Saturday, November 10, 2012

Obama's War Drones On: Four More Years for Robot Attacks

The Obama Drone Doctrine


Vijay Prashad: President Obama plans to expand the use of drone attacks as a way to project US power 

Do You Still Believe in a Future for Humanity?


A Culture of Rational Best Interests

by Ray Grigg - Shades of Green

The present concern about humanity's future can no longer be dismissed as millennialism, that foreboding chime of sober predictions which seems to occur whenever history's clock strikes the arrival of some significant hour. Something else is bothering people. Perhaps it's the speed of change, the reckless way we've launched ourselves into the unknown aboard the unforgiving complexities of technology and globalization. Perhaps it's the speed of this mammoth enterprise combined with the dubious character reference we bring from our past. Or perhaps it's the insights we've recently gleaned about ourselves, the intricate psychological mechanisms we use to repeat our past mistakes in novel variations. Zygmunt Bauman seems to know something important about all these concerns.

Professor Bauman is an honoured member of the sociology department at the University of Leeds, England, a World War II Jewish refugee from Poland who is now an internationally recognized scholar, the author of 57 books and hundreds of academic articles. He thinks at sociology's intersection with psychology and philosophy, a location that gives him incredibly insightful perspectives. His principle concerns are globalization, modernity, consumerism and morality.

He argues that modern societies, until about the middle of the 20th century, gave priority to security over freedom. This meant removing unknowns and uncertainties from the hectic and chaotic character of life by controlling nature, establishing bureaucracies, building structure, and entrenching rules, regulations, uniformity and familiarity. Then it inverted this process by exchanging security for the freedom to consume.

Professor. Bauman's ideas are illuminating when applied to environmental issues. The structures of business and corporations, the power of industry and technology, the juggernaut of production and distribution, and the momentum of resource extraction in its many forms, all continue unabated. But the attention of the public — whose focus has shifted from security to consumerism — leaves these exploitive forces unsupervised. The result is environmental deterioration at an unprecedented scale, without a public outcry even remotely proportional to the unfolding problems.

The environmental deterioration is difficult to stop because people, as committed consumers, think they are making the correct choices. In Professor Bauman's chilling words, “Rational people will quietly, meekly go into gas chambers if only you allow them to believe they’re bathrooms.” The Jewish victims of the Holocaust made a succession of perfectly logical decisions on their journey to death. “At every step of the way,” notes Derrick Jensen in his elaboration on Bauman's thinking (see the documentary, Blind Spot), “it was in the Jews' rational best interests not to resist. Would you rather get an ID card or resist and possibly get killed? Would you rather move to a ghetto or resist and possibly get killed? Do you want to get on a cattle car or resist and possibly get killed? At every step of the way it was in their rational best interests to not resist. But that's all based on this whole system of make believe. You have to make believe that what you know is going to happen to you, is not going to happen... . So I'll say that rational people will quietly, meekly go to the end of the world if only you allow them to believe that buying energy-saving bulbs is going to save the day.”

In expanding on Bauman's ideas, Jensen equates our environmental situation to the dynamics in an abusive relationship. The victim takes the smallest sign of improvement as an indication that everything is going to be better. But it never is. Similarly, he says, “We have to make believe the planet isn't being killed. We have to make believe that money brings happiness, that the age of oil can go on forever, that we can have infinite growth on a finite planet.” These are ideas he pursues further in his book, The Culture of Make Believe.

Jensen's thinking alone should provoke some fundamental and disturbing questions. Do we live in a culture of make believe? Do we believe that we can continue to emit billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere without impairing the habitability of our planet? Do we believe we can continue to convert ever more of nature to our purposes without wrecking the entire ecological structure of the biosphere? Do we believe we can continue to use the air and oceans as sewers for our wastes without causing irreparable harm? Do we believe that resources are infinite on a finite planet? Do we believe in a future? Is it possible we are making a succession of critically important decisions all based on make believe?

These questions combine with Professor Bauman's insights to create even more searching questions. Has the freedom to be consumers displaced our larger responsibilities to each other, to the community, to the planet, to sustainability and a secure future? Have the “rational best interests” of the moment overlooked the circumstances which define our actual situation? If the atmosphere cannot safely absorb any more carbon dioxide without inducing global warming, destructive weather extremes and dead oceans, then why are we considering the safest way to find, move and use fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal? If the toxic effects of our chemical ingenuity are causing cancers, hormonal disruptions and mental disabilities, why are we not purging the source of these toxins and devising only harmless alternatives? If we know we are on our way to the metaphorical gas chambers, why doesn't this change our measure of “rational best interests”?

For Professor Bauman, the real question is whether or not we take “responsibility for our responsibility”, an issue that is not social, economic, political or even environmental, but personal and moral

Harper's India Nuclear Deal a Dud for Peace

Canadians Critical of Canada-India Nuclear Deal

by PressTV

The Canada-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement was ratified this week. However, analysts note that India has illegally produced nuclear weapons in the past and refuses to sign the Non Proliferation Treaty.

Analysts accuse the Harper government of displaying a double standard by consenting to the sale of nuclear ingredients to India, which has not signed the Non Proliferation Treaty, while constantly criticizing Iran's peaceful nuclear program even though Iran poses no threat to Canadians and has signed the NPT.

Many Canadians are displeased with the Harper government’s decision to sell uranium and nuclear technology to a country that refuses to sign the NPT.


Canada houses the second largest uranium deposits in the world
and much of it will now be exported to the Indian subcontinent.

Analysts believe that those who control the Harper government are seeking to use Canada’s resources as a bargaining chip to entice India away from its Non Aligned, anti-imperialist heritage, bringing it closer to the Western imperialist states that are waging a war on the Muslim world including in Pakistan, a country which India is at odds with.

During his visit to India Prime Minister Stephen Harper made reference to Canada and India's shared concerns with terrorism. However many have noted that the Mumbai terrorist incidents of 2008 have all the hallmarks of a false-flag operation.

Many believe that the West is encouraging religious sectarianism in India which will make it easier for India to be re-colonized and used as a pawn in the West’s anti-Islam agenda.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Lies, Liars, and the Lost

Lies and Liars Lost

by Joel S. Hirschhorn

My cynicism about the stupidity of the American public would have increased exponentially if Mitt Romney would have been elected president. In over 50 years of voting and 25 years of working professionally in the world of politics and public policy I had never seen such outrageous and persistent lies, distortions and intellectual insults from a presidential candidate. Please note that I was not an Obama supporter; I proudly voted for the Libertarian candidate.

Repeatedly, Romney sold his soul to first get the Republican nomination and then attempt to win the presidency. For such a supposedly religious person he had no difficulty in saying anything to win support, despite contradictions with his previous positions and statements as well as with objective facts. The only thing you could trust about him was his love for his family and religion, and oh yes his quite negative view of 47 percent of the American public muttered when he thought he was only talking to a bunch of his rich supporters. But for such callous behavior he deserves to go to Mormon hell for lying to so many, including himself apparently because he could justify just about anything because the end of becoming president justified all means.

Up until the last moment so many of his supporters and the mental midget blowhards on right wing talk radio let their own delusional thinking prevent them from seeing reality. On FOX News the usual idiots kept predicting landslide state victories for Romney even after all major networks had declared reelection of President Obama, including the FOX network. Not so surprising when one appreciates the anti-science views of so many conservatives. Remarkably, the supposed data driven and smart Romney bought into the delusional, self-serving predictions from his supporters in the final days and hours.

“Impossible to beat Santa Claus,” said the poisonous pundit Rush Limbaugh as his explanation of why Romney lost, very much in line with the 47 percent belief of Romney. Rush only sees lies on the left and none of the multitude of lies that came from the Romney campaign. And he easily ignores the over 65 demographic taking Medicare and Social Security benefits who mostly voted for Romney. True conservatives should stop listening to the herd of right wing radio nuts.

Here is my recommendation to President Obama: Offer Mitt Romney the new cabinet position of Secretary of Business. What a show of innovative bipartisan thinking. And Romney should gladly accept the offer if he has any core belief whatsoever of serving his country.

The two-party plutocracy remains alive and very well. Third party presidential candidates once again did miserably. Most congressional incumbents were reelected, as usual. The American delusional democracy marches on.

Billions of dollars wasted propagating lies from both sides designed to piss off or frighten people. Happy to see all those millionaires and billionaires wasting their money on the Romney campaign. Now, every one of them should donate equal amounts to the recovery efforts related to the Sandy Hurricane disaster.

[Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through]

BC First Nations Fight Shale Gas Water Licenses


Fort Nelson First Nation takes a stand against long-term water licenses for shale gas - Public event Nov. 13 in Vancouver

Nov. 13, 2012
Mount Pleasant 

Neighbourhood House
800 W. Broadway, Vancouver
Doors open 6:30 - Event 7-9:30 pm

Fort Nelson First Nation of northeast BC has worked with the natural gas industry and government to provide economic opportunities for it members and the entire province through responsible resource development. But the BC Liberal Government's intention to issue a number of long-term water withdrawal licenses permitting companies to divert and contaminate billions of litres a year of water from their rivers for shale gas has forced the Echo Dene people to stand in defence of their traditional territory and life-sustaining environment.

After pursuing every other avenue available to it - including repeated efforts to reach out to the Province, which have gone ignored - Fort Nelson First Nation feels it must now appeal to the public for support to put a stop to this plan and ensure the public and First Nations are properly consulted in the development of a responsible water management plan.

Tuesday, November 13, Chief, Council and community members will be in Vancouver to share their story. Water and Energy expert Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives will contribute his insights to the panel as well.

Don't miss this unique opportunity to hear the perspective of Fort Nelson First Nation on water and shale gas issues in northeast BC and to learn how you can help their important cause.

For more information contact:

Sign the PETITION:

Civilian Deaths Progress in Obama's Continued Drone Onslaught

Dead Enough: The Reality of the "Lesser Evil"

 by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque  

To all those now hailing the re-election of Barack Obama as a triumph of decent, humane, liberal values over the oozing-postule perfidy of the Republicans, a simple question:

Is this child dead enough for you?
This little boy was named Naeemullah. He was in his house -- maybe playing, maybe sleeping, maybe having a meal -- when an American drone missile was fired into the residential area where he lived and blew up the house next door.

As we all know, these drone missiles are, like the president who wields them, super-smart, a triumph of technology and technocratic expertise. We know, for the president and his aides have repeatedly told us, that these weapons -- launched only after careful consultation of the just-war strictures of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas -- strike nothing but their intended targets and kill no one but "bad guys." Indeed, the president's top aides have testified under oath that not a single innocent person has been among the thousands of Pakistani civilians -- that is, civilians of a sovereign nation that is not at war with the United States -- who have been killed by the drone missile campaign of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Yet somehow, by some miracle, the missile that roared into the residential area where Naeemullah lived did not confine itself neatly to the house it struck. Somehow, inexplicably, the hunk of metal and wire and computer processors failed -- in this one instance -- to look into the souls of all the people in the village and ascertain, by magic, which ones were "bad guys" and then kill only them. Somehow -- perhaps the missile had been infected with Romney cooties? -- this supercharged hunk of high explosives simply, well, exploded with tremendous destructive power when it struck the residential area, blowing the neighborhood to smithereens.

As Wired reports, shrapnel and debris went flying through the walls of Naeemullah's house and ripped through his small body. When the attack was over -- when the buzzing drone sent with Augustinian wisdom by the Peace Laureate was no longer lurking over the village, shadowing the lives of every defenseless inhabitant with the terrorist threat of imminent death, Naeemullah was taken to the hospital in a nearby town.

This is where the picture of above was taken by Noor Behram, a resident of North Waziristan who has been chronicling the effects of the Peace Laureate's drone war. When the picture was taken, Naeemullah was dying. He died an hour later.

He died.

Is he dead enough for you?

Dead enough not to disturb your victory dance in any way? Dead enough not to trouble the inauguration parties yet to come? Dead enough not to diminish, even a little bit, your exultant glee at the fact that this great man, a figure of integrity, decency, honor and compassion, will be able to continue his noble leadership of the best nation in the history of the world?

Do you have children? Do they sit your house playing happily? Do they sleep sweetly scrunched up in their warm beds at night? Do they chatter and prattle like funny little birds as you eat with them at the family table? Do you love them? Do you treasure them? Do you consider them fully-fledged human beings, beloved souls of infinite worth?

How would you feel if you saw them ripped to shreds by flying shrapnel, in your own house? How would you feel as you rushed them to the hospital, praying every step of the way that another missile won't hurl down on you from the sky? Your child was innocent, you had done nothing, were simply living your life in your own house -- and someone thousands of miles away, in a country you had never seen, had no dealings with, had never harmed in any way, pushed a button and sent chunks of burning metal into your child's body. How would you feel as you watched him die, watched all your hopes and dreams for him, all the hours and days and years you would have to love him, fade away into oblivion, lost forever?

What would you think about the one who did this to your child? Would you say: "What a noble man of integrity and decency! I'm sure he is acting for the best."

Would you say: "Well, this is a bit unfortunate, but it's perfectly understandable. The Chinese government (or Iran or al Qaeda or North Korea or Russia, etc. etc.) believed there was someone next door to me who might possibly at some point in time pose some kind of threat in some unspecified way to their people or their political agenda -- or maybe it was just that my next-door neighbor behaved in a certain arbitrarily chosen way that indicated to people watching him on a computer screen thousands of miles away that he might possibly be the sort of person who might conceivably at some point in time pose some kind of unspecified threat to the Chinese (Iranians/Russians, etc.), even though they had no earthly idea who my neighbour is or what he does or believes or intends. I think the person in charge of such a program is a good, wise, decent man that any person would be proud to support. Why, I think I'll ask him to come speak at my little boy's funeral!"

Is that what you would say if shrapnel from a missile blew into your comfortable house and killed your own beloved little boy? You would not only accept, understand, forgive, shrug it off, move on -- you would actively support the person who did it, you would cheer his personal triumphs and sneer at all those who questioned his moral worthiness and good intentions? Is that really what you would do?

Well, that is what you are doing when you shrug off the murder of little Naeemullah. You are saying he is not worth as much as your child. You are saying he is not a fully-fledged human being, a beloved soul of infinite worth. You are saying that you support his death, you are happy about it, and you want to see many more like it. You are saying it doesn't matter if this child -- or a hundred like him, or a thousand like him, or, as in the Iraqi sanctions of the old liberal lion, Bill Clinton, five hundred thousand children like Naeemullah -- are killed in your name, by leaders you cheer and support. You are saying that the only thing that matters is that someone from your side is in charge of killing these children. This is the reality of "lesser evilism."


Before the election, we heard a lot of talk about this notion of the "lesser evil." From prominent dissidents and opponents of empire like Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky and Robert Parry to innumerable progressive blogs to personal conversations, one heard this basic argument: "Yes, the drone wars, the gutting of civil liberties, the White House death squads and all the rest are bad; but Romney would be worse. Therefore, with great reluctance, holding our noses and shaking our heads sadly, we must choose the lesser evil of Obama and vote accordingly."

I understand that argument, I really do. I don't agree with it, as I made plain here many times before the election. I think the argument is wrong, I think our system is so far gone that even a "lesser evil" is too evil to support in any way, that such support only perpetuates the system's unconscionable evils. But I'm not a purist, not a puritan, not a commissar or dogmatist. I understand that people of good will can come to a different conclusion, and feel that they must reluctantly choose one imperial-militarist-corporate faction over the other, in the belief that this will mean some slight mitigation of the potential evil that the other side commit if it took power. I used to think that way myself, years ago. Again, I now disagree with this, and I think that the good people who believe this have not, for whatever reason or reasons, looked with sufficient clarity at the reality of our situation, of what is actually being done, in their name, by the political faction they support.

But of course, I am not the sole arbiter of reality, nor a judge of others; people see what they see, and they act (or refrain from acting) accordingly. I understand that. But here is what I don't understand: the sense of triumph and exultation and glee on the part of so many progressives and liberals and 'dissidents' at the victory of this "lesser evil." Where did the reluctance, the nose-holding, the sad head-shaking go? Should they not be mourning the fact that evil has triumphed in America, even if, by their lights, it is a "lesser" evil?

If you really believed that Obama was a lesser evil -- 2 percent less evil, as I believe Digby once described the Democrats in 2008 -- if you really did find the drone wars and the White House death squads and Wall Street bailouts and absolution for torturers and all the rest to be shameful and criminal, how can you be happy that all of this will continue? Happy -- and continuing to scorn anyone who opposed the perpetuation of this system?

The triumph of a lesser evil is still a victory for evil. If your neighborhood is tyrannized by warring mafia factions, you might prefer that the faction which occasionally doles out a few free hams wins out over their more skinflint rivals; but would you be joyful about the fact that your neighborhood is still being tyrannized by murderous criminals? Would you not be sad, cast down, discouraged and disheartened to see the violence and murder and corruption go on? Would you not mourn the fact that your children will have to grow up in the midst of all this?

So where is the mourning for the fact that we, as a nation, have come to this: a choice between murderers, a choice between plunderers? Even if you believe that you had to participate and make the horrific choice that was being offered to us -- "Do you want the Democrat to kill these children, or do you want the Republican to kill these children?" -- shouldn't this post-election period be a time of sorrow, not vaulting triumph and giddy glee and snarky put-downs of the "losers"?

If you really are a "lesser evilist" -- if this was a genuine moral choice you reluctantly made, and not a rationalization for indulging in unexamined, primitive partisanship -- then you will know that we are ALL the losers of this election. Even if you believe it could have been worse, it is still very bad. You yourself proclaimed that Obama was evil -- just a bit "lesser" so than his opponent. (2 percent maybe.) And so the evil that you yourself saw and named and denounced will go on. Again I ask: where is the joy and glory and triumph in this? Even if you believe it was unavoidable, why celebrate it? And ask yourself, bethink yourself: what are you celebrating? This dead child, and a hundred like him? A thousand like him? Five hundred thousand like him? How far will you go? What won't you celebrate?

And so step by step, holding the hand of the "lesser evil," we descend deeper and deeper into the pit.

Palestine's Politics of Money

Palestine Entangled: The Politics of Money

by Ramzy Baroud

In Malaysia, a small group of community activists are busy at work developing projects that benefit most vulnerable members of Palestinian society in Gaza.

Working under the umbrella of Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM), the group shows solidarity through empowerment projects: interest free loans for micro projects, providing employment for women, supplying thousands of solar lamps aimed at ending the persistent darkness for many families, and more.

The overall value of the combined efforts of VPM is important, because it is long-lasting. But equally important, the channeled funds are not part of a political scheme nor are aimed to exact concession. This can hardly be said of much of the relationship between Palestinian leadership and society, and outside funds, which began pouring in, with a clear political manual that has been dutifully followed by those who provide the funds and those who receive them.

That relationship was once more a subject of scurrility and discussion following the recent visit by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, emir of Qatar to Gaza, which has been under an Israeli siege soon following Hamas’ victory in the general elections in 2006. The siege became complete in 2007, when Hamas clashed with its rival Fatah, perceived by Israel and the US as ‘moderate’.

Al Jazeera said the emir’s arrival to Gaza was to “to inaugurate a Qatari investment project worth hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the impoverished and overcrowded coastal enclave.” Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh interpreted the visit at a grander scale: “The visit of the emir announces officially the breaching of the political and economical siege imposed on Gaza for more than five years.”

Analysts, depending on their political leanings, however, spoke of entirely different mechanism that compelled Qatar’s generosity. Those sympathetic to Fatah warned that empowering Hamas in the Gaza enclave to act as a state will further deepen the national divide. Others spoke more candidly of a Qatari reward to Hamas for leaving Syria at the height of the regional power play ignited by the so-called Arab Spring.

Judging by the largely measured or reserved response from Israel, the US and other countries that would have made it impossible for the emir to visit Gaza in the first place, Syria might have been the keyword behind the seemingly selfless effort.

But in any case, there are hardly any inconsistencies between this episode and a history rife of the political manipulation of funds. It is an intrinsic relationship that goes even earlier than the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993. Oslo, however, officiated and cemented that relationship in many respects. Merely two weeks after the signing of the Declaration of Principles (DoP) issues of international aid became a core subject involving mostly Western donor countries, Arab countries and others. Although the political dominion of Oslo is all but dead, international aid continues to flow. The rise and decline in funds are often affiliated with the Palestinian Authority (PA) report card, as in its ability to sustain a political charade and serve as Israel’s ‘partner’ despite the fact that Israel has completely altered the physical reality upon which Oslo was predicated.

Despite appearances, Mahmoud Abbas’ PA is much less immune to political arm-twisting as a result of its nearly two-decade entanglement of the international aid cartel, than Hamas. The latter, hardly immune itself is barely learning the ropes. They too will eventually learn that there is no such thing as free money, especially when those offering their services are very much at the heart of the political struggle for the future of the Middle East.

The link between political statements and action, and money is obvious for all to see. What may appear as political concessions can oftentimes be attributed to some frozen or funds waiting to be delivered. It is transaction-based politics at its best.

While the PA’s budget deficit stands at $1.3 billion, old friends are barely in a hurry to offset the financial crisis. The US is yet to free $200 million it pledged for the year 2012. The decision has everything to do with the PA’s attempt last year to obtain a UN membership for Palestine. Israel on the other hand, agreed to an early transfer of $78 million of tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA fearing that a collapse of PA institutions could prove too costly for Israel as well. With the conspicuous retreat of international donors, and the measured Israeli moves, Israel is now earning a greater stake in the PA political investment in the West Bank. Israel is notorious for manipulating the weaknesses of the PA whenever the opportunity arises, as it surly will.

The financial entanglement of the Palestinians to obtain political goals is not confined to such obvious examples. In fact that political/financial barter is a major component that defines the relationship between Palestinian leaderships and factions and their supporters. It is the same paradigm that turned thousands of NGOs in Palestine into disconnected entities, less concerned with uniting behind a national liberation program, and more concerned with maintaining attractive portfolios that make their services more marketable among potential donors, mostly affiliated with the donors’ countries that have long leased the Palestinian political will in the first place.

It is difficult to say what it will take to free the Palestinian leadership and society from these impossible entanglements. But it goes without saying that those who rent their sovereignty to the highest bidder have no business speaking of national liberation, popular resistance and all the right sounding, but empty slogans.

Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.

Not Waiting for Relief, Brooklyn and Queens Rescue Themselves from Sandy Aftermath

Brooklyn and Queens Residents Organize Their Own Response to Sandy as Many Wait for Relief 


Thousands of people in NYC are living without heat and power with little support from government agencies. To fill the void, people are organizing to meet the basic needs of residents in the disaster’s aftermath.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Stephen Harper's Socialist Give-Aways to Canadian Mining Sector

Poor Mining Companies? Parliamentary Committee Report Calls for CIDA Giveaway to Canadian Corporations

by MiningWatch Canada

Mining critics are calling yesterday’s parliamentary committee report on the use of Canadian aid money to support mining companies’ interests in developing countries “a wholesale handover of CIDA to the private sector.”

The report, by the Conservative majority House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, proposes to reconfigure CIDA to better serve Canadian corporations as they go abroad, starting with the mining sector.

The report prioritizes public-private partnerships, such as controversial projects with multi-million dollar mining companies that are already being piloted in countries such as Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Peru, as an “important tool of [CIDA’s] development programming.”

“This committee report doesn’t just tie Canadian aid to mining interests, it would actually restructure CIDA to better serve the interests of the corporate sector,” says MiningWatch spokesperson Catherine Coumans. “Aid money is meant to address poverty, not to promote the commercial interests of Canadian mining companies. Nor should it subsidize the obligations of mining companies to provide benefits to affected residents and rehabilitate damaged environments.”

In addition to CIDA partnerships with mining companies, the committee recommends:

that CIDA consider offering loans and utilizing “other financial instruments” to support corporations, the promotion of revolving door exchanges between CIDA and the private sector to enhance the agency’s ability to serve Canadian corporate interests, and that CIDA engage in changing institutions, regulations, policies, and democratic oversight in developing countries to foster Canadian investment, particularly “in developing countries with significant natural resource sectors.”

Where CIDA has already been providing technical support on mining law and administrative reforms in other countries, its track record has been to weaken state controls, privatize state industry, and reduce royalties, taxes, and other measures to capture economic benefits in order to attract foreign investment.

“Rather than directing resources and political pressure towards stripping down the legal framework in other countries, the Canadian government should oblige Canadian mining companies operating overseas to meet strong environmental and human rights standards, including respect for free prior and informed consent,” says Coumans. “The government should also ensure that people who have been harmed through the activities of a Canadian company have access to justice in Canadian courts.”

Bahrain's Hidden Revolution

Terror and Teargas on the Streets of Bahrain: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (in the U.S. at Least)

by Jen Marlowe - TomDispatch

Jihan Kazerooni and I drove past scores of armed riot police on Budaiya highway as her iPhone buzzed non-stop: phone calls, Skype calls and, incessantly, Twitter. I had wondered what the phrase “Twitter revolution” really meant when I heard it used in connection with Iran in 2009 and Egypt in 2011. Here, in the small Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain, I was beginning to grasp the concept.

I was in that country for three weeks as a part of the Witness Bahrain initiative, a group of internationals seeking to document and expose human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime against protesters and activists. Aside from brief spurts of coverage, the crisis in Bahrain had largely been ignored by the U.S. media.

Perhaps the lack of coverage of the predominantly Shi’a uprising against an increasingly repressive Sunni monarchy can be explained, in part, by this: Washington considers that monarchy its close ally; Bahrain is the home of the Navy’s 5th Fleet, and the beneficiary of U.S. arms sales. Perhaps it has to do with the U.S.-Saudi friendship, and the increasing tension between the U.S. and Iran. Bahrain has been portrayed as a battleground for influence between neighboring Saudi Arabia (a supporter of the monarchy) and nearby majority Shi’a Iran.

Ignoring the revolution underway there and its demands for freedom and democracy is, however, perilous. If activists move from largely peaceful demonstrations toward the use of violence, Bahrain could prove the powder keg that might set the Persian Gulf aflame. Peaceful activists like Jihan currently hold sway, but given the brutality I witnessed, it’s unclear how long the Bahraini revolution will remain nonviolent.

Jihan took me under her wing, introducing me to dozens of Bahrainis who had been directly affected by the regime’s crackdown on the pro-democracy uprising. They were not difficult to find. There was someone in nearly every Shi’a family, Jihan’s included, who had been fired from his or her job, arrested, injured, or killed. Sunni opposition activists (though much fewer in number) had been harshly targeted as well.

Hitting the Road

Jihan, her hair tucked underneath a brown silk scarf and wearing fashionable sunglasses, opened an app on her phone as we tried to reach the march that had been called by a coalition of opposition parties.

“I’ll tweet that I am here in Budaiya Road, and there are no checkpoints in the area, but there are lots of riot police.” A new tweet came through before Jihan could finish composing hers. She scanned it quickly as she skillfully guided her car around a traffic circle. “Okay. The attack started,” she said. “It’s just at the next roundabout. We might be able to see it from the car.” Jihan rolled down the window. “Can you smell the tear gas?” she asked, began coughing, and immediately rolled her window up again.

As we continued our drive, grey clouds of tear gas billowed up from village after village, Jihan constantly checking her Twitter feed and rattling off the names of areas currently under assault: “A protest in Dair has been attacked and in Tashan as well. A’ali, also the same. Now they are attacking the women in the north of Bilad.”

New tweets buzzed. “Lots of injuries, actually, a woman has been injured, I’ll show you the picture…” She turned her phone my way, allowing me to glimpse a photograph of a bloody limb. “It’s her arm,” Jihan said, telling me that she suspected the injury was from “a sound bomb or a tear gas canister.”

The Evolution of an Activist

Jihan had not started out as an activist. She had been an investment banker, shopping in Bahrain’s high-end malls and socializing with friends. Demonstrations erupted at the Pearl Roundabout -- with its imposing 300-foot monument of six arches holding a pearl aloft -- in the capital city, Manama, on February 14, 2011, and only grew larger by the day as casualties and fatalities mounted. Still, she did not participate.

She had been largely ignorant of the protesters’ complaints: the same prime minister had governed for 42 years; the majority Shi’a community faced discrimination from the ruling Sunnis, evidenced most clearly by the fact that they couldn’t join the country’s military or its police. Instead, the government was importing foreigners from Pakistan, Yemen, Jordan, and Syria, among other countries, to fill the ranks of the security services, often offering them Bahraini citizenship (which also threatened to alter Sunni-Shi’a demographics). The royal family had taken large swathes of public land for private benefit.

Jihan instead believed the version of the uprising being offered on state-controlled television. In that narrative, the protesters were not peaceful, but armed and dangerous. They had, the government claimed, stolen blood-bags from the hospital and were pouring that blood on themselves to feign injuries for the media. Force was being applied by the regime rarely and only when it was absolutely necessary to disperse those demonstrating. Government spokespeople claimed Shi’a doctors at Salmaniya Hospital were taking patients and co-workers hostage.

On the morning of March 13th, Jihan received a few text messages on her way to her office, appealing for people’s presence at the Pearl Roundabout because government forces were attacking. She decided to go and see for herself what was taking place.

What she saw shook her to the core: unarmed protesters -- women and children among them -- chanting for democracy, freedom, and equality as riot police fired bullets, birdshot, and tear gas canisters directly into the crowd. Jihan stood to the side, crying, as women around her wailed and read aloud from Qur’an.

Then, in the distance, she noticed bodies being loaded into cars. She couldn’t tell if they were dead or wounded, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away either as the cars were filled and each drove towards nearby Salmaniya Hospital.

It was there that Jihan drove next, and found more wounded patients than available beds. Protesters who were injured by birdshot or overcome by tear gas were lying on white sheets spread across the parking lot, awaiting treatment from overburdened doctors and nurses.

The following day, 1,000 Saudi troops entered Bahrain at the request of the regime, backed by 500 police from the United Arab Emirates. The troops drove the protesters out of the Pearl Roundabout, destroyed the iconic Pearl Monument, and Bahrain’s King Hamad declared a state of emergency.

Soon after, house raids leading to mass arrests began. Most of the opposition leaders were jailed, along with thousands of protesters. Journalists were targeted, as were teachers, health-care professionals, and star Bahraini athletes. Hundreds of cases of torture (some to the death) were reported, and thousands were fired from government jobs for demonstrating, or, in many cases, merely because they were Shi’a.

Jihan realized that continuing with her former life was inconceivable. She visited Nabeel Rajab, co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, to ask how she could help. Hard as it had been to come to him, Jihan told Nabeel, she could no longer stay silent and on the sidelines.

A colleague of Nabeel’s trained Jihan in how to document human rights violations. Soon, she began doing so in cases involving medical professionals who had been imprisoned and tortured by the regime for treating injured protesters -- and for speaking out about the injuries they were seeing.

By the time I met Jihan, she was an experienced activist with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and the founding vice president of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO), which seeks to aid in the treatment and rehabilitation of torture victims.

The Battle for the Future of Bahrain

Seasoned as she was, Jihan was thoroughly shaken by the time we left an underground clinic late one night. There, nurses had secretly stitched up the gaping head wound of 13-year-old “Hussein,” shot with a tear gas canister after a march that had, ironically, been called to protest the excessive use of tear gas.

Jihan and I had been to the protest and, at its end, were speaking to bare-chested youths holding Molotov cocktails, their faces wrapped in t-shirts. “This [Molotov] is not violence,” one of them insisted. “What’s violence is what they use against us, live bullets. We are defending ourselves. We’re not attacking. If they attack us, we respond.”

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when a shout went up that the riot police were on their way. Jihan and I peeled away in a friend’s jeep, looking out the back window as arcs of light from tear gas canisters and burning Molotovs streaked across the night sky.

We thought we saw a tear gas canister hit a fleeing child in the head, and when Jihan received a phone call about the injury soon afterwards, we rushed to the underground clinic.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” Jihan told me the next morning. “That thirteen-year old child we saw was in front of my eyes.”

She reached Hussein’s older brother by phone after several attempts. Hussein, he reported, was vomiting, not eating, and suffering from headaches. In typical fashion, Jihan sprang into action, contacting several doctors and medical professionals for consultation. There might be a serious problem, one that only a CT scan could detect, a specialist told her. Jihan’s worry deepened.

“Doctors with private clinics don’t have CT scan or X-ray machines, so we need to arrange a hospital for him, which is very risky. [Hussein’s family] won’t accept taking him to the hospital. They will be scared that he will be arrested, so, really, I don’t know what to do,” she told me, pressing her iPhone against her forehead. “It’s a very big decision, taking him to the hospital.”

There was good reason for all of them to fear the boy’s arrest. A few days earlier, Jihan and I had visited 11-year-old Ali Hasan, who had just been released after nearly a month in juvenile prison. He had been playing soccer outside, Ali told us, when armed riot police approached. His friends had managed to run away, but frozen in fear, he was arrested and charged with blocking the road in advance of a demonstration. What did he miss most while imprisoned? Ali responded without hesitation: his two little sisters and toddler-aged brother.

We watched Ali romp with his younger siblings, he tussling with and tickling them, they leaping on him with shrieks of laughter. It would have been easy to miss the shadow that crossed his face when he spoke about how frightened he had been, locked up without his mother.

Evidence of trauma was hardly borne by this boy alone.

I saw it when a male medical worker broke down weeping as he described what he had witnessed at Salmaniya hospital during the crackdown on Pearl Roundabout.

I heard it in the voice of Dr. Nabeel Hameed, one of the doctors arrested and tortured by the regime, as he described his struggles with depression, anger, and confusion since his release, and detected it in Dr. Zahra Alsammak’s flat affect when she declined to describe the torture that her husband, also a doctor, had endured.

I recognized it in the crayon drawings by the children of prisoners and “martyred” protesters, replete with gun-wielding police, tanks, stick figures behind bars, and bodies on stretchers.

I felt it in the mother of Ali Jawad Al-Sheikh, as she buried her face in a pile of her son’s t-shirts and breathed in their scent, as she has done every night since 14-year-old Ali was killed.

“There has been a lot of damage and hurt, the people won’t forget it very soon,” Jihan told me. “Even if we got our freedom tomorrow, the people need time to be healed.”

If the regime did not institute “true reforms,” and soon -- which I saw no indication of -- Jihan predicted that the government would soon be facing a more aggressive generation. “We don’t want that,” she said forcefully. “We started peacefully and we want to stay peaceful… We are trying our best to advise [the youth] not to hold these Molotov cocktails. But, at the end, I think if the violence [against them] increases, it will be very difficult to control them.”

The impact of the trauma does not escape the activists. Jihan described documenting the killing of Ahmed Ismail Hassan, a 22-year old citizen-journalist shot in the lower abdomen by live ammunition as he was filming a protest. Jihan had never seen so much blood. For two days, the smell of blood in her nostrils prevented her from eating and for two nights she could not close her eyes.

“Every day we’re documenting and seeing these violations, so we’re under a lot of pressure. In the end, we are human beings. We get affected, we get hurt. The leaders and the human rights activists, we can’t show the people that we’re affected and broken from inside. If the people see that we are collapsed internally, what kind of strength will they get from us? Sometimes I get broken from inside, I disappear for a few days, but I try my best to fight depression. I try to keep busy and not think about it.”

A Country at a Crossroads

I asked Jihan about the possibility of her own arrest.

“I think that they will target me very soon,” she said. “At any time they might raid my home and arrest me.” She fears most the possibility of torture. She’s documented enough cases to know just what she might be forced to endure. But she adds, “I do believe that getting freedom and democracy for the coming generation is very important, and highlighting the violations that are happening in the country is very important. Freedom is not something easy to get -- we have to pay and to sacrifice for it. Fear of arrest won’t stop me from doing my humanitarian job. I won’t give up.”

Jihan’s fellow Bahraini activists are not giving up either. They continue to head out onto the streets night after night, despite the fierce repression they face from the regime and the silent complicity of most of the world. Yet there is reason to worry about where the Bahraini uprising is heading. As Dr. Nabeel Hameed put it, “The situation is getting entrenched, it’s getting stagnated. Nobody sees a solution, and this gives loss of hope. And one of the most dangerous positions you can put a human being in is loss of hope. Because when somebody loses hope, he’s capable of doing anything.”

Juxtaposed with despair, however, is the resilience -- or sumud (steadfastness) -- that could be seen everywhere I looked. It was in the drawings of the children, who defiantly portrayed hands raised in a “V” for victory sign among images of bloodshed. It was in the graffiti depicting the Pearl Monument on walls all over Bahrain, with the stenciled message “We Will Return.” It was in the youth we secretly filmed in their villages after midnight spray-painting bus stops and light poles with the colors of the Bahraini flag.

And it was reflected in 13-year old Hussein, who called Jihan two days after being stitched back together without anesthesia to report, to her great relief, that his vomiting had ceased and his appetite had returned.

Hussein tried to thank Jihan for her help, but she would not permit it. “No need to say thanks, habibi [my dear]. I’m only doing my duty.”


Jen Marlowe is an author, documentary filmmaker and human rights activist. Her latest book (written with Sami Al Jundi) is The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian's Journey From Prisoner to Peacemaker and her most recent film is One Family in Gaza. She is the founder of donkeysaddle projects. You can follow her on Twitter at @donkeysaddleorg.Copyright 2012 Jen Marlowe

That Morning After Smell of Victory

Napalm in the Morning (Drones in the Afternoon): The Smell of Victory Stirs Progressives to Action

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

Well, you got your lesser evil. Now all we can do is hope that he will do less evil than he did in his first term. Bitter experience, and a nodding acquaintance with history -- and human nature -- mitigate mightily against such a hope, but we are where we are, and that's all we've got.

In any case, I am eagerly looking forward to seeing how all our super-savvy lesser-evilist progressives "hold Obama's feet to the fire" in the months to come, as they promised so solemnly to do. You remember, don' t you? How they savagely condemned anyone who so much as thought about not supporting Obama, while pledging to unleash their righteous rage at his crimes and follies -- just as soon as he was safely returned to the White House. I'm sure they'll come down hard on him.

Why, I can see it all now.....

"OK, now the inauguration's over, let's get to work. First of all, these drone attacks are criminal atrocities killing scores of innocent people. We can organize a protest march to--"

Super-savvy prog: "Hush your mouth! We can't undermine the president right now. We've got to help the Democrats get control of the House in 2014! Or do you want the evil Rethuglicans to keep blocking everything? Wait until after the mid-term elections, then we'll put the pressure on."
"OK, we took back the House in 2014 with a slate of anti-abortion, pro-war, entitlement-slashing, deficit-hawk, Blue Dog Democrats. You said it was the savvy thing to do, the lesser evil to replace the anti-abortion, pro-war, entitlement-slashing, deficit-hawk Republicans. NOW can we go after Obama -- for the state terrorism of the drone campaign, the 'extrajudicial' murders, the 'disposition matrix,' the torture and imprisonment of the truth-teller Bradley Manning, the support of the brutal coup and murderous repression in Honduras, the fracking, the off-shore drilling, the 'Grand Bargaining' with Social Security and Medicare, the protection of CIA torturers, the global arms dealing, the growing prison population, the growing economic inequality, the ever-more draconian 'security apparatus', the bail-out of the oligarchs and the--"

Super- savvy prog: "Bite your tongue! We can't undermine the president right now! It will hurt the chances of his Democratic successor if we make Obama look bad! Or do you want Paul Ryan to be president? What kind of selfish moral purist are you?"

Oh yeah, they're really gonna make Obama sweat. Things will be different this time around. I can't wait!

Beyond Ballistic: Total Dominance in the Technological Age

Beyond Bayonets and Battleships: Space Warfare and the Future of U.S. Global Power

by Alfred W. McCoy - TomDispatch

It’s 2025 and an American “triple canopy” of advanced surveillance and armed drones fills the heavens from the lower- to the exo-atmosphere. A wonder of the modern age, it can deliver its weaponry anywhere on the planet with staggering speed, knock out an enemy’s satellite communications system, or follow individuals biometrically for great distances.

Along with the country’s advanced cyberwar capacity, it’s also the most sophisticated militarized information system ever created and an insurance policy for U.S. global dominion deep into the twenty-first century. It’s the future as the Pentagon imagines it; it’s under development; and Americans know nothing about it.

They are still operating in another age. “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917,” complained Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the last presidential debate.

With words of withering mockery, President Obama shot back: “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed... the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships. It's what are our capabilities.”

Obama later offered just a hint of what those capabilities might be: “What I did was work with our joint chiefs of staff to think about, what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe?... We need to be thinking about cyber security. We need to be talking about space.”

Amid all the post-debate media chatter, however, not a single commentator seemed to have a clue when it came to the profound strategic changes encoded in the president’s sparse words. Yet for the past four years, working in silence and secrecy, the Obama administration has presided over a technological revolution in defense planning, moving the nation far beyond bayonets and battleships to cyberwarfare and the full-scale weaponization of space. In the face of waning economic influence, this bold new breakthrough in what’s called “information warfare” may prove significantly responsible should U.S. global dominion somehow continue far into the twenty-first century.

While the technological changes involved are nothing less than revolutionary, they have deep historical roots in a distinctive style of American global power. It’s been evident from the moment this nation first stepped onto the world stage with its conquest of the Philippines in 1898. Over the span of a century, plunged into three Asian crucibles of counterinsurgency -- in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Afghanistan -- the U.S. military has repeatedly been pushed to the breaking point. It has repeatedly responded by fusing the nation’s most advanced technologies into new information infrastructures of unprecedented power.

That military first created a manual information regime for Philippine pacification, then a computerized apparatus to fight communist guerrillas in Vietnam. Finally, during its decade-plus in Afghanistan (and its years in Iraq), the Pentagon has begun to fuse biometrics, cyberwarfare, and a potential future triple canopy aerospace shield into a robotic information regime that could produce a platform of unprecedented power for the exercise of global dominion -- or for future military disaster.

America’s First Information Revolution

This distinctive U.S. system of imperial information gathering (and the surveillance and war-making practices that go with it) traces its origins to some brilliant American innovations in the management of textual, statistical, and visual data. Their sum was nothing less than a new information infrastructure with an unprecedented capacity for mass surveillance.

During two extraordinary decades, American inventions like Thomas Alva Edison’s quadruplex telegraph (1874), Philo Remington’s commercial typewriter (1874), Melvil Dewey’s library decimal system (1876), and Herman Hollerith’s patented punch card (1889) created synergies that led to the militarized application of America’s first information revolution. To pacify a determined guerrilla resistance that persisted in the Philippines for a decade after 1898, the U.S. colonial regime -- unlike European empires with their cultural studies of “Oriental civilizations” -- used these advanced information technologies to amass detailed empirical data on Philippine society. In this way, they forged an Argus-eyed security apparatus that played a major role in crushing the Filipino nationalist movement. The resulting colonial policing and surveillance system would also leave a lasting institutional imprint on the emerging American state.

When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, the “father of U.S. military intelligence” Colonel Ralph Van Deman drew upon security methods he had developed years before in the Philippines to found the Army’s Military Intelligence Division. He recruited a staff that quickly grew from one (himself) to 1,700, deployed some 300,000 citizen-operatives to compile more than a million pages of surveillance reports on American citizens, and laid the foundations for a permanent domestic surveillance apparatus.

A version of this system rose to unparalleled success during World War II when Washington established the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as the nation’s first worldwide espionage agency. Among its nine branches, Research & Analysis recruited a staff of nearly 2,000 academics who amassed 300,000 photographs, a million maps, and three million file cards, which they deployed in an information system via “indexing, cross-indexing, and counter-indexing” to answer countless tactical questions.

Yet by early 1944, the OSS found itself, in the words of historian Robin Winks, “drowning under the flow of information.” Many of the materials it had so carefully collected were left to molder in storage, unread and unprocessed. Despite its ambitious global reach, this first U.S. information regime, absent technological change, might well have collapsed under its own weight, slowing the flow of foreign intelligence that would prove so crucial for America’s exercise of global dominion after World War II.

Computerizing Vietnam

Under the pressures of a never-ending war in Vietnam, those running the U.S. information infrastructure turned to computerized data management, launching a second American information regime. Powered by the most advanced IBM mainframe computers, the U.S. military compiled monthly tabulations of security in all of South Vietnam’s 12,000 villages and filed the three million enemy documents its soldiers captured annually on giant reels of bar-coded film. At the same time, the CIA collated and computerized diverse data on the communist civilian infrastructure as part of its infamous Phoenix Program. This, in turn, became the basis for its systematic tortures and 41,000 “extra-judicial executions” (which, based on disinformation from petty local grudges and communist counterintelligence, killed many but failed to capture more than a handfull of top communist cadres).

Most ambitiously, the U.S. Air Force spent $800 million a year to lace southern Laos with a network of 20,000 acoustic, seismic, thermal, and ammonia-sensitive sensors to pinpoint Hanoi’s truck convoys coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail under a heavy jungle canopy. The information these provided was then gathered on computerized systems for the targeting of incessant bombing runs. After 100,000 North Vietnamese troops passed right through this electronic grid undetected with trucks, tanks, and heavy artillery to launch the Nguyen Hue Offensive in 1972, the U.S. Pacific Air Force pronounced this bold attempt to build an “electronic battlefield” an unqualified failure.

In this pressure cooker of what became history’s largest air war, the Air Force also accelerated the transformation of a new information system that would rise to significance three decades later: the Firebee target drone. By war’s end, it had morphed into an increasingly agile unmanned aircraft that would make 3,500 top-secret surveillance sorties over China, North Vietnam, and Laos. By 1972, the SC/TV drone, with a camera in its nose, was capable of flying 2,400 miles while navigating via a low-resolution television image.

On balance, all this computerized data helped foster the illusion that American “pacification” programs in the countryside were winning over the inhabitants of Vietnam’s villages, and the delusion that the air war was successfully destroying North Vietnam’s supply effort. Despite a dismal succession of short-term failures that helped deliver a soul-searing blow to American power, all this computerized data-gathering proved a seminal experiment, even if its advances would not become evident for another 30 years until the U.S. began creating a third -- robotic -- information regime.

The Global War on Terror

As it found itself at the edge of defeat in the attempted pacification of two complex societies, Afghanistan and Iraq, Washington responded in part by adapting new technologies of electronic surveillance, biometric identification, and drone warfare -- all of which are now melding into what may become an information regime far more powerful and destructive than anything that has come before.

After six years of a failing counterinsurgency effort in Iraq, the Pentagon discovered the power of biometric identification and electronic surveillance to pacify the country’s sprawling cities. It then built a biometric database with more than a million Iraqi fingerprints and iris scans that U.S. patrols on the streets of Baghdad could access instantaneously by satellite link to a computer center in West Virginia.

When President Obama took office and launched his “surge,” escalating the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, that country became a new frontier for testing and perfecting such biometric databases, as well as for full-scale drone war in both that country and the Pakistani tribal borderlands, the latest wrinkle in a technowar already loosed by the Bush administration. This meant accelerating technological developments in drone warfare that had largely been suspended for two decades after the Vietnam War.

Launched as an experimental, unarmed surveillance aircraft in 1994, the Predator drone was first deployed in 2000 for combat surveillance under the CIA’s “Operation Afghan Eyes.” By 2011, the advanced MQ-9 Reaper drone, with “persistent hunter killer” capabilities, was heavily armed with missiles and bombs as well as sensors that could read disturbed dirt at 5,000 feet and track footprints back to enemy installations. Indicating the torrid pace of drone development, between 2004 and 2010 total flying time for all unmanned vehicles rose from just 71 hours to 250,000 hours.

By 2009, the Air Force and the CIA were already deploying a drone armada of at least 195 Predators and 28 Reapers inside Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan -- and it’s only grown since. These collected and transmitted 16,000 hours of video daily, and from 2006-2012 fired hundreds of Hellfire missiles that killed an estimated 2,600 supposed insurgents inside Pakistan’s tribal areas. Though the second-generation Reaper drones might seem stunningly sophisticated, one defense analyst has called them “very much Model T Fords.” Beyond the battlefield, there are now some 7,000 drones in the U.S. armada of unmanned aircraft, including 800 larger missile-firing drones. By funding its own fleet of 35 drones and borrowing others from the Air Force, the CIA has moved beyond passive intelligence collection to build a permanent robotic paramilitary capacity.

In the same years, another form of information warfare came, quite literally, online. Over two administrations, there has been continuity in the development of a cyberwarfare capability at home and abroad. Starting in 2002, President George W. Bush illegally authorized the National Security Agency to scan countless millions of electronic messages with its top-secret “Pinwale” database. Similarly, the FBI started an Investigative Data Warehouse that, by 2009, held a billion individual records.

Under Presidents Bush and Obama, defensive digital surveillance has grown into an offensive “cyberwarfare” capacity, which has already been deployed against Iran in history’s first significant cyberwar. In 2009, the Pentagon formed U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM), with headquarters at Ft. Meade, Maryland, and a cyberwarfare center at Lackland Air Base in Texas, staffed by 7,000 Air Force employees. Two years later, it declared cyberspace an “operational domain” like air, land, or sea, and began putting its energy into developing a cadre of cyber-warriors capable of launching offensive operations, such as a variety of attacks on the computerized centrifuges in Iran’s nuclear facilities and Middle Eastern banks handling Iranian money.

A Robotic Information Regime

As with the Philippine Insurrection and the Vietnam War, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have served as the catalyst for a new information regime, fusing aerospace, cyberspace, biometrics, and robotics into an apparatus of potentially unprecedented power. In 2012, after years of ground warfare in both countries and the continuous expansion of the Pentagon budget, the Obama administration announced a leaner future defense strategy. It included a 14% cut in future infantry strength to be compensated for by an increased emphasis on investments in the dominions of outer space and cyberspace, particularly in what the administration calls “critical space-based capabilities.”

By 2020, this new defense architecture should theoretically be able to integrate space, cyberspace, and terrestrial combat through robotics for -- so the claims go -- the delivery of seamless information for lethal action. Significantly, both space and cyberspace are new, unregulated domains of military conflict, largely beyond international law. And Washington hopes to use both, without limitation, as Archimedean levers to exercise new forms of global dominion far into the twenty-first century, just as the British Empire once ruled from the seas and the Cold War American imperium exercised its global reach via airpower.

As Washington seeks to surveil the globe from space, the world might well ask: Just how high is national sovereignty? Absent any international agreement about the vertical extent of sovereign airspace (since a conference on international air law, convened in Paris in 1910, failed), some puckish Pentagon lawyer might reply: only as high as you can enforce it. And Washington has filled this legal void with a secret executive matrix -- operated by the CIA and the clandestine Special Operations Command -- that assigns names arbitrarily, without any judicial oversight, to a classified “kill list” that means silent, sudden death from the sky for terror suspects across the Muslim world.

Although U.S. plans for space warfare remain highly classified, it is possible to assemble the pieces of this aerospace puzzle by trolling the Pentagon’s websites, and finding many of the key components in technical descriptions at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). As early as 2020, the Pentagon hopes to patrol the entire globe ceaselessly, relentlessly via a triple canopy space shield reaching from stratosphere to exosphere, driven by drones armed with agile missiles, linked by a resilient modular satellite system, monitored through a telescopic panopticon, and operated by robotic controls.

At the lowest tier of this emerging U.S. aerospace shield, within striking distance of Earth in the lower stratosphere, the Pentagon is building an armada of 99 Global Hawk drones equipped with high-resolution cameras capable of surveilling all terrain within a 100-mile radius, electronic sensors to intercept communications, efficient engines for continuous 24-hour flights, and eventually Triple Terminator missiles to destroy targets below. By late 2011, the Air Force and the CIA had already ringed the Eurasian land mass with a network of 60 bases for drones armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-30 bombs, allowing air strikes against targets just about anywhere in Europe, Africa, or Asia.

The sophistication of the technology at this level was exposed in December 2011 when one of the CIA’s RQ-170 Sentinels came down in Iran. Revealed was a bat-winged drone equipped with radar-evading stealth capacity, active electronically scanned array radar, and advanced optics “that allow operators to positively identify terror suspects from tens of thousands of feet in the air.”

If things go according to plan, in this same lower tier at altitudes up to 12 miles unmanned aircraft such as the “Vulture,” with solar panels covering its massive 400-foot wingspan, will be patrolling the globe ceaselessly for up to five years at a time with sensors for “unblinking” surveillance, and possibly missiles for lethal strikes. Establishing the viability of this new technology, NASA’s solar-powered aircraft Pathfinder, with a 100-foot wingspan, reached an altitude of 71,500 feet altitude in 1997, and its fourth-generation successor the “Helios” flew at 97,000 feet with a 247-foot wingspan in 2001, two miles higher than any previous aircraft.

For the next tier above the Earth, in the upper stratosphere, DARPA and the Air Force are collaborating in the development of the Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle. Flying at an altitude of 20 miles, it is expected to “deliver 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from the continental United States in less than two hours.” Although the first test launches in April 2010 and August 2011 crashed midflight, they did reach an amazing 13,000 miles per hour, 22 times the speed of sound, and sent back “unique data” that should help resolve remaining aerodynamic problems.

At the outer level of this triple-tier aerospace canopy, the age of space warfare dawned in April 2010 when the Pentagon quietly launched the X-37B space drone, an unmanned craft just 29 feet long, into an orbit 250 miles above the Earth. By the time its second prototype landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in June 2012 after a 15-month flight, this classified mission represented a successful test of “robotically controlled reusable spacecraft” and established the viability of unmanned space drones in the exosphere.

At this apex of the triple canopy, 200 miles above Earth where the space drones will soon roam, orbital satellites are the prime targets, a vulnerability that became obvious in 2007 when China used a ground-to-air missile to shoot down one of its own satellites. In response, the Pentagon is now developing the F-6 satellite system that will “decompose a large monolithic spacecraft into a group of wirelessly linked elements, or nodes [that increases] resistance to... a bad part breaking or an adversary attacking.” And keep in mind that the X-37B has a capacious cargo bay to carry missiles or future laser weaponry to knock out enemy satellites -- in other words, the potential capability to cripple the communications of a future military rival like China, which will have its own global satellite system operational by 2020.

Ultimately, the impact of this third information regime will be shaped by the ability of the U.S. military to integrate its array of global aerospace weaponry into a robotic command structure that would be capable of coordinating operations across all combat domains: space, cyberspace, sky, sea, and land. To manage the surging torrent of information within this delicately balanced triple canopy, the system would, in the end, have to become self-maintaining through “robotic manipulator technologies,” such as the Pentagon’s FREND system that someday could potentially deliver fuel, provide repairs, or reposition satellites.

For a new global optic, DARPA is building the wide-angle Space Surveillance Telescope (SST), which could be sited at bases ringing the globe for a quantum leap in "space surveillance.” The system would allow future space warriors to see the whole sky wrapped around the entire planet while seated before a single screen, making it possible to track every object in Earth orbit.

Operation of this complex worldwide apparatus will require, as one DARPA official explained in 2007, "an integrated collection of space surveillance systems -- an architecture -- that is leak-proof." Thus, by 2010, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency had 16,000 employees, a $5 billion budget, and a massive $2 billion headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, with 8,500 staffers wrapped in electronic security -- all aimed at coordinating the flood of surveillance data pouring in from Predators, Reapers, U-2 spy planes, Global Hawks, X-37B space drones, Google Earth, Space Surveillance Telescopes, and orbiting satellites. By 2020 or thereafter -- such a complex techno-system is unlikely to respect schedules -- this triple canopy should be able to atomize a single “terrorist” with a missile strike after tracking his eyeball, facial image, or heat signature for hundreds of miles through field and favela, or blind an entire army by knocking out all ground communications, avionics, and naval navigation.

Technological Dominion or Techno-Disaster?

Peering into the future, a still uncertain balance of forces offers two competing scenarios for the continuation of U.S. global power. If all or much goes according to plan, sometime in the third decade of this century the Pentagon will complete a comprehensive global surveillance system for Earth, sky, and space using robotics to coordinate a veritable flood of data from biometric street-level monitoring, cyber-data mining, a worldwide network of Space Surveillance Telescopes, and triple canopy aeronautic patrols. Through agile data management of exceptional power, this system might allow the United States a veto of global lethality, an equalizer for any further loss of economic strength.

However, as in Vietnam, history offers some pessimistic parallels when it comes to the U.S. preserving its global hegemony by militarized technology alone. Even if this robotic information regime could somehow check China’s growing military power, the U.S. might still have the same chance of controlling wider geopolitical forces with aerospace technology as the Third Reich had of winning World War II with its “super weapons” -- V-2 rockets that rained death on London and Messerschmitt Me-262 jets that blasted allied bombers from Europe’s skies. Complicating the future further, the illusion of information omniscience might incline Washington to more military misadventures akin to Vietnam or Iraq, creating the possibility of yet more expensive, draining conflicts, from Iran to the South China Sea.

If the future of America’s world power is shaped by actual events rather than long-term economic trends, then its fate might well be determined by which comes first in this century-long cycle: military debacle from the illusion of technological mastery, or a new technological regime powerful enough to perpetuate U.S. global dominion.


Alfred W. McCoy is the J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A TomDispatch regular, he is the lead author of Endless Empire: Spain’s Retreat, Europe’s Eclipse, America’s Decline (University of Wisconsin, 2012), which is the source for much of the material in this essay.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2012 Alfred W. McCoy

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Meet the New Old Boss: The Empire Continuum

Empire is a Non-Partisan Affair

by Sean Fenley

Writing in Foreign Policy Magazine Hillary Clinton gave the world sufficient, satisfactory, “courteous, and “fair” notice of where the United States’ empire would soon be repositioning, reassessing, reevaluating, and indeed newly transfixing its ever-wrongheaded magisterial/imperial gaze. The article was penned in the November 2011 edition of the house mag of militaristic benightedness, bellicosity, and consecrated hegemonical (global) carte blanche.

After an abundance of doomed contrivances — draining the public coffers — in the Middle East, it would seem that Pax Americana is wanting to try its hand at a different batch of newfangled malicious schemas. And not only that, but more ill-portended uber adventuristic conquests/escapades too. And so this would seem, to be very much in the vein of doing the same thing over and over again (only with an alternative backdrop). The one-trick pony of the current state of affairs, for the world’s profligate Brobdingnagian military spender.

Conversely, as a humanitarian Goliath, the data is not there to bear out that kind of beneficent standing either. And so to think, a “great” hollower out of the middle class (and the country), Mitt Romney, is running neck and neck in the race to be our forthcoming commander-in-chief. A man whose positions change, as do the cumulonimbus clouds in the sky! One thing that we can all be assured about, that won’t change — certainly — is more war(s). Whether a “peaceable Democrat”, or an uber belligerent neocon dunderheaded lily-livered thug, carnage will, most assuredly, be on the docket this Winter/Fall.

The “polarization” on militaristic empire is a chimera. And one that the “mainstream” media does not like to touch. By omission they are certainly part and parcel of it; quite possibly because they are in fear of being tarred and feathered as anti-patriotic — or “deserving” of a fate even worse! 
The wars are clearly not fought for our own national defense and security, but to even raise this “daring” truth is to be considered to be severely despicable, base, dubious, improper and unacceptably crude. Though a plethora of issues are wholly agreed upon (indefatigably), by “both sides”, this particular one, I think, consistently deserves the requisite attention and appreciable care. What’s of greater concern than war and peace, life and death, empire or a robust and abundantly supported dispensation on the home front? 
Don’t ask a Democrat nor a Republican politician unequivocally, because you’ll — more than likely — be unpleasantly surprised by what you’ll hear.

Sean Fenley is an independent progressive, who would like to see some sanity brought to the creation and implementation of current and future, US military, economic, foreign and domestic policies. He has been published by a number of websites, and publications throughout the alternative media.

Good Doctor Rafil Dhafir in Prison Still: The Continued Punishment of an Innocent Man


The Political Trial of a Caring Man and the End of Justice in America

By John Pilger

In 1999, I travelled to Iraq with Denis Halliday who had resigned as assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations rather than enforce a punitive UN embargo on Iraq. Devised and policed by the United States and Britain, the extreme suffering caused by these “sanctions” included, according to Unicef, the deaths of half a million Iraqi infants under the age of five.

Ten years later, in New York, I met the senior British official responsible for the imposition of sanctions. He is Carne Ross, once known in the UN as "Mr.Iraq". I read to him a statement he made to a parliamentary select committee in 2007 : 

"The weight of evidence clearly indicates that sanctions caused massive human suffering among ordinary Iraqis, particularly children. We, the US and UK governments, were the primary engineers and offenders of sanctions and were well aware of this evidence at the time but we largely ignored it or blamed it on the Saddam government. [We] effectively denied the entire population a means to live."

I said, "That's a shocking admission."
”Yes, I agree,” he replied, “I feel very ashamed about it ... Before I went to New York, I went to the Foreign Office expecting a briefing on the vast piles of weapons that we still thought Iraq possessed, and the desk officer sort of looked at me slightly sheepishly and said, 'Well actually, we don't think there is anything in Iraq.' "

That was 1997, more than five years before George W. Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq for reasons they knew were fabricated. The bloodshed they caused, according to recent studies, is greater than that of the Rwanda genocide.

On 26 February 2003, one month before the invasion, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, a prominent cancer specialist in Syracuse, New York, was arrested by federal agents and interrogated about the charity he had founded, Help the Needy. Dr. Dhafir was one of many Americans, Muslims and non-Muslims, who for 13 years had raised money for food and medicines for sick and starving Iraqis who were the victims of sanctions. He had asked US officials if this humanitarian aid was legal and was assured it was -- until the early morning he was hauled out of his car by federal agents as he left for his surgery. His front door was smashed down and his wife had guns pointed at her head. Today, he is serving 22 years in prison.

On the day of the arrest, Bush’s attorney-general, John Ashcroft, announced that “funders of terrorism” had been caught. The “terrorist” was a man who had devoted himself to caring for others, including cancer sufferers in his own New York community. More than $2 million was raised for his surety and several people pledged their homes; yet he was refused bail six times.

Charged under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, Dr. Dhafir’s crime was to send food and medicine to the stricken country of his birth. He was “offered” the prospect of a lesser sentence if he pleaded guilty and he refused on principle. Plea bargaining is the iniquity of the US judicial system, giving prosecutors the powers of judge, jury and executioner. For refusing, he was punished with added charges, including defrauding the Medicare system, a “crime” based on not having filled out claim forms correctly, and money laundering and tax evasion, inflated technicalities related to the charitable status of Help the Needy.

The then Governor of New York, George Pataki, called this “money laundering to help terrorist organisations … conduct horrible acts”. He described Dr. Dhafir and the supporters of Help the Needy as “terrorists living here in New York among us … who are supporting and aiding and abetting those who would destroy our way of life and kill our friends and neighbours”. For jurors, the message was powerfully manipulative. This was America in the hysterical wake of 9/11.

The trial in 2004 and 2005 was out of Kafka. It began with the prosecution successfully petitioning the judge to prohibit “terrorism” from being mentioned. “This ruling turned into a brick wall for the defence,” says Katherine Hughes, an observer in court. “Prosecutors could hint at more serious charges, but the defence was never allowed to follow that line of questioning and demolish it. Consequently, the trial was not, in fact, what it was really about.”

It was a political show trial of Stalinist dimensions, an anti-Muslim sideshow to the “war on terror”. The jury was told darkly that Dr. Dhafir was a Salafi Muslim, as if this was sinister. Osama bin Laden was mentioned, with no relevance. That Help the Needy had openly advertised its humanitarian aims, and there were invoices and receipts for the purchase of emergency food aid was of no interest. Last February, the same judge, Norman Mordue, “re-sentenced” Dr. Dhafir to 22 years: a cruelty worthy of the Gulag.

With their “terrorist” case “won”, the prosecutors held a celebration dinner, “partying,” wrote a Syracuse lawyer to the local newspaper, “as if they had won the Super Bowl … having perpetuated a monstrous lie [against a man] who had helped thousands in Iraq suffering unjustly … the trial was a perversion”. No executive of the oil companies that did billions of dollars of illegal business with Saddam Hussein during the embargo has been prosecuted. “I am stunned by the conviction of this humanitarian,” said Denis Halliday, “especially as the US State Department breached its own sanctions to the tune of $10bn.”

During this year’s US presidential campaign, both candidates agreed on sanctions against Iran which, they claimed, posed a nuclear threat to the Middle East. Repeated over and again, this assertion evoked the lies told about Iraq and the extreme suffering of that country. Sanctions are already devastating Iran’s sick and disabled. As imported drugs become impossibly expensive, leukaemia and other cancer sufferers are the first victims. The Pentagon calls this “full spectrum dominance”.