Dreaming the World Awake

Dreaming the World Awake

By:  Peter Chamberlin

And that was the way it all ended, during that fateful week in September, 2009, the week when one man, President Barack Obama turned the old order upon its head, giving us the blessed New Order we all share in today, in peace and harmony, no longer shackled to the wheels of war that drove the old solutions to humanity’s problems.

You see, it wasn’t always so.  The world never knew real peace until our generation.  Before the beginning of the current era, all of mankind’s resources were dedicated to an inhumane struggle for domination.  There was no hope, as fear was civilization’s primary organizational factor.  Alliances of mutual defense were created, borders were drawn, creating lines to be defended at all costs.  People today cannot understand what went down in the past; very few of us are aware of the terrible price that was paid to create communities of men from cave-dwelling proto-humans.  A global society that has been estranged to the world of fear can hardly fathom the “Week of Change” that marked the beginning of an era of harmony, that began with one man’s inner turmoil and ended with a decisive determination to create a better future for all mankind.

Between Sunday, the 20th of September and Saturday, the 26th, 2009, all the major actors on the world stage, including many of the bit players, were busily pursuing their only desire, the destruction of the earth for perceived self-advancement.  President Obama was meeting with all the world’s leaders, trying to hammer-out a new economic order and hand the Middle East to Israel, while carving-out Africa, Central Asia and South America for the ruling cabal, when…something changed…Obama changed.

Maybe it was the deep vision of innocence he glimpsed in his daughters’ eyes, or a brief window into the potential future, into our time, the era of global harmony, but something within the man changed.  I like to think that it was something that was already within him, that was there lying dormant, all along.  During that fateful, wondrous week, the President of the United States of America remembered the people and the hope that had once inspired the Nation.  He remembered the vision of hope that had often been shared by man and woman alike, as a Nation of simple folks struggled again and again, trying to see that the right thing was done, no matter how great the personal price and sacrifice that might be called for.  He saw the great human need that screamed its own painful reality into every unhearing ear.  He saw that he alone, was the key to fulfilling the need and fanning the flames of hope into a mighty transforming prairie fire of change, burning at the grass roots, feeding the flames of motivation that he had been helplessly calling for, up until then.  The President of the United States took an extremely radical step and reclaimed the power of his office from the deceitful hands of the ruling class.

During the “Week of Change,” Obama was front and center, all over the world stage, fronting for the ruling empire, carrying-on with business as usual, never letting-on to the public or the corporate bosses what he had in mind, or the steps he had, in fact, already taken.  Somewhere in the deepest recesses of the Pentagon, steps were taken to eliminate Israeli options for a first-strike on Iran, setting the stage for the peace pacts that soon followed, beginning with a nuclear free Middle East, as the first step to worldwide disarmament.  The rogue spy agency, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) was secretly harnessed, with all its assets impounded effectively ending the “intelligence-driven” war in Central Asia, giving oversight over the source of America’s continuing aggression to domestic intelligence (FBI).  The Federal Reserve Bank was closed, with all of its assets seized, setting the stage for a global economic realignment and equitable settling of debts.  With this decision, the US Government was bound by agreement to make good on all of its debts incurred while financing the global war of aggression, this included war reparations.

The world war of American aggression was immediately brought to a close, with all US forces bound by mutual agreement to serve the interests of the host governments, while an orderly withdrawal of American troops was made and all foreign bases turned-over to local authorities.  The United States war machine was bound by mutual agreement to rebuild everything that it had been destroyed in its war of global conquest, effectively converting many military assets into construction and transportation equipment, “swords into plowshares.”  Economic reparations extended to America’s racial wars, as well, providing massive economic stimulus to its black minority and several Western states to the remnant of the Native American Indian population.

Of course the repercussions for President Obama were many and they were severe, with multiple assassination attempts made upon himself and his family being the most immediate blowback for his bold moves, as well as the unforgettable attempted military coup which took place the following week and several smaller coup attempts in the ensuing months.  Were it not for selective loyal government agents that Obama had grown close to in his journey to the Oval Office, and the millions of patriotic loyal Americans who flooded the streets and surrounded the White House at first word of the first attempt on the President’s life, we might not know the blissful existence that all of us now share.  Were it not for the few, in support of the brave one, life as we know it would be over.  The lucky few who survived the devastation that the ruling elite had planned would not even know what real hope was, any longer.  What was potentially one of the darkest days in humanity’s history was converted into an everlasting light.  Like flipping a switch, human potential came forth from the darkness that imprisoned it, into the light.  Once freed, the good heart of mankind radiates outward, in all directions, filling the void of meaninglessness, pushing-back even further the edges of the stifling darkness that once imprisoned our souls.

Whatever explains it all, I thank God for it everyday, at regular intervals.  The more I read from the remaining texts of that dreadful era, the more thankful I become.  My research into the events that brought us to this point help me to understand the man behind the myth and the myth behind the man.  The more I learn about Barack Obama, the more I realize that he is just a man, a man a lot like myself.  He was not compelled to take the bold steps that he did, on the contrary, all the forces in his life, the really powerful ones that elevated him to his high position of service, were all pushing him onto an opposite path, to continue humanity’s destructive course.  But there was a Higher Force behind it all, evincing a pattern of hope and opportunity for all, that, until then, could only be glimpsed, but never clearly seen.  Lucky for us all, this one man turned-out to have a deeper desire to see through the matrix of despair, to catch sight of something much more.

Thanks to the concern of a single man, humankind, in fact, all the earth’s creatures, evolved just a little bit.  Maybe I am reading too much into all of this.

Maybe its all just one man’s dream.



Hamas: Abbas Is ‘Stabbing Palestinians in the Back’

Hamas: Abbas Is ‘Stabbing Palestinians in the Back’

Readers Number : 79

22/09/2009 Hamas resistance movement on Tuesday accused Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas of “stabbing Palestinians in the back” by meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Baracka Obama in the tripartite summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday morning.

Abbas’ own Fatah movement has also expressed some hesitation regarding the summit, admonishing their leader for agreeing to meet with Netanyahu before Israel declared a complete free on the occupied West Bank settlement construction.

Associates of the Palestinian president responded to the criticism by characterizing the summit as a “courtesy” meeting and not the start of negotiations.

The White House said on Monday that it had no “grand expectations” from just one trilateral meeting, but said that the move represented the Obama administration’s willingness to embrace the Middle East issue and aim for a stable two-state solution.

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations on Tuesday nevertheless hailed it as “symbolically” significant. “This is much more important and significant than just a photo-op,” Gabriela Shalev said hours before the scheduled meeting.

After Netanyahu landed in New York on Monday evening, his aides told Army Radio that the Israeli prime minister did not expect progress on negotiations to emerge from the upcoming summit. Nevertheless, they echoed Shalev’s assessment that the tripartite meeting was important for symbolic reasons.

Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official told Ynet Tuesday, “We expected Obama to take advantage of the meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas to press Israel on the settlement issue.”

The official called on Obama to try and convince Israel to halt all settlement activity in the West Bank “so that his plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state within two years will not remain on paper alone.”

According to the official, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Washington agreed not to let Netanyahu use the fact that Gaza is ruled by Hamas as “an excuse.” “The issue of Gaza weakens (the PA’s) position, but at this stage we are only discussing the West Bank (which is under PA control),” said the Palestinian official.

“From a security standpoint, the Americans realize that the PA is prepared to assume responsibilities on the ground,” he added, “The trust-building measures are supposed to include not only Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank but also the transfer of security-related responsibilities to the PA.”

The Palestinians are also expected to demand that an Israeli settlement freeze not be dependent on Arab measures towards the normalization of ties with the Zionist entity. “We are not opposed to an improvement in the relations between Israel and the Arab world, but this should not come at the expense of the Palestinians, and it certainly should not be a prerequisite to the launching of series negotiations that will eventually lead to a settlement freeze and the establishment of a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967 borders,” said the official.

The official stressed that the trilateral summit in New York won’t mark the resumption of negotiations. “Talks will resume only when Israel proves its commitment to the Road Map (US-backed peace initiative), particularly with regards to its first clause, which calls for an end to Israeli settlement construction,” he said. “Therefore, we believe that if President Obama wants to promote serious negotiations he must make it clear to Netanyahu that the disaster in the Middle East originates from the continued occupation.”

Our war-loving Foreign Policy Community hasn’t gone anywhere

Our war-loving Foreign Policy Community hasn’t gone anywhere

Glenn Greenwald

Advocates of escalation in Afghanistan chose Bob Woodward to “reprise his role as warmonger hagiographer” by publishing Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s “confidential” memo to the President arguing for increased troops.  As Digby notes, the vague case for continuing to occupy that country is virtually identical to every instance where America’s war-loving Foreign Policy Community advocates the need for new and continued wars.  It’s nothing more than America’s standard, generic “war-is-necessary” rationale.  That is not at all surprising, given that, as Foreign Policy‘s Marc Lynch notes:

The “strategic review” brought together a dozen smart (mostly) think-tankers with little expertise in Afghanistan but a general track record of supporting calls for more troops and a new counter-insurgency strategy.  They set up shop in Afghanistan for a month working in close coordination with Gen. McChrystal, and emerged with a well-written, closely argued warning that the situation is dire and a call for more troops and a new counter-insurgency strategy. Shocking.

The link he provides is to this list of think tank “experts” who worked on McChrystal’s review, including the standard group of America’s war-justifying theorists:  the Kagans, a Brookings representative, Anthony Cordesman, someone from Rand, etc. etc.  What would a group of people like that ever recommend other than continued and escalated war?  It’s what they do.  You wind them up and they spout theories to justify war.  That’s the function of America’s Foreign Policy Community.  As one of their leading members — Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations — recently wrote in re-examining the causes of his enthusiastic support for the attack on Iraq:

Coming from Gelb, of all people, that observation speaks volumes.  As I wrote in 2007:

The Foreign Policy Community — a term which excludes those in primarily academic positions — is not some apolitical pool of dispassionate experts examining objective evidence and engaging in academic debates. Rather, it is a highly ideological and politicized establishment, and its dominant bipartisan ideology is defined by extreme hawkishness, the casual use of military force as a foreign policy tool, the belief that war is justified not only in self-defense but for any “good result,” and most of all, the view that the U.S. is inherently good and therefore ought to rule the world through superior military force.

That “experts” from the “Foreign Policy Community” endorse more war is about as surprising — and as relevant — as former CIA Directors banding together to decide that they oppose the prosecution of CIA agents.  The only event that would be news is if a group of people drawn from that “community” ever did anything other than endorse more war [and in the few instances where one hears war hesitation from them, it’s always on strategic grounds (“we may not be able to achieve our mission”) and never on legal, moral or humanitarian grounds (“it’s really not morally or legally justifiable to slaughter enormous numbers of innocent human beings under these circumstances, or to bomb, invade and occupy a country that isn’t attacking us or even able to attack us”).

* * * * *

We’re not even out of Iraq yet — not really close — and there is already an intense competition underway to determine where we should wage war next.  Escalation in Afghanistan is just one option on the menu.  Iran, of course, is the other (although Venezuela has replaced Syria as a nice dark horse contestant).  In October, 2008, The Washington Post published an Op-Ed from former Senators Chuck Robb (D-Va.) and Dan Coats (R-In.) urging the next President “to begin building up military assets in the region from day one” towards “launching a devastating strike on Iran’s nuclear and military infrastructure.”  That October, 2008 Op-Ed was based on a new report they co-authored for the so-called (and aptly named) “Bipartisan Policy Center,” which I analyzed here.

Today, they have a new Post Op-Ed breathlessly warning that “we have little time left to expend on Iranian stalling tactics” because “Iran will be able to produce a nuclear weapon by 2010” and therefore, if there is no quick diplomatic resolution, “in early 2010, the White House should elevate consideration of the military option.”  Today’s Op-Ed is based an updated report they issued which shrieks in its title that “Time is Running Out” (a phrase melodramatically super-imposed on the cover over an Iranian flag and an almost-expired hourglass:  be afraid, for time is running out on all of us).  The report itself (.pdf) repeatedly demands that the U.S. threaten Iran with severe military action, beginning with a naval blockade (the Report’s advocacy for that action begins by noting, with a dismissive yawn:  “Although technically an act of war . . . .” – what we’re advocating is “technically an act of war”:  whatever).  It then proceeds to lay out the more advanced stages of what our attack on Iran would entail.

The arguments for attacking Iran are so similar to the ones used for Iraq that it’s striking how little effort they make to pretend it’s different (Iran will get nukes, give them to Terrorists, we’ll lose a city, etc.)  The Bipartisan Policy Center Report never takes note of the irony that it “justifies” a threat of attack against Iran by pointing to that country’s violations of U.N. Resolutions, even as Article 2 of the U.N. Charter explicitly provides that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” — a prohibition which Sens. Robb and Coats demand the U.S. violate over and over.  As always, we’re exempt from everything.  Just imagine what our elite class would say if Iran’s leading newspapers routinely published articles from leaders of its two largest political parties explicitly advocating a detailed plan to attack, invade, blockade and bomb the U.S.

Also today in The Post, Fred Hiatt’s Deputy Editor, Jackson Diehl, argues that Israel’s so-called “success” in its attack on Gaza and the lack of bad outcomes from that attack may/should create the view that “even a partial and short-term reversal of the Iranian nuclear program may look to Israelis like a reasonable benefit.”  When examining the costs and benefits, Diehl does not weigh or even mention the more than 700 civilians killed in Gaza (252 of them children, according to an Israeli human rights group), nor the fact that, according to a U.N. Report, Israelis (and Hamas) engaged in war crimes so serious that they may constitute “crimes against humanity” warranting a war crimes tribunal.  When I interviewed one of the “expert consultants” on the Robb/Coats Attack-Iran report last October (Kenneth Katzman), he explicitly acknowledged that, when formulating its recommendations for attacking Iran, the “Bipartisan Policy Center” never considered the number of Iranian civilians we would slaughter if the plan were implemented (you remember Iranian Civilians:  the ones whom Bomb-Iran cheerleaders recently pretended to care so much about).  “Number of civilian deaths” never enters the war-justifying equation because the people doing the weighing aren’t the ones who will be killed.

* * * * *

It’s hard to overstate how aberrational — one might say “rogue” — the U.S. is when it comes to war.  No other country sits around debating, as a routine and permanent feature of its political discussions, whether this country or that one should be bombed next, or for how many more years conquered targets should be occupied.  And none use war as a casual and continuous tool for advancing foreign policy interests, at least nowhere close to the way we do (the demand that Iran not possess nuclear weapons is clearly part of an overall, stated strategy of ensuring that other countries remain incapable of deterring us from attacking them whenever we want to).  Committing to a withdrawal from Iraq appears to be acceptable, but only as long as have our escalations and new wars lined up to replace it (and that’s to say nothing of the virtually invisible wars we’re fighting).  For the U.S., war is the opposite of a “last resort”:  it’s the more or less permanent state of affairs, and few people who matter want it to be any different.

The factions that exert the most dominant influence on our foreign policy have only one principle:  a state of permanent warfare is necessary (the public and private military industry embraces that view because wars are what bestow them with purpose, power and profits, and the Foreign Policy Community does so because — as Gelb says — it bestows “political and professional credibility”).  In his 1790 Political Observation, James Madison warned:  “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded. . . . No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  Can anyone doubt that “continual warfare” is exactly what the U.S. does and, by all appearances, will continue to do for the foreseeable future (at least until we not only run out of money to pay for these wars — as we already have — but also the ability to finance these wars with more debt)?  That proposition is indisputable; it’s true by definition.  Doesn’t turning ourselves into a permanent war-fighting state have some rather serious repercussions that ought to be weighed when deciding if that’s something we really want to keep doing?

Warning Ireland could become police state

Warning Ireland could become police state


CALL FOR NO VOTE: A GERMAN vitamin millionaire who believes the EU is run for the benefit of the pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries has called on Irish people to vote No.

Dr Matthias Rath, through the Dr Rath Health Foundation, is distributing a six-page leaflet to homes in Dublin which claims that a Yes vote will result in the militarisation of Europe and see Ireland turned into a police state.

“What is at stake is the takeover of the economic, social and even private lives of the European people by corporate interests – namely, those in the chemical, pharmaceutical and petrochemical industry – or the preservation of democracy, liberty and freedom.”

Only a No vote, Dr Rath claims, can prevent Europe being turned into “an Orwellian dictatorship on behalf of the oil and drug cartel”.

Dr Rath accuses The Irish Times of misinforming its readers on

Lisbon and concealing information by its failure to publish an advertisement from the foundation in January 2008, before the first Lisbon Treaty referendum. The advertisement claimed that corporate interests which financed the Nazis were engaging in a second attempt to control Europe through the EU.

An Irish Times spokesman said the advertisement was not carried last year because it did not conform to the normal criteria governing publication.

The foundation describes itself on its website as a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving human health through research, education and “the defence of patients’ rights to choose natural health therapies”.

Dr Rath has made a fortune selling nutritional supplements, and claims vitamins and minerals can cure cancer, heart disease and other major diseases. However, his theories on curing cancer have been disavowed by the Swiss Study Group for Complementary and Alternative Methods in Cancer.

CIA Experiments on U.S. Soldiers Linked to Torture Program

CIA Experiments on U.S. Soldiers Linked to Torture Program

By Jeffrey Kaye

Public Record
Wednesday, Sep 16, 2009

A number of new articles have been published recently that have highlighted evidence of illegal human experimentation on U.S.-held “terrorism” prisoners undergoing torture. These articles followed the release of a “white paper” by Physicians for Human Rights [PHR], Aiding Torture: Health Professionals’ Ethics and Human Rights Violations Demonstrated in the May 2004 Inspector General’s Report.

This report looks at those recent charges, and reveals that experiments by a CIA researcher on human subjects undergoing SERE training went unreported in the legal memos the Bush administration drafted to approve their torture program. It will also connect major military and intelligence figures to the SERE experiments, and tie some of them to major science and “experimental” directorates at the CIA and Special Operations Command.

An article by veteran journalist William Fisher, looking at PHR’s white paper,  asks, “Did physicians and psychologists help the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency develop a new research protocol to assess and refine the use of waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques?”

A column at Scientific American quotes PHR’s medical advisor on the subject:

[PHR] also raises questions about the ethics of medical note-taking during some of the interrogations. “Medical doctors and psychologists colluded with the CIA to keep observational records about waterboarding, which approaches unethical and unlawful human experimentation,” Scott Allen, lead study author and PHR medical advisor, said in a prepared statement.

Finally, a story in Wednesday’s UK Guardian discussed the significance of the charges of unlawful human experimention:

Human experimentation without consent has been prohibited in any setting since 1947, when the Nuremberg Code, which resulted from the prosecution of Nazi doctors, set down 10 sacrosanct principles. The code states that voluntary consent of subjects is essential and that all unnecessary physical and mental suffering should be avoided.

The Geneva conventions also ban medical experiments on prisoners and prisoners of war, which they describe as “grave breaches”.

After describing how “[h]ealth professionals in the Office of Medical Services and psychologist contractors engaged in designing and monitoring” torture, as “selecting and then rationalizing” the use of various harmful interrogation techniques, the PHR report goes on to say:

By requirement, all interrogations were monitored in real-time by health professionals. Previous reports, including the ICRC report, document allegations that a medical device called a pulse oximeter (a device to measure oxygen saturation in a subject’s blood) was placed on the finger of a detainee to monitor the effectiveness of his respiration during waterboarding. In this way, medical professionals were used to calibrate physical and mental pain and suffering….

The possibility that health professionals monitored techniques to assess and improve their effectiveness, constituting possible unethical human experimentation, urgently needs to be thoroughly investigated.

An Experimental “Battle Lab”

The CIA’s Office of Medical Services was supposed to be in charge of monitoring “detainee” health under interrogation. However their instructions, described in an annex to the CIA Inspector General report, exemplifies the dual nature of the “monitoring,” as this example from the report shows:

If there is any possibility that ambient temperatures are below the thermoneutral range, they should be monitored and the actual temperatures documented. [2 or 3 redacted lines]

At ambient temperatures below 18 [degrees]C/64 [degrees]F, detainees should be monitored for the development of hypothermia. [Four redacted paragraphs]

Rather than make changes to ambient temperatures, to prevent harm to prisoners, medical professionals are instructed to monitor and document the situation. The torture techniques used by SERE are known to cause endocrine and metabolic disorders (see section on CIA research below), prisoners tortured and subjected to cold are at higher risk of hypothermia, which for a normal person can set in at an ambient temperature of 60 degrees F. The monitoring in this case seems to be as much about experimentation as it is any concern for a prisoner’s health. (For what other possible reason could this section be mostly redacted?) Parallels to the experiments on hypothermia by Nazi scientists at Dachau are chilling, as is the fact that some of these scientists were later imported, along with their data, to the United States.

Questions were raised around possible human experimentation in an article last May at Firedoglake on “The Zubaydah Torture ‘Experiment”, noting, “Of the many fascinating details coming out of [the May 2009 Senate] Judiciary hearing… the references to the application of an experiment by the ex-SERE CIA contractor, most likely James Mitchell, seemed especially important.”

The experimentation was not limited to “high-value” CIA prisoners. Last April, another article at Firedoglake reported  how the Senate Armed Services Committee report (PDF) on prisoner abuse described the creation of an experimental “battle lab” at Guantanamo, demonstrating support for the torture program from the main Army intelligence school at Ft. Huachuca.

According to the Levin report, in August 2002, “COL John P. Custer, then-assistant commandant of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona” conducted a review of interrogations operations at Guantanamo. Custer called Guantanamo “America’s ‘Battle Lab’” in the war on terror, and recommended combining FBI and military techniques to extract “information by exploiting the detainee’s vulnerabilities.” The “Battle Lab” label stuck, though some, like Colonel Britt Mallow, of the Criminal Investigative Task Force, objected.

MG Dunlavey and later MG Miller referred to GTMO as a “Battle Lab” meaning that interrogations and other procedures there were to some degree experimental, and their lessons would benefit DOD in other places. While this was logical in terms of learning lessons, I personally objected to the implied philosophy that interrogators should experiment with untested methods, particularly those in which they were not trained.

Later, Dunlavey denied using the term, and Miller testified he couldn’t remember.

Pre-9/11 Experiments on SERE Torture

The experiments on the effects of SERE-torture techniques began even earlier — upon SERE trainees themselves. An April 2009 AlterNet article reported on the history of experimentation on soldier subjects undergoing SERE training. (SERE is a military program, the acronym standing for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.) The article explained how the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and the CIA “ignored a wealth of other published information about the effects of SERE ’stress inoculation,’” citing a June 2000 article, “Assessment of Humans Experiencing Uncontrollable Stress: The SERE Course,” in Special Warfare (PDF). Special Warfare is “The Professional Bulletin of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School” (emphases added to following quote):


As shown in the charts on page 7, SERE stress caused significant changes in students’ hormone levels. Recorded changes in cortisol levels were some of the greatest ever documented in humans. In some cases, the changes noted among the trainees were greater than the changes noted in patients undergoing heart surgery….

Changes in testosterone levels were similarly remarkable: In some cases, testosterone dropped from normal levels to castration levels within eight hours.

The Alternet article also quoted from a  May 2000 article in Biological Psychiatry, Hormone profiles in humans experiencing military survival training (emphasis added):

Conclusions: The stress of military survival training produced dramatic alterations in cortisol, percent free cortisol, testosterone, and thyroid indices. Different types of stressors had varying effects on the neuroendocrine indices. The degree of neuroendocrine changes observed may have significant implications for subsequent responses to stress.

Looking beyond more than physiological symptoms, other studies have looked at purely psychological data. Consider this oft-quoted study from the August 2001 edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry, which looked at dissociative symptoms, such as depersonalization, derealization, psychic or emotional numbing, and general cognitive confusion, produced in military subjects exposed to SERE torture techniques (emphasis added):

The current study was designed to assess the nature and prevalence of dissociative symptoms in healthy humans experiencing acute, uncontrollable stress during U.S. Army survival training. METHOD: In study 1, 94 subjects completed the Clinician-Administered Dissociative States Scale after exposure to the stress of survival training. In study 2, 59 subjects completed the Brief Trauma Questionnaire before acute stress and the dissociative states scale before and after acute stress. A randomly selected group of subjects in study 2 completed a health problems questionnaire after acute stress. RESULTS: In study 1, 96% of subjects reported dissociative symptoms in response to acute stress. Total scores, as well as individual item scores, on the dissociation scale were significantly lower in Special Forces soldiers compared to general infantry troops. In study 2, 42% of subjects reported dissociative symptoms before stress and 96% reported them after acute stress.

Still image taken from the Amnesty International film Stuff Of Life, a film about waterboarding, the practice of torturing prisoners by partially drowning them

Still image taken from the Amnesty International film Stuff Of Life, a film about waterboarding, the practice of torturing prisoners by partially drowning them.

Other research results include the effects of SERE-style torture upon the immune system and other biological markers. The findings regarding  high levels of cortisol upon subjects was corroborated by a SERE psychologist at the Navy Brunswick, Maine, SERE school, who — according to an unclassified, undated Talking Paper from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency — found “empirical medical data… [of] elevated levels of cortisol in the brain stem caused by stress levels incurred during water-boarding.” The Brunswick school subsequently discontinued waterboarding as part of its SERE training, as it created a “negative learning environment.” The other Navy SERE school, in North Island, California, refuses to eliminate exposure to waterboarding as part of its training program, despite the opposition of JPRA and the other SERE schools, which believe it can induce a “learned helplessness” state in students.

SERE Research and the Development of the Torture Program

One of the lead researchers in a number of these studies is Yale psychiatrist Charles A. Morgan, III. According to one source, “Over the past 10 years, Dr. Morgan has served as a Subject Matter Expert to the US Special Operations Command.” But at a June 2004 symposium on “The Nature and Influence of Intuition in Law Enforcement,” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, and the American Psychological Association, Dr. Morgan is listed as affiliated with “Behavioral Science, CIA.”

Additionally, in the Information Science Board (ISB) document, Educing Information — which was heavily drawn upon by President Obama’s task force on interrogations, for recommendations on the interrogations issue — Dr. Morgan is identified as a member of the 11-person “Government Experts Committee,” and listed as affiliated with the Intelligence Technology Innovation Center (ITIC). According to Intelligence Online, ITIC is “a research organization under the CIA’s authority,” which “answers directly to the CIA’s Science and Technology directorate.”

The Obama Interrogations Task Force recently made clear they found a lot to value in the ISB study (emphasis added):

The Task Force concluded… that the United States could improve its ability to interrogate the most dangerous terrorists by forming a specialized interrogation group, or High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), that would bring together the most effective and experienced interrogators and support personnel from across the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense and law enforcement. The creation of the HIG would build upon a proposal developed by the Intelligence Science Board.

Whatever the fate of the HIG, what is noteworthy here is that the Office of Technical Services (OTS), which was cited in the recently released 2004 CIA Inspector General report as having vetted the aggressive SERE interrogation techniques, is, along with the ITIC, also a part of the Science and Technology directorate. OTS, formerly the Technical Services Division (or Technical Services Staff), was the branch of the CIA in charge of torture and assassination. It was also in charge of the experimental mind control and interrogation program known as MKULTRA.

Dr. Morgan’s online profile states that between 1998 and 2002 he received over $400,000 in research grants from the Army and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for studies on “Psychobiological Assessment of High Intensity Military Training” and “Neuro endocrine assessment of Survival School Training.” A 1977 Washington Post expose — those were the days of scandalous revelations surrounding the CIA’s MKULTRA program — describes CIA use of ONR to funnel funds for secret experiments in the 1950s and 1960s. The same relationship was also explored during a 1977 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. This is not evidence that Morgan’s research was paid for by the CIA, but along with his institutional affiliation, it is suggestive of possible CIA involvement.

While it is unknown to what degree the CIA was directly involved in the SERE research (outside of Dr. Morgan’s affiliation), Special Operations Command reportedly was a major supporter.

A U.S. soldier undergoing SERE training.

A U.S. soldier undergoing SERE training.

The co-author of the Special Warfare article referenced above, and working with Dr. Morgan on a number of other SERE research papers looking at physiological and psychological effects of SERE techniques, was Gary Hazlett, a clinical psychologist with the Psychological Applications Directorate at U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Moreover, Morgan and Hazlett cited “the approval and support [for their research] of Lieutenant General William Tangney, Major General Kenneth Bowra, Major General William G. [B]oykin and many others…”

Maj. Gen. Bowra retired from the military in 2003, after serving as Commanding General of Army Special Operations Command South, U.S. Southern Command. Following the military, he went to work as Senior Program Director with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, serving as national laboratory liaison to U.S. Joint Forces Command, J9 Directorate. Another source states that currently Bowra is senior mentor/concept developer at USJFCOM J9 for Joint Urban Operations and Homeland Security experimentation. J9 stands for the Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Directorate (JCD&E). It “leads the development of emerging joint concepts, conducts and enables joint experimentation, and coordinates DoD JCD&E efforts in order to provide joint capabilities to support the current and future joint force commander in meeting security challenges.”

The possible involvement of USJFCOM’s J9 in research upon SERE follows upon the revelation, discussed above, that CIA’s OTS, part of CIA’s Science and Technology directorate, was heavily involved in the implementation of the SERE techniques for use by the CIA. While the use of the term “experimentation” appears to have a broad meaning in military usage, beyond that of conducting scientific experiments, given the charges surrounding human experimentation upon torture victims, any connections between these secretive “experimental” directorates and the SERE torture program, or research upon it, is worrisome.

Maj. Gen. Boykin was the controversial former commander of Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina,  who resigned over statements that indicated he saw the “war on terror” as a religious war. At the time he was Special Operations commander at Fort Bragg, according to a recent New York  Times article, SERE psychologist James Mitchell was completing his last military assignment as “psychologist to an elite special operations unit in North Carolina.” Boykin previously served as CIA Deputy Director of Special Activities, and in June 2003, became Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence under Donald Rumsfeld right-hand man, Stephen Cambone.

Lt. Gen. Tangney is yet another former commanding general at Army Special Operations Command. Also retired from the military, he is currenly Senior Vice President for Intelligence, Security, and Special Operations, at Future Technologies, Inc., a supplier of, among other things, a “well-developed global network of experienced intelligence, security and special operations professionals” working with Special Operations, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and other military customers.

While Dr. Morgan appears to be well-connected among the military and intelligence elite, it is important to remember that there is no reason to conclude that Dr. Morgan or his co-researchers have ever been involved in torture or experiments meant to be used for torture. (We cannot say the same for CIA or military medical or psychological personnel, however.) In fact, it is possible that Dr. Morgan’s research has led him to oppose coercive interrogation techniques, as his published research documents the debilitating effects of SERE torture, which utilized against a prisoner could only be considered cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, if not torture. (Although, at the 2007 convention of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Morgan indicated he was against the idea of removing psychologists from national security interrogations, which was being considered in a motion before APA at that time.)

A 2007 New York Times article quotes Dr. Morgan:

Many SERE veterans were appalled at the “reverse engineering” of their methods, said Charles A. Morgan III, a Yale psychiatrist who has worked closely with SERE trainers for a decade.

“How did something used as an example of what an unethical government would do become something we do?” he asked.

Dr. Morgan’s comments appear to put him at odds with other members of the CIA’s Science and Technology directorate, particularly those who work for OTS, as well as individuals within the Pentagon and Special Operations Command, who have been tied to elements of the U.S. torture program.

The Suppression of Research on SERE in the OLC Memos

What is clear is that the CIA and the Pentagon had plenty of experimental evidence from the peer-reviewed, published research of Dr. Morgan and his associates (and possibly others), both before and after 9/11, that SERE techniques had serious, debilitating effects on individuals subjected to them. As this research  is never cited in any of the Office of Legal Counsel  memos issued to the CIA around their torture program, it appears such research was deliberately withheld from government attorneys as the CIA sought approval for the use of SERE-style torture. Nor was this obscure research, but had been funded by the government at a minimum of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and promoted by some of the Pentagon’s highest generals.

The frenzied search for data on waterboarding, sleep deprivation, isolation, confinement in a small box, etc., to submit to OLC attorneys making legal determinations on whether proposed interrogation techniques constituted torture, was a kabuki organized by the CIA. The OLC attorneys involved — John Yoo, Stephen Bradbury, Jay Bybee, and others — were witting or unwitting partners in suppression of CIA research on torture (as future investigations will disclose). Given the participation of members of the Office of the Vice President, particularly David Addington and Vice President Cheney himself, in the promulgation of the torture program, and the composition of the memos, it seems likely they were also involved in the suppression of this material. As a result, the memos produced authorizing the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were composed as the result of fraud and bad faith, the result of a criminal conspiracy to implement illegal torture techniques.

The public response to the recent “white paper” by Physicians for Human Rights shows there is great interest in following up on charges of human experimentation upon torture victims of the U.S. government. The Congress and Department of Justice should move swiftly to initiate full, open investigations and charges against those involved.

1998 thermonuclear test was a dud: Santhanam

1998 thermonuclear test was a dud: Santhanam


: Rebutting National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan’s assertions, K. Santhanam, the scientist who was involved in India’s nuclear tests in 1998, Monday reiterated that the thermonuclear device exploded by India had not worked according to design expectations and showed photographs of the site that had no crater.Santhanam, along with physicist Ashok Parthasarthi, had last week written an article in The Hindu newspaper that questioned the official version that India’s

May 1998 nuclear tests were a success.The NSA told a television channel in an interview that Santhanam and other scientists had ulterior motives and they were not privy to the classified information to come to that conclusion.”He is barking up the wrong tree,” responded Santhanam at a media interaction at the Indian Women’s Press Corps.He said there were “several inaccuracies in that statement”

The scientist recalled that after the tests when they visited the shaft of the thermonuclear device at Pokhran in Rajasthan, it was found “by and large undamaged”.In contrast, the fission bomb explosion at the time which had a yield of 20-25 kiloton, left behind a large crater, he said.He noted that there was immediate reservation among some scientists “whether the thermonuclear device had actually worked to design expectations”.A classified technical study report was submitted to the government towards 1998-end.”Thereafter, a meeting was held in which scientists from DRDO and BARC participated. Despite fairly long discussions the two agencies agreed to disagree,” said Santhanam.The chairman of that meeting had said the matter would be taken to the minister concerned, who would charter the future course, Santhanam recounted.He was answering a query on why he chose to go public after so many years. “The impression that suddenly the jack-in-the-antique box is up, is not based on facts,” he said.The scientist also released photographs of “ground zero” of the thermonuclear device, which showed that there was no crater after the explosion. There should have been a crater of 72 metres radius if the device had been successful, he said.”This picture tells a story that we have to do more honest homework in the direction of improving our thermonuclear design,” said Santhanam.Asked if the depth of the shaft made a difference to the crater size, he indicated that while he could not reveal the exact measurements, it was sufficient to create a substantial crater.Santhanam said that the radio-chemical analysis of the test was classified and had not been shared with the scientists.Former science advisor to prime minister Indira Gandhi, Ashok Parthasarthi said by questioning the results “the intention was not to denigrate the nuclear weapons programme, but to set the matter right”.”We have to have a credible nuclear weapons deterrent. We have already lost time,” said Parthasarthi, who was involved in Pokhran-1 test in 1974.India tested five nuclear devices in May 1998, including the thermonuclear device.

Pakistan tests civilian militias to keep Taliban out of Swat Valley

Members of a local militia working to keep the Taliban out of the Swat Valley listen to their commander speak in Piochar, Pakistan, on Sept.14.
Naveed Ali/AP

Pakistan tests civilian militias to keep Taliban out of Swat Valley

The ranks of lashkars have grown to 8,000, according to local leaders, since the Army retook the valley in June. Some residents worry about militarizing the population.

By Issam Ahmed | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Tontana Bandai, Swat, Pakistan – For Tilawat Shah, a middle-aged farmer in a village on the remote western border of Pakistan’s Swat Valley, the dark days of Taliban rule must never be forgotten. “They coerced people into giving them money and shelter, they put guns to the heads of our elders, they cut down our trees, blew up schools, and killed anyone who got in their way,” he recalls.

In an effort to keep the Taliban out after a three-month Army offensive ended the militants’ two-year rule here, Mr. Shah and some 8,000 other villagers have taken up arms and joined military-sponsored militias, or lashkars.

The civilian fighting forces have cropped up across Pakistan’s northwest before to try to keep the Taliban away, often with disappointing results, because they are weaker than the militants and lack backing from the military. Now, the Army is reviving the idea in Swat, and promising to provide the assistance needed.

Two weeks ago, a posse of Taliban fighters that entered a mosque during Ramadan was repelled by the local lashkar, who shot three of them dead and forced the rest to flee. One local villager was also injured, and, in a sign of growing cooperation between the militias and the Army, was whisked by soldiers to a military hospital.

On Monday, military officials presented the latest lashkar in front of the media in the town of Piochar – the former base of operations for Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah.

The first lashkar since the military retook Swat in June was formed in August, and plans are now afoot to ensure that every union council – roughly equal to every village – in the Swat Valley eventually boasts its own, according to Swat military spokesman Major Mushtaq Khan. “The military is going village to village, speaking with elders and encouraging them to form their own lashkars and unite with existing ones,” he says.

Current estimates by local leaders put the number of fighters at more than 8,000, a figure some tribal elders claim will at least double by the end of November.

Lashkars’ troubled record

The idea of sponsoring the traditional tribal security structure is nothing new. During the era of British rule, the system was used to quell the subcontinent’s Wild West frontier. The lashkars sponsored in recent years by the Pakistani government, however, usually fizzled in the face of a marauding, well-organized, and well-supplied Taliban that effectively outgunned and demoralized local opposition.

A recent case in point was the murder of anti-Taliban leader Pir Samiullah in December 2008. His body was exhumed by the Taliban to be hung up in the main market square of Mingora as a warning to others who would resist.

The much-touted Salarzai lashkar in Bajaur, one of Pakistan’s tribal areas, initially succeeded in missions against the Taliban, during the summer of 2008. But it suffered greatly following the killing of its leader and is now much less active, according to Rahimullah Yusufzai, the Peshawar bureau chief of The News, an English daily.

Lashkars have been a “limited success,” Mr. Yusufzai says. “They could be temporarily used in some areas where the Taliban are weak or heavily resented, like in Swat. But at the end of the day, the villagers need to do their work; they can’t be armed every night.”

Rifaat Hussain, an analyst at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, agrees that lashkars can be effective only in places where the Taliban are already weak. Though the project may work in Swat, he says, the military should think twice about trying to extend it into Pakistan’s tribal agencies, where the Taliban are more entrenched.

“It’s a very interesting experiment. But if it works in Swat, this can’t be replicated anywhere else, because the guys that they were pitted against were way too powerful – the murder of Qari Zainuddin [a rival who sprang up against the late Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud] was a case in point.”

Totana Bandai was until recently a key base for Taliban insurgents. Lying to the west of the River Swat and bordering the district of Dir, its picturesque stepped green hills, lush open fields, and neat rows of houses became the backdrop to pitched battles during the last military operation. Insurgents occupied homes abandoned by locals in the village’s main street, and today, every second or third house and shop in the village’s main street is bombed out, riddled with bullet and shelling holes, or both.

At a lashkar meeting in a farmhouse, Ajmir Khan, a lashkar leader from a neighboring village who led the clash against the Taliban, notes that “when the Taliban first came, they were greeted here because they talked about Islam and implementing sharia [Islamic law], which people supported.” That initial trust dissolved by May, when the Taliban refused to lay down arms despite concessions by the government to allow new Islamic courts.

The government has in the past been criticized for initially backing, but ultimately failing to fully support, the lashkars. The Army says this time will be a whole-hearted joint effort, and has set up a cordon around Saifullah Khan’s farmhouse. A cache of new rifles and dozens of crates stenciled “BOMBS” in English are stashed in the backyard.

Army hunting the Taliban

The closer cooperation comes at a time when the Army is apparently making strides in securing Swat. On Thursday, the military claimed it killed 10 militants in a pre-dawn raid in northern Swat. On Wednesday, the military announced it had captured Sher Mohammad Qasab, the so-called chief of the Taliban’s beheading squad in Swat, along with 16 other militants during a search operation in the Charbagh area. Also on Wednesday, the military media claims 37 other militants were forced to lay down their arms.

Last Friday, the Army announced the capture of Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan and commander Mahmood Khan and five other commanders, while on Monday interior ministry Rehman Malik declared that Swat Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah was now “encircled” and his capture imminent.

News of progress is, however, tempered by reports of military sponsored mass-killings of Taliban fighters. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says its sources point to state-sponsored extrajudicial killings and have called for a parliamentary inquiry.

In recent weeks several mass graves have been dug up and the bodies of prominent Taliban commanders placed on display in Mingora. The Army says the deaths were either the result of locals settling personal scores or the Taliban killing the weak among them to prevent their capture.

Some residents, such as Ziauddin Yusufzai, a private-school principal, believe further militarizing the people of rural Swat may backfire. “Creating these private militias may work in the short-run, but what if they later turn on each other to settle personal scores?” he says. “If the Army could clear and hold a town of 400,000 like Mingora, I don’t understand why the villages are so difficult.”