Karachi Held Hostage To British Handpuppet

Brutal mass killings in Karachi

From: “awakenings”
12 May 2007
Chief Justice Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar in Karachi. 24 killed by terrorists

NEWS ALERT: -Thousand of activists of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Muslim League Nawaz (ML-N), Awami Tahreek (AT), Jamaait Islami, Sindhiani Tahreek, Awami National Party (ANP), Tahreek Insaf, Jamiat Ulmai Islam (JUI), Jamiat Ulmai Pakistan, Sunni Tahreek, PSF, SST, Members and Office bearers of Malir Bar Association and Karachi Bar Association have been attacked here in Karachi today by the terrorists of MQM (Mutahida Qomi Movement. (Aaj TV, Sindh TV, GEO, KTN & ARY).

- Chief Justice of Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chodhri arrives in Karachi and refuses to travel to High Court in Government Helicopter. I will go with Lawyers by Road (Justice Chodhri) 12Noon. ARY, GEO, KTN

-Police, Rangers and Civilian Terrorists have tried to kidnap Chief Justice from Airport. (Aitzaz Hasan Adv, Ali Ahmed Kurd Adv, Munir Malik Adv).

-Sindh High Court takes suo-moto notice of manhandling of lawyers and road blocks. Home Secretary undertakes to provide safe-passage to Chief Justice. Sindh TV & KTN

-A procession of Peoples Party (PPP) led by Sayed Qaim Ali Shah, Nisar Khoro, Raza Rabbani, Dr. Fahmeeda Mirza, Sheeri Rehman heading towards Airport has been attacked near Natha Goth, straight firing by MQM terrorists, 11 injured. ARY, KTN

-A procession of Awami National Party led by Shahi Sayed under attack at Shah-e-Rahe Faisal, 2 Pakhtoon workers killed by terrorists of MQM. Aaj TV 12-35 pm.

-MQM has broken all its past records of brutality. Under the directions of Musharaf they are working for Emergency and Martial Law. (Abrar ul Hasan Adv, Noornaz Agha Adv, Rashhed Rizvi Adv)

- Firing in Maleer, Abbasi Shaheed, Gujjar Nala & Gulbahar areas led to the killing of two Pakhtoons and one Punjabi speaking worker of opposition. Continuing violence on Shah-e-Rahe Faisal. 62 persons injured. Police & Rangers disappear. Aaj TV, Sindh TV 11-42 pm.

-Clothes of Sindhiani Tahreek workers have been torn apart by MQM workers near Nursery. ( Sindhiani Tahreek leader Saiqa MAngnhar) KTN 1-37 pm

-A procession of JUP attacked by MQM near I.I Chudrigar Road. (JUP)

-Hospitals have not been spared by armed terrorists. MQM gunmen firing at the hospital for about one hour from the roofs of adjoining buildings injuring few patients & several visitors. A hospital staff member said, “We were lying on the ground to avoid getting injured.”

-We have just been given lathees and terrorists are fully armed. This is a deliberate high level conspiracy. (DIG Mushtaq Shah and Pashtoon, Sindhi and Punjabi Police Constables) KTN 1-47 pm.

-Tahreek Insaf rally under attack by MQM, two workers carrying portraits of Chief Justice and Imran Khan injured near II Chudrigar Road. (JUP) Aaj TV -12 40 pm.

- MQM leaders say that the anti-Mohajir policy of Aaj, ARY, GEO, KTN and Sindh TV would be fully resisted. ARY

-Five dead bodies of lawyers and oppositions workers just discovered by GEO Tv. 1-21 pm

-Awami Tahreek workers attacked on Shah-e-Raah Faisal. Aaj Tv 1-14 pm

-Two workers of Jamaait Islami killed by terrorists. Sindh TV. 12-55 am.

-Awami Tahreek rally led by Rasool Bux Palijo reaches to High Court Bar. This entire brutal episode has been planned by Mr. Musharaf. (Awami Tahreek Chief Rasool Bux Palijo)

- 11 persons lost lives during ghastly manslaughter in different areas by MQM. According to TV, the entire Malir Halt and Shaherai Faisal Township had passed into the hands of a group of klashnikov-weilding young terrorist.

-Sindh and Federal Governments are responsible for this massacre of innocent people, Sindh High Court and Hon Supreme Court should take notice of this savage brutality. (Naeem Qureshi General Secretary Karachi Bar, Ayaz Latif Palijo Advocate of FRJP, Imdad Aiwan of PBC and Yousif Legahri of Pakistan Bar Council)

-Two Sindhi and Punjabi speaking lady lawyers kidnapped by MQM teoosrists near Maleer. Aaj

-Reporters and cameramen of KTN, Aaj TV and Sindh TV attacked in MQM areas. Aaj TV.

-MQM is involved in massacre in Karachi, why Govt is not taking any action? ( Sheree Rehman, Qaim Ali Shah, Zafar Iqbal Jhagra, Sardar Raheem, Liaqat Baloch, Syed Alam Shah and Asfandyar Wali) GEO, Sindh TV 1-25 pm

-We are peaceful. PPP, Jamait Islami, JUP, Suni Tahreek, Punjabi Pakhtoon Itehad, ANP and Nawaz League and Sindhi and Baloch Nationalists are attacking our workers. MQM Rally is heading towards Mazaar-e-Quaid & Tibert Centre. (MQM leaders Nasreen Jaleel, Babar Ghori, Dr. Faruq Sattar)

-Men, women and children carrying the flags of PPP, ML-N, ANP, Awami Tahreek, MMA are heading towards Airport. ARY 1-47 pm.

-24 Workers of Opposition have been killed. (Zafar Jhagra of ML N)KTN 2-08 pm.

-Properties of Balochs, Punjabis, Sindhis and Pakhtoons have been attacked by Muhajirs. (Punjabi Pakhtoon Itehad) GEO

-Firing on rallies of PPP and Jamaait Islami. Baloch workers coming out from Liari and Ibrahim Haidri attacked by MQM near Civil Hospital and Korangi Road. Aaj TV. 1-53 pm

-Pakistan Bar Council calls upon all lawyers of Pakistan to hold rallies and sit-ins for release of Chief Justice from Airport Lounge. (PBC & SBC)

-Chief Justice will have to go back to Islamabad. (MQM Minister Wasim Akhter) ARY TV. 1-55

-Entire Shah-e-Rahe Faisal is under attack by terrorists. Buses and cars are burning. (Aziz Jan of Sindh Tv and Manzoor Shaikh of KTN) 1-50 pm.

-PPP, ML N and MMA leaders say that the people of Sindh, Punjab, NWFP, Balochistan and Seraiki support the integrity & courage of the Chief Justice.

-Women Rally of Muslim League Nawaz, PPP and Sindhiani Tahreek attacked by terrorists. KTN 2-11 pm

- Dead bodies of lawyers and Opposition workers are lying in different areas. 3 dead bodies found in TNT colony, 2 near security printing press and 2 near kala board. (Arbab Chandio of KTN) KTN, ARY and Sindh Tv.

-2 workers of Nawaz League killed by MQM. (Zafar Iqbal) 2-13 pm.

-6 workers of MQM have been killed by ARD and MMA workers, new reference be filed against Chief Justice. (Wasim Akhter of MQM)

-Trains and Buses coming from interior Sindh attacked by MQM workers. Aaj Tv

-Jinnah Airport is under siege (Dodo Chandio of KTN) 2-18 pm

-Sunni Tahreek leader Sohail Qadri killed by ruling party Mutahida (MQM) terrorists. Aaj & TV-1 2-30 pm

-KTN reporter Hadi Sangi attacked. KTN 2-12 pm

-Edhee Centre driver killed by terrorists. ARY, GEO TV 2-10 pm

-Bomb blast near Maleer. KTN 2-22 pm

-Karachi is ours. PPP, ML-N, ARD, MMA, PONM, Awami Tahreek, Jamaait Islami, JUI, JUP, Sunni Tahreek, Tahreek Insaf and ANP are united they will not bow before terrorists. ARY & Aaj Tv 2-33 pm

-PPP workers Fahad Khan and Aslam and Jamaait worker Shujait and Sindhi labour Rahmatullah Buriro murdered by MQM terrosits. Aaj TV and KTN 2-40 pm

-Awami Tahreek Central Leader and President of Jacobabad Nawaz Kandrani murdered by MQM terrorists near Karachi Airport. Firing on Awami Tahreek Rally. Rasool Bux Palijo, Wishnoo Mal, Sayed Alam Shah, Mohammad Khan Bhurgri, Qadir Ranto and Sindhiani Tahreek leaders give strike call for tomorow. Aaj, KTN & Sindh TV 3-04 pm

MQM apologists

MQM apologists

By Kazim Aizaz Alam

A blog that I regularly read had some obnoxious comment by the blog writer recently. She said she supported the MQM because it was against the Taliban. As she lived in Karachi, she said, she was threatened that if the Taliban took over, they would put her ‘liberty’ in danger.

So the moral of the story is that if you want your ‘liberty’ intact in Karachi you will have to support the MQM. OK, but may I ask her who burnt half a dozen lawyers alive after locking them up in Tahir Chambers on main M A Jinnah Road on April 11, 2008? And who held the whole swathes of Karachi hostage on May 12, 2007, and killed at least 52 people in broad daylight? And what to talk of ‘liberty’ when just a couple of months ago, the MQM instigated a pogrom in certain Pakhtun-dominated areas of Karachi and blatantly killed innocent people?

As late as 1995-96, our ‘liberals’ were downplaying the threat of the Taliban in Karachi (and I have a strong reason to say this). In Karachi University when someone I know referred to the fate of Najibullah (who was killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan) and went on to predict that Talibanisation was a real threat to Pakistani society, these ‘liberals’ rubbished it. Now well after a decade they have come to realise the omnipresent ghost of the Taliban – but only to prop up another Frankenstein’s monster in shape of the fascist MQM to counter the Taliban. What kind of political sagacity is this?

Don’t Pakhtun women living in Karachi have a right to enjoy these ‘civil liberties’ without being persecuted by MQM goons? The MQM has been the worst thing that ever happened to Karachi’s body politic. Its fascist outlook can’t be undone by mere sloganeering against the Taliban. I hate to be personal and attack people’s views directly on the internet but I feel simply disgusted when people think that the MQM (which is more of a killing squad than a political party) can fight the Taliban. They say this as if the MQM could stop the Taliban by the magnitude of its ‘massive’ following (which I doubt goes beyond even two lakh, that too in a few selected localities, who turn up every time there’s a rent-a-rally call by the pir of London).

Their argument, if extended, will probably lead to the conclusion that the US invasion of Afghanistan was alright because it freed the Afghan nation from the clutches of the Taliban. Underlining this argument is a mute admission that the Afghans weren’t able to bring about a political change themselves, and that as a consequence warranted a US military intervention.

So much for a good, foreign education!

4 Comments on “MQM apologists”

  1. Khaled Says:

    March 6, 2009 at 10:49 am@ writer
    It seems that you have habit of lieing, guess following the footsteps of Hitlers Information Minister who was the famouse lair of all time.

    Kindly tell only 2 names of lawyers burnt by MQM.

    This is my open challenge to you, and if you can’t name them you should apologies for your lies.

  2. kazimalam Says:

    March 6, 2009 at 11:29 amI AM COPYING BELOW EXCERPTS FROM THE NEWS REPORTS OF NEXT DAY’S DAWN AND THE NEWS.
    Six lawyers burnt alive in Karachi

    Two women among those killed in building housing lawyers’ chambers; five others die in city violence; rival lawyers clash

    The News

    April 10, 2008

    By Salis bin Perwaiz

    KARACHI: Eleven people were killed, at least six of them feared to be lawyers, and several others injured when violence broke out in various parts of the city following a clash between two groups of lawyers outside the City Courts on Wednesday afternoon.

    The most horrifying incident took place at Tahir Plaza, where six charred bodies including those of two women were recovered. The police said that the six bodies were of lawyers. The rioters also torched around 50 vehicles in different parts of the metropolis.

    The clash between the lawyers at the City Court left eight members of the MQM Legal Aid Committee injured, who were taken to the Civil Hospital. They were identified as Javed Hashmi, Aurangzeb, Shagufta Ijaz and others. Soon after, violence gripped the city, with masked armed men roaming around firing in the air and torching vehicles.

    There was unprecedented violence in the vicinity of the City Courts, where unidentified miscreants locked the main gate of the Tahir Plaza, situated opposite the courts. There are more than 200 offices of lawyers in the building. The miscreants opened indiscriminate fire at the building and later set it ablaze.

    AND NOW FROM DAWN.
    The five people who were burnt beyond recognition were trapped for four hours inside Tahir Plaza, a building near the City Courts housing lawyers’ offices. “We had to break the lock to enter the room and during search we found the charred bodies.”

    Fives bodies were recovered from the sixth floor, where Aftab Abbasi, an advocate, had an office.

    AND FRANKLY SPEAKING, I AM IMPRESSED BY THE WAY YOU THREW THE CHALLENGE — ALL THE CORPSES WERE INDEED BURNT BEYOND RECOGNITION, EXCEPT ONE AS SUGGESTED BY THE NEWS REPORT.
    SO THAT EXONERATES THE MQM FROM THE CHARGE, RIGHT?

  3. chchu-mukkar Says:

    March 8, 2009 at 5:47 amI am baffled that educated people of Karachi can only take an X-cabbie as a leader?
    Kaloo is a parasite and a traitor; for starting the ethnically supercharged political environment in our lovely city Karachi.
    Last thing I want to hear is ignorant people talking about greatest scarify made by people of Karachi in 1947. It was Punjabis coming across the border who got slaughtered; educated Indian Muslims, that now Kaloo seems to tell every one he belongs to, came on the boat. You ignorant, parasitical morons go read your history; you cell phone snatchers!
    Kaloo is in state of paranoia and is an incidental learner; he does not seem to get it right the first time:
    He starts a party MQM calls it Muhajir movement (I dare to disagree with this term – what about others who migrated and did not speak Urdu? Are they not Muhajir; who gave Kalo the authority to reduce sons and daughters of finest Muslims of India who moved from India to be called Muhair for rest of their life; even after their sons and daughters have born in Pakistan? ).
    Then kaloo learns it’s not flying well with everyone nationally or internationally, kalo tries to fit in and changes with is decree to Mutahida. I truly believe it Mustaqill Quomi Musibet!
    From the 83’s onwards a truly peaceful city and its people have been stuck with the fool! I want to know who killed Azeem Tariq; Hakeem Saeed and other nobilities. Who threatens living nobilities like Edhi? Who reduces a well trained and groomed (Musharaf) brave national hero an army general to an Urdu speaking only general, an ethnic hero?
    I firmly believe that when people can not see beyond their feet they can not get much far, and this is the story of MQM. They are as much to blame of current Pakistani mess as are the Taliban and any other kind of mafia. What was the judgment of the Canadian court?
    We will take Karachi (Pakistan Juggler v) back from kalo and his thugs. Remember, when you have small dreams you become a small person/nation. To achieve big things you have to dream big and that includes thinking beyond ethnicity.
    Long live Pakistan; Log live Karachi!
    Kaloo murdaba

Is This MQM At Work In Balochistan?

[Nearly all of the terror attacks in Karachi, or anywhere else they are staged in Sindh, involve young men riding motorcycles.  Many assassins in Punjab have been on motorcycles as well.  It is a reasonable assumption that the same thing is happening around Quetta.  Karachi, Balochistan and Occupied Kashmir have been special areas of interest for the MQM militants, and all have suffered from motorcycle riding terrorists—NOT Taliban, but anti-Taliban.  SEE:  Witnesses term Tahir Plaza attack ‘pre-planned arson’] 

2 FC men among dozen injured in Quetta blast

QUETTA: A powerful blast occurred at Jinnah Road in Quetta, injuring at least dozen people, including two Frontier Corps personnel.
According to police, the bomb planted on a motorbike exploded outside a local hotel located at the Jinnah Road. Two FC personnel were also among the injured, hospital sources confirmed.
The police and law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area immediately after the blast and started investigation.
While the injured were rushed to Civil and CMH hospitals. Out of 12, two injured are said to be in critical state.
The bomb disposal squad claimed that the bomb was planted on a motorcycle, which was blown up through a time device.

No Direction Home: Pakistan and the Imperial Principle

No Direction Home: Pakistan and the Imperial Principle

Chris Floyd

February 5, 2010

Here’s the way the game works. First you get the outright lie, then later, in dribs and drabs, you get a few, grudging crumbs of the truth.

For example, first you get: “No, there are no Blackwater operatives in Pakistan. None. That’s just a conspiracy theory, terrorist propaganda. These kinds of lies just make it harder for us to do good in the region.” Then later: “Well, yes, we do have Blackwater operatives in Pakistan. But, uh, we don’t actually cut their checks directly in the Pentagon.”

Or what about this more recent example? First: “The United States has no troops in Pakistan. None. We are not going to send troops to Pakistan. That’s just wild talk, a conspiracy theory. And it makes it harder for us to do good in the region.”

Then later: “Well, yes, we do have a few troops in Pakistan. All right, a couple hundred. But that’s it. We promise. And they’re just training their counterparts in Pakistan’s military. Oh yeah, and also working alongside paramilitary militias in the frontier regions. And maybe, you know, following up on some of our drone strikes. That is, our alleged drone strikes, because we are not, as you know, officially admitting that we are carrying out an ever-accelerating campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, although if we were, these strikes would be very surgical, and the hundreds of people who might have been killed in just the past few months by these strikes, if they happened, would have all been vicious savage murdering 9/11! 9/11! 9/11! terrorists. But other than these 200 troops we have in Pakistan now, we have no troops in Pakistan. Never have. Except, of course, for the 12 American troops who have been killed in, well, battle, in, er, Pakistan since 2001. But that’s it. Look me in the eye; would I lie to you?”

Yes, yet another aspect of what must be the most unsecret secret war in history has been rumbled. American troops are on the ground in Pakistan – and getting killed there. As the world now knows, three American soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing (which also killed six Pakistanis, as if anyone cares) in a remote frontier province in Pakistan this week. The bombing took place in an area that had supposedly been cleared in the savage, swoopstake “counterinsurgency” operations launched by Pakistan at America’s insistence. (Operations which, we were told at the time, had no American involvement whatsoever.)

Yet as the Pakistani paper The News points out, this massive “clearing” operation – which cleared more than a million people from their homes as they fled the fighting – could not stop the insurgents from placing a huge 70kg bomb “in an area that had reportedly been ‘cleared’ and moreover plant it on such a high-profile target that should have been guarded as closely as possible given that ‘foreign visitors’ were on their way. Nobody noticed a 70kg bomb being buried in the road?”

All this might suggest to a cynic that our much-ballyhooed “counterinsurgency doctrines” (and they are indeed treated as holy writ, handed down by St. David Petraeus) are not, perhaps, as entirely effective as they might be – especially considering the vast cost in innocent life they exact, and the hatred and extremism they engender.

Noel Shachtman at Wired has a couple of useful roundups (here and here) on the latest revelations of our sure-enough war in Pakistan. But equally revealing are some of the remarks he passes along from readers, and his own response: exchanges which demonstrate that, sadly, it is not only our elites who are marinated in “a sense of imperial entitlement and dominance” (as we noted here the other day).

Shachtman notes how the new revelations give the glaring lie to the solemn promises made by Obama’s “special envoy” to the region, Richard Holbrooke. Speaking in Brussels last May, Holbrooke declared:

“The heart of the problem for the West is in western Pakistan. But there are not going to be US or NATO troops on the ground in Pakistan. There is a red line for the government of Pakistan and one which we must respect,” he said.


(Parenthetically, isn’t it rather strange that the “heart of the problem” for our militarist mandarins always seems to lie outside the borders of the country they are ravaging? So the “real problem” in Afghanistan lies in Pakistan. And, as we were told repeatedly for years, the “real problem” in Iraq was actually Iran, whose nuke-mad mullahs kept stirring up our lazy, docile darkies in Iraq. Tony Blair stuck to this line, well, religiously in his recent canard-o-rama at the Iraq inquiry in London. It was Iran who caused all our problems in Iraq, he said over and over; in fact, he mentioned Iran 58 times in the course of his testimony, much of which was aimed at fomenting new war fever against Tehran.)

Shachtman also notes the fact that the Americans killed in Pakistan this week were not, by the Pentagon’s own admission, super-duper secret agents, but part of a straightforward “counterinsurgency” program: “a widening war,” as he says, rightly.

Then comes a pushback from various warbloggers. First, the pseudonymous Islamophobe armchair warrior “Rusty Shackleford” (I guess cowardice in the service of virtue is no vice, eh, Rusty?) weighs in:

“Admitting that we have troops on the ground engaged in combat roles would — literally — lead to a civil war in Pakistan. .. It is a catch-22, ironic, and duplicitous: but calling this a war is the same thing as losing it. Me, I’m willing to be called two-faced for sake of winning a war. Those that prefer consistency over victory are misguided.”


This is wilful ignorance with a vengeance. Obviously, Pseudo-Warrior believes that Pakistanis are too stupid to notice foreign troops fighting on their own soil. So as long as we don’t admit “that we have troops on the ground engaged in combat roles,” then those dumb Pakis will never know! Man, that’s some crafty, subtile strategy there.

Shachtman then gives us the views of “Uncle Jimbo” at Blackfive:

It is fair to point out that the ops in Pakistan are more tightly tied to a shooting war than many others, but does that mean we should take them and shine a bunch of bright lights on them? … There is plenty of oversight operating where it belongs in classified briefings… The political environment in Pakistan is delicate as Hell so we properly tread lightly. A bunch of breathless stories about the mere possibility that we are cooperating more w/ Pakistan or that heaven forbid the evil Blackwater mercenaries are helping load drones doesn’t make doing any good there easier… It is smart and a proper use of Special Forces. Now let’s stop making their jobs harder by acting like something nefarious is going on.


Shachtman replies, reasonably, that, as noted, the Pakistanis already know what’s going on in their own country, and that “secrecy is only fueling the paranoia and conspiracy theories — not to mention depriving Americans of their right to know how their blood and treasure is being spent.” Shachtman also, perhaps out of courtesy, refrains from commenting on Jimbo’s touching naiveté that our always wise and competent leaders will provide all the necessary “oversight” in their secret briefings.

But despite this display of common sense, Shachtman feels compelled to establish his own “tough realist” credentials. In response to Jimbo’s claim that telling the truth about the U.S. war in Pakistan “doesn’t make doing any good there easier,” Shachtman hastens to reply:

I hear that. And if this were some other, relatively small-scale SF operation (cough Yemen cough), I’d agree 100%.


And there you have it: the quintessential, unconscious response of the fully marinated modern American. Shachtman is not at all opposed to imperial agents carrying out deadly attacks in foreign lands at peace with the United States. Theprinciple of unlimited violence — the right of America to kill people anytime, anywhere in the world — is never questioned. The only argument that “serious” people can have concerns the application of this principle; i.e., is it in our best interest to killthese people now, or wait until later, or maybe kill some other people instead, or build a few more schools while we’re killing people or — and this is as radical as our “serious” discourse allows — should we even maybe hold off on killing people for just a little while, to let the lesser breeds cool down a bit, and rebuild our busted finances?

As we noted here the other day:

Our elites and their courtiers [and their commentators] literally cannot imagine life without a permanent war for global dominance, fueled by a gargantuan war machine spread across hundreds and hundreds of bases implanted in more than 100 countries.


And so these debates between chest-beating militarists and more thoughtful “moderates” over the proper application of imperial violence in foreign lands will go on. Because until the empire is dismantled — until we bring America home — there will be no end to these wars and op and “interventions,” secret, open, two-faced or otherwise. And no end to the blowback of violence and retrogression they produce.

:: Article nr. 62969 sent on 06-feb-2010 02:01 ECT
www.uruknet.info?p=62969

Link: www.chris-floyd.com/component/content/article/1-latest-news/1920-no-direction-ho
me-pakistan-and-the-imperial-principle.html

World Economic Collapse About To Overtake European Union

The European Commission Uses New Lisbon Treaty Powers to Crack Down on Greek Spending

Greece, Spain and Portugal are in big trouble and the credibility of the euro is in trouble as a result. Greek leaders were given one month, February 2010, to slash out-of-control public spending and come up with a convincing austerity plan. Panicked by the spectre of economic collapse, the European commission stepped in to demand urgent action to save the Greek economy and protect the euro.

EU economics commissioner, Joaquin Almunia said:

“The huge imbalances [in] the Greek economy are not sustainable in the long run. The fact of the matter is that markets are putting on pressure. This pressure cannot be ignored.”

EU demanding urgent economic improvement from Greece, Spain and Portugal

EU concern bordering on hysteria spread to Spain and Portugal, two other eurozone countries where public spending is out of control. Both countries have become steadily less competitive since joining the euro.

George Papandreou, the Greek Prime Minister, is raising fuel tax and freezing public sector wages to prevent economic collapse. But Brussels, Germany and the European Central Bank say the measures are not enough to save the Greek economy. The EU is worried that other ‘Club Med’ nations in the eurozone will continue to spend profligately if Greece is not whipped into line as an example.

First use of new powers made legal by the Lisbon Treaty

Consequently, EU officials are using new powers under the Lisbon Treaty to restructure pensions, health provision, job markets and commerce and the Greek government will be made to report progress monthly to the European masters in Brussels and accept any measures they may impose.

Almunia admits, or boasts perhaps:

“This is the first time we have established such an intense and quasi-permanent system of monitoring.”

“The EU has made Greece into an ‘economic protectorate’ “

Some Greek voices on the left say Brussels has in effect taken Greece over as an economic protectorate. However, the EU may ultimately find it has no choice but to call in the IMF to aid and restructure the Greek economy.

Greece’s labour unions responded to the EU’s action by calling a general strike on February 24 and it looks as though there is battle ahead. Greeks are unwilling to take the living standard cuts demanded by fat cats in Brussels, who are these days exceedingly fat and not subject to control themselves. The EU’s own accounts have not been approved for years and the eurocrats are shameless despite constant talk in Europe about abuse of the vast sums of taxpayers’ money they handle and abuse of expenses.

The German government – which has the economic clout to save the Greeks – is doggedly refusing to help, seeing no reason why it should suffer becauseGreece has overspent. And the German people are unwilling to bail out another nation even if it is a southern neighbour.

Spain meanwhile has a budget deficit running at 11.4pc and one of its largest banks, BBVA, announced a 94% drop in profits for 2009. Spain’s mortgage association has said the country’s real estate sector is ‘bankrupt’ and four million Spaniards are unemployed. It may not be long before the EU deploys its new powers and its Greek austerity policy in Spain.

As Brussels imposes austerity on Greece to save the euro, will Spain and Portugal be next?

So as Eurozone cracks are widening between the richer nations and their poorer neighbours, the Eurocrats in Brussels are cracking the whip. One banker has likened the situation in Greece to the days before the failure of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers in 2008. Except that in this case a country is involved, not a couple of banks. It’s too early to say whether Greece, Spain and Portugal will take the lashing or not, but the future of the euro depends on the outcome of this clash between these European ‘regions’ and the bureacratic centre.

US to launch Fallujah-style attack in Afghanistan

US to launch Fallujah-style attack in Afghanistan

Bill Van Auken

WSWS, February 6, 2010

As US and British troops prepare to attack the town of Marjah in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, military commanders and the media are openly comparing the operation to the November 2004 siege of Fallujah, one of the bloodiest war crimes of the Iraq war.

The operation in central Helmand province, long an area of intense resistance to the US-led occupation, will constitute the largest military offensive since Washington invaded the country in October 2001. At least 15,000 troops are expected to lay siege to the Helmand river valley town, which has 80,000 inhabitants and is said by the US military to be a stronghold of the Taliban.

A total of 125,000 people live in the district around Marjah, which is an agricultural center 350 miles west of Kabul. The population has been swelled by Afghans fleeing villages occupied by US Marines last summer, following President Barack Obama’s order shortly after he took office to send 21,000 more troops into Afghanistan.

US Marines, frustrated and enraged over casualties suffered at the hands of an unseen enemy who is able to attack and then blend back into the local population, will be unleashed against the town in a violent military assault, with predictable results.

Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, commander of the US Marines in southern Afghanistan, spelled out the character of the upcoming offensive. Those found in Marjah would have three options. “One is to stay and fight and probably die,” he said. “The second one is to make peace with his government and reintegrate.” The third would be to attempt to escape, “In which case we’ll probably have some people out there waiting on them as well.”

“We’re going to go in big,” said Nicholson, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. “I’m not looking for a fair fight,” he added.

In a highly unusual move, the US command has publicly announced plans for the offensive. “It’s a little unconventional to do it this way, but it gives everybody a chance to think through what they’re going to do before suddenly in the dark of night they’re hit with an offensive,” said General Stanley McChrystal, the senior US commander in Afghanistan.

The stated intention of revealing the target of the upcoming offensive is to allow civilians to flee before the Marines move in. It also provides a preemptive alibi for the US offensive by painting those who fail to heed the warning as die-hard Taliban who deserve to be killed.

Stratfor, a military-intelligence web site with close ties to the US state apparatus, reported Thursday that “the assault is likely to include the cordoning off of the area, so many of the fighters dedicated to its defense will probably be forced to fight to the death or surrender.”

The article continued: “With assaults on Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq under their belts, the Marines are experienced with this sort of urban assault.”

What is the record of urban assaults of “this sort”?

The Marine assault on Fallujah in November 2004 reduced most of the city of 300,000 people to rubble, as warplanes dropped thousands of tons of explosives and helicopter gunships and battle tanks fired missiles into buildings and strafed the area with cannon fire.

The US military command claimed to have killed 2,000 “insurgents,” but the real death toll remains unknown. Civilians who remained in the town were subjected to the same bombardment. Some were shot to death during the door-to-door raids that followed, and others were killed while fleeing. Wounded fighters were summarily executed, and medical facilities were targeted for military attack. All those in the city were denied food, water and electricity for more than 10 days.

The operation was a vicious exercise in collective punishment against the population of Fallujah for the killing there of four Blackwater mercenaries and the city’s protracted resistance to foreign occupation. It embodied the criminality of the entire war and was characterized by multiple and gross violations of the laws of war.

If American military commanders are to be believed, a similar operation is being prepared in Afghanistan, and for similar reasons. The town of Marjah is to be turned into a killing field.

As in Fallujah, vengeance plays a role. US military forces have seen a steady escalation in casualties over the past year, while the CIA suffered a humiliating attack at the end of December that left seven of its operatives dead on the Afghan border.

In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, the US military command sees value in making an example of a population center known as a center of resistance to occupation, sending a message to the entire country that such resistance is futile and will be met with slaughter and destruction.

This bloodletting is officially justified in the name of a never-ending struggle against terrorism. Behind the propaganda, the driving force of the war in Afghanistan, like the war in Iraq, is the attempt by America’s ruling elite to counter the crisis of US capitalism through the use of force and the seizure of strategic positions in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, both centers of vast energy reserves.

A year ago, when Barack Obama entered the White House, there existed hope among broad layers of the American people that his inauguration would turn such words as Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, Blackwater, torture and rendition into the lexicon of a dark and shameful, but closed, chapter in US history.

The preparation of the Marjah offensive only underscores that, far from being ended, the crimes of the Bush administration are continuing and escalating under the Democratic president.

Today there are more US troops deployed abroad in colonial-style wars and occupations than under Bush, and the killing has spread from Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan and Yemen. The Obama administration is seeking $322 billion for the two ongoing wars and occupations, a figure that will doubtless be swelled by further demands for “supplemental” funding.

The supposed candidate of “hope” and “change” has emerged ever more clearly as the hand-picked agent of sections of the political establishment and military-intelligence complex that wanted to effect certain tactical changes in policy, while continuing to employ militarism abroad and wage a relentless assault on the working class at home.

American working people cannot accept a new round of war crimes carried out in their name. The demand for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan must be joined with a political offensive against the Obama administration and the financial oligarchy that it defends.

Bill Van Auken

The author also recommends:

The siege of Fallujah: America on a killing spree
[18 November, 2004]

:: Article nr. 62995 sent on 06-feb-2010 08:57 ECT
www.uruknet.info?p=62995

Sociopaths – They Prey on All of Us

Sociopaths – They Prey on All of Us

Posted by thomaspainescorner on February 4, 2010

By Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

1/21/10

He constantly asks for sympathy, takes risks, lies to you and when caught shows no remorse. It is unsettling, frightening. Somehow it is your own fault. But what or why would anyone do these things? There is an answer.

The terms, “psychopathy,” “sociopath,” “sociopath,” and others refer to individuals who look human but, in elemental ways, are not. They harbor a condition which cuts them off from us. Their automatic emotional reactions, foundational to limiting wrong behavior, do not exist. These individuals emulate compassion, concern, affection, kindness and love – only to further their purposes. They feel no compunction about stealing, lying, or committing crimes to achieve their goals. They consistently demand sympathy, knowing perfectly well they deserve none.

They do not want or need sympathy. But they do need you to feel sorry for them, to want to help them. It is all manipulation, emotions emulated to get what they want. They know we feel sorry for them and project the existence of emotions they never feel, just another lie.

People catching their eyes report feeling a chill of fear, as if looking into the eyes of a predator. Psychopaths are predators among us. The pain and suffering of those around them mean nothing, it is pleasure to them. Their motivations seem inexplicable to the emotionally normal, who comprise 96% of the population.

Psychopaths have no conscience.

Where before little was written on the condition outside of professional journals, now much more is known. This is changing.

The evidence, now mounting, indicates the condition has a genetic element which becomes activated when combined with the conditions in the life of the individual. The last few years have taken understanding of the condition known as ‘psychopathy’ to new levels.

While only 4% of the population have the condition Martha Stout, PhD., points out in her book, The Sociopath Next Door, you are likely to have contact with psychopathic individuals on many occasions during your life time. You therefore need to understand the danger signs.

Experts in the field of psychology have been researching the problem since 1980. Much is now known.

In 1999 Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. published Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. Today, thanks to Robert Hare, David Kosson, Pd.D, and others, the means exist to reliably diagnose the condition. The test, carried out by qualified professionals, allows us the tools needed to understand and to take steps to help victims. The test, known as Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) and the Hare Psychopathy Checklist when used by qualified professionals makes available the means to identify those with the condition. As with other tests it, presumably, will soon be commonly used in court proceedings.

Hare’s new book, Snakes In Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work, written with Paul Babiak, Ph.D., and published in 2006, opens the issue of the impact of the condition on the workplace, including large corporations.

It has been estimated elsewhere that as many as 19% of those in upper management may be psychopathic. Disturbingly, this may well also be true in higher levels of government given the massive cross over which exists at the highest levels of each. Logic supports the theory.

The test originated by Robert Hare has proven to be a valuable tool both to help victims and, increasingly, to open the door for victims to find justice. The work of Hare and his associates may, possibly, be used to the benefit of business and politics as well.

Psychopaths can impact us from every direction. For individual victims there is also hope.

Through the Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy website victims participate with clinicians, therapists and others to move on with understanding. The site provides a Forum for victims, clinicians, and therapists for discussion and could well become the hub needed to generalize understanding of the condition in the general public.

Reading books on the subject, such as the excellent work by Martha Stout, Ph. D., The Sociopath Next Door, provide tools and tests which you can use personally. Dr. Stout, a practicing psychologist and clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, warns the reader to beware of those who fail the simple tests she outlines. Three lies and your out, is one of simple suggestions she proposes.

In dealing with the overall problem Stout raises other questions which are profoundly on point for all of us today.

On the question of war: Should sociopaths be tolerated as useful in time of war? Are we intentionally allowing psychopaths into the military? Perhaps recruiting them?

Has our toleration and ignorance smoothed the path for ugly behavior in other parts of our culture? What would a psychopath do, if elected to office? If they were the determining factor in deciding what matters, their profit or your health?

Have we considered the dangers the unchallenged presence of psychopaths present when combined with the tendency in most of us to defer to authority?

If winning is the only thing that matters there is nothing you will not do. Recognizing no limits, psychopaths ignore the damage to others. As any small, determined group can change the world for the good, as Margaret Mead said, so a small number of individuals could destroy it. We need, therefore to limit the access of psychopaths to power while identifying them to the public.

A short tour through the books and the Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy site raise questions which may well open up new understanding of ourselves. As individuals, parents, activists, and businesspersons, as Americans, we need to know.

Melinda Pillsbury-Foster is a columnist for the Iconoclast in Texas and has been involved in many organizations dedicated to enacting positive change for most of her life. How the NeoCons Stole Freedom – and how we can take it back, is the title of her blog. Most of her articles are available there. Pillsbury-Foster was an early member of the Libertarian Party, serving as Southern California Vice Chairman for six terms and on their National Committee. Her first book, a lightly fictionalized autobiography, is GREED: The NeoConning of America and was published in 2004, the same year her second book, Tour of Old Yosemite, now on sale in Yosemite Valley, was published. Her other books are collections of her poetry, which is also available on her poetry site, Shards of Verse. Pillsbury-Foster is the grand-daughter of Arthur C. Pillsbury and is now working on a formal biography chronicling his life, inventions and work. The mother of six children, one deceased, she is dedicated to leaving a better world for all children.

Capitalism’s Self-Inflicted Apocalypse

After the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, capitalism was paraded as the indomitable system that brings prosperity and democracy, the system that would prevail unto the end of history.

The present economic crisis, however, has convinced even some prominent free-marketeers that something is gravely amiss. Truth be told, capitalism has yet to come to terms with several historical forces that cause it endless trouble: democracy, prosperity, and capitalism itself, the very entities that capitalist rulers claim to be fostering.

Plutocracy vs. Democracy

Let us consider democracy first. In the United States  we hear that capitalism is wedded to democracy, hence the phrase, “capitalist democracies.” In fact, throughout our history there has been a largely antagonistic relationship between democracy and capital concentration. Some eighty  years ago Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis commented, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Moneyed interests have been opponents not proponents of democracy.

The Constitution itself was fashioned by affluent gentlemen who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to repeatedly warn of the baneful and dangerous leveling effects of democracy. The document they cobbled together was far from democratic, being shackled with checks, vetoes, and requirements for artificial super majorities, a system designed to blunt the impact of popular demands.

In the early days of the Republic the rich and well-born imposed property qualifications for voting and officeholding. They opposed the direct election of candidates (note, their Electoral College is still with us). And for decades they resisted extending the franchise to less favored groups such as propertyless working men, immigrants, racial minorities, and women.

Today conservative forces continue to reject more equitable electoral features such as proportional representation, instant runoff, and publicly funded campaigns. They continue to create barriers to voting, be it through overly severe registration requirements, voter roll purges, inadequate polling accommodations, and electronic voting machines that consistently “malfunction” to the benefit of the more conservative candidates.

At times ruling interests have suppressed radical publications and public protests, resorting to police raids, arrests, and jailings-applied most recently with full force against demonstrators in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The conservative plutocracy also seeks to rollback democracy’s social gains, such as public education, affordable housing, health care, collective bargaining, a living wage, safe work conditions, a non-toxic sustainable environment; the right to privacy, the separation of church and state, freedom from compulsory pregnancy, and the right to marry any consenting adult of one’s own choosing.

About a century ago, US labor leader Eugene Victor Debs was thrown into jail during a strike. Sitting in his cell he could not escape the conclusion that in disputes between two private interests, capital and labor, the state was not a neutral arbiter. The force of the state–with its police, militia, courts, and laws-was unequivocally on the side of the company bosses. From this, Debs concluded that capitalism was not just an economic system but an entire social order, one that rigged the rules of democracy to favor the moneybags.

Capitalist rulers continue to pose as the progenitors of democracy even as they subvert it, not only at home but throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Any nation that is not “investor friendly,” that attempts to use its land, labor, capital, natural resources, and markets in a self-developing manner, outside  the dominion of transnational corporate hegemony, runs the risk of being demonized and targeted as “a threat to U.S. national security.”

Democracy becomes a problem for corporate America not when it fails to work but when it works too well, helping the populace move toward a more equitable and livable social order, narrowing the gap, however modestly, between the superrich and the rest of us.  So democracy must be diluted and subverted, smothered with disinformation, media puffery, and mountains of campaign costs; with rigged electoral contests and partially disfranchised publics, bringing faux victories to more or less politically safe major-party candidates.

Capitalism vs. Prosperity

The corporate capitalists no more encourage prosperity than do they propagate democracy. Most of the world is capitalist, and most of the world is neither prosperous nor particularly democratic. One need only think of capitalist Nigeria, capitalist Indonesia, capitalist Thailand, capitalist Haiti, capitalist Colombia, capitalist Pakistan, capitalist South Africa, capitalist Latvia, and various other members of the Free World–more accurately, the Free Market World.

A prosperous, politically literate populace with high expectations about its standard of living and a keen sense of entitlement, pushing for continually better social conditions, is not the plutocracy’s notion of an ideal workforce and a properly pliant polity. Corporate investors prefer poor populations. The poorer you are, the harder you will work-for less. The poorer you are, the less equipped you are to defend yourself against the abuses of wealth.

In the corporate world of “free-trade,” the number of billionaires is increasing faster than ever while the number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. Poverty spreads as wealth accumulates.

Consider the United States. In the last eight years alone, while vast fortunes accrued at record rates, an additional six million Americans sank below the poverty level; median family income declined by over $2,000; consumer debt more than doubled; over seven million Americans lost their health insurance, and more than four million lost their pensions; meanwhile homelessness increased and housing foreclosures reached pandemic levels.

It is only in countries where capitalism has been reined in to some degree by social democracy that the populace has been able to secure a measure of prosperity; northern European nations such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark come to mind. But even in these social democracies popular gains are always at risk of being rolled back.

It is ironic to credit capitalism with the genius of economic prosperity when most attempts at material betterment  have been vehemently and sometimes violently resisted by the capitalist class. The history of labor struggle provides endless illustration of this.

To the extent that life is bearable under the present U.S. economic order, it is because millions of people have waged bitter class struggles to advance their living standards and their rights as citizens, bringing  some measure of humanity to an otherwise heartless politico-economic order.

A Self-devouring Beast

The capitalist state has two roles long recognized by political thinkers. First, like any state it must provide services that cannot be reliably developed through private means, such as public safety and orderly traffic. Second, the capitalist state protects the haves from the have-nots, securing the process of capital accumulation to benefit the moneyed interests, while heavily circumscribing the demands of the working populace, as Debs observed from his jail cell.

There is a third function of the capitalist state seldom mentioned. It consists of preventing the capitalist system from devouring itself.  Consider the core contradiction Karl Marx pointed to: the tendency toward overproduction and market crisis. An economy dedicated to speedups and wage cuts, to making workers produce more and more for less and less, is always in danger of a crash. To maximize profits, wages must be kept down. But someone has to buy the goods and services being produced. For that, wages must be kept up. There is a chronic tendency-as we are seeing today-toward overproduction of private sector goods and services and underconsumption of necessities by the working populace.

In addition, there is the frequently overlooked self-destruction created by the moneyed players themselves. If left completely unsupervised, the more active command component of the financial system begins to devour less organized sources of wealth.

Instead of trying to make money by the arduous task of producing and marketing goods and services, the marauders tap directly into the money streams of the economy itself. During the 1990s we witnessed the collapse of an entire economy in Argentina when unchecked free marketeers stripped enterprises, pocketed vast sums, and left the country’s productive capacity in shambles. The Argentine state, gorged on a heavy diet of free-market ideology, faltered in its function of saving capitalism from the capitalists.

Some years later, in the United States, came the multi-billion-dollar plunder perpetrated by corporate conspirators at Enron, WorldCom, Harkin, Adelphia, and a dozen other major companies. Inside players like Ken Lay turned successful corporate enterprises into sheer wreckage, wiping out the jobs and life savings of thousands of employees in order to pocket billions.

These thieves were caught and convicted. Does that not show capitalism’s self-correcting capacity? Not really. The prosecution of such malfeasance- in any case coming too late-was a product of democracy’s accountability and transparency, not capitalism’s. Of itself the free market is an amoral system, with no strictures save “caveat emptor.”

In the meltdown of 2008-09 the mounting financial surplus created a problem for the moneyed class: there were not enough opportunities to invest. With more money than they knew what to do with, big investors poured immense sums into nonexistent housing markets and other dodgy ventures, a legerdemain of hedge funds, derivatives, high leveraging, credit default swaps, predatory lending, and whatever else.

Among the victims were other capitalists, small investors, and the many workers who lost billions of dollars in savings and pensions. Perhaps the premiere brigand was Bernard Madoff. Described as “a longstanding leader in the financial services industry,” Madoff ran a fraudulent fund that raked in $50 billion from wealthy investors, paying them back “with money that wasn’t there,” as he himself put it. The plutocracy devours its own children.

In the midst of the meltdown, at an October 2008 congressional hearing, former chair of the Federal Reserve and orthodox free-market devotee Alan Greenspan confessed that he had been mistaken to expect moneyed interests–groaning under an immense accumulation of capital that needs to be invested somewhere–to suddenly exercise self-restraint.

The classic laissez-faire theory is even more preposterous than Greenspan made it.  In fact, the theory claims that everyone should pursue their own selfish interests without restraint. This unbridled competition supposedly will produce maximum benefits for all because the free market is governed by a miraculously benign “invisible hand” that optimizes collective outputs. (“Greed is good.”)

Is the crisis of 2008-09 caused by a chronic tendency toward overproduction and hyper-financial accumulation, as Marx would have it? Or is it the outcome of the personal avarice of people like Bernard Madoff? In other words, is the problem systemic or individual?  In fact, the two are not mutually exclusive. Capitalism breeds the venal perpetrators, and rewards the most unscrupulous among them.  The crimes and crises are not irrational departures from a rational system, but the converse: they are the rational outcomes of a basically irrational and amoral system.

Worse still, the ensuing multi-billion dollar government bailouts are themselves being turned into an opportunity for pillage. Not only does the state fail to regulate, it becomes itself a source of plunder, pulling vast sums from the federal money machine, leaving the taxpayers to bleed.

Those who scold us for “running to the government for a handout” are themselves running to the government for a handout. Corporate America has always enjoyed grants-in-aid, loan guarantees, and other state and federal subventions. But the 2008-09 “rescue operation” offered a record feed at the public trough. More than $350 billion was dished out by a right-wing lame-duck Secretary of the Treasury to the biggest banks and financial houses without oversight–not to mention the more than $4 trillion that has come from the Federal Reserve.  Most of the banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of New York Mellon, stated that they had no intention of letting anyone know where the money was going.

The big bankers used some of the bailout, we do know, to buy up smaller banks and prop up banks overseas. CEOs and other top banking executives are spending bailout funds on fabulous bonuses and lavish corporate spa retreats. Meanwhile, big bailout beneficiaries like Citigroup and Bank of America laid off tens of thousands of employees, inviting the question: why were they given all that money in the first place?

While hundreds of billions were being doled out to the very people who had caused the catastrophe, the housing market continued to wilt, credit remained paralyzed, unemployment worsened, and consumer spending sank to record lows.

In sum, free-market corporate capitalism is by its nature a disaster waiting to happen. Its essence is the transformation of living nature into mountains of commodities and commodities into heaps of dead capital.  When left entirely to its own devices, capitalism foists its diseconomies and toxicity upon the general public and upon the natural environment–and eventually begins to devour itself.

The immense inequality in economic power that exists in our capitalist society translates into a formidable inequality of political power, which makes it all the more difficult to impose democratic regulations.

If the paladins of Corporate America want to know what really threatens “our way of life,” it is their way of life, their boundless way of pilfering their own system, destroying the very foundation on which they stand, the very community on which they so lavishly feed.

Michael Parenti’s recent books include: Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader(City Lights); Democracy for the Few, 8th ed. (Wadsworth); The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New Press), Superpatriotism (City Lights), The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press), and God and His Demons (forthcoming).  For further information, visit his website: www.michaelparenti.org.

Pentagon PR Is Anti-American Psyop to Sell An Illegal War

[This says nothing of the seeding of network news with psywar specialists, retired officer "mouthpieces," or the lending of psywar technicians to civilian propaganda programs as described in the Iran/Contra hearings' "lost chapter," titled "Launching the Private Network."]

Pentagon Spending Billions on PR to Sway World Opinion

AP

Associated Press finds that over the past five years, the money the military spends on winning hearts and minds at home and abroad has grown by 63 percent, to at least $4.7 billion this year.

WASHINGTON– As it fights two wars, the Pentagon is steadily and dramatically increasing the money it spends to win what it calls “the human terrain” of world public opinion. In the process, it is raising concerns of spreading propaganda at home in violation of federal law.

An Associated Press investigation found that over the past five years, the money the military spends on winning hearts and minds at home and abroad has grown by 63 percent, to at least $4.7 billion this year, according to Department of Defense budgets and other documents. That’s almost as much as it spent on body armor for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2006.

This year, the Pentagon will employ 27,000 people just for recruitment, advertising and public relations — almost as many as the total 30,000-person work force in the State Department.

“We have such a massive apparatus selling the military to us, it has become hard to ask questions about whether this is too much money or if it’s bloated,” says Sheldon Rampton, research director for the Committee on Media and Democracy, which tracks the military’s media operations. “As the war has become less popular, they have felt they need to respond to that more.”

Yet the money spent on media and outreach still comes to only 1 percent of the Pentagon budget, and the military argues it is well-spent on recruitment and the education of foreign and American audiences. Military leaders say that at a time when extremist groups run Web sites and distribute video, information is as important a weapon as tanks and guns.

“We have got to be involved in getting our case out there, telling our side of the story, because believe me, al-Qaida and all of those folks … that’s what they are doing on the Internet and everywhere else,” says Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who chairs the Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. “Every time a bomb goes off, they have a story out almost before it explodes, saying that it killed 15 innocent civilians.”

——

On an abandoned Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas, editors for the Joint Hometown News Service point proudly to a dozen clippings on a table as examples of success in getting stories into newspapers.

What readers are not told: Each of these glowing stories was written by Pentagon staff. Under the free service, stories go out with authors’ names but not their titles, and do not mention Hometown News anywhere. In 2009, Hometown News plans to put out 5,400 press releases, 3,000 television releases and 1,600 radio interviews, among other work — 50 percent more than in 2007.

The service is just a tiny piece of the Pentagon’s rapidly expanding media empire, which is now bigger in size, money and power than many media companies.

In a yearlong investigation, The Associated Press interviewed more than 100 people and scoured more than 100,000 pages of documents in several budgets to tally the money spent to inform, educate and influence the public in the U.S. and abroad. The AP included contracts found through the private FedSources database and requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. Actual spending figures are higher because of money in classified budgets.

The biggest chunk of funds — about $1.6 billion — goes into recruitment and advertising. Another $547 million goes into public affairs, which reaches American audiences. And about $489 million more goes into what is known as psychological operations, which targets foreign audiences.

Staffing across all these areas costs about $2.1 billion, as calculated by the number of full-time employees and the military’s average cost per service member. That’s double the staffing costs for 2003.

Recruitment and advertising are the only two areas where Congress has authorized the military to influence the American public. Far more controversial is public affairs, because of the prohibition on propaganda to the American public.

“It’s not up to the Pentagon to sell policy to the American people,” says Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., who sponsored legislation in Congress last year reinforcing the ban.

Spending on public affairs has more than doubled since 2003. Robert Hastings, acting director of Pentagon public affairs, says the growth reflects changes in the information market, along with the fact that the U.S. is now fighting two wars.

“The role of public affairs is to provide you the information so that you can make an informed decision yourself,” Hastings says. “There is no place for spin at the Department of Defense.”

But on Dec. 12, the Pentagon’s inspector general released an audit finding that the public affairs office may have crossed the line into propaganda. The audit found the Department of Defense “may appear to merge inappropriately” its public affairs with operations that try to influence audiences abroad. It also found that while only 89 positions were authorized for public affairs, 126 government employees and 31 contractors worked there.

In a written response, Hastings concurred and, without acknowledging wrongdoing, ordered a reorganization of the department by early 2009.

Another audit, also in December, concluded that a public affairs program called “America Supports You” was conducted “in a questionable and unregulated manner” with funds meant for the military’s Stars and Stripes newspaper.

The program was set up to keep U.S. troops informed about volunteer donations to the military. But the military awarded $11.8 million in contracts to a public relations firm to raise donations for the troops and then advertise those donations to the public. So the program became a way to drum up support for the military at a time when public opinion was turning against the Iraq war.

The audit also found that the offer to place corporate logos on the Pentagon Web site in return for donations was against regulations. A military spokesman said the program has been completely overhauled to meet Pentagon regulations.

“They very explicitly identify American public opinion as an important battlefield,” says Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University. “In today’s information environment, even if they were well-intentioned and didn’t want to influence American public opinion, they couldn’t help it.”

In 2003, for example, initial accounts from the military about the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch from Iraqi forces were faked to rally public support. And in 2005, a Marine Corps spokesman during the siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah told the U.S. news media that U.S. troops were attacking. In fact, the information was a ruse by U.S. commanders to fool insurgents into revealing their positions.

——

The fastest-growing part of the military media is “psychological operations,” where spending has doubled since 2003.
Psychological operations aim at foreign audiences, and spin is welcome. The only caveats are that messages must be truthful and must never try to influence an American audience.

In Afghanistan, for example, a video of a soldier joining the national army shown on Afghan television is not attributed to the U.S. And in Iraq, American teams built and equipped media outlets and trained Iraqis to staff them without making public the connection to the military.

Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, director of strategic communications for the U.S. Central Command, says psychological operations must be secret to be effective. He says that in the 21st century, it is probably not possible to win the information battle with insurgents without exposing American citizens to secret U.S. propaganda.

“We have to be pragmatic and realistic about the game that we play in terms of information, and that game is very complex,” he says.

The danger of psychological operations reaching a U.S. audience became clear when an American TV anchor asked Gen. David Petraeus about the mood in Iraq. The general held up a glossy photo of the Iraqi national soccer team to show the country united in victory.

Behind the camera, his staff was cringing. It was U.S. psychological operations that had quietly distributed tens of thousands of the soccer posters in July 2007 to encourage Iraqi nationalism.

With a new administration in power, it is not clear what changes may be made. Obama administration officials have said they intend to go through the Department of Defense budget closely to trim bloated spending.

The emphasis on influence operations started with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In 2002, Rumsfeld established an Office of Strategic Influence that brought together public affairs and psychological operations. Critics accused him of setting up a propaganda arm, and Congress demanded that the office be shut down.

Rumsfeld has declined to speak to the press since leaving office, but while defense secretary he spoke bluntly about his desire to revamp the Pentagon’s media operations.

“I went down that next day and said, ‘Fine, if you want to savage this thing, fine, I’ll give you the corpse,”‘ Rumsfeld said on Nov. 18, 2002, according to Defense Department transcripts of a speech he delivered. “‘There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.”‘

In 2003, Rumsfeld issued a secret Information Operations Roadmap setting out a plan for public affairs and psychological operations to work together. It noted that with a global media, the military should expect and accept that psychological operations will reach the U.S. public.

“I can tell you there wouldn’t be a single American disappointed with anything that we’ve done that might be out there, that they don’t know about,” says Col. Curtis Boyd, commander of the 4th PSYOP Group, the largest unit of its kind. “Frankly, they probably wouldn’t care because maybe they are safer as a result of it.”

In January 2008, a new report by the Defense Science Board recommended resurrecting the Office of Strategic Influence as the Office of Strategic Communications. But Congress refused to fund the program.

In February, the Army released a new eight-chapter field manual that puts information warfare on par with traditional warfare.

The title of an entire chapter, Chapter 7: “Information Superiority.”

Pakistan deaths underscore sensitive U.S. mission

Pakistan deaths underscore sensitive U.S. mission

WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The bombing that killed three U.S. Special Operations troops in Pakistan on Wednesday has exposed one of the U.S. military’s most sensitive missions — training an elite paramilitary force in counterinsurgency.

The Pentagon does not generally talk publicly about the presence of U.S. troops in Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment is high and conspiracy theories abound over what the U.S. military is doing there and whether it infringes on the country’s sovereignty.

Tensions have been stoked by increased U.S. pilotless drone attacks against targets in the border region where militants have sought sanctuary and launched attacks on U.S. troops fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan.

U.S. defense officials say, in all, there are some 200 U.S. military personnel in Pakistan, including troops that guard the sprawling American embassy in Islamabad.

Among them are more than 100 Special Operations troops training the Pakistani Frontier Corps, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue is so sensitive.

Talk of the Special Operations forces comes at a bad time for Pakistan’s unpopular pro-U.S. president, Asif Ali Zardari, who faces dissent over a sluggish economy and cannot afford to be seen as bowing to U.S. pressure to fight militants.

The three Americans killed in northwest Pakistan were assigned to the training mission but worked as “civil affairs” specialists, defense officials said. The Special Operations training covers counterinsurgency tactics, including intelligence gathering and development.

Such civil affairs specialists work with local authorities, including tribal leaders and mayors. The troops were on their way to the opening of a girls school renovated with U.S. funds but officials gave no details of their role there.

U.S. Special Representative Richard Holbrooke rejected what he said was propaganda and disinformation by the Taliban, particularly allegations that those killed were employees of the U.S. company formerly called Blackwater who were involved in clandestine operations in Pakistan.   [If  claims that the men were working for Blackwater were Taliban disinformation, then why did one of the dead men call a friend for a "reference for an overseas mission" about one year ago.]

“There’s nothing secret about their presence there,” Holbrooke told reporters.

QUESTIONS ABOUND

U.S. defense officials said Islamabad has in the past thrown up obstacles to expanding the Special Operations mission over fears of a public backlash, frustrating U.S. officials.

While pointing to growing military-to-military cooperation to counter the threat militants pose to the nuclear-armed state, U.S. officials say many of Pakistan’s top commanders were focused on expanding conventional capabilities to counter long-time foe India.

“Pakistan’s military has demonstrated increased counterinsurgency training and doctrinal adjustments but its priority remains India,” Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers on Tuesday.

But U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made clear in his 2011 budget proposal this week that training and equipping the Pakistani military for counterinsurgency activities was a growing priority as he sought to increase funding for that element by a half-billion dollars to $1.2 billion.

It is unclear how much of the money would be earmarked for the Frontier Corps, which is responsible for security in areas near the Afghan border seen as part of a global militant hub.

Gates also proposed large funding increases to expand Special Operations and the Pentagon’s main publicly disclosed train and equip program.

“In a world where arguably the most likely and lethal threats will emanate from failed and fractured states, building the security capacity of partners has emerged as a key capability — one that reduces the need for direct U.S. military intervention, with all of its attendant political, financial and human costs,” Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday in unveiling the defense budget.

(Editing by John O’Callaghan)

Hariri seeks global community’s help over Israeli threats

Hariri seeks global community’s help over Israeli threats

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has called on the international community to take measures to prevent a possible Israeli attack on his country.

Trying to raise awareness about Israeli threats against his country, Hariri warned of increasing Israeli violations of the Lebanese airspace during the past months.

“We ask the international community to be aware of daily Israeli threats,” he said on Friday.

Several Israeli officials have recently stepped up their war rhetoric against other regional countries including Lebanon.

Israeli cabinet minister Yossi Peled said that another confrontation with Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah was almost inevitable.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s provocative rhetoric has also suggested a potential Israeli war against Lebanon.

The Israeli threats forced a counterproductive response from Hariri, who backs Hezbollah’s armed resistance as long as the threat from Israel persists.

“We assure Israel that betting on a schism in Lebanon will fail,” Hariri added.

Tel Aviv launched an attack on Lebanon in 2006, but was met with fierce resistance from Hezbollah. The 33-day war which was aimed at destroying Hezbollah’s resistance failed to achieve its objective and Israel was forced to pull out from the country after the United Nations Security Council voted for Resolution 1701.

Indian Motion

Indian Motion

From New Delhi’s perspective, the “AfPak” debate is all about the “Pak.”

BY KAPIL KOMIREDDI | FEBRUARY 4, 2010

There was a lone dissenter at last week’s Afghanistan conference in London: India.

As representatives from more than 60 countries convened at the historic Lancaster House, New Delhi’s representative to the summit, Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, emphasized to his British counterpart that it would be a monumental folly, at this juncture, to make a distinction “between a good Taliban and a bad Taliban” or to legitimize the former through reaching out. From India’s perspective, because the Taliban was originally an extension of Pakistan’s intelligence agency and because it has been used by Islamabad to mount attacks against India, there can be no “good Taliban.”  But Krishna, seated in the second row, was politely ignored. Alas, it wasn’t the first time.

The contours of the Afghanistan debate as it plays out in Washington, London, and Islamabad are well known. But India arguably has just as much at stake as the Western countries — if not more. New Delhi is worried that legitimizing elements of the Taliban may increase India’s vulnerability to terrorist attack. While the world discusses security strategies for Afghanistan, India focuses on how these proposals will impact its relationship with Pakistan. For New Delhi, the “AfPak” debate is really just about “Pak.”

Thus far, India’s policy toward Pakistan has been hands-off, leaving it to the paymasters in Washington and London. In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, New Delhi even acceded to Washington’s requests and took no action against Islamabad in order to facilitate the war in Afghanistan.

But now that dynamic is changing. As control of Afghanistan is being gradually handed back to the Taliban, an increasingly alarmed New Delhi will start looking for ways to prevent trouble. Although deployment of troops has been categorically ruled out by Defense Minister A.K. Antony, pressure will probably mount on the government to reconsider that decision. New Delhi will actively work to resuscitate remnants of the Northern Alliance, India’s longstanding allies against the Taliban. Most immediately, India will apply pressure on Pakistan, demanding that Islamabad act against the plotters of the Mumbai attacks. While New Delhi’s recent offer to resume diplomatic talks with Pakistan is a positive sign, should another terrorist attack take place, India will not be as patient as it was last time.

India may well feel slighted when it comes to gratitude from the global community on Afghanistan. Currently, New Delhi is the fifth-largest donor of civilian aid to Kabul. India has constructed the new parliament building, the Palace of Democracy; trained the country’s parliamentarians; and donated aircraft to resuscitate Afghanistan’s national airline, Ariana. Its workers are engaged in major infrastructure projects ranging from highways and electricity grids to dam projects, telecommunications, and the expansion of a TV network. As India’s junior foreign minister, Shashi Tharoor, put it, “The reason that Kabul has 24 hours of electricity a day is because of Indian engineers who have actually delivered the power supply.”

Besides, the wild popularity of Indian cinema and TV shows in Afghanistan means that India enjoys a soft-power edge over every other country currently engaged there. Unsurprisingly, in the most recent opinion poll, India emerged with the highest favorability rating of any country involved in Afghanistan: 74 percent.

Yet in the endless debates focusing on Afghanistan, India’s role in the region has usually been ignored by the United States and Europe — often deliberately, as New Delhi is quick to point out, in order to appease Pakistan.

Washington is keenly aware of the benefits that New Delhi brings to Afghanistan. But so far it has been wary of openly embracing India as a partner. As Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote in his assessment of the war last fall, “Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people.” But a larger role for India in Afghanistan, he warned, “is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan and India.”

What this means is that India, the only stable secular democracy in the region, is being actively prevented from helping in Afghanistan in order to appease the Pakistani regime, lest it re-enact the carnage that was visited upon Mumbai in 2008 and the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009. Which raises the question: Is the U.S. objective in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban, or is it to secure the country for Pakistan? To New Delhi, the answer looks increasingly like the latter.

Washington’s critics trace the origins of today’s crisis to the United States’ abrupt abandonment of Afghanistan in the late 1980s. The trouble with this version of history is that it skips over the 1990s. But contrary to what is now conventional wisdom in the West, the Taliban in its current incarnation is not a remnant of the Cold War. It is a creation of Pakistan. It was during the 1990s that the Taliban — actively backed by Pakistan — seized control of Kabul. Since then, New Delhi has witnessed Afghanistan become a launching pad for anti-India terrorism.

Today, the tragic irony of President Barack Obama, who invokes the virtues of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi while simultaneously making overtures to the Taliban in an oxymoronic pursuit for “moderate extremists,” has not been lost on India. A tiny but vocal band of skeptics in India is already questioning the wisdom of New Delhi’s alignment with the United States over the last ten years. Of course, it is unlikely that New Delhi would directly oppose U.S. policy in the region. But in the first year of the Obama administration, much of the progress achieved over a decade of aggressive diplomacy to bring India closer to the United States has been undone.

Only We Have the Right To Decimate Afghanistan

[In keeping with tradition, the Ambassador pontificated about other people using Afghanistan for their personal battleground, without ever owning-up to the fact that no one has so abused the Afghan people more than the United States and its allies.

''And Afghanistan has suffered throughout history by the fact that it has sometimes become the terrain for surrogate struggles for power. We do not want to see [anyone else making] that happen.”—Holbrooke]

US ties India-Pak talks to Afghanistan

Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN: The persuasive hand behind the India-Pakistan thaw has welcomed New Delhi’s decision to talk to Islamabad while underscoring the dialogue’s importance to the situation in Afghanistan rather than to Pakistan’s peeves about Kashmir.
Two senior US officials who gave thumbs up to India’s move explicitly linked the decision to the complex situation in Afghanistan where New Delhi and Islamabad are locked in shadow boxing that could prove detrimental to Washington’s goals of enforcing peace and exiting from there. Neither of them mentioned Pakistan’s obsession with the unresolved Kashmir issue or India’s focus on terrorism.
”We are supportive of dialogue among India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as a key component of moving ahead and achieving a stable region,” P.J.Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State who is also the state department spokesman said on Thursday when asked about the Indian offer, adding, ”We certainly have been encouraging steps that both Pakistan and India could take to address mutual concerns and to take appropriate steps so that tensions can be reduced, cooperation can be increased, and as a result, you have a more stable region that is focused on threats – both interests that they share and threats that they share.”
The US concern about Afghanistan at the expense of Pakistan’s Kashmir agenda was made even more explicit by Washington’s special Representative to Af-Pak Richard Holbrooke, who made an important pronouncement – that will be music to New Delhi’s ears – by endorsing India’s stake in the war-torn country where Pakistan is questioning its locus standi.
”The Indians have a legitimate series of security interests in that region, as do a number of other countries, including, of course, Pakistan, China and all the other countries that neighbor on Afghanistan,” Holbrooke said at a briefing for the international media. ”And any search for a resolution of the war in Afghanistan requires that the legitimate security interests of every country be understood and taken into account.”
”The dilemma arises when those security interests tend to be in conflict,” Holbrooke continued in his exposition of the India-Pakistan face-off. ”And Afghanistan has suffered throughout history by the fact that it has sometimes become the terrain for surrogate struggles for power. We do not want to see that happen.”
While some US analysts have suggested resolving the Kashmir issue is central to US success in Afghanistan, Holbrooke declined to endorse the line of thinking, in keeping with the counter-view that Kashmir was just a symptom of Pakistan dysfunction, not the cause. Asked how important Kashmir is for reducing tension between
India and Pakistan, Holbrooke dismissed the issue from the US agenda while declining to even mention the K-word at a time when Pakistan is poised to put it back on the front-burner.
”On the specific you talked about, we are not going to negotiate or mediate on that issue. And I’m going to try to keep my record and not even mention it by name, Holbrooke said, adding, “But I want to be clear that anything that the two countries do to reduce tensions or improve relations will be something we would applaud and encourage.”
“But we are not going to act as intermediaries between Islamabad and New Delhi. That is not what we are here to do. I’m not just talking about myself,” Holbrooke maintained, suggesting that it was broadly the policy of the Obama administration and a continuation of the Bush White House’s policy of not highlighting the Kashmir issue.
Statements from the two officials on a day Pakistan pushed the envelope on Kashmir (with Kashmir Day rallies across the country) in response to India’s offer on talks indicated that US did not share Islamabad’s agenda on key issues, including downsizing New Delhi’s role in Afghanistan. The global think tank Stratfor has already forecast a deadlock without American help.
"India will want to talk about Pakistani-sponsored militancy and Taliban negotiations. Pakistan will want to talk about everything else. It will be up to the United States to attempt to bridge this difficult gap," Stratfor said in an analysis on Thursday.
Though little progress has been made in India’s efforts to get Islamabad to crack down on India-focused militants operating on Pakistani soil, India’s concerns over Taliban appeasement in Afghanistan are driving New Delhi toward engagement with Islamabad, the think tank said.
US officials were clearly in the loop on the Indian olive branch, with various administration mandarins having made known for weeks that Washington prefers engagement to India’s posture of no-talks till Pakistan acts on 26/11. The reasoning in Washington was that India’s ”obdurate” position was allowing Pakistan’s militaristic constituency to up the ante and build up a hostile atmosphere at the expense of its peace-seeking civil society, undermining US goals in Afghanistan.

Obama’s muddled solutions

Obama’s muddled solutions

The president is trying to please everyone, but he needs to take tough action to prevent the US economy’s second freefall

Defeat in the Massachusetts senatorial election has deprived US Democrats of the 60 votes needed to pass healthcare reform and other legislation, and it has changed American politics – at least for the moment. But what does that vote say about American voters and the economy?

It does not herald a shift to the right, as some pundits suggest. Rather, the message it sends is the same as that sent by voters to former president Bill Clinton 17 years ago: “It’s the economy, stupid!” and “Jobs, jobs, jobs”. Indeed, on the other side of the United States from Massachusetts, voters in Oregon passed a referendum supporting a tax increase.

The US economy is in a mess, even if growth has resumed, and bankers are once again receiving huge bonuses. More than one out of six Americans who would like a full-time job cannot get one; and 40% of the unemployed have been out of a job for more than six months.

As Europe learned long ago, hardship increases with the length of unemployment, as job skills and prospects deteriorate and savings gets wiped out. The 2.5-3.5m foreclosures expected this year will exceed those of 2009, and the year began with what is expected to be the first of many large commercial real-estate bankruptcies. Even the Congressional budget office is predicting that it will be the middle of the decade before unemployment returns to more normal levels, as America experiences its own version of “Japanese malaise”.

As I wrote in my new book FreefallBarack Obama took a big gamble at the start of his administration. Instead of the marked change that his campaign had promised, he kept many of the same officials and maintained the same “trickle down” strategy to confront the financial crisis. Providing enough money to the banks was, his team seemed to say, the best way to help ordinary homeowners and workers.

When America reformed its welfare programs for the poor under Clinton, it put conditions on recipients: they had to look for a job or enroll in training programs. But when the banks received welfare benefits, no conditions were imposed on them. Had Obama’s attempt at muddling through worked, it would have avoided some big philosophical battles. But it didn’t work, and it has been a long time since popular antipathy to banks has been so great.

Obama wanted to bridge the divides among Americans that George W Bush had opened. But now those divides are wider. His attempts to please everyone, so evident in the last few weeks, are likely to mollify no one.

Deficit hawks – especially among the bankers who laid low during the government bailout of their institutions, but who have now come back with a vengeance – use worries about the growing deficit to justify cutbacks in spending. But these views on how to run the economy are no better than the bankers’ approach to running their own institutions.

Cutting spending now will weaken the economy. So long as spending goes to investments yielding a modest return of 6%, the long-term debt will be reduced, even as the short-term deficit increases, owing to the higher tax revenues generated by the larger output in the short run and the more rapid growth in the long run.

Trying to “square the circle” between the need to stimulate the economy and please the deficit hawks, Obama has proposed deficit reductions that, while alienating liberal democrats, were too small to please the hawks. Other gestures to help struggling middle-class Americans may show where his heart is, but are too small to make a meaningful difference.

Three things can make a difference: a second stimulus, stemming the tide of housing foreclosures by addressing the roughly 25% of mortgages that are worth more than the value the house, and reshaping our financial system to rein in the banks.

There was a moment a year ago when Obama, with his enormous political capital, might have been able to achieve this ambitious agenda, and, building on these successes, go on to deal with America’s other problems. But anger about the bailout, confusion between the bailout (which didn’t restart lending, as it was supposed to do) and the stimulus (which did what it was supposed to do, but was too small), and disappointment about mounting job losses, has vastly circumscribed his room for manoeuvre.

Indeed, there is even skepticism about whether Obama will be able to push through his welcome and long overdue efforts to curtail the too-big-to-fail banks and their reckless risk-taking. And, without that, more likely than not, the economy will face another crisis in the not-too-distant future.

Most Americans, however, are focused on today’s downturn, not tomorrow’s. Growth over the next two years is expected to be so anaemic that it will barely be able to create enough jobs for new entrants to the labour force, let alone to return unemployment to an acceptable level.

Unfettered markets may have caused this calamity, and markets by themselves won’t get us out, at least any time soon. Government action is needed, and that will require effective and forceful political leadership.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2010.

Is India’s neighbourhood set to get even more dangerous?

Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, threw out two Britons – Michael Semple and Mervyn Patterson- for allegedly

bribing Taliban leaders in Musa Qala, Helmand, where British troops were fighting – not always to advantage.

Karzai, apparently enraged that the British were paying off the Taliban behind his back and demanding that these “leaders” be accommodated in the Afghan government, refused to comply, and in the face of British displeasure, expelled them.

Semple, said security officials in Afghanistan, is probably best described as the Afghanistan-Taliban brains trust for the UK’s MI6, its external intelligence arm. In a re-run of the 19th Century ‘Great Game’ adventurers, Semple has been a prime advocate of ‘reintegration’ and ‘reconciliation’ with the Taliban as a key strategy to win the war in Afghanistan.

His background is equally interesting – Semple’s father was a general in the British army and his wife Yamima’s father, General Mirdha, a buddy of former Pakistani president Yahya Khan, putting him on an inside track to military-intelligence decision makers in Pakistan. The idea of wooing over softer Taliban leaders and quelling Pashtun anger isn’t new or novel. Today, it is largely Semple’s doctrine of ‘reconciliation’ that’s driving the present British-led initiative to sift the ‘good’ Taliban from the ‘bad’, and bring the ‘good’ into the tent. It’s a line that Pakistan has pushed, leveraging the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and army’s deep contacts with the Taliban. Islamabad is peddling a promise, once betrayed in 1996 when the group overran Kabul, that the Taliban could be persuaded to control violence and create a backdrop that would allow the West to make a face-saving exit from Afghanistan. Alongside, the Taliban could be persuaded to be a replacement for Karzai, despised by Pakistan and slowly disgraced in Washington.

LONDON MOVE STUNS INDIA
The Afghanistan conference in London last week was a shocker for Indian mandarins who had hoped to muscle in and get a larger say in Afghan policy given the money and effort New Delhi has put into the reconstruction efforts. But what happened was that India got blindsided by the British swallowing the Pakistani line that Islamabad could deliver peace by negotiating a deal with the Taliban. Shivshankar Menon, the new national security adviser, along with foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, is leading a massive review of India’s own Af-Pak policy, which will determine not just India’s approach to Afghanistan, but also craft out a new policy of engagement with Pakistan. The announcement on Thursday of resumption of foreign secretary-level talks between New Delhi and Islamabad is a movement in that direction.

Pakistan has pushed hard to remain in the driver’s seat on Afghan policy. And, at least for now, it appears to be winning by hard-selling the line that without the involvement of the ISI, re-integration will remain a non-starter. That was evident first at the Istanbul Af-Pak meeting leading up to the January 28 London conference , where Pakistan insisted India be kept out of the talks, and even a feeble attempt by Karzai to get India to the table was brushed off. India fretted and fumed impotently, but found itself completely dealt out of the game by Pakistan and the UK leading the charge, letting Karzai announce that he was going to draw his brothers back into the tent, and requesting the Saudis to mediate a ‘reintegration and reconciliation’ with the Taliban.

This was only formalizing a process that had started in 2009, when the Taliban leadership had met with the Afghan government in the desert kingdom . These meetings broke the ice, even quietly blessed by US special envoy to Af-Pak , Richard Holbrooke. After the London conference, Saudi envoy to India Faisal Tarab told Crest in a carefully worded comment, “We are ready to mediate with the Taliban, but we will not talk to terrorists.” Saudi King Abdullah has just met Karzai and the outcome of that conversation could determine the success or otherwise of the proposed venture.

For India, global approval of the reconciliation process implies Pakistan, with its ISI and army, is likely to take a leading role. As Holbrooke told MK Narayanan, who was till recently NSA, and Nirupama Rao quietly during his last visit a couple of weeks ago, Pakistan has worked itself into a paranoia about India’s presence in Afghanistan; India would have to be removed from all decision-making on Afghanistan, they insisted. As London showed, Islamabad got its way.

For the US and UK, even though India’s assistance programme punches all the right buttons, India had to be sacrificed . Therefore, when British foreign secretary David Miliband was asked about India’s role, he hummed and hawed saying “by and by” . In London, India insisted on putting in phrases like the process should be “Afghan-led” and “transparent and inclusive” – words to prevent the British and Pakistanis from controlling it. But as every diplomat understands, these are words than cannot , and indeed, will not be enforced.

The Pakistani demand has been succinctly laid out by Munir Akram, one of its top diplomats: “Pakistan’s cooperation should be offered only in exchange for tangible and immediate US support for Pakistan’s national objectives: an end to Indian-Afghan interference in Baluchistan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas); a Kashmir solution; a military balance between Pakistan and India; parity with India on nuclear issues; transfer of equipment and technology for counter-terrorism ; unconditional defense and economic assistance; free trade access.”

KARZAI CORNERED?
Steve Coll in his book Ghost Wars recounts an event in the life of Hamid Karzai that bears repetition, because it might be instructive even today. In 1999, when his father, Abdul Karzai, a respected Pashtun tribal leader, made an overture to Mullah Omar against al-Qaida, he was gunned down by the Taliban leader’s henchmen in Quetta, Pakistan.

The man is now being pushed into dealing with his father’s killers on an equal footing. A weakened, sullen Karzai has been battered into submission in a game where a lot of money ($500 million, $140 million of it in 2010) will be thrown at yet another attempt to win over the Taliban. US officials told Crest that while they maintain a healthy skepticism about flipping the Taliban, the US is not entirely dismissive of the fresh initiative either. This is as much to keep the British by their side as a reflection of the fact that there are serious doubts about the success of the US military strategy in Afghanistan.

The pragmatist that he is, Karzai has been half-way down this path before. In 2004, after Karzai won his first presidential election, he held out an olive branch to the Taliban, in a ‘reconciliation’ exercise. This was called Tahkim-e-Solh (Strengthening Peace). Established in May, 2005, it tried giving Taliban not guilty of criminal activity a way to return to society. It did not work, because the process was imperfect, the reintegration did not happen in many cases, the payments were delayed or not made at all. Since most were neither provided security nor money, they soon returned to the Taliban, which was more lucrative. Officials say that will be fixed, because the US-UK duo will now control the funds. But Gen David Petraeus (who’s credited with the success of the coalition forces in Iraq and now heads the US central command) is skeptical. “If you have an area that is insecure to begin with, then it is difficult, though not undoable, to guarantee security for somebody who wants to come in from the cold.”

CAN INDIA PROJECT HARD POWER?
Afghanistan and its future will prove to be India’s real test as a regional power. For the past decade, India has successfully turned itself into a huge presence and influence peddler in Afghanistan – through its biggest-ever use of soft power: roads, hospitals, schools, scholarships, community development projects. India’s financial commitment in Afghanistan is upwards of $1.2 billion. Opinion polls put India’s popularity rating among Afghans at 71%, in extreme contrast to only 2% for Pakistan.

India has refrained from using hard power in Afghanistan, and, in many ways, the Indian presence is guaranteed by the US’ security role. As soft-power author, Harvard University’s Joseph Nye says, “Achieving transformational objectives may require a combination of both hard and soft power.” Soft power is only credible when it is matched by or surpassed by hard power. India is paying the price, because, beyond a point, roads and dams don’t help buy influence. As one top-level Afghan official said, wryly, “We love India, but we fear Pakistan. That is a stronger emotion.” India’s power projection in Afghanistan has been primarily by showing its “goodness” . Pakistan, on the other hand, negotiates with the world with a gun held to its own head. That, as India has discovered several times in its history, is far more persuasive.

For the moment, Pakistan has the upper hand, because both the UK and US need it more than ever. Pakistan is playing an adroit diplomatic game of chicken with the US – and winning. Islamabad may be hopelessly dependent on Washington‘s money, but that doesn’t stop it from refusing to give visas to US officials, refusing money that comes with ‘conditions’. Pakistan has made it clear it will not stop supporting the Afghan Taliban; there is absolutely no attempt to tackle al Qaida; and Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura functions unimpeded. In short, it holds veto power over whether the Obama surge succeeds in Afghanistan. Washington, said an Indian official scornfully, is “kowtowing to Pakistan just like they did to China.”

Harsh perhaps, but this view is prevalent in the upper reaches of the Indian government – to the extent that even the PM is believed to have remarked that if India and Pakistan have another fracas, Washington may not weigh in on India’s side.

According to high-level officials in New Delhi, a successful Taliban reintegration is another term for a Taliban takeover in Kabul. “Look at Yemen and you see the Afghan future. If and when that happens, we may be looking at a pre-9 /11 situation,” said one of them.

Will Karzai survive? Unlikely. But if he is to avoid the kind of fate that befell Afghanistan’s president Mohammed Najibullah – who was tortured and strung up from a light post by the Taliban in Kabul in 1996 after the Soviets withdrew – Karzai needs new and improved survival strategies. These must include working out deals with warlords – tribal leaders who can help him survive the Taliban – because despite everything, the average Afghan still prefers the present government to the harsh rules of the Taliban. He can’t look to the UK, US or Pakistan for help. He can look to India. Will India step up to the table? This would entail getting our hands dirty. So far, India has shied away from a robust security role in Afghanistan.

Russia names NATO expansion as national threat

Russia names NATO expansion as national threat

MOSCOW
Russian servicemen in historical uniforms stand during military parade training in Red Square in Moscow, November 5, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov
Russian servicemen in historical uniforms stand during military parade training in Red Square in Moscow, November 5, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev approved Friday a new military doctrine identifying NATO expansion as a national threat and reaffirming Russia’s right to use nuclear weapons if the country’s existence is threatened.

The doctrine identifies the expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe and U.S. plans to create an anti-missile shield in Europe as concerns for national security, although it also states that the likelihood of a nuclear conflict has abated.

As Russia’s conventional troops lack modern equipment and undergo a painful reform aimed at creating professional armed forces, Moscow relies on its nuclear arsenal as a last resort, the document, published on the Kremlin website, says.

But the new guidelines do not follow through on the idea floated last year by the chief of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, of allowing the use of nuclear weapons in regional conflicts.

“Some clever people won over those who wanted to scare everybody with Russian nuclear weapons,” said military analyst Alexander Golts.

Russia fought a five-day war with Georgia in 2008 and according to the doctrine could still face new security threats from regional conflicts and local wars.

The doctrine says that one of the “main external threats of war” comes from NATO’s expansion east to Russia’s borders and pinpoints the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, missiles and states with nuclear weapons as a separate danger.

“The creation and deployment of strategic anti-missile systems that undermine global stability,” is also named as a threat.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Friday said it was concerned by Romania’s approval of the deployment of U.S. interceptor missiles as part of a missile shield to protect Europe and demanded clarification of the plan.

The Romanian deployment is part of a revamped U.S. missile defense approach taken by President Barack Obama after he scrapped a plan for a radar site and interceptor rockets in the Czech Republic and Poland that was opposed by Russia.

The publication of the doctrine comes as Russian and U.S. negotiators continue to try to finalize agreement on a new bilateral pact cutting stocks of strategic nuclear weapons.

They failed to meet a December deadline for a new treaty to replace the landmark Cold War-era START pact but both sides say they hope to sign a new deal in the near future

Brits, You Are Running Out of Time–the Army Is About To Become Your Police

Army may patrol streets to confront terror threat

Long-awaited Green Paper foresees new domestic role for Britain’s services, with emphasis on greater co-operation as chiefs face up to budgetary constraints

By Kim Sengupta, Defence Correspondent

Sir Jock Stirrup, left, and Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth
Sir Jock Stirrup, left, and Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth

Britain’s armed forces could be used on a regular basis on the streets of Britain to confront the threat of terrorism, under the terms of a strategic defence review announced yesterday.

Two of the six “key questions” to be considered by the SDR will focus on domestic threats which “cannot be separated from international security”, according to a Green Paper setting out the grounds for a full scale review to start after the election.

Decisions need to be made on the “balance between focusing on our territory and region and engaging threats at a distance” and “what contribution the armed forces should make in ensuring security and contributing to resilience within the UK”.

The paper states: “Stronger, more effective partnership with other Whitehall departments, the intelligence agencies, police forces and others at the national level will become even more important to achieving our security objective.”

One proposal due to be considered, according to Whitehall officials, was the formation of a rapid reaction force which could be deployed to counter Mumbai-style terrorist attacks and carry out swift operations outside the country.

DOD Identifies Army Casualties From Pakistan Training Op Attack

DOD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.  They died Feb. 3 in Timagara, Pakistan, from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.

Killed were:

Sgt. 1st Class David J. Hartman, 27, of Okinawa, Japan.  He was assigned to the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew S. Sluss-Tiller, 35, of Callettsburg, Ky.  He was assigned to the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.

Staff Sgt. Mark A. Stets, 39, of El Cajon, Calif.  He was assigned to the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne), 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.

“He which hath no stomach to this fight let him depart. But we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!! For he today, that sheds his blood with me, shall always be my brother”. Rest in peace my Brothers, you have not been forgotten. (W.Shakespeare)