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By Arlen Grossman
A 12-year-old Colombian girl was allegedly drugged and raped inside a Colombian air force base in 2007. The perpetrators were U.S. Army Sergeant Michael J. Coen and defense contractor Cesar Ruiz. They were never arrested and were subsequently flown out of Colombia.
That scathing accusation was part of a report jointly commissioned by the pro-U.S. Colombian government and the leftist rebel group FARC. The 800-page document, according to Colombia Reports, was written to help peace negotiators determine responsibility for the 220,000 dead victims and millions more injured in the 50-year armed conflict between the Colombian government and the rebels. The U.S. military has been assisting the government of Colombia all those years in the fight against the FARC and other leftist groups.
Colombians were understandably outraged about the rape of the 12-year-old girl. The victim, her sister, and her mother were forced to move to a different city because of threats from forces loyal to the suspects, the mother told Colombian television. The U.S. embassy in 2009 told Miami newspaper El Nuevo Herald that it might reopen the closed case against Coen and Ruiz, but the two suspects remain unindicted.
The report also accuses U.S. soldiers and military contractors of sexually abusing at least 54 Colombian children between 2003 and 2007. These crimes were reportedly filmed and sold as pornograpy. According to Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper, the victims’ families received death threats, forcing them to flee the region. There have been no prosecutions for these crimes due to immunity clauses in agreements between the U.S. and Colombia.
If you are an American and this is the first you’ve heard of these crimes, it’s not surprising. Because as horrific as these crimes are, there are two additional layers of shame: that the perpetrators were able to escape prosecution because of bilateral immunity agreements, and that reports of these vicious child sex crimes have been ignored by the mainstream American news media.
The New York Times or Washington Post hasn’t reported on these charges. CNN and MSNBC have ignored them. In fact, there is a virtual blackout from the corporate media on the commission’s report.
The American government, military and media should be ashamed. And the American people should be as outraged as the Colombians. The news media blackout is inexcusable.
By Arlen Grossman
I understand we are supposed to be terrified of Iran. I just can’t figure out why. Yes, there is the possibility they could build a nuclear weapon. They claim they don’t want to, and the CIA and Mossad haven’t found evidence that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program.
Of course, most of us don’t want to see Iran, or any other country, acquire nuclear weapons. But even if Iran was able to build a nuclear weapon, what could they do with it? At least nine other countries have their own stockpiles. The United States has thousands of nuclear warheads, and Israel is reported to have dozens.
Iran is not suicidal or crazy. They are aware that if they tried to use a nuclear weapon against the United States or Israel, the country of Iran would be wiped off the map. Despite the dire warnings from Bibi Netanyahu and hawkish American politicians, the threat from Iran is wildly exaggerated.
So who benefits from the Iran-Is-Out-to-Get-Us scare tactics? The list is long. We all know war is good for business and there are dozens of weapons manufacturers and private contractors rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of another Mideast war. The Pentagon would love to prove their worth against Iran, too. One-sided wars provide opportunities for heroics and promotions within the military, and an increased Pentagon budget is inevitable.
The news networks love war, too. What could be better for ratings than a war against Iran? Hawkish politicians would love to push us into war. Whether you are an Israeli prime Minister or a Republican politician, coming down hard on Iran is a sure money and vote getter from your conservative base. Needless to say, the oil industry and OPEC countries see dollar signs from higher prices that would result from any conflict with Iran.
But in real life, a preemptive war against Iran could spiral out of control, resulting in massive death, disruption and destruction in the region and throughout the world. A negotiated settlement is well worth our effort.
(Also published in OpEd News March 25-Headline Status)
“I never would have agreed to the formulation of the Central Intelligence Agency back in ’47, if I had known it would become the American Gestapo. ”
— Harry S Truman (1961)
My letter in the Monterey Herald March 14, 2015:
I understand we are supposed to be terrified of Iran. I just can’t figure out why. Yes, there is the possibility they could build a nuclear weapon. They claim they don’t want to, and the CIA and Mossad don’t believe that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program. But even if Iran had a nuclear weapon, what could they do with it? At least seven other countries have their own stockpiles. The United States has thousands of nuclear warheads, and Israel is reported to have dozens.
Iran is not suicidal or crazy. They are aware that if they tried to use a nuclear weapon against the United States or Israel, the country of Iran would be wiped off the map. Despite the dire warnings from Bibi Netanyahu and hawkish American politicians, the threat from Iran is wildly exaggerated. A negotiated settlement is certainly worth the effort.
Tariq Ali: The Time Is Right for a Palace Revolution
By Chris Hedges/ Truthdig/ March 1, 2015
PRINCETON, N.J.—Tariq Ali is part of the royalty of the left. His more than 20 books on politics and history, his seven novels, his screenplays and plays and his journalism in the Black Dwarf newspaper, the New Left Review and other publications have made him one of the most trenchant critics of corporate capitalism. He hurls rhetorical thunderbolts and searing critiques at the oily speculators and corporate oligarchs who manipulate global finance and the useful idiots in the press, the political system and the academy who support them. The history of the late part of the 20th century and the early part of the 21st century has proved Ali, an Oxford-educated intellectual and longtime gadfly who once stood as a Trotskyist candidate for Parliament in Britain, to be stunningly prophetic.
The Pakistani-born Ali, who holds Pakistani and British citizenships, was already an icon of the left during the convulsions of the 1960s. Mick Jagger is said to have written “Street Fighting Man”after he attended an anti-war rally in Grosvenor Square on March 17, 1968, led by Ali, Vanessa Redgrave and others outside the U.S. Embassy in London. Some 8,000 protesters hurled mud, stones and smoke bombs at riot police. Mounted police charged the crowd. Over 200 people were arrested.
Ali, when we met last week shortly before he delivered the Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture at Princeton University, praised the street clashes and open, sustained protests against the state that erupted during the Vietnam War. He lamented the loss of the radicalism that was nurtured by the 1960s counterculture, saying it was “unprecedented in imperial history” and produced the “most hopeful period” in the United States, “intellectually, culturally and politically.”
“I cannot think of an example of any other imperial war in history, and not just in the history of the American empire but in the history of the British and French empires, where you had tens of thousands of former GIs and sometimes serving GIs marching outside the Pentagon and saying they wanted the Vietnamese to win,” he said. “That is a unique event in the annals of empire. That is what frightened and scared the living daylights out of them [those in power]. If the heart of our apparatus is becoming infected, [they asked] what the hell are we going to do?”
This defiance found expression even within the halls of the Establishment. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings about the Vietnam War openly challenged and defied those who were orchestrating the bloodshed. “The way that questioning was conducted educated a large segment of the population,” Ali said of the hearings, led by liberals such as J. William Fulbright. Ali then added sadly that “such hearings could never happen again.”
“That [spirit is what the ruling elite] had to roll back, and that they did quite successfully,” he said. “That rollback was completed by the implosion of the Soviet Union. They sat down and said, ‘Great, now we can do whatever we want. There is nothing abroad, and what we have at home—kids protesting about South America and Nicaragua and the contras—is peanuts. Gradually the dissent decreased.” By the start of the Iraq War, demonstrations, although large, were usually “one-day affairs.”
“It was an attempt to stop a war. Once they couldn’t stop it, that was the end,” he said about the marches opposing the Iraq War. “It was a spasm. They [authorities] made people feel there was nothing they could do; that whatever people did, those in power would do what they wanted. It was the first realization that democracy itself had been weakened and was under threat.”
The devolution of the political system through the infusion of corporate money, the rewriting of laws and regulations to remove checks on corporate power, the seizure of the press, especially the electronic press, by a handful of corporations to silence dissent, and the rise of the wholesale security and surveillance state have led to “the death of the party system” and the emergence of what Ali called “an extreme center.” Working people are being ruthlessly sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit—a scenario dramatically on display in Greece. And there is no mechanism or institution left within the structures of the capitalist system to halt or mitigate the reconfiguration of the global economy into merciless neofeudalism, a world of masters and serfs.
“This extreme center, it does not matter which party it is, effectively acts in collusion with the giant corporations, sorts out their interests and makes wars all over the world,” Ali said. “This extreme center extends throughout the Western world. This is why more and more young people are washing their hands of the democratic system as it exists. All this is a direct result of saying to people after the collapse of the Soviet Union, ‘There is no alternative.’ ”
The battle between popular will and the demands of corporate oligarchs, as they plunge greater and greater numbers of people around the globe into poverty and despair, is becoming increasingly volatile. Ali noted that even those leaders with an understanding of the destructive force of unfettered capitalism—such as the new, left-wing prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras—remain intimidated by the economic and military power at the disposal of the corporate elites. This is largely why Tsipras and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, bowed to the demands of European banks for a four-month extension of the current $272 billion bailout for Greece. The Greek leaders were forced to promise to commit to more punishing economic reforms and to walk back from the pre-election promise of Tsipras’ ruling Syriza party to write off a large part of Greece’s sovereign debt. Greece’s debt is 175 percent of its GDP. This four-month deal, as Ali pointed out, is a delaying tactic, one that threatens to weaken widespread Greek support for Syriza. Greece cannot sustain its debt obligations. Greece and European authorities will have to collide. And this collision could trigger a financial meltdown in Greece, see it break free from the eurozone, and spawn popular upheavals in Spain, Portugal and Italy.
The cost of open defiance, which, Ali pointed out, is our only escape route from corporate tyranny, will at least at first be painful. Our corporate masters do not intend to release their death grip without a brutal fight.
Ali recalled that even his late friend Hugo Chavez, the firebrand socialist president of Venezuela, was not untouched by intimidation from Establishment forces. “I remember talking to Chavez many times and saying, ‘Comandante, why do you stop there?’ ” Ali said. “He said it is not realistic to do it at the present time. We can regulate them, make life difficult for capitalism, use oil money for the poor, but we can’t topple the system.”
Ali added, “The Greeks and the Spanish are saying the same.”
“I don’t know what Syriza thought,” he said. “If it thought we can divide the European elite, we can make a big propaganda campaign in Europe and they will be forced to make concessions, that was foolish. This European elite, led by the Germans, doesn’t crack easily. They have walked all over the Greeks. The Greek leaders should have said to their own people, ‘We are going to try and get the best possible conditions—if not we will report to you what has happened and what we need to do.’ Instead, they fell into the European trap. The Europeans made virtually no concessions that mattered.”
The clash between the Greeks and the corporate elites that dominate Europe, Ali said, is “not economic.”
The European Union is “prepared to pour billions into fighting Russians in the Ukraine,” he said. “It’s not a question of the money. They can throw away the bloody money, as they are preparing to do and are doing in the Ukraine. With the Greeks they pretend it is economic, but it’s political. They are fearful that if the Greeks pull it off, the disease will spread. There are elections in December in Spain. If Podemos [Spain’s left-wing party] wins with Greece already having won and proceeding, however modestly, on a different path, the Spanish will say the Greeks have done it. And then there is the Irish waiting patiently with their progressive parties, saying, ‘Why can’t we do what Syriza has done? Why can’t we unite and take on our extreme center?’ ”
Ali said he was “shocked and angry about all the hopes that were invested in Obama by the left.” He lambasted what he called the American “obsession with identity.” Barack Obama, he said, “is an imperial president and behaves like one, regardless of the color of his skin.” Ali despaired of the gender politics that are fueling a possible run for the White House by Hillary Clinton, who would be the first woman president.
“My reply is, ‘So bloody what?’ ” he said. “If she is going to bomb countries and put drones over whole continents, what difference does her gender make if her politics are the same? That is the key. The political has been devalued and debased under neoliberalism. People retreat into religion or identity. It’s disastrous. I wonder if it is even possible to create something on a national scale in the United States. I wonder if it would be better to concentrate on big cities and states to develop some movements where they can have an influence in Los Angeles, New York or in states such as Vermont. It may be wiser to concentrate on three or four things to show that it can be done. I can’t see the old way of reproducing a political party of the left, modeled on the Republican and Democratic structures, as working. These people only work with money. They do not even speak with very many ordinary people. It is credit-card democracy. The left cannot and should not emulate this. America is the hardest nut to crack, but unless it is cracked we are doomed.”
Ali said he fears that should Americans become politically conscious and resist, the corporate state will impose naked forms of militarized repression. Government’s reaction to the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon stunned him. Authorities “closed down an entire city with the support of the population.” He said that the virtual declaration of martial law in Boston was “a dress rehearsal.”
“If they can do it in Boston they can do it in other cities,” he said. “They needed to try it on in Boston to see if it would work. That frightened me.”
President Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets
Exclusive: Despite promises of “openness,” President Obama has treated information that could inform American democracy like Tolkien’s character Gollum coveted his “precious” ring. Obama is keeping for himself analyses that could change how the public sees the crises in Syria and Ukraine, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry/ Consortium News/ February 16, 2015
President Barack Obama promised a “transparent” administration, reviving democracy by letting Americans see into the inner workings of their government as much as possible, an implicit criticism of the excessive secrecy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. But instead Obama’s presidency has been one of the most opaque and deceptive in modern history.
Not only has Obama continued to wrap the carry-over anti-terrorism wars in maximum secrecy but he has taken unprecedented steps to shut down leaks by prosecuting whistleblowers who talk to the press. And, he has left standing his administration’s misleading rushes to judgment on key issues after U.S. intelligence analysts have refined or reversed the first impressions.
Whether on the Syrian sarin attack in 2013 or pivotal incidents in the Ukraine crisis – who was behind the sniper attacks in Kiev last Feb. 20 and who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last July 17 – Obama has withheld evidence developed by U.S. government analysts rather than undercut the propaganda value of the initial accusations.
In the sarin incident, Secretary of State John Kerry and others rushed to blame President Bashar al-Assad’s government – bringing the U.S. military to the brink of war – and similarly the State Department exploited the two most iconic events of the Ukraine crisis by blaming then-President Viktor Yanukovych for the sniper killings and Russia and ethnic Russian rebels for shooting down MH-17 killing all 298 people onboard.
After the State Department had squeezed out the propaganda value of those accusations, U.S. intelligence analysts came to more detailed conclusions with their findings conflicting with the hasty finger-pointing after the events. But instead of refining or correcting the record, the Obama administration typically went silent, leaving the initial impressions in place even when the President knew better.
In the context of Ukraine, I asked one senior administration official about this behavior and he responded that Russia held most of the advantages there by nature of proximity and history but that one advantage the United States wielded was “information warfare” – and it made no sense to surrender that edge by withdrawing accusations that had put Russian President Vladimir Putin on the defensive.
Thus, in this Orwellian world that seems to have swallowed America’s major institutions, what mattered most was how “information” – including false or misleading propaganda – could be deployed for geopolitical purposes even if it also involved deceiving the U.S. public. Or, one might say, especially if it deceived the U.S. public.
This attitude toward manipulating rather than informing the American people has a long and grim history. For instance, President Lyndon Johnson won congressional support for his disastrous Vietnam War escalation by citing the Tonkin Gulf incident, a false claim about North Vietnamese aggression which has since been debunked but still is used historically by the Defense Department to justify the millions killed in that conflict.
After the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, President Ronald Reagan set up inter-agency task forces devoted to the concept of “perception management,” essentially how to get the American people to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome” and get back into line behind U.S. military interventions abroad, a CIA-inspired campaign that proved stunningly successful. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Victory of ‘Perception Management.’”]
Last decade, the American people got their perceptions managed once more regarding Iraq’s non-existent WMD, leading to another catastrophic war which continues to spread chaos and death across the Middle East to this day. One might think that with that bloody history, President Obama would want to fulfill his promises of “transparency.”
According to a memorandum instructing Executive Branch department heads, Obama wrote: “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”
Instead, Obama has clamped down more than ever on openness and transparency, including the prosecution of more government whistleblowers than all the previous presidents combined and sitting on U.S. intelligence reports that would change how Americans understand major international crises.
By and large, Obama has continued the excessive secrecy of President George W. Bush, including withholding from the American people 28 pages of the 2002 congressional investigation into the 9/11 attack that relate to Saudi financing for al-Qaeda terrorists.
Obama also has refused to give the U.S. public access to the updated intelligence analyses of more current crises, including the near American military entry into the Syrian civil war in 2013 and the potential nuclear showdown with Russia over Ukraine in 2014. So, even when American lives are being put at risk by rushes to judgment, Obama doesn’t believe that the people have a right to know the facts.
By Arlen Grossman
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.
John Lennon “Imagine”
The West worries about terrorist attacks for good reason. The United States and other Western powers are angering a generation of Muslims, and some of them want revenge. Muslims all over the world are understandably angry at the interference, militarily, politically, and economically, of Western Christian nations in the affairs of Muslim countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.
There are a number of reasons for anger among the Muslim population, but Western interference in their lands is probably the most important. Sharif Kouashi, one of the brothers involved in the Charlie Hebro attack in Paris, attributed his radicalization to the Iraq war and “the torture at Abu Ghraib prison. Osama Bin Laden cited among his grievances that led to 9/11: the sanctions on Iraq, the plight of the Palestinians and the occupation of Saudi soil by U.S. troops. Not much has changed since then, and in the intervening years there have been invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as bombings and drone strikes in other Muslim countries, killing thousands, many of them civilians.
Nobody expects Western nations to be leaving the Muslim world anytime in the near future. The West has economic and strategic interests they are unwilling to give up. Since Muslim countries are no match for Western Christian nations militarily, blowback has taken the form of terrorist attacks by various groups and individuals.
All of this is very costly to America and its allies. A 2013 report by Harvard researcher Linda Bilmes places the eventual cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq between $4 and $6 trillion, including medical care and disability for current and future war veterans. That translates to as much as $75,000 for every American household. And Brown University’s Costs of War Project (2014) estimated over 350,000 people–armed forces on all sides, contractors, civilians, etc–have died as a direct result of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Very grim numbers indeed. But lo and behold, there is a solution. Imagine what would happen if the United States took all the personnel and money currently used for military action against the Muslim world and put all of it to use helping and building up those same countries. Think of a super-sized Marshall Plan for the Muslim world.
Imagine what the average Muslim would think if Western nations, instead of invading their countries militarily, came to their lands to help them–building schools, providing health care, and building (or rebuilding) roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Americans and other Western countries would send thousands of non-combat soldiers and citizens invested in making the Muslim world more modern, secure and friendly.
Building a school in Afghanistan (Burlington Free Press)
They might be suspicious at first, but once real assistance was in place, Muslims would start to look at Western powers in a different way: as friends. Terrorism, for good reason, would dissipate. There would no longer be a compelling reason to seek revenge on the West. It would be a win-win scenario for everybody.
Sadly, there is little likelihood of this happening in today’s world. Too many Americans and other Westerners are making enormous sums of money combating terrorism. The military-industrial-security complex (as well as news networks) rakes in billions fanning the fears of a terrorist attack within our borders. They are not about to willingly give up this lucrative cash cow.
That leaves it to the people to demand it. If motivated and war-weary citizens, in America and around the world, organized and took to the streets, demanding a peaceful end to this murderous cycle of perpetual violence, advocating a radical shift in thinking aimed at helping our former adversaries, everything would change. Imagine a more peaceful world with a significantly decreased threat from terrorist attacks. Call me a dreamer, but it really is possible.
Also published at OpEd News, February 8, 2015