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The Berlin Wall: Another Cold War Myth October 23, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, Germany, History.
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Roger’s note: I cannot vouch for the historical credibility of this, but it rings true for me.  The East German Communist government was a brutal dictatorship and its secret police, the Stasi, was known for its ruthlessness.  Nevertheless, from the mainstream media and North American academic world we get a highly propagandized narrative about the Berlin Wall, and there is always another side to the story.  William Blum present one here.  I think this is relevant now because we are experiencing the same phenomenon with the rise of Isis/Isil in Iraq and Syria, that is, a narrative that is virtually ahistorical and free of the U.S. provocations that in fact created and armed Isis/Isil.  

I came across the following this morning in an article by Murray Dobbin analyzing the attack yesterday in Ottawa:

We are supposed to learn as children that actions have consequences so I suppose we are left to conclude that current leaders of the Anglo-industrialized countries (in particular) were badly neglected by their parents. A monstrous and catastrophic failure of imagination on the part of the West has led us to this point. The first failure belonged to Zbigniew Brzezinski one of the key architects of the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Before the US armed, financed and trained the then-handful of religious zealots opposed to the godless Soviets, they were a threat to no one.

In an interview that appeared in CounterPunch in 1998   Brzezinski revealed his limited imagination when asked if he regretted creating Islamic terrorists: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”

The answer is in.

 

OCTOBER 22, 2014

A Response to Economic Sabotage

by WILLIAM BLUM

 

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November 9 will mark the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The extravagant hoopla began months ago in Berlin. In the United States we can expect all the Cold War clichés about The Free World vs. Communist Tyranny to be trotted out and the simple tale of how the wall came to be will be repeated: In 1961, the East Berlin communists built a wall to keep their oppressed citizens from escaping to West Berlin and freedom. Why? Because commies don’t like people to be free, to learn the “truth”. What other reason could there have been?

First of all, before the wall went up in 1961 thousands of East Germans had been commuting to the West for jobs each day and then returning to the East in the evening; many others went back and forth for shopping or other reasons. So they were clearly not being held in the East against their will. Why then was the wall built? There were two major reasons:

1) The West was bedeviling the East with a vigorous campaign of recruiting East German professionals and skilled workers, who had been educated at the expense of the Communist government. This eventually led to a serious labor and production crisis in the East. As one indication of this, the New York Times reported in 1963: “West Berlin suffered economically from the wall by the loss of about 60,000 skilled workmen who had commuted daily from their homes in East Berlin to their places of work in West Berlin.”

It should be noted that in 1999, USA Today reported: “When the Berlin Wall crumbled [1989], East Germans imagined a life of freedom where consumer goods were abundant and hardships would fade. Ten years later, a remarkable 51% say they were happier with communism.”   Earlier polls would likely have shown even more than 51% expressing such a sentiment, for in the ten years many of those who remembered life in East Germany with some fondness had passed away; although even 10 years later, in 2009, the Washington Post could report: “Westerners [in Berlin] say they are fed up with the tendency of their eastern counterparts to wax nostalgic about communist times.”

It was in the post-unification period that a new Russian and eastern Europe proverb was born: “Everything the Communists said about Communism was a lie, but everything they said about capitalism turned out to be the truth.”

It should be further noted that the division of Germany into two states in 1949 – setting the stage for 40 years of Cold War hostility – was an American decision, not a Soviet one.

2) During the 1950s, American cold-warriors in West Germany instituted a crude campaign of sabotage and subversion against East Germany designed to throw that country’s economic and administrative machinery out of gear. The CIA and other US intelligence and military services recruited, equipped, trained and financed German activist groups and individuals, of West and East, to carry out actions which ran the spectrum from juvenile delinquency to terrorism; anything to make life difficult for the East German people and weaken their support of the government; anything to make the commies look bad.

It was a remarkable undertaking. The United States and its agents used explosives, arson, short circuiting, and other methods to damage power stations, shipyards, canals, docks, public buildings, gas stations, public transportation, bridges, etc; they derailed freight trains, seriously injuring workers; burned 12 cars of a freight train and destroyed air pressure hoses of others; used acids to damage vital factory machinery; put sand in the turbine of a factory, bringing it to a standstill; set fire to a tile-producing factory; promoted work slow-downs in factories; killed 7,000 cows of a co-operative dairy through poisoning; added soap to powdered milk destined for East German schools; were in possession, when arrested, of a large quantity of the poison cantharidin with which it was planned to produce poisoned cigarettes to kill leading East Germans; set off stink bombs to disrupt political meetings; attempted to disrupt the World Youth Festival in East Berlin by sending out forged invitations, false promises of free bed and board, false notices of cancellations, etc.; carried out attacks on participants with explosives, firebombs, and tire-puncturing equipment; forged and distributed large quantities of food ration cards to cause confusion, shortages and resentment; sent out forged tax notices and other government directives and documents to foster disorganization and inefficiency within industry and unions … all this and much more.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, of Washington, DC, conservative coldwarriors, in one of their Cold War International History Project Working Papers (#58, p.9) states: “The open border in Berlin exposed the GDR [East Germany] to massive espionage and subversion and, as the two documents in the appendices show, its closure gave the Communist state greater security.”

Throughout the 1950s, the East Germans and the Soviet Union repeatedly lodged complaints with the Soviets’ erstwhile allies in the West and with the United Nations about specific sabotage and espionage activities and called for the closure of the offices in West Germany they claimed were responsible, and for which they provided names and addresses. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Inevitably, the East Germans began to tighten up entry into the country from the West, leading eventually to the infamous wall. However, even after the wall was built there was regular, albeit limited, legal emigration from east to west. In 1984, for example, East Germany allowed 40,000 people to leave. In 1985, East German newspapers claimed that more than 20,000 former citizens who had settled in the West wanted to return home after becoming disillusioned with the capitalist system. The West German government said that 14,300 East Germans had gone back over the previous 10 years.

Let’s also not forget that while East Germany completely denazified, in West Germany for more than a decade after the war, the highest government positions in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches contained numerous former and “former” Nazis.

Finally, it must be remembered, that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism forever, and that the Russians in World War I and II, lost about 40 million people because the West had used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviet Union was determined to close down the highway.

For an additional and very interesting view of the Berlin Wall anniversary, see the article “Humpty Dumpty and the Fall of Berlin’s Wall” by Victor Grossman. Grossman (née Steve Wechsler) fled the US Army in Germany under pressure from McCarthy-era threats and became a journalist and author during his years in the (East) German Democratic Republic. He still lives in Berlin and mails out his “Berlin Bulletin” on German developments on an irregular basis. You can subscribe to it at wechsler_grossman@yahoo.de. His autobiography: “Crossing the River: a Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War and Life in East Germany” was published by University of Massachusetts Press. He claims to be the only person in the world with diplomas from both Harvard University and Karl Marx University in Leipzig.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War IIRogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power . His latest book is: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

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America’s Coup Machine: Destroying Democracy Since 1953 April 13, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Imperialism, Latin America, Ukraine.
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Roger’s note: this shameful report on how the United States government, via its military, the CIA, aided and abetted by the MIC and the corporate mainstream media, exports death and misery around the globe, comes as no big surprise to anyone who has taken the time to investigate and understand.  It is a useful compilation of its dirty work since the end of World War II, but of course it didn’t all begin there; in a sense it all began with Columbus, and in modern history U.S. imperial adventures took off with the Spanish American War, 1898, under President McKinley.  It also gives us a truer picture of the U.S. role of the coup in the Ukraine.

 

shutterstock_97739666Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Soon after the 2004 U.S. coup to depose President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, I heard Aristide’s lawyer Ira Kurzban speaking in Miami.  He began his talk with a riddle: “Why has there never been a coup in Washington D.C.?”  The answer: “Because there is no U.S. Embassy in Washington D.C.”  This introduction was greeted with wild applause by a mostly Haitian-American audience who understood it only too well.

Ukraine’s former security chief, Aleksandr Yakimenko, has reported that the coup-plotters who overthrew the elected government in Ukraine, “basically lived in the (U.S.) Embassy.  They were there every day.”  We also know from a leaked Russian intercept that they were in close contact with Ambassador Pyatt and the senior U.S. official in charge of the coup, former Dick Cheney aide Victoria Nuland, officially the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.  And we can assume that many of their days in the Embassy were spent in strategy and training sessions with their individual CIA case officers.

To place the coup in Ukraine in historical context, this is at least the 80th time the United States has organized a coup or a failed coup in a foreign country since 1953.  That was when President Eisenhower discovered in Iran that the CIA could overthrow elected governments who refused to sacrifice the future of their people to Western commercial and geopolitical interests.  Most U.S. coups have led to severe repression, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture, corruption, extreme poverty and inequality, and prolonged setbacks for the democratic aspirations of people in the countries affected.  The plutocratic and ultra-conservative nature of the forces the U.S. has brought to power in Ukraine make it unlikely to be an exception.

Noam Chomsky calls William Blum’s classic, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, “Far and away the best book on the topic.”  If you’re looking for historical context for what you are reading or watching on TV about the coup in Ukraine, Killing Hope will provide it.  The title has never been more apt as we watch the hopes of people from all regions of Ukraine being sacrificed on the same altar as those of people in Iran (1953); Guatemala(1954); Thailand (1957); Laos (1958-60); the Congo (1960); Turkey (1960, 1971 & 1980); Ecuador (1961 & 1963); South Vietnam (1963); Brazil (1964); the Dominican Republic (1963); Argentina (1963); Honduras (1963 & 2009); Iraq (1963 & 2003); Bolivia (1964, 1971 & 1980); Indonesia (1965); Ghana (1966); Greece (1967); Panama (1968 & 1989); Cambodia (1970); Chile (1973); Bangladesh (1975); Pakistan (1977); Grenada (1983); Mauritania (1984); Guinea (1984); Burkina Faso (1987); Paraguay (1989); Haiti (1991 & 2004); Russia (1993); Uganda (1996);and Libya (2011).  This list does not include a roughly equal number of failed coups, nor coups in Africa and elsewhere in which a U.S. role is suspected but unproven.

The disquieting reality of the world we live in is that American efforts to destroy democracy, even as it pretends to champion it, have left the world less peaceful, less just and less hopeful.  When Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, at the height of the genocidal American war on Iraq, he devoted much of his acceptance speech to an analysis of this dichotomy.  He said of the U.S., “It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good.  It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis… Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be, but it is also very clever.”

The basic framework of U.S. coups has hardly evolved since 1953.  The main variables between coups in different places and times have been the scale and openness of the U.S. role and the level of violence used.  There is a strong correlation between the extent of U.S. involvement and the level of violence.  At one extreme, the U.S. war on Iraq was a form of regime change that involved hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and killed hundreds of thousands of people.  On the other hand, the U.S. role in General Suharto’s coup in Indonesia in 1965 remained covert even as he killed almost as many people.  Only long after the fact didU.S. officials take credit for their role in Suharto’s campaign of mass murder, and it will be some time before they brag publicly about their roles in Ukraine.

But as Harold Pinter explained, the U.S. has always preferred “low-intensity conflict” to full-scale invasions and occupations.  The CIA and U.S. special forces use proxies and covert operations to overthrow governments and suppress movements that challenge America’s insatiable quest for global power.  A coup is the climax of such operations, and it is usually only when these “low-intensity” methods fail that a country becomes a target for direct U.S. military aggression.  Iraq only became a target for U.S. invasion and occupation after a failed CIA coup in June 1996.  The U.S. attacked Panama in 1989 only after five CIA coup attempts failed to remove General Noriega from power.  After long careers as CIA agents, both Hussein and Noriega had exceptional knowledge of U.S. operations and methods that enabled them to resist regime change by anything less than overwhelming U.S. military force.

But most U.S. coups follow a model that has hardly changed between 1953 and the latest coup in Ukraine in 2014.  This model has three stages:

1) Creating and strengthening opposition forces

In the early stages of a U.S. plan for regime change, there is little difference between the methods used to achieve it at the ballot box or by an anti-constitutional coup.  Many of these tools and methods were developed to install right-wing governments in occupied countries in Europe and Asia after World War II.  They include forming and funding conservative political parties, student groups, trade unions and media outlets, and running well-oiled propaganda campaigns both in the country being targeted and in regional, international and U.S. media.

Post-WWII Italy is a case in point.  At the end of the war, the U.S. used the American Federation of Labor’s agents in France and Italy to funnel money through non-communist trade unions to conservative candidates and political parties.  But socialists and communists won a plurality of votes in the 1946 election in Italy, and then joined forces to form the Popular Democratic Front for the next election in 1948.  The U.S. worked with the Catholic Church, conducted a massive propaganda campaign using Italian-American celebrities like Frank Sinatra, and printed 10 million letters for Italian-Americans to mail to their relatives in Italy.  The U.S. threatened a total cut-off of aid to the war-ravaged country, where allied bombing had killed 50,000 civilians and left much of the country in ruins.

The FDP was reduced from a combined 40% of the votes in 1946 to 31% in 1948, leaving Italy in the hands of increasingly corrupt U.S.-backed coalitions led by the Christian Democrats for the next 46 years.  Italy was saved from an imaginary communist dictatorship, but more importantly from an independent democratic socialist program committed to workers’ rights and to protecting small and medium-sized Italian businesses against competition from U.S. multinationals.

The U.S. employed similar tactics in Chile in the 1960s to prevent the election of Salvador Allende.  He came within 3% of winning the presidency in 1958, so the Kennedy administration sent a team of 100 State Department and CIA officers to Chile in what one of them later called a “blatant and almost obscene” effort to subvert the next election in 1964.  The CIA provided more than half the Christian Democrats’ campaign funds and launched a multimedia propaganda campaign on film, TV, radio, newspapers, posters and flyers.  This classic “red scare” campaign, dominated by images of firing squads and Soviet tanks, was designed mainly to terrify women.  The CIA produced 20 radio spots per day that were broadcast on at least 45 stations, as well as dozens of fabricated daily “news” broadcasts.  Thousands of posters depicted children with hammers and sickles stamped on their foreheads.  The Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei defeated Allende by 17%, with a huge majority among women.

But despite the U.S. propaganda campaign, Allende was finally elected in 1970.  When he consolidated his position in Congressional elections in 1973 despite a virtual U.S. economic embargo and an ever-escalating destabilization campaign, his fate was sealed, at the hands of the CIA and the U.S.-backed military, led by General Pinochet.

In Ukraine, the U.S. has worked since independence in 1991 to promote pro-Western parties and candidates, climaxing in the “Orange Revolution” in 2004.  But the Western-backed governments of Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko became just as corrupt and unpopular as previous ones, and former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich was elected President in 2010.

The U.S. employed all its traditional tactics leading up to the coup in 2014.  The U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has partially taken over the CIA’s role in grooming opposition candidates, parties and political movements, with an annual budget of $100 million to spend in countries around the world.  The NED made no secret of targeting Ukraine as a top priority, funding 65 projects there, more than in any other country.  The NED’s neoconservative president, Carl Gershman, called Ukraine “the biggest prize” in a Washington Post op-ed in September 2013, as the U.S. operation there prepared to move into its next phase.

2) Violent street demonstrations

In November 2013, the European Union presented President Yanukovich with a 1,500 page “free trade agreement,” similar to NAFTA or the TPP, but which withheld actual EU membership from Ukraine.  The agreement would have opened Ukraine’s borders to Western exports and investment without a reciprocal opening of the EU’s borders. Ukraine, a major producer of cheese and poultry, would have been allowed to export only 5% of its cheese and 1% of its poultry to the EU.  Meanwhile Western firms could have used Ukraine as a gateway to flood Russia with cheap products from Asia. This would have forced Russia to close its borders to Ukraine, shattering the industrial economy of Eastern Ukraine.

Understandably, and for perfectly sound reasons as a Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich rejected the EU agreement.  This was the signal for pro-Western and right-wing groups in Kiev to take to the street.  In the West, we tend to interpret street demonstrations as representing surges of populism and democracy.  But we should distinguish left-wing demonstrations against right-wing governments from the kind of violent right-wing demonstrations that have always been part of U.S. regime change strategy.

In Tehran in 1953, the CIA spent a million dollars to hire gangsters and “extremely competent professional organizers”, as the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt called them, to stage increasingly violent demonstrations, until loyal and rebel army units were fighting in the streets of Tehran and at least 300 people were killed.  The CIA spent millions more to bribe members of parliament and other influential Iranians.  Mossadegh was forced to resign, and the Shah restored Western ownership of the oil industry.  BP divided the spoils with American firms, until the Shah was overthrown 26 years later by the Iranian Revolution and the oil industry was re-nationalized.  This pattern of short-term success followed by eventual independence from U.S. interests is a common result of CIA coups, most notably in Latin America, where they have led many of our closest neighbors to become increasingly committed to political and economic independence from the United States.

In Haiti in 2004, 200 U.S. special forces trained 600 FRAPH militiamen and other anti-Lavalas forces at a training camp across the border in the Dominican Republic.  These forces then invaded northern Haiti and gradually spread violence and chaos across the country to set the stage for the overthrow of President Aristide.

In Ukraine, street protests turned violent in January 2014 as the neo-NaziSvoboda Party and the Right Sector militia took charge of the crowds in the streets.  The Right Sector militia only appeared in Ukraine in the past 6 months, although it incorporated existing extreme-right groups and gangs.  It is partly funded by Ukrainian exiles in the U.S. and Europe, and may be a creation of the CIA.  After Right Sector seized government buildings, parliament outlawed the protests and the police reoccupied part of Independence Square, killing two protesters.

On February 7th, the Russians published an intercepted phone call betweenAssistant Secretary of State Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.  The intercept revealed that U.S. officials were preparing to seize the moment for a coup in Ukraine.  The transcript reads like a page from a John Le Carre novel: “I think we’re in play… we could land jelly-side up on this one if we move fast.”  Their main concern was to marginalize heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who had become the popular face of the “revolution” and was favored by the European Union, and to ensure that U.S. favorite Arseniy Yatsenyuk ended up in the Prime Minister’s office.

On the night of February 17th, Right Sector announced a march from Independence Square to the parliament building on the 18th.  This ignited several days of escalating violence in which the death toll rose to 110 people killed, including protesters, government supporters and 16 police officers.  More than a thousand people were wounded. Vyacheslav Veremyi, a well-known reporter for a pro-government newspaper, was dragged out of a taxi near Independence Square and shot to death in front of a crowd of onlookers.  Right Sector broke into an armory near Lviv and seized military weapons, and there is evidence of both sides using snipers to fire from buildings in Kiev at protesters and police in the streets and the square below.  Former security chief Yakimenko believes that snipers firing from the Philharmonic building were U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries, like the snipers from the former Yugoslavia who earn up to $2,000 per day shooting soldiers in Syria.

As violence raged in the streets, the government and opposition parties held emergency meetings and reached two truce agreements, one on the night of February 19th and another on the 21st, brokered by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland.  But Right Sector rejected both truces and called for the “people’s revolution” to continue until Yanukovich resigned and the government was completely removed from power.

3) The coup d’etat.

The creation and grooming of opposition forces and the spread of violence in the streets are deliberate strategies to create a state of emergency as a pretext for removing an elected or constitutional government and seizing power.  Once the coup leaders have been trained and prepared by their CIA case officers, U.S. officials have laid their plans and street violence has broken down law and order and the functioning of state institutions, all that remains is to strike decisively at the right moment to remove the government and install the coup leaders in its place.  In Iran, faced with hundreds of people being killed in the streets, Mohammad Mosaddegh resigned to end the bloodshed. In Chile, General Pinochet launched air strikes on the presidential palace.  In Haiti in 2004, U.S. forces landed to remove President Aristide and occupy the country.

In Ukraine, Vitaly Klitschko announced that parliament would open impeachment proceedings against Yanukovich, but, later that day, lacking the 338 votes required for impeachment, a smaller number of members simply approved a declaration that Yanukovich “withdrew from his duties in an unconstitutional manner,” and appointed Oleksandr Turchynov of the opposition Fatherland Party as Acting President.  Right Sector seized control of government buildings and patrolled the streets.  Yanukovich refused to resign, calling this an illegal coup d’etat.  The coup leaders vowed to prosecute him for the deaths of protesters, but he escaped to Russia.  Arseniy Yatsenyuk was appointed Prime Minister on February 27th, exactly as Nuland and Pyatt had planned.

The main thing that distinguishes the U.S. coup in Ukraine from the majority of previous U.S. coups was the minimal role played by the Ukrainian military.  Since 1953, most U.S. coups have involved using local senior military officers to deliver the final blow to remove the elected or ruling leader.  The officers have then been rewarded with presidencies, dictatorships or other senior positions in new U.S.-backed regimes. The U.S. military cultivates military-to-military relationships to identify and groom future coup leaders, and President Obama’s expansion of U.S. special forces operations to 134 countries around the world suggests that this process is ongoing and expanding, not contracting.

But the neutral or pro-Russian position of the Ukrainian military since it was separated from the Soviet Red Army in 1991 made it an impractical tool for an anti-Russian coup. So Nuland and Pyatt’s signal innovation in Ukraine was to use the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party and Right Sector as a strike force to unleash escalating violence and seize power. This also required managing Svoboda and Right Sector’s uneasy alliance with Fatherland and UDAR, the two pro-Western opposition parties who won 40% between them in the 2012 parliamentary election.

Historically, about half of all U.S. coups have failed, and success is never guaranteed.  But few Americans have ended up dead or destitute in the wake of a failed coup.  It is always the people of the target country who pay the price in violence, chaos, poverty and instability, while U.S. coup leaders like Nuland and Pyatt often get a second – or 3rd or 4th or 5th – bite at the apple, and will keep rising through the ranks of the State Department and the CIA.  Direct U.S. military intervention in Ukraine was not an option before the coup, but now the coup itself may destabilize the country and plunge it into economic collapse, regional disintegration or conflict with Russia, creating new and unpredictable conditions in which NATO intervention could become feasible.

Russia has proposed a reasonable solution to the crisis. To resolve the tensions between Eastern and Western Ukraine over their respective political and economic links with Russia and the West, the Russians have proposed a federal system in which both Eastern and Western Ukraine would have much greater autonomy.  This would be more stable that the present system in which each tries to dominate the other with the support of their external allies, turning Ukraine and all its people into pawns of Western-NATO expansion and Russia’s efforts to limit it.  The Russian proposal includes a binding commitment that Ukraine would remain neutral and not join NATO.  A few weeks ago, Obama and Kerry seemed to be ready to take this off-ramp from the crisis.  The delay in agreeing to Russia’s seemingly reasonable proposal may be only an effort to save face, or it may mean that theneocons who engineered the coupare still dictating policy in Washington and that Obama and Kerry may be ready to risk a further escalation of the crisis.

The U.S. coup machine has also been at work in Venezuela, where it already failed once in 2002.  Raul Capote, a former Cuban double agent who worked with the CIA in Cuba and Venezuela, recently described its long-term project to build right-wing opposition movements among upper- and middle-class students in Venezuelan universities, which are now bearing fruit in increasingly violent street protests and vigilantism.  Thirty-six people have been killed, including six police officers and at least 5 opposition protesters.  The protests began exactly a month after municipal elections in December, in which the government won the popular vote by almost 10%, far more than the 1.5% margin in the presidential election last April.  As in Chile in 1973, electoral success by an elected government is often the cue for the CIA to step up its efforts, moving beyond propaganda and right-wing politics to violence in the streets, and the popularity of the Venezuelan government seems to have provoked precisely that reaction.

Another feature of U.S. coups is the role of the Western media in publicizing official cover stories and suppressing factual journalism.  This role has also been consistent since 1953, but it has evolved as corporate media have consolidated their monopoly power.  By their very nature, coups are secret operations and U.S. media are prohibited from revealing “national security” secrets about them, such as the names of CIA officers involved.  By only reporting official cover stories, they become unwitting co conspirators in the critical propaganda component of these operations.  But the U.S. corporate media have turned vice into virtue, relishing their role in the demonization of America’s chosen enemies and cheerleading U.S. efforts to do them in.  They brush U.S. responsibility for violence and chaos under the carpet, and sympathetically present U.S. policy as a well-meaning effort to respond to the irrational and dangerous behavior of others.

This is far more than is required by strict observance of secrecy laws, and it reveals a great deal about the nature of the media environment we live in.  The Western media as it exists today under near-monopoly corporate ownership is a more sophisticated and total propaganda system than early 20th century propagandists ever dreamed of.  As media corporations profit from Western geopolitical and commercial expansion, the propaganda function that supports that expansion is an integrated part of their business model, not something exceptional they do under duress from the state.  But to expect factual journalism about U.S. coups from such firms is to misunderstand who and what they are.

Recent studies have found that people gain a better grasp of current affairs from John Stewart’s Daily Show on Comedy Central than from watching “news” networks.  People who watch no “news” at all have more knowledge of international affairs than people who watch MSNBC or Fox News.  A previous survey conducted 3 months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq found that 52% of Americans believed that U.S. forces in Iraq had found clear evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.  Among Republicans who said they were following “news on Iraq very closely”, the figure was 78%, compared with only 68% among Republicans at large.

If the role of the corporate media was to provide factual journalism, these studies would be a terrible indictment of their performance.  But once we acknowledge their actual role as the propaganda arm of an expansionist political and economic system, then we can understand that promoting the myths and misinformation that sustain it are a central part of what they do.  In that light, they are doing a brilliant job on Ukraine as they did on Iraq, suppressing any mention of the U.S. role in the coup and pivoting swiftly away from the unfolding crisis in post-coup Ukraine to focus entirely on attacking President Putin for reclaiming Crimea.  On the other hand, if you’re looking for factual journalism about the U.S. coup machine, you should probably turn off your TV and keep reading reliable sources like Alternet,Consortium News and Venezuela Analysis.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He wrote the chapter on “Obama At War” for the book, Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

The Lawless Roads: America’s Ever-Expanding Torture Matrix April 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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, www.opednews.com, April 8, 2012

In two brief posts over the past week, Scott Horton at Harper’s gives us a harrowing sketch of the entrenchment and ever-spreading expansion  of the Torture Matrix that now sits enthroned at the very heart of the  American state. This entrenchment and expansion has been carried out —  enthusiastically, energetically, relentlessly — by the current  president of the United States: a progressive Democrat and recipient of  the Nobel Peace Prize.
Horton notes the uncovering of the Zelikow Memo, written by one of the chief factotums of the Bush Administration,  Philip Zelikow. While serving as a State Department lawyer in 2006,  Zelikow wrote a legal brief that demolished the written-to-order  “torture memos” by White House lawyers, which sanctioned the widespread  use of torture techniques that were — and still are — clearly war  crimes. As Horton points out, the Zelikow memo did not even address the most brutal tortures instigated by the Bush administration, but confined  itself to the so-called “torture lite” methods (many of which are still  in use today). Yet even here, Zelikow clearly demonstrated “that the use of these techniques would constitute prosecutable felonies — war  crimes.” The existence of the Zelikow memo proves that there was indeed  official recognition throughout the highest reaches of government that  war crimes were being committed at the order of the White House and the  intelligence agencies. Horton goes on:

“In order for a prosecution to succeed, a  prosecutor would have to show that the accused understood that what he  was doing was a crime. In United States v. Altstoetter, a case in which  government lawyers were prosecuted for their role in, among other  things, providing a legal pretext for the torture and mistreatment of  prisoners, the court fashioned a similar rule, saying that the law  requires “proof before conviction that the accused knew or should have  known that in matters of international concern he was guilty of  participation in a nationally organized system of injustice and  persecution shocking to the moral sense of mankind, and that he knew or  should have known that he would be subject to punishment if caught.”The Zelikow memo satisfies both of these elements — it makes clear that the  techniques the Justice Department endorsed constituted criminal conduct, and it applied the “shock the conscience” test of American  constitutional law to help reach that conclusion. It could therefore be  introduced as Exhibit A by prosecutors bringing future charges.”

Horton also provides a succinct background to the other “torture  memos” that Bush attorneys wrote in support of the criminal operation — a perpetrators’ paper trail that is actually much more extensive than  is usually known.
This memo has been in the possession of the  Obama Administration since its first day in office. It was in the  possession of the special prosecutor that Obama’s Justice Department  appointed to look into the torture system — a special prosecutor who  found that there was nothing to prosecute. Horton writes:

“Spencer Ackerman, whose persistence is to be credited for the publication of Zelikow’s memo, astutely pressed its author to answer this question: Why, in light of Zelikow’s findings,  did the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the  legality of CIA interrogation techniques fail to bring charges?”‘I don’t know why Mr. Durham came to the conclusions he did,’ Zelikow says, referring to the Justice Department  special prosecutor for the CIA torture inquiry, John Durham. ‘I’m not  impugning them, I just literally don’t know why, because he never  published any details about either the factual analysis or legal  analysis that led to those conclusions.'”

To reiterate: one of the chief insiders of the right-wing Republican  Bush White House believes that the war crimes ordered by the Bush White  House deserve prosecution. The chief insiders of the progressive  Democratic Obama White House believe these war crimes should not be  prosecuted.
Then again, why should Barack Obama want to prosecute torture — when he is successfully arguing for it to be applied not  only to the American population at large? In another post, Horton writes of Obama’s great success at the Supreme Court: the ruling that allows all Americans to be strip-searched when taken into custody  for even the most minor infractions. The purpose of this, as Horton  points out, is clearly to humiliate and “break” the citizen — who is,  you might recall, entirely innocent in the eyes of the law at that  point. In fact, as Horton notes, the U.S. military itself recognizes the strip search as a torture technique that American pilots might face if  captured by heinous rogue states. Horton:

“…the Supreme Court has decided on the  claim of Albert Florence, a man apprehended for the well-known offense  of traveling in an automobile while being black. Florence was hustled  off to jail over a couple of bench warrants involving minor fines that  had in fact been paid — evidence of which he produced to unimpressed  police officers. He was then twice subjected to humiliating strip  searches involving the inspection of body cavities. Florence sued,  arguing that this process violated his rights.
“There is very  little doubt under the law about the right of prison authorities to  subject a person convicted or suspected of a serious crime to conduct a  strip search before introducing someone to the general prison  population. But does the right to conduct a strip search outweigh the  right to dignity and bodily integrity of a person who committed no crime whatsoever, who is apprehended based on a false suspicion that he  hadn’t discharged a petty fine — for walking a dog without a leash, say,  or turning a car from the wrong lane? Yes. In a 5-4 decision, the Court  backed the position advocated by President Obama’s Justice Department,  upholding the power of jailers against the interests of innocent  citizens. As Justice Anthony Kennedy reasons in his majority opinion (in terms that would be familiar to anyone who has lived in a police  state), who is to say that innocent citizens are really innocent? ‘[P]eople detained for minor offenses,’ he writes, ‘can turn out to be  the most devious and dangerous criminals.’ ….
“The decision  reflects the elevation of the prison industry’s interest in maintaining  order in its facilities above the interests of individuals. And it does  so by systematically misunderstanding the reasons behind strip searches. Kennedy insists that they are all done for the aim of fostering order,  and he backs up this position with exemplary bits of pretzel logic. For  instance, he suggests that a person stopped for failing to yield at an  intersection may well have heroin taped to his scrotum, and may attempt  to bring it into the prison to which he is taken. In advancing such  rationales, the Court ignores the darker truth about strip searches:  they are employed for the conscious humiliation and psychological  preparation of prisoners, as part of a practice designed to break them  down and render them submissive.
“Just as the Florence decision  was being prepared, the Department of Defense released a previously  classified training manual used to prepare American pilots for  resistance to foreign governments that might use illegal and immoral  techniques to render them cooperative. Key in this manual are the  precise practices highlighted in Florence. Body-cavity searches are  performed, it explains, to make the prisoner ‘feel uncomfortable and  degraded.’ Forced nudity and invasion of the body make the prisoner feel helpless, by removing all items that provide the prisoner with  psychological support. In other words, the strip search is an essential  step in efforts to destroy an individual’s sense of self-confidence,  well-being, and even his or her identity. The value of this tool has  been recognized by authoritarian governments around the world, and now,  thanks to the Roberts Court, it will belong to the standard jailhouse  repertoire in the United States.”

To reiterate: the Obama Administration vigorously defended the  introduction of this authoritarian practice into every place of  incarceration in the United States. The fact that this draconian  stricture will fall most heavily on African-Americans cut no ice with  the historic, epoch-shaking first minority president in American  history. (But why should it? By almost every measure — employment,  housing, wealth, poverty programs, community support, voting rights,  civil rights, etc. — African-Americans have been sent reeling backwards by the policies of the Obama Administration.)
Obama has  adamantly refused to prosecute clear, credible and copious allegations  of war crimes by his predecessor. He is now applying acknowledged  torture techniques to the general American population. And as William  Blum reminds us in his latest “Anti-Empire Report,” Obama is still  carrying out torture on a massive, systematic scale in the gulag he  commands — despite the pervasive progressive myth that he has formally  ended “torture” in the American system. Blum:

“…the executive order concerning torture, issued January 22, 2009 — ‘Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations’ — leaves loopholes, such as being applicable only ‘in any armed conflict.’ Thus, torture by Americans outside  environments of ‘armed conflict,’ which is where much torture in the  world happens anyway, is not prohibited. And what about torture in a ‘counter-terrorism’ environment?
“One of Mr. Obama’s orders  required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a  revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a  guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary  confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the  induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental  manipulation such as temperature and perhaps noise, and possibly stress  positions and sensory overload. …

“Just as no one in the Bush  and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war  against, no one has been punished for torture. And, it could be added,  no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in  the world-wide financial torture. What a marvelously forgiving land is  America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange and Bradley  Manning. …
“I’d like at this point to remind my dear readers of  the words of the ‘Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,’ which was drafted by the United  Nations in 1984, came into force in 1987, and ratified by the United  States in 1994. Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: ‘No  exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency,  may be invoked as a justification of torture.’
Such marvelously  clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard  for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud  of humanity. We cannot slide back.”

No exceptions whatsoever — not even an eternal “War on  Terror.” This is indeed clear language — and it is indisputably the law of the land, as the constitutional law professor in the White House  well knows. But this no longer means anything. As we noted here a couple of years ago, in an excerpt from a “conversation during Civil War”:

“But in days past, I was a lawyer. Yes, a lawyer, can you believe it? It seems ” ridiculous now, doesn’t it? An  orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to  advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that  system, that civil cosmos — to which I was so passionately committed —  embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful  in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step — at every step — sang hosannas to  itself as some kind of divinity. The ‘Law’ — oh, what a hush of  reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect  penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen — in intense, concentrated, microscopic view —  the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow  unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power:  power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to  establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power … acquiesces to law — sometimes — but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice — for the  powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob  when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power  shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see  that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to  power’s aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war  have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I  held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood  and sh*t.”

Or, pertaining more directly to the case at hand, and under-girding some of Blum’s points, including his insights on rendition, is a piece I wrote in 2011:

“There is of course a myth that Barack  Obama has ‘ended’ the practice of torture. This is not even remotely  true. For one thing, as we have often noted here, the Army Field Manual  that Obama has adopted as his interrogation standard permits many  practices that any rational person would consider torture. For another, we have no way of verifying what techniques are actually  being used by the government’s innumerable ‘security’ and intelligence  agencies, by the covert units of the military — and by other entities  whose very existence is still unknown. These agencies are almost  entirely self-policed; they investigate themselves, they report on  themselves to the toothless Congressional ‘oversight’ committees; we  simply have to take these organizations — whose entire raison d’etre is deceit, deception, lawlessness and subterfuge — at their word. And  of course, we have no way of knowing what is being done in the torture  chambers of foreign lands where the United States often ‘outsources’ its captives, including American citizens.
“Finally, even if the  comforting bedtime story of Obama’s ban of torture techniques in  interrogation were true, there remains his ardent championing of the  right to seize anyone on earth — without a warrant, without producing  any evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing — and hold them indefinitely,  often for years on end, in a legal limbo, with no inherent rights  whatsoever, beyond whatever narrowly constricted, ever-changing, legally baseless and often farcical ‘hearings’ and tribunals the captors deign  to allow them. Incarceration under these conditions is itself an  horrendous act of torture, no matter what else might happen to the  captive. Yet Obama has actively, avidly applied this torture, and has  gone to court numerous times to defend this torture, and to expand the  use of this torture …

“….Murder, cowardice, torture,  dishonor: these are fruits — and the distinguishing characteristics —  of the militarized society. What Americans once would not do even to  Nazis with the blood of millions on their hands, they now do routinely  to weak and wretched captives seized on little or no evidence of  wrongdoing at all. We are deep in the darkness, and hurtling deeper,  headlong, all the time.”

The Crime of Truth: Obama’s Persecution of the Peacemaker March 11, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, War.
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If any one person can be said to have ended the direct involvement of the United States military in Iraq, it is not the man whose champions  claim this deed as one of his glorious accomplishments: Barack Obama. As we all know (and 99 percent of us have forgotten), Obama fought  doggedly to extend the murderous occupation of Iraq into the indefinite  future.
No, if you had to choose one person whose actions were  the most instrumental in ending the overt phase of the war, it would not the commander-in-chief of the most powerful war machine in world  history, but a lowly foot-soldier — mocked, shackled, tortured,  defenseless — Bradley Manning

William Blum points this out in his latest “Anti-Empire Report,” as he recaps the impact of the revelations made by Manning and  Wikileaks. He begins by noting a painful irony: Manning’s own defense  team is playing down the heroic nature of this act and instead insisting that such a “sexually troubled” young man should never have been sent  to the homophobic environment of the American occupation force in the  first place. He was under too much stress, acting irrationally, they  say, and thus should not be held accountable for his actions.

 

As Blum  notes, this defense — though doubtless well-intentioned, a desperate  bid to keep Obama’s massive war machine from crushing Manning completely under its wheels — partakes of the same deceitful twisting of reality  that has characterized the entire war crime from the beginning. Blum:

“It’s unfortunate and disturbing that  Bradley Manning’s attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal  defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are  what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of  classified government files to Wikileaks. They should not be presenting  him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or  traitor. He should be hailed as a national hero. Yes, even when the  lawyers are talking to the military mind. May as well try to penetrate  that mind and find the freest and best person living there. Bradley also wears a military uniform.

“Here are Manning’s own words from an  online chat: ‘If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the  public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in  Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now.  Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people  to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make  informed decisions as a public.’
Is the world to believe that  these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person? Do not the  Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty  than blind loyalty to one’s government, a duty to report the war crimes  of that government?”

Every scrap of evidence presented about Manning’s alleged crimes  makes it clear that he was acting from rational, well-considered  motives, based on the highest ideals. Indeed, wasn’t Manning simply  following the words of Jesus Christ — words carved in stone, with the  most bitter irony, in the entranceway of the original headquarters of  the CIA: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you  free.”
In any case, as Blum points out, the effects of Manning’s actions were far-reaching:

“It was after seeing American war crimes  such as those depicted in the video ‘Collateral Murder’ and documented  in the ‘Iraq War Logs,’ made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the  Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes.  The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering  several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the  wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the  attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in  Philadelphia.
“The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal  jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law —  something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many  countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama  administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.
“If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today …”

But he is not a free man, of course. It is very likely that he will  never be free again. He will spend the rest of his life in a federal  prison for the unforgivable crime of telling the truth to people who  don’t want to hear it.

 
NOTE: A tribute to Bradley and his fellow truth-tellers can be found here: The Good Corporal: To the Exposers of Power and the Troublers of Dreams.

 

This one goes out to Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, Sibel Edmonds, and “all those who speak the hard truth to the state.”

 

The Good Corporal

Good corporal, good corporal, now what have you done?

You’ve laid out the dead in the light of the sun.

 You’ve opened the door where the dark deeds go on,

Where the fine words of freedom are broken like bones.

Good corporal, good corporal, you tell us of crime

Done in the name of your country and mine.

Of torture and murder, corruption and lies,

In a land where no echo will carry the cries.

Good corporal, good corporal, now who do we blame

For the horrors you bring us, for this undying shame?

Should we lay all the guilt on the grunts with no name,

Or the high and the mighty who rigged up this game?
Good corporal, good corporal, don’t you know the fate

Of all those who speak the hard truth to the State

And all who trouble the people’s sweet dreams?

They’re mocked into scorn and torn apart at the seams.

Good corporal, good corporal, what have you done?

You’ve laid out the dead in the light of the sun.

  © 2010 by Chris Floyd

Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many (more…)

The Anti-Empire Report

March 5th, 2012   by William Blum www.killinghope.org

The Saga of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks, to be put to ballad and film

“Defense lawyers say Manning was clearly a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there … They say he was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.” (Associated Press, February 3)

It’s unfortunate and disturbing that Bradley Manning’s attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of classified government files to Wikileaks.  They should not be presenting him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or traitor.  He should be hailed as a national hero.  Yes, even when the lawyers are talking to the military mind.  May as well try to penetrate that mind and find the freest and best person living there.  Bradley also wears a military uniform.

Here are Manning’s own words from an online chat: “If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now.  Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

Is the world to believe that these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person?  Do not the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty than blind loyalty to one’s government, a duty to report the war crimes of that government?

Below is a listing of some of the things revealed in the State Department cables and Defense Department files and videos.  For exposing such embarrassing and less-than-honorable behavior, Bradley Manning of the United States Army and Julian Assange of Wikileaks may spend most of their remaining days in a modern dungeon, much of it while undergoing that particular form of torture known as “solitary confinement”.  Indeed, it has been suggested that the mistreatment of Manning has been for the purpose of making him testify against and implicating Assange.  Dozens of members of the American media and public officials have called for Julian Assange’s execution or assassination.  Under the new National Defense Authorization Act, Assange could well be kidnaped or assassinated.  What century are we living in?  What world?

It was after seeing American war crimes such as those depicted in the video “Collateral Murder” and documented in the “Iraq War Logs,” made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes.  The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.

The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law — something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.

If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today, as are the many hundreds/thousands of American soldiers guilty of truly loathsome crimes in cities like Haditha, Fallujah, and other places whose names will live in infamy in the land of ancient Mesopotamia.

Besides playing a role in writing finis to the awful Iraq war, the Wikileaks disclosures helped to spark the Arab Spring, beginning in Tunisia.

When people in Tunisia read or heard of US Embassy cables revealing the extensive corruption and decadence of the extended ruling family there — one long and detailed cable being titled: “CORRUPTION IN TUNISIA: WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE” — how Washington’s support of Tunisian President Ben Ali was not really strong, and that the US would not support the regime in the event of a popular uprising, they took to the streets.

Here is a sample of some of the other Wikileaks revelations that make the people of the world wiser:

      • In 2009 Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano became the new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which plays the leading role in the investigation of whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons or is working only on peaceful civilian nuclear energy projects.  A US embassy cable of October 2009 said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency.  Amano reminded the [American] ambassador on several occasions that … he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”
      • Russia refuted US claims that Iran has missiles that could target Europe.
      • The British government’s official inquiry into how it got involved in the Iraq War was deeply compromised by the government’s pledge to protect the Bush administration in the course of the inquiry.
      • A discussion between Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and American Gen. David H. Petraeus in which Saleh indicated he would cover up the US role in missile strikes against al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.  “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told Petraeus.
      • The US embassy in Madrid has had serious points of friction with the Spanish government and civil society: a) trying to get the criminal case dropped against three US soldiers accused of killing a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad during a 2003 unprovoked US tank shelling of the hotel where he and other journalists were staying; b )torture cases brought by a Spanish NGO against six senior Bush administration officials, including former attorney general Alberto Gonzales; c) a Spanish government investigation into the torture of Spanish subjects held at Guantánamo; d) a probe by a Spanish court into the use of Spanish bases and airfields for American extraordinary rendition (= torture) flights; e )continual criticism of the Iraq war by Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, who eventually withdrew Spanish troops.
      • State Department officials at the United Nations, as well as US diplomats in various embassies, were assigned to gather as much of the following information as possible about UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, permanent security council representatives, senior UN staff, and foreign diplomats: e-mail and website addresses, internet user names and passwords,  personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, work schedules, and biometric data.  US diplomats at the embassy in Asunción, Paraguay were asked to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American leftist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.  US diplomats in Romania, Hungary and Slovenia were instructed to provide biometric information on “current and emerging leaders and advisers” as well as information about “corruption” and information about leaders’ health and “vulnerability”.  The UN directive also specifically asked for “biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats”. A similar cable to embassies in the Great Lakes region of Africa said biometric data included DNA, as well as iris scans and fingerprints.
      • A special “Iran observer” in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku reported on a dispute that played out during a meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.  An enraged Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff, Mohammed Ali Jafari, allegedly got into a heated argument with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slapped him in the face because the generally conservative president had, surprisingly, advocated freedom of the press.
      • The State Department, virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere, did not unequivocally condemn a June 28, 2009 military coup in Honduras, even though an embassy cable declared: “there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”.  US support of the coup government has been unwavering ever since.
      • The leadership of the Swedish Social Democratic Party — neutral, pacifist, and liberal Sweden, so the long-standing myth goes — visited the US embassy in Stockholm and asked for advice on how best to sell the war in Afghanistan to a skeptical Swedish public, asking if the US could arrange for a member of the Afghan government to come visit Sweden and talk up NATO’s humanitarian efforts on behalf of Afghan children, and so forth.  [For some years now Sweden has been, in all but name, a member of NATO and the persecutor of Julian Assange, the latter to please a certain Western power.]
      • The US pushed to influence Swedish wiretapping laws so communication passing through the Scandinavian country could be intercepted.  The American interest was clear: Eighty per cent of all the internet traffic from Russia travels through Sweden.
      • President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy told US embassy officials in Brussels in January 2010 that no one in Europe believed in Afghanistan anymore.  He said Europe was going along in deference to the United States and that there must be results in 2010, or “Afghanistan is over for Europe.”
      • Iraqi officials saw Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state.  The Iraqi leaders were keen to assure their American patrons that they could easily “manage” the Iranians, who wanted stability; but that the Saudis wanted a “weak and fractured” Iraq, and were even “fomenting terrorism that would destabilize the government”.  The Saudi King, moreover, wanted a US military strike on Iran.
      • Saudi Arabia in 2007 threatened to pull out of a Texas oil refinery investment unless the US government intervened to stop Saudi Aramco from being sued in US courts for alleged oil price fixing.  The deputy Saudi oil minister said that he wanted the US to grant Saudi Arabia sovereign immunity from lawsuits
      • Saudi donors were the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba,  which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
      • Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, hired investigators to unearth evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop legal action over a controversial 1996 drug trial involving children with meningitis.
      • Oil giant Shell claimed to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government.
      • The Obama administration renewed military ties with Indonesia in spite of serious concerns expressed by American diplomats about the Indonesian military’s activities in the province of West Papua, expressing fears that the Indonesian government’s neglect, rampant corruption and human rights abuses were stoking unrest in the region.
      • US officials collaborated with Lebanon’s defense minister to spy on, and allow Israel to potentially attack, Hezbollah in the weeks that preceded a violent May 2008 military confrontation in Beirut.
      • Gabon president Omar Bongo allegedly pocketed millions in embezzled funds from central African states, channeling some of it to French political parties in support of Nicolas Sarkozy.
      • Cables from the US embassy in Caracas in 2006 asked the US Secretary of State to warn President Hugo Chávez against a Venezuelan military intervention to defend the Cuban revolution in the eventuality of an American invasion after Castro’s death.
      • The United States was concerned that the leftist Latin American television network, Telesur, headquartered in Venezuela, would collaborate with al Jazeera of Qatar, whose coverage of the Iraq War had gotten under the skin of the Bush administration.
      • The Vatican told the United States it wanted to undermine the influence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in Latin America because of concerns about the deterioration of Catholic power there.  It feared that Chávez was seriously damaging relations between the Catholic church and the state by identifying the church hierarchy in Venezuela as part of the privileged class.
      • The Holy See welcomed President Obama’s new outreach to Cuba and hoped for further steps soon, perhaps to include prison visits for the wives of the Cuban Five.  Better US-Cuba ties would deprive Hugo Chávez of one of his favorite screeds and could help restrain him in the region.
      • The wonderful world of diplomats: In 2010, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the question of visas for two wives of members of the “Cuban Five”.  “Brown requested that the wives (who have previously been refused visas to visit the U.S.) be granted visas so that they could visit their husbands in prison. … Our subsequent queries to Number 10 indicate that Brown made this request as a result of a commitment that he had made to UK trade unionists, who form part of the Labour Party’s core constituency.  Now that the request has been made, Brown does not intend to pursue this matter further.  There is no USG action required.”
      • UK Officials concealed from Parliament how the US was allowed to bring cluster bombs onto British soil in defiance of a treaty banning the housing of such weapons.
      • A cable was sent by an official at the US Interests Section in Havana in July 2006, during the runup to the Non-Aligned Movement conference.  He noted that he was actively looking for “human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess”.  [Presumably to be used to weaken support for Cuba amongst the member nations at the conference.]
      • Most of the men sent to Guantánamo prison were innocent people or low-level operatives; many of the innocent individuals were sold to the US for bounty.
      • DynCorp, a powerful American defense contracting firm that claims almost $2 billion per year in revenue from US tax dollars, threw a “boy-play” party for Afghan police recruits.  (Yes, it’s what you think.)
      • Even though the Bush and Obama Administrations repeatedly maintained publicly that there was no official count of civilian casualties, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs showed that this claim was untrue.
      • Known Egyptian torturers received training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
      • The United States put great pressure on the Haitian government to not go ahead with various projects, with no regard for the welfare of the Haitian people.  A 2005 cable stressed continued US insistence that all efforts must be made to keep former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the United States had overthrown the previous year, from returning to Haiti or influencing the political process.  In 2006, Washington’s target was President René Préval for his agreeing to a deal with Venezuela to join Caracas’s Caribbean oil alliance, PetroCaribe, under which Haiti would buy oil from Venezuela, paying only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest.  And in 2009, the State Department backed American corporate opposition to an increase in the minimum wage for Haitian workers, the poorest paid in the Western Hemisphere.
      • The United States used threats, spying, and more to try to get its way at the crucial 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen.
      • Mahmoud Abbas, president of The Palestinian National Authority, and head of the Fatah movement, turned to Israel for help in attacking Hamas in Gaza in 2007.
      • The British government trained a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”.
      • A US military order directed American forces not to investigate cases of torture of detainees by Iraqis.
      • The US was involved in the Australian government’s 2006 campaign to oust Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
      • A 2009 US cable said that police brutality in Egypt against common criminals was routine and pervasive, the police using force to extract confessions from criminals on a daily basis.
      • US diplomats pressured the German government to stifle the prosecution of CIA operatives who abducted and tortured Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen.  [El-Masri was kidnaped by the CIA while on vacation in Macedonia on December 31, 2003.  He was flown to a torture center in Afghanistan, where he was beaten, starved, and sodomized.  The US government released him on a hilltop in Albania five months later without money or the means to go home.]
      • 2005 cable re “widespread severe torture” by India, the widely-renowned “world’s largest democracy”: The International Committee of the Red Cross reported: “The continued ill-treatment of detainees, despite longstanding ICRC-GOI [Government of India] dialogue, have led the ICRC to conclude that New Delhi condones torture.”  Washington was briefed on this matter by the ICRC years ago.  What did the United States, one of the world’s leading practitioners and teachers of torture in the past century, do about it?  American leaders, including the present ones, continued to speak warmly of “the world’s largest democracy”; as if torture and one of the worst rates of poverty and child malnutrition in the world do not contradict the very idea of democracy.
      • The United States overturned a ban on training the Indonesian Kopassus army special forces — despite the Kopassus’s long history of arbitrary detention, torture and murder — after the Indonesian President threatened to derail President Obama’s trip to the country in November 2010.
      • Since at least 2006 the United States has been funding political opposition groups in Syria, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country.

William Blum is the author of:

      • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
      • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
      • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
      • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

US Targeting Cuba’s Health-Care System June 4, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Foreign Policy, Health, Latin America.
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Published on Saturday, June 4, 2011 by Consortiumnews.com

The U.S. government’s half-century campaign to discredit and destroy Cuba’s experiment with socialism has had many ruthless aspects, but perhaps none more so than efforts to disparage and damage the Caribbean island’s widely admired health-care system

  by  William Blum

In January, the government of the United States of America saw fit to seize $4.207 million in funds allocated to Cuba by the United Nations Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the first quarter of 2011, Cuba has charged.

The UN Fund is a $22 billion a year program that works to combat the three deadly pandemics in 150 countries. [Prensa Latina (Cuba), March 12, 2011]

“This mean-spirited policy,” the Cuban government said, “aims to undermine the quality of service provided to the Cuban population and to obstruct the provision of medical assistance in over 100 countries by 40,000 Cuban health workers.”

Most of the funds are used to import expensive AIDS medication to Cuba, where antiretroviral treatment is provided free of charge to some 5,000 HIV patients. [The Militant (US, Socialist Workers Party), April 4, 2011]

The United States sees the Cuban health system and Havana’s sharing of such as a means of Cuba winning friends and allies in the Third World, particularly Latin America; a situation sharply in conflict with long-standing US policy to isolate Cuba.

The United States in recent years has attempted to counter the Cuban international success by dispatching the U.S. Naval Ship “Comfort” to the region.

With 12 operating rooms and a 1,000-bed hospital, the converted oil tanker has performed hundreds of thousands of free surgeries in places such as Belize, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaragua and Haiti.

However, the Comfort’s port calls likely will not substantially enhance America’s influence in the hemisphere.

“It’s hard for the U.S. to compete with Cuba and Venezuela in this way,” said Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a pro-U.S. policy-research group in Washington. “It makes us look like we’re trying to imitate them. Cuba’s doctors aren’t docked at port for a couple days, but are in the country for years.” [Bloomberg News, Sept. 19, 2007]

The recent disclosure by WikiLeaks of U.S. State Department documents included this little item: A cable was sent by Michael Parmly from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana in July 2006, during the run-up to the Non-Aligned Movement conference.

Parmly notes that he is actively looking for “human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess.”

Michael Moore refers to another WikiLeaks State Department cable: “On Jan. 31, 2008, a State Department official stationed in Havana took a made-up story and sent it back to his headquarters in Washington. Here’s what they came up with: [The official] stated that Cuban authorities have banned Michael Moore’s documentary, ‘Sicko,’ as being subversive.

“Although the film’s intent is to discredit the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the excellence of the Cuban system, the official said the regime knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.”

Moore points out an Associated Press story of June 16, 2007 (seven months prior to the cable) with the headline: “Cuban health minister says Moore’s ‘Sicko’ shows ‘human values’ of communist system.”

Moore adds that the people of Cuba were shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008. “The Cubans embraced the film so much it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of Sicko were set up in towns all across the country.” [Huffington Post, Dec. 18, 2010]

The United States also bans the sale to Cuba of vital medical drugs and devices, such as the inhalant agent Sevoflurane which has become the pharmaceutical of excellence for applying general anesthesia to children; and the pharmaceutical Dexmetomidine, of particular usefulness in elderly patients who often must be subjected to extended surgical procedures.

Both of these are produced by the U.S. firm Abbot Laboratories.

Cuban children suffering from lymphoblastic leukemia cannot use Erwinia L-asparaginasa, a medicine commercially known as Elspar, since the U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck and Co. refuses to sell this product to Cuba. Washington has also prohibited the U.S.-based Pastors for Peace Caravan from donating three Ford ambulances to Cuba.

Cubans are moreover upset by the denial of visas requested to attend conferences in the field of Anesthesiology and Reanimation that take place in the United States. This creates further barriers for Cuba’s anesthesiologists to update themselves on state of the art anesthesiology, the care of severely ill patients, and the advances achieved in the treatment of pain.

Some of the foregoing are but a small sample of American warfare against the Cuban medical system presented in a Cuban report to the United Nations General Assembly on Oct. 28, 2009.

Finally, we have the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) immigration program, which encourages Cuban doctors who are serving their government overseas to defect and enter the U.S. immediately as refugees.

The Wall Street Journal reported in January of this year that through Dec. 16, 2010, CMPP visas had been issued by U.S. consulates in 65 countries to 1,574 Cuban doctors whose education had been paid for by the financially-struggling Cuban government. [Wall Street Journal, “Cuban Doctors Come In From the Cold” (video), Jan. 14, 2011]

This program, oddly enough, was initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Another victory over terrorism? Or socialism? Or same thing?

Wait until the American conservatives hear that Cuba is the only country in Latin America offering abortion on demand, and free.

© 2011 Consortiumnews.com

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William Blum

William Blum is an American author, historian, and critic of United States foreign policy. He studied accounting in college. Later he had a low-level computer-related position at the United States Department of State in the mid-1960s. Initially an anti-communist with dreams of becoming a foreign service officer, he said he became disillusioned by the Vietnam War. Blum can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com