Saturday, July 22, 2017

Baltimore Activist Alert July 23 – August 9, 2017

Baltimore Activist Alert July 23 – August 9, 2017

"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours.
The initiative to stop it must be ours." -Martin Luther King Jr.

Friends, this list and other email documents which I send out are done under the auspices of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center.  Go to www.baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com.  If you appreciate this information and would like to make a donation, send contributions to BNC, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218.  Max Obuszewski can be reached at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski2001 [at] comcast.net.

1] Books, buttons and stickers
2] Web site for info on federal legislation
3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists  
4] Two friends are looking to buy a house in Baltimore
5] Feed the People – July 23
6] “Racial Bias in Media Representation” – July 23
7] Deep Canvassing – July 23
8] Anti-Bias Education – July 23
9] Feed the Homeless – July 23
11] Book Study on THE COLOR OF LAW – July 23
12] Ulster Project Delaware Talent Show -- July 23
13] Pentagon Vigil – July 24 
14] Support the Supreme Court Five – July 24
15] Marc Steiner on WEAA – July 24– July 28
16] Millions Marching For Medicare For All – July 24
17] Progressive MoCo Happy Hour – July 24
18] Peace vigil – July 25
19] End drone research at JHU – July 25
20] See the film TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD July 25
21] Book talk "The Pox Lover" – July 25
22] Commemorate Hiroshima – Aug. 6
23] Commemorate Nagasaki – Aug. 9
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1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available.  “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Call Max at 410-323-1607.

2] – To obtain information how your federal legislators voted on particular bills, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/.  Congressional toll-free numbers are 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588 or 800-426-8073. The White House Comment Email is accessible at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/.

3] – THE ORGANIZING LIST will be the primary decision-making mechanism of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR].  It will be augmented by conference calls and possibly in-person meetings as needed.  It will consist of 1 or 2 representatives from each local, regional, or national organization (not coalitions) that wishes to actively work to carry out the NCNR campaign of facilitating and organizing nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq.

To join the ORGANIZING List, please send your name, group affiliation, city and email address to mobuszewski at Verizon.net.  Different local chapters of a national organization are encouraged to subscribe.  

THE NOTICES LIST will include only notices of NCNR actions and related information and is open to any interested person to subscribe.  It will be moderated to maintain focus & will include periodic notices about getting involved in NCNR national organizing.  To join the NOTICES List, send an email message to ncnrnotices-subscribe@lists.riseup.net. You will get a confirmation message once subscribed.  If you have problems, please write to the list manager at ncnrnotices-admin@lists.riseup.net.

4] – Janice and Max are looking to buy a house in Baltimore.  Let Max know if you have any leads—410-323-1607 or mobuszewski 2001 at comcast dot net.

5] -- On Sun., July 23 from 10 AM to 5 PM, Feed the People is hosted by Blackout: Generation Liberation and Food, Clothing & Resistance Collective at the Peace House DC, 1005 Rhode Island Ave. NE, WDC 20018. Meet at the Peace House DC, 1005 Rhode Island Ave. NE, WDC, near The Rhode Island Metro Station.  Contact Sima Lee, FCRC Community Organizer, 202-584-9231, or simaleetherbg@gmail.com.  Volunteer to deliver prepared meals, clothing items and toiletry care packages to communities in need.  Donate cash or drop off food items, clothing and toiletries at The Peace House DC from 9 AM to 9 PM M-F and noon to 9 PM Sat/Sun. Email fcrcollective@gmail.com.

6] – Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 306 W. Franklin St., Suite 102, Baltimore 21201-4661, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion from 10:30 AM to noon.  On Sun., July 23, the Sunday Platform is “Racial Bias in Media Representation.” Film and television are centerpieces of American culture, so why don’t the racial demographics of either match the country at large? What are the causes of this mismatch, and what can we as consumers do to fix it? Call 410-581-2322 or email ask@bmorethical.org.

7] – In towns and neighborhoods across the country, Progressive Maryland  holds conversations with voters about the issues of the day and the world we’re fighting to build. We train volunteers to knock on the doors of neighbors and transform their communities into a force at the polls. We ask candidates tough questions and secure policy commitments. If you are interested in being a part of this movement of transformational canvassing, please reach out to Amanya Paige at intern@amanyapaige@gmail.com.
This is also a great opportunity to meet people that share common interests as you! Progressive Maryland’s main goal is to mobilize people around issues and not elections! On Sun., July 23 from 1:30 to 4:30 PM, come to the Fairmont Height Branch Library, 5904 Kolb St., Fairmount Heights 20743. Email Amity Pope at amity.pope@gmail.com.  Go to http://www.progressivemaryland.org/calendar.

8] -- On Sun., July 23 at 3 PM at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, welcome Katie Kissinger, author of the children’s book “All The Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color” who will present her new work, “Anti-Bias Education in the Early Childhood Classroom.” The book provides a useful, clearly outlined guide for implementing anti-bias and anti-oppressive practices in early childhood education settings. Supporting young children in their positive identity development and in learning about differences is more critical in our society than it has ever been. Call 443-602-7585.  RSVP at http://www.redemmas.org.

9] – On Sun., July 23 from 3 to 6 PM, come to the Feed the Homeless Cookout at St. Vincent de Paul Church, 120 N. Front St., Baltimore 21202. 

10] – On Sun., July 23 at 5 PM, Joshua Green will present his book “Devil's Bargain” at Politics and Prose Bookstore, WDC.  The key to understanding Trump’s election, Green argues, is Steve Bannon. Green, a long-time political commentator who is currently a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, profiled Bannon in 2015, citing him as the mastermind behind a “vast right-wing conspiracy” poised to take down Hillary Clinton and many others. Green traces the rise of the populist movement and Bannon’s role in it over the past six years, and points to Trump’s selection of Bannon—who had no experience running a national political campaign—to lead what looked, in August 2016, like a failing effort to win the presidency, as the decision that turned the election in Trump’s favor.

11] -- Progressive Prince George’s will host a Book Study on THE COLOR OF LAW on Sun., July 23 at 5:30 PM at Busboys and Poets, Hyattsville, Email amity.pope@gmail.com or go to http://www.npr.org/books/titles/526656129/the-color-of-law-a-forgotten-history-of-how-our-government-segregated-america .

12] –  On Sun., July 23 at 7 PM, attend the Banbridge Night Talent Show at St. Elizabeth H.S. Auditorium, 1500 Cedar St., Wilmington, DE.  The Ulster Project Delaware promotes peace in Northern Ireland by hosting eighteen Catholic and Protestant teens from the N.I. towns of Banbridge, Coleraine, and Portadown in Delaware homes for a month of reconciliation, tolerance, service, friendship and fun during July of each year. Go to http://ulsterprojectdelaware.org/.

13] -- There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop.  The next vigil is July 24, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.  Email artlaffin@hotmail.com or call 202-882-9649.  The vigil will be outside the Pentagon's south Metro entrance and in the designated "protest zone" behind bicycle fences across from the entrance to the Metro.  By Metro, take Yellow Line and get out at the "Pentagon" stop. Do not go to the Pentagon City stop! Go up south escalators and turn left and walk across to protest area. By car from D.C. area, take 395 South and get off at Exit 8A-Pentagon South Parking. Take slight right onto S. Rotary Rd. at end of ramp and right on S. Fern St. Then take left onto Army Navy Dr. You can "pay to park" on Army Navy Dr.,  and there is meter parking one block on right on Eads St. Payment for both of these spots begin at 8 AM.  No cameras are allowed on Pentagon grounds. Restrooms are located inside Marriott Residence Inn on corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Dr. 

14] -- On April 1, 2015, five brave activists with 99Rise—the organization that gave birth to Democracy Spring—stood up within the chamber of the US Supreme Court and disrupted its proceedings. Rising one by one, they called for the court to overturn its disastrous Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, which have permitted unlimited amounts of money to pour into our elections from the billionaire class.  On Mon., July 24, two years later—the Supreme Court 5 will go to court for their sentencing hearing, where they each face up to fourteen months in jail and a maximum $105,000 fine. Meet at 9:30 AM at 333 Constitution Ave. NW, WDC 20001-2804. Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1914211328847640/?active_tab=about.

15] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Friday fr6m 10 AM to noon on WEAA 88.9 FM, The Voice of the Community, or online at www.weaa.org.   The call-in number is 410-319-8888, and comments can also be sent by email to steinershow@gmail.com. All shows are also available as podcasts at www.steinershow.org.

16] – On Mon., July 24 from 3 to 7 PM, Millions Marching For Medicare For All will be at the U.S. Capitol Building West Lawn, WDC.  Visit www.millionsmarchingformedicare.org.

Our healthcare system is under threat by a Trump administration which is trying to cut Medicaid by 35% in the next 20 years, causing 23 million people to lose their health coverage by 2026. Across the country, citizens have begun to counter this threat with disruptive direct action. There have been sit-ins, protests, and vigils organized throughout the country, with many more to come in the next few weeks. With the repeal of the flawed and partially defunded ACA on the horizon, and the abhorrent plans to replace it with something that is not care, but a tax cut for the wealthy, it's time to let Congress know we wish to have health care for all people like all other modern industrialized nations.  Go to http://www.millionsmarchingformedicare.org/. Email march4medicare4all@gmail.com.

17] – Progressive MoCo, on Mon., July 24, is hosting a District 5 Happy Hour for networking with fellow progressives to discuss the issues concerning Montgomery County, and build power in Maryland. It will take place from 7 to 9 PM at Kaldi's Coffee Rooftop, 918 Silver Spring Ave., Silver Spring 20910. See http://www.progressivemaryland.org/.

18] –  Each Tuesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the Catholic Peace Fellowship-Philadelphia for peace in Afghanistan and Iraq gathers at the Suburban Station, 16th St. & JFK Blvd., at the entrance to Tracks 3 and 4 on the mezzanine.  The next vigil is July 25.  Call 215-426-0364.

19] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 33rd & North Charles Sts. join this ongoing vigil on July 25 from 5:30  to 6:30 PM. Call Max at 410-323-1607. 

20] – See “To Kill A Mockingbird” on Tues., July 25 at 7 PM, as part of the Best Peace and Justice Films of the Last 50 years,  at the Westminster Church, 1502 W. 13th St., Wilmington. There is no charge.  The discussant is David Teague, Ph.D., professor, Associate in Arts Program, University of Delaware, Wilmington.  The film is a coming-of-age story of Louise "Scout" Finch, and her brother in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama in the Depression-era1930s. Their widowed father Atticus is the town’s highly principled lawyer. Atticus is asked to defend a black man, Tom Robinson against an accusation of rape of a white girl, Mayella Ewell. The film shows the struggle against a prejudiced legal system as Atticus fights for an innocent man wrongly accused of a crime. Go to depaceminterris.org/.

21] – Anne-Christine d'Adesky presents "The Pox Lover" on Tues., July 25 at 7:30 PM at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201.  The book is a personal history of the turbulent 1990s in New York City and Paris by a pioneering American AIDS journalist, lesbian activist, and daughter of French-Haitian elites. In an account that is by turns searing, hectic, and funny, the author remembers "the poxed generation" of AIDS—their lives, their battles, and their determination to find love and make art in the heartbreaking years before lifesaving protease drugs arrived. Also speaking will be Mark King, an award-winning blogger and HIV activist who has been writing about HIV since testing positive in 1985. Call 443-602-7585.  RSVP at http://www.redemmas.org.

22] – There is a HIROSHIMA COMMEMORATION on Sunday, August 6. At 5:30 PM, outside Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N, Charles Street, demonstrate in favor of the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons: Fifty nations must ratify the Convention to Ban Nuclear Weapons, and ratification begins on September 20.  One hundred and twenty two countries signed on to the convention, but they must take it back to their nations for ratification by whatever means each nation has for ratification. Commemorate Hiroshima.

At 6:30 PM inside Homewood Meetinghouse, savor a potluck dinner with members of the peace and justice community. David Eberhardt will again share some poetry, and Joseph Byrne will perform some dulcimer music.    

At 7:15 PM, the program will begin with Dr. Gwen DuBois, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, who will discuss her work in New York City during the gathering at the United Nations to ban nuclear weapons.  Then a statement will be read from Rev. Dr. Mankekolo Mahlangu-Ngcobo, who will share her thoughts about living in apartheid South Africa.  Rev. Mahlangu-Ngcobo will be in South Africa on August 6 for a Prayer Intercession in Parliament. Note that South Africa is the first nuclear nation to end its program. 

23] – The NAGASAKI COMMEMORATION is on Wednesday, August 9, 2017.  At 5:30 PM, demonstrate at 33rd & N. Charles Streets against Johns Hopkins University’s weapons contracts, including research on killer drones, commemorate the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, and remember Fukushima, Japan.  At 6:30 PM, march to the Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles Street. 

 At 7 PM, John Steinbach and Kio Kanda of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area will share some remarks.  Then, with the help of a translator, a Korean Hibakusha, Ms. Jon Sung Lee, will address the group. Ms. Lee was 12 years old when she experienced the Hiroshima bombing. Her family were part of the large Korean community in Hiroshima forced to work in Japan during WW2. She entered Hiroshima three days after the bombing and was exposed to the radiation. 

Also speaking with be Sister Megan Rice of the Transform Now Plowshares.  She engaged with Greg Boertje-Obed and Mike Walli in a remarkable Plowshares disarmament at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, TN. Finally, the accomplished musician David Sawyer will perform.  At 8:30 PM, enjoy dinner at Niwana Restaurant, 3 E. 33rd Street, with our Korean guest.
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HIROSHIMA-NAGASAKI COMMEMORATION COMMITTEE, 325 East 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218 Ph: 410-323-1607 Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Comcast dot net
To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] comcast.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/.

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


After Exxon Fined for Sanctions Violations, Calls for Rex Tillerson to Resign

After Exxon Fined for Sanctions Violations, Calls for Rex Tillerson to Resign
Thursday, July 20, 2017

When secretary of state was CEO of ExxonMobil, says Treasury, the oil giant showed a "reckless disregard" for sanctions



  "It's time Rex Tillerson step down or be removed," said Gigi Kellett of Corporate Accountability International, following an announcement on Thursday that ExxonMobil will pay $2 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Russian officials while the now-secretary of state was the company's CEO.

"This is nothing more than a parking ticket."
—Gigi Kellett, Corporate Accountability International

"ExxonMobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanction requirements," according to enforcement filingreleased by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which issued the penalty. Though the fine is reportedly the maximum penalty allowed, it's pittance to one of the world's most profitable and powerful corporations, which last year reported a profit of $7.8 billion.

  "This is nothing more than a parking ticket," Kellett said.

   OFAC says ExxonMobil violated sanctions against Russian officials in May 2014, by "signing eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with Igor Sechin, the President of Rosneft," Russia's state-owned oil company. The sanctions were established two months earlier by then-President Barack Obama, in response to the Russian government's actions in Ukraine.
In a statement Thursday, ExxonMobil claimed it "followed the clear guidance from the White House and Treasury Department when its representatives signed the documents," and that "OFAC is trying to retroactively enforce a new interpretation" of the sanctions, adding, "OFAC's action is fundamentally unfair."

   The OFAC filing, however, says the company's "senior-most executives knew" the sanctions barred them from signing deals with Sechin, calling ExxonMobil "a sophisticated and experienced oil and gas company" that routinely navigates U.S. sanctions and export rules. Tillerson stepped down as CEO of ExxonMobil in December 2016 to lead the Trump Administration's State Department. After the department refused reporters' requests for comment on Thursday, Foreign Policy's Robbie Gramer took to Twitter:

1/ The State Department won't even comment on Exxon being fined for violating Russia sanctions while Tillerson was CEO. They referred me to
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) July 20, 2017

2/ Exxon and Treasury for comment. As if its irrelevant to the State Department that the Secretary of State for the Trump Admin was at the
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) July 20, 2017

3/ helm of a company violating sanctions on Russia, and is now tasked with repairing US-Russia relations and resolving the Ukraine crisis
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) July 20, 2017

   In addition to calling for Tillerson's resignation, Kellett said: "At every level, ExxonMobil and the rest of the fossil fuel industry must be held accountable for their abuses. That may start with this $2 million fine, but it will end when all Big Polluters are held liable for their abuses and cast out of policymaking for good."

     Celebrating Thursday's small victory against the world's largest oil company, Greenpeace USA climate director Kelly Mitchell said, "Even with Rex Tillerson leading the State Department, people in this country can hold powerful corporations accountable and must continue to do so."
"This move should embolden United States attorneys general in their investigations into what ExxonMobil and Rex Tillerson knew about the risks of climate change and the company’s potential withholding of that information from the public and shareholders," Mitchell added.

     The attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts have launched probes to investigate reports that the company, for decades, misled its investors and the public about the dangers of climate change. The allegations have also lead to calls for Tillerson to resign from his position as head of the U.S. State Department

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] comcast.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Torture-Friendly Trump Administration

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Torture-Friendly Trump Administration
Only stupid people say torture works — and one of them is sitting in the White House.



  It should come as no surprise to anyone that Donald Trump is pro-torture. He said on the campaign trail he’d approve waterboarding “in a heartbeat,” plus “a hell of a lot worse.”
He added: “Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.”

   There are certainly a lot of stupid people then, because everyone from interrogators to researchers have repeatedly concluded that torture doesn’t work. People will say whatever you want them to say to make the pain stop, making torture not only inhumane but also bad for intelligence.

   A 2009 Senate Armed Services Committee review concluded that torture “damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.” That’s why the Senate voted in 2015 to turn the presidential ban on torture into official law.

   To his credit, Trump did water down his original support for torture, allowing Defense Secretary James Mattis — who opposes torture — to override him.
But if the Trump administration is now opposed to torture, why are they nominating the architects of America’s torture fiasco to key posts?

   Take Steven Bradbury, nominated to be general counsel for the Transportation Department. Bradbury is infamous for writing the legal memos authorizing CIA torture at the Bush Justice Department.
Bradbury’s confirmation was placed on hold by Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq veteran who lost her legs in the war. “The actions you helped justify put our troops in harm’s way, put our diplomats deployed overseas in harm’s way, and you compromised our nation’s very values,” she said angrily at his confirmation hearing.

   Or what about Donald Trump’s nominee to head the FBI, Christopher Wray?

  Wray was at the Justice Department when attorney John Yoo and others were drafting their torture memos. Wray knew about detainee abuse and did not, as head of the criminal division, bring charges against any of the Bush administration torturers — except for one low-level CIA contractor who beat a prisoner to death.

   A third person connected to torture is Gina Haspel, who was appointed deputy director of the CIA. Haspel ran a “black site” prison in Thailand where suspects were waterboarded — and then helped destroy video of the interrogations.

  The Senate Intelligence Committee meticulously documented the sordid U.S. record of torture under the Bush administration in a 6,770-page report. But the public hasn’t been able to read it — only the executive summary has been released.

   Yet this isn’t just an exercise in history. In June, Human Rights Watch and the Associated Press published explosive reports revealing a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen run by U.S.-allied United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces.

  The reports reveal horrific practices in which prisoners, including children, have been arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, sexually assaulted, and tortured. One torture method, known as the “grill,” had victims tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire.

   Reports indicate that the U.S. military knew about the torture, received transcripts of the interrogations conducted by Yemeni interrogators, and interrogated several detainees themselves. According to one Yemeni security officer, American forces were only yards away from a facility where torture took place.
Senators John McCain and Jack Reed immediately expressed outrage, calling on the Trump administration to investigate the allegations. But the reaction of the White House to these revolting reports is telling: radio silence.

    Trump’s refusal to publicly condemn these secret prisons, together with the appointments of people who played a role in George W. Bush’s torture program, should set off alarm bells.

  Only stupid people say torture works, and one of them is sitting in the White House.


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] comcast.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

A Wide World of Winless War

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)

A Wide World of Winless War


July 17, 2017

Nick Turse

Sunday, June 25, 2017
TomDispatch

  The tabs on their shoulders read [1] “Special Forces,” “Ranger,” “Airborne.” And soon their guidon -- the “colors” of Company B, 3rd Battalion of the U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group -- would be adorned [2] with the “Bandera de Guerra,” a Colombian combat decoration.

   “Today we commemorate sixteen years of a permanent fight against drugs in a ceremony where all Colombians can recognize the special counternarcotic brigade’s hard work against drug trafficking,” said [2] Army Colonel Walther Jimenez, the commander of the Colombian military’s Special Anti-Drug Brigade, last December.  America’s most elite troops, the Special Operations forces (SOF), have worked with that Colombian unit since its creation in December 2000.  Since 2014, four teams of Special Forces soldiers have intensely monitored the brigade.  Now, they were being honored for it.

    Part of a $10 billion [3] counter-narcotics and counterterrorism program, conceived in the 1990s, special ops efforts in Colombia are a much [4] ballyhooed [5] American success story.  A 2015 RAND Corporation study found [6] that the program “represents an enduring SOF partnership effort that managed to help foster a relatively professional and capable special operations force.”  And for a time, coca production in that country plummeted [7].  Indeed, this was the ultimate promise of America’s “Plan Colombia” and efforts that followed from it.  “Over the longer haul, we can expect to see more effective drug eradication and increased interdiction of illicit drug shipments,” President Bill Clinton predicted [8] in January 2000.

   Today, however, more than 460,000 acres of the Colombian countryside are blanketed [9] with coca plants, more than during the 1980s heyday of the infamous cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar [10].  U.S. cocaine overdose deaths are also at a 10-year high and first-time cocaine use among young adults has spiked [11] 61% since 2013.  “Recent findings suggest that cocaine use may be reemerging as a public health concern in the United States,” wrote researchers from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in a study published [12] in December 2016 -- just after the Green Berets attended that ceremony in Colombia.  Cocaine, the study’s authors write, “may be making a comeback.”

    Colombia is hardly an anomaly when it comes to U.S. special ops deployments -- or the results that flow from them.  For all their abilities, tactical skills, training prowess, and battlefield accomplishments, the capacity of U.S. Special Operations forces to achieve decisive and enduring successes -- strategic victories that serve U.S. national interests -- have proved to be exceptionally limited, a reality laid bare from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen to the Philippines. 
The fault for this lies not with the troops themselves, but with a political and military establishment that often appears bereft of strategic vision and hasn’t won a major war since the 1940s [13].  Into this breach, elite U.S. forces are deployed again and again. While special ops commanders may raise concerns about the tempo of operations and strains on the force, they have failed to grapple with larger questions about the raison d'ĂȘtre of SOF, while Washington’s oversight establishment, notably the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, have consistently failed to so much as ask hard questions about the strategic utility of America’s Special Operations forces.

Special Ops at War

  “We operate and fight in every corner of the world,” boasts General Raymond Thomas [14], the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM).  “On a daily basis, we sustain a deployed or forward stationed force of approximately 8,000 across 80-plus countries.  They are conducting the entire range of SOF missions in both combat and non-combat situations.”  Those numbers, however, only hint at the true size and scope of this global special ops effort.  Last year, America’s most elite forces conducted missions in 138 countries -- roughly 70% of the nations on the planet, according [15] to figures supplied to TomDispatch by U.S. Special Operations Command.  Halfway through 2017, U.S. commandos have already been deployed to an astonishing 137 countries, according to SOCOM spokesman Ken McGraw. 

    Special Operations Command is tasked with carrying out 12 core missions, ranging from counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare to hostage rescue and countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  
   
    Counterterrorism -- fighting what the command calls violent extremist organizations (VEOs) -- may, however, be what America’s elite forces have become best known for in the post-9/11 era.  “The threat posed by VEOs remains the highest priority for USSOCOM in both focus and effort,” says [16]Thomas.
“Special Operations Forces are the main effort, or major supporting effort for U.S. VEO-focused operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, across the Sahel of Africa, the Philippines, and Central/South America -- essentially, everywhere Al Qaeda (AQ) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are to be found...”

    More special operators are deployed to the Middle East than to any other region.  Significant numbers of them are advising Iraqi government forces and Iraqi Kurdish soldiers as well as Kurdish YPG (Popular Protection Unit) fighters and various ethnic Arab forces in Syria, according [17] to Linda Robinson, a senior international policy analyst with the RAND Corporation who spent seven weeks in Iraq, Syria, and neighboring countries earlier this year. 

   During a visit [17] to Qayyarah, Iraq -- a staging area for the campaign to free Mosul, formerly Iraq’s second largest city, from the control of Islamic State fighters -- Robinson “saw a recently installed U.S. military medical unit and its ICU set up in tents on the base.”  In a type of mission seldom reported on, special ops surgeons, nurses, and other specialists put their skills to work on far-flung battlefields not only to save American lives, but to prop up allied proxy forces that have limited medical capabilities.  For example, an Air Force Special Operations Surgical Team recently spent eight weeks deployed at an undisclosed location in the Iraq-Syria theater, treating 750 war-injured patients.  Operating out of an abandoned one-story home within earshot of a battlefield, the specially trained airmen worked through a total of 19 mass casualty incidents and more than 400 individual gunshot or blast injuries.

    When not saving lives in Iraq and Syria, elite U.S. forces are frequently involved in efforts to take them.  “U.S. SOF are... being thrust into a new role of coordinating fire support,” wrote Robinson. “This fire support is even more important to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a far more lightly armed irregular force which constitutes the major ground force fighting ISIS in Syria.”  In fact, a video shot last year, analyzed [18] by the Washington Post, shows special operators “acting as an observation element for what appears to be U.S. airstrikes carried out by A-10 ground attack aircraft” to support Syrian Democratic Forces fighting for the town of Shadadi.

    Africa now ranks second when it comes to the deployment of special operators thanks to the exponential growth in missions there in recent years.  Just 3% of U.S. commandos deployed overseas were sent to Africa in 2010.  Now that number stands at more than 17%, according [19] to SOCOM data.  Last year, U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed to 32 African nations, about 60% of the countries on the continent.  As I recently reported [20] at VICE News, at any given time, Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and other special operators are now conducting nearly 100 missions across 20 African countries.

    In May, for instance, Navy SEALs were engaged in an “advise and assist operation” alongside members of Somalia’s army and came under attack.  SEAL Kyle Milliken was killed and two other U.S. personnel were injured during a firefight that also, according to AFRICOM spokesperson Robyn Mack, left three al-Shabaab militants dead.  U.S. forces are also deployed [21] in Libya to gather intelligence in order to carry out strikes of opportunity against Islamic State forces there.  While operations in Central Africa against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal militia that has terrorized the region for decades, wound down [22] recently, a U.S. commando reportedly killed [23] a member of the LRA as recently as April. 

Spring Training

   What General Thomas calls “building partner nations’ capacity” forms the backbone of the global activities of his command.  Day in, day out, America’s most elite troops carry out such training missions to sharpen their skills and those of their allies and of proxy forces across the planet. 

   This January, for example, Green Berets and Japanese paratroopers carried out airborne training near Chiba, Japan.  February saw Green Berets at Sanaa Training Center in northwest Syria advising recruits for the Manbij Military Council, a female fighting force of Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Turkmen, and Yazidis.  In March, snowmobiling Green Berets joined local forces for cold-weather military drills in Lapland, Finland.  That same month, special operators and more than 3,000 troops from Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom took part in tactical training in Germany.

    In the waters off Kuwait, special operators joined elite forces from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations in conducting drills simulating a rapid response to the hijacking of an oil tanker.  In April, special ops troops traveled to Serbia to train alongside a local special anti-terrorist unit.  In May, members of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Iraq carried out training exercises with Iraqi special operations forces near Baghdad. That same month, 7,200 military personnel, including U.S. Air Force Special Tactics airmen, Italian special operations forces, members of host nation Jordan’s Special Task Force, and troops from more than a dozen other nations took part in Exercise Eager Lion, practicing everything from assaulting compounds to cyber-defense.  For their part, a group of SEALs conducted dive training alongside Greek special operations forces in Souda Bay, Greece, while others joined NATO troops in Germany as part of Exercise Saber Junction 17 for training in land operations, including mock “behind enemy lines missions” in a “simulated European village.” 

#Winning

   "We have been at the forefront of national security operations for the past three decades, to include continuous combat over the past 15-and-a-half years," SOCOM’s Thomas told [24] the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities last month.  “This historic period has been the backdrop for some of our greatest successes, as well as the source of our greatest challenge, which is the sustained readiness of this magnificent force.”  Yet, for all their magnificence and all those successes, for all the celebratory ceremonies they’ve attended, the wars, interventions, and other actions for which they’ve served as the tip of the American spear have largely foundered, floundered, or failed. 

    After their initial tactical successes in Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, America’s elite operators became victims of Washington’s failure [25] to declare victory and go home.  As a result, for the last 15 years, U.S. commandos have been raiding homes, calling in air strikes, training local forces, and waging a relentless battle against a growing list of terror groups in that country.  For all their efforts, as well as those of their conventional military brethren and local Afghan allies, the war is now, according [26] to the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, a “stalemate.”  That’s a polite way of saying what a recent report to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found: districts that are contested or under “insurgent control or influence” have risen[27] from an already remarkable 28% in 2015 to 40%.

   The war in Afghanistan began with efforts to capture or kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.  Having failed in this post-9/11 mission, America’s elite forces spun their wheels for the next decade when it came to his fate.  Finally, in 2011, Navy SEALs cornered him in his long-time home in Pakistan and gunned him down.  Ever since, special operators [28] who carried out [29] the mission and Washington [30] power-players [31] (not [32] to mention [33] Hollywood [34]) have been touting this single tactical success.

  In an Esquire interview, Robert O'Neill, the SEAL who put [35] two bullets in bin Laden’s head, confessed that he joined the Navy due to frustration over an early crush, a puppy-love pique.  “That's the reason al-Qaeda has been decimated,” he joked [36], “because she broke my fucking heart.”  But al-Qaeda was not decimated -- far from it according to Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. special agent and the author of Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State.  As he recently observed [37], “Whereas on 9/11 al-Qaeda had a few hundred members, almost all of them based in a single country, today it enjoys multiple safe havens across the world.”  In fact, he points out, the terror group has gained strength since bin Laden’s death.

   Year after year, U.S. special operators find themselves fighting [38] new waves of militants across multiple continents, including entire terror groups that didn’t exist on 9/11.  All U.S. forces killed [39] in Afghanistan in 2017 have reportedly died battling an Islamic State franchise, which began [40] operations there just two years ago. 

   The U.S. invasion of Iraq, to take another example, led to the meteoric rise of an al-Qaeda affiliate which, in turn, led the military's secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) -- the elite of America’s special ops elite -- to create a veritable manhunting machine designed [41] to kill its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and take down the organization.  As with bin Laden, special operators finally did find and eliminate Zarqawi, battering his organization in the process, but it was never wiped out.  Left behind were battle-hardened elements that later formed [42] the Islamic State and did what al-Qaeda never could: take and hold huge swaths of territory in two nations.  Meanwhile, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch grew [37] into a separate force of more than 20,000. 

    In Yemen, after more than a decade [43] of low-profile special ops engagement, that country teeters on the brink of collapse [44] in the face of a U.S.-backed Saudi war there.  Continued [45] U.S. special ops missions in that country, recently on the rise [46], have seemingly done nothing to alter the situation.  Similarly, in Somalia in the Horn of Africa, America’s elite forces remain embroiled in an endless war [47] against militants. 

    In 2011, President Obama launched Operation Observant Compass, sending Special Operations forces to aid Central African proxies in an effort to capture or kill Joseph Kony and decimate his murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), then estimated [48] to number 150 to 300 armed fighters.  After the better part of a decade and nearly $800 million spent, 150 U.S. commandos were withdrawn this spring and U.S. officials attended [49] a ceremony to commemorate the end of the mission.  Kony was, however, never captured or killed and the LRA is now estimated [50] to number about 150 to 250 [51] fighters, essentially the same size as when the operation began.

   This string of futility extends to Asia as well.  “U.S. Special Forces have been providing support and assistance in the southern Philippines for many years, at the request of several different Filipino administrations,” Emma Nagy, a spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Manilla, pointed out [52] earlier this month.  Indeed, a decade-plus-long special ops effort there has been hailed as a major success.  Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines, wrote [53] RAND analyst Linda Robinson late last year in the Pentagon journal Prism, “was aimed at enabling the Philippine security forces to combat transnational terrorist groups in the restive southern region of Mindanao.” 

   A 2016 RAND report co-authored by Robinson concluded [54] that “the activities of the U.S. SOF enabled the Philippine government to substantially reduce the transnational terrorist threat in the southern Philippines.” This May, however, Islamist militants overran Marawi City, a major urban center on Mindanao.  They have been holding on to parts of it for weeks despite [55] a determined assault [56] by Filipino troops backed [57] by U.S. Special Operations forces.  In the process, large swaths of the city have been reduced to rubble [58].

Running on Empty

   America’s elite forces, General Thomas told [59] members of Congress last month, “are fully committed to winning the current and future fights.”  In reality, though, from war to war, intervention to intervention, from the Anti-Drug Brigade ceremony in Florencia, Colombia, to the end-of-the-Kony-hunt observance in Obo in the Central African Republic, there is remarkably little evidence that even enduring efforts by Special Operations forces result in strategic victories or improved national security outcomes.  And yet, despite such boots-on-the-ground realities, America’s special ops forces and their missions only grow.

    “We are... grateful for the support of Congress for the required resourcing that, in turn, has produced a SOCOM which is relevant to all the current and enduring threats facing the nation,” Thomas told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May.  Resourcing has, indeed, been readily available [60].  SOCOM’s annual budget has jumped from $3 billion in 2001 to more than $10 billion today.  
   
   Oversight, however, has been seriously lacking.  Not a single member of the House or Senate Armed Services Committees has questioned why, after more than 15 years of constant warfare, winning the “current fight” has proven so elusive.  None of them has suggested that “support” from Congress ought to be reconsidered in the face of setbacks from Afghanistan to Iraq, Colombia to Central Africa, Yemen to the southern Philippines.  

    In the waning days of George W. Bush’s administration, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed [61] to about 60 nations around the world.  By 2011, under President Barack Obama, that number had swelled [62] to 120.  During this first half-year of the Trump administration, U.S. commandos have already been sent to 137 countries, with elite troops now enmeshed in conflicts from Africa to Asia.  “Most SOF units are employed to their sustainable limit,” Thomas told [63] members of the House Armed Services Committee last month.  In fact, current and former members of the command have, for some time, been sounding the alarm [64] about the level of strain on the force. 

   These deployment levels and a lack of meaningful strategic results from them have not, however, led Washington to raise fundamental questions about the ways the U.S. employs its elite forces, much less about SOCOM’s raison d'ĂȘtre.  

   “We are a command at war and will remain so for the foreseeable future,” SOCOM’s Thomas explained to the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Not one member asked why or to what end. 

  Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch [65], a fellow at the Nation Institute, and a contributing writer for the Intercept. His book Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa received an American Book Award [66] in 2016. His latest book is Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan [66]. His website is NickTurse.com [67].
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter [68] and join us on Facebook [69]. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II [70], as well as John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands [71], Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead [72], and Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World [73].

Copyright 2017 Nick Turse  Reprinted with permission. 


Links:

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[18] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/04/25/this-video-gives-a-glimpse-of-what-u-s-special-operations-forces-are-doing-in-syria/?utm_term=.85fec2f85713
[19] https://theintercept.com/2016/12/31/u-s-special-operations-numbers-surge-in-africas-shadow-wars/
[20] https://news.vice.com/story/the-u-s-is-waging-a-massive-shadow-war-in-africa-exclusive-documents-reveal
[21] http://news.antiwar.com/2017/03/24/us-will-keep-ground-troops-in-libya/
[22] http://www.africom.mil/media-room/pressrelease/28776/u-s-forces-transition-counter-lra-mission-to-broader-security-and-stability-activities
[23] http://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/02/politics/us-military-quits-hunt-joseph-kony/
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[25] http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175837/
[26] http://www.businessinsider.com/top-us-general-the-war-in-afghanistan-stalemate-2017-3
[27] https://sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2017-04-30qr-section3-security.pdf#page=8
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[29] http://www.businessinsider.com/oneill-bin-laden-killing-2017-4
[30] http://www.businessinsider.com/panetta-this-is-how-the-bin-laden-raid-went-down-2014-11
[31] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/28/us/politics/critics-pounce-on-obamas-trumpeting-of-bin-laden-death.html
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[37] http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/05/07/al-qaeda-is-stronger-now-than-when-bin-laden-was-killed
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[39] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/11/world/asia/afghanistan-military-american-soldiers-deaths.html
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[41] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/12/AR2009051203679.html
[42] http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/12/middleeast/here-is-how-isis-began/index.html
[43] https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/drone-war/data/yemen-reported-us-covert-actions-2001-2011
[44] https://www.yahoo.com/news/world-watches-yemen-descends-total-collapse-un-165247516.html
[45] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/world/middleeast/navy-seals-yemen-raid.html?_r=0
[46] http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/04/politics/yemen-us-military-operations/
[47] https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/drone-war/data/somalia-reported-us-covert-actions-2001-2017
[48] https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/21/qa-joseph-kony-and-lords-resistance-army#3
[49] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/world/africa/joseph-kony-mission-ends.html?_r=1
[50] https://news.vice.com/story/konys-lra-army-could-return-with-vengeance-after-us-and-ugandan-forces-withdraw
[51] http://allafrica.com/stories/201705230095.html
[52] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/world/asia/duterte-philippines-isis-marawi.html?_r=0
[53] http://cco.ndu.edu/PRISM-6-3/Article/1020239/the-sof-experience-in-the-philippines-and-the-implications-for-future-defense-s/
[54] https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1236.readonline.html
[55] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-militants-idUSKBN19B09Z
[56] http://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/10/asia/philippines-battle-isis-linked-fighters/index.html
[57] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/14/world/asia/philippines-marawi-us-troops.html
[58] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/world/asia/philippines-marawi-isis.html
[59] https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Thomas_05-04-17.pdf
[60] http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/socom-at-30-has-evolved-into-a-small-command-with-a-big-global-impact
[61] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304965.html
[62] http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175426/
[63] http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS26/20170502/105926/HHRG-115-AS26-Wstate-ThomasR-20170502.PDF
[64] https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=8&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiEzuO5-4LRAhVmw4MKHXPnDHkQFggxMAc&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cna.org%2FCNA_files%2FPDF%2FDOP-2016-U-014394-Final.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHAL_Y6QPw2M-loIKL8k2j9z0LaQw&bvm=bv.142059868,d.eWE
[65] http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176214/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_life%27s_no_picnic_in_trump%27s_secret_%28service%29_garden/
[66] https://www.newark.rutgers.edu/news/ru-n-faculty-and-alumni-win-prestigous-2016-american-book-award
[67] http://www.nickturse.com/
[68] https://twitter.com/TomDispatch
[69] http://www.facebook.com/tomdispatch
[70] https://www.amazon.com/dp/1608467236/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20
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[73] http://www.amazon.com/dp/1608463656/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20

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