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Philip Giraldi

The "A" Word That Terrifies Washington

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Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has declared that there will be a thorough investigation of the recent US destruction of a hospital in Afghanistan that killed 22, including 12 of the medical staff, with more than thirty still missing in the rubble. The hospital, run by Geneva-based Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), had informed the US headed international military force of both its location and its activities in order to avoid becoming a target for either side in fighting around Kunduz but that apparently was not enough. The US military command in Afghanistan approved the bombing, which reportedly included multiple attacks from a C-130 gunship and lasted over half an hour, though there is some confusion over what constituted the “threat” that was being responded to, MSF claiming that there were no Taliban militants anywhere near their building either using it for shelter or as a firing point. Both MSF and some senior United Nations officials regard the attack as a war crime. President Barack Obama uncharacteristically apologized for a “mistake” though he took pains not to blame the US military.

Ashton might be a brilliant physicist but he has never been a soldier in spite of his long service in the Department of Defense. I don’t doubt his good intentions when it comes to declaring United States government willingness to let the chips fall where they may but he has no idea what he is up against. The uniformed military will stonewall, run circles around him and work hard to construct a narrative that ultimately blames no one but the Afghans for what happened. In the unlikely event that they fail in that, a soldier at the low end of the process will be punished with a slap on the wrist to demonstrate that military justice works while pari passu protecting the senior commanders. And the report will not even appear until long after Kunduz is forgotten. At that point Congress and the White House will have no stomach for going after our valiant warriors so the buck will ultimately stop with a toothless report that accomplishes nothing at all.

The Secretary of Defense, who reportedly had a dual major at Yale that included medieval history, might well consider the historical precedents for his initiating an investigation. He should appreciate above all that the “A” word that must never be spoken inside the United States government is “accountability,” which is by design as the government must never be made to look bad. Without demanding accountability even meticulous investigations into possible war crimes have no meaning and are literally not worth the paper they are written on.
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The Government We Deserve?

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The problem with the twenty-four hour news cycle is that everything being reported comes and goes too quickly to connect the dots. I noted a number of stories during the past several weeks that should have raised all kinds of red flags, particularly if considered together, but they frequently received such limited media coverage and were gone so quickly that there was hardly any reaction to them, which is precisely what the government relies on. People concerned about the state of permanent war overseas coupled with the decline of civil liberties within the United States should be looking at how the National Security State is evolving as it is happening right out in the open. But they should also be concerned about the collusion of the media with the government propaganda organs to shape a narrative designed to have a short shelf life, knowing that the story will quickly disappear and there will be little or no feedback.

There were a large number of stories relating to reported Russian support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. For those who have not been following it, Moscow has begun airlifting what it initially described as humanitarian supplies to a military airfield it prepared in Latakia, near its naval base at Tarsus. The materiel in question inevitably included some military equipment together with advisers, but the underlying assumption made by both Washington and the compliant media was that the Russian involvement in Syria constituted some kind of “threat.” That assessment was based on the presumption that the United States has a right to do whatever it wishes to overthrow Syria’s government while the Russians have no right whatsoever to attempt to support it.

Syria is not exactly on Russia’s doorstep but it is not that far away from Russia’s troubled Central Asian region while Damascus and Moscow have had treaty arrangements going back many years. After the initial “how dare they” shock, insider reports emanating from the White House suggested that there was a battle going on internally between those in the National Security Council who wanted to tighten the screws on the Russians to force them to back down and those who wanted to take advantage of Moscow’s initiative to seek a negotiated settlement that would permit Bashar al-Assad to gracefully retire to Dubai and create a unity government of sorts that could resist the real bad guys represented by ISIS and al-Qaeda.
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Foreign Policy by Intimidation: GOP Candidates Show How It's Done

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The media are anointing former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina as the winner of last Wednesday’s second Republican presidential-aspirant debate. They are saying that she was the best prepared and most convincing speaker, and, indeed, maybe she was. But what is being largely ignored is the actual content of the so-called debate, which was supposed to be focused on foreign policy. Presuming that all the potential candidates had been assiduously primed on the major issues by their advisers, what might have been informed opinion was instead pathetically ignorant and, more than that, dangerous.

Note for example what Fiorina had to say about her policy towards Russia: “Having met Vladimir Putin, I wouldn’t talk to him at all. We’ve talked way too much to him. What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland. I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic States. I’d probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message.”
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Did Iranian Weapons Kill Americans?

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There is a new entrant in the already crowded field of Israeli Lobby funded groups opposed to an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. It is the “wounded warriors” and their families denouncing the perfidious Persians. The first salvo was fired on August 4th in a letter to Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post from the daughter of an Army Lieutenant Colonel killed in Iraq by “Iranian weapons,” who concluded that “we are already at war with Iran.”

After the letter ads began to appear in television markets where congressmen considered to be vulnerable to pressure from Israel’s friends were located. The ads were produced by a group called “Veterans Against an Iran Deal,” whose executive director is Michael Pregent, a former adviser to General David Petraeus who is also an “Expert” affiliated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) spin off. The group has a website which claims that “the Iranian regime murdered and maimed thousands of Americans” but there is no indication who exactly supports it and is providing funding or what kind of following it has.

The group’s first ad featured as a spokesman a retired army Staff Sergeant named Robert Bartlett. In the video, Bartlett, whose face bears the scars resulting from being on the receiving end of an improvised explosive device in Iraq, claims he was “blown up by an Iranian bomb.” In addition to blaming Iran for providing Iraqi insurgents with the weapons that were used to maim him and kill his colleagues he also tells how Iranians would “kidnap kids” and kill them in front of their parents. Per Bartlett, those who deal with Iran will have “blood on their hands” and will be responsible for funding Iranian terror.
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MH17: The Blaming Putin Game Goes On

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Once upon a time CIA Stations overseas received what was referred to as an “Operating Directive” which prioritized intelligence targets for the upcoming year based on their importance vis-à-vis national security. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, penetrating Moscow and preventing the KGB’s repaying the favor in kind loomed large as Russia and its allies represented the only genuine threat that could in fact destroy much of the United States. Today’s Russia retains much of that military capability but somehow the perception that you have to deal with what is important first has been lost on our policymakers, possibly due to a false impression inside the beltway that Moscow no longer matters.

A working relationship with Moscow that seeks to mitigate potential areas of conflict is not just important, it is essential. Russian willingness to cooperate with the west in key areas to include the Middle East is highly desirable in and of itself but the bottom line continues to be Moscow’s capability to go nuclear against Washington if it is backed into a corner. Unfortunately, US administrations since Bill Clinton have done their best to do just that, placing Russia on the defensive by encroaching on its legitimate sphere of influence through the expansion of NATO. Washington’s meddling has also led to interfering in Russia’s domestic politics as part of a misguided policy of “democracy building” as well as second guessing its judiciary and imposing sanctions through the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. The damage to relations has been aggravated by the ill-advised commentary from American politicians on the make, including Senator John McCain’s dismissal of Russia as “a gas station masquerading as a country.”
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Government Warmongering Criminals: Where Are They Now?

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The United States already has by far the per capita largest prison population of any developed country but I am probably one of the few Americans who on this Independence Day would like to see a lot more people in prison, mostly drawn from politicians and senior bureaucrats who have long believed that their status makes them untouchable, giving them license to steal and even to kill. The sad fact is that while whistleblowers have been imprisoned for revealing government criminality, no one in the federal bureaucracy has ever actually been punished for the crimes of torture, kidnapping and assassination committed during the George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama presidencies.

Why is accountability important? After the Second World War, the victorious allies believed it was important to establish responsibility for the crimes that had been committed by officials of the Axis powers. The judges at the Nuremberg Trials called the initiation of a war of aggression the ultimate war crime because it inevitably unleashed so many other evils. Ten leading Nazis were executed at Nuremberg and ninety-three Japanese officials at similar trials staged in Asia, including several guilty of waterboarding. Those who were not executed for being complicit in the actual launching of war were tried for torture of both military personnel and civilians and crimes against humanity, including the mass killing of civilians as well as of soldiers who had surrendered or been captured.
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Policing and Defending Then and Now

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Inevitably the debate over issues that relate to both national security and domestic law enforcement often become mired down in wrangling over legal or constitutional niceties, which the public has difficulty in following as it fixates instead on the latest twist in the Bruce Jenner saga. That means that the punditry and media concentrate on easily digestible issues like potential bureaucratic fixes, budgeting, equipment and training, which presumably are both simpler to understand and also more susceptible to possible remedies. But they ignore some basic questions regarding the nature and viability of the actual threat and the actual effectiveness of the response even as the dividing line between military and law enforcement functions becomes less and less evident.

There has been a fundamental transformation of the roles of both police and the armed services in the United States, a redirection that has become increasingly evident since the 1990s when the conjoined issues of national security and crime rates became political footballs. Response to terrorism and “tough on crime” attitudes frequently employ the same rhetoric, incorporating both political and social elements that place police forces and the military on the same side in what might plausibly be described as a version of the often cited clash of civilizations.

A nation’s army traditionally exists to use maximum force to find and destroy enemies that threaten the homeland. A police force instead serves to protect the community against criminal elements using the minimum force necessary to do the job. Those roles would appear to be distinct but one might reasonably argue that the armed forces and the police in today’s America have become the two major constituents of the same organism more-or-less connected by a revolving door, dedicated to combating a new type of insurgency that comprises both global and domestic battlefields and is no respecter of borders.
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Making the World Less Safe: Sending the Wrong Message to Russia, China, and Iran

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Currently the United States is assisting Ukraine against Russia by providing some non-lethal military equipment as well as limited training for Kiev’s army. It has balked at getting more involved in the conflict, rightly so. With that in mind, I had a meeting with a delegation of Ukrainian parliamentarians and government officials a couple of weeks ago. I tried to explain to them why many Americans are wary of helping them by providing lethal, potentially game changing military assistance in what Kiev sees as a struggle to regain control of Crimea and other parts of their country from militias that are clearly linked to Moscow. I argued that while Washington should be sympathetic to Ukraine’s aspirations it has no actual horse in the race, that the imperative for bilateral relations with Russia, which is the only nation on earth that can attack and destroy the United States, is that they be stable and that all channels for communication remain open.

I also observed that the negative perception of Washington-driven democracy promotion around the world has been in part shaped by the actual record on interventions since 2001, which has not been positive. Each exercise of the military option has wound up creating new problems, like the mistaken policies in Libya, Iraq and Syria, all of which have produced instability and a surge in terrorism. I noted that the US does not need to bring about a new Cold War by trying to impose democratic norms in Eastern Europe but should instead be doing all in its power to encourage a reasonable rapprochement between Moscow and Kiev. Providing weapons or other military support to Ukraine would only cause the situation to escalate, leading to a new war by proxies in Eastern Europe that could rapidly spread to other regions.
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Unending War on Terror

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The admission by the White House that two western hostages were killed by an errant drone strike in Pakistan serves as only an ugly little footnote to what has been nearly fifteen years of undeclared war waged by Washington against a large part of the world. The New York Times notes that “…most individuals killed [by drones] are not on a kill list, and the government does not know their names,” adding that “the proliferating mistakes have given drones a sinister reputation in Pakistan and Yemen and have provoked a powerful anti-American backlash in the Muslim world.”

The most recent ex-judicial killings come on the heels of a report by the highly respected Nobel prize winning Physicians for Social Responsibility that reveals that more than 1.3 million people were killed during the first ten years post 9/11 as part of the so-called “global war on terror” (GWOT) in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. The GWOT has been euphemized by the current Administration as “overseas contingency operations,” which has a nicer sound and does not appear to be so preemptive or premeditated. The relabeling also suggests that the process is both responsive and occasional, which it is not as it has been the driving component of American foreign policy since 2001 until the present day.
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For Once, Don’t Blame the Israelis

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The recent revelation that the Israelis had obtained classified information relating to the P5+1 negotiations with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program should not really surprise anyone. Israel has invested a great deal of political capital in confronting Iran and convincing the American public that it poses a genuine threat. So, it would be a given that its intelligence service, Mossad, would be tasked with finding out what information is not being shared by the White House.


But the truly intriguing back-story to this development is, “how did the Israelis do it and with whom exactly did they share their information?” The information obtained was described by the White House as “eavesdropping,” which would suggest some sort of electronic interception. But as the meetings undoubtedly took place in a technically secured room, which means that it was electronically “swept” before, during, and after meetings, the conversations could not be picked up either from bugs planted inside -- which would be detected -- or from penetration techniques originating outside, which is possible but would require a major deployment of high-tech gear close to the target.
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