The Beheading: Some Words of Caution

Eric S. Margolis

Is the orchestrated outrage over Foley the media prelude to direct US intervention in Syria?

The beheading of freelance journalist James Foley by the shadowy ISIS (or Islamic State) has sparked outrage and horror around the globe.

After three decades of covering wars in the Mideast, Africa, Latin America, and Afghanistan, my reaction as a journalist was also outrage – but cautious outrage.

We westerners have a charming and quaint belief that killing people from the air by using bombs, rockets, shells, napalm and cluster munitions – or even nuclear weapons – is somehow not really as bad as ramming a bayonet into an enemy, blowing him to pieces with heavy artillery, or slashing his throat the way sheep are killed.

Air warfare is clean. Air warfare is the American way of war.

Furthermore, on the same day Foley was being decapitated, 19 people in Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, were publicly beheaded for various crimes. One of the men was executed for witchcraft. There was no outcry at all over this medieval horror. Saudi Arabia is suspected of charging political opponents of the monarchy with drug offenses, which carry the penalty of beheading by a sword-wielding executioner.

Not a peep about this in the US media trumpeting the Foley story.

Are We Becoming What We Once Hated?

Eric S. Margolis

In the late 1980’s, an old friend of mine based in Moscow was calling her husband in the USA late one night. She said it was a “typical dumb husband/wife call,” mostly about a broken garage door.

Around midnight, a gruff voice broke into the call. “This is your KGB listener. This is the most boring, stupid call I’ve ever listened to. Shut up and go to bed!”

Ah, those innocent Cold War days. Today, Big Brother listens to your calls, reads your email, and follows your internet searches on silent cat’s feet.

China’s Taoists warned, “you become what you hate.” They are right: the September 2001 attacks on the US, as John Le Carré wrote, producing a period of temporary psychosis. America was knocked back to the ugly days of Sen. McCarthy’s Red Scare of the 1950’s. The big difference was that today the bogeymen of “terrorists” have replaced menacing Marxists. And today, terrorists were everywhere.

When I enlisted in the US Army during the Vietnam War, we were taught that it was our duty as American soldiers to report all war crimes and violations of the Geneva Convention, and to refuse to obey unlawful orders from superiors as established at post WWII Nuremburg trials At the time, I was proud to serve in America’s armed forces.

Today, the military trial of document leaker PFC Bradley Manning has echoes of the Soviet era: a show trial in which a lonely individual is slowly crushed by the wheels of so-called military justice, an oxymoron.

The dramatic revelations of fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden brings back sharp memories of Soviet-era dissidents, jailed, banished, locked in foul psychiatric hospitals for daring to speak the truth.

Time to Apologize for the West's Shameful Support of Dictatorship in Egypt

Eric S. Margolis

"We are cleaning the square now because it is ours," said
Omar Mohammed, a 20-year-old student.

Egyptians want jobs, housing, food, education and a rescue for the deeply ailing economy, not worldwide jihad.

Tahrir Square, epicenter of the earthquake that ousted Egypt’s western-backed dictator, Husni Mubarak, is quiet - for the moment.

There are banner-wavers, speakers, and youngsters milling about. But the by now world-famous square has a forlorn, leftover look, with more street people than revolutionaries. Violence crackles like static electricity.

Heavily armed riot and security police and their armored vehicles are massed nearby. In the ancient Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, I saw vanloads of government thugs waiting to attack demonstrators. I was almost arrested when I started taking photos.

Demonstrators at Tahrir showed me cans of expended tear gas that caused some deaths and many casualties. Whether they were the usual anti-riot CS gas, or the six times stronger, carcinogenic CR that can kill or blind, I could not tell. But the canisters were marked, “Made in the USA” and everyone knew it.

While Hillary Clinton was gushing about democracy in Egypt, shipments of US made anti-riot gear, including truncheons, gas, and rubber bullets, are being airlifted in from the US. Clinton’s US State Department appears to be timidly backing Egypt’s revolution, but the real power in US foreign policy, the Pentagon, is standing firmly behind Egypt’s 500,000-man armed forces.

I just observed Egypt go to the polls in a series of complex parliamentary elections. The vote was remarkably clean and fair, a triumph for all Egyptians.

Two more regional polls are yet to be held, but the outcome is clear. The Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamic ally, Wasat, won over 40% of the vote. The Salafist al-Nur Party, which seeks a state run under Islamic law, won 24%. The secular Egyptian Bloc won only 13.4%.

The Era Of Carriers Is Ending

Eric S. Margolis

The mighty US Navy won’t say so publicly, but it’s increasingly worried by China’s development of new anti-ship missiles. The chief worry is China’s new DF-21D whose primary target is America’s huge aircraft carriers.

According to Chinese sources, the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) has recently become operational in limited numbers. Originally developed for submarines, the DF-21D is said to have a range of 2,700km and at least some capability to strike moving targets.

China’s military is hard at work on satellites, long-range backscatter radar, submarines, and drones that can identify moving naval targets up to 3,000 km distance. These overlapping sensors will provide accurate, real-time targeting data for the DF-21D and other shorter-ranged sea, air and land-based anti-ship missiles.

The US Navy insists its carriers are not threatened by any of China’s new missiles and retain their freedom of action off China. But the DF-21D can cover the entire South China Sea, including Taiwan.

This could be extremely bad news for the US Navy, which deploys 11 aircraft carrier groups that enable the US to project power around the globe.

Batteries of DF-21D’s based safely inland may keep the US Navy far off China’s coasts, isolate Taiwan, and threaten US bases in Japan, Okinawa and Guam. In fact, the mere existence of the DF-21D’s and their deployment in sizeable numbers may be enough to keep US carriers at least 2,000 km from China’s coasts, thus beyond the useful range of the carrier’s strike aircraft.

As a writer on naval affairs, I’ve long been convinced that big attack aircraft carriers are going the way of the battleship. At around 100,000 tons, they are huge targets, high in the water, easily detected at long range by radar and infrared sensors. Each US attack carrier carries close to one million gallons of aviation fuel plus hundreds of tons of munitions.

The US Navy made carrier operations into a high science during World War II. The USN was famed for its brilliant damage-control techniques that prevented the loss of many US warships during WWII.

Afghanistan: Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Democracy, Protection of Civilians, and Opium…Pretexts for War

Bruce G. Richardson
Dawat Independent Media Center (DIMC)

Tora Bora: For some time, rumors continue to circulate that Osama bin Laden has passed-away due to organ failure during December of 2010. Witnesses have since come forth to report and attest to the fact that they had attended his funeral. Though difficult to corroborate, Osama bin Laden’s medical history suggests a very strong possibility that he has indeed passed on, an event which would render U.S. justification for war, null and void.

Thanks to an obsessive and biased media, who function as the title of a new book suggests, as The Piano Player in the Brothel, and combined with a majority of ill-informed, anti-Islamic Members of Congress; bin Laden has heretofore been cast as a religious zealot and threat to the continued existence of a Christian, democratic world. As the alleged mastermind and architect of the September 11, 2001 attack on America, Osama bin Laden has surfaced as America’s primary justification for war on Afghanistan.

The world has long been aware of bin Laden’s critical, life-threatening kidney disease, disease that requires ongoing, daily organ-dialysis therapy to sustain life. The problems inherent in dialysis are legion: Infection as a result of an unsustainable, bacteria-free treatment environment, are just two of a multitude of problems that may be encountered by attending physicians. The United States Government contends that Osama bin Laden is in hiding in the rugged, mountainous regions of Paktia Province. Yet on examination, the logistical problems inherent in providing such a high degree of medical sophistication and technology required for this treatment in a hostile and mountainous locale, render such statements as self-serving and suspect. If this rendition were indeed factual, where and how would attending medical personnel, transport heavy, fragile equipment into the mountains, create a bacteria-free environment, safe from an armada consisting of an American ground and air posse in hot pursuit, and then have the capability to generate an uninterrupted electrical power source critically necessary for the dialysis equipment to perform properly? The improbability if not impossibility of such a logistical nightmare is mind numbing. When faced with the facts, the U.S. Government’s rendition of events that justifies and led to a war against a people that posed no threat to the country and played absolutely no role in 9/11, defies credibility and logic.

Big Trouble In Tunisia For America's Mideast Raj

Eric S. Margolis

Oops! Something has gone terribly wrong with Washington’s plans for regime change in the Mideast. Wasn’t there supposed to be a US and British engineered revolution against Iran’s mullahs, followed by installation of a cooperative pro-western government and a bonanza for western oil companies?
The revolution came, all right, but in the wrong place. The explosion of popular fury in Tunisia that ousted its dictator of 23-years is sending shock waves across the Arab world and has alarm bells ringing in Washington.

Pay no attention to President Barack Obama’s pious bromides welcoming the revolution in Tunisia. The US, France and their Arab satraps are deeply worried that Tunisia’s popular revolution could spark similar uprising against the dictatorships or monarchies in other members of America’s Mideast Raj, notably Egypt.

It has come to light that Tunisia’s ruling elite had dinners and wine flown in from Paris at government expense for lavish parties in their beachside villas. Shades of the Iranian revolution, when women of the ruling elite in Tehran used to send their dirty laundry to Paris for hand washing, or fly to Paris to have their hair done for a soiree.

In a zesty bit of irony totally lost on the US media, just as a people’s revolution was ousting Tunisia’s brutal US-backed regime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Qatar piously lecturing local oil monarchs on good government and the need to promote democracy.

Tunisia has not had much strategic importance since Carthage – whose ruins and great war harbor lie in a residential suburb of Tunis – fought Rome in the three Punic Wars. During World War II’s North Africa campaign, Tunisia was battled over by the British, Germans and Italians.

Since then, little Tunisia has been a backwater, known mainly for sunshine, cheap beach vacations, and as a refuge for Italian crooks.

Fed Up With Karzai? Try Zardari

Eric S. Margolis

Washington is finally getting some of the democracy it has long been calling for in Pakistan. The result is a disaster for US “Afpak” policy.

The Obama administration is fast discovering that its man in Islamabad, President Asif Ali Zardari, may be an even bigger ethical and managerial liability than its overseer in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai.

Over the years, I’ve met every Pakistani leader save the current one, President Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto. But I’ve written for decades about corruption charges that relentlessly dog him. At one point, I was threatened with having acid thrown in my face if I kept writing about the Bhutto-Zardari’s financial scandals.

Asif Ali Zardari became known to one and all as “Mr 10%” from the time when he was a minister in his wife’s government, in charge of approving government contracts. Critics say the 10% and other brazen kickbacks produced millions for the Zardari-Bhutto family.

Obama Does A Louis XVI

Eric S. Margolis

America would not have won independence from Great Britain without generous military and financial support from France and its monarch, Louis XVI.
But France spent itself into bankruptcy supporting the American colonists. France’s financial ruin was a major cause of the ensuing French Revolution that cost the unfortunate Louis his head.

Wars are hugely expensive. Money plays as great a role in them as soldiers and weapons.

US Congressman David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat who is chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has come up with a novel idea: American should pay for the wars they are currently waging. Obey’s proposal, which is backed by other congressmen of both parties, sounds startling – until one realizes that both the Bush and Obama administrations have never properly financed their foreign wars by forcing Americans to pay for them through higher taxes.

Instead, Washington has deferred the $1 trillion to date costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars by simply adding them to the national debt, and paying interest on the balance owing. President Lyndon conducted similar financial slight of hand with the Vietnam War, inflicting serious injury and instability on the US economy.

The Pot Calls The Kettle Black

Eric S. Margolis

President Karzai will of course establish an anti-corruption commission. Some big turbans will be prosecuted to please Washington. But this charade will fool no one but US voters.

Not so long ago, Hamid Karzai, the US-installed president of Afghanistan, used to be hailed by Washington and the US media as a noble democrat and statesman.

But as things in Afghanistan went from bad to worse, and Taliban gained strength and popularity, Washington directed its ire at Karzai, who had almost no power of his own and was forced to rely on the US, the Tajik-Uzbek-Communist Northern Alliance, and assorted drug-dealing warlords. After some of Karzai’s henchmen become over-zealous in rigging Afghanistan’s last already rigged election, Washington exploded in anger and frustration, blaming its wayward puppet for the growing mess in the Hindu Kush.

Flames From Afghanistan Ignite Pakistan

Eric S. Margolis

The eight-year war in Afghanistan has now set Pakistan on fire. What began in 2001 as a supposedly limited American anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan has now become a spreading regional conflict.

Pakistan’s army just launched a major ground and air offensive against rebellious Pashtun tribes in wild South Waziristan which Islamabad claims is the epicenter of the growing insurgency against the US-backed government of Asif Ali Zardari.

It’s likely the rebellious Pashtun tribesmen will simply fade into the mountains, leaving the army stuck garrisoning major towns and trying to protect roads. A similar uprising in Kashmir has tied down 500,000 Indian soldiers and paramilitary police.

Washington, by contrast, is delighted. It has long been a key US goal to press Pakistan’s tough army into fighting both Pashtun rebels in Pakistan, and the Pashtun Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan has long hesitated doing so, loathe to wage war on its own tribal people. The US is paying most of the bills for the Waziristan offensive.

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