Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Foundation of Clinton Crookedness

Finally: the Eruption of the Clinton Foundation Scandal

by Gary Leupp - CounterPunch

August 12, 2016

“It’s getting really hard to know where any lines were drawn.” - CNN

I confess I’d been looking forward to this. My son, following the Judicial Watch website, has been saying for months that the big email scandal will involve the State Department-Clinton Foundation ties and Hillary’s use of her office to acquire contributions from Saudi and other donors.

As someone opposed to World War III (beginning in Syria and/or Ukraine), I was hoping that they (and he) were right.

It might not be all that immediately clear to many why this is another big deal. After all, it follows Hillary’s ongoing private server email scandal, involving not just issues of the Secretary’s “judgment” and so-called “national security” but also revealing details about Clinton’s key role in the bloody destruction of Libya and her hawkish views in all circumstances.

CNN commentators assure us that the FBI investigation “went nowhere” because the FBI decided she’d committed no crime. (Just move on, folks; this was political all along.)

These new revelations come just after the scandal of the DNC rigging the primaries for Hillary, revealed by email leaks (from an unknown source) provided through Wikileaks. The content of these has been avoided like the plague by mainstream media, which is in Hillary’s camp and is generally protecting her. The focus instead is on alleged Russian efforts to influence the U.S. election, and the imagined Putin-Trump “bromance.” Respectable news agencies have been announcing, as fact, the idea that Wikileaks got the emails from Russia; and that Moscow is trying to swing the election towards Trump (because he’ll accept an invasion of Estonia, wreck NATO etc.). It’s (or it should be) obvious bullshit, an effort to change the subject while exploiting the McCarthyite paranoid sentiments of the most backward.

The headlines are so far cautious. “Emails renew questions about Clinton Foundation and State Department Overlap.” “Newly released Clinton emails shed light on relationship between State Dept. and Clinton Foundation.” They are not (yet) shrieking, “Sheik bought State Dept. favors from Clinton Foundation donation” but we shall see.

What do the emails show so far? Two examples have been highlighted by the conservative Judicial Watch, which requested the email transcripts through the FOIA. In the first, in 2009, Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-born billionaire who has given the foundation up to five million dollars and used its assistance to build a project in Nigeria, and is one of the foundation’s top donors, contacted Doug Band, head of the foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative, asking to be put in touch with a high ranking State Department official connected to Lebanon.

Band emailed Hillary’s top aide Huma Abedin and advisor Cheryl Mills, expressing a need. He writes: “We need Gilbert Chagoury to speak to the substance person re Lebanon. As you know, he’s a key guy there and to us and is loved in Lebanon. Very imp.”

A key guy to us. To the Clinton Foundation? The U.S.A.? Abedin did not ask that question before responding, “It’s jeff feltman. I’m sure he knows him. I’ll talk to jeff.” Feltman had been U.S. ambassador to Lebanon from July 2004 to January 2008 but was apparently still seen as the go-to guy. So Hillary’s chief aide took it upon herself to contact the former ambassador to tell him Chagoury (whom she might mention is a major contributor to the Clintons) needed to talk with him.

Nothing illegal there, they will say. Why shouldn’t the State Department arrange contact between a billionaire Lebanese Clinton donor, loved in Lebanon, and the ex-ambassador, if it contributes to regional stability or U.S. national security? And the hard-core Hillary supporters will nod their heads, and maybe point out that Feltman has denied any “meeting.” (Maybe Huma just passed on his address and they chatted online.)

(CNN I notice is showing a video of Bill Clinton with Chagoury in Nigeria, inaugurating a multi-billion dollar waterfront development on the coastline established “under the umbrella of the Clinton Global Initiative.”)

The other instance of “overlap” central to the discussion so far is a request of Band to Abedin and Mills for “a favor.” Someone who had recently been on a Clinton Foundation trip to Haiti wanted a State Department job. He indicated that it was “important to take care of” this person. Abedin, apparently without questioning Band about why this person was important, got right back to him: “We all have him on our radar. Personnel has been sending him options.” So the head of the Clinton Foundation could snap his fingers, again stressing how “important” his demand was, and Hillary aides Huma and Cheryl paid by your tax dollars would snap into action.

A CNN report deplores “the intermingling of emails between State and Clinton Foundation and others, giving the overall effect that it’s getting really hard to know where any lines were drawn.”

Maybe nothing illegal here. But there is an ongoing FBI investigation, no longer about Hillary’s multiple phones and private server, nor about the content of the communications (revealing her hawkish savagery), but about the routine trade-off of foundation connections for political rewards.

Those transactions are mere corruption, not war crimes. But the U.S. mass media never targets politicians for their bloodiness, and they love the conventional corruption scandal. So let there be more leaks that will absorb the attention of the talking heads! Let’s see clearer pay-for-play evidence! And let’s see more details about how the DNC midwifed Hillary’s nomination, actively sabotaging a supposedly democratic process.

Let the American people see how thoroughly rotten both candidates are, and how thoroughly rotten the system that barfed them up.

Bernie in a fair process would be the Democratic nominee now. Clinton didn’t so much steal the election as buy it in advance, arranging the details through lackey Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Trump would not be the Republican nominee but for the editorial decisions of cable news producers to—from the very inception of his campaign—announce BREAKING NEWS and cover his nearly identical rants every time he held a rally.

This gratuitous coverage obviated the need for any (other) Trump advertising. Even as the anchors, commentators and other talking heads ridiculed, denounced and appeared puzzled about the Trump phenomenon, the networks made the viewers imbibe his vapid rants. They hooked the most reactionary elements of the population on this blowhard billionaire nut case.

In the Democrats’ case, Wall Street and Wasserman Schultz controlled the primaries. In the Republican case, the corporate news media (for its immediate profit motives) advertised a total dick who happened to be a billionaire and represent the One Percent every bit as much as Hillary.

So they’re now in our faces, day after day. Hideous people with their news-anchor supporters, and cable commentators so ready to dismiss serious issues, put the very best face on their candidate, and change the subject to attack the other candidate. In the end it comes down to: We have a two-party system. The parties made their choices. So you HAVE to choose one.

Julian Assange described the U.S. presidential race as a choice between cholera and gonorrhea. Why should the people of this great country of 310,000,000 people—many with great creativity, integrity and intelligence—be assigned this sick choice of Clinton or Trump by the One Percent that controls everything?

Why should any Bernie supporter so debase himself or herself as to say, “Okay, I know the primaries were fixed and that Bernie could not win because the cards were stacked against him. And despite the fact that I put passion and effort into an anti-Wall Street campaign, now I’ll support the Wall Street candidate, who’s also a liar, who’s going to flip-flop again on TPP and bomb Syria to produce regime change, and provoke Russia in Syria and Ukraine—because well anyway she’s better than Trump, and we all have to vote, don’t we”?

But why should anybody have to hold their nose while they vote? The whole process has been exposed as never before as a farce. Why participate at all in something so corrupt? Do you want to vote just to vote, to publicly display the fact that you believe in the system itself, like the North Koreans who routinely go to the polls patriotically to vote for the options available? (As you may know, in some elections in the DPRK you can vote for a candidate of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Chondoist Chogu Party, Korean Social Democratic Party or independent. There is the manicured appearance of multiparty democracy—just like here. And no doubt some people feel good after the voting, knowing they’ve done their civic duty in a system they believe in. But what if you’ve woken up and don’t believe in the system anymore?)

Why not think bigger, and beyond? Either Clinton or Trump will likely take office in January, as the most unpopular newly elected president of all time. Either will have been brought to power by a manifestly anti-democratic, corrupt process that, more than in past years, is well exposed this time. Either will be vulnerable to mass upheaval, in the wake of Mexico wall construction or the announcement of a Syrian no-fly zone. Appalled by the election choices and result, the majority could maybe consider targeting the rigged system itself.

Just a suggestion. Massive demonstrations in Washington on Inaugural Day by people who have come to reject its legitimacy itself, knowing that it’s run by the One Percent to whom black lives don’t matter, drone warfare is cool and global warming is a hoax. Posters and banners with the curt, easy-to-understand and undeniably true popular slogan: THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS RIGGED!

Imagine a huge rally Jan. 20 demanding its overthrow, or at least the immediate resignation of the system’s illegitimate new executive, even if we don’t know what comes next. Imagine the admiration that would invite throughout the world, the hope it would inspire should the people of this country rise up to challenge not just a war, policy or person but the corrupt (capitalist and imperialist) system under which we live.


Now I read that the FBI, directed by James Comey (who recommended no charges for Clinton for her private cell phone use but left open the prospect of recommending criminal charges against Clinton for abusing her office to profit the Clinton Foundation) in fact has recommended charges against Hillary.

But the Department of Justice headed by Clinton loyalist Loretta Lynch rejected the recommendation. Because—don’t you see?—Hillary has to be the next president. To stop Trump, at all costs! And to stop Putin, that aggressive Putin. And to keep together the “Clinton Coalition.”

Good job, Loretta! But regardless of your effort, Hillary’s Pinocchio nose grows longer by the day, while the whole system is exposed as a cancer requiring the most aggressive treatment.
Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at:
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Friday, August 12, 2016

RIP BC Hydro: Who Killed the Electric Company?

Who Killed BC Hydro?

by Rafe Mair  - Common Sense Canadian

August 2, 2016

This is the story of the death of our province’s once greatest institution, BC Hydro. Though the public power utility began its life under Socred Premier WAC Bennett in 1961, the story of its demise starts circa 2001, under the newly-minted Liberal administration of Gordon Campbell.

Longtime BC Premier WAC Bennett’s dream is dead

Today, this once thriving institution is de facto bankrupt, without counting the $8.8-plus billion set aside for Site C Dam (a number surely to double, as we have seen with Newfoundland’s Muskrat Falls) – this catastrophe when customers haven’t required any increase in electricity for more than a decade, while rates increased by 30%.

The envy of the world

When the Liberals came to power in 2001, BC Hydro was a thriving energy company and it is no exaggeration to say the envy of the world. It was set up by WAC Bennett so that cheap power could be delivered to the less developed regions of the province the private sector wouldn’t supply. Bennett held that without cheap transportation and power, the north couldn’t develop, so he converted private companies into BC Rail, the BC Ferry Corporation and BC Hydro.

Since 2001, BC Rail has disappeared and BC Ferries might just as well have. Moreover, BC Hydro’s real debt has increased by 1,170%, from $6 billion in 2005 to $76 billion today.

How did this happen to a profitable company and so quickly?

Public bad, private good


Gordon Campbell and his Finance Minister Colin Hansen

Clearly, it was deliberate and consistent with the Camp Rightwing and Fraser Institute-inspired view that crown corporations are evil and can’t possibly do anything as well as the private sector. You’re to overlook that this wasn’t part of Campbell’s election platform; in fact, he promised to save the crowns I mentioned, including BC Hydro. This was the first of a long line of Liberal falsehoods that continues to this day, reaching a crescendo with Premier Clark’s ongoing bullshit about Site C.

Let’s see how it happened and you judge whether or not it was deliberate.

In 2002 Campbell propounded his energy policy, part of which said: “The private sector will develop new electricity generation, with BC Hydro restricted to improvements at existing plants.” The other exception was Site C, since it had been in the plans since the ’70s.

The myth of “small hydro”

The private companies were called Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and here’s how then finance minister Colin Hansen described the program:

… where we can encourage small companies to build small scale hydroelectric projects that are run of the river, and what that means is, instead of having a big reservoir, a big dam that backs water up, and creates a great big lake, these are run of the river, so the river continues to flow at its normal rate but we capture some of the energy in the form of hydroelectric power from this.[emphasis added]

IPP construction on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)

This was all barnyard droppings – the dams were called weirs but no less dams for that: the rivers, their ecologies, salmon runs and other water life were killed; roads and transmission lines were constructed; the small companies were the likes of General Electric. The contracts, which virtually run forever, pay the companies at least and often much more than double the market price and BC Hydro is required to buy all of their energy whenever produced whether it needs it or not!

A vital fact is that the vast majority of private power can only be generated during the annual Spring run-off, when BC Hydro least needs it as its reservoirs are full to brimming and power demand is at its lowest.
Power we don’t need, at outrageous costs

These huge corporations pay peppercorn rent, but didn’t fancy putting their own money on the line, so the public was forced to carry almost all the financial risks for a wealthy private system. It wasn’t long before every sharp operator wanted in, with the result that a few big guys cashed in and Hydro was stuck with buying power it didn’t need at prices it couldn’t afford.

What happened then?


Norman Farrell, a Hydro watcher for many years and the publisher of In-sights, says:

… IPP power, (for 2015) costing BC Hydro $1,217 million, could have been acquired from our southern neighbours for $545 million, a $672 million premium for buying power in BC. Ironically, many of the IPPs are foreign owned companies, happily exporting their profits…the fastest growth in the independent power industry has been in last two years, while Premier Clark hurries to get the Site C dam construction beyond what she calls “a point of no return.”

Premier Campbell’s rationale was that IPPs would supply California, but didn’t do his homework or he’d have known that California’s renewable portfolio standard doesn’t consider IPPs “green”, so they won’t pay a premium for electricity produced by our IPPs. BC Hydro was forced to take and pay for all this power whether it needed it or not – and it didn’t. Another great business decision!
Self-regulation = No regulation

These huge, rapacious IPPs police themselves with respect to environmental practises, and Surprise! There have been no prosecutions. The environmental consequences have been rightly called a “horror show” by eminent BCIT fish biologist Dr. Marvin Rosenau.

And for all that, the values of IPP generating facilities are not included in BC Hydro assets, although the company is obliged by contracts extending up to 56 years to pay a reported $56.2 billion for the produced power.

Working to save our rivers

In 2008 I was approached by rancher Tom Rankin, who had a ranch on the Ashlu River near Squamish, destroyed by an IPP. Tom, a successful businessman who had formed Save Our Rivers Society, asked me to be spokesperson and I joined Damien Gillis, now publisher of The Common Sense Canadian – which we later co-founded in 2010 – and Joe Foy, chief campaigner for The Wilderness Committee, using Tom’s enormous knowledge reservoir, and we travelled throughout the province in the 2009 election speaking against this calamitous Liberal energy policy.

With help from people like economist Erik Andersen, we would continue for years to explain to people from village to village that their rivers were being destroyed, their Hydro rates were set to soar, and BC Hydro was being driven into bankruptcy. People simply couldn’t believe that any premier or any government would allow this to happen! Well, it did happen and the result was even worse than we had forecast.

The only good news is that through these efforts and the support of thousands of British Columbians awakening to this crisis, we were able to fend off most of the really big projects – General Electric’s $5 Billion/17 river Bute Inlet behemoth, The Upper Pitt River Project, the Glacier/Howser project in the Kootenays, and many others. All that is to say that, no matter how bad things got, they could have been much, much worse.

What is Weaver thinking?



Dr. Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Green Party

Because politics is what this is all about, you should know that the current Green Party leader, Dr. Andrew Weaver, wrote and spoke in favour of the Liberals’ policy in 2009 (listen here to his robo-call on behalf of the Campbell energy policy) and still supports it to this day – to the astonishment of all who hoped that the Greens might be a solution, not part of the problem.

In fact, prior to his decision in 2009 to support the Campbell Energy Plan and its IPP program, Dr. Weaver didn’t bother to visit the easily accessible Ashlu River project, all but completed, to see for himself what an ecological catastrophe but baldly stated IPP energy to be “clean and green”. Even as recently as this month Dr. Weaver declared to me that IPPs were merely waterwheels!

Here we are in 2016 and BC Hydro would be bankrupt if it were in the private sector. The public is left to pay ever-increasing rates to cover this financial boondoggle (and that’s without the massive additional burden of Site C), scores of rivers ruined, wealthy companies made wealthier with the money going out of British Columbia, all without any change in sight – except for the worse.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Ah, but that’s not all this business-oriented government has done for us. You see, BC Hydro is forced to pay an annual dividend to the government so that Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s “budget” looks better. Now – get this – Hydro must pay this dividend even if it loses money hand-over-fist, as it has ever since the Liberals got their greedy little pinkies on the till.

As of now, Hydro owes $852 million to the government over the next three fiscal years in mandatory annual dividend payments and, not having the money, must borrow the funds. In short, BC Hydro must borrow money — which ratepayers will have to pay back in the future — so that it can meet government’s annual demand for a share of its non-existent profits, transferring the debt from us the taxpayers to us the ratepayers!

The business acumen displayed takes the breath away – along with our money.

Deferring the inevitable

Graph courtesy of Norm Farrell

Here’s some more funny math. BC Hydro has been deferring expenses to avoid declaring operating losses. “Money was disbursed but instead of treating payments as expenses, the company treats some of them as ‘temporary’ assets,” explains Norm Farrell. “It is like a dairy farmer buying hay but not counting its cost as an expense, arguing that feeding cows today allows them to grow larger and healthier and perhaps produce more milk in the future. It is trick accounting, allowed because government writes its own accounting rules.”

Another trick is with something called “regulatory assets” which are largely deferrals – expenses Hydro paid but doesn’t want to treat as expenses. Instead, they stay on the balance sheet as deferred costs. As of this year, they stand at a whopping $6.3 billion, up from $861 million 10 years ago and zero 15 years ago, when the Liberals took over from the NDP.

“Someday, these will have to be treated honestly,” says Farrell.

“Except, if they did that, instead of showing profits, they would show massive losses and have to end the transfers from BC Hydro to provincial treasury.”

Where are the alternatives?

BC Hydro is often referred to as our “energy” company – I’ve called it that – where in fact it is our “Hydroelectric” energy company. Hydro has been negligent unto disobedient in its failure to assess alternative sources of energy.

Steam rising from the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station 
in Iceland (Photo: Gretar Ívarsson / Wikipedia)

For many year, it made the excuse that other energy sources like wind power, tidal, solar and so on were intermittent – there’s no wind power when there’s no wind – and the power couldn’t be stored, so it was useless. That excuse is no more. These alternate sources, with new technology, can spell each other off in an integrated grid, and are starting to be stored through improved battery technologies and can thus relieve the need for hydroelectric power with consequent monetary and environmental savings. Not to mention geothermal, which is, like hydropower, “base-load” (always available). Experts tell us we’re awash in geothermal potential but BC Hydro would rather flood productive farmland with giant, old-school dams and sign rip-off IPP contracts than harness the sustainable and plentiful power beneath our feet.

The difficulty is philosophical and emotional as much as anything. It should be called the BC Energy Corporation and thus remove the impression that hydro is the only power we can get.

The management of BC Hydro is so wired into hydropower that they’re like a carpenter who only owns a hammer, so that everything he sees looks like a nail.

Space doesn’t permit an extensive look at Site C here, a book in itself, but most experts – including no less than the head of the Joint Review Panel into the project – agree that Site C is almost totally unnecessary in any event and, going further, there’s not a scintilla of need if alternative forms of energy were developed.

Our debt to bear

In closing, what must never be forgotten in any assessment of BC Hydro is that it is not only a public company owned by the people of British Columbia, their debts are owed by the people as well. It’s not that we don’t think of that much – we don’t think about it at all. We whistle past the graveyard, assuming that we will never be called upon to pay. We may not ever have to write personal checks but government services will be substantially diminished if BC Hydro turns up its toes to be ravaged by the vultures patiently watching.

When you look at the disgraceful mess the Liberals have made of BC Hydro, you have to seriously ask – how long will it take for the public to realize how Gordon Campbell and Christy have, ahem, screwed them?

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at
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Ghosts of Christopher Hitchens: Bill Blum and Islam

Blum’s Straw Men

by Kim Petersen - Dissident Voice

August 12th, 2016

Back on 6 July 2016, anti-imperialist Bill Blum wrote an otherwise excellent article with the exception of one paragraph that detracted from its overall message. I responded to that paragraph in an article.

Blum affirmed that these were indeed his views in a second article. Now he has written a third article persevering on his thesis, albeit in a logically unsound piece.

Blum claims his “crime” was being “politically incorrect.” I demur.

The reason that I dissented was because Blum was painting a diverse grouping as a monolith. He was, in effect, branding the entirety of Islam and Muslims with the violent radicalism of the Islamic State.

Yet, if Blum’s postulate holds for Islam, then he should apply his critism equally to the violence of Christianity, Judaism, or other religions wherein violence arises; for example, the Buddhist Sri Lankan violence against Tamils. Blum does not do this even though he self-identifies as a Jew and lives in a predominantly Christian nation.

So Blum erected a straw man for himself to knock down: the fallacious straw man of political incorrectness.

Blum’s next straw man was to write about “Muslim countries in the recent past killing thousands of Muslims and causing widespread horror. Therefore, whatever ISIS and its allies do is ‘revenge’, simple revenge, and should not be condemned by anyone calling himself a progressive…”

Comment: Blum apparently is painting “progressives” as a monolith. It is the logical fallacy of guilt by association. Blum does not acknowledge diversity among members of a grouping. I do not know of any person(s) that referred to the actions of ISIS as “revenge.” Blum does not provide any substantiation.

And why confine his comments to the “recent past”? In response to Blum I had earlier asked: “If Islam is the motivating source for terrorism, then how does Blum explain that there was not any act of so-called jihadist terrorism in the period 1945-1967 (from the end of WWII until the Israeli war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan)?” Does Blum hypothesize a timer within Islam set to wreak violence in the recent times?

Blum: “Moreover, inasmuch as ISIS is the offspring of religion, this adds to my political incorrectness: I’m attacking religion, God forgive me.”

Comment: Again Blum provides no substantiation for what he writes. He seems to be fabricating an anonymous person’s argument to oppose. This epitomizes straw man argumentation.

To be clear, as a free speech advocate — within certain bounds, such as public safety — people should be free to criticize, argue, comment, and opine on any topics, including religion.

And, with all due respect, Blum is wrong. ISIS is not the offspring of religion; ISIS is the offspring of US and western violence.

Blum continues: “Totally irrelevant to my critics is the fact that the religious teachings of ISIS embrace murderous jihad and the heavenly rewards for suicide bombings and martyrdom. This, they insist, is not the real Islam, a religion of peace and scholarly pursuits. Well, one can argue, Naziism was not the real Germany of Goethe and Schiller, of Bach and Brahms. Fortunately, that didn’t keep the world from destroying the Third Reich.”

Comment: It is implied by Blum that the Qur’an teaches “murderous jihad and the heavenly rewards for suicide bombings and martyrdom,” but he cites nothing in the Qur’an to support his claim. By choosing what constitutes Islam, he casts himself in the role of an expert on Islam.

And when he draws the analogy of Naziism not being “the real Germany of Goethe and Schiller, of Bach and Brahms,” well… it is hard to discern where he is going with the analogy. If one infers from his stance toward Islam, it would seem he implies that Naziism guides Teutons. It ignores the many, albeit a minority, of Germans who opposed Nazism (see The German Opposition by Michael Thomsett, 1977). Germans are not a monolith.

Nonetheless, this represents a shift by Blum. Previously he wrote: “It’s the teachings of Islam that inspire the Islamic terrorists to carry out jihad and suicide bombings.” Now “Islam” is replaced by “ISIS.” Nevertheless, ISIS claims to be following the teachings of Islam.

To be clear, first, I am not a critic of Blum, but I am critical of his disjointed depiction of Islam and Muslims as constituting a homogeneous entity. Second, it is not the religious teachings of Islam or ISIS that this writer focuses on. What is important is the different interpretations people derive from Islam and how people act out their faith to such words and their interpretation. I object to Blum’s lumping all Muslims in one boat of violent “jihadism.” Third, most of all I object to Blum’s shifting the focus of blame from the instigator of the violence to the violence of resistance. I asked previously, “However, in the absence of imperialist evil wreaked against them, would these people professing to be Muslims have been inspired/manipulated into violent reprisals?”

Blum does not deign to answer. Instead he conjures straw men. It is far easier to debunk one’s own creations.

Blum: “We should also consider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States carried out atrocities against Latin America, including numerous bombings, without the natives ever resorting to the repulsive uncivilized kind of retaliation as employed by ISIS.”

Comment: “natives”? Is that how the peoples of the lower western hemisphere are referred to? “resorting to the repulsive uncivilized kind of retaliation…” What one deduces from this statement is that Blum acknowledges that the violence of Muslims was in response to a preceding act against them. Unmentioned by Blum here is what the preceding act was. Was it the partitioning of the Arab world? Was it handing over Arab territory to Europeans living on another continent? Was it the dropping of two 900-kilo GBU-27 laser-guided bombs on the Amiriyah shelter that incinerated 408 civilians inside? Was it callously writing off the lives of a half-million Iraqi children? Was it the war of aggression against Iraq and the genocide carried out? Are not these acts carried out by western agents repulsive? Are these western acts not inciting a repulsive uncivilized kind of aggression?

Blum downplays the origins of ISIS which many call a creation of the United States. Conclusively, the US has been supporting al Qaeda and ISIS in Libya and Syria. (source 1 and source 2 ) If the American Dr Frankenstein gave life to ISIS who bears the ultimate responsibility for the violence of ISIS: the creation or the creator?

Blum: “It doesn’t matter to my critics that in my writing I have regularly given clear recognition to the crimes against humanity carried out by the West against the Islamic world. I am still not allowed to criticize the armed forces of Islam, for all of the above stated reasons plus the claim that the United States ‘created’ ISIS.”

Comment: This is a red herring. What does Blum mean it doesn’t matter that he recognized western crimes? It is clearly acknowledged that Blum has written on this. ISIS, independent of how it was spawned, is despised by the writer as well. However, this is separate from Blum’s criticism of Islam as a whole.

Blum: “It’s certainly true that US foreign policy played an indispensable role in the rise of ISIS. Without Washington’s overthrow of secular governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and – now in process – Syria, there would today be no ISIS. It’s also true that many American weapons, intentionally and unintentionally, have wound up in the hands of terrorist groups. But the word ‘created’ implies intention, that the United States wanted to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.”

Comment: Blum does concede that US foreign policy played an indispensable role in the rise of ISIS, and then he tries to buttress his stance by quibbling on the meaning of “created.” This is further distraction by Blum, and it has no bearing on his demonizing the religion of Islam. The demon is western militarism and imposition of imperialism on peoples living outside the US (and this does not mean to diminish the genocide wreaked against the Original Peoples of Turtle Island by the American colonialists).

Blum: “I support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS.”

Comment: What is the US then, a speakable evil? Blum might better consider which is the greater evil. The insouciance of US elitists to aggression, genocide, and killing stands in clear contradiction to what the Qur’an preaches or even what Osama bin Laden espoused.

Blum: “And my readers, and many like them, have to learn to stop turning the other cheek when someone yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ drives a machete into their skull.”

Comment: Blum’s final sentence is pathetic. It does not address why a person may be motivated/driven to attack someone else, presumably a westerner. Blum focuses blame and criticism in the wrong place.

As to where the blame and focus of criticism belongs, I had written:

[I]t is plain wrongheaded to criticize Islam – and Islam exclusively among religions – for spurring terrorism. To gain understanding, it is crucial to put terrorism and violence in proper context since terrorism against the West did not arise out of a vacuum. Neither does the Qur’an instruct Muslims to attack friendly nations. So-called jihadist terrorism is in response to the far greater preceding terrorism and unremitting oppression from the Christian West and the Jewish Israel. By way of simple analogy, if someone punches you in the face without reason, and you punch that person back, yes, you used violence, but who deserves greater condemnation: the initiator of violence or you who responded to the violence with violence? Or should you and the initiator of violence be equally condemned? And if you had turned the other cheek to the person who first punched you, what lesson would that impart? Would the perpetrator be deterred from punching you again?

And Blum wants the US to militarily clean up its mess!? How will the people traumatized by American aggression, plunder, and war crimes react to that?

I submit that the victims of American violence would do much better if the US butted out and let these people recover as they see best for their circumstances.

Instead, the US should be brought to stand in the docket, let justice take its course — and where sentenced, be appropriately punished for its crimes of aggression and other war crimes. Moreover, the US must pay full reparations to its victims.

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.

History and Hillary

Hillary Clinton: History Repeats Itself?

by Andre Vltchek  - Dissident Voice

August 12th, 2016 

Once upon a time, there was a man called James Buchanan. He was a Democrat, a Secretary of State and then the President of the United States. A good friend of mine, a historian, told me about him.

Buchanan was the last U.S. President who previously served as Secretary of State. He was a Pennsylvania native, and he took his place in the Oval Office in 1857. Now, more than 150 years later, Hillary Clinton may be about to follow in his footsteps. And some footsteps they were!

Before serving as Secretary of State (in the administration of President James K. Polk), James Buchanan was a Senator, elected as a Democrat, same as Ms. Clinton.

While heading the State Department, the future President did some nasty, really nasty things, like provoking a war with Mexico and defining Washington’s colonialist policy towards Cuba and the Caribbean basin. Elected President at a time of growing animosity between the industrial anti-slavery North and agrarian pro-slavery South, he was unable to calm the passions of the opposing sides and to find a political solution to the crises.

He committed some of the most outrageous errors, and to this day is remembered as one of the worst leaders in American history, being held responsible for the Civil War, which started just a few months after he retired. Before stepping down as a President, Buchanan’s only suggestion for averting the disaster was issuing “an explanatory amendment” reaffirming the constitutionality of slavery in the states, the fugitive slave laws, and popular sovereignty in the territories.

The National Intelligencer, then a leading opposition newspaper, published a biting, sarcastic piece about Buchanan’s adventurism and expansionism:

We must retrench the extravagant list of magnificent schemes which received the sanction of the Executive … the great Napoleon himself, with all the resources of an empire at his sole command, never ventured the simultaneous accomplishments of so many daring projects. The acquisition of Cuba …; the construction of a Pacific Railroad …; a Mexican protectorate, the international preponderance in Central America, in spite of all the powers of Europe; the submission of distant South American states; … the enlargement of the Navy; a largely increased standing Army … what government on earth could possibly meet all the exigencies of such a flood of innovations?

Sounds familiar?

Hillary Clinton, also a former Senator for the Democratic Party, also used her time at the State Department in the most ‘effective way’: she initiated a war in Libya, provoked a devastating civil war in Syria and masterminded a coup in Honduras, while provoking and antagonizing left wing governments in virtually all parts of Latin America.

Running for President of the United States at a time of growing social tension and what is often described as ‘popular outrage’, Ms. Clinton, just like Mr. Buchanan, is now offering absolutely no new, progressive and effective solutions or reforms that could prevent the situation from slipping into a shattering social disaster. She is fighting for the status quo, and in the process eliminating her political opponents in the most Machiavellian fashion.

Many now predict that if Hillary Clinton is elected, her reign may lead into a real tragedy similar to the one that occurred in the United States a little over 150 years ago.

Unlike James Buchanan, she also sits on a pile of nuclear weapons, while doing her absolute best to antagonize and provoke two powerful and independent-minded nations: China and Russia. Her policies could easily lead to the most destructive international conflict, or even a series of conflicts. But it does not seem to distress her. She is on her ego trip, and on a crusade!

While history judges Mr. Buchanan simply as an inept, bigoted and trigger-happy imperialist and supremacist, Ms. Clinton also shares all those characteristics of her predecessor, but with her own unique touch: she is also in possession of those grotesque and deadly “qualities” of Dr. Strangelove.


Human beings are not as complex as we often think they are, and history tends to repeat itself.

Both of this year’s US Presidential candidates have, undoubtedly, their doubles in the not so distant past. While Donald Trump’s lived in the 20th Century in Germany and Italy, Hillary Clinton had a homegrown predecessor; a man who was defending slavery and the status quo and who, most importantly, turned the United States into an aggressive imperialist and neo-colonialist power.

André Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker, and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest book is Exposing Lies of the Empire. He also wrote, with Noam Chomsky, On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.
 Read other articles by Andre.

Guidelines for Drone Assassination

Finally Revealed: The Guidelines for Drone Assassination

by Lee Camp - Unredacted Tonight

August 11, 2016

The 18-page, top- secret Presidential Policy Guidelines have been declassified. The guidelines provide rules for targeting U.S. citizens abroad and include lengthy guidance on what to do with captured terrorist suspects. Redacted correspondent Naomi Karavani weighs in and more in this episode of VIP.

Lee Camp is the host and head writer of the popular comedy news TV show Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp on RT America. The show also features correspondents John F. O’Donnell, Carlos Delgado, Naomi Karavani, and Phillip Chang. said, "The finest TV satire thus far this election season has come from the Nightly Show and Lee Camp on Redacted Tonight." The show has also won a 2016 Telly Award for their live stand-up comedy special in New York City. George Carlin's daughter Kelly said Camp was one of only a handful keeping her father's torch lit. Camp is a former writer for The Onion and for Huffington Post Comedy. He created and starred in the viral YouTube show Moment of Clarity that was seen by millions, and he's performed stand-up comedy in a dozen countries and every state in the US. He has also been featured on Comedy Central, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, MTV, FOX & Showtime. Many know him from the viral clip of him on Fox News calling a “parade of propaganda and a festival of ignorance.”

Fidel @ 90

Tribute to Fidel Castro on His 90th Birthday

by Dan Kovalik - CounterPunch

August 12, 2016 

On Saturday, August 13, the world will celebrate the 90th birthday of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro Ruz, the only individual ever to be acknowledged by the UN as a “World Hero of Solidarity.”

It is very hard to think of a more important world leader than Fidel. The contribution he has made to the world socialist movement, to the Third World liberation struggle and to social justice has been monumental – especially when one considers that he has been the leader of a tiny country with roughly the same population as New York City.

At the current time, the Colombian government and leftist FARC guerillas are engaged in a peace process in Havana, and are very near to reaching a final peace accord, in large part due to Fidel’s efforts.

As Nelson Mandela himself has acknowledged, South Africa is free from apartheid in no small measure due to Fidel’s leadership in militarily aiding the liberation struggles in Southern Africa, especially in Angola and Namibia, against the South African military which was then being supported by the United States.

In addition, The Latin American Medical School (ELAM) in Cuba, which trains doctors from all around the world, but particularly from poor countries, was Fidel’s brainchild. Today, 70 countries from around the world benefit from Cuba’s medical internationalism, including Haiti where Cuban doctors have been, according to The New York Times, at the forefront of the fight against cholera.

As we speak, Cuba has hundreds of doctors working in the slums of Caracas, Venezuela where Venezuelan doctors fear to tread. There are Cuban-trained doctors in remote parts of Honduras which are otherwise not served by the Honduran government. Patients from 26 Latin American & Caribbean countries have traveled to Cuba to have their eyesight restored by Cuban doctors. Among this list is Mario Teran, the Bolivian soldier who shot and killed Che Guevara. The Cubans not only forgave Mario, but also returned his eyesight to him. Cuba even offered to send 1,500 doctors to minister to the victims of the Hurricane Katrina, though this kind offer was rejected by the United States

As Piero Gleijeses, a professor at John Hopkins University, wrote in his book Conflicting Missions about Cuba’s outreach to Algeria shortly after the Cuban Revolution:

It was an unusual gesture: an underdeveloped country tendering free aid to another in even more dire straits. It was offered at a time when the exodus of doctors from Cuba following the revolution had forced the government to stretch its resources while launching its domestic programs to increase mass access to health care. ‘It was like a beggar offering his help, but we knew the Algerian people needed it even more than we did and that they deserved it,’ [Cuban Minister of Public Health] Machado Ventura remarked. It was an act of solidarity that brought no tangible benefit and came at real material cost.

These words are just as true today as they were then, as this act of solidarity is repeated by Cuba over and over again throughout the world. And, it has been done even as Cuba has struggled to survive in the face of a 55-year embargo by the United States which has cost it billions of dollars in potential revenue, and even as it has endured numerous acts of terrorism by the United States and U.S.-supported mercenaries over the years.

Just recently, I was reminded of the fact that, for the past 25 years, Cuba has been treating 26,000 Ukrainian citizens affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident at its Tarara international medical center in Havana. Cuba has continued to do so, it must be emphasized, though even the potential for any help for this effort from the Soviet Union passed long ago.

According to Hugo Chavez, when he came to power in Venezuela in 1999, “the only light on the house at that time was Cuba,” meaning that Cuba was the only country in the region free of U.S. imperial domination. Thanks to the perseverance of Fidel and the Cuban people, now much of Latin America has been freed from the bonds of the U.S. Empire.

That Cuba not only stands 25 years after the collapse of the USSR, but indeed prospers and remains as a beacon to other countries, is a testament to Fidel’s revolutionary fervor and fortitude. Indeed, Fidel’s very life at this point – one that the U.S. has tried to extinguish on literally hundreds of occasions – itself constitutes an act of brave deviance against wealth, power and imperialist aggression. Incredibly, Fidel has survived 12 U.S. Presidents, a full quarter of all the U.S. Presidents since the founding of our nation.

I join the world in honoring Fidel Castro Ruz on his birthday, and hope that he continues to live and to lead for some time to come.
Daniel Kovalik lives in Pittsburgh and teaches International Human Rights Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
More articles by:Dan Kovalik

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rallying Behind Ted Rall: Wronged Political Cartoonist Fights Back

URGENT:  Help Ted Rall Fight the LA Times

by Greg Palast

August 10, 2016

In July of 2015, Charlie Beck, Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, colluded with publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Austin Beutner, to terminate Ted Rall from his position as principal Editorial Cartoonist at the LA Times.

Their purpose: to censor Rall's criticism of police brutality and corruption.

Now, Ted is suing the LA Times, and needs to raise $75,000 in one week to keep the wheels of justice turning.

 The LAPD and specifically Beck have been the target of numerous critical Rall cartoons since 2009. In 2015, Beck illegally passed documents to the LA Times which supposedly proved that Rall had lied about a police encounter in 2001.

He hadn’t.


These documents were carefully cherry-picked in order to misrepresent the truth and smear Rall. Rall was nevertheless fired within less than a day, without an investigation, without consulting his editors, without even being brought into the office to discuss what really happened in 2001.

Not only this, Beutner’s corporation has a history of colluding with police to fire critical journalists. At the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2009, "anti-cop" members of the editorial board were targeted for dismissal after the LAPPL police union bought stock in the company. At the time of Rall's firing, the LAPD union was the #1 shareholder of Tribune Publishing, the parent company of the Los Angeles Times. (They even gloated over Rall's firing on their blog.)

To defend his account of events, Rall hired an audio company to analyze the police audio tape used to fire him. Extensive analysis revealed that Rall had been telling the truth about the encounter all along, but the Times provided no comment and no retraction until three weeks later, when they conducted their own analysis which found less evidence on the tape. It later turned out that the Times had again lied to their readers about what exactly their experts had discovered.

Even after Rall provided copious exonerating evidence to the Times, an Editor’s Note remains online that states the Rall falsified his claim, injuring his professional journalistic reputation. So does a second Times screed doubling down on their false claims.

Now, Ted is suing the LA Times. As they've tacitly conceded in court, the Times has no legitimate defense, so they're trying to bully their way out of the case going to court.

Click Here to Contribute and Defend Free Speech

All Ted wants is for a jury of his peers to hear his story. He is certain that they will agree that what the Times did was illegal. Before that can happen, however, Ted has to get past California's notorious "anti-SLAPP" law. Anti-SLAPP was originally passed in order to protect small-time individuals from frivolous defamation lawsuits by deep-pocketed corporations. In this case, however, the Times is abusing the statute to try to bankrupt Ted into a "pay to play" legal maneuver. Under anti-SLAPP, Rall has to prove that he is likely to prevail in his lawsuit before he begins depositions, discovery, and the actual lawsuit process.

The Times has completely backed away from their assertions that Ted lied, as they realize that they have made a huge mistake. Now, they’re trying to prevail through technicalities. The Times has filed a motion demanding that Rall post a whopping $300,000 bond. This is in case the Times wins their disgusting anti-SLAPP motion, which would allow the Times to be awarded their attorneys' be paid for by Ted.

Fortunately, the judge ordered the amount reduced to $75,000. Still, that's a lot of money. It's a lot more money than Ted, who earned $300/week from the Times, has access to.

Which is where you come in.

If you contribute to this campaign, you'll not only be contributing to a valiant fight against corruption, you'll also be helping Ted's lawsuit move forward against these disgusting legal maneuvers. Unless he comes up with the $75,000 within a week, the lawsuit will be automatically dismissed. If he does come up with it, there will be a hearing next summer about the defendants' anti-SLAPP motion. If they win, the money will be gone and lawsuit will be over.

But that's not what we think is going to happen. We think the judge is going to see things our way. That's why Ted's attorneys took this case – a very expensive and complicated case that's going to require a lot of work – on a contingency. They believe in it. If we're right and we prevail against their motion, the money that you pledge here will be returned by the court and we will return it to you. Of course, there's always a chance that we will lose. There's no telling how a judge will rule.

Your pledge helps to keep our fight going. Your pledge tells the LAPD and other police agencies that interfering with the free press and with editorial commentary is not acceptable behavior. Your pledge tells newspapers that kowtowing to local authorities and law enforcement is a violation of their public trust.

Help Ted get justice and show the media that journalists cannot be bullied!

Click Here for the Donation Page

Here’s What You Will Receive Depending On Your Level of Support:

Donate $20 or more:
Aside from my eternal gratitude, you'll receive a one year subscription to the Ted Rall Subscription Service, which gets you all of my cartoons emailed to you every week.

Pledge $35 or more:
You'll get a PDF of one of my three recent political biographies: either of Edward Snowden, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump. Also includes a one-year subscription to the Ted Rall Subscription Service, which gets you all of my cartoons emailed to you every week.

Pledge $50 or more:
Receive a print copy of one of my three recent political biographies of Edward Snowden, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump. Also includes a one year subscription to the Ted Rall Subscription Service, which gets you all of my cartoons emailed to you every week.

Pledge $100 or more:
Ben Franklin wasn't just one of the fattest founding fathers, he was one of the first people to print periodicals in the English colonies. At Ben Franklin level, you receive a copy of one of my recent political biographies of Snowden, Bernie, or Trump, and it will be signed personally, with a small drawing, to the person of your choice. Also includes a one year subscription to the Ted Rall Subscription Service, which gets you all of my cartoons emailed to you every week.

Pledge $500 or more:
For $500 you get the original artwork/line art for one of my recent syndicated editorial cartoons. I'll personally dedicate it to anyone you want. Also includes one of my recent political biographies, signed personally to the person of your choice. Also includes a one year subscription to the Ted Rall Subscription Service, which gets you all of my cartoons emailed to you every week.

Pledge $1,000 or more:
I will draw a single panel cartoon about any topic that you want. In addition, I will throw in my three recent political biographies, signed personally to anyone of your choice. Also includes a one year subscription to the Ted Rall Subscription Service, which gets you all of my cartoons emailed to you every week.

Pledge $5,000 or more:
I will draw a multi panel cartoon about any topic that you want and consult you about the details of the cartoon, and include you as a character inside the cartoon. In addition, you get the three political biographies, signed, of course, as well as one original piece of syndicated editorial cartoon art. Also includes a one year subscription to the Ted Rall Subscription Service, which gets you all of my cartoons emailed to you every week.

Pledge $10,000 or more:
“Tronc" is the weird new corporate name for the Tribune Company. Austin Beutner is the billionaire who conspired with the LAPD to smear me. At Super Tronc level, you'll receive everything at the $5,000 level plus, AND I will join you and your friends for dinner anywhere in the United States.

Pledge $75,000:
If you can cover the whole shebang, you get everything above, plus I will spend two full days hanging out with you anywhere you want in the United States. Click Here to Contribute and Defend Ted Rall

* * * * *

Ted Rall is a fellow of the Palast Investigative Fund. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling graphic book biography of Bernie Sanders, Bernie.
Get your signed copy now!

Ted Rall has just released his new graphic book biography of Donald Trump, Trump.
Get a signed copy now, or get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Indiebound.

The Propaganda Battle for Aleppo

The battle for Aleppo and the hypocrisy of US war propaganda

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

10 August 2016

This week marks two years since President Barack Obama initiated the latest US war against Iraq and Syria, launched in the name of combating the Islamic State militia. The American president cast the new military intervention as not only a continuation of the “global war on terrorism,” but also a crusade for human rights, invoking the threat to Iraq’s Yazidi population and insisting that he could not “turn a blind eye” when religious minorities were threatened.

The toll of this supposed humanitarian intervention has grown ever bloodier. According to a report released this week by the monitoring group Airwars to mark the anniversary, more than 4,700 civilian non-combatant fatalities have been reported as a result of the “US-led Coalition’s” air strikes (95 percent of which have been carried out by US warplanes). More innocent Iraqi and Syrian men, women and children have been slaughtered by American bombs in the course of two years than the total number of US soldiers who lost their lives during the eight years of the Iraq war launched by President George W. Bush in 2003.

All of Washington’s lies and pretexts about its latest war in the Middle East—as well as the decade-and-a-half of wars waged since 9/11—have been exploded in the course of the past several days as the US government and media celebrated purported victories by “rebel” forces in the battle for control of Aleppo, Syria’s former commercial capital.

That the “rebel” offensive has been organized and led by an organization that for years constituted Al Qaeda’s designated Syrian branch, and the operation was named in honor of a Sunni sectarian extremist who carried out a massacre of captured Syrian Alawite soldiers, gave none of them pause. So much for the hogwash about terrorism and human rights!

The scale of the military gains made by the Al Qaeda-led forces in Aleppo are by no means clear. They have, however, apparently succeeded in placing under siege the western part of the city, which is under the government’s control and where the overwhelming majority of the population lives. The “rebels” have killed and maimed hundreds of people with mortar and artillery rounds.

Washington and its allies, the Western media and the human rights groups that accused the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad of crimes against humanity for bombing the jihadists in eastern Aleppo are now indifferent when these imperialist-backed terrorists are killing civilians in the western part of the city.

Sections of the Western media have gone so far as to celebrate the exploits of “rebel” suicide bombers for providing a strategic “advantage” for the Western-backed militias. Among the most dishonest and duplicitous accounts of the recent fighting are those that have appeared in the pages of the New York Times, whose news coverage and editorial line are carefully tailored to serve the predatory aims of US imperialism.

In a Monday article on Aleppo, the Times wrote that the challenge to government control had been mounted by “rebels and their jihadist allies.”

The article continued:

“A vital factor in the rebel advance over the weekend was cooperation between mainstream rebel groups, some of which have received covert arms support from the United States, and the jihadist organization formerly known as the Nusra Front, which was affiliated with Al Qaeda.”

The newspaper reports this as casually as if it were publishing a report on the late artist formerly known as Prince. The Nusra Front changed its name to the Fatah al-Sham Front and announced its formal disaffiliation from Al Qaeda—with the latter’s blessing—just one week before it launched the offensive in Aleppo.

There is every reason to believe that this rebranding was carried out in consultation with the CIA in an attempt to politically sanitize direct US support for an offensive led by a group that has long been denounced by Washington as a terrorist organization.

The Times never names any of the “mainstream rebel groups” it says are fighting alongside the Al Qaeda militia, suggesting that they constitute some liberal progressive force. In point of fact, one of these groups recently released a video showing its fighters beheading a wounded 12-year-old child, and virtually all of them share the essential ideological outlook of Al Qaeda.

The Financial Times of London carried one of the frankest reports on the Aleppo “rebel” offensive, noting that it “may have had more foreign help than it appears: activists and rebels say opposition forces were replenished with new weapons, cash and other supplies before and during the fighting.” It cites reports of daily columns of trucks pouring across the Turkish border for weeks with arms and ammunition, including artillery and other heavy weapons.

The newspaper quotes one unnamed Western diplomat who said that US officials backed the Al Qaeda-led offensive “to put some pressure back on Russia and Iran,” which have both provided key military support to the Assad government.

The Financial Times also quotes an unnamed “military analyst” as stating that the character of the fighting indicated the Al Qaeda forces had received not only massive amounts of weapons, but also professional military training.

Significantly, even as the fighting in Aleppo was underway, photographs surfaced of heavily armed British commandos operating long-range patrol vehicles in northern Syria. Similar US units are also on the ground. These are among the most likely suspects in terms of who is training Al Qaeda’s Syrian forces.

They would only be reprising the essential features of the imperialist operation that gave rise to Al Qaeda 30 years ago, when the CIA—working in close alliance with Osama bin Laden—supplied similar support to the mujahedeen fighting to overthrow the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan.

While the blowback from that episode ultimately gave us September 11, the present operation in Syria holds far greater dangers. In what is now openly described by the corporate media as a “proxy war” in which Al Qaeda serves as US imperialism’s ground force, Washington is attempting to overthrow Russia’s key Middle East ally as part of the preparations for a war aimed at dismembering and subjugating Russia itself.

The frontrunner in the US presidential contest, Democrat Hillary Clinton, has repeatedly signaled that she intends to pursue a far more aggressive policy in Syria and against Russia, making neo-McCarthyite charges of Vladimir Putin’s supposed subversion of the US election process a central part of her campaign.

Whether Washington can wait till inauguration day next January to escalate its aggression is far from clear. The “rebel” gains in Aleppo may be quickly reversed and the fighting could end with the US-backed Al Qaeda militias deprived of their last urban stronghold.

US imperialism is not about to accept the re-consolidation of a Syrian government aligned with Moscow. Pressure will inevitably mount for a more direct and more massive US intervention, threatening a direct clash between American and Russian forces.

Fifteen years after launching its “war on terror,” Washington is not only directly allied with the supposed target of that war—Al Qaeda—but is preparing to unleash upon humanity the greatest act of terror imaginable, a third world war.

Money Bomb: Not just $600 toilet lids or unusable F-35 fighters

The Pentagon Money Pit: $6.5 Trillion in Unaccountable Army Spending, and No DOD Audit for the Past Two Decades 

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

August 10, 2016

What if the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services were to report that $6.5 billion in spending by that federal agency was unaccounted for and untraceable? You can imagine the headlines, right? What if it was $65 billion? The headlines would be as big as for the first moon landing or for troops landing on Omaha Beach in World War II.

But how about a report by the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General saying that the US Army had $6.5 trillion in unaccountable expenditures for which there is simply no paper trail? That is 6,500 billion dollars! Have you heard about that? Probably not. That damning report was issued back on July 26 -- two whole weeks ago -- but as of today it has not even been reported anywhere in the corporate media.

It's not that it's secret information, or hard to come by. The report is available online at the Department of Defense's OIG website [1]. 

And as it states:

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management & Comptroller) (OASA[FM&C]) and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service Indianapolis (DFAS Indianapolis) did not adequately support $2.8 trillion in third quarter journal voucher (JV) adjustments and $6.5 trillion in yearend JV adjustments1 made to AGF data during FY 2015 financial statement compilation.2 The unsupported JV adjustments occurred because OASA(FM&C) and DFAS Indianapolis did not prioritize correcting the system deficiencies that caused errors resulting in JV adjustments, and did not provide sufficient guidance for supporting system‑generated adjustments.
In addition, DFAS Indianapolis did not document or support why the Defense Departmental Reporting System‑Budgetary (DDRS-B), a budgetary reporting system, removed at least 16,513 of 1.3 million records during third quarter FY 2015. This occurred because DFAS Indianapolis did not have detailed documentation describing the DDRS-B import process or have accurate or complete system reports.

As a result, the data used to prepare the FY 2015 AGF third quarter and yearend financial statements were unreliable and lacked an adequate audit trail. Furthermore, DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions.

This dense bureaucrateze doesn't mean that $6.5 trillion has been stolen, or that this is money in addition to the $600 billion that the Pentagon spent in fiscal 2015. It means that for years -- and $6.5 trillion represents at about 15 years' worth of US military spending -- the Department of Defense (sic) has not been tracking or recording or auditing all of the taxpayer money allocated by Congress -- what it was spent on, how well it was spent, or where the money actually ended up. There are enough opportunities here for corruption, bribery, secret funding of "black ops" and illegal activities, and or course for simple waste to march a very large army, navy and air force through. And by the way, things aren't any better at the Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Incredibly, no mainstream reporter or editor in the US has seen this as a story worth reporting to the American public.

Just to give a sense of the scale of this outrage, consider that total federal discretionary spending in FY 2015 was just over $1.1 trillion. That includes everything from education ($70 billion), housing and community development ($63 billion), Medicare and health ($66 billion), veterans' benefits ($65 billion), energy ($39 billion), transportation ($26 billion) and international affairs ($41 billion), and of course that $600 billion for the military.

All the other agencies that are responsible for those other outlays, like the Dept. of Education, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, etc., have been required by Congress since 1996 to file reports on annual audits of their budgets. The Pentagon was subject to that same act of Congress too, but for 20 years and running it has failed to do so. It has simply stonewalled, and so far has gotten away with it.

Nobody in Congress seems to care about this contempt of Congress. Neither of the two mainstream political candidates for president, Republican Donald Trump nor Democrat Hillary Clinton, seems to care either. Neither one has mentioned this epic scandal.

According to the OIG's report, this problem actually goes back a generation, to 1991, five years before Congress even passed the law requiring all federal agencies to operate using federal accounting standards and to conduct annual audits, when the Government Accountability Office found "unsupported aadjustments" were being made to the military's financial statements during an audit of FY 1991 Army financial statements. Fully 17 years later, the Army, in its FY 2008 statement of Assurance on Internal Controls, said that the "weakness" found in 1991 "would be corrected by the end of FY 2011," an outrageous decade later. But the OIG report goes on to say:

However, the FY 2015 Statement of Assurance on Internal Controls indicated this material weakness remained uncorrected and may not be corrected until third quarter 2017.

Such a lackadaisical attitude on the part of the Pentagon, Congress and the media towards such a massive accounting failure involving trillions of dollars is simply mind-boggling, and yet there is nobody in Congress jumping up and down in the well of the House or or at Armed Services Committee hearings demanding answers and heads. No president or presidential candidate is denouncing this atrocity.

Aside from the political question of how much the US should actually be spending on the military -- and clearly, spending almost as much as the rest of the world combined on war and war preparedness is not justifiable -- how can anyone, of any political persuasion, accept the idea of spending such staggering sums of money without insisting on any accountability?

Consider that politicians of both major political parties are demanding accountability for every penny spent on welfare, including demanding that recipients of welfare prove that they are trying to find work. Ditto for people receiving unemployment compensation. Consider the amount of money and time spent on testing students in public schools in a vain effort to make teachers accountable for student "performance." And yet the military doesn't have to account for any of its trillions of dollars of spending on manpower and weapons -- even though Congress fully a generation ago passed a law requiring such accountability.

Phone and email requests to the DOD press office for the Office of Inspector General asking for comment went unanswered.

Mandy Smithberger, director of the Straus Military Reform Project [2] at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) [3], says,

"Accounting at the Department of Defense is a disaster, but nobody is screaming about it because you have a lot of people in Congress who believe in more military spending, so they don't really challenge military spending." 

She adds, "You won't see anything change unless Congress cuts the Pentagon budget in order to get results, and they're not going to do that."

She might have added that the reporters and editors and publishers of the corporate media also support military spending, so the media are not reporting on this scandal either, meaning that the public remains in the dark and unconcerned about it. Sure, the media will report on a $600 air force toilet seat and the public will be appropriately outraged, but there is no word about an untraceable $6.5 trillion in Army spending and no public outrage...except perhaps among those who read alternative publications like this one.

Enough! I don't want to hear another complaint about government spending on welfare, education, environment, health care subsidies, immigrant benefits or whatever, until the Pentagon has to report on, account for and audit every dollar that it is spending on war.

No more free ride for the military.


Living Death, Perpetual Emergency

All-Day Permanent Red: The Living Death of Perpetual Emergency

by Chris Floyd  - Empire Burlesque

07 August 2016

The title of one of Christopher Logue’s multi-volume reworkings of Homer’s Iliad stands as the perfect encapsulation of our age: All-Day Permanent Red.

We live in a time when the collective amygdala has been stoked into overdrive, sending messages of blank, blind fear that overwhelm the centers of reason, empathy and openness in our brains, propelling us into a state of inchoate anxiety that seeks release in tropes of extremist certainty and spasms of violence – active, verbal or vicarious.

This natural human propensity – which has waxed and waned in various forms over the centuries – has been magnified to the nth degree by the moral and psychological disfigurements of the Terror War.

Today we also have the curse of 24/7 corporate news channels and the sleepless howling of the internet to batter the mind with an unending series of “urgent” dangers to our lives, our beliefs, our identities. This produces both a threat to tribal identities (political, religious, ethnic, racial, etc.), and a constant reinforcement of them – identities which we can see hardening across the spectrum in virtually every nation and culture.

A great deal of this is done deliberately.

[This is my column in the latest edition of CounterPunch print magazine]

There are enormous profits and much power to be gained from war and rumors of war, from the militarization of society (including the police forces), and from the incessant stoking of fear at home and abroad. It is scarcely a secret that the United States has turned itself into a nation whose economic and political structures are now dependent on a globe-straddling system of military and economic domination. Over the past century, America’s ruling elite have come to believe that the United States can only survive through domination, through the constant expansion of American hegemony across the earth, like a Great White shark unable to stop moving and devouring. And as we have seen over the decades, our elites are willing to kill an inordinate amount of human beings to prove their own noble commitment to the betterment of humanity. They are even willing to flirt with world-destroying nuclear war – as Obama is doing now with his genuinely insane policy of military brinkmanship with Russia – to keep the hegemonic shark in motion.

Deliberate, yes; but it is not – always – done cynically. Would to god that it were; a Machiavellian cynic might possibly pull back in time if they saw that their clever fearmongering gambit was drifting too close to catastrophe. But one of the main problems we face in the world today, especially in America, is this: elites who believe their own bullshit.

This is the only thing that accounts for much of American foreign policy at the moment (and for many years previously). They actually believe in “exceptionalism,” they believe the United States must dominate the world, that it is our solemn duty to bear this heavy burden and bring American values to all peoples. Not because we are perfect – lord knows, we have many problems and failings of our own! – but because the American way just happens to be better than all the others, the only path to true freedom and fulfillment. Who would not want that? Who would not be a Roman, if the Empire opened its arms to you? Only the savage, the ignorant and the evil.

This is the thesis – the doctrine, the gospel – preached by such quintessential imperial courtiers as Robert Kagan, who has been summoned to the White House to tutor Barack Obama on waging endless war for civilization, as Thomas Meaney reports in a recent London Review of Books. Kagan, as we all know, is a neocon’s neocon, one of the “intellectual” godfathers of the Iraq War crime. He is now marshaling support from his fellow extremists for Hillary Clinton. Kagan’s wife, Victoria Nuland, is already one of Clinton’s closest aides, and rode shotgun on the coup that opened up Ukraine to penetration by U.S military forces and corporate interests. She might well be the next secretary of state. We’re about to see Washington double down on the reckless horror of its Terror War.

Fear is the best, perhaps only tactic that could drive a nation into supporting such a berserk, extremist system. And in the techno-corporate bubble in which we all now live and move and have our being, there is no escaping the imperial amygdala as it fires its malevolent electrics into our brains. Our leaders use fear, to be sure; but I think most of them have been captured by it as well. They feel the fear they help foment – not least because it justifies their murderous actions in their own eyes. This collective madness – theirs and ours – feeds on itself in a frenzied positive feedback loop that in the end becomes self-sustaining, obsessive, unstoppable.

To exist in a state of permanent emergency is a kind of living death, where there can be no true progress, no true connection, no full engagement with reality; where there are only the howls of baseless, overblown fear and the agitated, aggressive attempts to dispel this painful anxiety somehow.

This is the hell we are bequeathing to our children. We can only hope they find a way to save themselves, and us, from its horror.

Digging Out on ISIS: When Every Problem Looks Like a Hole

Political correctness demands diversity in everything but thought

by William Blum – Anti-Empire Report

August 11, 2016

For 50 years I’ve been painstakingly cataloguing the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of US foreign policy, building up in the process a very loyal audience.

To my great surprise, when I recently wrote about the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of the Islamic State, I received more criticism from my readers than I’ve gotten for anything I’ve ever written. Dozens of them asked to be removed from my mailing list, as many as I’d normally get in a full year. Others were convinced that it couldn’t actually be me who was the author of such words, that I must have been hacked. Some wondered whether my recent illness had affected my mind. Literally! 
And almost all of the Internet magazines which regularly print me did not do so with this article.

Now why should this be?

My crime was being politically incorrect. The Islamic State, you see, is composed of Muslims, and the United States and its Western allies have bombed many Muslim countries in the recent past killing thousands of Muslims and causing widespread horror. Therefore, whatever ISIS and its allies do is “revenge”, simple revenge, and should not be condemned by anyone calling himself a progressive; least of all should violence be carried out against these poor aggrieved jihadists.

Moreover, inasmuch as ISIS is the offspring of religion, this adds to my political incorrectness: I’m attacking religion, God forgive me.

Totally irrelevant to my critics is the fact that the religious teachings of ISIS embrace murderous jihad and the heavenly rewards for suicide bombings and martyrdom. This, they insist, is not the real Islam, a religion of peace and scholarly pursuits. Well, one can argue, Naziism was not the real Germany of Goethe and Schiller, of Bach and Brahms. Fortunately, that didn’t keep the world from destroying the Third Reich.

We should also consider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States carried out atrocities against Latin America, including numerous bombings, without the natives ever resorting to the repulsive uncivilized kind of retaliation as employed by ISIS. Latin American leftists took their revenge out on concrete representatives of the American empire: diplomatic, military and corporate targets, not markets, theatres, nightclubs, hospitals, restaurants or churches. The ISIS victims have included many Muslims, perhaps even some friends of the terrorists, for all they knew or cared.

It doesn’t matter to my critics that in my writing I have regularly given clear recognition to the crimes against humanity carried out by the West against the Islamic world. I am still not allowed to criticize the armed forces of Islam, for all of the above stated reasons plus the claim that the United States “created” ISIS.

Regarding this last argument: It’s certainly true that US foreign policy played an indispensable role in the rise of ISIS. Without Washington’s overthrow of secular governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and – now in process – Syria, there would today be no ISIS. It’s also true that many American weapons, intentionally and unintentionally, have wound up in the hands of terrorist groups. But the word “created” implies intention, that the United States wanted to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.

So, you wonder, how do we rid the world of the Islamic State?

I’m afraid it may already be too late. The barn door is wide open and all the horses have escaped. It’s not easy for an old anti-imperialist like myself, but I support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS. The West has actually made good progress with seriously hampering ISIS oil sales and financial transactions. As a result, it appears that ISIS may well be running out of money, with defections of unpaid soldiers increasing.

The West should also forget about regime change in Syria and join forces with Russia against the terrorists.

And my readers, and many like them, have to learn to stop turning the other cheek when someone yelling “Allahu Akbar” drives a machete into their skull.