Sham Libyan Elections

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Sham Libyan Elections

By Stephen Lendman

In 2011, Washington-led NATO forces destroyed Libya. It was ravaged, not liberated.

Humanitarian intervention was cover to wage war. “Responsibility to protect (R2P)” was subterfuge to colonize and plunder another country.

Tens of thousands were killed. Vital social services were lost. Imperial control replaced Jamahiriya governance. Pre-2011 Libya no longer exists.

Libyans call what NATO wrought “dimacracy.” Dima in Arabic is blood. NATO gains control by shedding it.

An illegitimate National Transitional Council (NTC) was appointed. Puppet leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil was made chairman.

Mahmoud Jibril became prime minister. Abdurraheem el-Keib replaced him. He’s a businessman and prominent Tripoli family scion. He taught at the UAE’s Petroleum Institute. Oil giants fund it.

Last August, Washington parachuted him in as its man. Protracted conflict continues. Libyans want to live free. Their struggle won’t end until NATO’s removed.

On July 7, sham elections were held. Originally scheduled for June 19, violence and instability postponed them. Current conditions are just as chaotic. Tribes and insurgent gangs control much of the country. Turf battles continue.

Anyone holding a position in any capacity in Gaddafi’s government was excluded from participating. So were ordinary Libyans. Only those judged professionally qualified could run. NTC stooges decided. Washington had final say.

Democracy wasn’t on the ballot. It never is with America in charge. Obama officials claimed otherwise.

Hillary Clinton did what she does best. She lied. She called Libyan elections a “historic milestone.”

“(M)en and women from every corner of Libya are determining their own future.”

UN envoy Susan Rice regurgitated her boss’ deception, saying:

“Libyans can finally forge a democracy that’s subject to the will of its people.”

She claimed Libya’s future will be brighter, stronger and more prosperous. She congratulated Libyans on their liberation.

Like her boss, she’s a serial liar and war criminal multiple times over. She disgraces the office she holds. She represents power and privilege. She spurns the right of people everywhere to live free.

With Washington in charge, Libyans don’t have a chance. They have no future. Scoundrel media claim otherwise.

The New York Times headlined “Braving Areas of Violence, Voters Try to Reshape Libya,” saying:

“….Libyans across most of the country voted Saturday in the first election after more than four decades of isolation and totalitarianism under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.”

The Wall Street Journal headlined “Libyans Flock to Polls in First Post-Gadhafi Vote.” The atmosphere was “celebratory.”

Reuters headlined “Libyans celebrate free vote despite violence,” saying:

“Libyans are celebrating their first free national election in 60 years .”

“Revelers lit the night sky over the capital, Tripoli, with fireworks….”

The Voice of America broadcasts US propaganda. It outdoes Fox News. It headlined “Libyans Hold Emotional Multi-Party Election, First in 60 Years,” saying:

“Libyans filled with optimism went to the polls Saturday for their nation’s first multi-party elections in 60 years. It was an emotional moment for people who have lived through 42 years of dictatorship and a bloody revolution.”

Young men “presiding over a raucous intersection of celebratory horn honking, as Libyans headed to and from the voting stations.”

Optimism spread around the capital, said VOA. “Libyans of all ages put their country’s problems aside and celebrated (on) their first post-revolution election day.”

Ignored was ravaged Libya in shambles, millions now impoverished, extreme human misery, protracted violence, and continuing liberation struggles.

Libyans showing up at polls won’t get what they voted for. Democracy wasn’t on the ballot. Two hundred General National Congress (GNC) seats were at stake.

Around 4,000 candidates competed. NTC officials ran as independents or newly created parties. Others had various party, independent, or other affiliations.

Most parties are Islamist. Washington has had a longstanding relationship with regional Islamist regimes. They include Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Al Qaeda is strategically used both as ally and enemy.

In the 1980s, bin Laden and mujahideen fighters were used against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan called them freedom fighters.

CIA and US special forces actively recruit, fund, arm, train, and direct Al Qaeda elements in Syria.

Extremist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) elements were used against Gaddafi.

Publicly, Islamic fundamentalists are called a threat to US security. At the same time, they’re used against America’s enemies.

Expect Islamic candidates to fill most seats in Libya’s GNC. Washington expresses no discomfort.

Only 80% of eligible voters were registered. Illegitimate electoral officials claimed turnout was 60%. It may, in fact, have been much lower. Pre-election, calls in parts of the country urged boycotting it.

GNC replaces the NTC. Puppet governance remains unchanged.

Within 30 days of taking office, a puppet prime minister will be chosen. He and majority GNC members are tasked with serving Western interests. Sham elections give them cover.

Money power rules Libya. Legitimate representatives serving everyone equitably are excluded.

At issue is plundering the country for profit. Military bases are planned.

In March 2011, Press TV headlined “US, France, Britain set up bases in Libya,” saying:

They “dispatched hundreds of military advisors to Libya to set up military bases in the country’s oil-rich east….”

Libyan diplomats were quoted saying Benghazi and Tobruk bases are planned. Insurgents controlled both cities. In late February, US and UK special forces entered both cities.

Key is plundering Libya’s oil, gas, water, uranium, iron ore, and other resources. Scattered deposits of gypsum, limestone, cement rock, salt, sodium carbonate (trona) building stone, phosphate rock, manganese, barit-celestite, sulfur and alum exist.

Also at issue is controlling the entire Mediterranean Basin, privatizing state industries, exploiting Libyan workers, and balkanizing the country like Yugoslavia.

Middle East analyst Mahdi Darius Mazemroaya says NATO wants Libya divided into Tripolitania, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica. Washington, Britain, France, and Italy supported this going back decades.

Redrawing the entire Eurasian map is planned. Involved is balkanizing it for greater control. Divide and conquer strategy makes it easier. One country after another is targeted. Currently it’s Syria. In 2011, it was Libya.

Once puppet officials take office, drafting a new constitution will follow. Originally planned as their first order of business, voters will now decide who’ll do it. Expect Western powers to choose eligible candidates.

Neoliberal exploitation and tyranny replaced Jamahiriya direct democracy and generous benefits it provided. Libya’s oil wealth was shared with its people.

It provided free healthcare, education, electricity, water, training, rehabilitation, housing assistance, disability and old-age benefits, interest-free state loans, as well as generous subsidies to study abroad, buy a new car, help couples when they marry, practically free gasoline, and more.

Libya under Gaddafi became Africa’s most developed nation. Its hospitals and private clinics were some of the region’s best. Now they’re in shambles. So is most else from months of bombing, continued violence, and Western indifference to people needs.

What Gaddafi provided, NATO swept away. Libyans are on their own to survive. Former calm and stable life is now violent, chaotic and dysfunctional.

Anyone expressing support for Gaddafi’s government is subject to criminal penalties. Insulting the so-called “revolution” is also illegal.

“Liberated” Libya looks more like hell. It’s true wherever NATO shows up. It’s a killing machine.

Its mandate includes mass deaths, vast destruction, subjugation, colonization, resource control, exploitation, and defiance of rule of law principles and other democratic values.

Hillary Clinton said Libyans now get to choose their own future. She didn’t explain that tyranny and neoliberal exploitation are part of the deal.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

http://www.claritypress.com/Lendman.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Al-Jazeera and the triumph of televised propaganda

Wadah Khanfar, Al-Jazeera and the triumph of televised propaganda


by Thierry Meyssan

Al-Jazeera – the Qatari news channel that in the space of 15 years established itself in the Arab world as an innovative news outlet – suddenly embarked in a vast intoxication campaign to overthrow the regimes of Libya and Syria through any means. As demonstrated by Thierry Meyssan, this was not a conjunctural shift but one that was planned long in advance by individuals who shrewdly concealed their personal interests to the public. Revelations follow …
VOLTAIRE NETWORK

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Wadah Khanfar

The Qatari-based Al-Jazeera channel announced the resignation of its director general, Wadah Khanfar, and his replacement by a member of the royal family, Sheikh Hamad Ben Jassem Al-Thani on September 20, 2011.

Sheikh Hamad is a Qatargas executive, and spent a year at the head office of Total in Paris. He is the former chairman of the Al-Jazeera Board of Directors.

This development is protrayed by the Atlanticist media in three different ways: either as a forced resignation and a takeover of the channel by the State, as a revenge on the part of the Palestinian Authority following the release of the Palestinian Papers and, finally, as the result of the Wikileaks leak exposing some of the connections between Mr. Khanfar and the United States.

While each of these interpretations may contain some truth, they nevertheless obscure the overriding factor: the role of Qatar in the war against Libya. At this point, a flash backwards is called for.

Al-Jazeera’s origins: a desire for dialogue

Al-Jazeera was conceived by two French-Israeli personalities, the David and Jean Frydman brothers, after the assassination of their friend Yitzhak Rabin. According to David Frydman [1], the goal was to create a medium where Israelis and Arabs could discuss freely, exchange arguments and get to know each other, considering this was prevented by the war situation thereby frustrating any peace prospect.

For the creation of the channel, the Frydman brothers benefited from a combination of circumstances: the Orbit Saudi company had reached an agreement with the BBC to set up a news broadcast in Arabic. But the political demands posed by the absolutist Saudi monarchy quickly proved incompatible with the professional independence of British journalists. The agreement was terminated and the majority of Arabic BBC journalists found themselves out on the street. They were then recruited to launch Al-Jazeera.

The Frydman brothers were eager to have their television perceived as an Arabic channel. They managed to enlist the new emir of Qatar, Hamid bin Khalifa al-Thani, who with the help of London and Washington had just overthrown his father, accused of pro-Iranian sentiments. Sheikh Hamad bin-Khalifa soon realized the potential advantages of being at the center of the Arab-Israeli discussions, which had already lasted for more than half a century and were likely to drag on even longer. At the same time, he authorized the Israeli Ministry of Commerce to open an office in Doha, unable to open an embassy. Above all, he saw the interest for Qatar to compete with the wealthy pan-Arab Saudi media and to own a media that could criticize everyone except himself.

The initial financing package included both a down payment from the Frydman brothers and a loan from the Emir of $ 150 million over 5 years. A boycott by the advertisers, organized by Saudi Arabia, and the ensuing scantiness of advertising revenues finally led to the modification of the initial plan. Ultimately, the Emir became the donor of the channel and hence its sponsor.

Exemplary journalists

For years, Al-Jazeera’s audience was captivated by its internal pluralism. The channel took pride in giving free rein to opposing viewpoints. The idea was not to tell the truth, but to have it spring from the debate. Its flagship program – the talk show hosted by the iconoclastic Faisal al-Qassem entitled “The contrary view” – took delight in shaking up prejudices. Everyone could find reason to eulogize certain programs and to deplore others. Regardless, this effervescence prevailed over the monolithism of its competitors and changed the Arab audiovisual landscape.

The heroic role of its reporters in Afghanistan and in the 2003 Gulf War, as well as their exemplary work in contrast to the propaganda of the pro-US satellite channels, catapulted Al-Jazeera from a controversial channel to a acclaimed media outlet. Its journalists paid a high price for their courage: George W. Bush stopped short from bombing the Doha studios, but had Tareq Ayyoub assassinated [2], arrested Tayseer Alouni [3], and imprisoned Sami al-Hajj at Guantanamo Bay [4].

The 2005 reorganization

However, all good things come to an end. In 2004-05, after the death of David Frydman, the Emir decided to overhaul Al-Jazeera completely and create new channels, including Al-Jazeera English, at a time when the global market was changing and all major States were equipping themselves with news satellite channels. The moment had come to leave the excitement and impudence of the early period behind in order to capitalize on an audience now reaching 50 million viewers, and to position itself as a player in the globalized world.

Sheikh Hamad bin-Khalifa called on an international firm that had already provided him with personal training in communication skills. JTrack had especially targeted Arab and Southeast Asian leaders to train them in the language of Davos: how to project an image that the West wants to see. From Morocco to Singapore, JTrack has trained most of the political leaders backed by the United States and Israel, often mere heredity puppets, turning them into respectable media personalities. The important thing is not whether they have something to say, but their aptness to impart the globalized rhetoric.

However, having been assigned to high government positions in North Africa, the CEO of JTrack had to withdraw before completing the transformation of the Al-Jazeera Group. He handed over the rest of the operations to a former Voice of America journalist who had been working for the Qatari channel for several years and who belonged to the same Muslim congregation as him: Wadah Khanfar.

Both professionally competent and politically safe, Mr. Khanfar strove to give Al-Jazeera an ideological tinge. While giving a voice to Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, Nasser’s former spokesman, he appointed Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi – whom Nasser had stripped of his Egyptian nationality – the channel’s “spiritual counselor”.

The 2011 shift

With the revolutions in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, Wadah Khanfar dramatically changed Al-Jazeera’s editorial policy. The Group played a central role in lending credence to the “Arab spring” myth, according to which the people – eager to live in a Western-style society – had risen to overthrow their dictatorial regimes and switch to parliamentary democracies. No distinction was made between the events in Tunisia and Egypt, and those in Libya and Syria. As for the popular movements in Yemen and Bahrain, they did not draw enough viewers!

In reality, the Anglo-Saxons tried to take advantage of the popular revolts to replay the same “Arab spring” scenario that they had staged in the 1920s to take possession of the former Ottoman provinces and install puppet parliamentary democracies under Western tutelage. Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts was designed to dampen the flames of revolution and to legitimize the governments aligned with the United States and Israel. In Egypt the uprising was harnessed in the interest of a single element of the opposition: the Muslim Brotherhood, embodied by the channel’s star preacher … Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Outraged by the new editorial policy and the increasingly frequent recourse to lies [5], a certain number of journalists, including Ghassan Ben Jedo, walked out slamming the door behind them.

Who’s pulling the information strings?

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the Libyan episode that the masks started to fall. In fact, the boss of JTrack and mentor of Wadah Kanfhar is none other than Mahmoud Jibril (the “J” in “JTrack” stands for “Jibril”). This friendly, brilliant yet shallow, manager had been recommended to Muammar Gaddafi by his new American friends to pilot the economic opening of Libya after the normalization of its diplomatic ties. Under Saif el-Islam Gaddafi’s control, he was appointed both Minister of Planning and Director of the Development Authority, thus becoming de facto the number two man in the government, having authority over other ministers. At breakneck speed, he forged ahead with the deregulation of Libya’s socialist economy and the privatization of its public enterprises.

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Mahmoud Jibril with his friend and business partner, Bernard Henri-Lévy, in conquered Tripoli.

Through his JTrack training activities, Mahmoud Jibril established personal relationships with almost all the Arab and Southeast Asian leaders. He had offices in Bahrain and Singapore. In addition, Mr. Jibril created trading companies, including one dealing with Malaysian and Australian timber in partnership with his French friend, Bernard-Henri Levy.

Mahmoud Jibril started his university studies in Cairo, where he met and married the daughter of one of Nasser’s ministers. He later continued his studies in the United States, where he assimilated the libertarian views that he tried to inject into al-Gaddafi’s anarchist ideology. But, more importantly, in Libya Mr. Jibril joined the Muslim Brotherhood. It was in this capacity that he placed his coreligionists, Brothers Wadah Kanfhar and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in Al-Jazeera ..

During the first half of 2011, the Qatari channel became the preferred instrument for pro-Western propaganda: it went to great lengths to obscure the anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist aspect of the Arab revolutions and, in each country, it picked the actors it intended to support and those it decided to deprecate. Not surprisingly, it supported the king of Bahrain, a student of Mahmoud Jibril, who had his people gunned down, whileAl-Jazeera’s spiritual counsellor, Sheikh al-Qaradawi, was calling for a Jihad over the air against al-Gaddafi and el-Assad, falsely accusing them of murdering their own people.

With Mr Jibril as prime minister of the rebel government of Libya, the height of duplicity was reached when a replica of the Green Square and Bab-el-Azizia was built in the studios of Al-Jazeera in Doha, where footage of false images was shot portraying pro-US “insurgents” entering Tripoli. Need I mention the insults I received when I denounced this manipulation in the columns ofVoltairenet.org? Yet Al-Jazeera and Sky News broadcasted these false images on the second day of the Battle of Tripoli, sowing confusion among the Libyan people. It was actually only three days later that the “rebels” – almost exclusively from Misrata – entered Tripoli, devastated by NATO’s bombs.

The same goes for the announcement by Al-Jazeera of Saif el-Islam Gadhafi’s arrest and the confirmation of his capture by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno-Ocampo. I was the first, throughRussia Today, to warn against the manipulation. And again, I was ridiculed by certain newspapers, until Saif el-Islam turned up in person to wake up the journalists holed up at the Rixos Hotel and take them to the real Bal el-Azizia square.

Questioned about such lies by channel France24 in Arabic, the president of the National Transitional Council (CNT), Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chalked it up to a war stratagem and said he was delighted to have thus accelerated the fall of the Jamahiriya.

What future for Al-Jazeera?

The conversion of Al-Jazeera into a propaganda tool for the recolonisation of Libya was not achieved without the knowledge of the emir of Qatar, but indeed under his leadership. The Gulf Cooperation Council was the first to call for an armed intervention in Libya and Qatar was the first Arab country to join the Contact Group. He funneled weapons to the Libyan “rebels” before sending in his own ground troops, especially during the Battle of Tripoli. In exchange, he obtained the privilege of controlling all the oil trade on behalf of the National Transitional Council.

It is too early to say whether the resignation of Wadah Khanfar marks the end of his mission in Qatar, or if it heralds the channel’s desire to recover the credibility that took 15 years to build and only 6 months to lose.

[1] See interviews with the author

[2] “The war on al-Jazeera“, by Dima Tareq Tahboub, The Guardian, 4 October 2003.

[3] “The Arab press in the firing line”, Voltaire Network, 15 September 2003.

[4] See our dossier on Sami al-Hajj

[5] For example: “Al-Jazeera staged huge rally in Moscow against Bashar al-Assad”, Voltaire Network, 4 May 2011

50,000 March In Mexico City To Challenge Pena Nieto’s Presidential Victory

Protesters against Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, from the opposition movement Yosoy132 (I am 132) take part in a mock funeral for democracy during a march in Mexico City on Saturday. 
Protesters against Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, from the opposition movement Yosoy132 (I am 132) take part in a mock funeral for democracy during a march in Mexico City on Saturday. (Bernardo Montoya/Reuters)

Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Mexico’s capital on Saturday to protest Enrique Pena Nieto’s apparent win in the country’s presidential election, accusing his long-ruling party of buying votes.

The protesters accused Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party of giving out bags of groceries, pre-paid gift cards and other goods to voters ahead of the July 1 national elections.

The students, unionists and leftists in the march carried signs reading, “Pena, how much did it cost to become president?” and “Mexico, you pawned your future for 500 pesos.” Mexico City officials put the size of the crowd that reached its central Zocalo plaza at 50,000.

“The fraud was carried out before [the election], buying votes, tricking the people,” said Gabriel Petatan Garcia, a geography student who carried a sign in Finnish. Protesters carried signs in many languages to call the attention of the international press.

Pena Nieto, a youthful 45-year-old married to a soap opera star, won last Sunday’s election by almost 6.6 percentage points, according to the official count, bringing the PRI back to power after 12 years in opposition. The party had ruled Mexico for 71 consecutive years, allegedly with the help of corruption and vote fraud.

A final vote count showed centrist Pena Nieto getting 38.2 per cent support, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the progressive Democratic Revolution Party with 31.59 per cent, and Josefina Vazquez Mota of the rightist National Action Party with 25.41. The small New Alliance Party got 2.29 per cent.

Investigation into gift cards launched

The final vote count must be certified in September by the Federal Electoral Tribunal. The tribunal has declined to overturn previously contested elections, including a 2006 presidential vote that was far closer than last Sunday’s.

Accusations of vote-buying began surfacing in June, but sharpened in July when people rushed to grocery stores on the outskirts of Mexico City to redeem pre-paid gift cards worth about 100 pesos ($7.60 Cdn). Many said they got the cards from PRI supporters before the elections.

Lopez Obrador said millions of voters had received either pre-paid cards, cash, groceries, construction materials or appliances.

Simply giving away such gifts is not illegal under Mexican electoral law, as long as the expense is reported to electoral authorities. Giving gifts to influence votes is a crime, though is not generally viewed as grounds for overturning an election.

Leonardo Valdes, the president of the Federal Electoral Institute, has said he doesn’t see any grounds for overturning the results but that an investigation into the gift cards had been launched.

Three U.S. Special Operations Soldiers Die in Mali

Three U.S. Special Operations Soldiers Die in Mali

Malimap
Map of Mali

Last Friday (April 20th), driving through the streets of Bamako, the capital of Mali, a vehicle with six people was involved in an accident. All six in the vehicle were killed in what is reported to be a “single-car accident”. Officials in Washington have released information that three of the individuals were U.S. soldiers; two assigned to SOCOM and the third assigned to INSCOM (U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command). What stands out about this report to me specifically is the fact that INSCOM (located Fort Belvoir, MD) is also used as the cover organization for personnel assigned to the Intelligence Support Activity. SGM Robert O’Dell of “The Activity” was killed in Mosul, Iraq in 2004; the Army officially listed him as a soldier under INSCOM.

 

There is little info on the other three killed in the car and the first press release listed them as civilians. I came across a separate article from a local news source that says the vehicle plunged off Martyrs Bridge just South of downtown Bamako and the three other occupants were Moroccans. Still waiting to verify this, it could take a while considering the nature of the business.

Martyrs Bridge

You can find the original story here:

U.S. personnel have been operating in full force in Northern Africa in what is officially dubbed as Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara since 2007. Currently, we have over 1,300 U.S. personnel operating throughout ten African nations, with a heavy emphasis on Mali, Chad, Algeria, and Mauritania. The purpose of our mission there is to cooperate with the local governments in combating Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (off-shoot of AQ) through training, advising, and intelligence sharing.

Another interesting fact is that U.S. operations in Mali have been suspended since March 21st, 2012 when Mali troops overthrew the Malian president in a violent coup. The soldiers were displeased on how the administration was handling the Tuareg rebellion which started in January of 2012. An insurgency which can possibly bring down the entire Malian government.

I reached out to the original author, Robert Burns of the Associate Press, to gather more intel on what happened and will update this article accordingly once I hear from him. At this time, I have yet to find information on the names of the deceased individuals but may these warriors rest in peace.

Into Africa: The global war on terror’s last frontier

Into Africa: The global war on terror’s last frontier

Michael Brenner

2012-07-05, Issue 592

Evidence of Apparent Razed Structures–DigitalGlobe

Imagery Dates: 7 Feb 2012 and 15 April 2012
Location: Heglig, South Kordofan, Sudan*

*Sudan and South Sudan both claim sovereignty over Heglig, which South Sudan also refers to as Panthou.

Report Date: 23 April 2012

*Both Sudan and South Sudan claim sovereignty over Heglig, which is also known as Panthou.


cc E P

The US government’s heightened preoccupation with “terrorists” is out of proportion with the threat these groups actually pose to the United States. So what exactly is America’s military adventures in Africa about?

America’s “war on terror” now has brought us deep into tropical Africa and the Sahel. We learned last week that Washington is engaged in an expansive project to hunt down an array of local “terrorists”, could-be “terrorists” and mayhem makers in general. Nearly all of the numerous groups cited are no more than loose bands incapable of threatening the United States. Most have parochial interests whose focus and attention span fluctuates; they are driven by personal ambitions, tribal animosities, avarice and an appetite for raw power. To suppress them means establishing political order and the rule of law over vast territories, which have known little of either. Yet this is the implied burden the United States has assumed under plans drawn and executed by the three year old United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM). The Army is in charge with the CIA Operations Division as an auxiliary. The State Department is derogated to a supporting role that involves local public relations and serving up the diplomatic refreshments. A good portion of the work, and the money, is assigned to the mercenary companies of Iraq/Afghanistan fame.

The blanket justification is that al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQM) and al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa (AQHA) are out there plotting against us. These outfits are declared an ideological and political cancer that could spread to other locations. AQM in fact is shorthanded for a ramshackle bunch of loosely connected groups in and around the Sahara who are of no danger to American interests. The latter is code for the fundamentalist al-Shabaab (Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin, to give it its full name) in Somalia, which has been fighting a civil war for a decade or more. It has sought to inflate its importance by rebranding itself as an al-Qaeda affiliate. Al-Shabaab officially signed a franchise contract with the al-Qaeda family of enterprises only in February of this year. In the local mix may be a few of the people allegedly involved in the U.S. embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania more than a decade ago. Also highlighted by Washington are the eleven American citizens who, it is claimed, have gone over to take part in the tribal wars – although it is unclear why Washington considers that a matter of great consequence.

The COIN reaction to those two insurgencies is the pivot of “Operation Africa.” The heightened importance accorded AQM and AQHA is disproportionate to the danger they pose to the United States. To date, they have not caused the death of a single American. We have killed hundreds of them. Still, the United States has orchestrated a multi-party intervention in Somalia by a half dozen countries including Christian Ethiopia (for the second time). There, as in the Sahel too, the Pentagon provides intelligence, logistical support and training, and the occasional helping hand on the ground. Those programs now have been extended to parts of non-Muslim Africa – the prominent example being the dispatch of a Special Forces team to the eastern Congo to track down Joseph Kony, head of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army – a bandit gang responsible for numerous atrocities. Kony is a nasty piece of work, but why the United States should be operating a string of forward bases in the heart of moral darkness to liquidate him is another matter.

Somalia in particular has made steady progress moving up the ladder of terrorist worry spots. It is now right up there with Afghanistan and Yemen – surpassing long forgotten Iraq with its still active al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The latter is more potent than any African group: it killed hundreds of Americans, we spent billions trying to crush it, and it is more critically located than the rest. Yet, it is no longer in vogue within Washington counter-terrorism circles. It is barely mentioned, and – in the ultimate disparagement – few if any of its leaders have prices on their heads. One reason for this neglect is that we can do absolutely nothing about them since we have been shown the door by Maliki and had it slammed shut behind us. This thinking amounts to looking for a lost object only under the lamppost because that is where the light is. Compare to Somalia. There, as a sign of al-Shabaab’s new-found prominence, the State Department this week offered $7 million for information leading to the capture of its founder and commander Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed, through its Rewards for Justice bounty program. In contrast, the U.S. had offered only $1 million for Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was killed in a U.S. strike in Pakistan last week and was described by U.S. officials as a bin Laden confidante and al-Qaeda’s second-in-command. Either State suddenly finds itself flush with money or the New al-Qaedas are now valued more highly than Original al-Qaeda for reasons that are a mystery.

The scope of this entire daunting enterprise, as reported in the Washington Post, is breath-takingly broad. Not just in geographical range. It encompasses four categories of activity. One is the training and supply of local forces deemed politically reliable and potentially competent to undertake counter insurgency. There is the ulterior objective of knitting ties with military officers who could be a pro-American political force were their time to come. Egypt is a model; Iraq is not. The second activity is engagement in military operations in the field. Special Forces already have been trekking around the fringes of the Sahara in the company of local constabulary for some time. So too in Somalia and now Yemen – as Obama admitted last Friday. A new wrinkle is the building of a small galaxy of airfields in the bush from which single engine prop planes can undertake surveillance of “enemy” movements. Their value in the age of drones and satellite electronic imaging is unexplained. Perhaps, political conditions are not yet ripe for installation of the necessary high tech support structure. Obviously, though, this crop duster squadron will be manned mainly by mercenary companies.

There is intelligence gathering. This goes beyond operational intelligence or the identifying of bad guy networks. Rather, it covers the political mapping of entire countries, which USAFRICOM visualizes as the basis for long-term American strategy aimed at winning friends and influencing people. Such activities normally fall in the purview of the State Department; this is yet another sign of State being eclipsed by the Pentagon/Intelligence powerhouse that rules American foreign policy nowadays. Finally, there is the element of people to people confidence building ties between Americans and the locals. It is a tactic that carries over from our vain efforts along these lines elsewhere. Never say
“basta!”

The budget is classified; the project’s duration is as far as the mind can imagine. There is one thing that we can be sure of. Operation Africa is self-perpetuating since there will be a steady supply of murderers, extortionists and Islamic radicals in this tormented environment that we never will be able to suppress. Our efforts, moreover, will generate the inevitable anti-Americanism and retaliation such ventures spawn – as in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. So why launch this latest enterprise of dubious value? Well, when you have created an USAFRICOM, when you have staffed it with a few thousand personnel, when you have a Special Forces corps numbering 60,000, when you have a vastly expanded CIA Operations Division, and when American strategic thinking is still locked in the auto-pilot mode set in September 2001 – when all these forces are at work, there will be action. Trained to rumble people will not be content doing push-ups while watching the Military Channel. Their superiors will not be content thumbing through Jeune Afrique – and thinking about what they read.

As an updated Paladin calling card might read: Have Gun Will Travel; E-mail:USAFRICOM@US.Gov

Add to the above politicians who live in dread of being accused of being soft on terrorists or on anyone else who dislikes America.

Most of this, of course, has been classified ultra secret. Secret from whom is unclear. After all, the parties in on the secret include: leadership of AQLM and AQHA; the governments of the countries involved – or, at least, their militaries; the African Union “peacekeeping” force in Somalia; UN officials in the region; humanitarian organizations and coffee shop habitués from Ouagadougou to Mombasa. As for Mr. John Q. Public here at home, it looks like he is the only one who cannot be trusted with this ultra secret information.

Japanese spiritual culture is filled with various supernatural demi-gods. Shoki, the demon-slayer, is a favourite. He is depicted in human form with a wild countenance, flying hair and armed with a powerful broadsword. His fierce dedication to purging an array of malevolent creatures is manifest. He is high-spirited and exults in his good works. He is a theatrical figure. Shoki is fabled as returning from Hell with a mission to cleanse the world of Evil – especially as embodied by malign spirits and ghosts. They are legion; indeed, their number seems to grow to meet the demand for ever-more marvellous feats by the fiery protector of the good and virtuous. He is at once guardian and existential reassurance against the menacing forces that surround us. An emotional security blanket. Shoki is here – and there, and everywhere. So rest assured – go shopping.

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

Pakistanis march to protest NATO routes’ reopening

 

Pakistanis march to protest NATO routes’ reopening

Los Angeles Times

Activists and supporters of The Defence of Pakistan coalition sit on vehicles in Lahore on July 8, 2012, as they take part in a protest rally to Islamabad.  Pakistan's Islamists who oppose their country's anti-terror alliance with Washington have begun a "long march" to Islamabad to protest over the reopening of a NATO supply route to Afghanistan.  AFP PHOTO/Arif ALIArif Ali/AFP/GettyImages Photo: Arif Ali, AFP/Getty Images / SF

Activists and supporters of The Defence of Pakistan coalition sit on vehicles in Lahore on July 8, 2012, as they take part in a protest rally to Islamabad. Pakistan’s Islamists who oppose their country’s anti-terror alliance with Washington have begun a “long march” to Islamabad to protest over the reopening of a NATO supply route to Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/Arif ALIArif Ali/AFP/GettyImages Photo: Arif Ali, AFP/Getty Images / SF

Islamabad

Thousands of followers of leading Islamist clerics began marching Sunday from the eastern city of Lahore to the capital, Islamabad, to protest Pakistan’s decision to once again let NATO move Afghanistan-bound supply convoys through the country.

The protest was organized by the Defense of Pakistan Council, a coalition of hard-line religious groups that has among its leaders Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, an Islamic cleric who India claims engineered the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. The procession – made up of buses, cars and motorcycles – was peaceful.

After completing the 185 mile journey, they plan to hold a protest in front of the parliament building Monday.

Pakistani leaders have been bracing for a backlash since announcing last week that they were reopening NATO supply routes. The blockade was imposed after American air strikes mistakenly killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border in November.

Saeed, who was seen alongside other Islamist clerics atop a vehicle leading the caravan Sunday, maintains a high profile despite the $10 million bounty that the U.S. government placed on him in April. Pakistani officials refuse to arrest Saeed, saying the United States must provide evidence that ties him to militant activities.

Two Saudis die in clashes over arrest

Two Saudis die in clashes over arrest

  • From: AAP

Two Shi’ites have been killed in clashes with police in the eastern Saudi province of Qatif following the arrest of a prominent Shi’ite cleric and government critic.

AKHBAR Shakuri and Mohammed Filfel died and a dozen other protesters were wounded during overnight clashes that erupted when police opened fire to disperse a demonstration against the arrest of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, said the activists.

The violence occurred in Riyadh Street, the main artery of Qatif city, they said. The reports could not be independently verified.

The interior ministry described Nimr as an “instigator of sedition” as it announced that he was arrested at Al-Awamiya in Eastern Province on Sunday, after being wounded in the leg while putting up resistance.

He was transferred to hospital and was due to be interrogated, ministry spokesman Mansur Turki said, cited by the official SPA news agency.

The new deaths bring to nine the number of people killed in clashes between Saudi authorities and protesters in the Shi’ite-populated region.

Nimr is considered one of the main advocates of demonstrations that first took place in February 2011 after an outbreak of violence between Shi’ite pilgrims and religious police in the holy city of Medina.

The protests escalated after the kingdom led a force of Gulf troops into neighbouring Bahrain to help crush a month-long Shi’ite-led uprising against the country’s Sunni monarchy.

Most of Saudi Arabia’s estimated two million Shi’ites live in the east, where the vast majority of the OPEC kingpin’s huge oil reserves lie. Saudi Shi’ites complain of marginalisation in the kingdom.

Siege of Syria Proves Turkish Ambitions Far Exceed Their Capabilities

[Turkey wants to carry the ball for the corrupt American Empire, but its military prowess is mostly confined to the big imaginations of Turkey’s ambitious leaders.  It honestly tried to provoke a war with Syria, but when push came to shove, they cried “foul” and ran to their masters at NATO with their tail between their legs.]
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Chief of Staff General Ozel attend funeral ceremony of fallen Air Force Lieutenant AksoyTurkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Chief of Staff General Ozel attend funeral ceremony of fallen Air Force Lieutenant Aksoy (POOL, REUTERS / July 6, 2012)

Alistair Lyon Reuters

3:10 a.m. CDT, July 9, 2012

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s bark seems worse than its bite.

Ask the Syrians, who shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet on June 22 and got away with it.

Turkish leaders shrilled up their rhetoric. They sent anti-aircraft missiles to the border and repeatedly scrambled F-16 fighters when Syrian helicopters flew too close. Ankara won supportive noises from its NATO allies. But that was it.

Ask the Israelis, who killed nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid ship in 2010, and got away with it. Turkey threatened to send its navy to protect future flotillas to Gaza, but never followed through.

The danger for Turkey is that its truculence, whether over the Mavi Marmara ship incident with Israel or over the loss of its F-4 off the Syrian coast, begins to look toothless.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has likened Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on his opponents in the past 16 months to the practices of Nazi Germany – only to be accused in turn of being implicated in the bloodshed.

“With his desire from the beginning to interfere in our internal affairs, unfortunately … (Erdogan) has made Turkey a party to all the bloody acts in Syria,” Assad told Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper last week. “Turkey has given all kinds of logistical support to the terrorists killing our people.”

After Erdogan announced that Turkey had toughened its rules of engagement on the Syrian border, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, accused him of playing poker with national interests.

“Whatever the prime minister said at the time of the Mavi Marmara incident, he said the same thing today. If you bluff, you lose your deterrence internationally,” Kilicdaroglu said.

So far, neither Turkey nor Syria seems eager for a confrontation, although the pricklier Turkish military posture raises the danger of an accidental one along a border that winds 900 km (550 miles) from the Mediterranean to the Tigris river.

ZERO PROBLEMS

Turkey is a serious regional power with a powerful military and an economy far more dynamic than any comparable nation in the Middle East, where many envy its combination of new-found prosperity and democracy under a party with Islamist roots that finally tamed the generals who for decades called the shots.

A simplistic image of Turkey, perhaps, but one whose appeal resonated in the Middle East when Erdogan reached out to a region long seen by Turks as more problematic than promising, with a policy breezily dubbed “zero problems” with neighbors.

For much of the past decade, it worked well.

Turkey maintained its strong alliance with Israel, while avoiding friction with Iran and cultivating new friendships with old foes such as Syria and the Kurds in Iraq, smoothing out tensions with trade, construction and development aid. Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad became personal friends.

It began to unravel when Israel assaulted the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in December 2008, drawing acid criticism from Turkish leaders who until then had worked hard to broker a peace deal between Israel and Syria over the occupied Golan Heights.

When unrest in Arab police states spread to Syria in March 2011, Turkey urged Assad to defuse protests with genuine reform. Instead, he tried to crush them with ferocious violence.

Turkish leaders, feeling betrayed by Assad’s spurning of their advice, turned decisively against him in September.

But Assad, defying their predictions that he would go the same way as other Arab autocrats challenged by their people in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, is still clinging to power.

Turkey embraced the Syrian opposition and gave sanctuary to the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) as well as to Syrian refugees, even talking of setting up some kind of buffer zone inside Syria if that desperate human inflow turned into a flood.

But Ankara cautioned that it would do nothing militarily without NATO or backing from the U.N. Security Council, which has been paralyzed on Syria by Russian and Chinese vetoes.

That means its practical options are limited, particularly since it is still struggling with its own Kurdish insurgency in the southeast that has festered for nearly 30 years, costing about 40,000 lives, including an estimated 500 in the past year.

HEARTS RULING HEADS?

Some worry that Erdogan, who stalked off a Davos stage he was sharing with Shimon Peres in 2009 saying the Israeli president knew “how to kill”, is prone to add pique to the more conventional foreign policy mix of pragmatism and principle.

“Turkey could have pursued a more cautious, measured policy toward Syria,” said Lale Kemal, Ankara bureau chief of Turkey’s Taraf daily. “Outspoken Turkish policy has provoked the Assad regime. Turkey made the mistake of thinking Assad will go soon.”

She argued that Turkey should not have flown jets near an “irrational” country like Syria in the throes of a civil war.

“Syria has demonstrated to Turkey by downing the jet that ‘Look, we have the power, we can shoot down your aircraft. You are a NATO member, but we also have big firepower’.”

Former Turkish Foreign Minister Ilter Turkmen said his country had been unwise to swing so fast from being Assad’s chum to his most virulent critic, dismissing the idea that support for Syrian rebels might pay off for Turkey later.

“I don’t think countries are ever grateful,” he said, predicting that any future post-Assad government would be extremely nationalistic, perhaps reviving problems with Turkey, whose Hatay province has long been claimed by Syria.

“We have been prisoners of our own rhetoric,” Turkmen said, adding that any unilateral Turkish military intervention in Syria would be folly. “You can get in, but how do you get out?”

For much of its modern history, Turkey has avoided foreign entanglements, intervening unilaterally only in Cyprus in 1974, while standing ready to join U.N.-backed peacekeeping missions in troublespots around the world, from Somalia to Afghanistan.

Turkey remains widely admired in the Middle East, but the excitement at Erdogan’s tough talk against Israel that made him so popular in the Arab world a couple of years ago has cooled.

And for all their military might and economic muscle, the Turks now find themselves with almost no leverage in Damascus.

“They can sell stuff. Lots of Middle Eastern people have Turkish goods in their homes,” said International Crisis Group analyst Hugh Pope. “But their ability to project power into those dysfunctional states in the Middle East is very small.”

(Editing by Peter Graff)

Egyptian president will meet Saudi King Abdullah; Not yet accepted Iranian invitation

Saudis: News of Mursi’s Riyadh visit as blow to Iran

By JOANNA PARASZCZUK

In first official visit abroad, Islamist president will meet Saudi King Abdullah; hasn’t yet accepted Iranian invitation.

The Saudi Arabian press on Sunday hailed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s decision to make Riyadh his first foreign visit as a significant development for Cairo’s relationship with the Gulf states, and a blow for Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Cairo, Mohammed al-Qattan, announced Saturday that Mursi will visit the kingdom on Wednesday.

Saudi’s As-Sharq newspaper said the news of Mursi’s visit would “overpower Tehran’s lies,” referring to reports in the Iranian state press that Egypt’s new president would pick Tehran as his first official visit.

The announcement that Mursi would visit Riyadh came after a week of speculation by Iran’s state-run media over whether the newly elected Egyptian president would visit Tehran in August for the Non- Aligned Movement’s summit.

Mursi has not yet accepted Iran’s invitation to attend the NAM summit, though last week, Iran’s Mehr news agency cited Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying Tehran was ready for “ambassadorial- level” links with Cairo.

In its editorial on Sunday, As- Sharq accused the Iranian press of trying to drive a wedge between Egypt and the Gulf States, which it said was part of Tehran’s strategy of damaging Cairo’s relations with Riyadh in order to establish its own foothold in Egypt.

The paper referred to a report published by Iran’s ultra-conservative Fars News, which said its reporters had interviewed Mursi shortly before the results of the Egyptian presidential runoff elections were announced, and had asked him about his plans to visit Saudi Arabia. Mursi later said the interview was fabricated.

As-Sharq also noted Mursi’s pledge not to “export” the Egyptian revolution to other countries.

The Iranian regime has claimed it has exported its own Islamic Revolution to other Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt.

As-Sharq said Mursi’s choice of Riyadh showed the new Egyptian administration instead viewed Saudi Arabia as a “strategic partner at the political level” as well as a “mainstay on the map of Egypt’s foreign relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds.”

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Cairo in 1979, when Egypt signed its peace treaty with Israel. The two countries restored diplomatic relations in 1987.

Relations between Cairo and Riyadh were tested again in April after Egyptians protested the detention of Egyptian human rights attorney Ahmed Mohammed al-Gizawi in Saudi Arabia. The protests led to Saudi Arabia announcing the closure of its embassy in Cairo and its consulates in Alexandria and Suez.

Mursi’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia ran contrary to expectations that relations between Cairo and Riyadh would be strained further by an Islamist president in Egypt, the paper said.

“The meeting in Riyadh between King Abdullah and the Egyptian president could serve as an introduction to the deepening of ties between the two countries, especially in trade and investments,” the paper wrote in an editorial that was quickly picked up and quoted in media around the Arab world.

Yoel Guzansky, a researcher at the Institute for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv and former staff member at the National Security Council, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Mursi’s choice of Saudi Arabia for his first foreign state visit was highly symbolic, and demonstrated that Egypt looked to Saudi Arabia not just for economic assistance but also for leadership.

By visiting Saudi Arabia, Mursi is also making a statement that Egypt’s place is not with Iran, according to Guzansky.

Mursi heads the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party, which the Muslim Brotherhood founded in April 2011. While some members of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood have supported Iran’s “radical” role in the Middle East, Guzansky said most take a negative view the Shi’ite Islamic Republic’s talk of “exporting” Iran’s revolution elsewhere.

Mursi also has economic reasons to develop strong ties with Saudi Arabia.

Last year, Saudi Arabia pledged $4 billion in aid to Egypt, in the form of long-term loans and grants – money which Mursi needs to help shore up Egypt’s struggling economy.

“Egypt cannot let go of the Saudis,” Guzansky said.