Kristol Clear

Philip Giraldi


Top L-R: Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, Robert
Kagan Bottom L-R: Zbigniew Brzezinski, William
Kristol and Elliott Abrams. More members here.
(American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus)

It has been noted ironically by Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com and also by Scott McConnell over at The American Conservative how the neoconservative dominated American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus, which sees Chechens and other Central Asian Muslim militants as “freedom fighters” against Russian rule, exists side by side with other organizations like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the American Enterprise Institute that feature many of the same neoconservatives dedicated to restraining Political Islam while extirpating what they frequently describe as “Islamic fascism.” As is frequently the case with ideologically driven positions, the American neocon supporters of Chechen independence have failed to note that the Chechen nationalist uprising of the 1980s has now morphed into an Islamic based insurgency. The contradictory behavior is particularly glaring as Chechens have frequently been identified among al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and elsewhere and have carried out major terrorist operations in the Russian Confederation, highlighted by the killing of 186 schoolchildren at Beslan in September 2004. The friends of Chechnya response to the massacre has been to successfully pressure the State Department to provide political asylum and a government job for Ilyas Akhmadov, a rebel leader who might have been party to the terrorist attack, a bit of hypocrisy that the Russians have noted vis-à-vis Washington’s professed global war on terror.


It Is All About Israel

Philip Giraldi


Zionists are working overtime to steer US foreign policy in a
pro-Israel direction. - As always, it's all about Israel...

Something curious is taking place. The nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense came under fire from the friends of Israel even before it was certain that President Barack Obama would name him to the post. Hagel demonstrably has no particular animus towards Israel but he, while senator, refused to kowtow to the Israel Lobby, failing to sign on to letters and position statements, saying that he was first and foremost a United States Senator, not a representative of a foreign power. He also favors negotiations with Iran to end the nuclear standoff, which critics immediately latched onto as a sign of weakness and a further indication that he did not have Israel’s back. Bill Kristol, head of the Emergency Committee for Israel, quickly piled on to the Hagel nomination, followed by the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin and Charles Krauthammer, convicted Iran contra felon Elliot Abrams, reliably liberal Rachel Maddow, Harvard’s own Israel firster Alan Dershowitz, Mitt Romney adviser Dan Senor, and Johns Hopkins’ Professor Eliot Cohen. Several critics, including the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka, accused Hagel of being anti-Semitic and Islamophobe Pamela Geller described him as a "Jew hater." Transplanted American now-living-in-Israel Caroline Glick somewhat more confusingly wrote that he "hates Jews that think that Jews have rights."

Major Jewish organizations including the Anti-Defamation League and The American Jewish Committee, quickly followed suit, with ADL’s Abe Foxman saying "the sentiments he’s [Hagel’s] expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former president Jimmy Carter" while the AJC’s David Harris added "We’re not in the opposition camp, we’re in the concerned camp. We’re going to count on the Senate to examine, as it must, key issues of concern."


The Torture Chronicle

Philip Giraldi

If there is one word missing from the United States government’s post-9/11 lexicon it is “accountability.” While perfectly legal though illicit sexual encounters apparently continue to rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, leading to resignations, no one has been punished for malfeasance, torture, secret prisons, or extraordinary renditions. Indeed, the Obama administration stated in 2009 that it would not punish CIA torturers because it prefers to “look forward and not back,” a decision not to prosecute that was recently confirmed by Attorney General Eric Holder in two cases involving the deaths of detainees after particularly brutal Agency interrogations. What the White House decision almost certainly means is that the president would prefer to avoid a tussle with the Republicans in congress over national security that would inevitably reveal a great deal of dirty laundry belonging to both parties.

The bipartisan willingness to avoid confrontation over possible war crimes makes the recently completed 6,000 page long Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture an extraordinary document. Though it is still classified and might well never see the light of day even in any sanitized or bowdlerized form, its principal conclusions have been leaking out in the media over the past two weeks. It directly addresses the principal argument that has been made by Bush administration devotees and continues to be advanced regarding the CIA torture agenda: that vital information obtained by “enhanced interrogation techniques” led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to the report, no information obtained by torture was critical to the eventual assassination of the al-Qaeda leader, nor has it been found to be an indispensable element in any of the other terrorism cases that were examined by the Senate committee. What exactly does that mean?


The Forever Wars of Frederick & Kimberly Kagan

Philip Giraldi


The Kagans in Basra, Iraq

The Beltway power couple who boosted the Iraq invasion insist we stay longer in Afghanistan.

A recent op-ed in the Washington Post by Kimberly and Fred Kagan argues “Why US troops must stay in Afghanistan.” The article demonstrates clearly that the number-crunching Kagans know exactly how many combat and support troops it takes to man an army base in Jalalabad and they pile Pelion on Ossa to demonstrate how a residual force of roughly 34,000 US soldiers can “continue to conduct counterterrorism operations in Southeast Asia” after 2014. They conclude “the United States can stabilize Afghanistan if it maintains around 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan into 2014, dropping to over 30,000 thereafter … the idea that the war is inevitably lost is a convenient mask behind which decision makers hide to deflect responsibility for pulling out troops who are making a real difference. We have argued that the current defeatism about Afghanistan is overdrawn and unfounded … .” We cannot “abandon the fight against al-Qaeda and its allies in South Asia.”

But the op-ed also demonstrates that the Kagans continue to be clueless over the question they raise in their title: “why” we Americans are in Afghanistan at all and they fail to demonstrate any understanding of how outside forces can impact on a limited military presence’s viability in a foreign land.

They make the same mistakes in their predictions of the likely course of developments as they did regarding Iraq. Like the Iraqis, the Afghans will have a say in their future and might not like the idea of continuing to grant legal immunity to a foreign occupying force. Nor does it appear that the perpetually rebuilding Afghan army will ever be battle ready, meaning that the American soldiers will become trapped in their bases, hostages to Afghan internal politics. Like it or not local sentiment does matter, even to a superpower, and it can serve to derail the best laid plans of the Kagans and Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Why Remember Iraq?

Philip Giraldi

Most Americans would prefer to forget that we are approaching the first anniversary of the expulsion of U.S. military forces from Iraq. The Republican Party, which rallied behind George W. Bush to invade the country and occupy it, has suffered from a short memory relating to that misbegotten war even as it agitates for new and similar military interventions. Much of the silence on the subject is certainly due to the fact that most Democrats and nearly all the media were also on board, though perhaps for reasons that did not completely coincide with the Bush neocons’ imperial vision. And after the war began and the occupation took on its misbegotten form under Jerry Bremer, Dan Senor, and a host of neocon acolytes brought on board to reshape the country, the saga ran on and on. As Iraq broke down into its constituent parts due to Bremer’s inept proconsulship, a development that might normally lead to a rethink of the entire project, Pentagon-based neoconservatives instead regrouped, doubled down and contrived the 2007 “surge” to fix things. That the surge was a poorly conceived and executed military dead end and a complete failure to do anything but deepen the divisions within Iraq seemed irrelevant, political partisanship inevitably rushing in to interpret it as a success to provide cover for the foolish politicians, generals and bureaucrats in Washington who had conceived it. As recently as the Republican presidential debates earlier this year the “surge” in Iraq was cited by several candidates as a litmus test for those who believe in the “right kind” of foreign policy. Those who did not believe in the myth of the surge as a subset of American Exceptionalism were outside the pale, most notably Representative Ron Paul.


The Protocols for Death

Philip Giraldi

The American public has become so desensitized to what its own government is doing abroad that there is only a ripple of interest when the media reports some new outrage. The assassination of expatriate American citizens by drones preceded detailed media accounts of how kill lists are drawn up by the president himself in the White House. And now there have been press reports of how the Obama administration, in the lead up to the presidential election, sought to establish “explicit rules” for death by drone, thereby institutionalizing the practice as a component of the United States’ “defensive” strategy.

The Obama administration has killed an estimated 2,500 people using CIA and military drones, most of whom were Pakistanis. There is considerable debate over how many of the victims were actually terrorists or insurgents, as the CIA regards any male adult killed as a terrorist unless it can be proved otherwise after the fact, but sources inside Pakistan report a significant civilian kill rate. The rush by the Obamas to codify what has until now been a largely ad hoc practice was reportedly triggered by concern that there might be a new administration in Washington that would benefit from “clear standards and procedures” for killing terrorists with Hellfire missiles fired by Predator drones. The New York Times reports that the White House was seeking to “resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about exactly when lethal action is justified.” Why? Because advisers are “still debating whether remote control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool.” Top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, who reportedly favors limiting the attacks, argues that the Obama administration is seeking to set “the ethical standard for” targeting by drones.

An ethical standard might prove to be elusive in an environment where body counts, just as in Vietnam, have become the measure of success. The first targeted killing of alleged terrorists by drone took place in 2002. Prior to 9/11, the U.S. considered targeted killings to be illegal. At the heart of the current controversy is the government’s contention both under George W. Bush and Barack Obama that the United States is legally at war with al-Qaeda and that the terrorist group, being stateless, can be attacked anywhere in the world where the local authorities are either unwilling or incapable of taking action themselves. This has sometimes been referred to as a constabulary function, not unlike U.S. marshals going to a foreign country and working with the local authorities to arrest an American fugitive. The difference with the marshals is, of course, that a legal process leading to arrest has both process and transparency, while a kill list drawn up in secret and without any rights for the suspect does not.


Is Iron Dome the Maginot Line?

Philip Giraldi

An interesting article in The New York Times, “Israel’s Antimissile System Attracts Potential Buyers,” somewhat deflates the widespread praise for the performance of Israel’s Iron Dome batteries in the recent fighting with Gaza. Israel claims that Iron Dome was 85 percent effective, but the numbers deserve some examination. All the claims for the effectiveness of the system are derived from the Israeli government, which would very much like to sell Iron Dome to other countries. South Korea, whose capital Seoul is close to the North Korean border, has been identified as a possible buyer.

The 85 percent effective number means that the missiles launched by Iron Dome either destroyed or deflected incoming missiles 85 percent of the time, but a Ministry of Defense account on November 21st demonstrates otherwise: 1,382 rockets fired from Gaza struck Israel, with another 389 intercepted by Iron Dome. Other estimates indicate that 70 percent of Gazan missiles and rockets landed in Israel without being intercepted, which might suggest that the Israeli government is cooking the books to make the system appear more effective than it is both to intimidate the Palestinians and to encourage foreign sales.


Sibel Edmonds’s Secrets

Philip Giraldi

Sibel Edmonds is no stranger to longtime TAC readers. I wrote an article exploring some of her claims back in January 2008, a blog item in August 2009, and Kara Hopkins and I did an interview with her for the November 2009 issue of the magazine. It was featured on the cover as “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?

Edmonds has recently written a book entitled Classified Woman detailing her journey from FBI translator to whistleblower, finally emerging as an outspoken advocate of free speech and transparency in government through her founding of the National Security Whistleblowers’ Coalition and her always informative Boiling Frogs Post website.

As Edmonds ruefully notes, her tale of high level mendacity has always found a better reception in the European and Asian media than in the United States, though her odyssey has included an appearance on “60 Minutes” in October 2002 and a feature article in Vanity Fair called “An Inconvenient Patriot” in September 2005. Two senators, Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy, became interested in her case early on and found her a credible witness, as did a U.S. Department of Justice IG’s report. She speculates that that her ostracism by the Fourth Estate, and also by congressmen who were ostensibly engaged in elevating government ethics, is due to the fact that both Republicans and Democrats were parties to the criminal behavior that she describes. In one particularly delicious account of high level shenanigans she recounts how an interview with Congressman Henry Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform staff was stopped abruptly when a staffer asked her if any Democrats were involved. “We have to stop here and not go any further. We don’t want to know,” he intoned after she confirmed that the malfeasance was not strictly GOP.


Netanyahu’s War Crime

Philip Giraldi

There has been considerable debate over who “won” the recent fighting in and around Gaza, though the question itself might lack relevancy as both sides have largely returned to the status quo ante. Hamas has indeed proven itself capable of resisting Israel and has gained the respect of its Arab neighbors while its political opponent Fatah has again looked weak and vacillating. That many of the frequently homemade Gazan rockets were able to penetrate Israeli defenses and even strike near Tel Aviv is also being promoted by some as a game changer, but in reality the actual impact was more psychological than lethal. Israel blinked because it had become clear that there were no real military targets remaining in Gaza and only civilians, many of them children, were being killed. Continuing the air assault or initiating a ground invasion would only lead to a major public relations victory for the Palestinians in the court of world opinion.

Pundits taking their cue directly from the Israeli Foreign Ministry did not necessarily agree, quickly claiming that Israel had won because, suffering minor losses itself of only six killed it inflicted serious damage on the Gazan infrastructure while killing 163 Palestinian “terrorists.” Israeli government sources maintain that “all objectives were reached,” presumably meaning that the ability of the Gazans to continue to fire homemade rockets at Israel had been seriously degraded, which may or may not be true. On a political level, Netanyahu’s tough response to the Gazans had been originally regarded as a vote winner in the lead up to January elections, a consideration that certainly entered into his willingness to go to war, though many Israelis are now dismayed that he did not go far enough.

But stopping the rockets and a display of military prowess before an election might not have been the actual objectives. More ominously, some media both in Israel and the US have described the timing and the nature of the Gaza offensive as a test run for an attack on Iran. If that was the true motivation behind the Israeli attack, it means that a war may have been started just to test Israel’s missile defense system under realistic conditions. If so, “Operation Pillar of Defense” would be comparable to the Germans and Italians using Spanish “live targets” to evaluate the performance of their new weapons in 1937.


Educating the President

Philip Giraldi

It is interesting to note that while Americans elect a president based on their perception of what he will do to create jobs and lower taxes, the issues that seem to rise to the surface and demand attention are frequently related to foreign affairs. Witness how in the aftermath of the election there has been considerable focus on what happened in Benghazi nearly three months ago, most recently leading to demands for multiple congressional investigations. The Petraeus/Broadwell scandal also resonates because the general was the proponent of the spectacularly unsuccessful COIN policies in Iraq and Afghanistan who then parlayed his resume into being named Director of the CIA, the principal U.S. instrument for collecting and analyzing foreign intelligence.

And if that weren’t enough, the U.S. appears prepared to provide heavy weapons to the Syrian opposition while the question of whether or not to negotiate with Iran continues to hang in the air, though it will probably be rejected due to the usual domestic political considerations, which means AIPAC. U.S. client Israel is, as always, creating fresh crises obliging Washington to twist like a pretzel to demonstrate its love for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all his works. Tel Aviv’s latest surprises include initiating a new wave of targeted assassinations and air attacks on Gaza while threatening harsh reprisals including possible “regime change” against the Palestinians if they go ahead to seek observer status at the United Nations at the end of this month. The White House has already put the Palestinians on notice for the U.N. bid while immediately giving a pass to Israel’s bombing of Gaza, describing it as “self-defense.”

So the rest of the world is regularly in your face and it does matter even to those who try to tune it out. For those of us who try to understand the pickle that we are in, the defeat of Mitt Romney has been a victory of sorts as it is always possible for things to get worse. Romney was truly an empty suit on foreign policy and it should be assumed that he would have continued the worst parts of the Obama program while adding some particular enhancements of his own including more money for the Pentagon. His victory would have meant a return of the neocons to the front stage coupled with a more generally aggressive military-based posture overseas which could easily have led to a war with Iran and heightened tension with Russia and China. It would also have resulted in major donors like Sheldon Adelson having a voice in policy formulation relating to the Middle East.


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