israel Invites Saudis to Broker Peace While Terror-Bombing Gaza

Israel Invites Saudis to Broker Peace While Terror-Bombing Gaza

 By Stephen Lendman,

Truth is stranger than fiction. Israel and Saudi Arabia deplore peace and stability – perhaps a tie that binds them, along with uniting against Iran, the main reason for their alliance.

According to Saudi state-run media, Israel invited militant crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to broker peace talks with Palestinians – dead-on-arrival each time initiated, further out-of-reach following Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, igniting a firestorm in Occupied Palestine.

Last month, Abbas met with MBS in Riyadh. He received an offer designed to be rejected – statehood without sovereignty, comprised of isolated bantustans on worthless scrubland, surrounded by expanding settlements encroaching on their land, stealing it, barriers they’re forbidden to approach, ghettoizing them.

Jerusalem would become Israel’s exclusive capital, East Jerusalem increasingly off-limits to them. Diaspora Palestinians would have no right of return.

Israel would be free to exploit Palestinian resources, they way things are today. MBS’ proposal reflects Palestinian impotence under longtime Israeli collaborator Abbas.

Yet the idea of Riyadh involvement in peace talks adds an implausible element to the fraudulent process, Israeli intelligence minister Yisrael Katz, saying:

“This is an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to take the initiative upon itself and come to the Palestinians and offer its sponsorship,” adding:

“In such a situation of Saudi leadership, I’m ready to have negotiations. I’m calling on King Salman to invite Netanyahu for a visit and for the Saudi crown prince to come here for a visit in Israel.”

The Saudis can “lead processes and make decisions for the region, as well as for the Palestinians.” They’re “weak and unable to make decisions.”

Washington and Riyadh lack credibility in negotiating peace. Both countries reject equity in justice for Palestinians, their own populations, and elsewhere.

They’re warrior nations, rogue terror states. Regional peace and stability defeat their agendas.

Days earlier, Netanyahu turned truth on its head, defying reality, saying “(t)he sooner Palestinians (recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital), the sooner we will move towards peace” – his notion pushing for unconditional Palestinian surrender and subjugation under endless occupation.

Separately, in response to rockets fired from Gaza, injuring no one, one alone causing minor damage, Israeli warplanes have been terror-bombing Gaza for days, including overnight, targeting Hamas positions even though its military wing had nothing to do with what’s happening.

Israel waged three wars of aggression on Gaza since December 2008. The risk of a fourth looms.

According to an IDF spokesman, “(a)nything less than total calm (in Gaza) is simply unacceptable…We will not allow (rocket) fire to continue.”

Sderot major Alon Davidi said he expects Netanyahu, defense minister Lieberman, “and the IDF commander to strike (Gaza) without mercy.”

In the wake of Palestinian rage in response to Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, Mike Pence postponed his visit to Israel, scheduled for early next week.

Abbas’ diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khaldi said “(t)here will be no meeting with (him) in Palestine. The United States has crossed all the red lines with the Jerusalem declaration.”

Palestinian UN envoy Yiyad Mansour said he’s working on a draft resolution to “reaffirm the positions of the Security Council (on Jerusalem) and asks the Americans to rescind” Trump’s declaration.

US veto power assures nothing adversely affecting Israeli interests becomes a Security Council adopted resolution.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the CRG, Correspondent of Global Research based in Chicago.

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U.S. airstrikes rise sharply in Afghanistan — and so do civilian deaths

U.S. airstrikes rise sharply in Afghanistan — and so do civilian deaths

“How could they not see there were women and children in the truck?”

By Shashank Bengali

Zafar Khan lost six family members in a bombing in Afghanistan. The U.S. military said that its Aug. 10 strike in Nangarhar province targeted militants
Zafar Khan lost six family members in a bombing in Afghanistan. The U.S. military said that its Aug. 10 strike in Nangarhar province targeted militants who “were observed loading weapons into a vehicle” and that “there was zero chance of civilian casualties.” (Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

As U.S. warplanes flew above a cluster of villages where Islamic State militants were holed up in eastern Afghanistan, 11 people piled into a truck and drove off along an empty dirt track to escape what they feared was imminent bombing.

They did not get far.

An explosion blasted the white Suzuki truck off the road, opening a large crater in the earth and flipping the vehicle on its side in a ditch. A teenage girl survived. The 10 dead included three children, one an infant in his mother’s arms.

The lone survivor of the Aug. 10 blast in Nangarhar province, and Afghan officials who visited the site, said the truck was hit by an American airstrike shortly before 5 p.m. Relatives expressed horror that U.S. ground forces and surveillance aircraft could have mistaken the passengers, who included women and children riding in the open truck bed — in daylight with no buildings or other vehicles around — for Islamic State fighters.

“How could they not see there were women and children in the truck?” said Zafar Khan, 23, who lost six family members, including his mother and three siblings, in the blast.

A photo of Aug. 10 US airstrike site in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan
A photo of the Aug. 10 blast site provided by a victim’s family, who visited the area. (Photo: Handout)

In a statement after the incident, the U.S. military acknowledged carrying out a strike but said it killed militants who “were observed loading weapons into a vehicle” and “there was zero chance of civilian casualties.”

Pockets of Nangarhar remain inaccessible to outsiders because of fighting, making it impossible to independently determine the cause of the fatal explosion. What is not in question is that in the 17th year of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, American airstrikes are escalating again, along with civilian casualties.

Operating under looser restrictions on air power that commanders hope will break a stalemate in the war, U.S. fighter planes this year dropped 3,554 explosives in Afghanistan through Oct. 31, the most since 2012.

American officials say the firepower has curtailed the growth of Islamic State’s South Asia affiliate — known as ISIS-Khorasan, which they believe numbers about 900 fighters, most of them in Nangarhar — and enabled struggling government forces to regain ground against Taliban insurgents in other provinces, such as Helmand, where a Marine-led task force has helped coordinate a months-long offensive.

But innocent Afghans are asking: At what cost?

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan documented 205 civilian deaths and 261 injuries from airstrikes in the first nine months this year, a 52% increase in casualties compared with the same period in 2016. Although both U.S. and Afghan forces conduct aerial attacks, preliminary data indicate that American strikes have been more lethal for civilians.

In the first six months of 2017, the U.N. said, 54 civilians died in international air operations, compared with 29 in Afghan strikes. Twelve additional deaths could not be attributed to either force, the U.N. found.

In the case of the blast in Nangarhar province in August, U.S. officials have continued to assert that the American airstrike that day struck only militants. But they have since offered an alternative explanation for the civilian deaths. Responding to questions from The Times, coalition officials said that a passenger vehicle — presumably the Suzuki truck — hit a roadside bomb planted by Islamic State militants slightly more than a mile from where the airstrike killed the militants. It was the roadside bomb that resulted “in multiple enemy-caused civilian casualties,” said Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, a spokesman for coalition forces in Kabul.

Afghans vigorously dispute that account. The district police chief, Hamidullah Sadaqat, said there was only one deadly explosion in the area that afternoon. Rozina, the 17-year-old survivor, said her memory was clear.

“The plane dropped the bomb on us,” said Rozina, who, like many Afghans, has only one name.

The bombing occurred in Haska Mina district, about three hours by road south of the provincial capital, Jalalabad. The victims were residents of Loi Papin, a village near the front line between government-controlled territory and the Islamic State-held village of Gorgoray.

Many left Loi Papin more than two years ago after militants arrived claiming allegiance to Islamic State. The extremists tortured locals and barked orders from mosque loudspeakers, demanding that families surrender adult sons to their ranks.

Khan, a slender laborer with close-set eyes, fled to a rented house on the outskirts of Jalalabad. Other family members made brief trips to Loi Papin to tend to their farm and flock of sheep, he said.

On the afternoon of Aug. 10, Khan’s mother, Malaika, left the village with three of her 10 children — 12-year-old Bahadur Shah, 8-year-old Anisa and 1-year-old Mohammad — in the Suzuki truck, driven by his cousin. His uncle was on board as well as five others, including Rozina, her father and brother, who were returning to a house they had rented in the district center, still under government control.

“Everyone was trying to get away,” Khan said. “We had recently sold our sheep and half the land. It was too dangerous to be in the village. No one wants to be anywhere close to Daesh” — a colloquial term for Islamic State.

Rozina said everyone in the truck was “afraid of the Americans.”

“Because we knew they were in the area,” she said, “we expected that they would bombard by the next day.”

As they drove off, she recalled seeing two planes in the sky. Then the blast struck, knocking her unconscious for several minutes. When she awoke, she found that seven people were dead, including her father and brother.

Malaika and two of her children were badly wounded and yelling for help, Rozina said. But American troops in the area — probably U.S. special operations forces conducting joint operations with Afghan commandos against Islamic State — did not allow anyone to come to their aid for hours, she said.

“They died because there was no one to help them,” Rozina said. “They were stuck and screaming.”

 

Lal Mohammad, Roqia Khan, Basina Khan, Nasir Mohammad, and Rishma Khan lost their father in the August bombing
From left, Lal Mohammad, 17, Roqia Khan, 10, Basina Khan, 9, Nasir Mohammad, 13, and Rishma Khan, 8, lost their father in the August bombing. U.S. officials say the deadly blast was caused by a roadside bomb, not an airstrike. (Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

 

Khan and several others set off from Jalalabad after the bombing, reaching Haska Mina in the middle of the night. They found the crumpled truck overturned in a field. Rozina was lying at a woman’s house with severe injuries to her face, hands and legs. Villagers had carted the bodies away in wheelbarrows and brought them to a nearby mosque.

“I found a piece of a leg and a thumb next to the truck,” said Mohammad Agha, 42, whose cousin, a peanut farmer also named Khan, was among the dead.

Sadaqat, the district police chief, took Agha and other family members to a former Afghan Border Police base being used by U.S. special operations troops. Speaking through an Afghan interpreter, the Americans gave the relatives until noon to bury the bodies. They worked quickly, Agha said; Islamic custom requires bodies to be interred within 24 hours, wrapped in simple shrouds.

“We didn’t have enough fabric to cover them all properly,” he said. “We had to use shawls.”

An Islamic State broadcast shows Mohammad Agha conducting a burial for the victims
An Islamic State broadcast shows Mohammad Agha, second from left, conducting a burial for the victims. (Photo: Khurasan Media)

When they were done, Agha and others went to inform the Americans, who dismissed the possibility that a U.S. plane had launched the strike.

“They said maybe it was a mortar fired by Daesh, but a mortar wouldn’t have created a 10-foot crater,” Agha said. “The Americans asked us: ‘Which country’s plane did this?’ It seemed like they weren’t taking us seriously so we left.”

When there were 100,000 American troops in the country, then-President Hamid Karzai frequently accused them of excessive force and wielded reports of dead innocents as a cudgel against the United States. Karzai’s bombast had an effect: Far fewer civilians died in airstrikes in 2012 and 2013, according to U.N. reports, when the U.S. averaged hundreds of airstrikes a month.

Experts said North Atlantic Treaty Organization coalition commanders took serious measures to reduce the risk of harm to civilians. They met regularly with the U.N. and nongovernmental agencies and dedicated a team of officers to investigate complaints.

As the foreign troop presence shrank and NATO shifted its focus to training Afghan forces, coalition officials released less information about operations. They also face less resistance from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a stronger proponent of U.S. military action.

“The U.S. military is becoming less transparent, and it’s a pity because they had worked really hard — and succeeded — in reducing civilian casualties,” said Kate Clark, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, a Kabul-based research organization.

The use of air power has surged since mid-2016, when the Obama administration approved new rules of engagement that allowed U.S. warplanes to open fire in support of Afghan operations, not just to defend coalition forces. It is expected to rise further after the Trump administration sent nearly 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan — bringing the total U.S. presence to 15,000 — and grants more latitude to military commanders.

U.S. planes carried out 1,570 strikes from August through October, the most in a three-month period since 2012, according to U.S. Air Force statistics.

In October, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis testified to Congress that Trump had authorized him to eliminate the requirement that U.S. forces could fire only when in “proximity” to hostile fighters.

“In other words, wherever we find the enemy, we can put the pressure from the air support on them,” Mattis said. But he added that U.S. forces would still do “everything humanly possible to prevent the death or injury of innocent people.”

Military officers say every report of civilian casualties is investigated. U.S. forces attempt to interview residents and local officials and use “all forensic actions available, based on the security threat,” said Gresback, the military spokesman.

But just as in Iraq and Syria, where the U.S.-led coalition is accused of significantly undercounting the civilian toll of its air war against Islamic State, Afghan victims believe the U.S. military isn’t being thorough or transparent enough.

 

Mohammad Agha lost his cousin, who was among the 10 people killed in the August bombing that victims' families said was a U.S. airstrike
Mohammad Agha, left, lost his cousin, who was among the 10 people killed in the August bombing that victims’ families said was a U.S. airstrike. (Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

 

Rozina and relatives of other victims in Loi Papin said American officials have not contacted them. And the U.S. has often pushed back strongly against accusations that its operations are taking a greater toll on innocents.

In early November, after reports that an airstrike killed 14 civilians in the northern province of Kunduz, American officials said they found “no evidence” to support the claims. That prompted a rare direct challenge from the United Nations, which said in a series of tweets that “interviews with multiple survivors, medics, elders & others give strong reason to believe civilians [were] among [the] victims.”

U.S. forces have also suggested that Afghans in Nangarhar are lying about civilian deaths. The military’s initial statement on the Aug. 10 blast called it “the second false claim of civilian casualties in the same district within the last three weeks” — after an incident in which Haska Mina residents told Afghan media that a U.S. strike killed mourners attending a funeral service.

Although public outrage over civilian casualties has softened, Clark said they continue to serve as a propaganda tool for extremists.

“The basic parameters of the war haven’t changed: If you’re killing civilians, it’s going to be problematic,” Clark said. “The bullish U.S. approach, taking the gloves off, that’s all very well, but if there are more dead civilians you’re not going to be better off politically or militarily.”

Ghani’s government has not drawn attention to the strike in Nangarhar, but officials visited from Kabul and gave families condolence payments of more than $1,000 each.

The money won’t replace the loss of family breadwinners, or cover the mounting medical bills for Rozina. She now lives with four family members at an uncle’s house and walks with crutches while she awaits additional operations to her feet.

Khan said he has little sympathy for Islamic State but cannot support the way the U.S. is prosecuting the war.

“The Americans say they are here to kill terrorists, but if they can’t carry out a proper operation, it is better that they leave us alone,” he said. “At least we would not see our families destroyed.”

Special correspondents Sultan Faizy and Mohammad Anwar Danishyar contributed to this report

 

Tracing ISIS’ Arms Supply Chain – Back to the US

Tracing ISIS’ Arms Supply Chain – Back to the US

“Habibi! Aluminium!”

The call echoes through the courtyard of a trash-strewn home in Tal Afar, a remote outpost in northern Iraq. It is late September and still hot, the kind of heat that seems to come from all sides, even radiate up from the ground, and the city is empty except for feral dogs and young men with guns.

“Habibi!” Damien Spleeters shouts again, using the casual Arabic term of endearment to call out for Haider al-Hakim, his Iraqi translator and partner on the ground.

Spleeters is a field investigator for Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an international organization funded by the European Union that documents weapons trafficking in war zones. He is 31 years old, with a 1980s Freddie Mercury mustache and tattoos covering thin arms that tan quickly in the desert sun. In another context, he’d be mistaken for a hipster barista, not an investigator who has spent the past three years tracking down rocket-­propelled grenades in Syria, AK-47-style rifles in Mali, and hundreds of other weapons that have found their way into war zones, sometimes in violation of international arms agreements. The work Spleeters does is typically undertaken by secretive government offices, such as the US Defense Intelligence Agency’s Military Material Identification Division, known as Chuckwagon. But while Chuckwagon is barely discoverable by Google, Spleeters’ detailed reports for CAR are both publicly available online and contain more useful information than any classified intelligence I ever received when I was commanding a bomb disposal unit for the US military in Iraq in 2006.

In that fight, guerrillas ambushed American soldiers with IEDs. The devices I saw during my tours were largely hidden in the ground or deployed as massive car bombs, detonated in marketplaces and schools so that the gutters filled with blood. But the majority of those devices were crude, held together with duct tape and goopy solder. The few rockets and mortars the fighters possessed were old and shoddy, lacked the correct fuzes, and often failed to detonate.

Many of ISIS’ leaders were veterans of that insurgency, but as they began ramping up their war against the Iraqi government in 2014, they knew they needed more than IEDs and AK-47s to seize territory and create their independent Islamic State. A conventional war required conventional arms—mortars, rockets, grenades—which, as an international pariah, ISIS could not buy in sufficient quantities. Some they looted from the Iraqi or Syrian governments, but when those ran out they did something that no terrorist group has ever done before and that they continue to do today: design their own munitions and mass-produce them using advanced manufacturing techniques. Iraq’s oil fields provided the industrial base—tool-and-die sets, high-end saws, injection-­molding machines—and skilled workers who knew how to quickly fashion intricate parts to spec. Raw materials came from cannibalizing steel pipe and melting down scrap. ISIS engineers forged new fuzes, new rockets and launchers, and new bomblets to be dropped by drones, all assembled using instruction plans drawn up by ISIS officials.

At Iraqi military intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, weapons inspector Damien Spleeters (left) and his coworker, Haider al-Hakim, look through crates of ISIS ammunition.

Andrea DiCenzo

Since the early days of the conflict, CAR has conducted 83 site visits in Iraq to collect weapons data, and Spleeters has participated in nearly every investigation. The result is a detailed database that lists 1,832 weapons and 40,984 pieces of ammunition recovered in Iraq and Syria. CAR describes it as “the most comprehensive ­sample of Islamic State–captured weapons and ammunition to date.”

Which is how, this autumn, Spleeters came to be hovering over a 5-gallon bucket of aluminum paste in a dingy home in Tal Afar, waiting for his fixer to arrive. Al-Hakim is bald, well-dressed, and gives off a faint air of the urban sophisticate, such that at times he looks a bit out of place in a sewage-filled ISIS workshop. The two men have an easy rapport, though one in which al-Hakim is the host and Spleeters always the respectful guest. Their job is to notice small things; where others might see trash, they see evidence, which Spleeters then photographs and scours for obscure factory codes that can give a clue to its origins.

The aluminum paste in the bucket, for example, which ISIS craftsmen mix with ammonium nitrate to make a potent main charge for mortars and rocket warheads: Spleeters discovered the same buckets, from the same manufacturers and chemical distributors, in Fallujah, Tikrit, and Mosul. “I like to see the same stuff” in different cities, he tells me, since these repeat sightings allow him to identify and describe different steps in ISIS’ supply chain. “It confirms my theory that this is the industrial revolution of terrorism,” he says. “And for that they need raw material in industrial quantities.”

Spleeters is also constantly searching for new weapons that show how ISIS engineers’ expertise is evolving, and with this trip to Tal Afar he has set his sights on one promising new lead: a series of modified rockets that had appeared in ISIS propaganda videos on YouTube and other social media.

Spleeters suspected that the tubes, trigger mechanisms, and fins of the new rockets were all the work of ISIS engineers, but he thought the warheads likely came from somewhere else. After discovering similar weapons over the past six months, he has grown to believe that ISIS may have captured the warheads from anti­government militias in the Syrian civil war that had been secretly armed by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

But he needs more evidence to prove it. If he can find more launchers and more warheads, Spleeters believes he can build up enough proof—for the first time—that ISIS is repurposing powerful explosive ordnance, purchased by the US, for use in urban combat against the Iraqi army and its American special operations partners. For ISIS to produce such sophisticated weapons marks a significant escalation of its ambition and ability. It also provides a disturbing glimpse of the future of warfare, where dark-web file sharing and 3-D printing mean that any group, anywhere, could start a homegrown arms industry of its own.

Improvised claymores—welded steel tubes packed with homemade explosives—sit unused at an ISIS weapons facility in Tal Afar.

ANDREA DICENZO
Nearly all military munitions—from rifle cartridges to aircraft bombs, regardless of the country of origin—are engraved and marked in some way. The arcane codes can identify the date of manufacture, the specific production factory, the type of explosive filler, and the weapon’s name, also known as the nomenclature. For Spleeters, these engravings and markings mean that ordnance is “a document you cannot falsify.” Pressed stamps on hardened steel are difficult to change or remove. “If it’s written on it that it comes from this country, 99 percent chance it is true,” he says. “And if it’s not, you can figure out that it is counterfeit, and that means something else. Everything means something.”

These codes are considered proprietary information by arms manufacturers, so deciphering their markings is both art and science, part train-spotting, part intelligence collection, part pattern recognition. Officials at CAR have been tracking the markings since 2011, when a group of weapons specialists from the United Nations founded the organization to supplement the work being done by governments and NGOs around the world. It’s a small company with less than 20 researchers; Spleeters’ job title is head of regional operations, but he has no permanent employees. Globally, much of CAR’s work involves small arms—rifles and bullets, mostly—and the group published its first report on ISIS in 2014, when its researchers documented that ammunition apparently provided to the Iraqi army by the US had ended up in the hands of ISIS.

Unlike government agencies that conduct secret investigations and don’t release their findings, CAR gathers information in the field and publishes its databases and analyses for anyone to read. With every trip, every photograph of another rocket, CAR’s database grows in authority. Leo Bradley, a retired US Army colonel who once led the fight against IEDs in Afghanistan, tells me that CAR serves as a useful, if perhaps accidental, back door for US officials to publicly discuss topics that are otherwise classified. “We can reference the CAR reports because they’re all open source, and they never reveal US sources and methods,” he says. Which in practice means that if US officials want to convey the totality of what ISIS forces are up to and they have only classified information to make their point, then there’s only so much they can share with the public. But if that information is also available in a CAR report, then those same officials are often free to discuss the information. Bradley calls their work “really impressive,” but he also says the US government isn’t quite sure how to work with a “nontraditional actor” like CAR.

One afternoon in Tal Afar, as Spleeters is lining up 7.62-mm cartridges at an Iraqi army base, taking a photo of each headstamp, I tell him that I have never met anyone who loved ammo as much as him. “I’ll take that as a compliment,” he says, smiling.

The infatuation began when Spleeters was a cub newspaper reporter in his native Belgium. “There was the Libyan war at the time,” he says of the country’s 2011 civil war, and he became obsessed with understanding how Belgian-made rifles made their way into the hands of anti-Gadhafi rebels. Uncovering that connection, he suspected, “would interest the Belgian public in a conflict that otherwise they wouldn’t care about.”

He began sifting through Belgian diplomatic cables looking for more information about the secretive government transfers, but that approach only got him so far. The only way to get the story, Spleeters decided, was to go to Libya and track down the rifles himself. He bought a plane ticket using grant money and called out of work. “That was kinda weird, you know?” he says. “I was taking vacation so I could go to Libya.”

Spleeters found the rifles he was looking for, and he also discovered that tracking munitions satisfied him in a way that reading about them online did not. “With weapons you can tell a whole story,” he told me. “It makes people talk. It can make the dead talk.” He returned to Belgium as a freelance journalist, writing a few stories about weapons trafficking for French-language newspapers and producing reports for think tanks like the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey. But the freelance life proved too unstable, so Spleeters set journalism aside and joined CAR as a full-time investigator in 2014.

Spleeters believes he can build up enough evidence to prove that ISIS is repurposing explosive ordnance purchased by the US.

On one of his first trips in his new job, to Kobani, Syria, he worked among dead ISIS fighters left to rot where they fell. He found one AK-47-style rifle with decomposing flesh jammed in the cracks and crevices of the wooden handguard. The whole place smelled sickly sweet. Among the bodies, he also found 7.62-mm ammunition, PKM machine guns, and PG-7 rocket-propelled grenades, some stolen from the Iraqi army. Such discoveries make him an evangelist for the value of fieldwork. He says that his data cannot be replicated by watching news reports or online videos. “With all the social media things, when you see ordnance or small arms from afar, you might think, ‘Oh, that’s an M16.’ But if you see it close up, you figure out it’s a CQ-556 rifle from China, a copy of the M16. But you need to be close by to see it,” he tells me, adding that the camera conceals more than it reveals. In person, arms can turn out to have different manufacturers—and thus different backgrounds—than one could ever presume based on grainy YouTube footage.

The war between the armies of ISIS and the government of Iraq has been one of pitched house-to-house combat. In late 2016, as government forces battled ISIS forces for control of the northern city of Mosul, the Iraqis discovered that ISIS had been producing major ordnance in secret facilities around the area. To investigate the munitions factories in Mosul, Spleeters made field visits even while the fighting was ongoing. One day, while photographing weapons, bullets arcing in the air above him, he saw that the Iraqi guard who was supposed to keep him safe was trying to cut the head off a dead ISIS fighter with a butcher knife. The blade was dull and the soldier grew frustrated. Finally he walked away.

Spleeters had pulled some significant intelligence out of Mosul, but thanks to coalition air strikes, much of the city was flattened, the evidence probably destroyed or scattered by the time government forces declared victory this past July. As ISIS began to lose ground across Iraq, Spleeters worried that the group’s weapons infrastructure could be obliterated before he or anyone else would be able to document its full capabilities. He needed access to these factories before they were destroyed. Only then could he describe their contents, trace their origins, and piece together the supply chains.

Then, at the end of August, ISIS quickly lost control of Tal Afar. And unlike other pulverized battlefields, Tal Afar remained relatively undamaged: Only every fourth home was destroyed. To find more evidence of covert arms diversions, Spleeters needed to get to Tal Afar quickly, while he still could.

Spleeters inspects mortar projectiles in a building that ISIS abandoned when it lost control of Tal Afar.

Andrea DiCenzo
In mid-September, Spleeters flew to Baghdad, where he met up with al-Hakim and then, under the protection of an Iraqi army convoy of gun trucks, drove nine hours north along highways only recently cleared of IEDs. The final stretch of road to Tal Afar was lonesome and scorched, cut by underground detonations at every culvert, the fields all around burned and black.

The Iraqi army controls the southern sectors of Tal Afar, but the Hashd al-Shaabi, the Iran-backed, majority-Shiite militias, control the north, and the tension between the two was like a hum in the air. My driver was Kurdish and spoke little English, but when we approached the first checkpoint, he saw the flag of a Hashd militia and turned toward me with alarm.

“Me no Kurdi. You no Amriki,” he said. We were quiet at the roadblock, and they waved us through.

On the road back from the city center of Tal Afar, Iraqi soldiers apprehend a local shepherd. While Tal Afar had been liberated almost a month earlier, civilians were still banned from certain military zones.

Andrea DiCenzo

We reach Tal Afar in the heat of the afternoon. Our first stop is a walled compound that al-Hakim says could have been a mosque, where several ISIS-designed mortars lie in the entrance. They are deceptively simple on first blush, looking like standard American and Soviet mortars. But unlike those models, which come in a number of standard sizes (60 mm, 81 mm, 82 mm, 120 mm, and so on), these mortars are 119.5 mm, to match the inside diameter of the repurposed steel pipes that ISIS uses for launch tubes. This may sound like a small change, but mortars must fit perfectly in their launchers so that sufficient gas pressure can build for ejection. ISIS’ quality control tolerances are extremely tight, often down to a tenth of a millimeter.

Past the mortars, in the back of a building, stand a series of pressurized tanks connected with steel pipe and large drums of black liquid. On one tank, a spigot has dripped an ugly plume. “Would you say that’s corrosion?” Spleeters asks al-Hakim. It’s textbook toxic, the side of the tank a waterfall of bubbling metal in a V, like a drunk vomiting down the front of his shirt. But Spleeters has no way to take a sample, no testing kit, no hazmat suit or breathing mask.

“I feel my eyes a bit burning,” al-Hakim says. The whole area smells acrid, like paint, and bags of caustic soda, a decontaminate, lie nearby.

“There’s something fishy in here, man,” Spleeters agrees. We don’t stay much longer. The black sludge could have been a napalm-like incendiary tar or a toxic industrial chemical of some sort, but Spleeters couldn’t say conclusively what the tanks produced. (He would later learn that he might have been able to identify the industrial process if he’d taken better photos of the pressure dials and their serial numbers. No matter how much Spleeters documents in the field, he says, there is always the nagging suspicion that he’s forgotten something.)

After a short drive down the quiet, pock-marked streets, we arrive at a nondescript house that looks like the others on the block: stone wall, metal gate, individual rooms surrounding a central patio, shady and cool, breezy through spindly trees. Among the discarded shoes and bedding lie mortar tubes and artillery rounds. Spleeters moves them aside with casual familiarity.

No matter how much Spleeters documents in the field, he says, there is always the nagging suspicion that he’s forgotten something.

Andrea DiCenzo

Spleeters’ team found molds for 119.5-mm mortars in the abandoned Tal Afar bazaar, where tightly packed shops and metal roofing had helped keep the ISIS weapons fac­tories hidden.

Andrea DiCenzo

At the back of the compound, Spleeters notices something unusual. A hole has been knocked in the concrete wall—as if by craftsmen, not bombs—and through the passage sits a large open room packed with tools and half-assembled ordnance. The area is shaded by tarps, out of sight of government drones, and the air smells of machine oil.

Spleeters knows where we are at once. This isn’t just a warehouse, like so many of the other places he’s photographed. This is a production facility.

On one table he sees some ISIS-designed bomblets, with injection-molded plastic bodies and small tail kits for stabilization in the air. These can be dropped from drones—the subject of many online videos—but they can also be thrown or shot from an AK-type rifle.

Nearby is a station for fuze production; piles of gleaming spiral shavings lie at the foot of an industrial lathe. The most common ISIS fuze looks like a silver conical plug with a safety pin stuck through the main body. There is an elegance to the minimalist, not simple, design, though the ingenuity of this device actually lies in its interchangeability. The standard ISIS fuze will trigger all of their rockets, mortars, and bomblets—a significant engineering problem solved. For the sake of security and reliability, the US and most other countries design specific fuzes for each type of ordnance. But the ISIS fuzes are modular, safe, and by some accounts have a relatively low dud rate.

Spleeters continues on to the back of the factory, which is where he first sees them: the reengineered rockets he’s been looking for, in nearly every stage of preparation and construction, along with assembly instructions written in marker on the walls. Dozens of the deconstructed warheads, awaiting modification, lie in a dark annex, and a long table with calipers and small tubs of homemade propellant stands nearby. Any individual workbench, on its own, would be a gold mine of intelligence that could illustrate ISIS’ weapons program. But the combination here is overwhelming, sensory overload. “Oh my God, look at this. And look at this. Oh my God, come here. Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” Spleeters mumbles, over and over, from station to station. Charlie had just stumbled into the chocolate factory.

But night is descending on Tal Afar, and a citywide electrical outage means Spleeters can’t examine or photograph this jackpot without natural light. Our convoy soon returns to the Iraqi army base near the city’s devastated airport. It’s a small post of salvaged single-wide trailers with holes in half the roofs; two detained fighters, thought to be ISIS—a young teenager and an older man, seemingly the only prisoners of the battle in Tal Afar—sleep in a trailer next to our quarters. Spleeters passes the evening impatiently, watching satellite television. In all the days we spent together, he seemed to do little more than work and eat, sleeping only a few hours at a time.

Dawn comes early, and when the soldiers are awake, Spleeters has the convoy return us to the workshop. He puts out 20 yellow crime-scene placards, one on each table, and then draws a map to help him reconstruct the room later. In one spot on the map, the welding rods. In another, a bench grinder. “It might not be a continuous process,” he says, thinking out loud. “It might be different stations for different things.”

Spleeters then begins to take photos, but by now the room is full of Iraqi intelligence officers curious about the workshop. They open every drawer, pick up every circuit board, kick scrap, remove papers, turn handles. Unfired ordnance is fairly safe, as long as you don’t drop it on its nose, but disassembled munitions are unpredictable, and the lab could have been booby-trapped besides. But Spleeters isn’t alarmed. He’s frustrated.

“Habibi,” he says, “I really need them to stop touching and taking stuff away. It’s important that it’s together, because it makes sense together. If they take it away, it doesn’t make sense anymore. Can you tell them?”

“I told them,” al-Hakim says.

“They can do whatever they want when I’m done,” he says wearily.

Mortars must fit perfectly in their launchers; ISIS’ quality control tolerances are extremely tight, often down to a tenth of a millimeter.

In a small room adjacent to the launcher workbenches, Spleeters begins examining dozens of rocket-propelled grenades of various models, some decades old and all of them bearing some identifying mark. Rockets manufactured in Bulgaria bear a “10” or “11” in a double circle. The green paints used by China and Russia are slightly different shades. “In Iraq, we have fought the whole world,” one soldier bragged to me a couple of days before, referring to the many foreign fighters recruited by ISIS. But he could easily have meant the arms from the disparate countries in that single room.

Spleeters carefully picks through the stacks of warheads until he finds what he’s been looking for: “I’ve got a PG-9 round, habibi,” Spleeters exclaims to al-Hakim. It is a Romanian rocket marked with lot number 12-14-451; Spleeters has spent the past year tracking this very serial number. In October 2014, Romania sold 9,252 rocket-propelled grenades, known as PG-9s, with lot number 12-14-451 to the US military. When it purchased the weapons, the US signed an end-use certificate, a document stating that the munitions would be used by US forces and not sold to anyone else. The Romanian government confirmed this sale by providing CAR with the end-user certificate and delivery verification document.

In 2016, however, Spleeters came across a video made by ISIS that showed a crate of PG-9s, with what appeared to be the lot number 12-14-451, captured from members of Jaysh Suriyah al-­Jadid, a Syrian militia. Somehow, PG-9s from this very same shipment made their way to Iraq, where ISIS technicians separated the stolen warheads from the original rocket motors before adding new features that made them better suited for urban combat. (Rocket-propelled grenades can’t be fired inside buildings, because of the dangerous back-blast. By attaching ballast to the rocket, ISIS engineers crafted a weapon that could be used in house-to-house fighting.)

So how exactly did American weapons end up with ISIS? Spleeters can’t yet say for sure. According to a July 19, 2017, report in The Washington Post, the US government secretly trained and armed Syrian rebels from 2013 until mid-2017, at which point the Trump administration discontinued the program—in part over fears that US weapons were ending up in the wrong hands. The US government did not reply to multiple requests for comment on how these weapons wound up in the hands of Syrian rebels or in an ISIS munitions factory. The government also declined to comment on whether the US violated the terms of its end-user certificate and, by extension, failed to comply with the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, of which it is one of 130 signatories.

 

Yes, the FBI is America’s secret police

Yes, the FBI is America’s secret police

By James Bovard – The Hill – 12/11/17

Politifact delivered a “pants on fire” slam to Fox News on Friday because one of its commentators asserted that the Federal Bureau of Investigation “has become America’s secret police.” The FBI has legions of new champions nowadays among liberals and Democrats who hope that its probes will end Donald Trump’s presidency. This is a stunning reversal that may have J. Edgar Hoover spinning in his grave.

In order to boost the credibility of the FBI’s investigations of the Trump team, much of the media is whitewashing the bureau’s entire history. But the FBI has been out of control almost since its birth.

A 1924 American Civil Liberties Union report warned that the FBI had become “a secret police system of a political character.” In the 1930s, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court feared that the FBI had bugged the conference room where justices privately wrangled over landmark cases, as Tim Weiner noted in his “Enemies: A History of the FBI.” In 1945, President Harry Truman noted that “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction.” And FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover compiled a list of 20,000 “potentially or actually dangerous” Americans who could be rounded up and locked away in one of the six detention camps the federal government secretly built in the 1950s.

From 1956 through 1971, the FBI’s COINTELPRO program conducted thousands of covert operations to incite street warfare between violent groups, to get people fired, to smear innocent people by portraying them as government informants, to sic the IRS on people, and to cripple or destroy left-wing, communist, white racist, antiwar, and black organizations (including Martin Luther King Jr.). These operations involved vast numbers of warrantless wiretaps and illicit break-ins and resulted in the murder of some black militants. A Senate Committee chaired by liberal Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) issued a damning report on FBI abuses of power that should be mandatory reading for anyone who believes the bureau deserves deference today.According to Politifact, the FBI is not a “secret police agency” because “the FBI is run by laws, not by whim.” But we learned five years ago that the FBI explicitly teaches its agents that “the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.” No FBI official was fired or punished when that factoid leaked out because this has been the Bureau’s tacit code for eons. Similarly, an FBI academy ethics course taught new agents that subjects of FBI investigations have “forfeited their right to the truth.” Are liberals so anxious to get Trump that they have swept under the rug the 2015 Washington Post bombshell about false FBI trial testimony that may have sentenced 32 innocent people to death?

Politifact absolved the bureau because “The FBI doesn’t torture or carry out extrajudicial executions.” Tell that to the Branch Davidians — 80 of whom died after the FBI assaulted their ramshackle home with tanks and pyrotechnic devices and collapsed much of the building on their heads even before fires burst out.

Politifact quotes a professor who asserts that “any use of unnecessary violence (by the FBI) would be met with the full force of the criminal law.” Is that why an internal FBI report claimed that every one of the 150 shootings by FBI agents between 1993 and 2011 was faultless?

FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi gunned down Vicki Weaver in 1992 as she stood in her Idaho cabin doorway holding her baby. After I accused the FBI of a coverup in a Wall Street Journal oped, FBI chief Louis Freeh denounced me for twisting the truth. But after a confidential Justice Department report leaked out revealing the FBI’s deceits and unconstitutional rules of engagement, the feds paid a $3 million wrongful death settlement to the Weaver family. When an Idaho County sought to prosecute the FBI sniper, the Justice Department invoked the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution to torpedo the case.

Politifact asserts that “just because the FBI sometimes operates in secret does not mean that it’s a ‘secret police.’” But the FBI’s secrecy is profoundly skewing American politics. More than a year after the 2016 election, Americans still have no idea the true extent of the FBI’s manipulation of the presidential campaign. Did the FBI wrongfully absolve Hillary Clinton on the email server issue? What role did the FBI have in financing or exploiting the Steele dossier? Will we ever learn the full truth?

The so-called fact checkers insists that any comparison of the FBI and KGB is “ridiculous” because the FBI is “subject to the rule of law and is democratically accountable.” But there is little or no accountability when few members of Congress have the courage to openly criticize or vigorously cross-examine FBI officials. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs admitted in 1971 that Congress was afraid of the FBI: “Our very fear of speaking out (against the FBI) … has watered the roots and hastened the growth of a vine of tyranny … which is ensnaring that Constitution and Bill of Rights which we are each sworn to uphold.” The FBI is currently scorning almost every congressional attempt at oversight. Thus far, members of Congress have responded with nothing except press releases and talk show bluster.

Politifact repeatedly scoffs at the notion that the FBI is “a secret police agency such as the old KGB.” And since the FBI is not as bad as the KGB, let’s mosey along and pretend no good citizen has a right to complain. A similar standard could exonerate any American president who was not as bad as Stalin.

In the 1960s, some conservatives adorned their cars with “Support Your Local Sheriff” bumper stickers. How long until we see Priuses with “Support Your Secretive All-Powerful Federal Agents” bumper stickers? But those who forget or deny past oppression help forge new shackles for the American people.

James Bovard is a USA Today columnist and the author of 10 books, including “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty” (St. Martin’s Press, 1994).

US continues torture in Guantanamo: UN

US continues torture in Guantanamo: UN

Press TV – December 13, 2017

The photo shows the razor wire-topped fence and the watch tower of "Camp 6" detention facility at the US Naval Station in the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 8, 2014. (Photo by AFP)The photo shows the razor wire-topped fence and the watch tower of “Camp 6” detention facility at the US Naval Station in the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 8, 2014. (Photo by AFP)

An inmate at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is still being tortured, the UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer said in a statement on Wednesday.

Former President Barack Obama ended the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” via executive order in January 2009, but Melzer said the historic use of torture in CIA custody had not yet led to prosecutions or compensation for victims.

“By failing to prosecute the crime of torture in CIA custody, the US is in clear violation of the Convention against Torture and is sending a dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world,” Melzer said in the statement.

The statement cited the case of Ammar al-Baluchi, an inmate in Guantanamo Bay, “where his torture and ill-treatment are reported to continue”.

Ammar al-Baluchi, an inmate in the Guantanamo Bay prison

It said al-Baluchi was named 153 times in the US Senate’s 2014 “torture report”, the result of a six-year investigation into so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He was said to have suffered relentless torture for three-and-a-half years in CIA “black sites” before being moved to Guantanamo, the UN statement said.

It did not give details of the source of the information about the continuing torture of al-Baluchi, who had been in isolation at a severely restricted-access facility at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade.

“In addition to the long-term effects of past torture, noise and vibrations are reportedly still being used against him, resulting in constant sleep deprivation and related physical and mental disorders, for which he allegedly does not receive adequate medical attention.”

Melzer said the ban on torture and ill-treatment was one of the most fundamental norms of international law and could not be justified in any circumstances.

He said he had renewed a long-standing request to visit Guantanamo Bay to interview inmates, but he and his predecessors in the role had consistently been denied access.

There was no immediate comment from US officials in Geneva.

The U.S. is Not a Democracy, It Never Was

The U.S. is Not a Democracy, It Never Was
By Gabriel Rockhill

Regarding elections, they are run in the United States as long, multi-million dollar advertising campaigns in which the candidates and issues are pre-selected by the corporate and party elite.”

Photo by Daniel Huizinga | CC BY 2.0

One of the most steadfast beliefs regarding the United States is that it is a democracy. Whenever this conviction waivers slightly, it is almost always to point out detrimental exceptions to core American values or foundational principles. For instance, aspiring critics frequently bemoan a “loss of democracy” due to the election of clownish autocrats, draconian measures on the part of the state, the revelation of extraordinary malfeasance or corruption, deadly foreign interventions, or other such activities that are considered undemocratic exceptions. The same is true for those whose critical framework consists in always juxtaposing the actions of the U.S. government to its founding principles, highlighting the contradiction between the two and clearly placing hope in its potential resolution.

The problem, however, is that there is no contradiction or supposed loss of democracy because the United States simply never was one. This is a difficult reality for many people to confront, and they are likely more inclined to immediately dismiss such a claim as preposterous rather than take the time to scrutinize the material historical record in order to see for themselves. Such a dismissive reaction is due in large part to what is perhaps the most successful public relations campaign in modern history. What will be seen, however, if this record is soberly and methodically inspected, is that a country founded on elite, colonial rule based on the power of wealth—a plutocratic colonial oligarchy, in short—has succeeded not only in buying the label of “democracy” to market itself to the masses, but in having its citizenry, and many others, so socially and psychologically invested in its nationalist origin myth that they refuse to hear lucid and well-documented arguments to the contrary.

To begin to peel the scales from our eyes, let us outline in the restricted space of this article, five patent reasons why the United States has never been a democracy (a more sustained and developed argument is available in my book, Counter-History of the Present). To begin with, British colonial expansion into the Americas did not occur in the name of the freedom and equality of the general population, or the conferral of power to the people. Those who settled on the shores of the “new world,” with few exceptions, did not respect the fact that it was a very old world indeed, and that a vast indigenous population had been living there for centuries. As soon as Columbus set foot, Europeans began robbing, enslaving and killing the native inhabitants. The trans-Atlantic slave trade commenced almost immediately thereafter, adding a countless number of Africans to the ongoing genocidal assault against the indigenous population. Moreover, it is estimated that over half of the colonists who came to North America from Europe during the colonial period were poor indentured servants, and women were generally trapped in roles of domestic servitude. Rather than the land of the free and equal, then, European colonial expansion to the Americas imposed a land of the colonizer and the colonized, the master and the slave, the rich and the poor, the free and the un-free. The former constituted, moreover, an infinitesimally small minority of the population, whereas the overwhelming majority, meaning “the people,” was subjected to death, slavery, servitude, and unremitting socio-economic oppression.

Second, when the elite colonial ruling class decided to sever ties from their homeland and establish an independent state for themselves, they did not found it as a democracy. On the contrary, they were fervently and explicitly opposed to democracy, like the vast majority of European Enlightenment thinkers. They understood it to be a dangerous and chaotic form of uneducated mob rule. For the so-called “founding fathers,” the masses were not only incapable of ruling, but they were considered a threat to the hierarchical social structures purportedly necessary for good governance. In the words of John Adams, to take but one telling example, if the majority were given real power, they would redistribute wealth and dissolve the “subordination” so necessary for politics. When the eminent members of the landowning class met in 1787 to draw up a constitution, they regularly insisted in their debates on the need to establish a republic that kept at bay vile democracy, which was judged worse than “the filth of the common sewers” by the pro-Federalist editor William Cobbett. The new constitution provided for popular elections only in the House of Representatives, but in most states the right to vote was based on being a property owner, and women, the indigenous and slaves—meaning the overwhelming majority of the population—were simply excluded from the franchise. Senators were elected by state legislators, the President by electors chosen by the state legislators, and the Supreme Court was appointed by the President. It is in this context that Patrick Henry flatly proclaimed the most lucid of judgments: “it is not a democracy.” George Mason further clarified the situation by describing the newly independent country as “a despotic aristocracy.”

When the American republic slowly came to be relabeled as a “democracy,” there were no significant institutional modifications to justify the change in name. In other words, and this is the third point, the use of the term “democracy” to refer to an oligarchic republic simply meant that a different word was being used to describe the same basic phenomenon. This began around the time of “Indian killer” Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign in the 1830s. Presenting himself as a ‘democrat,’ he put forth an image of himself as an average man of the people who was going to put a halt to the long reign of patricians from Virginia and Massachusetts. Slowly but surely, the term “democracy” came to be used as a public relations term to re-brand a plutocratic oligarchy as an electoral regime that serves the interest of the people or demos. Meanwhile, the American holocaust continued unabated, along with chattel slavery, colonial expansion and top-down class warfare.

In spite of certain minor changes over time, the U.S. republic has doggedly preserved its oligarchic structure, and this is readily apparent in the two major selling points of its contemporary “democratic” publicity campaign. The Establishment and its propagandists regularly insist that a structural aristocracy is a “democracy” because the latter is defined by the guarantee of certain fundamental rights (legal definition) and the holding of regular elections (procedural definition). This is, of course, a purely formal, abstract and largely negative understanding of democracy, which says nothing whatsoever about people having real, sustained power over the governing of their lives. However, even this hollow definition dissimulates the extent to which, to begin with, the supposed equality before the law in the United States presupposes an inequality before the law by excluding major sectors of the population: those judged not to have the right to rights, and those considered to have lost their right to rights (Native Americans, African-Americans and women for most of the country’s history, and still today in certain aspects, as well as immigrants, “criminals,” minors, the “clinically insane,” political dissidents, and so forth). Regarding elections, they are run in the United States as long, multi-million dollar advertising campaigns in which the candidates and issues are pre-selected by the corporate and party elite. The general population, the majority of whom do not have the right to vote or decide not to exercise it, are given the “choice”—overseen by an undemocratic electoral college and embedded in a non-proportional representation scheme—regarding which member of the aristocratic elite they would like to have rule over and oppress them for the next four years. “Multivariate analysis indicates,” according to an important recent study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination […], but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy.”

To take but a final example of the myriad ways in which the U.S. is not, and has never been, a democracy, it is worth highlighting its consistent assault on movements of people power. Since WWII, it has endeavored to overthrow some 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected. It has also, according the meticulous calculations by William Blum in America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, grossly interfered in the elections of at least 30 countries, attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders, dropped bombs on more than 30 countries, and attempted to suppress populist movements in 20 countries. The record on the home front is just as brutal. To take but one significant parallel example, there is ample evidence that the FBI has been invested in a covert war against democracy. Beginning at least in the 1960s, and likely continuing up to the present, the Bureau “extended its earlier clandestine operations against the Communist party, committing its resources to undermining the Puerto Rico independence movement, the Socialist Workers party, the civil rights movement, Black nationalist movements, the Ku Klux Klan, segments of the peace movement, the student movement, and the ‘New Left’ in general” (Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom, p. 22-23). Consider, for instance, Judi Bari’s summary of its assault on the Socialist Workers Party: “From 1943-63, the federal civil rights case Socialist Workers Party v. Attorney General documents decades of illegal FBI break-ins and 10 million pages of surveillance records. The FBI paid an estimated 1,600 informants $1,680,592 and used 20,000 days of wiretaps to undermine legitimate political organizing.” In the case of the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (AIM)—which were both important attempts to mobilize people power to dismantle the structural oppression of white supremacy and top-down class warfare—the FBI not only infiltrated them and launched hideous smear and destabilization campaigns against them, but they assassinated 27 Black Panthers and 69 members of AIM (and subjected countless others to the slow death of incarceration). If it be abroad or on the home front, the American secret police has been extremely proactive in beating down the movements of people rising up, thereby protecting and preserving the main pillars of white supremacist, capitalist aristocracy.

Rather than blindly believing in a golden age of democracy in order to remain at all costs within the gilded cage of an ideology produced specifically for us by the well-paid spin-doctors of a plutocratic oligarchy, we should unlock the gates of history and meticulously scrutinize the founding and evolution of the American imperial republic. This will not only allow us to take leave of its jingoist and self-congratulatory origin myths, but it will also provide us with the opportunity to resuscitate and reactivate so much of what they have sought to obliterate. In particular, there is a radical America just below the surface of these nationalist narratives, an America in which the population autonomously organizes itself in indigenous and ecological activism, black radical resistance, anti-capitalist mobilization, anti-patriarchal struggles, and so forth. It is this America that the corporate republic has sought to eradicate, while simultaneously investing in an expansive public relations campaign to cover over its crimes with the fig leaf of “democracy” (which has sometimes required integrating a few token individuals, who appear to be from below, into the elite ruling class in order to perpetuate the all-powerful myth of meritocracy). If we are astute and perspicacious enough to recognize that the U.S. is undemocratic today, let us not be so indolent or ill-informed that we let ourselves be lulled to sleep by lullabies praising its halcyon past. Indeed, if the United States is not a democracy today, it is in large part due to the fact that it never was one. Far from being a pessimistic conclusion, however, it is precisely by cracking open the hard shell of ideological encasement that we can tap into the radical forces that have been suppressed by it. These forces—not those that have been deployed to destroy them—should be the ultimate source of our pride in the power of the people.

Gabriel Rockhill is a Franco-American philosopher and cultural critic. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University and founding Director of the Atelier de Théorie Critique at the Sorbonne. His books include Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (2017), Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (2016), Radical History & the Politics of Art (2014) and Logique de l’histoire (2010). In addition to his scholarly work, he has been actively engaged in extra-academic activities in the art and activist worlds, as well as a regular contributor to public intellectual debate. Follow on twitter: @GabrielRockhill

This article was originally published by Counterpunch

Rouhani: We’re Ready for Cooperation with Muslim States to Defend Al-Quds

Local Editor

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic is prepared to join hands with other Muslim countries and help defend the holy city of al-Quds against US-‘Israeli’ plots with no strings attached.

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“…The Islamic Republic of Iran stands ready to cooperate with each one of the Muslim countries to defend the holy Quds without any reservation or pre-condition,” Rouhani said on Wednesday, addressing an urgent summit in Istanbul on Washington’s contentious declaration on occupied al-Quds.

Representatives from 57 OIC [The Organization of Islamic Cooperation] members are attending the summit, which is meant to coordinate a response to a US decision to recognize al-Quds as the Zionist entity’s “capital.”

Rouhani also said attempts by certain regional countries to normalize ties with the apartheid ‘Israeli’ regime prompted US President Donald Trump to take the decision.
“I believe that other than any other reason, the attempts of some countries to establish relations and even consultation and coordination with the Zionist regime have incited such a decision”.

Instead of countering the threats of the Zionists, some countries in our region are aligned with the US and Zionists to prescribe the fate of Palestine-If such prescriptions are taken, the Zionists would permanently dominate the Palestinians, Rouhani stressed.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

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