Sunday, August 31, 2014

Russian Army Wives Protest, Demand Government Come Clean About Where Soldiers Are

Mothers and wives of Russia paratroopers captured in Ukraine stand near a checkpoint in Kostroma. (photo: AFP)

Russian Army Wives Protest, Demand Government Come Clean About Where Soldiers Are

By Anna Smolchenko, Agence France-Presse
30 August 14

Several dozen women gathered outside a military base in central Russia on Thursday to demand that commanders come clean about the whereabouts of their husbands after reports of secret funerals for soldiers covertly sent to Ukraine.

The women — mostly in their 20s, a few with small children — huddled outside a base that houses paratroopers in Kostroma, around 300 kilometres (200 miles) north of Moscow.

Some 350 soldiers from the city were this month sent on military drills to the border with Ukraine and then went incommunicado, said one of the women, 26-year-old Valeria Sokolova.

Commanders from the base have told her several have returned dead, she said, and around 15 wounded soldiers were also flown back this week.

"Cargo-200 arrived yesterday," Sokolova said, citing military officials and using the Russian army term for body bags.

Funerals for those killed are expected to be held in the town on Friday.

The women stood outside the drab base with banners extolling the "beloved troops of the motherland," but military commanders refused to confirm that their loved ones had been sent to Ukraine, Sokolova said. They were told they could not hold a formal demonstration and should go home.

"They would only tell us that they are not in Russia," she said.

Her last communication with her husband was on Saturday when he told her that he and his comrades were being deployed, without saying the destination.

"Some will ride in tanks and I will be in a Kamaz (truck)," her 25-year-old husband told her, adding that he had been told to take winter clothes.

A man who interacted with the women outside the base wore civilian clothes and gave his name as Albert Akhmerov but did not state his role.

He said the soldiers were taking part in military drills.

"Your children will be proud of their fathers," he told the women. "They are honest Russian warriors."

Phone Call From Kiev

Olga Garina, the mother of one of several Kostroma paratroopers captured by Ukrainian forces, is one of the lucky few to have gotten some answers.

After days of silence and heartache after he went off the radar, her 20-year-old son Yegor Pochtoyev called her mobile phone suddenly from Kiev, where he is being held by authorities.

She happened to receive the call while sat with a group of journalists including AFP in the office of a local rights group that campaigns against abuses in the armed forces.

"My baby, I love you. I am fighting for you," she cried out.

After the emotional call, Garina covered her face with her hands and burst into tears.
Garina, Sokolova, and several other women said that despite everything they supported Putin's policies.

'Only Fresh Graves'

NATO said on Thursday that "well over a thousand" Russian troops are operating inside Ukraine.
Russian independent media this week reported on secret funerals held for several soldiers in northwestern Russia, citing mourners who said they were killed in Ukraine.

Officials said they are looking into the reports but refused to confirm that troops had been sent to Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin said this week that Russian soldiers captured in Ukraine had crossed the border by accident while on routine patrol.

Critics have drawn parallels with the official denials earlier this year from the Kremlin that paramilitary forces had been sent to Crimea prior to its annexation by Russia. The government later admitted the soldiers had operated in the peninsula and awarded some with medals for their service.

Parallels have also been drawn to the early days of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which was officially denied when it began in 1979. Bodies returning from Afghanistan were buried in secret.

Moscow's opposition media launched an awareness campaign about Russian soldiers in Ukraine this week.
There is no official war with Ukraine, wrote the editor of Dozhd TV, Mikhail Zygar, on his blog. "There are only fresh graves and the bodies of the soldiers who no one recognizes as dead."

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"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

The Untaxed Americans: The Speculators, Hustlers, and Freeloaders of Wall Street

Published on Alternet (

AlterNet [1] / By Paul Buchheit [2]

The Untaxed Americans: The Speculators, Hustlers, and Freeloaders of Wall Street
March 16, 2014 |

Purchases of American products generally come with a sales tax, and often an excise tax, and possibly state and local add-on taxes. A consumer can avoid all this by limiting purchases to food and prescription drugs [3], or by shopping online [4]. There's one more way -- by visiting a nearby financial exchange and buying a million dollars worth of derivatives.

There is currently no U.S. tax on the purchase of stocks, derivatives, and other financial instruments. The rest of us pay up to a 10 percent sales tax on the necessities of daily life. A tiny financial transaction tax of perhaps a tenth of a percent on the trading of financial securities would begin to correct this inequity, while generating billions of dollars of revenue.

There are at least five good reasons why our country is ready for such a financial transaction tax (FTT) [5].

1. The Top Four "Freest Economies" All Have FTTs

As of March 2014, Hong Kong and Singapore and Australia and Switzerland were the top four countries on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom [6], and they ALL have FTTs (Table 2-9) [7]. Critics might argue that other non-FTT taxes are lower in Singapore and Hong Kong. But the World Bank [8] dataset shows the U.S. with lower tax revenues as a percentage of GDP, and the CIA World Factbook [9] shows little difference in the same measure. Economic freedom is not restricted by reasonable taxes on financial transactions. Economies may, in fact, be made freer by encouraging small-business investment over high-frequency trading.

2. The Top "Sin Tax" Candidate is Not Taxed At All

Cigarettes and beer are understandably taxed a lot, and then taxed some more. But the most dangerous product out there -- derivatives -- has a ZERO sales tax on it. The trading of high-frequency securities and derivatives and commodities is a quadrillion dollar industry [10] without a sales tax. A quadrillion dollars. That's a billion times a million. It represents the notional value of trading, which is like a trip to Strawberry Fields, where nothing is real. With regard to derivatives it's the sum total of the transitory high-frequency trading that gets so convoluted that no one knows who owns anything anymore. It's the high-risk type of financial chicanery that nearly brought down [11] the entire economy. But purchases are not taxed.

While average Americans pay up to a 10% sales tax [12] on necessities, millionaire investors pay [13] just a.00002% [14] SEC fee [15] (2 cents for every thousand dollars) for a financial instrument. And some Wall Streeters claim, inexplicably after the disastrous trading frenzy in 2008, that an FTT would increase volatility. [16]

3. Quadrillion-Dollar Trader CME Has the Highest Profit Margin in the Corporate World

The annual trading volume for the Chicago Mercantile Group [17] (CME), made up of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, is over $1 quadrillion. From 2008 to 2010 the company had a profit margin [18] higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation, and its profit margin has reached new heights [19] since then. The most lucrative buyer-seller arrangement in the nation is not subject to a sales tax.

CME traders use publicly-funded [20] infrastructure, technology, systems of law, and security to process the billions [17] of financial transactions that generate their profits. Yet CME demanded and received an$85 million tax break [21] from the State of Illinois.

4. The Wall Street 'Liquidity' Argument is Bull Roar

Investopedia [22] defines 'liquidity' as "The degree to which an asset or security can be bought or sold in the market without affecting the asset's price. Liquidity is characterized by a high level of trading activity." As the New York Times [23] reports, "The 'liquidity' high-frequency trading provides is long past the point of being helpful. When high-speed trading was new, trading costs for all investors seemed to dip, but that trend has stopped, suggesting a point of diminished returns."

Furthermore, it was the "high level of trading activity" that contributed to the financial meltdown [24] in 2008. With modern-day trades increasingly [25] processed at nanosecond speed by computers, the threat grows larger. In May 2010, nearly $1 trillion was lost in a "flash crash" [23] that resulted, according to the S.E.C., from the high-tech sale of tens of thousands of futures contracts. An FTT would help to restrict this type of irresponsible trading.

5. Stocks Gained $4.7 Trillion in 2013 while Schools [26] and Food [27] and Libraries [28] Were Cut

The stock market [29] grew by $4.7 trillion [30] in 2013. Most of this wealth went to the richest 10%, who own almost 90 percent of stocks excluding pensions (Table 6) [31]. According to a Pew Research [32] study, 93 percent of Americans LOST wealth, on average, in the post-recession "recovery."

Most of the $4.7 trillion was made through a non-productive buildup of capital [33] value, by people who already had money well-positioned to make more money. An FTT would help ensure that some of the rewards of a productive society are returned to that society.

What is the Current Status of the FTT? Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Peter DeFazio have proposed [34] a 0.03 percent tax on stock, bond and derivative trades, with exemptions for retirement funds. Many traders are in favor of [35] such a tax, for the purpose of stemming the "short-term trading mentality that has contributed to instability in our financial markets." In Europe, a coalition of eleven governments is finalizing a proposal [36] for a coordinated FTT.

Any objections? The Wall Street Journal [37] had this to say about an FTT: "The waning investors' wealth as a result of the decline in asset prices will reduce consumption and hinder economic recovery."

The writers at the Wall Street Journal need to get out in the real world once in a while.
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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"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

Fracking Has Contaminated Pennsylvania's Drinking Water 243 Times

(photo: Shutterstock)

Fracking Has Contaminated Pennsylvania's Drinking Water 243 Times

By Katie Valentine, ThinkProgress
30 August 14

For the first time, Pennsylvania has made public 243 cases of contamination of private drinking wells from oil and gas drilling operations.

As the AP reports, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection posted details about the contamination cases online on Thursday. The cases occurred in 22 counties, with Susquehanna, Tioga, Lycoming, and Bradford counties having the most incidences of contamination.

In some cases, one drilling operation contaminated the water of multiple wells, with water issues resulting from methane gas contamination, wastewater spills, and wells that simply went dry or undrinkable. The move to release the contamination information comes after years of the AP and other news outlets filing lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests from the DEP on water issues related to oil and gas drilling and fracking.
The Pennsylvania DEP has been criticized for its poor record of providing information on fracking-related contamination to state residents. In April, a Pennsylvania Superior Court case claimed that due to the way DEP operates and its lack of public record, it’s impossible for citizens to know about cases where private wells, groundwater and springs are contaminated by drilling and fracking.

“The DEP must provide citizens with information about the potential harm coming their way,” John Smith, one of the attorneys representing municipalities in the lawsuit, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “If it doesn’t record and make available the violations records then it is denying the public accurate information, which is unconscionable.”

Thomas Au of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club told the AP that the state DEP’s decision to unveil the 243 cases of water contamination was a “step in the right direction.”
Considering Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale boom started six years ago, however, “this is something that should have been made public a long time ago,” Au said.

The release of contamination information also comes about a month after a report from the state’s Inspector General that found that the rapid growth of the state’s gas industry “caught the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) unprepared to effectively administer laws and regulations to protect drinking water and unable to efficiently respond to citizen complaints.”

“It is almost like firefighters trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20-foot garden hose,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said in a statement. “There is no question that DEP needs help and soon to protect clean water.”

In January, Pennsylvania did confirm that it had received hundreds of complaints claiming fracking-related water issues in 2013 and 2012, but until now, hadn’t released details on the contamination cases.
Pennsylvania has become a battleground state on issues relating to the impact of oil and gas operations, specifically fracking, on health and the environment. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania doctors, nurses, and health policy experts called on the state to investigate claims that the Department of Health tells employees not to talk to residents who come to them with complaints of supposed fracking-related health effects. And water water contamination from fracking and drilling operations has become common, in Pennsylvania and in other states — West Virginia, too, has linked some water complaints to fracking, and according to a 2013 report, chemicals from oil and gas wastewater pits have contaminated water sources in New Mexico at least 421 times.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"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

How the NSA Helped Turkey Kill Kurdish Rebels

A PKK guerrilla in the mountains of northern Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region. (photo: David Furst/AFP/Getty Images)

How the NSA Helped Turkey Kill Kurdish Rebels

By Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Michael Sontheimer and Holger Stark, The Intercept and Der Spiegel
31 August 14

In a December night in 2011, a terrible thing happened on Mount Cudi, near the Turkish-Iraqi border. One side described it as a massacre; the other called it an accident.
Several Turkish F-16 fighter jets bombed a caravan of villagers that night, apparently under the belief that they were guerilla fighters with the separatist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The group was returning from northern Iraq and their mules were loaded down with fuel canisters and other cargo. They turned out to be smugglers, not PKK fighters. Some 34 people died in the attack.
An American Predator drone flying overhead had detected the group, prompting U.S. analysts to alert their Turkish partners.

The reconnaissance flight—which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2012—and its tragic consequences provided an important insight into the very tight working relationship between American and Turkish intelligence services in the fight against Kurdish separatists. Although the PKK is still considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, its image has been improved radically by its recent success in fighting ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria. PKK fighters—backed by U.S. airstrikes—are on the front lines against the jihadist movement there, and some in the West are now advocating arming the group and lifting its terrorist label.

Documents from the archive of U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden that Der Spiegel and The Intercept have seen show just how deeply involved America has become in Turkey’s fight against the Kurds. For a time, the NSA even delivered its Turkish partners with the mobile phone location data of PKK leaders on an hourly basis. The U.S. government also provided the Turks with information about PKK money flows, and the whereabouts of some of its leaders living in exile abroad.

At the same time, the Snowden documents also show that Turkey is one of the United States’ leading targets for spying. Documents show that the political leadership in Washington, D.C., has tasked the NSA with divining Turkey’s “leadership intention,” as well as monitoring its operations in 18 other key areas. This means that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, which drew criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed it had been spying on Turkey, isn’t the only secret service interested in keeping tabs on the government in Ankara.

Turkey’s strategic location at the junction of Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East made the future NATO member state an important partner to Western intelligence agencies going back to the very beginning of the Cold War. The Snowden documents show that Turkey is the NSA’s oldest partner in Asia. Even before the NSA’s founding in 1952, the CIA had established a “Sigint,” or signals intelligence, partnership with Turkey dating back to the 1940s.

During the Cold War, the U.S. used bases in Turkey primarily to conduct surveillance against the “underbelly of the Soviet beast,” as one NSA document puts it. Today, it targets Russia and Georgia from Turkish soil, collecting information in “near real time.” Since the outbreak of its civil war, Turkey’s neighbor Syria has become a central focus of NSA surveillance.

U.S. secret agents have also provided support to the Turkish government in its battle against the Kurdish separatists with the PKK for years. One top-secret NSA document from January 2007, for example, states that the agency provided Turkey with geographic data and recordings of telephone conversations of PKK members that appear to have helped Turkish agents capture or kill the targets. “Geolocations data and voice cuts from Kurdistan Worker Party communications which were passed to Turkey by NSA yielded actionable intelligence that led to the demise or capture of dozens of PKK members in the past year,” the document says.

The NSA has also infiltrated the Internet communications of PKK leaders living in Europe. Turkish intelligence helped pave the way to the success by providing the email addresses used by the targets.

The exchange of data went so far that the NSA even gave Turkey the location of the mobile phones of certain PKK leaders inside Turkey, providing updated information every six hours. During one military operation in Turkey in October 2005, the NSA delivered the location data every hour.

In May 2007, then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell signed a “memorandum” pledging deeper intelligence support for Turkey. A report prepared on the occasion of an April 2013 visit by a Turkish delegation to NSA headquarters at Fort Meade indicates that cooperation in targeting the PKK had “increased across the board” since then. That partnership has focused overwhelmingly on the PKK—NSA assets in Turkey collected more data on PKK last year than any other target except for Russia.

It resulted in the creation of a joint working group called the Combined Intelligence Fusion Cell, a team of American and Turkish specialists working together on projects that included finding targets for possible Turkish airstrikes against suspected PKK members. All the data for one entire wave of attacks carried out in December 2007 originated from this intelligence cell, according to a diplomatic cable from the WikiLeaks archive.

The deep working relationship has continued under Barack Obama’s presidency. In January 2012, U.S. officials proposed supporting Turkey in their fight against the PKK with diverse measures, including access to a state-of-the-art speech recognition system that enabled real-time analysis of intercepted conversations. The system can even search for keywords and identify the person speaking if a voice sample of that individual has been stored.

The NSA offered to install two such systems for Turkey’s intelligence service. In exchange, the Turks would provide voice samples for a number of Kurdish activists. Given its close and enduring relationship with the NSA, agency authorities wrote, they saw little risk in providing the technology. The only thing NSA experts didn’t feel comfortable entrusting to Turkey was the automatic keyword search function.

The partnership is managed through the NSA’s Special Liaison Activity Turkey (SUSLAT) office, which is based in Ankara. In addition to data, the Americans provide their Turkish partners with complete interception systems, decryption assistance, and training.

Using its internal “follow the money” reconnaissance unit, the NSA also tracks PKK’s cash flows in Europe. The Turks reciprocate by providing the U.S. agents with written transcripts of telephone calls made by PKK leaders, as well as intelligence insights about Russia and Ukraine.

But in true “Spy v. Spy” fashion, Turkey is itself is the target of intense surveillance even as it cooperates closely with the U.S.— one NSA document describes the country bluntly as both a “partner and target.” The very politicians, military officials, and intelligence agency officials with whom U.S. officials work closely when conducting actions against the PKK are also considered legitimate spying targets by the NSA. To that end, in addition to the official SUSLAT liaison office and the intelligence workers it has cleared with the Turkish authorities, the U.S. has two secret branch offices, operating Special Collection Service listening stations in both Istanbul and the capital city of Ankara.

The degree to which the NSA surveils its partner is made clear in the National Intelligence Priorities Framework (NIPF), a document establishing U.S. intelligence priorities. Updated and presented to the president every six months, the NIPF shows a country’s “standing” from the perspective of the U.S. In the April 2013 edition, Turkey is listed as one of the countries most frequently targeted by Washington for surveillance, with U.S. intelligence services tasked with collecting data in 19 different areas of interest.

The document places Turkey at the level of Venezuela—and even ahead of Cuba—in terms of U.S. interest in intelligence collection. Information about the “leadership intention” of the Turkish government is given the second-highest priority rating, and information about the military and its infrastructure, foreign policy goals, and energy security are given the third-highest priority rating. The same framework also lists the PKK as an intelligence target, but it is given a much lower priority ranking.

Beginning in 2006, the NSA began a broad surveillance operation–a joint effort by several NSA units—aimed at infiltrating the computers of Turkey’s top political leaders. Internally, officials called the effort the “Turkish Surge Project Plan.” It took six months for the team to achieve its goal. One document celebrates the discovery of the “winning combination” and reports that collection had begun: “They achieved their first-ever computer network exploitation success against Turkish leadership!”

It goes without saying that the U.S. intelligence services also had Turkish diplomats in their sights, particularly those stationed in the United States. A classified document from 2010 states that the NSA surveilled the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C., under a program codenamed “Powder.” A similar project for monitoring Turkey’s representation to the United Nations operated under the codename “Blackhawk.”

Analysts had access to the telephone system in the Turkish embassy and could tap content directly from computers. In addition, they infected computer systems used by the diplomats with spyware. The NSA also installed trojan software at Turkey’s U.N. representation in New York. According to the NSA document, it even has the capability of copying entire hard drives at the U.N. mission.

The NSA shared many of its spies’ insights with its “Five Eyes” partners—the British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand intelligence services. Within that group, the British had already developed their own access to Turkey, with its GCHQ spy agency monitoring political targets in Turkey as well as elements in the energy sector.

One classified British document states that in October 2008, GCHQ tasked agents with improving access to the Turkish Energy Ministry, as well as enterprises including the Petroleum Pipeline Corporation, the Turkish Petroleum Corporation, and the energy company Calik Enerji. The assignment also included a list of the names of 13 targets, including then-Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Güler.

In 2008, GCHQ analysts began reviewing satellite images of the rooftops of ministries and companies to assess what types of communications systems they were using and the possibilities for infiltrating them. The documents do not indicate whether those efforts bore fruit.

Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek is also explicitly named in documents as a GCHQ “target,” despite the fact that he is a dual Turkish-British citizen. Nevertheless, a surveillance order against him includes, among other things, two mobile phone numbers as well as his private Gmail address. When questioned by reporters for Der Spiegel, GCHQ officials said they do not comment on the details of operations.

When The Guardian newspaper ran a story last summer about a planned spying operation against the Turkish finance minister during his visit to London in the run-up to the G-20 summit in 2009, officials in Ankara were so angered that the Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador and criticized the “scandalous” and “unacceptable” operation. Contacted for a response to the surveillance operations conducted by the NSA and GCHQ, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said “such things” would only be discussed at the diplomatic level.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"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

Are you interested in seeing the film BEGIN AGAIN?/A Century of Extinction


I have a coupon for up to 4 free tickets to see the film BEGIN AGAIN with Mark Ruffalo. The coupon is good through September 1. Let me know if you might be interested in seeing the film.



(photo: Susannah Sayler/New Yorker)
A Century of Extinction

By Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker
31 August 14

It’s unusual to be able to date the vanishing of a species. The last time a dodo was seen, on the island of Mauritius, was probably in 1662, but no one knows how long the bird survived, unseen and in low numbers. The last confirmed sighting off a great auk took place on an island off Iceland, in 1844, but it’s likely that stray birds lived on for years, even decades. There have been no confirmed sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker since 1969, but there are still those who maintain there are ivory-bills out there somewhere.

The extinction of the passenger pigeon is one of those unusual cases, and it happened a hundred years ago this Labor Day weekend. On September 1, 1914, Martha, a passenger pigeon who lived in an aviary at the Cincinnati Zoo, was found dead in her cage. At the time, Martha was believed to be the sole passenger pigeon left on Earth, and, in the intervening century, no evidence has emerged to contradict this. The passenger pigeon was once the most numerous bird in North America, perhaps in the world; it’s estimated that when the first European settlers arrived, at least one of every four birds on the continent was a passenger pigeon. The early colonists were awed by the vastness of the flocks, which contained hundreds of millions—perhaps billions—of birds. As late as the eighteen-seventies, passenger pigeons still could be seen passing overhead in astonishing, sky-darkening numbers; then, over the course of just four decades, the species, Ectopistes migratorius,dwindled down to Martha and her companion, a male named George. Then it was just Martha. And then there were none.

The passenger pigeon’s demise is usually represented as the result of remorseless slaughter, which it certainly was. But the bird’s story also contains an element of mystery, which in some ways is just as alarming.
Passenger pigeons roosted the way they migrated, in enormous flocks. This made them easy pickings for hunters, and the early English colonists wrote of killing hundreds at a go. Once the railroads were laid, the pigeons could be shipped to big-city markets, and the butchery reached a new level. In his book “A Feathered River Across the Sky” (reviewed in this magazine and in The New York Review of Books in January), the author Joel Greenberg describes one of the last great nesting colonies, which was sighted in northern Michigan, in 1878. Telegraph operators relayed the location of the flock to hunters and trappers hundreds of miles away, and soon so many descended on the area that “hotels and boardinghouses ran out of space.” Within a few days, more than a million birds were dispatched.

By the eighteen-nineties, the only passenger pigeon sightings were of small, ragged flocks. And this is what makes the bird’s extinction difficult to entirely explain. Once the passenger pigeon was no longer abundant, it also was no longer worth hunting, or at least no more worth hunting than any other medium-sized bird. So why didn’t it persist at low densities? In his recent book “Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record,” Errol Fuller, a British author, argues that an “additional factor” must have been at work in the species’ extinction, because “in a land as vast as the United States there can be no mopping-up hunting for a species as small as a pigeon.” (Fuller’s book contains a grainy and not particularly flattering photo of Martha standing in her cage in Cincinnati.)

Some have argued that the “additional factor” was deforestation; by this account, it’s no coincidence that the passenger pigeon went extinct right about the same time that land clearing in the eastern U.S. reached its maximum extent. Others speculate that the passenger pigeon was one of those animals that require great densities to survive. One version of this theory holds that the birds mated only in great swarms; another, that the sheer scale of the flocks had protected the birds from predation.

Whether any of these “additional factors” actually contributed to the bird’s extinction is probably impossible to settle at this point. But whatever happened, the mystery should give us pause. Species that seem today to be doing fine may be sensitive to change in ways that are difficult to foresee. And we are are now changing the planet at a speed that’s probably unprecedented in at least sixty million years.

In honor of the anniversary of Martha’s death, the Smithsonian has put her taxidermied body on exhibit. (It’s usually kept in a vault.) The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, in North Adams, Massachusetts, is showing a video installation that mimics the flight of hundreds of thousands pigeons passing overhead, and next month, the Yale Orchestra will perform “The Columbiad,” a hundred-and-fifty-year-old symphony inspired by the sight of a flock. (A century and a half ago, passenger pigeons were grouped together with rock pigeons in the genus Columba; they have since been reclassified.) All these efforts to mark the anniversary are double-edged: commemorations composed by the culpable. As the naturalist Aldo Leopold wrote in “On a Monument to the Pigeon,” composed in 1947, “For one species to mourn the death of another is a new thing under the sun. … To love what was is a new thing under the sun, unknown to most people and to all pigeons.”

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"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

The U.S. Government Can Brand You a Terrorist Based on a Facebook Post

Published on Alternet (

The Guardian [1] / By Arjun Sethi [2]

The U.S. Government Can Brand You a Terrorist Based on a Facebook Post
August 30, 2014 |

The US government’s web of surveillance is vast and interconnected. Now we know just how opaque, inefficient and discriminatory it can be.

As we were reminded again just this week [3], you can be pulled into the National Security Agency’s database quietly and quickly, and the consequences can be long and enduring. Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information.

This kind of data sharing, however, isn’t limited to the latest from Edward Snowden’s NSA files. It was confirmed earlier this month[4] that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors.

The watchlist tracks “known” and “suspected” terrorists [5] and includes both foreigners and Americans. It’s also based on loose standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the US government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information – including a Facebook or Twitter post – to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist.

Of the 680,000 individuals on that FBI master list, roughly 40% have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation”, according to the Intercept[4]. These individuals don’t even have a connection – as the government loosely defines it – to a designated terrorist group, but they are still branded as suspected terrorists.

The absurdities don’t end there. Take Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a population under 100,000 that is known for its large Arab American community – and has more watchlisted residents than any other city in America except New York [6].

These eye-popping numbers are largely the result of the US government’s use of a loose standard – so-called “reasonable suspicion” – in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted.

Reasonable suspicion is such a low standard because it requires neither “concrete evidence” nor “irrefutable evidence”. Instead, an official is permitted to consider “reasonable inferences” and “to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience” [7].

Consider a real world context – actual criminal justice – where an officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop a person in the street and ask him or her a few questions. Courts have controversially held [8] that avoiding eye contact with an officer, traveling alone, and traveling late at night, for example, all amount to reasonable suspicion.

This vague criteria is now being used to label innocent people as terrorism suspects.

Moreover, because the watchlist isn’t limited to known, actual terrorists, an official can watchlist a person if he has reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is a suspected terrorist. It’s a circular logic – individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being suspected terrorists – that is ultimately backwards, and must be changed.

The government’s self-mandated surveillance guidance also includes loopholes that permit watchlisting without even showing reasonable suspicion. For example, non-citizens can be watchlisted for being associated with a watchlisted person – even if their relationship with that person is entirely innocuous. Another catch-all exception allows non-citizens to be watchlisted, so long as a source or tipster describes the person as an “extremist”, a “militant”, or in similar terms, and the“context suggests a nexus to terrorism” [9]. The FBI’s definition of “nexus”, in turn, is far more nebulous than they’re letting on.

Because the watchlist designation process is secret, there’s no way of knowing just how many innocent people are added to the list due to these absurdities and loopholes. And yet, history shows that innocent people are inevitably added to the list and suffer life-altering consequences. Life on the master watchlist can trigger enhanced screening at borders and airports; being on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the larger terrorist watchlist, can prevent airline travel altogether. The watchlist can separate family members for months or years [10], isolate individuals from friends and associates [11], and ruin employment prospects.

Being branded a terrorism suspect also has far-reaching privacy implications. The watchlist is widely accessible, and government officials routinely collect the biometric data of watchlisted individuals, including their fingerprints and DNA strands. Law enforcement has likewise been directed to gather any and all available evidence when encountering watchlisted individuals, including receipts, business cards, health information and bank statements.

Watchlisting is an awesome power, and if used, must be exercised prudently and transparently.
The standards for inclusion should be appropriately narrow, the evidence relied upon credible and genuine, and the redress and review procedures consistent with basic constitutional requirements of fairness and due process. Instead, watchlisting is being used arbitrarily under a cloud of secrecy.

A watchlist saturated with innocent people diverts attention from real, genuine threats. A watchlist that disproportionately targets Arab and Muslim Americans or other minorities stigmatizes innocent people and alienates them from law enforcement. A watchlist based on poor standards and secret processes raises major constitutional concerns, including the right to travel freely and not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.
Indeed, you can’t help but wonder: are you already on the watchlist?

Source URL:

[12] on The U.S. Government Can Brand You a Terrorist Based on a Facebook Post

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Baltimore Activist Alert August 31 – September 1, 2014

Baltimore Activist Alert August 31 – September 6, 2014

"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 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 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski [at]

Tune into the Maryland Progressive Blog at

1] Books, buttons & stickers
2] Web site for info on federal legislation
3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists
4] Buy coffee through HoCoFoLa
5] Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity – through Aug. 31
6] Kickstarter campaign for film on the Sandinistas – through Sept. 10
7] Climate change – Aug. 31
8] Peace and Pancakes – Aug. 31
9] Support Gaza vigil– Aug. 31
10] O’s games benefit – Aug. 31 – Sept. 1
11] "A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida" – Aug. 31
12] Pentagon Vigil – Sept. 1
13] Food Drive – Sept. 1 – Nov. 8
14] Celebrate the life of Bishop P. Francis Murphy – Sept. 1
15] Marc Steiner on WEAA – Aug. 25 – Aug. 27
16] GMOM conference call – Sept. 1
1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available. “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Donate your books to Max. Call him at 410-366-1637.

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

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 dot 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 mobuszewski at Verizon dot net.

4] – You can help safeguard human rights and fragile ecosystems through your purchase of HOCOFOLA Café Quetzal. Bags of ground coffee or whole beans can be ordered by mailing in an order form. Also note organic cocoa and sugar are for sale. For more details and to download the order form, go to The coffee comes in one-pound bags.

Fill out the form and mail it with a check made out to HOCOFOLA on or before the second week of the month. Be sure you indicate ground or beans for each type of coffee ordered. Send it to Francine Sheppard at 5639B, Harpers Farm Rd., Columbia 21044. The coffee will arrive some time the following week and you will be notified where to pick it up. Contact Francine at 410-992-7679 or

5] – See the exhibit Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity, which delves into the various ways technology affects lives through the perspective of inventors, futurists and 40 plus visionary artists. The intent is to bring new thoughts on artificial intelligence, robotics, genetics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and big data, and you can see it through August 31 at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Hwy. Call 410-244-1900. Go to A ticket costs $20.

6] – Support Kickstarter funding for the film Memorias del Fuego! This is a feature-length documentary about the disappearing stories of women who fought to win Nicaragua's Sandinista Revolution. The first portion, in which the filmmakers interviewed former Sandinista commanders, couriers, and journalists, was shot without any funding, but the project is raising funds to be able to return and capture the stories of FSLN party members and female combatants from rural area.

Why did they first take a stand? How did they fight and win the Revolution? What did they hope for? Your help is needed to document these untold stories before they disappear. This Kickstarter project will only be funded if at least $57,000 is pledged by Wed., Sept. 10 at 9:15 AM PDT. To view the trailer and make a pledge, go here:

7] - 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., Aug. 31, hear about “Climate Change.” It is drawing increased attention around the world, no longer only from climate scientists and activists, but also more unlikely sources like the Pentagon, which recently pronounced climate change a “severe threat” to national security. Publication of new and rapidly mounting evidence has changed everything we thought we knew about climate change, and how to stop it. Kate LaClair and Monique Stins (both biologists and members of BES) will explore the science behind this new understanding of climate change, and what it means for all of us alive today. Call 410-581-2322 or email

8] - Join the Kadampa Meditation Center for Peace and Pancakes on Sundays at 10:30 AM at KMC Maryland, 2937 North Charles St. All are invited to participate in guided meditation and chant praying for world peace. There will be a talk based on Buddhist thought followed by brunch. Call 410- 243-3837. Brunch is $5.

9] – Attend a silent vigil for Gaza on Sun., Aug. 31 at Park Heights Ave. and Slade Ave., Baltimore. Show your opposition to Israel’s violence in Gaza, and call for an end to the occupation. Stand at the intersection on the grass from 11 AM to 1 PM. RSVP to Bring signs. Here are suggestions: stop occupation, justice for Palestine, stop massacre or stop US arms & aid to Israel.

10] – Enjoy a Baltimore Orioles game on Public Defender NIGHTS AT CAMDEN YARDS! Contact Lou Curran for tickets at or 410-499-8899. The games benefit the Legal Aid Bureau, the Public Justice Center, the MCDAA, NACDL’s Foundation for Criminal Justice, & the Association for the Public Defender – MD. All seats Upper Reserved behind home, & under cover in case of showers. On Sun., Aug. 31 at 1 PM, the O’s play the Twins and kids get a jersey giveaway & can run the bases. Tickets are in Sec. 330, and cost $13. On Labor Day, Sept. 1, at 7 PM (Adam Jones bobblehead giveaway) the O’s play the Twins. Tickets are in Sec. 334, and the cost is $13.

11] – On Sun., Aug. 31 at 7:30 PM @ Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, Nathan Connolly presents "A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida." Many people characterize urban renewal projects and the power of eminent domain as two of the most widely despised and often racist tools for reshaping American cities in the postwar period. In his book, Connolly uses the history of South Florida to unearth an older and far more complex story. Connolly captures nearly eighty years of political and land transactions to reveal how real estate and redevelopment created and preserved metropolitan growth and racial peace under white supremacy. Using a materialist approach, he offers a long view of capitalism and the color line, following much of the money that made land-taking and Jim Crow segregation profitable and preferred approaches to governing cities throughout the twentieth-century. Call 443-602-7585. Go to

12] -- 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 Mon., Sept. 1, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Email 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.

13] – The Men and Families Center, 2222 Jefferson St., Baltimore, has a food drive starting Mon., Sept. 1 through Sat., Nov. 8. The organization is collecting canned and unperishable goods so that food pantries in the center are stocked for the holidays! Call Quandra or Rodney at 410-614-5353 or email

14] – On Mon., Sept. 1 at 9 AM, celebrate the life of Bishop P. Francis Murphy. There will be a liturgy, refreshments and a remembrance at Blessed Sacrament Church, 4103 Old York Road, Baltimore. The celebration is sponsored by the P. Francis Murphy Initiative for Peace and Justice. RSVP to Rosemary Thompson at 410.823.8585 x.244 or

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

16] – Get Money Out of Maryland has a MONDAY EVENING CONFERENCE CALL. The CALL STARTS at 7 PM--1-619-326-2772, code #1136243. On Sept. 8, the call will be designed to bring newer supporters up to speed on GMOM, Wolf PAC and the resolution for The Democracy Amendment. Go to

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"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

Sign onto letter to Obama and Join NCNR for an action at the White House on Sept. 23

Dear Friends,

As part of Campaign Nonviolence (which has over 150 actions scheduled across the country the week of September 21-27) NCNR is organizing an action of nonviolent civil resistance at the White House on Tuesday September 23.

On September 23 we will gather on Pennsylvania Ave. mid-morning (exact time to be announced) for a short program before crossing to the White House to deliver the letter below and demand changes in policy that will bring about profound transformations in the areas of war, poverty, and the climate crisis.

Please email by Sept. 8 to sign onto the below letter. The letter will be mailed to the White House so that Obama knows we are coming and what we are demanding.

If you are willing to risk arrest at the action on Sept. 23 or if you have questions, please email or .

Please sign onto the letter by September 8 and join us at the White House on September 23. And please share this letter with all your networks.

For more information on Campaign Nonviolence, go to

In hope for a better world,


9635 Overland Rd. Mount Horeb, WI 53572

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

August 21, 2014

Dear Mr. President,

We write to you as people committed to nonviolent social change with a deep concern for a variety of issues that are all interrelated. As representatives of organizations that normally do not have a voice and have little influence in the places of power in Washington, DC, we are organizing under Campaign Nonviolence, a campaign that is pulling people together across the country to nonviolently bring about change in the areas of poverty, war, and climate crisis. These issues are too urgent to delay and not attend to immediately and so we would like to meet with you or a senior representative at the White House and discuss our concerns on September 23. During the week of September 21, we will be joined in solidarity with hundreds of actions around the country focusing on war, poverty, and the climate crisis organized under Campaign Nonviolence..

Poverty is adversely affecting the quality of life for too many Americans. The people are suffering from lack of food, health care, education, a living wage, adequate housing, and the list goes on. For example, tens of millions of Americans represent just part of the 842 million hungry people in the world according to the United Nations World Food Programme. According to recent statistics from the US Department of Agriculture almost 15 percent of US households are food insecure. It is unconscionable that we have children in the United States going to bed hungry. These numbers do not reflect the recent cuts in food stamps that is now wreaking havoc across the country. Just a portion of the bloated Pentagon budget redirected towards human need could alleviate this suffering.

Unending war and imperialism is destroying both our country and the world. Within the last 13 years we have experienced how the United States has responded to international crisis with violence. Our government has waged wars in violation of international law with a failed Middle East policy that leaves a whole region mired in violence and instability, launched an illegal drone war, tortured and illegally detained individuals, and refused to get rid of nuclear weapons capable of annihilation of all life on the planet.

Our disregard for the causes of climate chaos is leading to the destruction of the planet. Being controlled, in part, by the fossil fuel industry our government has not been willing to sign onto international treaties to end climate chaos or to stand up against the Keystone Pipeline. In the article Greenwashing the Pentagon, Joseph Nevins states, “The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.”

We believe that another way is possible and that there are alternatives to the life threatening policies that our government has promoted and that have been so destructive to the people of the world.

When you were elected president, people had such hope for a change. Yet what we got was a government that continued the policies of the Bush administration. You are NOT the people’s president, and the voices of the people are not being heard.

We demand that you change course with the present policies and listen to the people and not the corporations. Here are three policy changes that we want to see implemented before you leave office. These changes would make the world a better place for all of our children and grandchildren, including yours. These changes would only be a beginning, but would provide a good start.

1. End all drone warfare. It is illegal and immoral.

2. Establish a living wage for all workers.

3. Initiate and work for an international treaty for swift verifiable action to reverse climate change. Listen to the scientific community and not the fossil fuel industry.

We have not had access to the decision-making process like the oil lobby, the financial and corporate sector, and the arms industry have over the years. If people and groups such as ours had this same kind of access we very well may not have rushed to war and occupation on false pretense, "tortured folks", continued to operate the criminally complicit Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, had the devastating and destructive oil spills in addition to still considering the Keystone Pipeline, or had civil unrest caused by American society's structural violence, unresolved racism, and failed economic policies.

A new approach to leadership is required to address the problems and crises we all face. We have the audacity to hope that you or a senior representative will meet with us on Tuesday September 23, 2014. This is the day we will come to the White House from all around the country to meet with you. Thank you President Obama.


Ken Butigan, Pace e Bene Executive Director
John Dear, Pace e Bene Outreach Director
Joy First, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Malachy Kilbride, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Max Obuszewski, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

A Teacher in Kabul

Published on Portside (
A Teacher in Kabul
Kathy Kelly

Friday, August 29, 2014

Here in Kabul, one of my finest friends is Zekerullah, who has gone back to school in the 8th grade although he is an18-year old young man who has already had to learn far too many of life’s harsh lessons.

Years ago and miles from here, when he was a child in the province of Bamiyan, and before he ran away from school, Zekerullah led a double life, earning income for his family each night as a construction crew laborer, and then attempting to attend school in the daytime. In between these tasks the need to provide his family with fuel would sometimes drive him on six-hour treks up the mountainside, leading a donkey on which to load bags of scrub brush and twigs for the trip back down. His greatest childhood fear was of that donkey taking one disastrous wrong step with its load on the difficult mountainside.

And then, after reaching home weary and sleep deprived and with no chance of doing homework, he would, at times, go to school without having done his homework, knowing that he would certainly be beaten. When he was in seventh grade, his teacher punished him by adding ten more blows each day he came to school without his homework, so that eventually he was hit sixty times in one day. Dreading the next day when the number would rise to seventy, he ran away from that school and never returned.

Now Zekerullah is enrolled in another school, this time in Kabul, where teachers still beat the students. But Zekerullah can now claim to have learned much more, in some cases, than his teachers.

Much to the surprise of his environmental studies teacher, Zekerullah has a strong grasp of issues related to the environment. For the past two years, living with the Afghan Peace Volunteers, he has occupied himself with presentations and conversations about global warming, climate change, and environmental degradation. He cares deeply about the issue. Last winter, I was with him as he watched the entire BBC Blue Planet series of videos, and realized that he hungers for more information and deepened understanding about issues hitting far beyond his own beleaguered country.

When his new teacher, a teacher accustomed to beating pupils, asked the class elementary questions about the environment, Zekerullah had definitely done his homework. But among his other recent studies were the history of nonviolent movements, led by people like Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, to resist oppressive forces. So without calling any attention to his plans, Zekerullah decided to join the line of students singled out for punishment, in his environmental studies class, even though he wasn’t at fault and didn’t deserve to be punished. The teacher was befuddled. Zekerullah so clearly knew the answers.

Zekerullah calmly explained to the teacher that he also knew, from experience, that beating students doesn’t help them learn, that he himself had lost four years of studies because he could no longer bear the beatings. He respectfully asked the teacher to beat him instead of the next seven students in the row.

The teacher obliged, administering blows to Zekerullah while his fellow students began to wonder about and admire Zekerullah’s unusual stance. Perhaps for the first time in a long while, everyone in that class was learning something.

For several weeks, the teacher was confronted with Zekerullah’s quiet insistence that he be allowed to take the blows in place of students who hadn’t studied. The teacher tried to ignore him and belittle him. Once, the teacher punished him and a few others with the escalated punishment of using a rattan cane to inflict the blows. Adding salt to the wound, the teacher even failed Zekerullah in the mid-year exams, though Zekerullah said he knew the answers and had no trouble finishing the exam.

I asked him what other students thought about his choices. He said that some of them wanted to spare him from being punished, and so they began to study more and complete their homework. He isn’t sure what impact his actions have had. Zekerullah isn’t inclined to brag. But he surely has affected me.

He is also affecting other vulnerable young Afghans. Over the past two years, Zekerullah has worked hard to improve his studies, and with the literacy he has acquired, he now volunteers to teach a literacy class at the APVs Borderfree Center for about 20 street kids who have not had the opportunity to go to school regularly. He and several companions have organized other aspects of the “Street Kids” program, visiting children in their homes and helping distribute oil and rice to each family so that the children can stop working on the streets.

Zekerullah tells me that the current education system in Afghanistan is not a good learning environment. His story alerts educators, officials and the international community to understand that the relatively small funds spent on badly-constructed new school buildings won’t suffice to provide a good education for the young Afghan population. Moreover, the predominantly militarized approach of aid and development, even in the field of education, reinforces the prevalent methods of teaching by force and punishment.

Zekerullah yearns for knowledge as well as justice, and he’s willing to sacrifice for both. I want to learn from him.

Kathy Kelly [1] co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence [2]

Source URL:


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"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, August 29, 2014

State Dept. Overseers of Contentious Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Workaround Have Industry, Torture Ties

State Dept. Overseers of Contentious Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Workaround Have Industry, Torture Ties
By Steve Horn

The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and other green groups recently revealed that pipeline giant Enbridge got U.S. State Department permission in response to its request to construct a U.S.-Canada border-crossing tar sands pipeline without earning an obligatory Presidential Permit.

Enbridge originally applied to the Obama State Department to expand capacity of its Alberta Clipper (now Line 67) pipeline in November 2012, but decided to avoid a “Keystone XL, take two” — or a years-long permitting battle — by creating a complex alternative to move nearly the same amount of diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) across the border.

The move coincides with the upcoming opening for business of Enbridge's “Keystone XL” clone: the combination of the Alberta Clipper expansion (and now its alternative) on-ramp originating in Alberta and heading eventually to Flanagan, Ill., the Flanagan South pipeline running from Flanagan, Ill. to Cushing, Okla. and the Cushing, Okla. to Port Arthur, Texas Seaway Twin pipeline.

Together, the three pieces will do what TransCanada's Keystone XL hopes to do: move dilbit from Alberta's tar sands to Port Arthur's refinery row and, in part, the global export market.

Environmental groups have reacted with indignation to the State Department announcementpublished in the Federal Register on August 18. The public commenting period remains open until September 17.
Jim Murphy, senior counsel for NWF, referred to it as an “illegal scheme,” while a representative from says Enbridge has learned from the lessons of its corporate compatriot, TransCanada.

“When we blocked Keystone XL, the fossil fuel industry learned that they have a much stronger hand to play in back rooms than on the streets,” said Jason Kowalski, policy director for “They will break the law and wreck our climate if that's what it takes for them to make a buck.”

But as the old adage goes, it takes two to tango.

That is, influential State Department employees helped Enbridge find a way to smuggle an additional 350,000 barrels of tar sands per day across the border without public hearings or an environmental review.

Thus far, those following the issue have described the Enbridge maneuver as some sort of bureaucratic snafu.
“If anyone who's high up in the State Department actually knew about this, they'd be up in arms,”'s Kowalski said in a recent interview with EnergyWire in reaction to State's decision.

The reality, though, is more sordid. That is, higher-ups made this call, not just “bad apples.”
One of them has a key tie to the oil and gas industry, while the other helped lay the groundwork for the controversial “extraordinary rendition” torture program as a Bush Administration State Department attaché.
Patrick Dunn's Industry Ties

On July 24, State Department staffer Patrick Dunn signed off on a letter rubber-stamping Enbridge's pipeline chess move. In giving Enbridge authorization on official State Department letterhead, Dunn claimed it was not a form of authorization.

“Enbridge's intended changes…do not require authorization from the U.S.Department of State,”Dunn wrote in the letter. “[W]e will consider [your] letter and its attachments to amend and to be part of your Presidential Permit for the capcity (sic) expansion in Line 67.”

Dunn's letter does not give his job title, perhaps leading NWF to write him off as simply a “mid-level State Department official” in an August 25 blog post. His current position and State Department background, however, tells a different story.

A February 2014 letter obtained by DeSmogBlog lists Dunn's role as deputy office director for the Bureaus of European Affairs, the Western Hemisphere and African Affairs.

More specifically, Dunn heads up the three regions' bureaus of energy resources, described as a “chief of staff” in an August 11 article published on Dominican Today. That article highlighted Dunn's efforts — alongside Vice President Joe Biden — to cut deals with the Dominican Republic's government, turning the country into an importer of gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)in the U.S.

Before working his way up to the powerful Bureau of Energy Resources, Dunn helped lead numerous U.S. Embassies abroad, including in Honduras and Angolaas top economic adviser, and Cape Verde as deputy embassy director.

What came before any of that, though, may go a long way in explaining how he came to oversee such an important cross-border pipeline project in the first place.

According to the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association (PESA), Dunn graduated in 1997 from the Association's Foreign Service Officer Energy Industry Training Program, which is funded in part by the State Department and has a Board of Directors stuffed with oil and gas industry executives.

“PESA's Foreign Service Officer Energy Industry Training Program was created in 1993 to increase the practical knowledge of energy attaches and economic officers with responsibility for oil and gas issues stationed in American embassies in countries where energy is a major issue,” reads a Program description.

A glance at PESA's website demonstrates that industry executives regularly serve as presenters at the Foreign Service Officer Energy Industry Training Program.

Deborah Klepp's Ties to Rendition, Corrupt Contracting

Though Dunn wrote the July 24 letter to Enbridge, he is not the only senior level State Department staffer overseeing the Enbridge Alberta Clipper file.

Deborah Klepp, whose name is listed at the very bottom of the State Department's August 12 announcement on the Alberta Clipper, currently serves as director of the Department of State's office of environmental quality and transboundary issues.

In the past, she has helped to head up U.S. Embassies in Russia,Kyrgyzstan and Burkina Faso, as well as in Estonia and Poland.

While working as deputy director of the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on a two-year appointment starting in July 2001, Klepp knowingly or unknowingly got involved in what many would likely consider her most controversial work at the State Department: planting the seeds of the Bush Administration's “extraordinary rendition” torture program.

“Finnish authorities identified a single Miami Air flight…that travelled back and forth between Helsinki and Manas U.S. Air Force transit base in Kyrgyzstan in a single day in December 2002,” explains a February 2013 Open Society Foundation report titled, “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition.”

The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek is only a 30-minute drive away from the Transit Center at Manas located at Manas International Airport, which served as a keyU.S. military base from 2001-2009. After her time serving in Bishkek, Klepp wrote a paper for the National Defense Universityabout how the U.S. established the base during her time working on the ground there.

Omitted from Klepp's paper: the sheer amount of corruption and insider dealing involved inmaintaining the base from the day that it opened. This resulted in a damning December 2010 congressional investigation on Manas and fuel contracting and other ownership issues.
Deborah Klepp and Guantanamo Bay

Beyond rendition and corruption at Manas, Klepp also had at least some knowledge of torture of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

In a document obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), then Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a cable in January 2002 to Klepp and James Boughner, at that time the deputy director of the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan and now head of economic affairs for the U.S. Embassy in Germany.

Requesting the cable be passed onto then-U.S. assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, A. Elizabeth Jones and her executive assistant at the time, Karen Decker, the cable discusses Guantanamo Bay (“GTMO”), “access to the detainees” and three congressional delegations (“CODELs”) to GTMO going on at the time.
That cable also discusses International Committee of the Red Cross (“ICRC) “technical recommendations,” but the State Department redacted what those recommendations were.

The New York Times revealed in 2004 that a confidential ICRC memo stated the “American military [had] intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion 'tantamount to torture' on prisoners at Guantanamo.”

Klepp's husband Mark B. Horowitz — determined by viewing property records — also formerly served as a senior-level State Department employee. A 2012 State Department telephone directory lists Horowitz as an employee of the Office of Information Resource Management, where he served as ”ISSO (For S/ES Only).”
In the tech world, “ISSO” is shorthand for Information System Security Officer or Chief Information Security Officer, who oversees institutional computer system networks and online infrastructure.

“Local Corrupt Practices”

An October 2008 State Department diplomatic cable provided to Wikileaks by whistleblower Chelsea Manning discusses what Columbia University political scientist Alexander Cooley describes as the “local rules” of doing business in Kyrgyzstan and the Central Asian region at-large.

“[O]ne businessman said that doing business here is ‘like doing business in the Yukon’ in the nineteenth century, i.e. only those willing to participate in local corrupt practices are able to make any money,” explains the cable.

But the latest wheeling and dealing by Enbridge raises a troubling question: have the “local corrupt practices” conducted by State Department diplomats abroad snaked their way home in order to help the tar sands export industry?

This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved.

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"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

Is Blackwater Finally Going to Be Held Accountable for Civilian Deaths?

Published on Alternet (

The Guardian [1] / By Dan Roberts [2]

Is Blackwater Finally Going to Be Held Accountable for Civilian Deaths?
August 28, 2014 |

One of the darkest days of the US occupation of Iraq was relived in a Washington courtroom on Wednesday as the prosecution of four Blackwater security contractors accused of killing 14 civilians [3] in a mistaken attack in Baghdad reached an emotional and legal climax.

Seven years after the bloody shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that left a total of 17 Iraqis dead and more than 20 seriously wounded, jurors were told of the “shocking amount of death, injury and destruction” that saw “innocent men, women and children mowed down” by private guards working for the US State Department.

In closing arguments, assistant US attorney Anthony Asuncion claimed three of the four defendants were guilty of manslaughter and a fourth of murder for showing extreme disregard for human life in retaliating against what they mistakenly believed was a car bomb attack on their convoy.

But the defence summed up its case with a blistering attack on the government for ignoring evidence of alleged incoming machine gun fire at the convoy, which it also accused Iraqi police of helping to cover up.
The controversial case, which will go to the jury next week, is one of the few in which US forces have been tried for civilian deaths in Iraq and has already been abandoned once after an earlier judge questioned the way evidence was gathered.

But federal prosecutors pulled no punches on Wednesday as the closing stages of the second trial, which has lasted for 10 weeks, saw emotional scenes from attorneys on both sides.

Pointing at the four accused – Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – Asuncion said: “These men took something that did not belong to them; the lives of 14 human beings ... they were turned into bloody bullet-riddled corpses at the hands of these men.”

After he described at length the fate of individual Iraqi civilians attacked by the Blackwater convoy, Asuncion’s voice was shaking, and he was asked to repeat a key line for the court stenographer to hear. “[The witness] opened the door and his son’s brains fell out at his feet,” Asuncio told the jury a second time. “As [the witness] put it, ‘the world went dark for me’.”

Dozens of witnesses and relatives from Iraq have been flown over for the trial, some showing jurors the scars on their bodies and giving evidence that caused one juror to be recused after she said she could no longer sleep at night.

“It must have seemed like the apocalypse was here,” said Asuncion in his closing argument, as he described how many were shot in the back, at long range, or blown up by powerful grenades used by the US contractors.
“There was not a single dead insurgent on the scene,” claimed the prosecutor. “None of these people were armed.”
He also recapped evidence from Blackwater colleagues who testified against the accused, claiming they acted with contempt for Iraqi civilians and boasted of turning “a guy’s head into a canoe” and “popping his grape”.
Earlier in the trial these witnesses had spoken of telling the accused to “cease-fucking-fire” after the attack, which one described as “the most horrible botched thing I have ever seen in my life”.

But defence attorneys argue the men were acting in legitimate self-defence after suspecting a car that was rolling toward them at a busy traffic intersection could contain a bomb.

Brian Heberlig, lawyer for Paul Slough, said the ensuing “hectic firefight” was heightened by an earlier car bomb attack on another Blackwater convoy and accused prosecutors of ignoring witnesses who had spoken of hearing AK-47 fire from possible insurgents in the area.

“I felt I was in the wrong courtroom, he said. “The argument was long on emotion and rhetoric but short on citation of the evidentiary record.”

Heberlig acknowledged that fears of a bomb attack were ultimately misplaced but said the defendants responded with an appropriate escalation of force given what they suspected was happening.

“Perhaps their perception was erroneous, perhaps the [Iraqi police] was trying to help,” he said. “It does appear that this was not a [car bomb], it does appear that this was a medical student and his mother, but our clients did not know that.”

However he ridiculed the prosecution’s suggestion that AK-47 shell casings found near the scene were normal on the streets of the Baghdad – “as common as finding cigarette butts in the streets of a US city or finding sea shells at the beach,” claimed Asuncion – and therefore not necessarily proof of any incoming fire.

“If these were just ‘sea shells’ why, four days later, were the shells no longer there?” asked Herberlig. “We will never know how much [Iraqi police] scrubbed the scene after the attack; what else was gone”.

US District Judge Royce Lamberth told jurors he would probably send them out to consider the case on Tuesday after a day or two more of closing arguments.

Blackwater, which settled a separate civilian claim following the attack, has since been renamed Xe and then Academi in efforts to improve its reputation.

A fifth security guard in the convoy, Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty to manslaughter before the trial in exchange for a more lenient sentence and was one of two contractors to give evidence against his former colleagues.
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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to
"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

Brazil Dismantles "Biggest Destroyer" of Amazon Rainforest

The group is accused of logging and burning large areas of public land in the Amazon. (photo: Greenpeace)

Brazil Dismantles "Biggest Destroyer" of Amazon Rainforest

By BBC News
28 August 14

The authorities in Brazil say they have dismantled a criminal organisation they believe was the "biggest destroyer" of the Amazon rainforest.

The gang is accused of invading, logging and burning large areas of public land and selling these illegally for farming and grazing.

In a statement, Brazilian Federal Police said the group committed crimes worth more than $220m (£134m).
A federal judge has issued 14 arrest warrants for alleged gang members.

Twenty-two search warrants were also issued and four suspects are being called in for questioning.
The police operation covers four Brazilian states, including Sao Paulo.

Five men and a woman have already been arrested in Para state in the north of the country, Globo news reported.


The BBC's Wyre Davies in Rio de Janeiro says details are still sketchy, partly because the police operation is focused on one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the Amazon region.

Political and police corruption is still rife in Brazil's interior, our correspondent adds.

That problem coupled with alleged ineptitude on the part of the federal government means that loggers and illegal miners are able to operate with impunity, he says.

The police announced the operation in a statement: "The Federal Police carried out today Operation Chestnut Tree designed to dismantle a criminal organisation specialising in land grabbing and environmental crimes in the city of Novo Progresso, in the south-western region of Para.

"Those involved in these criminal actions are considered the greatest destroyers of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest."

'Fifty years'

The group members face charges of invading public land, theft, environmental crimes, forgery, conspiracy, tax evasion and money laundering.

They could be sentenced to up to 50 years in jail, although the maximum length that can be served by law in a Brazilian prison is 30 years.

Last year, the Brazilian government said the rate of deforestation in the Amazon increased by 28% between August 2012 and July 2013, after years of decline.

It made a commitment in 2009 to reduce Amazon deforestation by 80% by the year 2020.

Brazil is home to the biggest area of Amazon rainforest, a vast region where one in 10 known species on Earth and half of the planet's remaining tropical forests are found, according to the leading conservation organisation WWF.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"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

Cheney's Legacy: Honesty Still in Short Supply

President Obama catches the eye of former Vice President Dick Cheney at Obama's 2008 inauguration. (photo: Flickr)

Cheney's Legacy: Honesty Still in Short Supply
By Ray McGovern, Consortium News
28 August 14

As the world marks the centennial of World War I, the guns of August are again being oiled by comfortable politicians and the fawning corporate media, both bereft of any sense of history. And that includes much more recent history, namely the deceitful campaign that ended up bringing destruction to Iraq and widened conflict throughout the Middle East. That campaign went into high gear 12 years ago with a preview in late August before the full-scale rollout in September.

On Aug. 26, 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney – who remains something of a folk hero on Fox News – formally launched the lies leading to the U.S.-UK attack on Iraq seven months later. And on Aug. 30, 2013, another late-summer pitch was made for war on Syria, which came within 20 hours of a major U.S. aerial assault after Secretary of State John Kerry claimed falsely – no fewer than 35 times – to “know” that the Syrian government was responsible for using sarin nerve gas in an attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.

Unlike 12 years ago, however, when the Pentagon was run by Field Marshal Donald Rumsfeld and the military martinets who called themselves generals but danced to his tune, war with Syria was averted last year when Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey talked sense into President Barack Obama who was on the verge of bending to the Cheney-esque hawks still perched atop the U.S. State Department.

Now, in late August 2014, as if to mark Cheney’s day of deceit a dozen Augusts ago, the Washington Post editorialized: “Stepping back into the fray: Stopping the Islamic State will require ‘boots on the ground.’” As is its custom, the Post offered no enlightenment on what motivates jihadists to do unspeakably evil things – in other words, “why they hate us” – or why Gulf allies of the U.S. fund them with such largesse.
Sadly, the thinking of Establishment Washington is no more refined today that it was on Jan. 8, 2010, when the late Helen Thomas asked then-White House counter-terrorism czar and now CIA Director John Brennan why the “underwear bomber,” who on Dec. 25, 2009, tried to down a U.S. passenger plane, did what he did. [See’s “Answering Helen Thomas on Why”.]

Hardwired to Hate

Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents… They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?”

Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Neither has President Obama or anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is boilerplate about how al-Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men. There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks.

It is the same now. Lacking is any frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive? But I digress.

The Almost-War on Syria

Why did Kerry mislead the world last Aug. 30 in professing to “know” that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical attack near Damascus nine days earlier when Kerry and other senior officials knew there were doubts and dissension within the U.S. intelligence community over who was responsible for the incident? It is crystal clear now that Kerry did not know with any certainty whether the army or the rebels fired the one missile that UN inspectors later found to have carried sarin.

Typically, Kerry adduced no verifiable evidence, and what his minions leaked over the following weeks could not bear close scrutiny. [See’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case”] (Parenthetically, Kerry also does not know what he professes to know about the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 on July 17.)
The key question today is whether Gen. Dempsey can hold off the hawks at the State Department again, as he did a year ago to prevent another ready-to-go U.S. attack on Syria … or maybe Iraq again … or how about Ukraine.

A Reluctant Soldier

Late last summer, Dempsey had the good sense to be a reluctant soldier. He had already told Congress that a major attack on Syria should require congressional authorization and that he was aware that the “evidence” adduced to implicate the Syrian government was shaky at best.

Besides, British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the Aug. 21 attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal.

The British warning that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to journalist Seymour Hersh, American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the President, which they believe led to his cancelling the attack. [See Hersh’s “The Red Line and the Rat Line.”]

Actually, it was no secret that Dempsey helped change President Obama’s mind between when Kerry spoke on the afternoon of Aug. 30, all but promising a U.S. attack on Syria, and when Obama announced less than a day later that he would not attack but rather would seek authorization from Congress. Obama was explicit in citing Dempsey, saying on the early afternoon of Aug. 31:

“Our military has positioned assets in the region. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive: it will be effective tomorrow, next week, or one month from now.”

The failure to stampede Obama and the U.S. military into a bombing campaign against Syria was a major defeat for those who wanted another shot at a Mideast “regime change,” primarily the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies who hold sway inside the State Department, not to mention in much of the U.S. mainstream news media. By happenstance, I was given a personal window into the neocon distress over the Syria bombing that wasn’t when I found myself sharing a “green room” with some of them at CNN’s main studio in Washington. [See’s “How War on Syria Lost Its Way.”]

How About Ukraine?

Many neocons fumed about Gen. Dempsey’s role in pulling the plug on their Syrian war plans. And, if the world is lucky, the neocons may have more reason to grumble about Gen. Dempsey if he deters direct U.S. military involvements in one or another of their hoped-for wars now, especially their reckless efforts to escalate the confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. It is a safe bet that Dempsey is again warning the President that there are risks that the Russian bear will do more than just snarl if it continues to be poked by the U.S.-installed coup government in Kiev.

One can hope that at the Sept. 4-5 NATO summit in Wales, Dempsey and other cool heads, who have had some experience in war, will again be able to head off the hotheads advocating gratuitous threatening gestures toward Russia.

This will take courage and stamina, since ill-informed “group think,” aided and abetted by the mainstream media, has taken hold in Washington in a way reminiscent of this same time 12 years ago. Sadly, there was no Martin Dempsey at hand then.

The malleable careerist generals whom Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld picked to serve him – like JCS Chairman Richard Myers – could be counted on to salute smartly to all of the boss’ decisions – even on torture. Ex-General Colin Powell – who was Peter-Principled up to be Secretary of State – was cut from the same cloth. So Rumsfeld together with his partner-in-crime Vice President Dick Cheney had a free hand.

By all appearances, except for Dempsey and his immediate staff, hawkish “group think” continues to reign supreme in the foreign policy and defense councils of Establishment Washington. It is as though nothing was learned from the destruction and chaos left behind after the U.S./UK invasion and occupation of Iraq beginning in March 2003.

Anatomy of a Consequential Lie

With Rumsfeld controlling the Pentagon, Vice President Dick Cheney led the charge exactly 12 years ago. Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Aug. 26, 2002, Cheney launched the propaganda campaign for war on Iraq, falsely claiming, “We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. … Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.”

Cheney went on to warn that UN inspectors were worse than useless since they fostered a false sense of security. Cheney’s speech provided the recipe for how the intelligence was to be cooked in September 2002. In effect, the speech provided the meretricious terms of reference and conclusions for a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) requested by Congress a few weeks later and completed on Oct. 1.

We now know that Robert Walpole, the intelligence official selected to chair the NIE, was receiving guidance from Cheney during the record-short drafting period. We also know that the NIE was wrong on every major judgment. Its purpose, though, was to deceive Congress out of exercising its constitutional prerogative to declare or otherwise authorize war. And the stratagem worked like a charm.

To their discredit, many in the intelligence community knew of Cheney’s and Walpole’s playing fast and loose with the evidence and the White House’s determination to pave the way to war. Those intelligence officials, however, simply held their noses. No one spoke out. Careers of bureaucrats were placed before lives of soldiers and civilians.

The whole orchestration was a fairy tale, and Cheney and his co-conspirators knew it full well. A leading spinner of such tales, Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, later bragged about his role in facilitating the spurious claims of WMD in Iraq. He said, “Saddam is gone. … What was said before is not important. … We are heroes in error.”

Keeping Mouths Wide Shut

Back to the VFW convention on Aug. 26, 2002: sitting on the stage that evening was former CENTCOM commander Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was being honored by the VFW. Zinni later said he was shocked to hear a depiction of intelligence (Iraq has WMDs and is amassing them to use against us) that did not square with what he knew.
Although Zinni had retired two years before, his role as consultant had enabled him to keep his clearances and stay up to date on key intelligence findings. Zinni is among a handful of senior officials, active duty and retired, who could have obstructed the path to war, had they spoken out at the time.

Three and a half years later, Zinni told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “There was no solid proof that Saddam had WMD. … I heard a case being made to go to war.” Zinni had earlier enjoyed a reputation as a straight shooter, with occasional displays of actual courage. And so the question lingers: why did he not make inquiries and – if necessary – go public before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq?

It is an all too familiar conundrum. In such situations, when there is powerful political momentum for war, senior military leaders, like Bre’r Fox, usually don’t say nuthin’. And, almost always, their reticence comes out badly for everyone else, but they still get to sit on corporate boards and make a ton of money.

It is a safe bet Zinni now regrets letting himself be guided – or misguided — by what passes for professional courtesy and/or slavish adherence to classification restrictions, when he might have prevented the U.S. from starting the kind of war of aggression branded at Nuremberg as the “supreme international crime.”

Tenet Completely Complicit

Zinni was not the only one taken aback by Cheney’s words. Then-CIA Director George Tenet recounted in his memoir that Cheney’s speech took him completely by surprise. Tenet wrote, “I had the impression that the president wasn’t any more aware than we were of what his number-two was going to say to the VFW until he said it.”

Tenet added that he thought Cheney had gone well beyond what U.S. intelligence was saying about the possibility of Iraq acquiring a nuclear weapon, adding piously, “Policy makers have a right to their own opinions, but not their own set of facts. … I should have told the vice president privately that, in my view, his VFW speech had gone too far.” Tenet doesn’t tell us whether he ever summoned the courage to tell President George W. Bush, although he briefed him several times a week.

Actually, Cheney’s exaggeration could not have come as a complete surprise to Tenet. We know from the Downing Street Minutes, leaked to the press on May 1, 2005, that on July 20, 2002 — more than a month before Cheney’s speech — Tenet himself had told his British counterpart that President Bush had decided to make war on Iraq for regime change and that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

When Bush’s senior advisers came back to town after Labor Day 2002, the next five weeks were devoted to selling the war, a major “new product” of the kind that, as then-White House chief of staff Andrew Card explained, no one would introduce in the month of August. Except that Cheney did.

After assuring themselves that Tenet was a reliable salesman, Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld allowed him to play a supporting role in advertising bogus claims of yellowcake uranium from Niger, aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment, and mobile trailers for manufacturing biological warfare agents, in order to scare Congress into voting for war. It did on Oct. 10 and 11, 2002.

Bush’s Knowledge

Was President Bush not warned of the likely impact of his attack on Iraq? He had been earlier, but the malleable Tenet opted to join the “group think” and told his minions that, if the President wants to make war on Iraq, it’s our duty to provide the “evidence” to justify it. Forgotten or suppressed were earlier warnings from the CIA about how an attack on Iraq would mean a growth industry for manufacturing terrorists.

In a major speech in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, four days before Congress voted for war, the President warned that “the risk is simply too great that Saddam Hussein will use instruments of mass death and destruction, or provide them to a terror network.”

In a sad irony, on that same day, a letter from the CIA to the Senate Intelligence Committee asserted that the probability is low that Iraq would initiate an attack with such weapons or give them to terrorists — UNLESS: “Should Saddam conclude that a US-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions.”

In a same-day assessment of Colin Powell’s deceptive speech at the UN on Feb. 5, 2003, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) warned the President to beware of those who “draw a connection between war with Iraq and terrorism, but for the wrong reasons. The connection takes on much more reality in a post-US invasion scenario. Indeed, it is our view that an invasion of Iraq would ensure overflowing recruitment centers for terrorists into the indefinite future. Far from eliminating the threat it would enhance it exponentially.” We continued:

“We recommend you re-read the CIA assessment of last fall [2002] that pointed out ‘the forces fueling hatred of the US and fueling al Qaeda recruiting are not being addressed,’ and that ‘the underlying causes that drive terrorists will persist.’ We also noted that a “CIA report cited a Gallup poll last year of almost 10,000 Muslims in nine countries in which respondents described the United States as ‘ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked and biased.’”

But the “group think” had already set in. And courage at senior ranks in the military was in short supply. No one had the guts to properly discharge the responsibility of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the principal military adviser to the President. This is the role that Gen. Martin Dempsey stepped up to a year ago and, in the process, prevented wider war in the Middle East.

One can only hope that President Obama, in current circumstances, will keep listening to military advisers who know something about war — and why it should never be casually commenced.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"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