Torture, police killings and the militarization of America

Bill Van Auken

If the torturers and the police killers enjoy impunity, it is because preparations are being made to turn them loose against a rebellious population.

The fact that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report exposing CIA torture has been released in the United States as the country is being swept by angry protests over a series of vicious and unpunished police killings has been little noted by the American mass media.

What are treated as unrelated stories are, in fact, two facets of the same phenomenon: the growth of a massive and criminal police state apparatus that enjoys absolute impunity. The crimes carried out abroad and the crimes carried out at home have a common source in an economic and social system that is in deep crisis and whose overriding features are social inequality, militarism and a relentless assault on basic democratic rights.

The cops who shot down unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, strangled to death Eric Garner in Staten Island and killed defenseless individuals in Cleveland, Phoenix and elsewhere go unpunished as prosecutors employ a deliberate system of exoneration by grand jury to prevent them from ever being called to account for their crimes.

The actions in the Senate report are sufficient to require the immediate arrest and prosecution not merely of the CIA’s killers and torturers, but of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and other top officials who authorized and oversaw a system of depravity and violence in violation of both US and international law.

Yet no one in the US Congress, the Obama administration or any other section of the American ruling establishment suggests that such prosecutions are even remotely possible. On Thursday, Obama’s CIA Director, John Brennan, himself implicated in the crimes, organized a press conference from CIA headquarters in Langley to defend the “enhanced interrogation” torture program and denounce the Senate report.


Washington-backed “rebels” surrender US arms to Al Qaeda in Syria

Bill Van Auken


A rebel fighter calls on his comrades during clashes with
regime forces in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

Washington’s strategy in its three-month-old war in Iraq and Syria appeared to suffer another humiliating blow over the weekend as one of the last remaining strongholds of US-backed “moderate rebels” in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib fell to the Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda.

The collapse of the US-backed force in Syria came amid reported plans for a major retraining of the Iraqi army in preparation for a US-orchestrated offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq sometime next year.

Both developments underscore the unreliability of the proxy forces the Obama administration has indicated are to serve as the “boots on the ground” in the two countries and point to the inevitable expansion of the number and role of US troops deployed to prosecute the new Middle East war.

Washington Post correspondent Liz Sly, who has been one of the most enthusiastic media propagandists for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the so-called “moderate rebels,” questioned whether the FSA would “manage to survive the trouncing inflicted in recent days” by the Nusra Front. She described the events in Idlib as “throwing the rebels into disarray and upending the Obama administration’s hopes for a moderate alternative to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

The “trouncing” was accomplished without a shot being fired. Two US-backed groups, the Syrian Revolutionary Front and Harakat Hazm (Steadfastness Movement), surrendered without opposing the Al Qaeda-linked militia. It was reported that a large number of their members went over to the Nusra Front, while others fled.


Reinventing Vietnam War History

Stephen Lendman

Survivors won't ever forget. Nor should they. Including Vietnamese sufferers. Permanently disabled US war veterans. Many on both sides enduring chronic illnesses. They want truth and full disclosure maintained. Nothing erased from history. Or reinvented to ignore what happened. One of history's greatest crimes. Nameless, faceless victims suffering to this day out of sight and mind understand best.

Pentagon commanders initiated it. A duplicitous 2015 50th anniversary commemoration. Honoring one of history's greatest crimes. Turning truth on its head. Orwell explained saying "(h)e who controls the past control the future. He who controls the present controls the past."

A Pentagon web site headlines "The United State of America Vietnam War Commemoration." Pentagon commanders glorify what demands condemnation. Providing "the American public with (so-called) historically accurate materials and interactive experiences that will help Americans better understand and appreciate the service of our Vietnam War veterans and the history of US involvement in the Vietnam War."

A Commemorative Partners Program "is designed for federal, state and local communities, veterans' organizations and other nongovernmental organizations to assist a grateful nation in thanking and honoring our Vietnam Veterans and their families." Thanking them for mass murder. Involvement in genocidal high crimes against peace. Making the world safe for monied interests. More on this below.


US Army drafts blueprint for World War III

Bill Van Auken & David North

With US politicians and the American media engaged in an increasingly acrimonious debate over the strategy guiding the latest US war in the Middle East, the United States Army has unveiled a new document entitled the Army Operating Concept (AOC), which provides a “vision of future armed conflict” that has the most ominous implications. It is the latest in a series of documents in which the Pentagon has elaborated the underlying strategy of preventive war that was unveiled in 1992—that is, the use of war as a means of destroying potential geopolitical and economic rivals before they acquire sufficient power to block American domination of the globe.

The document was formally released at this week’s Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference, an annual event bringing together senior officers and Defense Department officials for a series of speeches and panel discussions, along with a giant trade show mounted by arms manufacturers to show off their latest weapons systems and pursue lucrative Pentagon contracts.

Much of this year’s proceedings were dominated by dire warnings about the impact of cuts to the Army’s troop strength brought about by sequestration. Gen. Raymond Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, told reporters at the AUSA conference Monday that he was “starting to worry about our end strength” and regretting having told Congress in 2012 that the Army could manage with 490,000 active-duty soldiers.

In addition to the 490,000, there are 350,000 National Guard soldiers and 205,000 reservists, for a combined force—referred to by the Pentagon as the Total Army—of well over one million American troops. The answer to why such a gargantuan armed force would seem inadequate to Gen. Odierno can be found in the new Army Operating Concept (AOC), a reckless and dangerous document laying out a strategy of total war that encompasses the entire planet, including the United States itself.

The document makes clear that in regard to the ongoing debate over “boots on the ground,” for the top brass of the US Army there is no question: there will be boots and plenty of them.


Obama vows protracted military campaign in Iraq, Syria

Bill Van Auken

While Washington is preparing to intervene in Syria on the pretense of defeating ISIS, its goal remains regime-change—the toppling of what would be a third secular Arab head of state.

President Barack Obama delivered a militarist speech Tuesday to the annual convention of the American Legion in Charlotte, North Carolina amid reports that US spy drones are already operating over Syria and air strikes could begin there by the end of this week.

Obama told the veterans’ organization that “the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world,” a boast that is belied by the bloody debacle unleashed throughout North Africa and the Middle East by a string of US military interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Turning to the present intervention in Iraq following the overrunning of much of the country by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a split-off from Al Qaeda, the US president reiterated the formal pretexts for US military action: protecting “our diplomats and military advisors who are there,” and humanitarian assistance.


Gaza, Ukraine and the fraud of “human rights” imperialism

Bill Van Auken

Given its track record, today’s human rights imperialism makes the old “white man’s burden” of colonialism’s heyday seem like a noble cause by comparison. Nothing has been more rapidly discredited. When Washington tries to peddle it, people all over the world recognize it for the garbage that it is.

Wednesday saw back-to-back atrocities in Gaza that made it clear to anyone with eyes to see that Israel is carrying out a war of terror against civilians. Its aim is to break the will of the Palestinian people through the murder of children, the destruction of homes, and the driving of an entire population back to Stone Age conditions.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) struck first at a UN-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, where some 3,000 people driven from their homes had sought shelter, killing at least 16 and wounding over 125 more. Then, in the middle of an IDF-announced cease-fire, shells were rained down on a crowded market place in Shejaiya, killing 17 and wounding over 200. As the horrific images of these massacres emerged from Gaza, newspapers carried the report that the Obama administration had agreed with the European Union to impose sweeping sanctions—not against Israel, but against Russia.

The punitive actions by the US and the EU are being carried out in the context of a provocative global propaganda campaign blaming Moscow and President Vladimir Putin personally for the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine and the deaths of its 298 passengers and crew.

While indicting Putin and the anti-Kiev militias in eastern Ukraine as mass murderers, Washington and its allies have kept a stony silence on the killing of over 1,000 civilians in the region, as the Ukrainian regime they installed through a fascist-led coup last February continues to unleash artillery and rocket fire on residential neighborhoods.


US-backed Israeli invasion of Gaza unleashes death and destruction

Bill Van Auken

The death, destruction and human suffering caused by Israel’s 11-day-old onslaught against the impoverished and densely populated Gaza Strip increased sharply Friday. Israeli troops and armored columns continued pushing into the territory in an invasion launched the night before, even as the bombardment from air, land and sea intensified.

The death toll rose rapidly to the 300 mark on Friday, while the number of wounded climbed to well over 2,200. What is unfolding in Gaza is a calculated and savage war crime against a largely defenseless population carried out with the full and open support of Washington and the complicity of the European Union, the Arab regimes and the Palestinian Authority (PA) of President Mahmoud Abbas.

It is no exaggeration to compare the lethal terror and collective punishment being meted out by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza with the methods employed by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto. Massive firepower is being unleashed on a narrow strip of land bound on two sides by Israel and its invading armies, on a third by the sealed Egyptian border, and on the fourth by a sea filled with Israeli gunboats. Its total land mass is roughly equivalent to that of the US city of Philadelphia, while its population is some 20 percent greater.

In an act of psychological terror, Israel dropped leaflets ordering over 100,000 Palestinians in the border areas to flee their homes. The reality, however, is that there is nowhere to hide from the assault. Those remaining in their homes are designated as “terrorists” or “human shields,” who can be killed without compunction.


Air strikes kill civilians as Israel prepares new Gaza bloodbath

Bill Van Auken


Israel has launched a major bombardment of Gaza. Some 12 Pale-
stinian civilians, including 5 children, have been killed.
(Reuters)

"So if we want to remain alive, we have to kill and kill and kill, all day, every day. If we don't kill, we will cease to exist." - Arnon Sofer

Israeli bombings and rocket attacks against the densely populated and impoverished neighborhoods of Gaza claimed the lives of at least 27 Palestinians by late Tuesday night and left well over 130 others wounded, many of them seriously.

The Israelis military boasted that it had launched over 273 airstrikes on Tuesday. The attacks, carried out by F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters and drones, turned homes into rubble and sent towering plumes of fire and smoke into the skies over Gaza, where nearly two million Palestinians are confined in what amounts to the world’s largest open-air prison.

The worst of the attacks was carried out against a house in the southern Gazan city of Khan Yunis, where a missile fired by an F-16 warplane struck the building as its residents were trying to escape. Among the seven killed in the attack were two young boys, ages 13 and 14. An eight-year-old child who was severely wounded by shrapnel died later in a hospital. At least 25 more people were wounded in the air strike.

Other strikes took the form of “targeted assassinations.” Individual members of the ruling Hamas party were murdered by missile strikes on their homes or cars, or were annihilated while walking in the street.


Defend Julian Assange!

Bill Van Auken

Two years of asylum in Ecuadorian embassy

Today marks two years since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was forced to take refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy, having been made the target of a filthy campaign by the Obama administration to have him extradited to the US to face espionage and treason charges punishable by life in prison or even death.

Assange’s sole “crime” was to publish secret documents exposing war crimes carried out by the US government in Iraq and Afghanistan and conspiracies hatched by the US State Department in countries around the world.

In a telephone press conference on the eve of the grim anniversary, Assange demanded that US Attorney General Eric Holder drop an ongoing national security investigation against WikiLeaks or resign. He also spoke on the legacy of President Barack Obama, noting that the “former constitutional law professor” will be remembered for “the construction of extrajudicial kill lists of individuals, including of American citizens,” and “being the president who conducted more Espionage Act investigations against journalists and their sources than all previous presidents combined going back to 1917 and the original issuance of the Espionage Act.”

Since June 19, 2012, Assange has been forced to hole up in the Ecuadorian embassy to stay out of the clutches of British authorities. The UK government denied him safe conduct to Ecuador, which granted him asylum on the grounds that he faces the threat of torture and death if sent to the US.

London is seeking to have Assange arrested and extradited to Sweden on the basis of trumped-up sexual misconduct allegations, a transparent subterfuge to effect his delivery into the hands of the US government.


West promotes election held at gunpoint in Ukraine

Bill Van Auken


Meet Svoboda, an up-and-coming party in Ukraine. It's nationalist,
pro-Nazi, and poised for the parliament.
(Caption: Salo-Forum)

With just days before presidential and municipal elections are to be staged in Ukraine by the Western-backed, right-wing “interim government,” the regime’s defense ministry announced Wednesday that its so-called “antiterrorist operations” against dissident populations in the east and south of the country are proceeding at full strength.

“The active phase of the antiterrorist operations is currently continuing,” ministry spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said Wednesday. “Residents in the eastern regions of Ukraine can observe this. There is currently a planned rotation of troops and forces included in the antiterrorist operation.”

Washington and its Western European allies are promoting Sunday’s election as a means of legitimizing the Western-backed, neo-fascist-led coup which toppled Ukraine’s elected president and installed an illegal regime whose leaders were handpicked by US officials.

The idea that a legitimate election could be held, as the army employs tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships to suppress political opposition in large portions of the country, is ludicrous. This fraudulent exercise is being staged, with unconditional US support, just two weeks after the May 11 referenda on autonomy in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that the State Department denounced as illegitimate. The Ukraine crisis has provided a unique window into the cynicism and hypocrisy of American imperialist foreign policy.


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