterrent," Daadler proclaimed: "Whether Russia likes it or not, we are about defending NATO-European territory against a growing ballistic missile threat."

Despite claims by Turkey that the radar deployment is strictly "defensive" and not aimed at Iran, the PanArmenian News Agency informed us that "the agreement signed between Ankara and Washington calls for the deployment of a U.S. AN/TPY-2 (X-band) early warning radar system at a military installation at Kürecik in Malatya as part of NATO's missile defense project."

Remarkably similar to the accord signed with Tel Aviv, the Turkish agreement calls for the deployment of "around 50 U.S. soldiers" at the installations, "accompanied by a number of Turkish troops."

"In addition," the news agency disclosed, "a Turkish senior commander is to be posted at NATO's headquarters in Germany, where the intelligence gathered through the radar system will be processed, Hurriyet Daily News reported."

These reports indicate that the United States, with Israel and NATO as junior partners, are coordinating strategic deployments which the Iranians will undoubtedly view as preparations for a large scale attack.

Coming on the heels of a report earlier this month by Haaretz that the "Israel Defense Forces is forming a command to supervise 'depth' operations, actions undertaken by the military far from Israel's borders," military action by the U.S., Israeli and NATO forces are perhaps only a provocation away.

The New York Times reported last week that "Iran put neighbors on notice Thursday that it was about to conduct vast naval exercises in the Arabian Sea, including war games near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for international oil traffic."

"The exercises," the Times reported, "to start Saturday and last 10 days, are Iran's first since May 2010 and were described by the official news media as the largest the country ever planned."

"The scale of the maneuvers, the Times disclosed, "appeared intended to demonstrate Iran's military capabilities as it faces increased isolation over its suspect nuclear energy program."

These exercises "are bound to put Iranian warships close to vessels of the United States Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, which patrols some of the same waters, including the Strait of Hormuz."

War threats are being taken seriously far beyond the Persian Gulf.

Earlier this month Russia Today disclosed that the "geopolitical situation unfolding around Syria and Iran is prompting Russia to make its military structures in the South Caucasus, on the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions more efficient."

RT's correspondent Sergey Konovalov wrote that "Defense Ministry sources are saying that the Kremlin has been informed about an upcoming US-supported Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. The strike will be sudden and take place on 'day X' in the near future. One could assume Iran's reaction will not be delayed. A full-scale war is possible, and its consequences could be unpredictable."

"Recently," RT reported, "the Northern Fleet's aircraft carrier group with the heavy aircraft carrier 'Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov', headed towards the Mediterranean with plans to ultimately enter the Syrian port of Tartus."

Russian Defense Ministry sources would neither confirm nor deny "that the surface warships are being accompanied by the Northern Fleet's nuclear submarines."

"The tasks that will be carried out by the army and the navy in the event of a war against Iran are, of course, not being disclosed," Konovalov wrote.

That an attack on Iran might set-off a global conflict with far-reaching, and deadly, consequences was underscored by Russia Today.

Analyst Col. Vladimir Popov said that "if in the midst [of an attack on Iran] Azerbaijan supported by Turkey, attacks Armenia, then, of course, all of the adversary's attacks against Armenia will be repelled by Russia in conjunction with Armenian anti-missile defense forces."

"The analyst does not exclude the possibility of Russia's military involvement in the Iranian conflict."

"'In the worst-case scenario'," Popov told RT, "'if Tehran is facing complete military defeat after a land invasion of the US and NATO troops, Russia will provide its military support--at least on a military-technical level."

As the United States, Israel and NATO prepare the ground for war against Iran, and with operations already underway by the U.S. and NATO to effect "regime change" in Syria, Iran's close regional ally, the pieces of a slow-motion global catastrophe are falling into place.

Keeping Students From the Polls

Keeping Students From the Polls

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Next fall, thousands of students on college campuses will attempt to register to vote and be turned away. Sorry, they will hear, you have an out-of-state driver’s license. Sorry, your college ID is not valid here. Sorry, we found out that you paid out-of-state tuition, so even though you do have a state driver’s license, you still can’t vote.

Political leaders should be encouraging young adults to participate in civic life, but many Republican state lawmakers are doing everything they can instead to prevent students from voting in the 2012 presidential election. Some have openly acknowledged doing so because students tend to be liberal.

Seven states have already passed strict laws requiring a government-issued ID (like a driver’s license or a passport) to vote, which many students don’t have, and 27 others are considering such measures. Many of those laws have been interpreted as prohibiting out-of-state driver’s licenses from being used for voting.

It’s all part of a widespread Republican effort to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic. Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and the young, who are more likely to support President Obama, are disproportionately represented in the 21 million people without government IDs. On Friday, the Justice Department, finally taking action against these abuses, blocked the new voter ID law in South Carolina.

Republicans usually don’t want to acknowledge that their purpose is to turn away voters, especially when race is involved, so they invented an explanation, claiming that stricter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. In fact, there is almost no voter fraud in America to prevent.

William O’Brien, the speaker of the New Hampshire State House, told a Tea Party group earlier this year that students are “foolish” and tend to “vote their feelings” because they lack life experience. “Voting as a liberal,” he said, “that’s what kids do.” And that’s why, he said, he supported measures to prohibit students from voting from their college addresses and to end same-day registration. New Hampshire Republicans even tried to pass a bill that would have kept students who previously lived elsewhere from voting in the state; fortunately, the measure failed, as did the others Mr. O’Brien favored.

Many students have taken advantage of Election Day registration laws, which is one reason Maine Republicans passed a law eliminating the practice. Voters restored it last month, but Republican lawmakers there are already trying new ways to restrict voting. The secretary of state said he was investigating students who are registered to vote in the state but pay out-of-state tuition.

Wisconsin once made it easy for students to vote, making it one of the leading states in turnout of younger voters in 2004 and 2008. When Republicans swept into power there last year, they undid all of that, imposing requirements that invalidated the use of virtually all college ID cards in voter registration. Colleges are scrambling to change their cards to add signatures and expiration dates, but it’s not clear whether the state will let them.

Imposing these restrictions to win an election will embitter a generation of students in its first encounter with the machinery of democracy.

Attract Government Spies by Tweeting These Words

Your 'Human-to-Animal' Tweets Aren't Safe, Privacy Watchdog Says

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Homeland Security spies on Facebook and Twitter users, recording the activity of people who search for terms like "human to animal," "collapse" and "infection," according to an online privacy advocacy group that has sued to peruse the agency's data.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) says Homeland Security announced plans to monitor social media sites in February.
"The initiatives were designed to gather information from 'online forums, blogs, public websites, and message boards,' to store and analyze the information gathered, and then to 'disseminate relevant and appropriate de-identified information to federal, state, local, and foreign governments and private sector partners,'" according to the federal complaint filed in Washington, D.C.
"Previously, DHS had developed surveillance initiatives of public chats and other online forums concerning specific events, such as the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the April 2010 BP oil spill," EPIC also claims.
As part of the initiative, the agency would "establish [fictitious] usernames and passwords" to spy on users and record their activities based on a number of search terms, including "human to animal," "collapse," "outbreak," and "illegal immigrants," the complaint says.
Homeland Security regularly plans to report their findings to "federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, foreign, or international government partners," the privacy group says.
EPIC allegedly requested documents from Homeland Security in April related to third-party contractors that work on social-media monitoring. The companies included H.B. Gar Federal, Palantir Technologies, and Berico Technologies, according to the complaint.
Homeland Security denied the request, and EPIC appealed the decision.
A request under the Freedom of Information Act to access the documents has gone unanswered after the department forwarded it to several components for processing and future response, according to the federal complaint.
EPIC is represented by Ginger McCall, in-house counsel for the group.

Is the United States A Police State?

Is the United States a Police State?

Honorable people like to debate whether the United States of America is a “police state,” but when it comes to shutting down the expression of ideas on the political left, there’s little room for argument.

We are inundated in this country with propaganda boilerplate about being the greatest democracy in the world. No, we’re not a police state like our friends in Saudi Arabia or our former friends, and current enemies, in Iran. Our police agencies have figured out how to accomplish police state repression in a “softer,” more sophisticated manner. They’ve also joined the federal government in using secrecy as a tool to stand apart from the nation’s citizenry and to operate outside the arena of democracy.

Look at the video in the September 26 report by Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC on what he describes as a “violent burst of chaos” caused by armed “troublemakers” from the New York Police Department.

It was a peaceful demonstration against Wall Street greed. At least it started out that way. All evidence suggests it was, then, sent careening into chaos by the police strong-arming of young protesters who had done nothing but express their views in public.

Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, left, on a pepper spraying spree, the woman he sprayed in the face and a brave recorder of the meleeDeputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, left, on a pepper spraying spree, the women he sprayed in the face and a brave recorder of the melee

In one incident, young women on the sidewalk observing the arrest of a young man in the street are corralled by cops using orange plastic nets. White-shirted Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, then, walks up, un-holsters his pepper spray gun and sprays the women full in the face. He re-holsters his weapon and walks away. Another video shows him doing the same thing indiscriminately to others in an apparent violation of NYPD rules that say the spray is only authorized to disable someone resisting arrest. Over 80 people were arrested in the melee.

The MSNBC video also shows a young man with a camera being violently slammed into a parked Volvo for videotaping the actions of the police. As O’Donnell emphasizes, videotaping cops is a completely legal activity. In fact, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month on exactly this situation in a case involving a man who videotaped cops beating a man in Boston Commons. (For a PDF of the ruling, go to: )

The case is instructive. It began with a federal lawsuit brought by Simon Glik, a Russian immigrant who had become a lawyer in the US. He saw cops beating a man and took out his cell phone to videotape them. He was told to stop and he refused. Police arrested him, confiscated his phone and deleted the video. They charged him with illegal wiretapping since his recording included audio.

The district court scoffed at the wiretapping charge and concluded just because “officers were unhappy they were being recorded during an arrest … does not make a lawful exercise of First Amendment rights a crime. … [The] First Amendment right publicly to record the activities of police officers on public business is established.”

The City of Boston and the individual police officers involved appealed the ruling, and the 1st Circuit upheld the district court. The justices pointedly demolished the notion often used by police officers that the law on the matter is unclear.

As to whether videotaping cops beating people on a public street is constitutionally protected behavior, they wrote: “Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative.”

And this protection applies to everyone – including “bloggers” and other private citizens with cameras or cell phones. Again, contrary to what police agencies like to say when confronted with cameras in embarrassing situations, one does not have to be a credentialed mainstream media journalist with a government-obtained “press badge” to qualify for First Amendment protection.

As to citizens making their displeasure about police actions known, the 1st Circuit cites a Houston case from 1987: “The freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principle characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.” That is, one has a clear right to make faces or express disfavor at police actions – as long as one doesn’t physically interfere with those actions.

The justices emphasized “the fundamental and virtually self-evident nature of the First Amendment’s protections in this area.” Citing another 1st Circuit ruling from 2009, they wrote: “We thus have no trouble concluding that ‘the state of the law at the time of the alleged violation gave the defendants [the police officers] fair warning that their particular conduct was unconstitutional.’ ”

The court is saying all this is so clear cops should know slamming a man against a Volvo for videotaping is a violation of law.

In the Wall Street melee, white-shirted commanders popped up a lot in videos as the worst abusers. As leaders, these officers should be informing their subordinates that this sort of “police state” activity is culpable behavior and, as frustrating as it may be, cops simply have to learn to live under the gaze of citizens’ cameras.

MSNBC’s O’Donnell was dogged in his coverage of the story. About the man with the video camera being slammed against the Volvo by a white-shirted commander, he said: “There’s a very brave man in this picture and it’s not the guy in the white shirt.”

Thanks to all the coverage and 400 complaints, the NYPD has had to back off its initial dismissals that all the pepper spraying was “appropriate” and declare it will open an investigation, especially of Deputy Inspector Bologna, who, according to The New York Times, “works in counterterrorism.” O’Donnell was rightfully skeptical such an investigation would be anything but a traditional whitewash. A department spokesman still insisted that Bologna’s actions were “motivated by his concern for the safety of officers under his command and the safety of the public.”

What’s going on here?

The best explanation for all this is in a 1990 book called The Police Mystique: An Insider’s Look At Cops, Crime and the Criminal Justice System by Anthony Bouza, a man who served in a host of leadership roles in the NYPD, closing his career as chief of police in Minneapolis. The “mystique” he describes involves the ironic power of the cops at the bottom of the police hierarchy and the great discretion extended to them to accomplish their mission.

Here’s some of Bouza’s insights gained from 36 years managing cops:

“[Police] work is peculiar in that the greatest power and autonomy exists at the lowest rank level. … The system, in order to accommodate the need for action, is notably understanding of the errors that are bound to occur. Thus cops develop the sense that they can exercise power without too great a risk of being called too strictly into account for its use.”

“Cops don’t take real or imagined assaults on their authority lightly. … A favorite ploy [of experienced cops] is to provoke an angry citizen into sufficiently loud outbursts to justify an arrest for disorderly conduct. The challenge is to push the target over an imaginary line that instinct will tell him or her constitutes a breach of something. The ability to maneuver the unwary into a trap is well known to cops but rarely realized by outsiders. … Their temptation to cow those whose behavior they’re trying to control into compliance often proves irresistible.”

“[Cops have] the additional comfort of being able to rely on the substantial tolerance of a system that wants action and knows that it must be willing to tolerate errors in order to get it.”

“Police power assumes its most formidable aspect when cops deal with the underclass. This is the group they’ve been pressured, implicitly, to control. … A society, for example, that permits scores of millions to be undereducated and unemployed will not be patient with those who call upon it to attack these ills with more equitable distributions of wealth, social programs, and other ‘liberal’ schemes. … The overclass prefers to see the problems attacked through the highly visible ‘law-and-order’ methods that promise easy solutions.”

“The people’s power, normally hard to define and difficult to see, can be a fearful thing once unleashed, particularly when aimed at the police department.”

Watch the MSNBC video again and you’ll see all of this played out in the streets near Wall Street.

When Deputy Inspector Bologna walks up and, absolutely unprovoked, sprays young women bystanders in the face with pepper spray, besides any personal unsavory and sadistic impulses he might have harbored, he is undertaking a variant of the “favorite ploy” to provoke that Chief Bouza describes.

In fact, the whole Monday melee can be seen as a case of cops poking and shoving citizens to “cow” them and “push the target over an imaginary line” — using rude provocation to turn a peaceful protest into a scene of chaos and havoc that, then, can be blamed on the “underclass.” In this case, that underclass is young, non-affluent Americans fed up with the direction of their society and the absence of venues to do anything about it — and courageous enough to speak out in public.

The result is a peaceful protest is turned into a melee justifying arrests.

How did we get to this place?

Anthony Bouza wrote his book in 1990, a much more “innocent” time of relative peace after the fall of the Soviet Union and before the Gulf War. Then came the 9/11 attacks, the Bush Administration’s declaration of a Global War On Terror (“You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.”) and the astonishing rise of a globally based Homeland Security apparatus noted for the unprecedented linkage of military forces, civilian contractors and federal, state and local police agencies into a massive and frightening leviathan that operates in secret and is totally out of control.

On Sunday September 25th, 60 Minutes, a journalistic enterprise that more and more does shameless promotion for the Pentagon and the Homeland Security leviathan, did a piece on NYPD Chief Raymond Kelly and the department’s vast anti-terrorism capacities. The story was the exact opposite in tone from Chief Bouza’s honest realism. Chief Kelly and his police were national heroes working to secure New Yorkers from another horror like 9/11. Not one question about civil liberty issues was raised.

In such a climate of media-endorsed military/police paranoia, it’s not surprising that the day after the 60 Minutes stroke job to see an NYPD counterterrorism commander randomly pepper spraying citizens for expressing views contrary to the flag-waving norm.

Those on the top in this society are trying desperately to hold onto all the power and wealth they’ve accumulated. They’re like deer caught in the headlights of history. So it’s not surprising to see NYPD cops who, by now, must be so thoroughly brainwashed in post-9/11 paranoia they’re ready to play out the things Chief Bouza speaks of on a scale he could not have imagined in 1990. We see NYPD cops near Wall Street attacking harmless, peaceful street protesters simply expressing a desire for economic justice. When have we seen a right wing Tea Party demonstration calling for an end to taxes and programs for the poor attacked like this?

Which takes us back to the opening of this story. Whether a society is seen as a “police state” depends entirely on whose ox is being gored. To cite an egregious example, the powerful and elite in Guatemala during the 1970s and ‘80s did not see their society as a police state – at least not in a critical way. Instead, this class saw what the police and military were doing (in this case, slaughtering and “disappearing” thousands) as necessary for their security, necessary to keep a massive, poor Native American population and their leftist supporters in check.

Right wing police defenders might take this as a reason to praise this country. See! Our police and military are not slaughtering people by the thousands. That’s because, again, we’re a sophisticated, “soft” police state. But the identical dynamic works here: The police use the power they have and the discretion they are given, as Chief Bouza makes clear, to do what cops feel is necessary to check “the group they’ve been pressured, implicitly, to control.”

Chief Bouza clearly sympathizes with cops in how they are placed by society between a rock and a hard place. Some cops clearly take personal joy in abusing leftists who would publicly demand justice. But cops are necessary in a society, and the job is not an easy one. Most cops are decent working men and women simply caught in the vice. That seems to have been the case in New York, with a few cops stirring things up to create a chaotic situation good cops were, then, compelled to address.

But it’s also tough being a leftist in America. The media is bought and sold by huge, cold-blooded, profit-making corporations and money runs our democracy to the point we have a government dominated by bullshitters and panderers. When a concerned citizens has had enough and takes to the streets, these days he or she is corralled and humiliated by a range of sophisticated and well-funded police agencies. Marginalization is assured.

What’s an American leftist to do?

What the young activists in New York are doing is a good model. You turn into Howard Beal and declare, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Everybody gets cameras and puts quotes from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on posters or t-shirts. You realize the poor slob in uniform in front of you with the can of pepper spray is also a working man or woman and it’s him breaking the law when he pepper sprays you or slams you into a Volvo for using your First Amendment rights.

Since it’s against the law to employ your own pepper spray, you just have to take it like a Gandhi would. There’s no such thing as self-defense when it comes to cops, even when they are blatantly breaking the law.

The political left in America is on the ropes, and contrary to what some leftists would like to see, revolution does not seem on the horizon in America. That said, something is indeed happening, and the world is seeing more examples of bottom up expression.

Here’s what I think: The only thing that can save the United States of America from a dismal future the political right wants to lock us into is to rigorously debunk the slander of the left so the nation can begin to create a more healthy, economically just structure. That goes for ending the bankrupting state of endless war these same forces have collared us with.

Such a shift will do two important things: It will empower working people with health care and jobs so they’ll have security and money to spend, which will re-energize a capitalist engine; and in the spirit of a mixed economy, it will also mean a much needed injection of socialism into the economy – the sort of things Franklin Roosevelt had the courage to do.

A May Day demonstration for economic justice in Union Square in New York in 1934A May Day demonstration for economic justice in Union Square in New York in 1934

Even one of the right wing’s most revered free-market economic gurus, Friedrich Hayek, conceded the healthy nature of a mixed economy in his famous 1944 polemic, The Road To Serfdom.

“There is no reason why,” he wrote, “in a society which has reached the general level of wealth which ours has attained the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom.” He defined that security as “security against severe physical deprivation (and) the certainty of a given minimum of sustenance for all.” He went on further to say: “[S]ome minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody. … [T]he case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong.”

Hayek’s view of a balanced economy sounds almost reasonable today and shows how very far to the right current thinking has gone after his beloved free market economy was driven into a ditch by greedy Wall Street pirates.

I plan to stand up with others for economic justice in Washington DC starting on October 6th in Freedom Plaza, three blocks from the White House. Like others, I’ll have my camera with me. The fact “occupations” are now breaking out across the US like mushrooms will, hopefully, give the police pause. I trust DC cops don’t feel it’s necessary to slam people me into Volvos or to shoot me in the face with pepper spray.

But if that’s how it has to be, that’s the cost of living free in a US police state.

Lockdown In AmeriKa? You Betcha!

Lockdown In AmeriKa? You Betcha!

Perhaps the most chilling movie I’ve seen during the past decade — while the American led, once-termed “Global War on Terror” rages on and on and on, ever-expanding both overseas as well as within the Homeland — was the 2006 movie Children of Men. Its Mexican director, Alfonso Cuaron, has described his dystopian film as the “anti-Blade Runner”.

The 1982 Ridley Scott directed film, Blade Runner, likewise depicts a dark futuristic scene set in the then barely-imaginable distant future of Los Angeles in 2019. Through stupendous special effects, it depicts, rather inaccurately by the way, fantastical advances of science to include humanoid robots that can fall in love and wax philosophical while “dying”, deep space travel, battling Galactic Empires, and overcrowded urban sprawl not only across the landscape but also up into dark, polluted skies as well.

On the other hand, Children of Men paints a considerably more realistic near future, one that if current trends continue becomes all too feasible and most alarming. The film depicts British citizens, who are subject to constant surveillance, but who also can be locked down behind bars in crowded cages at the capricious will of the national security state.

Over recent weeks global mainstream media, even in corporately-owned outlets within the US, have been filled once again with intolerable images of rampant police violence against nonviolent Occupy Wall Street citizen protestors. Such violence has rarely been seen since the massively turbulant anti-war and civil rights movements fifty years ago.

Fellow blogger John Grant wrote about an early example of New York City police violence in his October 5th essay “Is the United States A Police State?” Since then police purges, often including violence against the occupants and destruction of their private property, have occurred at OWS-protest encampments throughout many American cities, both large and small, from Atlanta to Oakland, New York to Portland. Some commentators contend these purges were coordinated through the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

Sherman's March to the Sea

This recent police violence against American citizens, though certainly disturbing, is by no means unique throughout our 235-year history. In addition to the brutal Civil War, which included a “scorched earth” policy during Sherman’s “March to the Sea”, America’s bloody legacy is filled with numerous examples of large-scale police violence. Such violence has often been authorized by politicians supported by the 1% most wealthy citizens against the vast majority of citizens who comprise the 99%.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were numerous incidents of coordinated police brutality, several resulting in significant deaths and injuries, against striking laborers. The casualties in these bloody confrontations included a number of women and children. This violence, often sanctioned by civic leaders and politicians in support of corporate owners, include the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the Pullman Strike in 1894, the Lawrence Textile strike in 1912, the Ludlow massacre of 1914, the Steel Strike of 1919, and the Hanapepe massacre of 1924.

Hooverville Burning

In the summer of 1932, federal troops were ordered by President Hoover to augment the DC police force to disband the Bonus Army. Under the command of General Douglas McArthur, the troops and DC police violently disbanded the peaceful veterans and their family members, who were petitioning Congress to provide them with their promised war service bonuses early due to the hard economic times of the Great Depression during the 1930s, another egregious incident of Wall Street failing main street. Some 17,000 WW I veterans and their family members were brutally routed from Hooverville in Anacostia Flats, resulting in several deaths and numerous injuries, not only to veterans but to several wives and children as well. This unmitigated violence no doubt led to Roosevelt defeating Hoover in the 1932 presidential election.

Four dead in Ohio

Student protests against the American War in Vietnam during the 60s and 70s included numerous incidents of massive police violence. Local police forces were sometimes augmented by the National Guard or US Army troops against young citizens. Most notable are the violent confrontations at the Democratic Convention in Chicago during August of 1968, the shooting of student protestors at Kent State in May of 1970 by the Ohio National Guard, and the mass arrests of some 7,000 protestors during the “Stop the Government” protests in Washington, DC on May 1, 1971, while Army helicopters flew overhead and 82nd Airborne troops patroled city streets. Many current members of VFP, then active in Vietnam Veterans Against the War, took part in the Dewey Canyon III veterans protest, throwing their war medals back to the government on the steps of the US Capitol Building, several days before the mass arrests.

Stonewall Police Riot

In addition to anti-war protests, during much of the last half of the 20thCentury American citizens suffered from large-scale incidents of co-ordinated police violence, often sanctioned by community leaders and politicians, during the long struggle for civil rights. The civil rights struggle during the 1960s, led by Martin Luther King, who was later assassinated, was primarily for people of color. Later, during the 1970s, it expanded to include women and Native Americans. A number of deaths occurred during the Wounded Knee siege in 1973 between federal officers and Sioux Indians in South Dakota. The struggle granting civil rights for differently-gendered persons began in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots. It has continued through recent history with the ending of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the US Armed Forces and the granting of full marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

Recently, however, a number of social commentators have become alarmed by the extreme militarization of local police forces. Even hallmark publications of mainstream America, such as the staid New York Times and Atlantic, have become concerned. In addition, policies regarding the use of federal troops to augment local police forces have virtually rendered the legal precedent of posse commitatus, forbidding the use of federal troops, null and void.

Within Congress, however, an even more ominous development has alarmed civil libertarians and supporters of the now largely defunct Bill of Rights. With only token discussion, during which opponents with mitigating amendments were easily outvoted, the Senate passed with strong bipartisan support the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation includes vague language that would grant authorities the legal precedent to preventatively detain without legal rights anyone anywhere, including American citizens within the US homeland.

Despite rhetoric that he would veto the bill containing such draconian provisions, it appears that President Obama is now satisfied with amended language he believes softens the potential negative impact upon US citizens. Obama has indicated he will soon sign this onerous legislation. Attorney General Eric Holder says he will issue a Bush-like “signing statement”. Nevertheless, many progressive critics, including the ACLU and the Salon’s Glen Greenwald, are most concerned about how such a law with its nebulous language could be used against American citizens. The language might very well allow for citizens to be preventatively detained indefinitely.

As winter deepens through the holiday season, much of the OWS movement has gone into hibernation. A notable exception was the December 12th large demonstration at the Port of Oakland, during which for several hours the port was totally shut down for business. An Oakland City Council measure to prohibit similar protests that interrupt port business, using whatever lawful tools the police have to prevent future disruptions, failed to come to a City Council vote, giving credence to the Tip O’Neill slogan that all politics is ultimately local. Perhaps, a more effective strategy for progressives, instead of focusing on the presidential of 2012, would be to focus their energies on key local elections.

It remains to be seen what will happen when warmer weather returns in the spring. Will the OWS movement again begin massing in urban centers? Will it grow in numbers and impact throughout the main streets of America once again? If an “American Spring” ensues, and if the 1% wealthy elites perceive that they are seriously threatened by a growing rebellion of the 99%, will more draconian measures than those already put on the books during the past decade gain support both within the Executive Branch and Congress to deal with so-called homegrown terrorism?

There is both historical precedent, as well as the legal infrastructure currently in place to manifest in relatively short order a full tilt boogie Fascist police state under the control of Wall Street and corporate elites. If that occurs, the reality of America’s future as the “land of the free and home of the brave” may substantially differ from what most Americans believe their country stands for. Such beliefs might then be described more accurately as delusional. Instead, AmeriKa may very well come to resemble the horrifying landscape of Children of Men – not exactly what our history books and folklore portray our land as being. Will a second American Revolution then ensue to install a government truly “of the people, by the people, for the people”? Or, will we the people, who comprise the 99%, be locked down in a permanent Fascist police state. Time shall surely tell.

The March to War: Iran and the Strategic Encirclement of Syria and Lebanon

The March to War: Iran and the Strategic Encirclement of Syria and Lebanon

Go To Original

The encirclement of Syria and Lebanon has long been in the works. Since 2001, Washington and NATO have started the process of cordoning off Lebanon and Syria. The permanent NATO presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Syrian Accountability Act are part of this initiative. It appears that this roadmap is based on a 1996 Israeli document aimed at controlling Syria. The document’s name is A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.

The 1996 Israeli document, which included prominent U.S. policy figures as authors, calls for “rolling back Syria” in 2000 or afterward. The roadmap outlines pushing the Syrians out of Lebanon, diverting the attention of Damascus by using an anti-Syrian opposition in Lebanon, and then destabilizing Syria with the help of both Jordan and Turkey. This has all respectively occurred from 2005 to 2011. This is also why the anti-Syrian March 14 Alliance and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) were created in Lebanon.

As a first step towards all this the 1996 document even calls for the removal of President Saddam Hussein from power in Baghdad and even alludes to the balkanization of Iraq and forging a strategic regional alliance against Damascus that includes a Sunni Muslim Arab “Central Iraq.” The sectarian nature of this project is very obvious as are its ties to opposing a so-called “Shiite Crescent.” The roadmap seeks to foment sectarian divisions as a means of conquering Syria and creating a Shiite-Sunni rift that will oppose Iran and keep the Arab monarchs in power.

The U.S. has now initiated a naval build-up off the Syrian and Lebanese coasts. This is part of Washington’s standard scare tactics that it has used as a form of intimidation and psychological warfare against Iran, Syria, and the Resistance Bloc. While Washington is engaged in its naval build-up, the mainstream media networks controlled by the Saudis and Arab clients of the U.S. are focusing on the deployment of Russian naval vessels to Syria, which can be seen as a counter-move to NATO.

Al-Ramtha in Jordan is being used to launch attacks into Daraa and Syrian territory. The Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications, Rakan Al-Majali, has even publicly admitted this and dismissed it as weapons smuggling. For years, Jordanian forces have successfully prevented weapons from reaching the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank from Jordanian territory. In reality, Amman is sending weapons into Syria and working to destabilize Syria. Jordanian forces work as a frontline to protect Israel and the Jordanian intelligence services are an extension of the C.I.A. and Mossad.

According to the Turkish media, France has sent its military trainers into Turkey and Lebanon to prepare conscripts against Syria. The Lebanese media also suggests the same. The so-called Free Syrian Army and other NATO-GCC front organizations are also using Turkish and Jordanian territory to stage raids into Syria. Lebanon is also being used to smuggle weapon shipments into Syria. Many of these weapons were actually arms that the Pentagon had secretly re-directed into Lebanon from Anglo-American occupied Iraq during the George W. Bush Jr. presidency.

The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, has promised the Syrian National Council, that a so-called “humanitarian corridor” will be imposed on Syria. Once again, the Syrian National Council is not an independent entity and therefore Juppé did not really make a promise; he really made a declaration.

While foreign companies like Suncor Energy were forced to leave Libya, they have not left Syria. The reason that these companies have stayed has been presented as being humanitarian, because they provide domestic local services in Syria. For example, Suncor Energy helped produce oil for export from Libya, but in Syria produces energy for local consumption. In reality, hostile governments are letting these companies stay, because they siphon money out of Syria. They want to prevent any money from going in, while they want to also drain the local economy as a catalyst to internal implosion in Syria.

Along with the U.S. and its NATO allies, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is imposing sanctions that include an end to all flights to Syria. The GCC states and Turkey have joined the foreign ministries of NATO states in asking their citizens to leave Syria. Since the U.N. Security Council is no longer a viable route against Syria, the GCC may also try to impose a no-fly zone over Syria through the Arab League.

Turkey: NATO’s Trojan Horse and Gateway into the Middle East

Turkey was present at the Arab League meeting in Morocco, which demanded regime change in Damascus. Ankara has been playing a dirty game. Initially, during the start of NATO’s war against Libya, Ankara pretended to be neutral while it was helping the Transitional Council in Benghazi. The Turkish government does not care about the Syrian population. On the contrary, the demands that Turkish officials have made to the Syrians spell out that realpolitik is at play. In tune with the GCC, Turkey has demanded that Damascus re-orient its foreign policy and submit to Washington’s demands as a new satellite. Through a NATO initiative, the Turks have also been responsible for recruiting fighters against the Libyan and Syrian governments.

For several years Ankara has been silently trying to de-link Syria from Iran and to displace Iranian influence in the Middle East. Turkey has been working to promote itself and its image amongst the Arabs, but all along it has been a key component of the plans of Washington and NATO. At the same time, it has been upgrading its military capabilities in the Black Sea and on its borders with Iran and Syria. Its military research and development body, TUBITAK-SAGE, has also announced that Ankara will also start mass-production of cruise-missiles in 2012 that will be fitted for its navy and forthcoming deliveries of U.S. military jets that could be used in future regional wars. Turkey and NATO have also agreed to upgrade Turkish bases for NATO troops.

In September 2011, Ankara joined Washington’s missile shield project, which upset both Moscow and Tehran. The Kremlin has reserved the right to attack NATO’s missile shield facilities in Eastern Europe, while Tehran has reserved the right to attack NATO’s missile shield facilities in Turkey or in the case of a regional war. There have also been discussions about the Kremlin deploying Iskander missiles to Syria.

Since June 2011, Ankara has been talking about invading Syria. It has presented the invasion plans as a humanitarian mission to establish a “buffer zone” and “humanitarian corridor” under R2P, while it has also claimed that the protests in Syria are a regional issue and not a domestic issue. In July 2011, despite the close Irano-Turkish economic ties, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard made it clear that Tehran would support the Syrians and choose Damascus over Ankara. In August 2011, Ankara started deploying retired soldiers and its military reserve units to the Turkish-Syrian border. It is in this context, that the Russian military presence has also been beefing up in the port of Tartus.

From Damascus to Tehran

It is also no mere coincidence that Senator Joseph Lieberman started demanding at the start of 2011 that the Pentagon and NATO attack Syria and Iran. Nor is it a coincidence that Tehran has been included in the recent Obama Administration sanctions imposed against Damascus. Damascus is being targeted as a means of targeting Iran and, in broader terms, weakening Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing in the struggle for control over the Eurasian landmass. The U.S. and its remaining allies are about to reduce their forces in Iraq, but they do not want to leave the region or allow Iran to create a bridge between itself and the Eastern Mediterranean using Iraq.

Once the U.S. leaves Iraq, there will be a direct corridor between Lebanon and Syria with Iran. This will be a nightmare for Washington and Tel Aviv. It will entrench Iranian regional dominance and cement the Resistance Bloc, which will pin Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinians together. Israel and the U.S. will both be struck with major strategic blows.

The pressure on Syria is directly tied to this American withdrawal from Iraq and Washington’s efforts to block Tehran from making any further geo-political gains. By removing Damascus from the equation, Washington and its allies are hoping to create a geo-strategic setback for Iran.

Everything that Washington is doing is in preparation for the new geo-political reality and an attempt to preserve its regional standing. U.S. military forces from Iraq will actually be redeployed to the GCC countries in the Persian Gulf. Kuwait will host new combat units that have been designated to re-enter Iraq should security collapse, such as in the case of a regional war, or to confront Iran and its allies in a future conflict. The U.S. is now activating the so-called “Coalition of the Moderate” that it created under George W. Bush Jr. and directing it against Iran, Syria, and their regional allies.

On November 23, 2011 the Turks signed a military agreement with Britain to establish a strategic partnership and closer Anglo-Turkish military ties. During an important state visit by Abdullah Gül to London, the agreement was signed by Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond and the Deputy Chief of the Turkish General Staff, Hulusi Akar. The Anglo-Turkish agreement comes into play within the framework of the meetings that the British Chief of Defence Staff, General David Richards, and Liam Fox, the former scandal-ridden British defence minister, had with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv. After the visit of General Richards to Israel, Ehud Barak would visit Britain and later Canada for talks concerning Syria and its strategic ally Iran. Within this timeframe the British and Canadian governments would declare that they were prepared for war with both Syria and Iran.

London has announced that military plans were also drawn for war with Syria and Iran. On the other side of the Atlantic, Canada’s Defence Minister, Peter MacKay, created shockwaves in Canada when he made belligerent announcements about war with Syria and Iran. He also announced that Canada was buying a new series of military jets through a major arms purchase. Days later, both Canada and Britain would also cut their banking and financial ties with Iran. In reality, these steps have largely been symbolic, because Tehran was deliberately curbing it ties with Britain and Canada. For months the Iranians have also openly been evaluating cutting their ties with Britain and several other E.U. members.

The events surrounding Syria have much more to do with the geo-politics of the Middle East than just Syria alone. In the Israeli Knesset, the events in Syria were naturally tied to reducing Iranian power in the Middle East. Tel Aviv has been preparing itself for a major conflict for several years. This includes its long distance military flights to Greece that simulated an attack on Iran and its deployment of nuclear-armed submarines to the Persian Gulf. It has also conducted the “Turning Point” exercises, which seek to insure the continuation of the Israeli government through the evacuation and relocation of the Israeli cabinet and officials, including the Israeli finance ministry, to secret bunkers in the case of a war.

For half a decade Washington has been directing a military arms build-up in the Middle East aimed at Iran and the Resistance Bloc. It has sent massive arms shipments to Saudi Arabia. It has sent deliveries of bunker busters to the U.A.E. and Israel, amongst others, while it has upgraded its own deadly arsenal. U.S. officials have also started to openly discuss murdering Iranian leaders and military officials through covert operations. What the world is facing is a pathway towards possible military escalation that could go far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East and suck in Russia, China, and their allies. The Revolutionary Guard have also made it clear that if conflict is ignited with Iran that Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinians would all be drawn in as Iranian allies.