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Afghan Civilians Fear CIA-Backed Death Squads that Can Call In Airstrikes

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Elite CIA-backed special forces in Afghanistan are leaving a trail of carnage in the country. As such units do not operate under the umbrella of the Department of Defense, they have been given near-impunity despite standing accused of war crimes.

Last month, the New York Times cited “senior Afghan and international officials” who said that while most strike forces in Afghanistan have been put under the purview of Afghan intelligence since 2012, two of the most “ruthless” units are “still sponsored mainly by the CIA.”

On Friday, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that at least one of these units has the capability of calling in air strikes.

Of the two special forces units that remain primarily influenced by the CIA, the name of only one was revealed: a group called “02” in the Nangarhar Province. The name of the unit in the Khost Province was not revealed. The units are trained and equipped by CIA agents and CIA contractors, and their fighters make three times the salary of a regular Afghan soldier. The unit in Khost is believed to have between 3,000 and 10,000 fighters while 02 is believed to be about 1,000 fighters strong.
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Understanding State Propaganda From The USSR to The USA

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While the de jure role of state sponsored propaganda is to convince a population to adopt a certain line of thinking on the issues of the day, the de facto function of state sponsored propaganda is rather different. In a society in which even a sizeable minority of the public are capable of critical thinking, few will immediately believe everything they are told, even if they can’t quite put their figure on a specific point of contention.

Because of that, in educated societies as the Soviet Union’s was, state propaganda serves a purpose of alerting people as to what they are forbidden to disagree with in public. In other words, if the official state line as delivered through state sanctioned newspapers, radio and television is that the economy is booming, people are being paid well and on time and that the new housing stock is superior to any other in the world – the authors of such propaganda do not expect those who are under-paid, living in mediocre housing and unable to elevate themselves into a higher living standard, to believe the self-evident nonsense that forms the core of the propaganda.

Instead, as part of the political requirement for society not to fall apart, it is expected that in private, people will complain to their friends and family about the fact that the economy is poor, people are stuck in dead end jobs and that housing is substandard, but that in public one will refrain from voicing these thoughts, because if they did, they would lose their job at a state owned factory, lose their state pension and if they took their message of opposition to greater heights, they could even receive a visit from the police.
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President Starts a War? Congress Yawns. Threatens to End One? Condemnation!

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Last week’s bipartisan Senate vote to rebuke President Trump for his decision to remove troops from Syria and Afghanistan unfortunately tells us a lot about what is wrong with Washington, DC. While the two parties loudly bicker about minor issues, when it comes to matters like endless wars overseas they enthusiastically join together. With few exceptions, Republicans and Democrats lined up to admonish the president for even suggesting that it’s time for US troops to come home from Afghanistan and Syria.
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The Tienditas Bridge 'Blockade'

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Over the last couple of days, you may have seen an image the one above in the news.

This is Tienditas International Bridge (Spanish: Puente Binacional Tienditas) on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. I have a feeling that we will be seeing much more of this bridge in the news over the coming days.

Venezuela is a country in crisis. More specifically, a presidential crisis. The president since 2013, Nicolás Maduro, was re-elected in 2018, but the election is disputed by the opposition. An opposition politician, Juan Guaidó, declared himself as interim president on January 23rd 2019 (despite not having stood in the 2018 election). The US and allies (including my country, the UK) have recognised Guaidó as president. Other countries continue to recognise Maduro as president. It appears that Maduro holds more power within the country, particularly as the military still support him.

The presidential crisis is a symptom of ongoing economic and political difficulties within Venezuela. I won’t comment on which side is right or who is to blame for the situation, but I do understand that a lot of people are struggling and suffering.
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Trump’s Syria ‘Pullout’ Aimed at Aggressing Iran

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US President Donald Trump again this week portrayed his plan to pull troops out of Syria as a “victory homecoming” and “an end to endless wars”. Then, in stepped Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to clarify what’s really going on: it’s a “tactical change” to put Iran in the crosshairs.

The purported pullout is not a return of US military from the Middle East, as Trump has been trumpeting with self-congratulations. It’s more a reconfiguration of American military power in the strategically vital region, and in particular for greater aggressive leverage on Iran.

In his State of the Union speech to Congress this week, Trump talked about giving a “warm welcome home to our brave warriors” from Syria. Supposedly it was “mission accomplished” for the US in defeating the ISIS terror group in that country.

It should be pointed out that ISIS would not have been in Syria or Iraq if it were not for criminal American military interventions, covert and overt, in those countries.

In any case, Trump was proclaiming America “victorious”, and so it was time, he said, to follow up on his order given in December for the 2,000 or so troops (illegally present) in Syria to withdraw.
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How Chrystia Freeland Organized Donald Trump’s Coup in Venezuela

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On Monday, February 5th, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that the 14 countries of the Lima Group — who had actually formed themselves under her direction into this new group on 8 August 2017 in order to overthrow and replace Venezuela’s current President Nicholas Maduro — have now been joined (though she didn’t say to what extent) by the EU, and by 8 other individual countries. She stated:
"Today, we have been joined by our Lima Group partners, from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Saint Lucia. We have also been joined in our conversations with our partners from other countries, for this Lima Group ministerial meeting. These include Ecuador, the European Union, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States."
She, along with US President Donald Trump, had, all along, been the actual leaders of this international diplomatic effort, to violate the Venezuelan Constitution blatantly, so as to perpetrate the coup in Venezuela.

Her active effort to replace Venezuela’s Government began with her formation of the Lima Group, nearly two years ago.

Canada’s Ottawa Citizen headlined on 19 August 2017, “Choosing Danger”, and their reporter Peter Hum interviewed Canada’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Ben Rowswell, who was then retiring from the post. Rowswell said that Venezuelans who wanted an overthrow of their Government would continue to have the full support of Canada’s Government: “‘I think that some of them were sort of anx­ious that it (the em­bassy’s support for hu­man rights and democ­racy in Venezuela) might not con­tinue after I left,’ Rowswell said. ‘I don’t think they have any­thing to worry about be­cause Minister (of For­eign Af­fairs Chrys­tia) Free­land has Venezuela way at the top of her pri­or­ity list.’”
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Why I Hope Maduro Wins And North Korea Keeps Its Nukes

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A second summit meeting for the US and North Korea is reportedly scheduledto take place in Vietnam at the end of the month. Expert opinions on where these negotiations are headed range from the insightful to the incredibly naive, with mainstream media consumers consistently finding themselves in the latter category. Trump supporters believe their president is going to pull off some Art of the Deal wizardry and convince Pyongyang to completely denuclearize, and mainstream Democrats believe Trump is being foolish, facilitating the nefarious agendas of an evil dictator.
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Venezuela: US Aid Gambit Fails - War Plans Lack Support

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A day after the US coup attempt in Venezuela the US game plan was already quite obvious:
The opposition in Venezuela will probably use access to that 'frozen' money to buy weapons and to create an army of mercenaries to fight a 'civil' war against the government and its followers. Like in Syria US special forces or some CIA 'contractors' will be eager to help. The supply line for such a war would most likely run through Colombia. If, like 2011 in Syria, a war on the ground is planned it will likely begin in the cities near that border.
The US is using the pretext of 'delivering humanitarian aid' from Columbia to Venezuela to undermine the government and to establish a supply line for further operations. It is another attempt to pull the military onto the coup plotter's side:
[I]f the trucks do get across, the opposition can present itself as an answer to Venezuela’s chronic suffering, while Mr. Maduro will appear to have lost control of the country’s borders. That could accelerate defections from the ruling party and the military.

Dimitris Pantoulas, a political scientist in Caracas, called the opposition’s aid delivery plan a high-stakes gamble. 
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“This is 99 percent about the military and one percent about the humanitarian aspects,” he said. “The opposition is testing the military’s loyalty, raising their cost of supporting Maduro. Are they with Maduro, or no? Will they reject the aid? If the answer is no, then Maduro’s hours are numbered.”
A New York Times op-ed by a right-wing former foreign minister of Mexico, Jorge G. Castañeda, details the escalation potential:
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Blackface: Confronting One’s Integrity in the Past

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We live in an age when one’s past is dragged up by those with ill intent to confront one’s integrity in the present.
 
If you worked in Asia in the 1980s or earlier, you likely remember a popular toothpaste called, sadly, Darkie. It featured a caricature of a black-faced minstrel performer on the label, with shining white, white teeth.

I have an old Polaroid photo of a very young American diplomat from that era, now a senior official, dressed as that logo, complete with blackface and a top hat, from a long-ago Halloween party. Others present were dressed as local characters, logos, kind of a theme. One person was done up as the Frito Bandito, a caricatured portrayal of Mexicans. The black-faced diplomat was not a racist then and is not now, actually has done some important things for the State Department at some personal risk in terms of getting it to treat its people better. Most today would describe him as “woke.”

Yet I am sure the NYT, or if not them, TMZ, would rush to publish the photo and the diplomat would be pressed to resign. His career would be impacted, his decent work stopped, and none of that would have a whit of any effect on racism in America. Unspoken is the idea that the same guy who wore blackface then is the same guy who is doing good things today. You just know something more about one evening long ago that now seems to matter so much when it doesn’t matter at all.
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