Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions

Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions

obamaThe Obama administration has told Congress it supports renewing three provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire at year’s end, measures making it easier for the government to spy within the United States.

In a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department said the administration might consider “modifications” to the act in order to protect civil liberties.

“The administration is willing to consider such ideas, provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities,” Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general, wrote to Leahy, (.pdf) whose committee is expected to consider renewing the three expiring Patriot Act provisions next week. The government disclosed the letter Tuesday.

It should come as no surprise that President Barack Obama supports renewing the provisions, which were part of the Patriot Act approved six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

As an Illinois senator in 2008, he voted to allow the warrantless monitoring of Americans’ electronic communications if they are communicating overseas with somebody the government believes is linked to terrorism. That legislative package, which President George W. Bush signed, also immunized the nation’s telecommunication companies from lawsuits charging them with being complicit with the Bush administration’s warrantless, wiretapping program. That program was also adopted in the wake of Sept. 11.

These are the three provisions due to expire:

*A secret court, known as the FISA court, may grant “roving wiretaps” without the government identifying the target. Generally, the authorities must assert that the target is an agent of a foreign power and/or a suspected terrorist. The government said Tuesday that 22 such warrants — which allow the monitoring of any communication device — have been granted annually.

*The FISA court may grant warrants for “business records,” from banking to library to medical records. Generally, the government must assert that the records are relevant to foreign intelligence gathering and/or a terrorism investigation. The government said Tuesday that 220 of these warrants had been granted between 2004 and 2007. It said 2004 was the first year those powers were used.

*A so-called “lone wolf” provision, enacted in 2004, allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of an individual even without showing that the person is an agent of a foreign power or a suspected terrorist. The government said Tuesday it has never invoked that provision, but said it wants to keep the authority to do so.

“The basic idea behind the authority was to cover situations in which information linking the target of an investigation to an international group was absent or insufficient, although the target’s engagement in ‘international terrorism’ was sufficiently established,” Weich wrote.

The American Civil Liberties opposes renewing all three provisions, especially the lone wolf measure.

Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s legislative counsel, said in a telephone interview, “The justification for FISA and these lower standards and letting it operate in secret was all about terrorist groups and foreign governments, that they posed a unique threat other than the normal criminal element. This lone wolf provision undercuts that justification.”

The committee hearing is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 23 and will be webcast live.
See Also:

Advertisements

The Israel lobby’s global propaganda manual

The Israel lobby’s global propaganda manual

Paul J. Balles

September 16, 2009

Paul J. Balles views a major public relations manual for Israel lobbyists. Written by Dr Frank Luntz, a US Republican political consultant and pollster, on behalf of The Israel Project, a US media advocacy group, it teaches pro-Israel propagandists how to hoodwink people about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, how to silence critics and how to avoid making statements that produce negative reactions.

More than 50 years ago, Vance Packard shook the commercial world with the publication of his book The Hidden Persuaders. It was, as the book jacket claims, “A revealing, often shocking explanation of new techniques of research and methods of persuasion.”

Packard revealed, “If people couldn’t discriminate reasonably, marketers reasoned, they should be assisted in discriminating unreasonably, in some easy, warm, emotional way.”

Much merchandizing success, according to Packard, “…hinged, to a large extent, upon successfully manipulating or coping with our guilt feelings, fears, anxieties, hostilities, loneliness feelings, inner tensions”.

Packard raised serious questions of morality related to the “people-manipulating activities of persuaders … and their ability to contact millions of us simultaneously”, giving them “the power to do good or evil on a scale never before possible in a very short time”.

Among the most evil of the hidden persuaders are the political propagandists. Their “evil” stems from the fact that they have a political agenda, which discriminates unreasonably and is designed to manipulate emotions.

The manipulative approach to politics is, of course, not a discovery of the 1950s, or even the 20th century. Napoleon Bonaparte set up a press bureau that he called his Bureau of Public Opinion. Its function was “to manufacture political trends to order”.

Just as Napoleon Bonaparte believed that “public opinion is a mysterious and invisible power, to which everything must yield”, Niccolò Machiavelli, Italian author of The Prince, described the arts with which a ruling prince can maintain control of his realm.

In a document published by The Israel Project entitled “The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary”, Dr Frank Luntz unmasks a modern-day propaganda campaign that would have made Napoleon and Machiavelli proud. He writes:

There is NEVER, EVER, any justification for the deliberate slaughter of innocent women and children. NEVER. The primary Palestinian public relations goal is to demonstrate that the so-called “hopelessness of the oppressed Palestinians” is what causes them to go out and kill children. This must be challenged immediately, aggressively, and directly.

The emotional appeal to saving children works, but the appeal is based on two lies:

(1) that Palestinians generally (not only suicide bomber extremists) are the ones who kill children, while Israelis (not individual extremists, but Israel’s armed forces) never slaughter Palestinian children.

(2) The second falsehood is that the Palestinians have a public relations goal that must be challenged when, in fact, the Palestinians have proven to be hopeless and goalless when it comes to public relations. Unlike Frank Luntz, the Palestinians have no effective PR voices. They can’t even get their ambassador in the UK to speak out to the British public about Israel’s lies and propaganda.

Next, Luntz attempts to sound reasonable by speaking of acceptable disagreements about economics or politics against fundamental principles of civilized people. The evil allusion here is that the Palestinians are the uncivilized people who target Israeli children.

“We may disagree about politics and we may disagree about economics. But there is one fundamental principle that all peoples from all parts of the globe will agree on: civilized people do not target innocent women and children for death,” writes Luntz.

The entire passage, again appealing unreasonably to emotions, makes the pretence that Israel did not target innocent women and children for death with their murderous indiscriminate bombing and missile attacks on Gaza against a huge civilian population of women and children.

However, distorted propaganda about children isn’t enough for Luntz. This is but one part of a page out of 114 pages devoted to this manual for distribution to thousands of propagandists for Israel.

Advancing only as far as page nine, the guided Israel promoters will find “Words that work” (sections that are actually throughout the book). Here’s what Luntz has to say about Gaza:

Israel made painful sacrifices and took a risk to give peace a chance. They voluntarily removed over 9,000 settlers from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, abandoning homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship in the hopes of renewing the peace process.

How generous he makes the Israelis appear, when in fact the removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza had nothing to do with giving peace a chance. As the Israeli Yossi Alpher points out, removal of the settlers gave a demographic advantage to Israel. He says, “no longer are Jewish and Arab populations mixed there in a manner that points to a single binational state as the solution”.

In other words, Ariel Sharon could close the borders, imprison Gazans, hoping they will simply be forced to leave by starvation, murder fishermen and initiate military operations whenever they’re not involved in attacking Lebanon to the north, to slaughter more Hamas women and children.

Then Luntz adds more “Words that work” for the indoctrination of his readers – Israeli propagandists:

Despite making an overture for peace by withdrawing from Gaza, Israel continues to face terrorist attacks, including rocket attacks and drive-by shootings of innocent Israelis. Israel knows that for a lasting peace, they must be free from terrorism and live with defensible borders.

As mentioned earlier, withdrawal from Gaza had nothing to do with an “overture for peace”. The rocket attacks have been a response to being locked into an open-air prison; and they’re aimed at land stolen by Israel. The “drive-by shootings of innocent Israelis” are figments of Luntz’s imagination.

The “free from terrorism and live with defensible borders” line is the overworked motto that twists the truth in the continuing belief that if repeated often enough it will be believed.

No matter how often the propagandists repeat this mantra, the truth is that a few resistance fighters from Hamas have lobbed ineffective rockets against a well-supplied army of Israel’s state terrorists; and the borders they want to defend are on land stolen from the Palestinians.

One might wish that the training in how to spread Israeli propaganda would stop there. If the Palestinians were up to the task, they might counter the lies with what they know of the history and suffering of Palestinians under occupation. Unfortunately, those with the linguistic ability to cope with the Israeli propaganda machine worry about endangering themselves and their families by speaking the truth.

Those who can only speak Arabic fluently are often busy fighting tribal wars within (Gazans vs. the Palestinian Authority), and they can’t compete with Israel’s skilled English speakers or against the organized promotional efforts Israel makes with Americans and Europeans.

Making the task of exposing the lies and deceit exceptionally difficult, Luntz’s propaganda tract, which unravels advice about the “how-to” of Israeli propaganda for 114 pages, seems Herculean to say the least.

Luntz offers advice about things like “Americans want a team to cheer for. Let the public know GOOD things about Israel.” He follows that with “Draw direct parallels between Israel and America – including the need to defend against terrorism.”

He tells his readers to make salient comparisons between Israel and America: “The language of Israel is the language of America: ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, ‘security’, and ‘peace'”.

Even while Israel is throwing Arabs out of their homes in East Jerusalem to make room for Jews, Luntz repeats the boast about how “Israel, America’s ally, is a democracy in the Middle East”. If he reported the truth about the so-called democracy in Israel, he would reveal how it’s really a bigoted apartheid state.

The book is full of charts showing just how effective Israel’s propaganda campaign has been. Not only do Americans believe that Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East, but that they both share the same values.

Another chart shows that 58 per cent of Americans believe that the US should support Israel, while only 9 per cent believe that they should support Palestinians. Even when coaching others in how to propagandize, Luntz couldn’t resist the revealing boast about how effective their PR work has been.

The entire screed utilizes all the tricks available to a clever wordsmith: how to use rhetorical questions to silence others, how to pretend that you’re sympathetic with the people but not their evil leaders, how to avoid making statements that produce negative reactions.

All of that came from the first of 18 chapters. Several other chapters, especially on “words that work”, talk about settlements, Israel’s so-called right to self-defence, Hamas, and tackling a nuclear Iran will be taken up in coming exposures.


Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.

Forcing the Taliban to Fight the Taliban

[So Kayani’s solution is to try to force one bunch of militants to go to war against the biggest bunch of militants, a task deemed so difficult that the Army and Air Force combined wouldn’t even try it.  Is Pakistan even following all this?  What has happened to the Army that most Pakistanis praise, but now, refuses to defend Pakistan from the menace it has helped to create?  The generals side with the American generals, as both sit back and watch the dramas unfold, that they have together created (with Saudi and Israeli assistance)]

Waziristan power politics

By Alamgir Bitani

This November 26, 2008 photo taken in Orakzai tribal region of Pakistan shows Hakimullah Mehsud who has become the leader of Pakistani Taliban faction after death of Baitullah Mehsud. — AP

On August 5 when a US drone fired a missile at a house in South Waziristan, my source in the Taliban-infested area informed me that TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud had been killed instantly.

The missile strike took out its prized target but also set off rumours — some that he had been killed and others, attributed mainly to the Taliban, that he had not been eliminated — until his successor was announced.

However, there were others who were worried about the Taliban phenomenon with regard to the growing differences among the jihadists. Who would replace Baitullah? What would be their future course of action? There were many contenders: Qari Hussain, Hakimullah, Maulana Waliur Rehman, Noor Saeed, Azmatullah and Raees Khan.

The choice was really hard for the Taliban. Tribal affinities and the Salafi factor were at the centre of post-Baitullah power politics in Waziristan, which prevented the 43-member Taliban shura from naming a new chief. The delay also showed that Baitullah had never nominated a successor.

The top three contenders Hakimullah, Qari Hussain and Azam Tariq belong to the Balolzai branch of the Mehsud tribe, whereas Maulana Waliur Rehman, Azmatullah and Noor Saeed come from the Manzai branch. Historically, the Manzai sub-tribe has been in the forefront of power politics in Mehsud territory and has provided both manpower and leadership to the Taliban.

The Manzai finally lost to the Balolzai when it came to the TTP succession. Hakimullah sidelined the rest and the Taliban shura was left with no option but to choose between him and Maulana Waliur Rehman. They crowned Hakimullah, while Maulana Waliur Rehman was made ameer of South Waziristan. Azam Tariq was nominated as spokesman.

Will it be possible for the TTP to sustain its mainstream leadership in Waziristan? Or will the Salafi school stake its claim? The influence of the militant Ashaat Tauheed wa Sunnah (Panj Piri), JUI-F and the outlawed Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan is also a factor.

The Taliban have deep-rooted differences: Faqir Mohammad, TTP chief in Bajaur, had earlier announced that Hakimullah would be the new leader whereas NWFP MP Mufti Kifayatullah of the JUI-F told the media that Maulana Waliur Rehman had been nominated TTP chief.

The Taliban in Khyber Agency, Bajaur, Orakzai and Swat are influenced by the Salafi (Panj Piri) school of thought. In Orakzai Agency, where the Taliban have challenged Shia militants on their turf, the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has swelled the ranks of the TTP giving it a sectarian overtone, which is why Azam Tariq, with clear affiliations to the sectarian outfit, has been appointed as TTP’s central spokesman. The Salafi movement has overshadowed the Taliban from Swat to Orakzai except for Waziristan where the JUI-F is still calling the shots.

What is the picture that emerges?

Baitullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir had, in March 2009, formed a 13-member council called Shura-i-Ittihadul Mujahideen. The shura received a death-blow on August 15 when 17 associates of Maulvi Nazir and Gul Bahadur were gunned down in the Mehsud-dominated Salae Roghae area of the Ladha sub-division. The Nazir group later demanded that the Baitullah group hand over eight men, including Uzbeks and Mehsuds, to it for their complicity. Thus the Shura-i-Ittihadul Mujahideen fell apart.

Room to breathe for the Hakimullah-led TTP has considerably lessened with the presence of the Abdullah group in the Mehsud area, Turkistan Bitani in the FR Tank area, Maulvi Nazir in the Wazir-dominated area and Hafiz Gul Bahadar in North Waziristan.

Another predicament for the TTP is a new government strategy. As the NWFP governor announced in June that a tribal jirga had failed to deliver, the political administration pressed tribal elders to form lashkars against the Taliban. The political administration with the help of intelligence agencies picked up tribesmen from as far off as Karachi using the collective responsibility clause of the FCR to tell them ‘either you are with us or against us’.

They were also told they could either financially support the raising of a lashkar or participate in one and that, in keeping with tribal custom, a third party would take responsibility for the ‘damage’. The government already has links with the Abdullah Mehsud group — comprising mainly the Shamenkhel tribe and aided by the Balolzai Mehsud — in this regard. An official, seeking anonymity, said that the groundwork for the lashkars had been laid and that the two main ones would start their onslaught after Eid (Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which in 2009 occurs on September 21. Literally the “Festival of Breaking the Fast,”) — one mobilised in the vicinity of the border town of Makin which is a Baitullah stronghold and the other near Kotkai, both in South Waziristan.

Both are important. Kotkai is the gateway to South Waziristan from the eastern side. Makin is important as in its north is the Razmak fort with heavy military deployment. It seems that this time the lashkar will work as it did in the Wazir-dominated area of South Waziristan under the leadership of Maulvi Nazir to flush out Uzbeks in March 2007.

From the Tiarza fort side, towards the south of the tribal agency, the already strained relations of the Nazir group with the TTP might prove of great help in checking the trickle of the TTP men towards the southern parts. The heavy military presence in Wana, Shakkai and Tannai fort will further choke the Taliban. As per the new strategy, the TTP may find it difficult to slug it out. Nevertheless it is the ordinary folk of Waziristan who will suffer most.

The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist.

alamgirbitani@gmail.com

Why Propaganda Trumps Truth

By Paul Craig Roberts
September 15, 2009 “Information Clearing House” — -An article in the journal, Sociological Inquiry, casts light on the effectiveness of propaganda.  Researchers examined why big lies succeed where little lies fail.  Governments can get away with mass deceptions, but politicians cannot get away with sexual affairs.
The researchers explain why so many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it has become obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with the event. Americans developed elaborate rationalizations based on Bush administration propaganda that alleged Iraqi involvement and became deeply attached to their beliefs.  Their emotional involvement became wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of morality.  They looked for information that supported their beliefs and avoided information that challenged them, regardless of the facts of the matter.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler explained the believability of the Big Lie as compared to the small lie: “In the simplicity of their minds, people more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.  It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have such impudence.  Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”
What the sociologists and Hitler are telling us is that by the time facts become clear, people are emotionally wedded to the beliefs planted by the propaganda and find it a wrenching experience to free themselves.  It is more comfortable, instead, to denounce the truth-tellers than the liars whom the truth-tellers expose.
The psychology of belief retention even when those beliefs are wrong is a pillar of social cohesion and stability.  It explains why, once change is effected, even revolutionary governments become conservative. The downside of belief retention is its prevention of the recognition of facts.  Belief retention in the Soviet Union made the system unable to adjust to economic reality, and the Soviet Union collapsed.  Today in the United States millions find it easier to chant “USA, USA, USA” than to accept facts that indicate the need for change.
The staying power of the Big Lie is the barrier through which the 9/11 Truth Movement is finding it difficult to break.  The assertion that the 9/11 Truth Movement consists of conspiracy theorists and crackpots is obviously untrue.  The leaders of the movement are highly qualified professionals, such as demolition experts, physicists, structural architects, engineers, pilots, and former high officials in the government.  Unlike their critics parroting the government’s line, they know what they are talking about.
Here is a link to a presentation by the architect, Richard Gage, to a Canadian university audience: http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=13242 The video of the presentation is two hours long and seems to have been edited to shorten it down to two hours.  Gage is low-key, but not a dazzling personality or a very articulate presenter. Perhaps that is because he is speaking to a university audience and takes for granted their familiarity with terms and concepts.
Those who believe the official 9/11 story and dismiss skeptics as kooks can test the validity of the sociologists’ findings and Hitler’s observation by watching the video and experiencing their reaction to evidence that challenges their beliefs. Are you able to watch the presentation without scoffing at someone who knows far more about it than you do?  What is your response when you find that you cannot defend your beliefs against the evidence presented?  Scoff some more?  Become enraged?
Another problem that the 9/11 Truth Movement faces is that few people have the education to follow the technical and scientific aspects.  The side that they believe tells them one thing; the side that they don’t believe tells them another. Most Americans have no basis to judge the relative merits of the arguments.
For example, consider the case of the Lockerbie bomber.  One piece of “evidence” that was used to convict Magrahi was a piece of circuit board from a device that allegedly contained the Semtex that exploded the airliner.  None of the people, who have very firm beliefs in Magrahi’s and Libya’s guilt and in the offense of the Scottish authorities in releasing Magrahi on allegedly humanitarian grounds, know that circuit boards of those days have very low combustion temperatures and go up in flames easily.  Semtex produces very high temperatures.  There would be nothing whatsoever left of a device that contained Semtex.  It is obvious to an expert that the piece of circuit board was planted after the event.
I have asked on several occasions and have never had an answer, which does not mean that there isn’t one, how millions of pieces of unburnt, uncharred paper can be floating over lower Manhatten from the destruction of the WTC towers when the official explanation of the destruction is fires so hot and evenly distributed that they caused the massive steel structures to weaken and fail simultaneously so that the buildings fell in free fall time just as they would if they had been brought down by controlled demolition. What is the explanation of fires so hot that steel fails but paper does not combust?
People don’t even notice the contradictions.  Recently, an international team of scientists, who studied for 18 months dust samples produced by the twin towers’ destruction collected from three separate sources, reported their finding of nano-thermite  in the dust.  The US government had scientists dependent on the US government to debunk the finding on the grounds that the authenticity of custody of the samples could not be verified.  In other words, someone had tampered with the samples and added the nano-thermite.  This is all it took to discredit the finding, despite the obvious fact that access to thermite is strictly controlled and NO ONE except the US military and possibly Israel has access to nano-thermite.
The physicist, Steven Jones, has produced overwhelming evidence that explosives were used to bring down the buildings.  His evidence is not engaged, examined, tested, and refuted.  It is simply ignored.
Dr. Jones’ experience reminds me of that of my Oxford professor, the distinguished physical chemist and philosopher, Michael Polanyi.  Polanyi was one of the 20th centuries great scientists.  At one time every section chairman of the Royal Society was a Polanyi student.  Many of his students won Nobel Prizes for their scientific work, such as Eugene Wigner at Princeton and Melvin Calvin at UC, Berkeley, and his son, John Polanyi, at the University of Toronto.
As a young man in the early years of the 20th century, Michael Polanyi discovered the explanation for chemical absorbtion. Scientific authority found the new theory too much of a challenge to existing beliefs and dismissed it.  Even when Polanyi was one of the UK’s ranking scientists, he was unable to teach his theory.  One half-century later his discovery was re-discovered by scientists at UC, Berkeley.  The discovery was hailed, but then older scientists said that it was “Polanyi’s old error.”  It turned out not to be an error.  Polanyi was asked to address scientists on this half-century failure of science to recognize the truth.  How had science, which is based on examining the evidence, gone so wrong.  Polanyi’s answer was that science is a belief system just like everything else, and that his theory was outside the belief system.
That is what we observe all around us, not just about the perfidy of Muslims and 9/11.As an economics scholar I had a very difficult time making my points about the Soviet economy, about Karl Marx’s theories, and about the supply-side impact of fiscal policy.  Today I experience readers who become enraged just because I report on someone else’s work that is outside their belief system.  Some readers think I should suppress work that is inconsistent with their beliefs and drive the author of the work into the ground.  These readers never have any comprehension of the subject.  They are simply emotionally offended.
What I find puzzling is the people I know who do not believe a word the government says about anything except 9/11.  For reasons that escape me, they believe that the government that lies to them about everything else tells them the truth about 9/11.  How can this be, I ask them.  Did the government slip up once and tell the truth?  My question does not cause them to rethink their belief in the government’s 9/11 story.  Instead, they get angry with me for doubting their intelligence or their integrity or some such hallowed trait.
The problem faced by truth is the emotional needs of people.  With 9/11 many Americans feel that they must believe their government so that they don’t feel like they are being unsupportive or unpatriotic, and they are very fearful of being called “terrorist sympathizers.”  Others on the left-wing have emotional needs to believe that peoples oppressed by the US have delivered “blowbacks.”  Some leftists think that America deserves these blowbacks and thus believe the government’s propaganda that Muslims attacked the US.
Naive people think that if the US government’s explanation of 9/11 was wrong, physicists and engineers would all speak up.  Some have (see above). However, for most physicists and engineers this would be an act of suicide. Physicists owe their careers to government grants, and their departments are critically dependent on government funding.  A physicist who speaks up essentially ends his university career.  If he is a tenured professor, to appease Washington the university would buy out his tenure as BYU did in the case of the outspoken Steven Jones.
An engineering firm that spoke out would never again be awarded a government contract.  In addition, its patriotic, flag-waving customers would regard the firm as a terrorist apologist and cease to do business with it.
In New York today there is an enormous push by 9/11 families for a real and independent investigation of the 9/11 events.  Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have provided the necessary signatures on petitions that require the state to put the proposal for an independent commission up to vote. However, the state, so far, is not obeying the law.

Why are the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are demanding a real investigation dismissed as conspiracy theorists?  The 9/11 skeptics know far more about the events of that day than do the uninformed people who call them names.  Most of the people I know who are content with the government’s official explanation have never examined the evidence.  Yet, these no-nothings shout down those who have studied the matter closely.

There are, of course, some kooks.  I have often wondered if these kooks are intentionally ridiculous in order to discredit knowledgeable skeptics.
Another problem that the 9/11 Truth Movement faces is that their natural allies, those who oppose the Bush/Obama wars and the internet sites that the antiwar movement maintains, are fearful of being branded traitorous and anti-American.  It is hard enough to oppose a war against those the US government has successfully demonized.  Antiwar sites believe that if they permit 9/11 to be questioned, it would brand them as “terrorist sympathizers” and discredit their opposition to the war. An exception is Information Clearing House.
Antiwar sites do not realize that, by accepting the 9/11 explanation, they have undermined their own opposition to the war. Once you accept that Muslim terrorists did it, it is difficult to oppose punishing them for the event.  In recent months, important antiwar sites, such as antiwar.com, have had difficulty with their fundraising, with their fundraising campaigns going on far longer than previously.  They do not understand that if you grant the government its premise for war, it is impossible to oppose the war.
As far as I can tell, most Americans have far greater confidence in the government than they do in the truth. During the Great Depression the liberals with their New Deal succeeded in teaching Americans to trust the government as their protector.  This took with the left and the right.  Neither end of the political spectrum is capable of fundamental questioning of the government.  This explains the ease with which our government routinely deceives the people.
Democracy is based on the assumption that people are rational beings who factually examine arguments and are not easily manipulated. Studies are not finding this to be the case.  In my own experience in scholarship, public policy, and journalism, I have learned that everyone from professors to high school dropouts has difficulty with facts and analyses that do not fit with what they already believe.   The notion that “we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead” is an extremely romantic and idealistic notion.  I have seldom experienced open minds even in academic discourse or in the highest levels of government.  Among the public at large, the ability to follow the truth wherever it may lead is almost non-existent.
The US government’s response to 9/11, regardless of who is responsible, has altered our country forever.  Our civil liberties will never again be as safe as they were.  America’s financial capability and living standards are forever lower.  Our country’s prestige and world leadership are forever damaged.  The first decade of the 21st century has been squandered in pointless wars, and it appears the second decade will also be squandered in the same pointless and bankrupting pursuit.
The most disturbing fact of all remains:  The 9/11 event responsible for these adverse happenings has not been investigated.

The Sham Debate Over Obama’s Af-Pak War

Afghan Taliban

The Sham Debate Over Obama’s Af-Pak War

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Click the flash player below to listen to or the mic to download an mp3 copy of this BA Radio commentary.

If the Afghanistan-Pakistan war is a necessity, then it certainly must be escalated. President Obama’s framing of the conflict leaves no room for peace, yet purported peace activists refuse to confront him. Such a movement is not simply shallow: “it is a fraud.”
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Obama has not altered the Bush war on terror paradigm, he has reinforced it.”
With the help of cooperative corporate media, President Obama attempts to create the impression of a vigorous internal debate within his administration over how much bigger the so-called Af-Pak theater of war is going to get. The charade is designed to demonstrate that, unlike the “dumb wars” that Obama opposes, this one is being transformed into a smart war, intelligently escalated. That U.S. troop levels will increase, even as reluctant European allies move towards downsizing their commitments, is a foregone conclusion, since the president has already characterized the conflict as a “war of necessity.” If a war is necessary, then by definition, the national commitment must be open-ended and beyond question.
So what is there to debate? The president has framed the issue as one of inevitability. Last month Obama told a veterans group that, “If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.” That’s the same rationale that George Bush deployed to justify not only the Afghanistan invasion, eight years ago, but the Iraq invasion, the war against Somalia and, indeed, the whole concept of global American wars without end. Barack Obama has not altered the Bush war on terror paradigm, he has reinforced it.
Once one accepts the Bush-Cheney – and now Obama-Biden – logic of necessary war, peace becomes impossible. To the extent that those who claim to be part of the U.S. peace movement remain ambivalent on Obama’s war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they become accomplices in the aggression.
Much of what passes for a U.S. peace movement has no more respect for international law than the administrations they protest against.”
The U.S. anti-war movement fails to institutionalize itself, acting only in fits and starts when it acts at all, because much of its leadership refuses to recognize the United States as an imperial power. They allow themselves to become enmeshed in phony debates about how U.S. forces should comport themselves in other people’s countries, rather than question America’s right to inflict itself on other peoples. They agonize over levels of U.S. military force deployed and monies spent; whether the frequency of U.S. atrocities is up or down; and embroil themselves in discussions of the relative merits of American-imposed puppet regimes. Shamefully, much of what passes for a U.S. peace movement has no more respect for international law than the administrations they protest against. They seek only a more benign imperialism, in which they can see themselves as the good guys.
To the extent that a purported peace movement accepts that the United States has any rights that smaller nations do not possess, it is not simply a shallow movement: it is a fraud – just as fraudulent as Barack Obama was as a “peace” candidate. Such a movement is helpless against the logic of imperial war, because it accepts the underlying premise, that the United States has a right to intervene in the affairs of others. If that is true, then U.S. General Stanley McChrystal should be commended and supported when he claims that all he wants to do is “protect” the Afghan people, whether they like it or not. At any rate, it’s necessary. Obama says so.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Stop Begging Obama and Get Mad

Stop Begging Obama and Get Mad

By Chris Hedges
Truthdig

President Obama is mobbed after delivering his major health care address to Congress. Obama has promised to deliver millions of new customers to insurance companies.

The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country’s future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state.

The right wing is not wrong. It is not the problem. We are the problem. If we do not tap into the justifiable anger sweeping across the nation, if we do not militantly push back against corporate fraud and imperial wars that we cannot win or afford, the political vacuum we have created will be filled with right-wing lunatics and proto-fascists. The goons will inherit power not because they are astute, but because we are weak and inept.

Violence is a dark undercurrent of American history. It is exacerbated by war and economic decline. Violence is spreading outward from the killing fields in Iraq and Afghanistan to slowly tear apart individuals, families and communities. There is no immunity. The longer the wars continue, the longer the members of our working class are transformed by corporate overlords into serfs, the more violence will dominate the landscape. The slide into chaos and a police state will become inevitable.

The soldiers and Marines who return from Iraq and Afghanistan are often traumatized and then shipped back a few months later to be traumatized again. This was less frequent in Vietnam. Veterans, when they get out, search for the usual escape routes of alienation, addictions and medication. But there is also the escape route of violence. We risk creating a homegrown Freikorps, the demobilized German soldiers from World War I who violently tore down the edifice of the Weimar Republic and helped open the way to Nazism.

The Afghanistan and Iraq wars have unloaded hundreds of thousands of combat troops, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, back into society. According to a joint Veterans Affairs Department-University of San Francisco study published in July, 418,000 of the roughly 1.9 million service members who have fought in or supported the wars suffer from PTSD. As of August 2008, the latest data available, about a quarter-million military veterans were imprisoned on any given day—about 9.4 percent of the total daily imprisoned population, according to the National Gains Center Forum on Combat Veterans, Trauma and the Justice System. There are 223,000 veterans in jail or prison cells on an average day, and an unknown number among the 4 million Americans on probation. They don’t have much to look forward to upon release. And if any of these incarcerated vets do not have PTSD when they are arrested, our corrections system will probably rectify the deficiency. Throw in the cocktail of unemployment, powerlessness, depression, alienation, anger, alcohol and drugs and you create thousands, if not tens of thousands, who will seek out violence the way an addict seeks out a bag of heroin.

War and conflict have marked most of my adult life. I know what prolonged exposure to industrial slaughter does to you. I know what it is to confront memories, buried deep within the subconscious, which jerk you awake at night, your heart racing and your body covered in sweat. I know what it is like to lie, unable to sleep, your heart pounding, trying to remember what it was that caused such terror. I know how it feels to be overcome by the vivid images of violence that make you wonder if the dream or the darkness around you is real. I know what it feels like to stumble through the day carrying a shock and horror, an awful cement-like despair, which you cannot shed. And I know how after a few nights like this you are left numb and exhausted, unable to connect with anyone around you, even those you love the most. I know how you drink or medicate yourself into a coma so you do not have to remember your dreams. And I know that great divide that opens between you and the rest of the world, especially the civilian world, which cannot imagine your pain and your hatred. I know how easily this hatred is directed toward those in that world.

There are minefields of stimulants for those who return from war. Smells, sounds, bridges, the whoosh of a helicopter, thrust you back to Iraq or another zone of slaughter, back to a time of terror and blood, back to the darkest regions of your heart, regions you wish did not exist. Life, on some days, is a simple battle to stay upright, to cope with memories and trauma that are unexplainable, probably unimaginable, to those seated across from you at the breakfast table. Families will watch these veterans fall silent, see the thousand-yard stare, and know they have again lost these men and women. They hope somehow they will come back. Some won’t. Those who cannot cope, even by using Zoloft or Paxil, blow their brains out with drugs, alcohol or a gun. More Vietnam veterans died from suicide in the years after the war than during the conflict itself. But it would be a mistake to blame this on Vietnam. War does this to you. It destroys part of you. You live maimed. If you are not able to live maimed, you check out.

But what happens in a society where everything conspires to check you out even when you make the herculean effort to integrate into the world of malls, celebrity gossip and too many brands of cereal on a supermarket shelf? What happens when the corporate state says that you can die in its wars but at home you are human refuse, that there is no job, no way to pay your medical bills or your mortgage, no hope? Then you retreat into your private hell of rage, terror and alienation. You do not return from the world of war. You yearn for its sleek and powerful weapons, its speed and noise, its ability to abolish the lines between sanity and madness. You long for the alluring, hallucinogenic landscapes of combat. You miss the psychedelic visions of carnage and suffering, the smells, sounds, shrieks, explosions and destruction that jolt you back to the present, which make you aware in ways you never were before. The thrill of violence, the God-like power that comes when you can take a human life with impunity, is matched against the pathetic existence of waiting for an unemployment check. You look to rejoin the fraternity of killers. Here. There. It no longer matters.

There is a yawning indifference at home about what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hollow language of heroism and glory, used by the war makers and often aped by those in the media, allows the nation to feel good about war, about “service.” But it is also a way of muzzling the voices that attempt to tell us the truth about war. And when these men and women do find the moral courage to speak, they often find that many fellow Americans turn away in disgust or attack them for shattering the myth. The myth of war is too enjoyable, and too profitable, to be punctured by reality. And so these veterans nurse their fantasies of power. They begin to hate those who sent them as much as they hate those they fought. Some cannot distinguish one from the other.

As I stared into the faces of the men from A Gathering of Eagles on Saturday at a protest calling for the closure of the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia, I recognized these emotions. These men had arrived on black motorcycles. They were wearing leather jackets. They had lined up, most holding large American flags, to greet the protesters, some of whom were also veterans. They chanted “Traitors!” at the seven people who were arrested for refusing the police order to leave the premises. They sought vindication from a system that had, although they could not admit it, betrayed them. They yearned to be powerful, if only for a moment, if only by breaking through the police line and knocking some God-hating communist faggot to the ground. They wanted the war to come home.

It is we who are guilty, guilty for sending these young men and women to wars that did not have to be fought. It is we who are guilty for turning away from the truth of war to wallow in a self-aggrandizing myth, guilty because we create and decorate killers and when they come home maimed and broken we discard them. It is we who are guilty for failing to defy a Democratic Party that since 1994 has betrayed the working class by destroying our manufacturing base, slashing funds to assist the poor and cravenly doing the bidding of corporations. It is we who are guilty for refusing to mass on Washington and demand single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans. It is we who are guilty for supporting Democrats while they funnel billions in taxpayer dollars to sustain speculative Wall Street interests. The rage of the confused and angry right-wing marchers, the ones fired up by trash-talking talk show hosts, the ones liberals belittle and maybe even laugh at, should be our rage. And if it is not our rage soon, if we continue to humiliate and debase ourselves by begging Obama to be Obama, we will see our open society dismantled not because of the shrewdness of the far right, but because of our moral cowardice.

Chris Hedges spent two decades covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East and is the author of “War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.” His latest book is “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.” His weekly column appears Mondays on Truthdig.

Truthdig

Pakistanis Want US Declared ‘Hostile State’

Pakistanis Want US Declared ‘Hostile State’

By Atif F Qureshi. PKKH

Can Pakistan resist Pax Pox Americana?

When it is said to them: “Make not mischief on the Earth,” they say: “Why, we only want to make peace!”

Holy Qur’an 2:11


Wherever the Americans go, their policies spread poison. Under the pretext of ‘freedom and democracy’ US policy-makers trample over weaker nations, placing and replacing puppet rulers on a whim and propagandising against all aspirations for true independence. (Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrown is a must book to read in this context).

With total control of global media, and their weapons of mass distraction, they are able to crush resistance at the very root – before it even forms in the mind. Just as Noam Chomsky said, “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged”.

Yet in spite of the ‘fasad-fil-ardh’ that America has unleashed around the world, we still see an unseemly obsession with all things American. Suffering from a mass psychosis akin to Stockholm-syndrome, even nations traumatised and brutalised by America see only America as possible salvation. Clearly, American propagandists have done their work well.

Not in Pakistan. In what can only be described as a clear and hopeful sign that this nation is awakening, recent polls have revealed that the Pakistani public categorically denounces American policies. A recently conducted poll by PakistanKaKhudaHafiz.com revealed that 89% of over 1,000 participants were of the opinion that the United States should be declared as a hostile state.

This only reinforces another scientifically conducted poll conducted by the Al-Jazeera network that found that over 70% of Pakistanis held America to be the greatest threat to the sovereignty and independence of Pakistan – even greater than arch-rival and eternal enemy India.

So great is this a problem for the Americans that when their Generals in the region are quizzed by journalists, they are more likely to be asked about the ‘battle for hearts and minds’ rather than actual battles. But in spite of the feigned concern in Washington, the widespread anti-Americanism is not too great a concern for US policymakers. After all, as far as the US is concerned, only Pakistan’s puppet leaders need be pro-US – the rest of Pakistan can go to hell. But in this lies the problem for the US. As the farcical reality of Pakistan’s democracy is becoming increasingly clear to the public at large, they are turning their ire not just on their puppet leaders, but on their foreign puppet-masters. And this does not bode well for US’s future plans for the region.

This anti-US mood in Pakistan is nothing new. It is a mode of thought that is familiar to most Pakistanis – and with good reason. US-Pak relations have always been fractious – not based on mutual trust and respect but on mutual suspicion and necessity. Every Pakistani, from street sweeper to industrialist, knows of the infamous incident in the early 1990’s when the US failed to deliver to Pakistan dozens of F16 fighter jets that Pakistan had already paid for – and not content with humiliating a proud nation enough, in a final salvo, they instead delivered of all things – wheat. The Pakistani public were not impressed to say the least.

But that is old hat. More recently, America has committed a litany of errors that can only lead an objective person to conclude that not only does the US not have Pakistan’s interest to heart, but they are only interested in marginalising and destabilising Pakistan through any means possible. The Pakistani people are not blind. They see the chicanery clearly:

  • The ’surge’ in American troops in Afghanistan accompanied a ’surge’ in terrorism in Pakistan. While the Afghan Taliban never threatened Pakistani sovereignty, since 2001 thousands of innocents have been killed in a wave of suicide bombings in Pakistan that ‘coincidently’, only began after the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in 2001.
  • The deliberate spread of the Afghan occupation into Pakistan and the treatment of both nations as a single theatre or ‘battlefield’ called AfPak. The notion that both nations are to be treated the same even though one is war-torn and primitive while the other has a sophisticated civic society is laughable, but the idea that American forces can strike into Pakistan with impunity is enough to make the average Pakistani’s blood boil.
  • Wave after wave of callous and imprecise drone attacks. These achieve practically nothing while only murdering innocent civilians and riling up the Pakistani public who despair at their feckless government for being complicit in continual violations of the nations sovereignty and dignity.
  • Since 2001 the US has turned a blind eye towards Indian Intelligence operations from inside Afghanistan designed to destabilize Pakistan. According to a report published in September 2008 by Brig (R) Asif Haroon Raja, India has 14 consulates in Afghanistan from which RAW is operating. In Wakhan, Badakshan province, RAW is operating a madarssah, where clerics from India are brainwashing local Afghans, Uzbeks and Tajiks. Their students are then infiltrated into Pakistan where they readily carry out suicide missions and other operations.This blatant infiltration into Afghanistan by the Indian intelligence apparatus has provided safe haven from which Indian agents attack and destabilize Pakistan’s tribal areas and NWFP.In another recent report from Foreign Affairs magazine, by Christine Fair of RAND Corporation gives us the inside:

“Having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar, Afghanistan (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is likely doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Qandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan. Kabul has encouraged India to engage in provocative activities such as using the Border Roads Organization to build sensitive parts of the Ring Road and use the Indo-Tibetan police force for security. It is also building schools on a sensitive part of the border in Kunar–across from Bajaur.” (Pakistan’s Tribal Area where Pakistan Army had to carry out a major operation to eliminate TTP militants).

  • The continual barking by American officials for Pakistan to “DO MORE!” in spite of the fact that no nation has done or sacrificed more to combat terrorism in its own self-interest. The number of soldiers martyred, treasure spent and tears of widows and orphans shed is testimony to the truth that those who claim that Pakistan is half-hearted in this effort are liars.
  • The CIA-sponsored democratic farce whereby American engineered its puppets to sieze the reigns in Pakistan’s recent elections. For those who still deny that the Pakistani elections were engineered, think for a moment how is it possible that the most corrupt and despised man in Pakistan’s entire history, Asif Zardari would become the president of Pakistan if the elections were truly and fairly democratic?
  • Even though our ‘popularly elected’ politicians are in the pocket of the Americans, they remain frustrated that certain institutions in Pakistan remain out of their reach. The black propaganda targeting Pakistan’s patriotic armed forces, intelligence services and nuclear weapons arsenal reveals their obvious intent. Well-aware that these are the only institutions that truly have Pakistan’s interests to heart, the public do not appreciate the Am-Brit campaign to malign them.
  • The so-called Indo-US civilian nuclear deal that makes a blatant mockery of the non-proliferation accords, rewarding Indian intransigence and arrogance at the expense of Pakistan’s national security.
  • The exposure of blatant double-standards is evident as America turns on the weapons tap for India, whom it wishes to turn into its 21st century ’slave soldier’ in order to counter China, while Pakistani officials are left dangling and must debase and humiliate themselves in order to ensure the delivery of a trifling number of F-16’s and helicopters to fight the same enemies that America is sponsoring.
  • The shielding, protection and nurturing of anti-Pakistan insurgent groups on Pakistani soil by the CIA. The so-called ‘Baluchistan Liberation Army’ (Read: Finding Clarity in the Baluchistan Conundrum, by Talha Mujaddidi ) and ‘Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’ are only a few of many. All these groups base their insidious operations from inside Afghanistan – which is occupied by the US.

In spite of their indirect control over our media, America will never win the ‘battle of hearts and minds’ in Pakistan. Even though the rise of the so-called ‘free media’ in Pakistan has brought to the fore a variety rentashills and rentagobs, self proclaimed pseudo-intellectuals who solemnly insist that Pakistan cannot resist Pax Americana (Pox Americana would be more appropriate), the people are not so gullible as to believe it. They see the example of Iran and Venezuala, which although not ideal states by any means, at least demonstrate that those who resist American hegemony can still survive and even prosper.

Where there are pockets of resistance, this only demonstrates the existence of an honourable people who are not prepared to compromise on their dignity. The recent polling is cause for great hope. It proves what was never in doubt – the Pakistani population will not stand for these US violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty and national interest for much longer.

We know that we fear Allah more than we fear America, but the nation must now realise another profound truth – salvation does not lie in continued cooperation and debasement in front of America, but only in faith in Allah and is His Messenger (SAW). It is time for this nation to throw off its shackles and re-declare its independence.

Atif F Qureshi is part of the PKKH Editorial Team and also writes for PakDestiny.net