Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ideology Of The USSR

The creators of the website called have made available a couple of hundred books on a whole series of areas, ranging from ancient history and international relations to economy, sociology and philosophy. The these days almost forgotten perspective promulgated by the USSR in the post-war era still offer us some valid lessons concerning radical Left politics today. Needless to say these texts also have a heavy apologetic tone, which however also contributes to the somewhat comical character of them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Native Government

Native People Take First Steps Towards Self-Government

Franz Chávez

LA PAZ, Dec 22 (IPS) - Indigenous people, who make up more than 60 percent of the population in Bolivia, South America's poorest country, are taking their first steps towards self-government under their own cultural traditions that date back to pre-colonial times.

Alongside the Dec. 6 presidential and legislative elections, 12 of Bolivia's 327 municipalities voted in favour of indigenous self-government, which will give them control over the natural resources on their land and a greater say in how to use funds transferred from the central state, as well as redefining how government funds are disbursed.

In addition, legal disputes and crimes in those municipalities will be tried in traditional local courts, and elections will be organised and community leaders appointed according to native customs, which are based on a tradition of consensus-building.

But because the concept of indigenous autonomy is brand new, the details on how it will function must still be legislated by Congress after it reconvenes in 2010.

In the elections, leftist Evo Morales, the country's first-ever indigenous president, was reelected in a landslide victory with 63 percent of the vote, and his Movement to Socialism (MAS) party won a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, which will allow it to move forward with important legislation such as the question of the indigenous right to self-rule.

Although most native people in Bolivia belong to the large Aymara and Quechua communities and live in the western highlands, there are a total of 36 different indigenous groups.

The new constitution that went into effect in February after winning the support of 61 percent of voters in a referendum recognises that Bolivia is a "multi-national" state made up of peoples who have a right to autonomy and the right to preserve their culture.

Since first taking office in January 2006, Morales has accelerated and expanded the country's land reform efforts, granting formal collective land titles to indigenous communities, known as Tierras Comunitarias de Origen or TCOs, a process that also involves recognition of native communities and their collective legal rights.

Provincial autonomy too

Simultaneously with the elections, the departments (provinces) of Chuquisaca, La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro and Potosí voted for provincial autonomy.

Similar autonomy referendums had already been held in 2008 in the departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija, the so-called "eastern crescent", which account for most of the country's natural gas production, industry, agribusiness and GDP and have a lighter-skinned population of mainly mixed-race and European descent.

The referendums by the "eastern crescent" departments were a challenge to the Morales administration by their right-wing governors, and were criticised as an attempt at secession.

The aim was decentralisation and greater control over the revenues from the natural gas and other resources in their departments by means of the creation of provincial assemblies and local tax collection mechanisms.

Bolivia’s natural gas reserves, the second-largest in South America after Venezuela’s, bring in 1.2 billion dollars a year in taxes and royalties, and are the country’s main source of foreign exchange.

The chief support base of Morales and his party are the country’s indigenous majority, based in Bolivia’s impoverished western highlands.

Now that the five remaining departments voted for autonomy, all nine will have the same legal status.

A recent seminar organised by the Centre for Studies of Labour and Agrarian Development (CEDLA) examined the increasing political organisation of the indigenous movement in Bolivia and other countries in Latin America.

Indigenous people in Bolivia have been historically downtrodden and marginalised, only gaining full suffrage rights in 1952. Even today, some Indians continue to work as serfs on large estates owned by the European or mixed-race elite.

But since the 1980s they have become increasingly organised. And the 2001 census, which found that 62 percent of the population identified themselves as members of one of the country's 36 indigenous groups, strengthened this process.

Autonomy in the highlands

In Tinguipaya, a municipality covering 80,000 hectares in the southwestern highlands department of Potosí, the president of the traditional local council, Paulino Menacho, told IPS with enthusiasm that he hopes the town will soon have indigenous self-government under a chief with the traditional title of "curaka" - which dates back to the times of the Inca - a position that would replace the current office of mayor.

According to local tradition, the office of curaka would rotate from family to family under the "muyu" system.

But Menacho is worried about the shortage of farmland for the 16,000 people under his authority, who may be assigned plots of up to just 200 square metres in the land reform process - insufficient to sustain the region through agriculture, since not all of the land is apt for farming or livestock-raising in this highlands region.

The members of the eight "ayllus" or clans in the area want a redistribution of the 1.7 million dollars a year in funds that come from the central government, saying they now only actually receive half of the total and are not sure what happens to the other half.

They would also like to create local taxes and leasing charges - on "fair terms" - for companies exploiting minerals, limestone, water and other natural resources in the area.

The remote northern jungles and plains

Hundreds of kilometres away, in the rainforest and cattle ranches of the northern department of Beni, the secretary general of the Moxeño Ethnic Peoples of Beni (CPEMB), Francisco Maza, says the time for self-government has arrived.

For the small indigenous communities in the remote department, the struggle began in 1990 when hundreds of them marched 640 km from Trinidad, the provincial capital, to La Paz, demanding respect for their right to land, as they faced intense pressure from landowners, ranchers and loggers constantly encroaching on their ancestral territory.

"We are asking for autonomy not only over our territory, but in earning a share of revenues from the exploitation of lumber and other resources in the region," Maza told IPS.

The challenge of creating specific legislation on indigenous self-government is made more complex by the diversity of local customs in the country's different indigenous groups, especially among the 29 smaller native communities in the eastern lowlands, which each have their own forms of government.

Much of the land of the Moxeño Indians is rich in biodiversity, natural gas, and a wide variety of timber species. The hope of the indigenous groups is to begin to share in the wealth currently reaped by private landowners and companies.

CEDLA researcher for public policies Juan Luis Espada told IPS that the central government will have to increase funds to autonomous indigenous governments, because few of them will obtain additional royalties for natural gas exploitation, for example.

He also said the autonomous local governments would face a learning curve in terms of administration, the creation of new local and regional taxes, and the division of functions and authority.

"Many political and social challenges lie ahead in the search for a model of self-government that will respond to the long-standing demands of native groups who require continued attention from the government and who want to participate in the administration of the state apparatus," said Espada.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


"Militarization is Not The Way To Deal
With Mexico's Political Crisis."

Laura Carlsen
Global Research, December 24, 2009

Mike Whitney--- Will you explain what Plan Mexico is and how it relates to the North American Free Trade Agreement? (NAFTA)

Laura Carlsen: Plan Mexico, also called the Merida Initiative, is a three-year regional security cooperation plan devised by the former Bush administration and presented in October of 2007. The plan grew out of the extension of NAFTA into security areas, known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Originally Plan Mexico was to be announced in the context of the SPP trinational summit but was delayed. It is presented as a petition of the Mexican president Felipe Calderon for US help in the war on drugs but in reality it was designed in Washington as a way to "push out the borders" of the US security perimeter, that is, that Mexico would take on US security priorities including policing its southern border and allowing US companies and agents into Mexico's intelligence and security operations.

Plan Mexico proposed $1.4 billion in mostly foreign military financing. It is referred to as a "Counternarcotics, Counterterrorism and Border Security" proposal.

MW---Shortly after he was elected president, Felipe Calderon began using the military in the so-called War on Drugs. Since then, there has been a steady rise in troop deployments and an escalation in the violence. What is the Washington's role in this ongoing counterinsurgency operation?

Laura Carlsen: The Obama administration has supported the plan and even requested, and received from Congress, additional funds beyond what the Bush administration requested. In the three years since Calderon launched the war on drugs in Mexico with the support of the US government drug related violence has shot up to over 15,000 executions and formal reports of violations of human rights have increased sixfold. More than 45,000 solders have been deployed in streets and communities throughout Mexico. Washington recognizes serious problems with the drug war model and yet continues to claim, absurdly, that the rise in violence in Mexico is a good sign--it means that the cartels are feeling the heat, the argument runs. the plan itself does not contain any real benchmarks of what citizens should expect as signs of progress so it can continue to be funded despite its failure.

The State Department was required to submit a human rights report to release 15% of some portions of the appropriations and finally did so last summer. But the report stated that even given a lack of progress in human rights (including reported use of torture with impunity, lack of civilian justice for military forces, killings of civilians and corruption) the mere fact of reporting constituted compliance and released the funds.

So far the effort is not described as a counterinsurgency effort, because Mexico does not have a formal widespread insurgency movement. However, the targeting of grassroots opposition leaders in recent years has raised fears that dissidents are and will be a target of the increasingly militarized society.

MW--- In your article you say that the Merida Initiative is the direct outgrowth of the national security framework imposed on bilateral relations. Does that mean that the Bush Administration was using the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism to conceal its real political goals? If so, what are those goals?

Laura Carlsen: The Bush administration used the counterterrorism paradigm to extend US presence in strategic areas. In Mexico, the idea was to open up lucrative defense and intelligence contracts while aiding the rightwing government, which still faced serious questions of legitimacy due to unresolved accusations of fraud in the 2006 elections.

MW---Are there US intelligence agents, special forces or mercenaries conducting counterinsurgency operations in Mexico? Is Mexico required to allow the US military to operate in Mexico due to security and/or trade agreements?

Laura Carlsen: Mexico does not allow US soldiers on its territory. However there is a growing presence of DEA and other types of US agents in the country, as well as a private security companies. We do not have a good system for tracking the presence and activities of the private firms contracted for security and training purposes. This is a major problem.

MW---What effect has militarization had on political expression? How has it affected grass roots organizations, unions, and indigenous groups? Has there been an uptick in military-related violence, such as rape, beatings, torture and homicide?

Laura Carlsen: There has been an increase in human rights violations by the armed forces. In some regions, dissident leaders have been targeted by the military. Women, indigenous people, migrants, dissidents and youth are particularly vulnerable.

Note: "The militarization of Mexico has led to a steep increase in homicides related to the drug war. It has led to rape and abuse of women by soldiers in communities throughout the country. Human rights complaints against the armed forces have increased six-fold.... The Mexican Armed Forces are not subject to civilian justice systems, but to their own military tribunals. These very rarely terminate in convictions." "The Perils of Plan Mexico", Laura Carlsen.

MW---More than 50 Mexican human rights organizations have petitioned Congress to withdraw support for the Merida Initiative. Their letter reads:

"We respectfully request that the U.S. Congress and Department of State, in both the Merida Initiative as in other programs to support public security in Mexico, does not allocate funds or direct programs to the armed forces …

We urge the United States to consider ways to support a holistic response to security problems; based on tackling the root causes of violence and ensuring the full respect of human rights; not on the logic of combat.”

Have you seen any improvement or shift in policy since Barack Obama was elected?

Laura Carlsen: No. The administration has given its full support to the failed drug war. however, there are signs of drug policy reform in domestic policy that could eventually affect the way foreign counternarcotics efforts are viewed. The rhetoric of "ci-responsibility" is really nothing new and the efforts at reducing gunrunning and demand have not been followed up by new policies. the approach continues to be primarily military and violent, with no money whatsoever included in the Merida initiative for heath aspects such as addiction treatment or prevention.

Bio---Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas Policy Program in Mexico City, holds a B.A. in Social Thought and Institutions from Stanford University and a Masters degree in Latin American Studies, also from Stanford. In 1986 she received a Fulbright Scholarship to study the impact of the Mexican economic crisis on women and has lived in Mexico City since then. She has published numerous articles and chapters on social, economic and political aspects of Mexico and recently co-edited Confronting Globalization: Economic integration and popular resistance in Mexico, and co-authored El Café en Mexico, centroamerica y el caribe: Una salida sustentable a la crisis. Prior to joining the Americas Policy Program, where her most recent analysis can be found at, Carlsen was a correspondent for Latin Trade magazine, editor of Business Mexico, freelance writer and researcher. The Americas Policy Program is a program of the Center for International Policy in Washington DC, at

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Venezuela China Oil

Venezuela, China Sign Oil Deals Article

CARACAS -- Venezuela and China gave a new boost to their thriving economic ties Tuesday, signing a package of agreements that advances China strategy of locking in access to the South American country's vast oil reserves.

After two days of talks in Caracas, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation will help the government of President Hugo Chavez develop the Boyaca 3 oil block in the Orinoco-belt, a large heavy-crude basin in Eastern Venezuela.

The move is part of Venezuela's efforts to increase oil sales to China to 1 million barrels per day from the 400,000 barrels per day it says it currently supplies. Under Chavez, Venezuela has tried to curb oil exports to the U.S. and searched for new markets. Despite his efforts, the U.S. remains the main destination for Venezuela oil, with sales averaging around 1 million barrels per day.

The China National Petroleum Corporation also moved forward by securing access to another oil block in the Orinoco region that could eventually produce 400,000 barrels of oil per day.

The Chinese oil titan also agreed to build a refinery with Venezuela that will process crude from a joint oil venture between the two countries that operates the Junin 8 block.

CNPC also plans to bid alongside French firm Total in early 2010 in an upcoming oil auction known as Carabobo, which is considered the most important drilling project in Venezuela in more than a decade.

China and Venezuela have cemented a close economic bond during the last few years. Venezuela is eager to receive Chinese investment to develop its heavy-oil reserves, which require massive financing. Venezuela is a key objective for China as it pushes to secure oil and other natural resources for its economic expansion.

The two countries have developed a $12 billion development fund, with China depositing $8 billion in the fund in exchange for Venezuelan oil. The fund focuses on bankrolling infrastructure projects in Venezuela.

The economic ties between the two countries has spilled to other areas. Chinese companies launched a telecommunications satellite for Venezuela and are working on projects ranging from building a car factory to building a railway system.

Trade between China and Venezuela reached $10 billion in 2008, nearly three times the trade figure posted in 2003. China is now Venezuela's second largest trading partner, surpassed only by the U.S.

Obama & Yemen

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast

Iran raps US military solution
to Yemen crisis
Tue, 22 Dec 2009 08:59:03 GMT

Amid the US and Saudi jet fighters massacre of civilians in northern parts of Yemen, Iran slams the use of military action as the solution to the ongoing conflict in the war-stricken Arab country.

"Iran is unhappy with the ongoing situation in Yemen. It is the murdering of Muslim brothers," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast told reporters at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

He criticized the killing of innocent people who have nothing to do with the military.

"Military actions against civilian people are inhumane," he said.

The spokesman asserted that the ongoing conflict in Yemen would be settled should the sides hold negotiations as soon as possible and foreign forces stop their interference in the country's internal affairs.

Yemen's Houthi fighters in the northern part of the country say US fighter jets have bombed their region in several occasions, claiming the lives of civilians in their air raids. The Houthis say the US Air Force had taken the northwestern province of Sa'ada under about 30 air assaults.

So far, the US officials have categorically denied any direct involvement in the air strikes on Houthi fighters, alleging they have only targeted growing al-Qaeda training camps, mostly located in southern parts of the Persian Gulf state.

The New York Times on Saturday reported that Yemeni government benefited from US military equipment and intelligence support under the pretext of fighting "al-Qaeda" although the attacks have mostly killed civilians.

An ABC report said that President Barack Obama signed the order for the military strike on Yemen.

"Upon the orders of Obama, the military warplanes on Thursday blanketed two camps in the North of the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, claiming there were "an imminent attack against a US asset was being planned," ABC News quoted anonymous administration officials as saying on Friday.

The conflict in northern Yemen began in 2004 between Sana'a and Houthi fighters. The conflict intensified in August 2009 when the Yemeni army launched Operation Scorched Earth in an attempt to crush the fighters in the northern province of Sa'ada.

The Houthis accuse the Yemeni government of violation of their civil rights, political, economic and religious marginalization as well as large-scale corruption.

The Saudi air force has also been involved the conflict by launching its own operations against Shia resistance fighters.

The United Nations, which according to its charter is set up "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace," has failed to adopt any concrete measures to help end the bloody war.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sole Superpower

World's Sole Military Superpower's
2 Million-Troop, $1 Trillion Wars

by Rick Rozoff
Global Research, December 21, 2009

With a census of slightly over 300 million in a world of almost seven billion people, the U.S. accounts for over 40 percent of officially acknowledged worldwide government military spending with a population that is only 4 percent of that of the earth's. A 10-1 disparity.

In addition to its 1,445,000 active duty service members, the Pentagon can and does call upon 1.2 million National Guard and other reserve components. As many as 30% of troops that have served in Afghanistan and Iraq are mobilized reservists. The Army National Guard has activated over 400,000 soldiers since the war in Afghanistan began and in March of 2009 approximately 125,000 National Guard and other reserve personnel were on active duty.

The Defense Department also has over 800,000 civilian employees at home and deployed worldwide. The Pentagon, then, has more than 3.5 million people at its immediate disposal excluding private military contractors.

After allotting over a trillion dollars for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq alone and packing off more than two million of its citizens to the two nations, the U.S. military establishment and peace prize president have already laid the groundwork for yet more wars. Boeing, Raytheon and General Electric won't be kept waiting.

In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on December 10 the president of the United States appropriated for his country the title of "the world's sole military superpower" and for himself "the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars."

This may well have been the first time that an American - and of course any - head of state in history boasted of his nation being the only uncontested military power on the planet and unquestionably the only time a Nobel Peace Prize recipient identified himself as presiding over not only a war but two wars simultaneously.

As to the appropriateness of laying such claims in the venue and on the occasion he did - accepting the world's preeminent peace award before the Norwegian Nobel Committee - Barack Obama at least had the excuse of being perfectly accurate in his contentions.

He is in fact the commander-in-chief in charge of two major and several smaller wars and his nation is without doubt the first global military power which for decades has operated without constraints on five of six inhabited continents and has troops stationed in all six. United States armed forces personnel and weapons, including nuclear arms, are stationed at as many as 820 installations in scores of nations.

The U.S. has recently assigned thousands of troops to seven new bases in Bulgaria and Romania [1], deployed the first foreign troops to Israel in that nation's history to run an interceptor missile radar facility in the Negev Desert [2], and last week signed a status of forces agreement with Poland for Patriot missiles (to be followed by previously ship-based Aegis Standard Missile-3s interceptors) and U.S. soldiers to be stationed there. The troops will be the first foreign forces based in Poland since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991.

The U.S., whose current military budget is at Cold War, which is to say at the highest of post-World War II, levels, also officially accounts for over 41% of international military spending according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's report on 2008 figures: $607 billion of $1.464 trillion worldwide. On October 28 President Obama signed the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act with a price tag of $680 billion, including $130 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That figure excludes military spending outside of the Department of Defense. The American government has for several decades been the standard-bearer in outsourcing to private sector contractors in every realm and the Pentagon is certainly no exception to the practice. According to some estimates, American military and military-related allotments in addition to the formal Pentagon budget can bring annual U.S. defense spending as high as $1.16 trillion, almost half of official expenditures for all of the world's 192 nations, including the U.S., last year.

With a census of slightly over 300 million in a world of almost seven billion people, the U.S. accounts for over 40 percent of officially acknowledged worldwide government military spending with a population that is only 4 percent of that of the earth's. A 10-1 disparity.

The U.S. also has the world's second largest standing army, over 1,445,000 men and women under arms according to estimates of earlier this year, second only to China with 2,255,000. China has a population of over 1.325 billion, more than four times that of America, and does not have a vast army of private contractors supplementing its armed forces. And of course unlike the U.S. it has no troops stationed abroad. India, with a population of 1.140 billion, has active duty troop strength smaller than that of the U.S. at 1,415,000.

The U.S. and Britain are possibly alone in the world in deploying reservists to war zones; this last February the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen acknowledged that 600,000 reserves have been called up to serve in the area of responsibility of the U.S. Central Command, in charge of the Afghan and Iraqi wars, since 2001. In addition to its 1,445,000 active duty service members, the Pentagon can and does call upon 1.2 million National Guard and other reserve components. As many as 30% of troops that have served in Afghanistan and Iraq are mobilized reservists. The Army National Guard has activated over 400,000 soldiers since the war in Afghanistan began and in March of 2009 approximately 125,000 National Guard and other reserve personnel were on active duty.

The Defense Department also has over 800,000 civilian employees at home and deployed worldwide. The Pentagon, then, has more than 3.5 million people at its immediate disposal excluding private military contractors.

In the last 48 hours two unprecedented thresholds have been crossed. On the morning of December 19 the U.S. Senate met in a rare Saturday morning session to approve a $636.3 billion military budget for next year. The vote was 88-10, as the earlier vote by the House of Representatives on December 16 was 395-34. In both cases the negative votes were not necessarily an indication of opposition to war spending but part of the labyrinthine American legislative practices of trade-offs, add-ons and deal-making on other, unrelated issues, what in the local vernacular are colorfully described as horse-trading and log-rolling among other choice terms. A no vote in the House or Senate, then, was not automatically a reflection of anti-war or even fiscally conservative sentiments.

The Pentagon appropriation included another $101 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (Obama signed the last formal Iraq and Afghanistan War Supplemental Appropriations, worth $106 billion, in July), but did not include the first of several additional requests, what are termed emergency spending measures, for the Afghan war. The first such request is expected early next year, more than $30 billion for the additional 33,000 U.S. troops to be deployed to the war zone, which will increase the number of American forces there to over 100,000.

On the day of the Senate vote Bloomberg News cited the Congressional Research Service, which had tallied the numbers, in revealing that the funds apportioned for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have now pushed the total expenditure for both to over $1 trillion. "That includes $748 billion for spending related to the war in Iraq and $300 billion for Afghanistan, the research service said in a Sept. 28 report."

The new Pentagon spending plan "includes $2.5 billion to buy 10 additional Boeing Co. C-17 transports that weren't requested by the Pentagon. Chicago-based Boeing also would benefit from $1.5 billion for 18 F/A-E/F Super Hornet fighters, nine more than the administration requested."

Funding for military aircraft not even requested by the Defense Department and the White House or for larger numbers of them than were is another curious component of the American body politic. That arms merchants (and not only domestic ones) place their own orders with the American people's alleged representatives - the current Deputy Secretary of Defense, William Lynn, was senior vice president of Government Operations and Strategy for Raytheon Company prior to assuming his new post - is illustrated by the following excerpts from the same report:

"Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended April 6 that the C-17 program be terminated once Boeing delivers the last of 205 C-17s in late 2010. Boeing, the second-largest defense contractor, has said its plant in Long Beach, California, will shut down in 2011 without more orders.

"The budget also includes $465 million for the backup engine of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The engine is built by Fairfield, Connecticut-based General Electric Co. and London-based Rolls Royce Plc. The administration earlier threatened to veto the entire defense bill if it contained any money for the engine." [3]

The Pentagon and its chief Gates may win battles with the Congress and even the White House when they relate to the use of military force abroad, but against the weapons manufacturers and the congressmen whose election campaigns they contribute to the military brass will come off the losers.

In addition to the nearly two-thirds of a trillion dollar annual Pentagon war chest, the ongoing trillion dollar Broader Middle East war is a lucrative boon to the merchants of death and their political hangers-on.

On December 18 a story was posted on several American armed forces websites that U.S. soldiers have been sent to Afghanistan and Iraq 3.3 million times since the invasion of the first country in October of 2001. The report specifies that "more than 2 million men and women have shouldered those deployments, with 793,000 of them deploying more than once."

The break-down according to services is as follows:

More than 1 million troops from the Army.

Over 389,900 from the Air Force.

Over 367,900 from the Navy.

More than 251,800 Marines.

This past October alone 172,800 soldiers, 31,500 airmen, 30,000 sailors and 20,900 Marines were dispatched to the two war zones. [4]

The bulk of the U.S.'s permanent global warfighting force may be deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, but enough troops are left over to man newly acquired bases in Eastern Europe, remain in Middle East nations other than Iraq, be based on and transit through the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, take over seven new military bases in Colombia, run regional operations out of America's first permanent base in Africa - Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, where 2,400 personnel are stationed - and engage in counterinsurgency campaigns in the Philippines, Mali, Uganda, Yemen and Pakistan.

Recently a U.S. armed forces newspaper reported in an article titled "AFRICOM could add Marine Air Ground Task Force" that "A 1,000-strong Marine combat task force capable of rapidly deploying to hot spots could soon be at the disposal of the new U.S. Africa Command."

The feature added that a Marine unit previously attached to the newly launched AFRICOM has "already deployed in support of training missions in Uganda and Mali," whose armies are fighting the Lord's Resistance Army and Tuareg rebels, respectively. [5]

In Yemen, Houthi rebel sources "accused the U.S. air force [on December 15] of joining attacks against them, and killing at least 120 people in a raid in the north of the poor Arab state."

Their information office said "The savage crime committed by the U.S. air force shows the real face of the United States." [6]

According to ABC News "On orders from President Barack Obama, the U.S. military launched cruise missiles early Thursday [December 17] against two suspected al-Qaeda sites in Yemen," [7] to complement mounting missile attacks in Pakistan.

The Houthi rebels are religiously Shi'ia, so any attempt at exploiting an al-Qaeda rationale for bombing their villages is a subterfuge.

At the same time the Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and NATO Allied Air Component, General Roger Brady, fresh from a tour of inspection of the Caucasus nations of Azerbaijan and Georgia, was at the Adazi Training Base in Latvia to meet with the defense ministers of that nation, Estonia and Lithuania and plan "closer military cooperation in the security sector between the Baltic States and the USA which also included joint exercises in the Baltic region." [9] All five nations mentioned above - Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia and Lithuania - border Russia.

During the same week's summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in Havana, Cuba, the host country's president Raul Castro said of the latest Pentagon buildup in Colombia that "The deployment of [U.S.] military bases in the region act of aggression against Latin America and the Caribbean." [9]

Less than a week later the government of Colombia, the third largest recipient of American military aid in the world, announced it would construct a new military base near its border with Venezuela. "Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said [on December 18] that the base, located on the Guajira peninsula near the city of Nazaret, would have up to 1,000 troops. Two air battalions would also be activated at other border areas....Army Commander General Oscar Gonzalez meanwhile announced [the following day] that six air battalions were being activated, including two on the border with Venezuela." [10]

After allotting over a trillion dollars for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq alone and packing off more than two million of its citizens to the two nations, the U.S. military establishment and peace prize president have already laid the groundwork for yet more wars. Boeing, Raytheon and General Electric won't be kept waiting.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Israel Aid

Obama Grants Israel
Billions of Dollars in Aid
Sat, 19 Dec 2009

US President Barack Obama has signed the foreign aid budget law for 2010 which includes the granting of $2.775 billion in security aid to Israel.

The Israeli Ynet news website reported that the budget signed by Obama, for the first time, also grants $500 million to the Palestinian Authority.

The aid also includes $100 million to be used by US General Keith Dayton, who is in charge of training the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.

The aid will be handed over to the Palestinians under the condition that the American taxpayers' money will only be transferred to a Palestinian government whose members accept the conditions of the international Quartet - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. The conditions include recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting past agreements signed with the Tel Aviv regime.

The $3 billion aid is comprised of $2 billion in security aid and $1 billion in civilian aid.

The annual American security aid to Israel increased to $2.4 Billion after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office and gradually relinquished the civilian aid.

The aid is accompanied by special additions to the Israeli military industries for the development of technologies, particularly in the missile field.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Anti-War" Politics

The Platypus Review
Chris Cutrone

Barack Obama had, until recently, made his campaign for President of the United States a referendum on the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In the Democratic Party primaries, Obama attacked Hillary Clinton for her vote in favor of the invasion. Among Republican contenders, John McCain went out of his way to appear as the candidate most supportive of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq. Looking towards the general election, it is over Iraq that the candidates have been most clearly opposed: Obama has sought to distinguish himself most sharply from McCain on Iraq, emphasizing their differences in judgment. Prior to the recent financial melt-down on Wall Street, there was a consistency of emphasis on Iraq as a signal issue of the campaign. But with Iraq dramatically pacified in recent months, its political importance has diminished. Obama’s position on Iraq has, if anything, lost him traction as the McCain-supported Bush policy has succeeded.

Now might be a good time to step back and look at assumptions regarding the politics of the war, and assess their true nature and character, what they have meant for the mainstream as well as for the ostensible “Left.”

One major assumption that has persisted from the beginning of the anti-war movement and over the course of the two presidential terms of the Bush administration has been that the Iraq war was the result of a maverick policy, in which “neoconservative” ideologues hijacked the U.S. government in order to implement an extreme agenda. Recently, more astute observers of American politics such as Adolph Reed (in “Where Obamaism seems to be going,” Black Agenda Report, July 16, 2008, on-line at have conceded the point that a war in Iraq could easily have been embraced even by a Democratic adminstration. Reed writes:

“Lesser evilists assert as indisputable fact that Gore, or even Kerry, wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. Perhaps Gore wouldn’t have, but I can’t say that’s a sure thing. (And who was his running mate, by the way? [Joe Lieberman, who recently spoke in support of McCain at the Republican National Convention—CC.]) Moreover, we don’t know what other military adventurism that he —like Clinton— would have undertaken . . No, I’m not at all convinced that the Right wouldn’t have been able to hound either Gore into invading Iraq or Kerry into continuing the war indefinitely.”

This raises the issue of what “opposition” to the Iraq war policy of the Bush administration really amounts to. The Democrats’ jockeying for position is an excellent frame through which to examine the politics of the war. For the Democrats’ criticism of the Bush policy has been transparently opportunist, to seize upon the problems of the war for political gain against the Republicans. Opposition has come only to the extent that the war seemed to be a failed policy, something of which Obama has taken advantage because he was not in the U.S. Senate when the war authorization was voted, and so he has been able to escape culpability for this decision his fellow Democrats made when it was less opportune to oppose the war. (Recall that this fact was the occasion for Bill Clinton’s infamous remark that Obama’s supposed record of uncompromised opposition to the war was a “fairy tale,” for Clinton pointed out that Obama had admitted that he didn’t know how he would have voted had he been in the Senate at the time.) Furthermore, opposition to the war on the supposed “Left” has similarly focused on the Bush administration (for example in the very name of the anti-war coalition World Can’t Wait, i.e., until the next election, and their call to “Exorcise the Bush Regime”), thus playing directly into the politics of the Democratic Party, resulting now in either passive or active support of the Obama candidacy.

On Obama’s candidacy, Reed went on to say that

“Obama is on record as being prepared to expand the war [“on terror”] into Pakistan and maybe Iran . . He’s also made pretty clear that AIPAC [American-Israel Public Affairs Committee] has his ear, which does it for the Middle East, and I wouldn’t be shocked if his administration were to continue, or even step up, underwriting covert operations against Venezuela, Cuba (he’s already several times linked each of those two governments with North Korea and Iran) and maybe Ecuador or Bolivia. .This is where I don’t give two shits for the liberals’ criticism of Bush’s foreign policy: they don’t mind imperialism; they just want a more efficiently and rationally managed one. As Paul Street argues in Black Agenda Report, as well as in his forthcoming book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics, an Obama presidency would further legitimize the imperialist orientation of US foreign policy by inscribing it as liberalism or the ‘new kind’ of progressivism. .[T]he bipartisan ‘support the troops’ rhetoric that has become a scaffold for discussing the war is a ruse for not addressing its foundation in a bellicose, imperialist foreign policy that makes the United States a scourge on the Earth. Obama, like other Dems, doesn’t want such a discussion any more than the Republicans do because they’re all committed to maintaining that foundation.”

In recognizing that the “liberals’ criticism of Bush’s foreign policy [doesn’t] mind imperialism; they just want a more efficiently and rationally managed one,” Reed and others’ arguments on the “Left” beg the question of U.S. “imperialism” and its place in the world. This is an unexamined inheritance from the Vietnam anti-war movement of the 1960s-70s that has become doxa on the “Left.” Put another way, it has been long since anyone questioned the meaning of “anti-imperialism”—asked, “as opposed to what?”

If, as Reed put it about Gore, Kerry, et al., that the “Right would have been able to hound” them into Iraq or other wars, this begs the question of why those on the “Left” would not regard Obama, Kerry, Gore, or (either) Clinton, not as beholden to the Right, but rather being themselves part of the Right, not “capitulating to” U.S. imperialism but part of its actual political foundation. There is an evident wish to avoid raising the question and problem of what is the actual nature and character of “U.S. imperialism” and its policies, what actually makes the U.S., as Reed put it, “a scourge on the Earth,” and what it means to oppose this from the “Left.” For it might indeed be the case that not only the Democrats don’t want such a discussion of the “foundation” of “U.S. imperialism” (“any more than the Republicans do”), but neither do those on the “Left.”

For Adolph Reed, as for any ostensible “Left,” the difficulty lies in the potential stakes of problematizing the role of U.S. power in the world. If the U.S. has proven to be, as Reed put it, a “scourge on the Earth,” the “Left” has consistently shied away from thinking about, or remained deeply confused and self-contradictory over the reasons for this—and what can and should be done about it.

Reed placed this problem in historical context by pointing out that:

“[E]very major party presidential candidate between 1956 and 1972—except one, Barry Goldwater, who ran partly on his willingness to blow up the world and was trounced for it—ran on a pledge to end the Vietnam War. Every one of them lied, except maybe Nixon the third time he made the pledge, but that time he had a lot of help from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.”

—But Nixon et al. would have gotten a lot more “help” living up to their pledges to end the U.S. war in Vietnam if the Communists had just laid down and died.

Was this the politics of the “big lie,” as Reed insists, echoing the criticisms of the Bush administration’s war policy, supposedly based on deceit, or is there a more simple and obvious explanation: that indeed, all American politicians were and remain committed to ending war, but only on their own, “U.S. imperial” terms? And why would anyone expect otherwise?

If this is the case, then, the difference between the Obama and McCain campaigns regarding U.S. “imperialism” would amount to no difference at all. Obama has pledged to remove U.S. troops from Iraq as quickly as possible, but only if the “security situation” allows this. McCain has pledged to remain in Iraq as long as it takes to “get the job done.” What’s the difference? Especially given that the Bush administration itself has begun troop reductions and has agreed in its negotiations with the government of Iraq to a “definite timetable” for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops, as the Sunni insurgency has been quelled or co-opted into the political process and Shia militias like Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Brigade have not only laid down their arms but are presently disbanding entirely. No less than Bush and McCain, Obama, too, is getting what he wants in Iraq. Everyone can declare “victory.” And they are doing so. (Obama can claim vindication the degree to which the pacification of Iraq seems more due to the political process there—such as the “Anbar awakening” movement, etc.—than to U.S. military intervention.)

All the doomsday scenarios are blowing away like so many mirages in the sand, revealing that the only differences that ever existed among Republicans and Democrats amounted to posturing over matters of detail in policy implementation and not over fundamental “principles.” This despite the Obama campaign’s sophistic qualifiers on the evident victory of U.S. policy in Iraq being merely a “tactical success within a strategic blunder,” and their pointing out that the greater goals of effective “political reconciliation” among Iraqi factions remain yet to be achieved. What was once regarded in the cynically hyperbolic “anti-war” rhetoric of the Democrats as an unmitigated “disaster” in Iraq is turning out to be something that merely could have been done better. The “Left” has echoed the hollowness of such rhetoric. At base, this has been the result of a severely mistaken if not entirely delusional imagination of the war and its causes.

At base, the U.S. did not invade and occupy Iraq to steal its oil, or for any other venal or nefarious reason, but rather because the U.N.’s 12-year-old sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government, which meant the compromise and undermining of effective Iraqi sovereignty (for instance in the carving of an autonomous Kurdish zone under U.N. and NATO military protection) was unraveling in the oil-for-food scandal etc., and Saddam, after the first grave mistake of invading Kuwait, made the further fateful errors of spiting the U.N. arms inspectors and counting on being able to balance the interests of the European and other powers in the U.N. against the U.S. threat of invasion and occupation. The errors of judgment and bad-faith opportunism of Saddam, the Europeans, and others were as much the cause for the war as any policy ambitions of the neocons in the Bush administration. Iraq was becoming a “failed state,” and not least because of the actions of its indisputably horrifically oppressive rulers. If Saddam could not help but to choose among such bad alternatives for Iraq, this stands as indictment of the Baathist regime, its unviable character in a changing world. The niche carved out by the combination of Cold War geopolitics and the international exploitation of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s for the Baathist shop of horrors was finally, mercifully, closing.

The unraveling of the U.N. sanctions regime prior to the 2003 invasion and occupation, enforced not only by the U.S. and Britain but by neighboring states and others, cannot be separated from the history of the disintegration of the Iraqi state. The armchair quarterbacking of “anti-war” politics was from the outset (and remains to this day) tacitly, shame-facedly, in favor of the status quo (and worse, today, must retrospectively try to distort and apologize for the history of Baathism). In comparison with such evasion of responsibility, the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq was an eminently responsible act. They were willing to stake themselves in a way the Democrats and the Europeans and others were not—and the “Left” could not. The “success” of the Bush policy amounts to its ability to cast all alternatives into more or less impotent posturing. Attributing motives for the war to American profiteering is to mistake effect for cause. Complaining about the fact that American companies have profited from the war is to impotently protest against the world as it is, for someone was going to profit from it—would it be better if French, Japanese or Saudi firms did so?

That the U.S. government under Bush broke decorum and made the gesture of invading Iraq “unilaterally” without U.N. Security Council approval says nothing to the fact that Iraq was likely to be invaded and occupied (by “armed inspection teams” supported by tens of thousands of “international” troops, etc.) in any case. Did it really matter whether the U.S. had the U.N. fig leaf covering the ugliness of its military instrument? It was only a matter of when and how it was going to be put to use, in managing the international problem the Iraqi state had become. No one among the international powers-that-be, including the most “rogue” elements of the global order (Russia, China, Iran, et al.) had any firm interest in restoring to Saddam’s Baathists the status quo from before 1990 and, needless to say, not only the U.S. and Britain, but also Saudi Arabia and Iran, and most especially the Iraqi Kurds and Shia, were not about to let that happen. Saddam was on the way out. It was only a matter of how.

All the rhetoric about the “overreach” and “hubris” of U.S. policy in Iraq says nothing to the fact that a crossroads there was being reached—this was already true under Clinton. All the bombast about the “illegal”—or even “criminal”—character of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq neglects the simple fact that the U.S. occupation was authorized by the U.N. When Democrats impugn the “crusading” motives of the Bush administration with sophistry about the supposed folly of trying to spread “democracy” in Iraq and the greater Middle East, is this a “progressive” argument, or a conservative one?

Not only the Democrats’ but the “Left’s” opposition to the Iraq war has in fact been from the Right. This is revealed most perversely by the history of the Iraq policy recommendations of Joe Biden, who has been touted by the Obama campaign as bringing “foreign policy credentials” to their ticket as candidate for Vice President. Biden once advocated a break-up of Iraq into separate Shia, Sunni and Kurdish states, during the height of the Sunni insurgency, which would have punished the Sunni by leaving them without access to Iraq’s oil wealth (which is concentrated in the Kurdish and Shiite areas of Kirkuk and Basra). Would pursuit of such an ethno-sectarian division of Iraq have been a “progressive” outcome for furthering the “democratic self-determination” of the peoples of Iraq?—In comparison with the 20% troop “surge” that has in fact, as even Obama has put it, “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.” Or might we see in such apparently “extreme” policy alternatives as Biden’s a deeper underlying fact, that from the standpoint of not only U.S. “imperial” interests but those of the global order, it doesn’t make much difference if Iraq remains a single or is broken up into multiple states, whether it is ruled by secular or theocratic regimes, or whether its government is “democratic” or dictatorial, whether its civil society is “liberal” or not. But, presumably, this matters a great deal to the Iraqis!

None of the posed alternatives regarding Iraq—not before, during or since the invasion and occupation—can be ascribed to being inherently in service of or opposed to the on-going realities of U.S. power (“imperialism”), or the interests of global capitalism, because all of them are compatible with these. Rather, the policy alternatives are all matters of opportunistic orientation to an underlying reality that is not being substantially challenged or even recognized politically by any of the actors involved, great or small, on the “Right” or “Left,” from al-Qaeda to the neoconservatives, or “libertarians” like Ron Paul, from Bush to the President of the Iranian Islamic Republic Ahmadinejad, and Republicans and Democrats from McCain to Obama, or “independents” and the Green Party’s candidates Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader, to the far-“Left” of “anarchists” and other antinomians like writers for Counterpunch and the Chomskyans, et al. at Z magazine, or the “anti-war” protest coalitions led by “Marxist” groups such as the International Socialist Organization (United for Peace and Justice coalition, Campus Anti-war Network), Workers World Party (ANSWER coalition), or the Revolutionary Communist Party (World Can’t Wait coalition).

All of the supposed “anti-imperialists”—from Iraq policy dissident Republicans like Senator Chuck Hagel, to the most intransigent “Marxists” like the Spartacist League—have failed to be truly anti-“imperialist” in their approach to Iraq, nor could they be, for none could have possibly challenged the fundamental conditions of U.S. power in global capital. There is no politics of anti-imperialism, for no one asks politically whether and what it means to say that the U.S. could be more or less “imperialist,” whether the world order can do without the U.S. acting as global cop—asking, who, for instance, would play this nevertheless necessary role in the absence of the U.S.? For there is no one. And no purported “Left” should want “openings” for their own sake in the global order—as if any “cracks” in the “system” won’t be the holes into which the world’s most abject will be immediately swallowed, without in any way sparing the next batch of victims in the train-wreck of history.

The fundamental inability of anyone on the “Left” to take a meaningfully alternative position on Iraq, beyond hoping (vainly) for the “defeat” of or “resistance” to U.S. policy, and thus immediately joining the opportunism of the politics of the Democrats, dissident Republicans, and European and other statesmen, should serve as a warning about the dire political state of the world and its possibilities today. Accusations might fly about who may more or less tacitly “support” “U.S. imperialism,” but there is such a thing as protesting too much, especially when it must be admitted that nothing can be done right now to alter the given global political and social realities in a progressive-emancipatory manner. If, as Adolph Reed put it, the U.S. remains a “scourge on the Earth,” is the alternative only to impotently denounce this and not try to properly understand it—and understand what it would mean to prepare to begin to meaningfully challenge and overcome this?

As appalling as it might be to recognize, McCain in his Republican National Convention speech was actually more truthful and straightforward than Obama when he pointed out that he has stood consistently behind what has proved to be a successful policy in Iraq. Obama now must dissemble on the issue.

On the other hand, the essence of Obama’s candidacy can be seen in the figure of Samantha Power, who was sacked from his primary campaign after saying, correctly, that Hillary Clinton was a “monster” who would “say anything” to get elected. Power is a liberal promoter of “human rights” military interventionism, and began working as a senior advisor for Obama immediately after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Power is a representative of Obama’s version of the historical precedent of JFK’s team of “the best and the brightest” such as Robert McNamara. In fact, Obama’s candidacy has been in its origins much more about “foreign” than “domestic” policy, and more than will be apparent now that Iraq has been neutralized as the main issue in the election. Obama, no less than McCain, is campaigning for the office not only of the “top cop” of the U.S., but of the world. Obama’s campaign is over effective policy for this role, not the role itself.

The “Left” is now up in arms in the face of Obama’s candidacy because his campaign explicitly aims to refurbish the U.S. government’s capacity to play this role, and perhaps even in expanded ways, as U.S. power would be equipped to advance the liberal cause of “human rights” internationally more idealistically and less cynically than under Bush or Clinton.

But this raises the issue of how to understand the U.S.’s role in the world. Only at its peril does the Left treat the explicit Wilsonian doctrine that has essentially underwritten U.S. policy and power after the First World War as hypocritical or cynical, for the project of the U.S. as the central, without-peer hegemonic power of global capital is one in which all states internationally participate (through the U.N., the international treaty organization of U.S. power), only to a greater or lesser extent. Maintaining the “peaceful” conditions of capital has and will continue to prove a bloody business at global scale. As much as one might wish otherwise or simply regret the onus of U.S. power, reality must be faced.

The hyperbole around Iraq in mainstream politics is best illustrated by that favored word, “quagmire.” But behind this has been hysteria, not reason. Feeling in one’s step the pull of some gum on the pavement is not the threat of sinking into quicksand! The Iraqi “insurgents” knew better than their apologists and cynical anti-Bush well-wishers among the Democrats and European and other powers—and their open cheerleaders on the “Left” —that they were not so intransigent, not so willing to die to a last man in their “opposition” to the U.S. and its policies, but only wished to drive a harder bargain at the negotiating table with the U.S. and its allies in Iraq—and now they are themselves becoming allies of the Iraqi government and the U.S.

Currently, it might still remain unclear whether the combined actions and apparent attenuation of the Iraqi insurgents/militias and the struggle among the ruling and oppositional parties of the Iraqi government and, behind them, their foreign backers in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the apparent disarray of the regime of the Iranian Islamic Republic in its nuclear standoff with the U.S. and European powers, amount to a temporary situation borne of a shared wish to ride the Obama train (or merely the potential for change inherent in the election cycle) into a better bargaining position regarding U.S. policy and so not to spoil the U.S. election and bring the supposedly more bellicose John McCain to power through the fear of the American public, or whether they’ve given up the bloody game of jockeying for influence in Iraq because they’ve already spent what chips they had in the last 5 years.

In any case, as far as the election is concerned, Obama has played a strategy in his campaign from which any purported “Left” must learn politically: that it is not a good idea to bank ahead of time on the defeat of one’s opponents. Obama’s campaign is in more trouble than it might have been because it has lost its signal issue with which to prosecute the Republicans with the Bush administration, a “losing” war in Iraq. Obama can be elected despite this, and fudge the issue of the war and “opposition” to it as policy.

But the “Left” remains in a similar but in fact much worse predicament. The “Left” never asked the burning question: What if the Bush policy “succeeds?” Then what will be the basis for opposition to U.S. “imperialism?”

Iraq is nothing like Vietnam, despite the wishes of the “Left” to have history repeat itself. If Iraq does not , as it appears it will not, fall apart or drag on in endless slaughter, but continues to stabilize, and does not give up sovereignty over its oil resources, etc., but simply allows the U.S. some minimal military presence through its embassy there, and continues to work with the U.S. against groups like al-Qaeda, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah, the Kurdish PKK guerillas in Turkey, and willingly sides with the U.S., as it will inevitably, in any potential future wars against Iran or Syria, etc., will this mean that the U.S. invasion and occupation diminished Iraqi “sovereignty” and so was a phenomenon of U.S. “imperialism?” What will be the account of Iraqi motives in the arrangement achieved by U.S. intervention, as mere stooges for the U.S.?

And won’t this mean taking a much coarser and narrower- minded view of the actual concrete politics of Iraq and the Middle East than those evinced by Obama, McCain and (even) Bush, so effectively disqualifying the “Left” as being in any way competent to comment, let alone critique or offer political alternatives?

What will remain the basis for the “Left’s” opposition to U.S. policy in a world McCain or Obama would make after Bush — after Blackwater, et al. quit the Iraqi scene, as they already are doing, and not through defeat but success, and not without some selective high-profile (if become less interesting) investigations and prosecutions of “war crimes” by Americans, now that the U.S. can afford them?

How will U.S. power in the world be understood, and what critique and vision of the future will be posed in the face of its undiminished capacities?

Friday, December 18, 2009

War Statistics

Stunning Statistics About the War

Every American Should Know

By Jeremy Scahill اوروكنت.إنفو
December 17, 2009

Contrary to popular belief, the US actually has 189,000 personnel on the ground in Afghanistan right now—and that number is quickly rising.

By Jeremy Scahill

A hearing in Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Contract Oversight subcommittee on contracting in Afghanistan has highlighted some important statistics that provide a window into the extent to which the Obama administration has picked up the Bush-era war privatization baton and sprinted with it. Overall, contractors now comprise a whopping 69% of the Department of Defense’s total workforce, "the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel in US history." That’s not in one war zone—that’s the Pentagon in its entirety.

In Afghanistan, the Obama administration blows the Bush administration out of the privatized water. According to a memo [PDF] released by McCaskill’s staff, "From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. During the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000."

At present, there are 104,000 Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan. According to a report this week from the Congressional Research Service, as a result of the coming surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, there may be up to 56,000 additional contractors deployed. But here is another group of contractors that often goes unmentioned: 3,600 State Department contractors and 14,000 USAID contractors. That means that the current total US force in Afghanistan is approximately 189,000 personnel (68,000 US troops and 121,000 contractors). And remember, that’s right now. And that, according to McCaskill, is a conservative estimate. A year from now, we will likely see more than 220,000 US-funded personnel on the ground in Afghanistan.

The US has spent more than $23 billion on contracts in Afghanistan since 2002. By next year, the number of contractors will have doubled since 2008 when taxpayers funded over $8 billion in Afghanistan-related contracts.

Despite the massive number of contracts and contractors in Afghanistan, oversight is utterly lacking. "The increase in Afghanistan contracts has not seen a corresponding increase in contract management and oversight," according to McCaskill’s briefing paper. "In May 2009, DCMA [Defense Contract Management Agency] Director Charlie Williams told the Commission on Wartime Contracting that as many as 362 positions for Contracting Officer’s Representatives (CORs) in Afghanistan were currently vacant."

A former USAID official, Michael Walsh, the former director of USAID’s Office of Acquisition and Assistance and Chief Acquisition Officer, told the Commission that many USAID staff are "administering huge awards with limited knowledge of or experience with the rules and regulations." According to one USAID official, the agency is "sending too much money, too fast with too few people looking over how it is spent." As a result, the agency does not "know … where the money is going."

The Obama administration is continuing the Bush-era policy of hiring contractors to oversee contractors. According to the McCaskill memo:

In Afghanistan, USAID is relying on contractors to provide oversight of its large reconstruction and development projects. According to information provided to the Subcommittee, International Relief and Development (IRD) was awarded a five-year contract in 2006 to oversee the $1.4 billion infrastructure contract awarded to a joint venture of the Louis Berger Group and Black and Veatch Special Projects. USAID has also awarded a contract Checci and Company to provide support for contracts in Afghanistan.

The private security industry and the US government have pointed to the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker(SPOT) as evidence of greater government oversight of contractor activities. But McCaskill’s subcommittee found that system utterly lacking, stating: "The Subcommittee obtained current SPOT data showing that there are currently 1,123 State Department contractors and no USAID contractors working in Afghanistan." Remember, there are officially 14,000 USAID contractors and the official monitoring and tracking system found none of these people and less than half of the State Department contractors.

As for waste and abuse, the subcommittee says that the Defense Contract Audit Agency identified more than $950 million in questioned and unsupported costs submitted by Defense Department contracts for work in Afghanistan. That’s 16% of the total contract dollars reviewed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Just Wars"

Obama's War and Peace

by Ardeshir Ommani
Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Washington correspondent Kim Landers noted in her Dec. 10 report: "U.S. President Barack Obama has confronted the paradox of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize while serving as a war president." To Obama and par excellence to the Peace Prize Committee, the peace award and the escalation of the war in Afghanistan were not in contradiction, but rather the peace prize was at the service of war. In fact, Barack Obama is an embodiment of war and peace at the same time, such that peace has to serve the cause of war. In his speech in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, President Obama, like all the U.S. war presidents, claimed that war is not only necessary for establishing peace but that the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and even Pakistan are "Just Wars".


When the Catholic Church or Chairman Mao Tse Tung of China or General Vo Nguyen Giap of Vietnam spoke about "Just Wars", they all provided strict conditions for such a war to take place. Catholicism strongly proposed that the decision of waging a war against a nation must meet certain rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy, and it must satisfy the following criteria, all at the same time:

1) the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation must be lasting, grave and certain;

2) all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

3) the use of arms must not produce evil and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

It is common knowledge and an ironclad fact that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan has attacked the territory of the United States and 9/11 was the work of a small group of people from Saudi Arabia. Secondly, the peoples of those two countries have not invaded any U.S. territories and thirdly, U.S. aggression in both countries is causing greater disorders than the presence of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. In both China and Vietnam, Chairman Mao and Ho Chi Minh declared the armed resistance to the invading French and U.S. armies as just because they were waging defensive wars of independence and liberation from colonialism and imperialism. For Obama to call the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as "just wars" is the height of hypocrisy and demagogy.

No aggressor and occupying military force, such as the US-NATO armies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan can justify and moralize its naked crimes against the peoples and institutions of those countries by labeling its barbarous acts of war and oppression as humanitarian and benevolent. The imperialist nature of the U.S. wars in the Middle East and South Asia region is the main reason that Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech on December 10 drew praises from such conservative and reactionary warmongers as former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin likened Obama's expansion of war in Afghanistan to the dreams envisioned by the failed President George W. Bush. "I liked what he said," Palin blustered as she announced her exuberance for Obama's speech. "The irony is that President Bush could have delivered the very same speech," said Bradley A. Blakeman, a Republican strategist and CEO of Kent Strategies LLC, who worked in the Bush Administration. And who was this "peace turned war" president really speaking to? The Nobel Committee was assembled in a giant hall packed with European aristocracies of finance capital, including the Norwegian royal family.

In order to press the Europeans to sacrifice more of their youths at the altar of the multinational capitalist corporations who live off the profits gained by their government's obedience to the call for more armaments, more bombs, more tanks and drones, Obama callously said that "the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms." So that is why even during this most recent world economic recession in the developed countries, the American people, like the serfs in the Middle Ages, must shoulder the economic costs of more than 739 military bases stationed around the world, and the ever-rising price-tag affixed to the current three conflicts in South Asia.

Apparently, Obama never paid attention to the number of bombs that the U.S. dropped on the people of Vietnam, killing three million hard-working and poor people of that country, permanently polluting their once lush green forests and clean rivers and valleys with the residue of radioactive depleted uranium and "agent orange". Not to mention the other millions of innocent workers and farmers in Korea, Laos, and Cambodia who were dragged into that 14-year unjust war against the Vietnamese people. Obama's invocation of the name of a truly great peace leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated less than a year after he spoke out against the U.S. criminal war in Vietnam and publicly linked the injustices of U.S. foreign policy abroad to the oppression of the African American people at home, is an abuse and exploitation of Martin's name and legacy. Without a doubt, Obama's speech was a rationalization, though pitiful, of escalating the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan by dispatching an additional 30,000 U.S. troops into that country to justify an unjust war.

The award of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Obama, as a war president, will be encountered with widespread disbelief and one more proof that the so-called peace award is a tool for lending credibility to the imperialists’ wars of aggression at the service of occupation, enslavement and plunder of other nations’ natural resources and markets. In the eyes of the majority of working class and unemployed people around the world, the prize by the Norwegian Noble Committee looks preposterous in its claims, pro-war and domination in its intention and hazardous to the people of Afghanistan and U.S. troops alike.

The pretense of the prize lies in Obama's empty promise to strengthen the dialogue side of diplomacy and foreign policy. In a period less than a year in the White House, he has managed to widen the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan, increasing the number of Afghans and U.S. troop fatalities and casualties, and causing the displacement of more than 2 million Pakistan farmers and villagers, who now barely subsist in miserable refugee camps, all under the umbrella of "just war". To refresh our memories, this is not the first time that the Norwegian Peace Committee, a bastion of self-declared judges of "just wars", has awarded the world war makers with the peace prize, especially when the offender is a close ally of the NATO countries. In the Middle East, the awards to Menachem Begin of Israel in 1978, a former terrorist commander in Palestine, and later in 1994 to Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin are comparable to Obama’s right to receive a peace prize, which in truth is more realistic to be compared with the most contemptible prize of all: the 1973 award to Henry Kissinger who was responsible for a decade of continuous war and bloodshed brought upon the victorious people of Vietnam. In the last four decades, Kissinger has been branded a warmonger and perpetrator of genocide in Cambodia and Vietnam, countries not too far from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was the "most frequent visitor" to the George W. Bush White House as an unofficial political adviser on Israel and the Middle East—including the invasion and occupation of Iraq. So, as we see, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize is not always a noble act.


A Rumination upon the State of our Lives.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dog Poet Transmitting.......

The human body is a marvel. Within its profound integrity and promise there are hidden many secrets. It’s a soft and vulnerable package of flesh and blood and bones. You would not think it capable of things it has accomplished and the conditions that it has survived. Somehow this mechanism is tougher than it looks. It can take an awful lot of punishment. Look at the abuse it visits upon itself.

It’s composed of a number of systems whose purpose is to work in harmonious accord to some end, which has never been fully explained or agreed upon. Terrible wars have been fought over the purpose of human existence. No one
ever wins these wars and everyone who may have triumphed or survived at any period of time are now as gone as their victims. At the moment there are people winning and losing wars around the world. I should say that there is the appearance of people winning and losing wars because in many cases there has been no victor, just continuations of conflict. What is interesting is that, in most cases, one side has far superior firepower yet they are unable to prevail. In some cases they are actually losing, despite their arguments to the contrary.

Maybe it’s not about winning and losing as much as it is to profit financially from the conflicts. The people who start the wars don’t fight in them. War is a very profitable business and perhaps we should see it as just that; not an unfortunate condition that is due to border disputes or the spread of a preferable ideology, religion or ancient racial hatred but due to economics. War is like any other industry. It creates jobs and markets and a cornucopia of opportunities for collective and personal enrichment. As long as you can get enough people together to fight them you’ve got a cash cow.

The societies and cultures that people live in are also bodies. They prosper or get sick and die just like any individual member does. All of these bodies live within the framework of Nature and all of them depend on it. There are two kinds of Nature. There’s the raw Nature which provides our food and grants us an environment to be in, which is serviced by the greater forces of Nature, like the sun and moon, the wind and rain …and then there is altered Nature, composed of buildings and vehicles of transport with all of what is contained in the buildings and ferried around by the transport. It’s still a part of Nature, no matter how unnatural it gets.

There seems to be some kind of a rule that affects the unnatural constructs. It’s a form of the ‘shit happens’ variety. Shit happens in original Nature too but it still winds up looking more or less like it did before; unnatural Nature winds up not being around at all, except for a few enduring landmarks that remain as a
testimony to what was but is no more.

It is an interesting consideration that we don’t understand the meaning and intent of these enduring landmarks like The Pyramids and The Sphinx. The official explanations don’t agree with the arcane explanations, just as the lives of ordinary people do not mirror the desires and intentions of those who rule over them. Lately we are being told that similar structures exist in far parts of the world that had no connection with each other. We are hearing that the legacies of many ancient cultures all reflect a remarkable similarity in their predictions about the times in which we are presently living. Most people are uninterested in this. Their interest is upon the things of the moment and the gratification of the usual appetites. These are the same people that fight in the wars for the profit and amusement of the people who start them.

I’ve heard it said that a nation (which usually contains cultures) is only as good as its laws. In practice, a nation is only as good as its ability to restrain those who have the power and the tools to pervert those laws. This would include lawyers, judges, politicians, lobbyists and the business interests which they serve. Any nation that cannot contain these forces cannot protect their laws or the people who rely on them. We live in times where this is glaringly evident. New laws are needed but effective laws are impossible because they are made by the special interests just named. The people have no say in the making of these laws. They no longer even have a say in which whore they choose to represent them because none of the choices can even stand for election without the permission of a foreign nation; I speak of America by example here but it is so in other nations as well.

The foreign nation of which I speak is not a nation per se. It is a sort of offshore banking cartel with a military and an army of assassins who make sure no laws are made that infringe on their capacity to loot and abuse those whom they consider less than human. This is ironic since they themselves are not human. One can only be human who behaves like a human being; otherwise they soon turn into something else unless they were something else to begin with.

In every culture there is the evidence of belief in the supernatural. Unfortunately, the religions which evolved from this belief soon became temporal business operations which compromised any relationship they might
have had with the original supernatural force and became instead, a holding of the antithesis of this supernatural force.

The historical record shows that there is quite often no visible justice carried out against those who offend the laws and natural balance with their behavior. People don’t get this, even though the teachers, who have come and gone and upon whose lives and teachings the religions came into being, spoke quite clearly of other locations where justice is carried out and some of them spoke of a condition called reincarnation which makes sure that the offender is reborn into situations that guarantee justice in the flesh. Many people are not satisfied with this feature of existence. A lot of people don’t like it when it rains either or when someone gets between them and something they want.

The problem with people, as I see it, is that they want life to adjust to their expectations instead of adjusting to life as it is. It is a pointless exercise on their part because, whether they willingly adjust or not, they will be adjusted just the same. It could be said that everything is perfect to the minutest detail but we just can’t see it. We can’t see it because we have chosen not to accept this.

I have heard countless arguments about the way things are and the way things should be. I have heard so many arguments about the meaning of life and from whence and to what it proceeds. I have been in the company of very wise individuals and some of them were immortals and quite often they would say, “I don’t know”. However, I have also noted that they are very often brimming with a secret joy that can be felt in their presence. There is rightness and a powerful security about them. They are not like the rest of the human race in the way they think and in the way they live and behave. They make a lasting impression on the minds of the people who encounter them. There must be something more to life and to living than is immediately apparent in the world around us.

My experience has led me to believe that one must energetically pursue a deeper understanding of life. When people refuse to do this, I notice that they argue about superficial and irrelevant issues and concepts as if they applied to this deeper understanding and, from what I can tell, they do not.

My observations indicate to me that the majority of all actions and endeavors are pointless or destructive in nature. I also observe that suicide is epidemic. To most, it does not appear to be suicide but the evidence shows that it is. Ignorance and apathy seem to play a large part in it. Unenlightened self-interest and undisciplined desire also have a major role in the unfortunate ends which comes to a large number of people. It seems that selfishness and indifference to the existence of others somehow puts one in a position of not seeing things as they are and renders them vulnerable to all sorts of painful mistakes and errors in judgment.

This is how it looks to me at the moment and I do not doubt that my perceptions are not comprehensive and could well change. After all, I don’t know.

End Transmission.......


Taken from Reflections in a Petri Dish

Monday, December 14, 2009

Anarchist Response

Obama's Imperial War -
An Anarchist Response

December 11, 2009 12:59 by Wayne Price

The expansion of the US attack on Afghanistan and Pakistan is not due to the personal qualities of Obama but to the social system he serves: the national state and the capitalist economy. The nature of the situation guarantees that the system will act irrationally. Anarchists should participate in building a broad movement against the war, while raising our political program.

In discussing President Obama’s expansion of the US attack on Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is important not to focus on Obama as a personality but on the social system to which he is commited, specifically to the war-waging capitalist national state. “War is the health of the state,” as Randolph Bourne declared during World War I. It is what the national state is for, what it does, and why it still exists, despite the real trends toward international unity and worldwide coordination. In an age of nuclear bombs, the human race will not be safe until we abolish these states (especially the big, imperial, ones such as those of North America, Western Europe, and Japan) and replace them with a federation of self-managing associations of working people.

After 3 months of consulations and deliberation, President Obama has announced that he is going to do what he had promised to do during his campaign for president—namely to expand the US attack on Afghanistan and Pakistan. This may not have been inevitable (since he broke many of his campaign promises already, such as ending overseas prisons, openness in government, ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a health care plan which covers everyone, an economic plan for working people, etc.). But it was probable.

As has been pointed out, his stated reasons for the war do not make much sense: in order to get out of Afghanistan, the US will send more troops into Afghanistan. The US needs to fight Al Queda, even though there are now only about 100 Queda militants left in Afghanistan; the Queda base is mostly in Pakistan (which Obama slurred over by speaking of “the border”) but the US will not be sending troops there (just secret attacks by drone missiles and CIA operatives). More generally, the US supposedly has to strengthen the resolve of the government of Pakistan…by sending more troops to Afghanistan. The US hopes to win over the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan by sending more non-Muslim, only-English-speaking, troops, which is sure to antagonize the people of the region. In 18 months, the US forces are supposed to transform the Karzai regime from one of the most corrupt, incompetent, and illegitimate states on earth, to a stable government (never mind a democracy). The effects of the mistaken US policies of 8 years can be reversed in 18 months (on the assumption that US forces will really “start” to withdraw in 18 months; promises are cheap; the US is still in Iraq). All of this is simply unbelievable and it is hard to think that an intelligent man such as Obama believes any of it.

Why then, really, is the US sending more troops into the region? Closer to Obama’s thinking are the expressions in his December 1, West Point, address, when he announced his program, where he spoke about the US as a global power with an economy which competes on the world market. Thus he remarked that “competition within the global economy has grown more fierce….Our prosperity…will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the past.” Implicit in these statements is an awareness that the US is no longer the economic power it was “in the past.” While still having the largest national economy, the US is now a de-industrializing debtor nation, losing out in world competition to Europe and Asia. This has been made worse by the global Great Recession, which has exposed the decay of the whole international capitalist system. The US ruling class, its layer of rich people, is not happy about this.

So they turn to the one asset they still have, which is the mighty military force of the US state—more powerful than any potential combination of opponent states. By throwing its weight around, the US hopes to re-achieve world dominance, or at least to slow its decline in world power. Obama reminded his listeners that the US has long been the dominant world power. “Our country has borne a special burden in global affairs ….More than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for six decades…” This is modified by the hypocritical words,”But unlike the great powers of old, we have not sough world domination.” He can say this because the US has not ruled through open “ownership” of colonies (leaving aside Puerto Rico and a few other places) but by economically dominating the world market, so that all must buy and sell on the US’ terms (“neocolonialism”). But whenever “necessary,” this has been backed up by military force, as shown in two imperialist world wars and a large number of invasions of smaller, weaker, nations.

Therefore it cannot accept being kicked in the teeth by small groups of terrorists living in caves, nor let petty dictatorships thumb their noses at the US. Nor can they afford to let regions which dominate the world petroleum supply fall into chaos, or at least outside of US rule, given the centrality of oil for the capitalist industrial economy. This includes both the Middle East and Northwest Asia (which may have important oil pipelines go through it).

Irrational behavior will result from being in situations which cannot be rationally dealt with. The US ruling class must try to dominate the world, economically and therefore politically and militarily, due to world competition. But it cannot dominate the world and is losing out in international competition. It must try to control the oppressed nations of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but it cannot control them. The result is a contradictory and irrational foreign policy. This was apparent under the stupid George W. Bush, with his ideologically fanatic advisors. It is still obvious under the intelligent and reasonable Barack Obama.

The result is likely to be disasterous (as it was in the Vietnam war, also waged by moderate Democrats—in fact most US wars have been waged by Democrats, starting with World War I). In Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, many people have been killed or wounded or their lives disrupted—mostly the nationally-oppressed people but also many US soldiers. Now very many more will be killed. Not to speak of the wealth which will be destroyed, both in the attacked countries and in the US (Obama says the war will cost $1 trillion).

And in the background is the threat of nuclear war—not only does the US have nuclear weapons but so does Pakistan and its long-time opponent and neighbor India. Also, in the same region, the US is threatening to attack Iran, for supposedly working toward nuclear weapons, and there are similar threats by the US ally Israel, which does have nuclear weapons. Will nuclear bombs be used in the near future? I doubt it; but time marches on and sooner or later they will be used. (The Bush administration made an effort to make smaller “bunker-blasting” nuclear bombs, which could be used in small wars such as in Iraq. These would have erased the gap between nuclear and conventional weapons. I do not know where this stands at the moment.) Liberals have called on the US to lead a world-wide crusade to abolish all nuclear weapons. Obama has given lip service to this idea, but nothing will come of it because the US state cannot give up any of its power to threaten the rest of the world.

We revolutionary anarchists must oppose these wars will all our might. While the system cannot stop making wars, it can be forced to end particular wars. This can be done by raising the price which the state must pay for that war. If the capitalist politicians feel that young people are becoming radicalized and militant, that labor is becoming restless, that soldiers are potentially mutinous, and that the local peoples will not stop resisting--then they will finally decide to end the war (as in Vietnam).

We should participate in broader “peace” movement, joining it in its mass marches and demonstrations. Often we radicals get tired of demonstrations, seeing how little they accomplish; but we should not forget how exciting they can be for newer layers of antiwar activists. However this does not mean that we cover up our program. In particular we must oppose the leaders of this movement (liberals, social democrats, and Marxist-Leninists) for their capitulation to the Democratic Party. For years now, they have held back the movement by focusing on electing and supporting liberal Democrats.

We need to point to those who have the real power to end the war: the soldiers and other military forces and the working class. There has been increasing discontent among rank-and=file military and their families about the war. We should have a positive attitude toward this, as opposed to a moralistic superiority toward ordinary soldiers, who are usually victims of the poverty draft.. Similarly, there has been much discontent with the wars among working people and their families. We can at least support the idea of strikes against the war, war production, and the transportation of war material. We should oppose any use of the war as an excuse for union-busting or wage-lowering.

The force most directly opposing US imperialism in these regions are the people. We should make clear our solidarity with the nationally oppressed people (who are mostly workers, peasants, and small businesspeople). We should defend their right to resist US aggression. We should not be “neutral” between the mightiest imperial power and the oppressed people of Afghanistan. But this does not require any support or endorsement for any particular organization or leadership. We are certainly not “for” the Taliban, which is viciously misogynist, anti-labor, and statist. We do not want them to get their state again. However, that is a matter for the Afghan people to decide, not for the US state nor for Western anarchists.

We should be willing to work with anyone who will oppose the wars, while openly expressing our own program: the end of the state, of international capitalism (imperialism), and of all forms of oppression.

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