Archive for the 'war/peace/militarism' Category



Israeli Jews and the one-state solution

The Electronic Intifada, November 10, 2009

Israeli Jews and the one-state solution

Anyone who rejects the two-state solution, won’t bring a one-state solution. They will instead bring one war, not one state. A bloody war with no end. — Israeli President Shimon Peres, 7 November 2009.

One of the most commonly voiced objections to a one-state solution for Palestine/Israel stems from the accurate observation that the vast majority of Israeli Jews reject it, and fear being “swamped” by a Palestinian majority. Across the political spectrum, Israeli Jews insist on maintaining a separate Jewish-majority state.

But with the total collapse of the Obama Administration’s peace efforts, and relentless Israeli colonization of the occupied West Bank, the reality is dawning rapidly that the two-state solution is no more than a slogan that has no chance of being implemented or altering the reality of a de facto binational state in Palestine/Israel.

This places an obligation on all who care about the future of Palestine/Israel to seriously consider the democratic alternatives. I have long argued that the systems in post-apartheid South Africa (a unitary democratic state), and Northern Ireland (consociational democracy) — offer hopeful, real-life models.

But does solid Israeli Jewish opposition to a one-state solution mean that a peaceful one-state outcome is so unlikely that Palestinians should not pursue it, and should instead focus only on “pragmatic” solutions that would be less fiercely resisted by Israeli Jews?

The experience in South Africa suggests otherwise. In 1994, white-minority rule — apartheid — came to a peaceful, negotiated end, and was replaced (after a transitional period of power-sharing) with a unitary democratic state with a one person, one vote system. Before this happened, how likely did this outcome look? Was there any significant constituency of whites prepared to contemplate it, and what if the African National Congress (ANC) had only advanced political solutions that whites told pollsters they would accept?

Until close to the end of apartheid, the vast majority of whites, including many of the system’s liberal critics, completely rejected a one person, one vote system, predicting that any attempt to impose it would lead to a bloodbath. As late as 1989, F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid president, described a one person, one vote system as the “death knell” for South Africa.

A 1988 study by political scientist Pierre Hugo documented the widespread fears among South African whites that a transition to majority rule would entail not only a loss of political power and socioeconomic status, but engendered “physical dread” and fear of “violence, total collapse, expulsion and flight.” Successive surveys showed that four out of five whites thought that majority rule would threaten their “physical safety.” Such fears were frequently heightened by common racist tropes of inherently savage and violent Africans, but the departure of more than a million white colons from Algeria and the airlifting of 300,000 whites from Angola during decolonization set terrifying precedents (“Towards darkness and death: racial demonology in South Africa,” The Journal of Modern African Studies, 26(4), 1988).

Throughout the 1980s, polls showed that even as whites increasingly understood that apartheid could not last, only a small minority ever supported majority rule and a one person, one vote system. In a March 1986 survey, for example, 47 percent of whites said they would favor some form of “mixed-race” government, but 83 percent said they would opt for continued white domination of the government if they had the choice (Peter Goodspeed, “Afrikaners cling to their all-white dream,” The Toronto Star, 5 October 1986).

A 1990 nationwide survey of Afrikaner whites (native speakers of Afrikaans, as opposed to English, and who traditionally formed the backbone of the apartheid state), found just 2.2 percent were willing to accept a “universal franchise with majority rule” (Kate Manzo and Pat McGowan, “Afrikaner fears and the politics of despair: Understanding change in South Africa,” International Studies Quarterly, 36, 1992).

Perhaps an enlightened white elite was able to lead the white masses to higher ground? This was not the case either. A 1988 academic survey of more than 400 white politicians, business and media leaders, top civil servants, academics and clergy found that just 4.8 percent were prepared to accept a unitary state with a universal voting franchise and two-thirds considered such an outcome “unacceptable.” According to Manzo and McGowan, white elites reflected the sentiments and biases of the rest of the society and overwhelmingly considered whites inherently more civilized and culturally superior to black Africans. Just more than half of prominent whites were prepared to accept “a federal state in which power is shared between white and non-white groups and areas so that no one group dominates.”

During the 1980s, the white electorate in South Africa moved to the right, as Israel’s Jewish electorate is doing today. Support seeped from the National Party, which had established formal apartheid in 1948, to the even more extreme Conservative Party. Yet, “on the issue of majority rule,” Hugo observed, “supporters of the National Party and the Conservative Party, as well as most white voters to the ‘left’ of these organizations, ha[d] little quarrel with each other.”

The vast majority of whites, wracked with existential fears, were simply unable to contemplate relinquishing effective control, or at least a veto, over political decision-making in South Africa.

Yet, the African National Congress insisted firmly on a one person, one vote system with no white veto. As the township protests and strikes and international pressure mounted, The Economist observed in an extensive 1986 survey of South Africa published on 1 February of that year, that many “enlightened” whites “still fondly argue that a dramatic improvement in the quality of black life may take the revolutionary sting out of the black townships — and persuade ‘responsible’ blacks, led by the emergent black middle class, to accept some power-sharing formula.”

Schemes to stabilize the apartheid system abounded, and bear a strong resemblance to the current Israeli government’s vision of “economic peace” in which a collaborationist Palestinian Authority leadership would manage a still-subjugated Palestinian population anesthetized by consumer goods and shopping malls.

Because of the staunch opposition of whites to a unitary democratic state, the ANC heard no shortage of advice from western liberals that it should seek a “realistic” political accommodation with the apartheid regime, and that no amount of pressure could force whites to succumb to the ANC’s political demands. The ANC was warned that insistence on majority rule would force Afrikaners into the “laager” — they would retreat into a militarized garrison state and siege economy, preferring death before surrender.

Even the late Helen Suzman, one of apartheid’s fiercest liberal critics, predicted in 1987, as quoted by Hugo, “The Zimbabwe conflict took 15 years … and cost 20,000 lives and I can assure you that the South African transfer of power will take a good deal more than that, both in time and I am afraid lives.”

But as The Economist observed, the view that whites would prefer “collective suicide” was something of a caricature. The vast majority of Afrikaners were “no longer bible-thumping boers.” They were “part of a spoilt, affluent suburban society, whose economic pain threshold may prove to be rather low.”

The Economist concluded that if whites would only come so far voluntarily, then it was perfectly reasonable for the anti-apartheid movement to bring them the rest of the way through “coercion” in the form of sanctions and other forms of pressure. “The quicker the white tribe submits,” the magazine wrote, “the better its chance of a bearable future in a black-ruled South Africa.”

Ultimately, as we now know, the combination of internal resistance and international isolation did force whites to abandon political apartheid and accept majority rule. However, it is important to note that the combined strength of the anti-apartheid movement never seriously threatened the physical integrity of the white regime.

Even after the massive township uprisings of 1985-86, the South African regime was secure. “So far there is no real physical threat to white power,” The Economist noted, “so far there is little threat to white lives. … The white state is mighty, and well-equipped. It has the capacity to repress the township revolts far more bloodily. The blacks have virtually no urban or rural guerrilla capacity, practically no guns, few safe havens within South Africa or without.”

This balance never changed, and a similar equation could be written today about the relative power of a massively-armed — and much more ruthless — Israeli state, and lightly armed Palestinian resistance factions.

What did change for South Africa, and what all the weapons in the world were not able to prevent, was the complete loss of legitimacy of the apartheid regime and its practices. Once this legitimacy was gone, whites lost the will to maintain a system that relied on repression and violence and rendered them international pariahs; they negotiated a way out and lived to tell the tale. It all happened much more quickly and with considerably less violence than even the most optimistic predictions of the time. But this outcome could not have been predicted based on what whites said they were willing to accept, and it would not have occurred had the ANC been guided by opinion polls rather than the democratic principles of the Freedom Charter.

Zionism — as many Israelis openly worry — is suffering a similar, terminal loss of legitimacy as Israel is ever more isolated as a result of its actions. Israel’s self-image as a liberal “Jewish and democratic state” is proving impossible to maintain against the reality of a militarized, ultra-nationalist Jewish sectarian settler-colony that must carry out frequent and escalating massacres of “enemy” civilians (Lebanon and Gaza 2006, Gaza 2009) in a losing effort to check the resistance of the region’s indigenous people. Zionism cannot bomb, kidnap, assassinate, expel, demolish, settle and lie its way to legitimacy and acceptance.

Already difficult to disguise, the loss of legitimacy becomes impossible to conceal once Palestinians are a demographic majority ruled by a Jewish minority. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state” is in effect an acknowledgement of failure: without Palestinian consent, something which is unlikely ever to be granted, the Zionist project of a Jewish ethnocracy in Palestine has grim long-term prospects.

Similarly, South African whites typically attempted to justify their opposition to democracy, not in terms of a desire to preserve their privilege and power, but using liberal arguments about protecting distinctive cultural differences. Hendrik Verwoerd Jr., the son of assassinated Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, apartheid’s founder, expressed the problem in these terms in 1986, as reported by The Toronto Star, stating that, “These two people, the Afrikaner and the black, are not capable of becoming one nation. Our differences are unique, cultural and deep. The only way a man can be happy, can live in peace, is really when he is among his own people, when he shares cultural values.”

The younger Verwoerd was on the far-right of South African politics, leading a quixotic effort to carve out a whites-only homeland in the heart of South Africa. But his reasoning sounds remarkably similar to liberal Zionist defenses of the “two-state solution” today. The Economist clarified the use of such language at the time, stating that “One of the weirder products of apartheid is the crippling of language in a maw of hypocrisy, euphemism and sociologese. You talk about the Afrikaner ‘right to self-determination’ — meaning power over everybody else.”

Zionism’s claim for “Jewish self-determination” amidst an intermixed population, is in effect a demand to preserve and legitimize a status quo in which Israeli Jews exercise power in perpetuity. But there’s little reason to expect that Israeli Jews would abandon this quest voluntarily any more than South African whites did. As in South Africa, coercion is necessary — and the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is one of the most powerful, nonviolent, legitimate and proven tools of coercion that Palestinians possess. Israel’s vulnerabilities may be different from those of apartheid South Africa, but Israel is not invulnerable to pressure.

Coercion is not enough, however; as I have long argued, and sought to do, Palestinians must also put forward a positive vision. Neither can Palestinians advocating a one-state solution simply disregard the views of Israeli Jews. We must recognize that the opposition of Israeli Jews to any solution that threatens their power and privilege stems from at least two sources. One is irrational, racist fears of black and brown hordes (in this case, Arab Muslims) stoked by decades of colonial, racist demonization. The other source — certainly heightened by the former — are normal human concerns about personal and family dislocation, loss of socioeconomic status and community security: change is scary.

But change will come. Without indulging Israeli racism or preserving undue privilege, the legitimate concerns of ordinary Israeli Jews can be addressed directly in any negotiated transition to ensure that the shift to democracy is orderly, and essential redistributive policies are carried out fairly. Inevitably, decolonization will cause some pain as Israeli Jews lose power and privilege, but there are few reasons to believe it cannot be a well-managed process, or that the vast majority of Israeli Jews, like white South Africans, would not be prepared to make the adjustment for the sake of a normality and legitimacy they cannot have any other way.

This is where the wealth of research and real-life experience about the successes, failures, difficulties and opportunities of managing such transitions at the level of national and local politics, neighborhoods, schools and universities, workplaces, state institutions and policing, emerging from South Africa and Northern Ireland, will be of enormous value.

Every situation has unique features, and although there are patterns in history, it never repeats itself exactly. But what we can conclude from studying the pasts and presents of others is that Palestinians and Israelis are no less capable of writing themselves a post-colonial future that gives everyone a chance at a life worth living in a single, democratic state.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Jewish Voice for Peace comments:

Ali Abunimah is a prominent defender of a single democratic state in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. In this article he makes the now quite common – though also controversial – comparison with Apartheid South Africa. Usually the question this comparison raises is whether Israeli treatment of Palestinians is really analogous to or as bad as the Apartheid regime’s treatment of its black majority, and the comparison is often used to support the use of tactics of resistance like BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) modeled on the anti-Apartheid campaigns of the 1980s.  But Abunimah instead hones narrowly in on the hostility of the white minority in South Africa to a multi-racial democratic state, a hostility that persisted until surprisingly shortly before change was initiated. It is this that he compares, in a wealth of detail, with Jewish Israeli fears of a single state solution. If change could occur in South Africa in spite of such widespread rejection in the white community, why, Abuminah argues, should change not occur in Israel despite the fears of the Jewish community? It won’t happen, he recognizes without outside pressure (and he supports BDS); but current Jewish Israeli rejection need not make it impossible.

This is surely true, but ‘not necessarily impossible’ is very far from showing that a one-state solution ought to be the aspiration of activist movements, Palestinian, Jewish or otherwise. As his banner quotation from Shimon Peres – a barely veiled threat – makes clear, it remains quite possible that a one-state ‘solution’ will involve no diminution of violence towards or oppression of Palestinians. One state is, after all, what there is now. What might make it important to explore a one state possibility is the fact, clearly motivating Abunimah, that two viable states are now impossible. Certainly he is correct to say that there is presently no political will in the Israeli or US administrations to move in the direction of a viable Palestinian state and reasonable opinions can differ on whether the current ‘facts on the ground’ make it impossible to eke out such a state. But it is also surely true that activist pressure can be brought to bear both on that political
will and even on the facts on the ground and this pressure has a natural point of application in the official commitment of Israel, the US, the PA (and even Hamas) to two states. If change is possible, as Abunimah argues, on the one state solution, then it is certainly possible for two states. But if two states can be achieved, then this removes a big chunk of the motivation for directing one’s energies to one state. Indeed, aiming for two viable states in the medium term is not inconsistent with seeking to build consensus, along the lines Abunimah suggests, for single state in the long term.

The question is by no means an obvious one to resolve, but it is important to consider where activist energies are most likely to have an effect, and avoid directions that absorb energy with little hope of result. Indeed some commentators have suggested that the one state solution has become increasingly acceptable in the mainstream US  media precisely because it is so unlikely to come about that it represents – from the point of view of the status quo – a harmless safety valve through which to discharge otherwise potentially dangerous activist pressure.

Alistair Welchman

CIA, Heroin Still Rule Day in Afghanistan

RAWA: Since 2001 the opium cultivation increased over 4,400%. Under the US/NATO, Afghanistan became world largest opium producer, which produces 93% of world opium.

RAWA News, November 24, 2008

CIA, Heroin Still Rule Day in Afghanistan

“U.S. Army planes leave Afghanistan carrying coffins empty of bodies, but filled with drugs.”

By Victor Thorn

Opium fields in Afghanistan

Afghanistan now supplies over 90 percent of the world’s heroin, generating nearly $200 billion in revenue. Since the U.S. invasion on Oct. 7, 2001, opium output has increased 33-fold (to over 8,250 metric tons a year).

The U.S. has been in Afghanistan for over seven years, has spent $177 billion in that country alone, and has the most powerful and technologically advanced military on Earth. GPS tracking devices can locate any spot imaginable by simply pushing a few buttons.

Still, bumper crops keep flourishing year after year, even though heroin production is a laborious, intricate process. The poppies must be planted, grown and harvested; then after the morphine is extracted it has to be cooked, refined, packaged into bricks and transported from rural locales across national borders. To make heroin from morphine requires another 12-14 hours of laborious chemical reactions. Thousands of people are involved, yet—despite the massive resources at our disposal—heroin keeps flowing at record levels.

Common sense suggests that such prolific trade over an extended period of time is no accident, especially when the history of what has transpired in that region is considered. While the CIA ran its operations during the Vietnam War, the Golden Triangle supplied the world with most of its heroin. After that war ended in 1975, an intriguing event took place in 1979 when Zbigniew Brzezinski covertly manipulated the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan.Behind the scenes, the CIA, along with Pakistan’s ISI, were secretly funding Afghanistan’s mujahideen to fight their Russian foes. Prior to this war, opium production in Afghanistan was minimal. But according to historian Alfred McCoy, an expert on the subject, a shift in focus took place. “Within two years of the onslaught of the CIA operation in Afghanistan, the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer.”   (Read Wikipedia on Alfred McCoy.)

Soon, as Professor Michel Chossudovsky notes, “CIA assets again controlled the heroin trade. As the mujahideen guerrillas seized territory inside Afghanistan, they ordered peasants to plant poppies as a revolutionary tax. Across the border in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates under the protection of Pakistan intelligence operated hundreds of heroin laboratories.

Eventually, the Soviet Union was defeated (their version of Vietnam), and ultimately lost the Cold War. The aftermath, however, proved to be an entirely new can of worms. During his research, McCoy discovered that “the CIA supported various Afghan drug lords, for instance Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The CIA did not handle heroin, but it did provide its drug lord allies with transport, arms, and political protection.”

By 1994, a new force emerged in the region—the Taliban—that took over the drug trade. Chossudovsky again discovered that “the Americans had secretly, and through the Pakistanis [specifically the ISI], supported the Taliban’s assumption of power.”

These strange bedfellows endured a rocky relationship until July 2000 when Taliban leaders banned the planting of poppies. This alarming development, along with other disagreements over proposed oil pipelines through Eurasia, posed a serious problem for power centers in the West. Without heroin money at their disposal, billions of dollars could not be funneled into various CIA black budget projects. Already sensing trouble in this volatile region, 18 influential neo-cons signed a letter in 1998 which became a blueprint for war—the infamous Project for a New American Century (PNAC).

Fifteen days after 9-11, CIA Director George Tenet sent his top-secret Special Operations Group (SOG) into Afghanistan. One of the biggest revelations in Tenet’s book, At the Center of the Storm, was that CIA forces directed the Afghanistan invasion, not the Pentagon.

In the Jan. 26, 2003, issue of Time magazine, Douglas Waller describes Donald Rumsfeld’s reaction to this development. “When aides told Rumsfeld that his Army Green Beret A-Teams couldn’t go into Afghanistan until the CIA contingent had lain the groundwork with local warlords, he erupted, ‘I have all these guys under arms, and we’ve got to wait like little birds in a nest for the CIA to let us go in?’”

ARMITAGE A MAJOR PLAYER

But the real operator in Afghanistan was Richard Armitage, a man whose legend includes being the biggest heroin trafficker in Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War; director of the State Department’s Foreign Narcotics Control Office (a front for CIA drug dealing); head of the Far East Company (used to funnel drug money out of the Golden Triangle); a close liaison with Oliver North during the Iran-Contra cocaine-for-guns scandal; a primary Pentagon official in the terror and covert ops field under George Bush the Elder; one of the original signatories of the infamous PNAC document; and the man who helped CIA Director William Casey run weapons to the mujahideen during their war against the Soviet Union. Armitage was also stationed in Iran during the mid-1970s right before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the shah. Armitage may well be the greatest covert operator in U.S. history.

On Sept. 10, 2001, Armitage met with the UK’s national security advisor, Sir David Manning. Was Armitage “passing on specific intelligence information about the impending terrorist attacks”? The scenario is plausible because one day later—on 9-11—Dick Cheney directly called for Armitage’s presence down in his bunker. Immediately after WTC 2 was struck, Armitage told BBC Radio, “I was told to go to the operations center [where] I spent the rest of the day in the ops center with the vice president.”

These two share a long history together. Not only was Armitage employed by Cheney’s former company Halliburton (via Brown & Root), he was also a deputy when Cheney was secretary of defense under Bush the Elder. More importantly, Cheney and Armitage had joint business and consulting interests in the Central Asian pipeline which had been contracted by Unocal. The only problem standing between them and the Caspian Sea’s vast energy reserves was the Taliban.

Since the 1980s, Armitage amassed a huge roster of allies in Pakistan’s ISI. He was also one of the “Vulcans”—along with Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Rabbi Dov Zakheim—who coordinated Bush’s geo-strategic foreign policy initiatives. Then, after 9-11, he negotiated with the Pakistanis prior to our invasion of Afghanistan, while also becoming Bush’s deputy secretary of state stationed in Afghanistan.

Our “enemy,” or course, was the Taliban “terrorists.” But George Tenet, Colin Powell, Porter Goss, and Armitage had developed a close relationship with Pakistan’s military head of the ISI—General Mahmoud Ahmad— who was cited in a Sept. 2001 FBI report as “supporting and financing the alleged 9-11 terrorists, as well as having links to al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

The line between friend and foe gets even murkier. Afghan President Hamid Karzai not only collaborated with the Taliban, but he was also on Unocal’s payroll in the mid-1990s. He is also described by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Watan newspaper as being “a Central Intelligence Agency covert operator since the 1980s that collaborated with the CIA in funding U.S. aid to the Taliban.”

Capturing a new, abundant source for heroin was an integral part of the U.S. “war on terror.” Hamid Karzai is a puppet ruler of the CIA; Afghanistan is a full-fledged narco-state; and the poppies that flourish there have yet to be eradicated, as was proven in 2003 when the Bush administration refused to destroy the crops, despite having the chance to do so. Major drug dealers are rarely arrested, smugglers enjoy carte blanche immunity, and Nushin Arbabzadah, writing for The Guardian, theorized that “U.S. Army planes leave Afghanistan carrying coffins empty of bodies, but filled with drugs.” Is that why the military protested so vehemently when reporters tried to photograph returning caskets?

America’s drug crisis and Afghanistan: where the US goes, the drug trade soon follows

CounterPunch, October 28, 2009

Brought to You by the CIA

America’s Drug Crisis

By DAVE LINDORFF

Next time you see a junkie sprawled at the curb in the downtown of your nearest city, or read about someone who died of a heroin overdose, just imagine a big yellow sign posted next to him or her saying: “Your Federal Tax Dollars at Work.”

Kudos to the New York Times, and to reporters Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen, for their lead article today reporting that Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghanistan’s stunningly corrupt President Hamid Karzai, a leading drug lord in the world’s major opium-producing nation, has for eight years been on the CIA payroll.

Okay, the article was lacking much historical perspective (more on that later), and the dead hand of top editors was evident in the overly cautious tone (I loved the third paragraph, which stated that “The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raises significant questions about America’s war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.” Well, duh! It should be raising questions about why we are even in Afghanistan, about who should be going to jail at the CIA, and about how can the government explain this to the over 1000 soldiers and Marines who have died supposedly helping to build a new Afghanistan). But that said, the newspaper that helped cheerlead us into the pointless and criminal Iraq invasion in 2003, and that prevented journalist Risen from running his exposé of the Bush/Cheney administration’s massive warrantless National Security Agency electronic spying operation until after the 2004 presidential election, this time gave a critically important story full play, and even, appropriately, included a teaser in the same front-page story about October being the most deadly month yet for the US in Afghanistan.

What the article didn’t mention at all is that there is a clear historical pattern here. During the Vietnam War, the CIA, and its Air America airline front-company, were neck deep in the Southeast Asian heroin trade. At the time, it was Southeast Asia, not Afghanistan, that was the leading producer and exporter of opium, mostly to the US, where there was a heroin epidemic.

A decade later, in the 1980s, during the Reagan administration, as the late investigative journalist Gary Webb so brilliantly documented first in a series titled “Dark Alliance” in the San Jose Mercury newspaper, and later in a book by that same name, the CIA was deeply involved in the development of and smuggling of cocaine into the US, which was soon engulfed in a crack cocaine epidemic—one that continues to destroy African American and other poor communities across the country. (The Times role here was sordid—it and other leading papers, including the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times—did despicable hit pieces on Webb shamelessly trashing his work and his career, and ultimately driving him to suicide, though his facts have held up. For the whole sordid tale, read Alex Cockburn’s and Jeffrey St. Clair’s Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press) In this case, Webb showed that the Agency was actually using the drugs as a way to fund arms, which it could use its own planes to ferry down to the Contra forces it was backing to subvert the Sandinista government in Nicaragua at a time Congress had barred the US from supporting the Contras.

And now we have Afghanistan, once a sleepy backwater of the world with little connection to drugs (the Taliban, before their overthrow by US forces in 20001, had, according to the UN, virtually eliminated opium production there), but now responsible for as much as 80 percent of the world’s opium production—this at a time that the US effectively finances and runs the place, with an occupying army that, together with Afghan government forces that it controls, outnumbers the Taliban 12-1 according to a recent AP story.

The real story here is that where the US goes, the drug trade soon follows, and the leading role in developing and nurturing that trade appears to be played by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Your tax dollars at work.

The issue at this point should not be how many troops the US should add to its total in Afghanistan. It shouldn’t even be over whether the US should up the ante or scale back to a more limited goal of hunting terrorists. It should be about how quickly the US can extricate its forces from Afghanistan, how soon the Congress can start hearings into corruption and drug pushing by the CIA, and how soon the Attorney General’s office will impanel a grand jury to probe CIA drug dealing.

Americans, who for years have supported a stupid, blundering and ineffective “War on Drugs” in this country, and who mindlessly back “zero-tolerance” policies towards drugs in schools and on the job, should demand a “zero-tolerance” policy toward drugs and dealing with drug pushers in government and foreign policy, including the CIA.

For years we have been fed the story that the Taliban are being financed by their taxes on opium farmers. That may be partly true, but recently we’ve been learning that it’s not the real story. Taliban forces in Afghanistan, it turns out, have been heavily subsidized by protection money paid to them by civilian aid organizations, including even American government-funded aid programs, and even, reportedly, by the military forces of some of America’s NATO allies (there is currently a scandal in Italy concerning such payments by Italian forces). But beyond that, the opium industry, far from being controlled by the Taliban, has been, to a great extent, controlled by the very warlords with which the US has allied itself, and, as the Times now reports, by Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s own brother.

Karzai, we are also told by Filkins, Mazzetti and Risen, was a key player in producing hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots for his brother’s election theft earlier this year. Left unsaid is whether the CIA might have played a role in that scam too. In a country where finding printing presses is sure to be difficult, and where transporting bales of counterfeit ballots is risky, you have to wonder whether an agency like the CIA, which has ready access to printers and to helicopters, might have had a hand in keeping its assets in control in Kabul.

Sure that’s idle speculation on my part, but when you learn that America’s spook agency has been keeping not just Karzai, but lots of other unsavory Afghani warlords, on its payroll, such speculation is only logical.

The real attitude of the CIA here was best illustrated by an anonymous quote in the Filkins, Mazzetti and Risen piece, where a “former CIA officer with experience in Afghanistan,” explaining the agency’s backing of Karzai, said, “Virtually every significant Afghan figure has had brushes with the drug trade. If you are looking for Mother Teresa, she doesn’t live in Afghanistan.”

“The end justifies the means” is America’s foreign policy and military motto, clearly.

The Times article exposing the CIA link to Afghanistan’s drug-kingpin presidential brother should be the last straw for Americans. President Obama’s “necessary” war in Afghanistan is nothing but a sick joke.

The opium, and resulting heroin, that is flooding into Europe and America thanks to the CIA’s active support of the industry and its owners in Afghanistan are doing far more grave damage to our societies than any turbaned terrorists armed with suicide bomb vests could hope to inflict.

The Afghanistan War has to be ended now.

Let the prosecution of America’s government drug pushers begin.

A note about Sen. John Kerry: Kerry (D-MA), who went to Afghanistan to press, for the Obama administration, to get his “good friend” President Karzai to agree to a run-off election after Karzai’s earlier theft of the first round, has played a shameful role here. Once, back when he still had an ounce of the principle that he had back when he was a Vietnam vet speaking out against the Indochina War, Kerry held hearings on the CIA’s cocaine-for-arms operation in Central America. Now he’s hugging the CIA’s drug connections.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com

When Gitmo and Abu Ghraib Come Home

CounterPunch, October 26, 2009

When Gitmo and Abu Ghraib Come Home

By BILL QUIGLEY and DEBORAH POPOWSKI

The Louisiana Board that licenses psychologists is facing a growing legal fight over torture and medical care at the infamous Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons.

In 2003, Louisiana psychologist and retired colonel Larry James watched behind a one-way mirror in a U.S. prison camp while an interrogator and three prison guards wrestled a screaming near-naked man on the floor.

The prisoner had been forced into pink women’s panties, lipstick and a wig; the men then pinned the prisoner to the floor in an effort “to outfit him with the matching pink nightgown.”  As he recounts in his memoir, Fixing Hell, Dr. James initially chose not to respond.  He “opened [his] thermos, poured a cup of coffee, and watched the episode play out, hoping it would take a better turn and not wanting to interfere without good reason…”

Although he claims to eventually find “good reason” to intervene, the Army colonel never reported the incident or even so much as reprimanded men who had engaged in activities that constituted war crimes.

Sadly, the story of Dr. James’ complicity in prisoner abuse does not end there.  The New Orleans native and former LSU psychology professor admits to overseeing the detention, interrogation and health care of three boys, aged twelve to fourteen, who were disappeared to Guantanamo and held without charge or access to counsel or their families. In Fixing Hell and elsewhere, Dr. James proudly proclaims that he was in a position of authority at Guantanamo.

Government records indicate that, as the senior psychologist consulting on interrogations, his decisions affected the policy and operations of interrogations and detention on the base.  During his time there, reports of beatings, sexual abuse, religious humiliation and sleep deprivation during interrogations were widespread, and draconian isolation was official policy.  Prisoners suffered, and some continue to suffer, devastating physical and psychological harm.

Dr. Trudy Bond, a psychologist under an ethical obligation to report abuse by other psychologists, filed a complaint against Dr. James before the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists in February 2008.

Dr. Bond’s complaint says that Dr. James’ conduct violated Louisiana laws governing his psychology license.  As a psychologist and military colonel, he had a duty to avoid harm, to protect confidential information, and to obtain informed consent, as well as to prevent and punish the misconduct of his subordinates.

How did the Louisiana licensing board respond?  Rather than investigate, the Board dismissed the complaint, and when asked again, reaffirmed its decision.  Dr. Bond has now taken the case to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge.  Dr. James played an influential role in both the policy and day-to-day operations of interrogations and detention in the notorious prison camps built to hold men and boys captured during the U.S. “War on Terror.”

According to his own statements, he was a senior member of interrogation consulting teams that, as documented by government records, were central in designing interrogation plans that exploited psychological and physical weaknesses of individual detainees.  In one example cited by the New York Times, a military health professional told interrogators that “the detainee’s medical files showed he had a severe phobia of the dark and suggested ways in which that could be manipulated to induce him to cooperate.”

Had Dr. James chosen to cast himself as a brave, but ultimately ineffective voice against torture, he may have fooled some people into believing him. Instead, he’s presented an utterly implausible portrait: one of a man “chosen” by “the nation” to “fix the hell” of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, a feat he claims to have accomplished so successfully that ever since he was first deployed in January 2003, “where ever [sic] we have had psychologists no abuses have been reported.”

This is patently untrue.  The real “fact of the matter,” as documented by government records, reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross and eyewitness accounts, is that serious abuses were widespread both during Dr. James’ tenure as senior psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantánamo, and after he left.

One would imagine that such disregard for a law designed to protect the public welfare would greatly concern the body charged with its enforcement. But the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, which issued James his license, has refused to investigate whether he violated professional misconduct law.

The Board’s conduct should alarm all Louisiana health professionals and their patients.  The Board demeans the profession when it fails to seriously address the possibility that a Louisiana licensee was involved in torture.  It also strips the Louisiana psychology license of meaning and value.

How can patients rely on a license issued and enforced by a body that arbitrarily refuses to look into allegations of grave misconduct?

As the legal battle wears on, the people of Louisiana need to ask the Board’s members what “good reason” they await in order to act. They should demand that the Board of Examiners conduct a thorough investigation of Larry James and, if what he admits is true, revoke his privilege to practice.

Bill Quigley is a Loyola Law professor working at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Deborah Popowski is a Skirball Fellow at the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program. Both authors are involved with the campaign When Healers Harm: Hold Health Professionals Accountable for Torture, see http://whenhealersharm.org/

Bill can be contacted at quigley77@gmail.com.

Deborah can be contacted at dpopowski@law.harvard.edu.

 

Mahmoud Abbas’ chronic submissiveness

Haaretz,  October 5, 2009

Mahmoud Abbas’ chronic submissiveness

By Amira Hass

In a single phone call to his man in Geneva, Mahmoud Abbas has demonstrated his disregard for popular action, and his lack of faith in its accumulative power and the place of mass movements in processes of change.

For nine months, thousands of people – Palestinians, their supporters abroad and Israeli anti-occupation activists – toiled to ensure that the legacy of Israel’s military offensive against Gaza would not be consigned to the garbage bin of occupying nations obsessed with their feelings of superiority.

Thanks to the Goldstone report, even in Israel voices began to stammer about the need for an independent inquiry into the assault. But shortly after Abbas was visited by the American consul-general on Thursday, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization got on the phone to instruct his representative on the United Nations Human Rights Council to ask his colleagues to postpone the vote on the adoption of the report’s conclusions.

Heavy American pressure and the resumption of peace negotiations were the reasons for Abbas’ move, it was said. Palestinian spokespeople spun various versions over the weekend in an attempt to make the move kosher, explaining that it was not a cancelation but a six-month postponement that Abbas was seeking.

Will the American and European representatives in Geneva support the adoption of the report in six months’ time? Will Israel heed international law in the coming months, stop building in the settlements and announce immediate negotiations on their dismantlement and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories? Is this what adoption of the report would have endangered? Of course not.

A great deal of political folly and short-sightedness was bared by that phone call, on the eve of Hamas’s celebration of its victory in securing the release of 20 female prisoners. Precisely on that day, Abbas put Gaza in the headlines within the context of the PLO’s defeatism and of spitting in the face of the victims of the attack – that is how they felt in Gaza and elsewhere.

Abbas confirmed in fact that Hamas is the real national leadership, and gave ammunition to those who claim that its path – the path of armed struggle – yields results that negotiations do not.

This was not an isolated gaffe, but a pattern that has endured since the PLO leadership concocted, together with naive Norwegians and shrewd Israeli lawyers, the Oslo Accords. Disregard for, and lack of interest in the knowledge and experience accumulated in the inhabitants of the occupied territories’ prolonged popular struggle led to the first errors: the absence of an explicit statement that the aim was the establishment of a state within defined borders, not insisting on a construction freeze in the settlements, forgetting about the prisoners, endorsing the Area C arrangement, etc.

The chronic submissiveness is always explained by a desire to “make progress.” But for the PLO and Fatah, progress is the very continued existence of the Palestinian Authority, which is now functioning more than ever before as a subcontractor for the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the Civil Administration.

This is a leadership that has been convinced that armed struggle – certainly in the face of Israeli military superiority – cannot bring independence. And indeed, the disastrous repercussions of the Second Intifada are proof of this position. This is a leadership that believes in negotiation as a strategic path to obtaining a state and integration in the world that the United States is shaping.

But in such a world there is personal gain that accrues from chronic submissiveness – benefits enjoyed by the leaders and their immediate circles. This personal gain shapes the tactics.

Is the choice really only between negotiations and armed-struggle theater, the way the Palestinian leadership makes it out to be? No.

The true choice is between negotiations as part of a popular struggle anchored in the language of the universal culture of equality and rights, and negotiations between business partners with the junior partner submissively expressing his gratitude to the senior partner for his generosity.

Why Afghanistan? It’s pipelines, not terrorism.

San Francisco Gray Panthers Newsletter, October 2009

Why Afghanistan?

Afghanistan lies in the path of a new proposed gas pipeline

Afghanistan lies in the path of a new proposed gas pipeline

In a nod to reality on the ground, the Obama administration put clearing al Qaeda from Pakistan high on the list of 46 benchmarks for tracking success in the war in Afghanistan. There are 68,000 US combat troops, 40,000 NATO troops, and 74,000 mercenaries in Afghanistan, with more expected to come. If al Qaeda has moved to Pakistan, why don’t the troops follow them?

One answer, rarely talked about in the US media, is—you guessed it!—oil and natural gas, this time in the Caspian Basin, and a planned pipeline that would carry natural gas from land-locked Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan, where it could be shipped to the West. To accomplish this, a strong centralized government willing to make deals with the West is needed, hence the attempts to prop up Hamid Karzai with US/NATO military assistance against the Taliban and war lords and with fraudulent elections.

Will this plan succeed? Probably not, given the Afghan opposition. Taliban attacks increased 59% in the first five months of this year over the same period last year. Death tolls are rising. Billions of dollars have already been spent. Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA veteran and adviser to four presidents, said, “Anyone who thinks that in 12 to 18 months we’re going to be anywhere close to victory is living in a fantasy.”

NO MORE ENERGY WARS!

Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions

Wired, September 15, 2009

Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions

The Obama administration has told Congress it supports renewing three provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire at year’s end, measures making it easier for the government to spy within the United States.

In a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department said the administration might consider “modifications” to the act in order to protect civil liberties.

“The administration is willing to consider such ideas, provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities,” Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general, wrote to Leahy, (.pdf) whose committee is expected to consider renewing the three expiring Patriot Act provisions next week. The government disclosed the letter Tuesday.

It should come as no surprise that President Barack Obama supports renewing the provisions, which were part of the Patriot Act approved six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

As an Illinois senator in 2008, he voted to allow the warrantless monitoring of Americans’ electronic communications if they are communicating overseas with somebody the government believes is linked to terrorism. That legislative package, which President George W. Bush signed, also immunized the nation’s telecommunication companies from lawsuits charging them with being complicit with the Bush administration’s warrantless, wiretapping program. That program was also adopted in the wake of Sept. 11.

These are the three provisions due to expire:

*A secret court, known as the FISA court, may grant “roving wiretaps” without the government identifying the target. Generally, the authorities must assert that the target is an agent of a foreign power and/or a suspected terrorist. The government said Tuesday that 22 such warrants — which allow the monitoring of any communication device — have been granted annually.

*The FISA court may grant warrants for “business records,” from banking to library to medical records. Generally, the government must assert that the records are relevant to foreign intelligence gathering and/or a terrorism investigation. The government said Tuesday that 220 of these warrants had been granted between 2004 and 2007. It said 2004 was the first year those powers were used.

*A so-called “lone wolf” provision, enacted in 2004, allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of an individual even without showing that the person is an agent of a foreign power or a suspected terrorist. The government said Tuesday it has never invoked that provision, but said it wants to keep the authority to do so.

“The basic idea behind the authority was to cover situations in which information linking the target of an investigation to an international group was absent or insufficient, although the target’s engagement in ‘international terrorism’ was sufficiently established,” Weich wrote.

The American Civil Liberties opposes renewing all three provisions, especially the lone wolf measure.

Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s legislative counsel, said in a telephone interview, “The justification for FISA and these lower standards and letting it operate in secret was all about terrorist groups and foreign governments, that they posed a unique threat other than the normal criminal element. This lone wolf provision undercuts that justification.”

The committee hearing is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 23 and will be webcast live.
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