ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

Liberty and the Ladder to Heaven

Liberty and the Ladder to Heaven

liberty me

libertarian fool

Liberty and the Ladder to Heaven

If a society based in liberty is to ever blossom and be sustained, it must be based on a humble uncertainty about the course of human history; rather than jumping from beginning to end—from the primordial state of nature to sublime visions of an anarchic, utopic future—the living story of liberty will be written as a balancing act between the book ends.

We may have faith in the political advancement of liberty. We may very well hold an informed conviction that liberty is the best way to bring about prosperity and flourishing, but such a faith should always be a bit uneasy.

Doubt is the friend, not the enemy, of a hardy and healthy faith.

As the Scottish sociologist and historian Adam Ferguson remarked, “Every step and every movement of the multitude, even in what are termed enlightened ages, are made with equal blindness to the future; and nations stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.”

Societies may rise or fall in their own way unique way, but no matter the civilization in question, homo sapiens are always at war with the austerity of nature, playing out the eternal drama that springs forth from the innate tensions of the human condition. Though nature can be considered a beautiful, eternal mother who grants us our borrowed time here on earth, she can also be suspected of vengeance.

Much like Euripides’ Medea, mother nature does not hesitate in slaughtering her children to prove her independence, especially if she has been scorned. We come from nature and we will return to her. As it says in the Christian creation myth, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Left solely to nature, our time truly does seem to be borrowed; our lives meaningless, fragmented, nasty, brutish, and short; our deaths inescapable. Thus, in the face of this tragic state, we interlace our mortal coils with poetry and myth, hoping to either make sense of nature’s retribution or escape it entirely through supernatural salvation. In so doing, the most important things in our lives become the narratives we weave for ourselves. Our deepest held convictions and beliefs are first found in the fabric of our fictions.

Most of us, individually, ponder the story of how we began, how we will end, and what’s the purpose of it all, but rare is the person who can stomach the mystery of human existence on his own and, as Nietzsche suggests, “act the whole drama of Fall and Redemption to its end.” For most of us, society is required to flesh out our existential musings, as society serves as a shelter against our nature and brings our fragmented individual knowledge together into a collective whole. Society then begins to takes on a life of its own, projecting itself onto all of human history.

This is where the trouble begins.

“The death of the spirit is the price of progress,” says Eric Voegelin in his 1952 work The New Science of Politics:

Nietzsche revealed this mystery of the Western apocalypse when he announced that God was dead and that He had been murdered. This Gnostic murder is constantly committed by the men who sacrificed God to civilization. The more fervently all human energies are thrown into the great enterprise of salvation through world–immanent action, the farther the human beings who engage in this enterprise move away from the life of the spirit. And since the life the spirit is the source of order in man and society, the very success of a Gnostic civilization is the cause of its decline. A civilization can, indeed, advance and decline at the same time—but not forever. There is a limit toward which this ambiguous process moves; the limit is reached when an activist sect which represents the Gnostic truth organizes the civilization into an empire under its rule. Totalitarianism, defined as the existential rule of Gnostic activists, is the end form of progressive civilization.

Voegelin claims in The New Science that whereas the “Gnostic” movements of the 20th century (Marxism, Nazism, and Progressivism) were animated by the secularized symbolism of Christian eschatology, such movements lacked respect for the uncertainty and limitations underlying all human knowledge. Accordingly, the modern gnostics rebelled against the “fallen” natural world, and tried to bring about heaven on earth. They managed only to create fresh hells.

Voegelin’s warning against such “Gnostic” movements would go on to be popularized by William F. Buckley Jr. with the slogan, don’t immanentize the eschaton! However, I would like to amend Mr. Buckley’s slogan. If we are truly uncertain about the future of humanity, let the slogan now read, forget the eschaton!

Voegelin does not deny the immense material progress delivered by the modern age, but he worries such a civilization can both progress and decline at the same time—but only for a given time. Eventually, tyranny is the price of an arrogant faith.

Whether a faith in God, Man, Society, Science, Art, or Liberty, our convictions should never relinquish the strife of doubt. When a culture becomes infused with a sense of inevitability, our collective imagination gets the best of us. Rather, than solely speculating on our own individual lives, “society” begins to speculate on the trajectory of an abstract human history and to regard such speculation as gospel. Our faith becomes hubris. “Progress” becomes defined in certain terms and formal processes, often tyrannical and apocalyptic when put into practice.

We forget the uncertainty underlying our innate creativity and scorn mother nature in search of a new bride of our own creation. It is one thing to battle nature step by step, but to supplant her completely in one fell swoop? That is the epitome of the proverb, “pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

When successful societies forget their metaphysical musings are basically volatile fictions—best guesses full of uncertainty and prone to tumult—they run the risk of taking their own self-serving eschatology too seriously and becoming subject to the backlash of human nature’s dionysian wrath.

Thus, the task before us is to come to grips with the fact that human truth is creative and that our innate creativity destroys forms as it creates forms anew, forever tethering our births to our eventual deaths.

So, as creative beings, why not see our speculations on history and progress as works of art?

Charles Bukowski’s terse poem “art”—which shows a striking similarity to Voegelin’s claim that the price of progress is “the death of the spirit”—grasps this truth about the climactic creative nature of man:

as

the

spirit

wanes

the

form

appears

The poem suggests spirit and form are at odds. It mirrors the archetypal tension between the Apollonian and Dionysian as well as the battle of flux and stasis expressed by the proto-philosophers Heraclitus and Parmenides.  But order and chaos, just like birth and death, are not in opposition to one another; they are inextricably bound together. Seemingly mutually exclusive, these threads wrap around one another to create a unifying, abiding series of tensions. The apparent paradox is really a deeply abiding harmony.

As such, neither an artist nor a society can long last if too reliant upon cold forms, upon the surreal, contemplative repose of Apollo. This is not to say one should refrain entirely from using forms to order one’s purpose, but as the world changes and progress becomes manifest, the burden falls upon the artist to remain dynamic and search for new forms of expression to balance out our dionysian impulses, i.e. our emotional chaos, our primitive urges, our hidden spiritual drives.

We must have had a beginning and will one day have an end, we tell ourselves, but let it be said: there is no certain primordial event or ultimate end from our limited perspective. The only certainty we may possess is our creative uncertainty—an ongoing process of creation in an ever-changing world—whereby we perform the symbolic act of breathing artistic spirit into tradition, creating life out of the mundane clay of cliche, and steering the dionysian impulse towards sustaining progress rather than destroying it.

To help drive home the moral, I leave you with a slice of pop music from Prince’s 1985 album Around the World in a Day, the gospel ballad, “The Ladder.”

The lyrics partially read:

Once upon a time in the land of Sinaplenty

There lived a king who didn’t deserve 2 be

He knew not where he came from

Nor where he was going

He never once said thank U, never please

Now this king he had a subject named Electra

Who loved him with a passion, uncontested

4 him each day she had a smile

But it didn’t matter

The king was looking 4 the ladder

Everybody’s looking 4 the ladder

Everybody wants salvation of the soul

The steps U take are no easy road

But the reward is great

4 those who want 2 go

Everybody’s looking 4 the answers

How the story started and how it will end

What’s the use in half a story, half a dream

U have 2 climb all of the steps in between

The king “who didn’t deserve 2 be” is so distracted by his search for the “ladder” (salvation,) he forgets the very person who loves him the most. He loses his sense of earthly proportion because he is so fixated on finding the ultimate answers, “how the story started and how it will end.” He forgets to walk the journey of his life in uncertain faith, losing out on the love of this world in the process.

I hope those of you who wish to see liberty win the day do not suffer the same fate as this fictional state ruler. Rather than simply pondering the state of nature or some far off utopia, I hope you will instead humbly “climb all the steps in between” on the ladder of life, ascending into the beautiful unknown with faith in man’s artistic spirit if not his politics.

Advertisements

Colin Powell’s Right Hand Admits That Iraq War Brought Chaos To the West

A Republican Regrets: How the Iraq War Brought Chaos to the West

who what why

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson on Iraq, Oil, Capital, and America’s Diminishing Global Power

wilkerson

Lawrence Wilkerson, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders  Photo credit:  Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from US Embassy Canada / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0), Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0), Marc Nozell / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) and Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson was present at the creation of the lies that dragged the United States into the war with Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11.

It’s a war that Wilkerson now regrets. Along with the death and destruction that resulted, he says that the disastrous Iraq invasion injected new life into the US military-industrial complex, which had been losing influence since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In this podcast, Wilkerson talks to WhoWhatWhy’s Jeff Schechtman about the cost of the revolving door between the Pentagon and military contractors, the complicity of the media, and the link between Vice President Dick Cheney’s lust for more oil and the chaos engulfing the Middle East, and beyond, today.

He warns against the consequences of global capital massing in the hands of a few — and points to thawing relations with Cuba and Iran as the only hopeful signs in the current geopolitical mess.

Wilkerson, a longtime Republican insider who has served several presidents and once sat at the highest pinnacles of American power, has a hard-nosed view of the world. But at times, he sounds like a wild-eyed progressive when he talks about the dangers of global warming and rising sea levels, the one percenters versus the 99 percenters, and the ongoing role of America as “the death merchant of the world.”

Click HERE to Download Mp3


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (The U.S. National Archives / Flickr) and Colin Powell at UN (United States Government / Wikimedia)

Full Text Transcript of Audio:

Schechtman: Welcome to Radio Who What Why, I’m Jeff Schechtman. The foreign policy debate in this campaign or more specifically the lack thereof along with the recent terror attacks have brought into bold [?]. The simple fact that the world changed after 9/11 in ways that seem to create fundamental fissures in the international architecture that have been in place since the Second World War. Eisenhower admonished us about a highly industrial military complex. That complex and its intended institutions thrived during the Cold War. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union the need for that raw power and for American empire seemed to disappear. We were at what Francis [Fukiyama] called, The End of History. And then 9/11, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and events in Lebanon, Syria, Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc, all set up a chain of events that now has us seemingly at endless war in the Middle East. Add to this the fear generated by terrorism, and suddenly the need for American hegemony is rekindled. The need for more and more advanced weaponry is stoked. The revolving door between the Pentagon and defense contractors turns even faster. Generals now in bed with the media, and not the other way around. And presidential candidates openly advocate torture and violations of international treaties, and are applauded for it. In the words of Yates, the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passion and intensity. My guest Colonel Lawrence Wilkinson is that rare specimen, one of the best that still maintains that passion and intensity. He was they say, present at the creation, as the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. He helped Powell make the case for the overthrow of Saddam in 2003. Today he looks back on those decisions as a turning point not only for his view of the world but the world itself. Col. Wilkinson spent 31 years in the US army, he was a former army ranger who flew over 1000 combat missions in Vietnam he was national security advisor in the Reagan administration, and later served with Powell during his time on the joint chiefs and as secretary of state. He’s currently an adjunct professor at the College of William and Mary, and it is my pleasure to welcome Col. Lawrence Wilkerson to Radio Who What Why. Colonel thanks so much for joining us.

Wilkinson: Thanks for having me.

Jeff: When we look back it’s been 13 years now since we went to war and invaded Iraq based on what we know now to be cherry picked intelligence, and false premises, hidden agendas. As you look back at that, do you see clear threads, clear lines that go from those decisions to the problems and to the reality that we see in the world today?

Wilkinson: I do, and they disturb me greatly. They disturb not just for the livelihood and prosperity of this federal republic in which we live but also its influence on the rest of the world but ultimately the rest of the world. I think what we’re seeing today, your summary quite good, I think what we’re seeing today are the manifestations of the inability of the empire, if you will, we are an empire, different empire perhaps, not necessary an empire of territorial [?], although we have 900+ installations all over the world, but looking like the new Rome. But more of an empire of ideology, what I would call commercialism. We forget that very important commerce clause in our Constitution, which some have argued is the most important and self identifying clause in our Constitution. And so, the empire has spawned a lot of this mess by its own actions, its own inability to get its act together, if you will, post end of the Cold War. Think about it for a moment. We have not had a strategy since the end of the Cold War. If you want to say our strategy for World War II was to be the arsenal of democracy, we fulfilled that splendidly, [supplying] the Russians, the free French, the British, everyone on our side in the war. And then afterwards, containment, to keep the Soviet empire from dominating the world. Well, since the end of that time, now over two plus decades ago, we’ve had no strategy. And what’s still [then] for that lack of a strategy, for that lack of leadership, has been things like you just described, let’s look at what we’ve done with the reality of the situation since 9/11. We have spent close to $2 trillion combating a threat that has, as the [Katel] Institute has pointed out recently, the mathematical probability of killing one of us, that roughly equates to a lightning strike, or falling down a staircase. How do we get the American people to be so [?], so ignorant, so lacking an energy that they tolerate that kind of expenditure against that kind of threat. And yet, that’s what we’ve done. Complicit in that is our media, corporately owned and corporately directed. Complicit in that as you pointed out, awesome industrial military complex, which just makes huge profits off this. [Kellogg Brand and Root], Halliburton’s principle subsidiary in Iraq, Afghanistan, in those years of war you just described, made over $40 billion. When you have people making those kinds of profits off killing other people for state purposes, you’re going to have a lot more of that killing. So it’s a mess, and it’s a mess in many respects we have responsibility for, we and our allies, we have simply put this status quo power arrangement on fast forward and have no idea how to get out of it, how to escape from it, and how to redesign the world so it’s more peaceful, more prosperous and ultimately a better place for all of us to live.

Schectman: one of the ironies in all this goes to the heart of what you’re talking about with respect to no strategy, that even if the events that led up to the invasion of Iraq had some kind of hidden agenda, or as [Downing Street] memo points out, were things that were in the planning stages, the talking stages for so long. It is hard to imagine that given all that, that happened without any kind of strategy, without any kind of thought towards what happens after.

Wilkerson: I think you’re right. I would not, as a military person, professionally steeped in the terms, tactics, strategy, operation. I would say what we’ve been doing is tactical. We’ve had no strategy against which to place those tactics, and so anyone who wants to flow in, who has an agenda like the project for new American sentries or neoconservatives, whoever you want to point your finger at any given time, flows into that lack of a strategy, that lack of leadership, captures the system for a moment or two, and does what it wants to do with awesome power. Our power. And no one’s standing around saying, hey that’s not right let’s stop that. Look at the present political campaign on both sides. On my side, the republican side is an absolute circus. On the democratic side it’s more of the same. I’m not sure which is worse. I do not see leadership, genuine leadership, ready to confront the dire challenges that the 21st century is offering us, at the head of which is planetary climate change. I don’t see the kind of leadership that’s necessary to carry us through that, and bring us out over the other side, feeling pretty good about ourselves, and having a reasonably good decent life for the majority of our people. That’s what it’s all about. What I see is people flowing into the gaps, flowing into the lack of leadership, flowing into the circus for example that you see, people like Donald Trump on my party’s side of the campaign for the presidency in November. What I see are tactics and those tactics are not aimed much at anything except the amassing of wealth for a very select few people. And that frankly is not gonna do the rest of us much good at all. In fact it’s going to be harmful to us.

Schectman: Which also brings us back to the events leading up to Iraq, to events in 2003, in trying to understand what the underlying motivation was, what the underlying strategy or tactics were in respect to the administration. One of the things that you’ve pointed out over the years is really a change in position that took place with respect to Dick Cheney. If you go back to 1994, he was very much opposed to going into Baghdad. What changed, and what do we understand about that change and where it’s led us today?

Wilkerson: You’re right. If you listen to Dick Cheney in ’94, it’s almost stunning to think about Dick Cheney in 2001, 2 and 3. It almost looks as if something physiological happened to him, as if he went nuts. Believe it or not, I’ve had neurosurgeons actually email me and tell me that there are a lot of things associated with the kind of heart condition he had, and then a heart transplant so forth, it might corroborate that. If you want to look at it from the perspective that you’re talking about. I think Cheney had in mind the strategic objective which was a long term objective of the United States begun by F.D.R. when he met with the Saudi princes, and established essentially the foundation of the relationship we’ve had with Saudi Arabia and continued very, very vocally by Jimmy Carter when he proclaimed the Persian Gulf was a vital interest to the United States. All of that was about oil, all about oil, not just for us, but for Japan, for England, for France, for Germany, for our NATO allies and so forth. And that’s what Cheney discovered in his energy task force papers which we still do not have a copy of, they’re declared executive privilege and we don’t know what happened. But he met with all the leaders of the majors, the privates, the nationals, and others associated with the petroleum industry. And I think he decided that those 300 maybe even 400 billion barrels of oil buried under the Iraqi desert, second only to Saudi Arabia, maybe even surpassing Saudi Arabia once Western technology was explored in Iraq thoroughly. Or, that he couldn’t get the American people to do it, couldn’t get his president to do it without an eminent threat, and so he manufactured the threat. And people have asked me, well why didn’t the privates fall in on Iraq. Well, some of them did. The purpose of this action they misconstrued, most Americans misconstrued it. It’s not to grab the oil for Exxon Mobil or Royal Dutch Shell or any of the other privates. What it is, is to ensure access to oil at a reasonable price consistently over time. That’s what it’s been since F.D.R. met with the Saudis and that’s what Dick Cheney was continuing, I don’t think it was against a major strategy for running the situation, for managing power in the world, is the best way to put it. I think it was just more the same. And that’s what great powers do. They fight desperately to preserve the status quo. They want the legacy systems to continue to exist, World Bank, IMF, you name it, whatever we created post-World War II. Well, I’ve got news for them. There are many people out there who are writing very eloquently and thinking critically about these institutions being [?]. They’re not good enough for the 21st century, they need to evolve, we need new systems, we need new ways of global governance for example. One of the most precious people in this regard is Thomas Piketty the French economist who wrote the book, Capital in the 21st Century. He may be a little bit utopian, in the sense that he’s suggesting a solution is a global tax on capital. But I tell you what, I don’t see any way else to combat this massive accumulation of capital around the world which is going to no real economic purpose that is to say the middle classes, the lower classes. It’s going to no economic purpose other than to continue to fill the coffers of the filthy 1% or less than 1% of the wealthiest people in the world. When you have 400 people in the United States who have the wealth of the GDP of the state of Brazil you’ve got a real problem with concentrated wealth. Piketty’s solution might not be the one we adopt but we need to adopt something to get this capital back into the system, working to raise wages, to make meaningful products, to sell them, to have a system in the world it works for the majority of the people other than for a select few. These are huge problems that demand first-class leadership, first-class strategy for that leadership and first-class execution of that strategy. And look at what we have arrayed before us at this moment, to pick for leaders

Schectman: What you see then as the nexus between those issues with respect to the economic condition of the world as you talk about it and this constantly growing geometrically growing cost of endless war?

Wilkerson: It’s staggering what we’re doing to ourselves. What we need, two, maybe three, some have even said that, I’ve seen studies that would corroborate their thoughts $4 trillion to refurbish our infrastructure in this country. I’m talking everything from water to sewage to the roads to FAA facility; I’m talking about everything that makes this economy, in this country tick, that’s what I’m talking about. And I’m not talking about putting the same thing in place I’m talking about putting things in place that will be resilient sustainable and last of the end of the 21st century or beyond. I’m talking about an entirely new industrial base, agricultural base, you name it if there’s a major sag segment of what we do, it needs refurbishing and it needs pointing towards the future,  not the past. Look at what we’re doing. We’re spending that necessary money on wars and wars with no real purpose. We’re spending it on things that make no sense whatsoever except in the old legacy sense, of well, empires have to protect their periphery they have to extend that periphery. They have to the fight all over the world is what brought Rome to its knees you’ve got to do that sort of thing that’s embedded in our heads and what should be embedded in our heads is take a look at the future take a look at what you gotta do take a look at things like sea rise for example. I belong to something called the climate security working group here in Washington. It’s a DOD outfit. The Department of Defense understands what sea rise is going to do this country over the next 50-60 years here. In my home state of Virginia, Norfolk, they’re gonna have to make a decision to build sea walls or to relocate the greatest shipyard building facilities and associated logistics in this country because they’re gonna be flooded if they don’t. these are the kinds of problems we need to be confronting this is where we need to be spending our money and placing our effort and we’re not instead were doing these silly ass wars all over the world. I’m sorry, my heart goes out to the civil war in Syria and the victims there are but largely we produce that with the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Now we’re talking about us having to put troops there and so forth that’s patent nonsense. We’re gonna bankrupt ourselves. We’re gonna wind up going the way Rome went, and for that matter where every empire in human history has gone. We’re gonna disappear.

Schectman: When we look back at the events that brought us into Iraq originally and our lax defense against Al Qaeda are not taking the threats from bin Laden seriously, at least the administration not paying attention to the threats that were out there it’s both easy to see how that happened and hard to imagine us getting out of it if something like that could happen even 13 years ago.

Wilkerson: I was just in Austin, Texas. I went out to Austin to premiere a film a documentary called, Embargo, about Cuban embargo. I’m at a house in Austin, fairly wealthy people and a good old Texas lady comes up to me, she’s about my age, she’s probably 68, 69, 70. She comes up to me and she says I want to ask you a question Col. I said yes ma’am asked me the question. She said, “I want to know why we are such cowards.” I said, “Ma’am?” She said, “I want to know why we’re such cowards. I want to assure you we here in Texas are not cowards. Why are we spending so much money going after these terrorist when there’s the chance of one of us getting killed by these terrorists is slim to none. And if it is going to come to Texas and they are going to kill me, by God, I’m gonna fight them here. And I’ll fight them at my house and I’ll fight them in the shopping centers. So why are we so scared?” Wow, what clarity she brought to the issue.

Schectman: You mentioned in the film you were involved in, Embargo, which really is about another throwback to the days of the Cold War and American empire, and that’s been our outdated policy towards Cuba.

Wilkerson: Well, I’m very happy to see that the work I’ve been involved in the last 10 years with some other very, very dedicated people has come to fruition, at least partly. We were conducting track [to] diplomacy with the Cubans, blessed by the US government, blessed by the government in Havana. And we were meeting in Buenos Aires, in São Paulo, Brazil, in Mexico City, in Toronto, Canada, and in Havana. We couldn’t meet in Washington because we couldn’t get any visas, which was laughable. And we turned our work over to Assistant Secretary of State for the Western hemisphere, and we now have close relations, and a president who actually traveled to Havana. I hope this signals the end to a very stupid foreign policy towards Havana. After the end of the Cold War, Havana stopped exporting revolution in the name of communism and started exporting doctors and medical technicians in the name of helping people in very impoverished areas. They were so successful in Pakistan for example during the earthquake in 2006, then president, Musharraf, asked them to establish an embassy in Islamabad. That’s the best public diplomacy anyone’s conducted in a long time. So we do need, it’s past time, to have better relations with Cuba, we need to lift the embargo.  This is one of those legacy policies that I was referring to that makes absolutely no sense in the 21st century, and I hope we reverse a similar one, the joint cooperative agreement over Iran’s nuclear program with the U.S., the European Union, the permanent five in the United Nations,  Germany. Iran is the most stable country in a very instable region, Southwest Asia. It has more democratic tendencies than any country in the region other than Israel. It has a 70+ million very homogeneous population. It is huge compared to Iraq. It dwarfs Iraq. It is the natural hegemon if you will, in the Persian Gulf region in Southwest Asia. We need to have better relations with it. Look and how my party in particular, but some Democrats are too, fighting that even. You come up with the same policy like Cuba, you come up with the same policy like some sort of [?] with Iran. And what you get? You get this almost creaking like Luddite like opposition from many in the Congress. There just isn’t any leadership in the city where I live, Washington DC.

Schectman: And yet those two things, the improvement of relationships with Cuba, the president’s recent trip there, and the agreement with Iran, both of those are very positive developments, even though there are as you say strong voices of opposition. Those two things alone should give us pause that progress can happen.

Wilkerson: you’re right and I got both my fingers and my toes crossed. I watch every day as the Congress tries to derail the Iran agreement right now they’re working on a sanctions package in addition to what’s already there that will be a break of the agreement and if I were the Iranians I would leave the agreement if the sanctions package actually passes the Congress and the president doesn’t veto it. And that’s why it’s so important who we elect next, we continue this or do we go back to the past again and with the same thing, though not as [virulent] with Cuba, we got people who are trying desperately to figure a way to fashion the way back to the past. But you’re right, basically these are helpful things. I for one hope that there are some others. We need to desperately get over the problems we have with Russia because Russia is so integral to other major policy objectives we have in the world. Whether it be some hedging strategy to deal with the China that comes off the rails or whether the Iran, Syria, the civil war there or Turkey or whatever. If we don’t have Russia at least with us on some of these things we have an impossible situation I think we’ve seen that in Syria to a certain extent although what Putin has done in Syria has as much as anything else that has been done there made possible the current prospects for a cease fire and political talks and maybe finally an end to the war in Syria. So Moscow and Washington need to cooperate more than they need to fight, and yet we see in regards to Crimean Ukraine and Georgia and so forth all of which basically is our fault. Most Americans haven’t a clue that George HW Bush, a president whom I served, and his Secretary of State, Jim Baker, promised Gorbachev, then the leader of the of the Soviet Union, Russia, that if he, Gorbachev, exceeded to the reunification of Germany and its maintaining it’s being retained in the NATO alliance, contemplating Georgia, Ukraine and so forth and along comes George W. Bush and actually goes to WC Georgia and tells the leaders there in open comment in the public that soon Georgia will be a member of NATO. What one understands why Putin would make a move in Georgia and then later make a move in Ukraine and in Crimea. We threatened him. It’s as if he had come to the Gulf of Mexico, maybe the state of Chihuahua whatever, said, “Well you know I think I’ll just foment a revolution here and I’ll make these people anti-US. It’s crazy what we’ve done. It’s absolutely insane what we’ve done. What we need is Russia to be cooperative in various and sundry areas that are far more important than some of the things we’ve done and then I throw this out too. If you talk about legacy systems, look at NATO. we’ve gone from 19 to 24 now I think we’re at 28 what American is going to really back a president who invokes article 5 which simply says in the NATO treaty, an attack on one is an attack on all, for to WC Georgia. What American wants to die for WC Georgia? It’s insane what we’ve done with NATO. It’s supposed to be a military as well as a political alliance. Well, if you don’t have people in the country that is the most powerful member of NATO to understand what obligations they’re taking on, then you’ve got a real problem when someone challenges that alliance.

Schectman: is there a positive rule for leaders in the military to play in beginning to turn this around.

Wilkerson: Oh, absolutely. Your opening comments resonated with me in that one of the big problems regarding the general officer corps the flag officer corps that includes admirals in the navy, the coast guard, who go through this revolving door and exacerbate the problem we have with the military-industrial complex and with the media. Lately some of them do both, they go work for a member of the defense contracting corp, at the same time they’re a consultant for CNN or whatever so that they have these maximum amount of dollars coming in to themselves being paid for these duties, but they’re also dangerous to Republic because they’re doing things like fomenting this warfare. That’s very disturbing. But in terms of leadership in general the younger officers in particular and I let that I would say has currently gone down particularly in the middle ranks, lieutenants, colonels, majors and captains, there is a real angst on their part about, one, this constant warfare; two, the senior leaders and who they don’t have a lot of respect for; and three, the fact that the military seems to be stuck in these legacy systems too. There’s a marine colonel, [TX Ham] who has just written an article that points at this. we have so many legacy systems out there, think about the of 35 lightning strike fighter the new aircraft carrier we just fielded 12 billion+ dollars think about the new bomber for the Air Force and think about Howell class and attack submarines and so forth. These are all systems that are incremental improvements on legacy strategies, That is to say you’re spending billions of dollars to add very, very, very small increments to your national security. Well at the same time all this is happening new techniques new technology like robotics artificial intelligence cyber warfare 3-D printing are permitting things to be made and to be accessible to small powers in the world. I’m not talking Chinas and Russias. I’m talking small powers, I’m talking about something like for example ISIS, and if they were to get their hands on one of these hundred thousand dollars cost 3-D printers that can actually make something overnight literally overnight that they can then put in the air put in the ocean or other atmosphere and they can take on your multibillion-dollar system and perhaps destroy it. We just had a drone for example drone underwater drone. They went from the East Coast of the United States to the coast of your underwater all by itself think about hanging some weapons or some mines, very sophisticated weapons and mines on that $100,000 drone and going after a $4 billion Howell class submarine or an attack submarine of a billion, and sinking it. This is the revolution in military affairs that people been talking about so long that it’s finally upon us with AI, with robotics, with nano engineering and so forth and so on. we’re not doing much about that we’ve got people working on the side we’ve got little groups here and there and so forth so we’re keeping our hand in but we’re still building these billion-dollar legacy systems that are going to be an anachronism’s if they aren’t already momentarily. And that’s going to be traumatic. Younger guys in the military, and gals in the military, they understand this and they sit back and look at the senior leadership which doesn’t understand it keeps going for these legacy systems and so forth and many of them are voting with their feet up the problem we were losing a lot of junior officers right now because of that.

Schectman: what does that say about how focused we should be then on terrorism and asymmetrical threats around the world?

Wilkerson: I wouldn’t put the name terrorism on it. I personally had real problems with that when we did in 2001 because I said how do you fight a method? You can’t find a method. And it’s like the drug war. I also argued against calling it the drug war to no avail but I said why would you want to have something be a war that you can’t win. If you can’t win the war against terrorism either. Terrorism has been with us four, five millennia. It’s going to be with us for another four, five millennia, if we survive that long. so what you want to do, you take things like drugs, you take things like terrorists, you want to push them down to a manageable level, you wanna push them down to where they aren’t haunting you every day, and the media doesn’t focus on them every day and so forth, and they’re not doing that much damage. But you’re never going to get rid of them. They’re always going to be there as long as someone is willing to take up arms in that name. I suspect there’s always gonna be someone. You need to focus on these bigger problems as you are creating the management process and keeping terrorism, other threats like that, drugs and so forth in check. if you don’t you gonna wind up one morning waking up with Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room on CNN screaming and hollering about attacking terrorists, and attacking Beirut, you’re gonna turn around and your country’s going to explode. And it’s not going to be terrorists who do it. It’s gonna be something else that you’ve neglected. It was much bigger, much more of a problem, much more dangerous. And your focus on terrorism took your focus off that.

Schectman: Col. Lawrence Wilkerson I thank you so much for spending time with us today on Radio Who What Why.

Wilkerson: Thanks for having me, I really appreciated it.

Schectman: Thank you for listening and joining us here on Radio Who What Why. I hope you join us next week for another Radio Who What Why podcast. I’m Jeff Schectman. If you like this podcast, please feel free to share it and help other people find it by rating and reviewing it on iTunes. You can also support this podcast and all the work we do by going to whowhat why.org/donate

Is Turkey Planning to Destabilize Lebanon?

Is Turkey Planning to Destabilize Lebanon?

jerusalem center

 

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

Vol. 16, No. 6March 27, 2016

Interviewed by Lenny Ben-David, Director of Publications
  • Turkish leadership saw the uprising in Syria and Egypt as an opportunity to change the regimes opposed to Turkey’s policies in the Middle East. Turkey looked at two targets: Egypt and Syria. In both countries, the Islamic opposition was headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, natural allies of the Turkish President Erdogan.
  • Turkey saw the developments in Syria as an opportunity to intervene and topple the Alawite regime. Turkish military intelligence was instructed to assist rebel factions opposed to the Assad regime almost from the very first days of the civil war in Syria.
  • Testimony in Turkish courts alleges that rocket parts, ammunition and semi-finished mortar shells taken from Turkish intelligence depots were carried in trucks accompanied by state officials to parts of Syria under hardline Islamist rebel control.
  • Turkey may have chosen to take advantage of the already boiling situation in Lebanon between Hizbullah and its Sunni opponents and try to provoke a renewed civil war in Lebanon.
  • Greek authorities intercepted a ship recently, loaded with a Turkish shipment of weapons, supposedly destined to Muslim radicals in the northern part of Lebanon.
Map of Syria

Source: CIA

The outburst of the so-called Arab Spring caught Turkey by surprise. After a period of hesitation, the Turkish leadership saw the uprising in Syria and Egypt as an opportunity to intervene and change the regimes opposed to Turkey’s policies in the Middle East and replace them with Islamic regimes close to Turkey’s ideological stand.

Specifically, Turkey looked at two targets: Egypt and Syria. In both countries, the Islamic opposition was headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, natural allies of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and was challenging the traditional leaderships in an effort to topple them. Egypt fell first to the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood through a much contested democratic process which brought to the presidency the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate to the rejoicing of Turkey’s leadership.

However, it took the Egyptian Army one full year to recover and force the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammad Morsi to step down and retake the reins of power and the full control of the country – to Turkey’s dismay. Since then relations between Ankara and Cairo have been poisoned by Ankara’s open criticism of the Sisi regime and by the accusations made by Egypt of Turkish interference in its internal affairs.

In July 2015, Egyptian authorities went as far as accusing Turkey of conducting subversive activities in the Sinai Peninsula following the arrest of Turkish agents by Egyptian Intelligence.1 Even though the domestic situation in Egypt is still frail and Islamic terror is still very active both in Sinai and inside Egypt, the military have succeeded in keeping Egypt’s unity and avoiding a civil war.

Turkish agents among ISIS fighters captured in Sinai in 2015.

Turkish agents among ISIS fighters captured in Sinai in 2015.2 (Egypt Daily News)

Unlike Egypt, events that unfolded in Syria contributed to the collapse of the nation-state that had existed there since its 1945 independence from French colonial rule. Assad was confronted at the beginning by the traditional enemies of the Alawite regime. However, with the unraveling of the war, the Muslim Brotherhood were marginalized first by military groups which had rallied under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), whose official announcement of establishment was made in Turkish territory under the auspices of Turkish Intelligence, and then by other radical Muslim factions, some Al-Qaeda-inspired and others directed by the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL), later to become the Islamic State (IS) in 2014.

Turkey saw the developments in Syria as an opportunity to intervene and topple the Alawite regime. Accordingly, Turkish Military Intelligence (MIT) was instructed to assist rebel factions opposed to the Assad regime almost from the very first days of the civil war in Syria and more so from the end of the 2013 and early 2014. The magnitude of the Turkish involvement in Syria was uncovered by a Turkish prosecutor and court testimony from Turkish gendarmerie officers quoted by Reuters,3 both contradicting Turkey’s denials that it had assisted the rebels with weapons, training and shelter, and by doing so indirectly contributed to the rise of the Islamic State in Syria. According to this report, Syria and some of Turkey’s Western allies say Turkey allowed fighters and arms over the border, some of whom went on to join the Islamic State militant group. Testimony by gendarmerie officers in court documents reviewed by Reuters alleges that rocket parts, ammunition and semi-finished mortar shells taken from MIT depots were carried in trucks accompanied by state intelligence agency (MIT) officials to parts of Syria under the hardline Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham. The Salafist group included commanders such as Abu Khaled al-Soury, also known as Abu Omair al-Shamy, who fought alongside al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Much has been written about the Turkish involvement in the Syrian conflict, its bias against the Kurds, and its double-faced attitude towards the IS. But it is not the purpose of this paper to depict an already known and well-documented interference.

However, unlike the past, it seems that Turkey has decided to adopt a different approach to the destabilization of Syria following the military intervention of Russia which has enabled thus far the Assad regime’s chances not only to survive the storm but even to capture positions lost to the rebellion since 2012. Until now Turkey had chosen to shelter, train, arm, and finance rebel groups, and allow almost total free movement of jihadists inside Turkey en route to their units inside Syria and Iraq, and even allow them to spend vacations in summer resorts on the southwest coast of Turkey. In some cases Turkey was even accused of assisting the Islamists in their battles against the Kurds in Kobani and Tel-El Abyad and even bombing Kurdish villages and troop concentrations. It took the United States long and strenuous efforts to convince the Turks to allow the coalition forces to use the Turkish Incirlik airbase against the IS in Syria and Iraq. When Turkey finally announced it was joining the air efforts against the IS, it soon appeared that most of the strikes were carried out against Kurdish targets rather than those of the IS.

If one could describe the Turkish vector of support to the rebels, one could say that this vector could be represented as a figurative arrow directed from Turkey south and westwards in an effort to push Assad’s loyalists to the coastal line and to force Assad to fight his last battle from his traditional strongholds. However, the Russians changed the equation to the detriment of the rebels and created a new situation that demanded new answers and solutions.

Turkey Turns to Lebanon

It now appears that in its efforts to destabilize Assad, Turkey may have chosen to take advantage of the already boiling situation in Lebanon between Hizbullah and its Sunni opponents and try to provoke a renewed civil war in Lebanon. Sending weapons to radical Sunni Islamists in northern Lebanon is but the tip of the iceberg and much remains to be seen on the ground before reaching such a conclusion. However, if this proves to be right, then, by doing so, the Turks would have created two new fronts: one that would attack the Latakia region from the south moving northwards and the other one that would generate civil war in Lebanon between Sunnis and Shiites, a situation that would force Hizbullah to withdraw its troops from Syria and return home to fight. By doing so, the Syrian regime would be deprived of some of its best troops and weakened, thus allowing the rebels assisted by Turkey to initiate renewed offensives in order to take back territory they have lost since the beginning of October 2015.

This theory finds support in an article written by Fabrice Balanche, a French professor and specialist on Syria’s political geography, a currently visiting fellow at the Washington Institute. His article4 published on February 5, 2016, analyzes the situation after the Syrian campaign supported by Iran, Hizbullah and Russia succeeded in cutting the northern insurgency supply line to Turkey. His remarks about possible countermoves by the Turkish and Saudi supporters of the insurgency in his article are worth underlining:

…Turkey and Saudi Arabia may not remain passive in the face of major Russian-Iranian progress in Syria. For example, they could set up a new rebel umbrella group similar to Jaysh al-Fatah, and/or send antiaircraft missiles to certain brigades. Another option is to open a new front in northern Lebanon, where local Salafist groups and thousands of desperate Syrian refugees could be engaged in the fight. Such a move would directly threaten Assad’s Alawite heartland in Tartus and Homs, as well as the main road to Damascus. Regime forces would be outflanked, and Hizbullah’s lines of communication, reinforcement, and supply between Lebanon and Syria could be cut off.

This, of course, would partly explain the news that Greek authorities have detained a cargo ship, Kuki Boy, flying a Togo flag, on the island of Crete since February 28, 2016. The ship, loaded with weapons, was supposedly destined for Muslim radicals in the northern part of Lebanon. The ship, which had left the Turkish port of Mersin on February 4, 2016, was bound to reach the port of Tripoli in Lebanon. Intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard off the coast of Rhodes Island 63 miles southeast of the Turkish resort town of Bodrum, the ship was forced to dock at the port of Souda in Crete.5

Six containers of illegal arms detained in Greece

Six containers of illegal arms detained in Greece6 (Fleetmon.com)

Moreover, the report about the incident comes amid mounting political tension as Saudi Arabia and fellow Gulf States continue to take punitive measures against Lebanon (the annulment by Saudi Arabia of $4 billion in financing of weapons from France is but one example) in anger over what they see as Hizbullah’s destructive influence over the country.  According to one7 Sunni politician in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia was courting Syrian refugees in Lebanon with the goal of establishing an anti-Hizbullah Sunni militia. The politician said Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sees Sunni Syrian refugees with military training as a way to harass Hizbullah, and he may be using Saudi philanthropic organizations that provide aid to refugee camps as a way to court potential militia recruits.

It was only logical that the uncovering of the weapons on the ship bound for Lebanon would trigger harsh criticism from pro-Hizbullah media. The immediate reaction was aired by Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hizbullah, in his latest speech. While adopting a confrontational attitude towards Saudi Arabia, which had convinced the Gulf Arab monarchies to consider Hizbullah as a terrorist organization and to treat it accordingly, Nasrallah pointed at Turkey and its regional allies – Israel and Saudi Arabia – and accused them of trying to destabilize Lebanon, and pledged that he would not fall into the trap set by his enemies.

The pro-Hizbullah media in Lebanon chose also to accuse Turkey and Saudi Arabia directly of destabilizing Lebanon as part and parcel of a greater scheme to bring down the Alawite regime in Syria. A pro-Hizbullah newspaper, Al-Akhbar,8 published an article warning that “foreign powers” seek to “explode the Lebanese arena.”  The pro-Hizbullah newspaper then claimed that Turkey had gathered “statistics in Lebanon, and collected information on the presence of 84,000 Lebanese of Turkmen origin about their location, their types of business and their political presence.” However, Al-Akhbar did not explain what Ankara wanted to do with this supposed information. Instead, the paper claimed that Ankara was “working forcefully along with the Qataris in northern [Lebanese] areas in particular” to hamper support for the Future Movement headed by former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

No doubt the latest events have emphasized once more the already known picture of the fighting alliances – Syria and its allies (Russia, Iran and Hizbullah) on the one hand, and Turkey in concert with Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the other hand. Cynically, both alliances are fighting on the same turf and conducting their confrontation through proxies. It appears now that both rival alliances are looking for the possible game changer in Syria which might turn out to be frail, paralyzed and divided Lebanon.

* * *

Notes

About Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

The Poor Are Dying Earlier, While the Rich Are Living Longer, Social Security Isn’t Meeting Expectations

cbsnews

Death and taxes may be inevitable, but they hit the rich and poor in different — and sometimes unfair — ways.

That’s increasingly evident with the expected life spans of today’s workers, given that low-income Americans are projected to die as many as 13 years earlier than their wealthier cohort, while a century ago the rich and poor had relatively identical lifespans, according to new research into longevity and retirement from the Government Accountability Office that was prepared for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT).

The growing gap between the lifespans of the rich and poor is eating away at the benefits that poor workers can expect from Social Security, the report found. American men who make about $20,000 annually are likely to lose as much as 14 percent of their Social Security lifetime benefits because of their shorter-than-average lives, while men making $80,000 per year stand to see a gain of 18 percent in their benefits given their additional years on earth, the report found. Boosting the retirement age would only exacerbate those disparities, the GAO warned.

Because poor Americans often rely on Social Security as their sole means of support in retirement, boosting the retirement age would provide a double-whammy to many low-income workers. They’d still die at an earlier age than rich Americans, while also being penalized if they couldn’t continue working until an even older full retirement age.

“Poverty should not be a death sentence,” Sanders, the ranking member on the Primary Health and Retirement Security Subcommittee, said in a statement. “When over half of older workers have no retirement savings, we need to expand, not cut, Social Security so that every American can retire with the benefits they’ve earned and the dignity they deserve.”

Currently, workers can claim Social Security retirement benefits when they turn 62 years old, but take a reduced benefit at that age. It’s by far better to hold off on claiming Social Security as long as one can, given that benefits increase at full retirement age, which is currently 66 for people born between 1943 to 1954. Benefits are highest if seniors can wait to claim until they turn 70, although that’s tougher for poor Americans, given that the majority lack other sources of retirement funds.

“Lower-income groups, in particular, may be more adversely affected by certain proposed changes because they are more reliant on Social Security retirement benefits and because they have shorter-than-average life expectancy,” the report said. “It is important that any proposals to change the Social Security program take into account how disparities in life expectancy affect the total benefits received by different groups over their lifetimes.”

At the heart of the issue is the progressive structure of the Social Security system, which is geared toward helping poorer Americans in old age by redistributing income from higher earners. But as life expectancies are increasingly determined by income, the program is losing its progressive edge.

It’s not only the shorter lives of the poor that are eating into their retirement benefits, but the fact that many retire earlier. About 56 percent of men and women in the bottom third of the mid-career income distribution start claiming Social Security at 62, while only 14 percent hold off until they reach 66 years old, the Brookings Institution found earlier this year.

The life expectancy gap may be growing due to differences in smoking rates and health care coverage among the rich and poor. A high-income man born in 1920 had a life expectancy of 79.3 years, while a poor man born the same year was projected to live 5 fewer years. For men born in 1940, that gap has widened to 12 years, Brookings found. The GAO report cited six reports on life expectancy that all found gaps between rich and poor Americans, with the differences in years of life ranging from 3.6 years to almost 13 years.

While wealthier Americans are living longer, poor white workers have been hit by issues including drug and alcohol abuse. Death rates for whites between 45 to 54 have increased half a percent per year since 1998, the Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton found last year.

Given that Social Security’s combined reserves may be dry by 2034, policy makers are floating ideas such as raising the retirement age. But there are other ways to boost the program’s reserves, including lifting the cap on taxable wage income, which now stands at $118,000, or raising the payroll tax.

Pakistan Struggles To Save Itself AND Its Extremist Islamist Hordes

Rescuing Pakistan

express tribune

The apparent objective of the March 27 attack in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park was to target families belonging to a marginalised Christian community on Easter Sunday. The park is in one of the few public spaces where admission is free and thus accessible to the working class population. The suicide bomber seems to have targeted the children’s play area. At least 29 children were among the more than 70 people killed in the bombing. Pakistan, once again, is burying small coffins. This is depraved beyond words.

Rescue workers move a body from the blast site outside a public park in Lahore, Pakistan on March 27, 2016.   © 2016 Reuters

These and numerous other attacks targeting religious minorities, or just ordinary people in markets and mosques, have killed or injured thousands of Pakistanis. Various militant groups are blamed, some of them factions of the Pakistani Taliban. “It was our people who attacked the Christians in Lahore, celebrating Easter,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the Jamaat ul-Ahrar, declared after the bombing, taking responsibility for that attack and warning that the group “will carry out such attacks again”. The targets may have been Christians, but the victims were Pakistanis — men, women and children; Christian and Muslim. Pakistan is caught up in a war over ideology, but the government fails to understand the nature of the battle.

But Pakistan is also war-weary, with many people increasingly desensitised to violence and taking pride in ‘resilience’, even justifying the death of children by calling them ‘martyrs’. However, Lahore has largely remained at the periphery of the conflict. When bombs go off in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and in the tribal areas, it has become just a sound byte, perhaps a news feed scrolling on TV screens, with the often unsaid assumption that since those are ‘conflict areas’, it is expected that there will be bombings and ordinary people will die.

So even as Lahore was in mourning, with people lining up at hospitals to donate blood to those injured, Islamabad was yet again hostage to a mob protesting their kind of ‘martyr’. Thousands of members of religious parties and groups staged a four-day sit-in in front of parliament, protesting the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, the police constable who assassinated Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer for speaking against the blasphemy law. They were demanding assurances that the blasphemy law will not be amended and demanding the execution of anyone convicted of blasphemy. These protesters were possibly armed and demonstrably violent. The army was called to deal with the situation, and for four days, the Pakistani capital was held in a tense stand-off.

One of their primary demands was to execute another Christian, a peasant woman called Aasia Bibi. She is the first woman in Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, though others have been convicted and given lesser sentences.

At least 29 children were among the more than 70 people killed in the bombing. Pakistan, once again, is burying small coffins. This is depraved beyond words.

The events of Lahore and Islamabad are not completely distinct. The killing of members of working class minority communities in Lahore, and the demand to execute a poor minority woman in Islamabad, originate from the same ideology. These victims of militant attacks and blasphemy law persecutions are often from the marginalised sections of Pakistani society, Muslim and non-Muslim, Shia and Sunni.

On March 28, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressed the nation and re-affirmed his resolve to fight sectarian violence. But that was quickly followed on March 30 by a government concession to many of the key demands of the pro-Qadri protesters, including pledges not to amend the blasphemy provisions and not to show mercy to those convicted under them. In doing so, the government agreed to perpetuate the injustice inflicted by the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

The Sharif government seems to be utterly helpless in the face of those who cheer for murder. After the horrific attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, in December 2014, the government said that it was a “watershed” moment in transforming policy on engaging with favoured, and not so favoured, militant groups. However, it then approached religious extremism as a ‘technical’ question of the government’s capacity to respond. It adopted overly broad rights-violating measures, such as military courts and the restoration of capital punishment.

But as long as the government takes the role of an actor upholding discriminatory laws, no National Action Plan (NAP) against militancy is likely to succeed. The claims of NAP’s success are dampened by reports that Christians are fleeing the country in fear, risking hunger, sickness and arrest abroad.

Laws that permit discrimination against religious minorities, and the federal and provincial governments’ failure to address religious persecution by religious groups, facilitate atrocities against these oppressed groups and others who are vulnerable. The Pakistani government cannot vow to fight one group of extremists effectively while surrendering to another. Equal citizenship, due process and impartial dispensation of justice will have to be the cornerstone of any meaningful counter-terror plan.

Pakistan’s JIT Team Charges Pathankot Incident “False Flag Operation,” Rejects India’s Claims

JIT report pokes holes in India’s Pathankot theories

pakistan today

download-3-2

  • Says the attack was a drama staged to malign Pakistan, says no evidence attackers entered from Pakistan
  • Says Indian authorities did not cooperate with Pakistan in investigation

The Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Pathankot terrorist attack has finalised its report and will submit it to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ‘in the next few days’, Pakistan Today has learnt.

A source privy to the details of the report said the JIT report has concluded that the Indian authorities had prior information about the attackers. He said that India used the attack as a tool to expand its “vicious propaganda” against Pakistan “without having any solid evidence to back the claim”.

Meanwhile, the Pathankot attack probe took an ugly turn on Saturday when an Indian Muslim police officer investigating the matter was killed in a terrorist attack in front of his wife and kids.

“The brutal murder of a Muslim investigator is evidence that Indian establishment wants to keep the matter under wraps,” a member of the JIT told Pakistan Today.

The JIT Report:

According to the source, the JIT’s report says that the Indian government did not cooperate with the JIT and instead made efforts to hinder the probe by the Pakistani team.

“The report also raises serious questions over the veracity of Indian claims regarding the Pathankot attack. The JIT has concluded that contrary to the claims of the Indian government about the duration of the encounter, the standoff between the Indian army and alleged terrorists ended within hours of the attack,” the source quoted the report, adding that this finding has made it clear that the attack was a drama staged to malign Pakistan and persuade the world community that Pakistan is involved in terrorism.

“Indian authorities also failed to establish that the attackers entered from Pakistan,” the report says adding that within hours of the assault, all the attackers were shot dead by the Indian security forces. “However, the Indian authorities made it a three-day drama to get maximum attention from the world community in order to malign Pakistan,” the report added.

The Pakistani team was allowed entry into the Pathankot base from a narrow passage out of a breach developed into the Airbase instead of the main entry gate.

The source added the total duration of the JIT’s visit to the base was about 55 minutes. He said the team was denied the opportunity to collect evidence from the site of the attack.

The source said no major damage was done to the base and that the Indian authorities showed the JIT the place from where the assailants had entered the base. He said the investigators were informed that perimeter lights were also not functional on the day of the attack.

This raises serious questions on the attack as India had prior information about the attackers and the entire area had been sealed three days ahead of the attack, the source quoted the report.

The source added that no evidence was shared with the JIT about Indian claims that terrorists had entered from the Pakistani side of the border.

The source said that the Indian claims about the entry from the Pakistani side were unsupported as they failed to answer why the electric fence on the border failed to hinder the entry.

“The Indian response was ridiculous. They claimed that the breach was possible as power was not running through the electric fence due to some electricity problem that night,” the source added.

The report also indicates another flaw in the Indian investigation, as the attackers could not have scaled the airbase walls with a single rope without a hook.

“Another flaw in Indian claim is that the airbase perimeter lamps were turned off despite a 28-hour early warning of an attack,” the source added.

The source said that the report concludes that the Indian allegations about the involvement of Pakistan’s non-state actors in the Pathankot Airbase attack have not been established and “what appears from the Indian side is a case of a badly knitted stage drama”.

“The report concludes that the Pathankot attack looked like another false flag operation fully facilitated by the Indian army just to put the blame on Pakistan,” the source added.

Reports in media earlier have talked about the reluctance of the Indian officials to cooperate with the JIT. Reports said the Indian authorities did not provide the JIT with any evidence when it asked for the recordings of the telephone calls of SP Salwinder Singh, his wife and other related persons and the IME numbers and copies of the three FIRs that had been filed after the attack.

%d bloggers like this: