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Journal Archives

The US-GCC fatal attraction

By Pepe Escobar

There's no way to understand the larger-than-life United States-Iran psychodrama, the Western push for regime change in both Syria and Iran, and the trials and tribulations of the Arab Spring(s) - now mired in perpetual winter - without a close look at the fatal attraction between Washington and the GCC. [1]

GCC stands for Gulf Cooperation Council, the club of six wealthy Persian Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates - UAE), founded in 1981 and which in no time configured as the prime strategic US backyard for the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, for the long-drawn battle in the New Great Game in Eurasia, and also as the headquarters for "containing" Iran.

The US Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain and Central Command's forward headquarters is based in Qatar; Centcom polices no less than 27 countries from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia - what the Pentagon until recently defined as "the arc of instability". In sum: the GCC is like a US aircraft carrier in the Gulf magnified to Star Trek proportions.

I prefer to refer to the GCC as the Gulf Counter-revolution Club - due to its sterling performance in suppressing democracy in the Arab world, even before Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia over a year ago.

in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NA20Ak02.html

The Operators: Six Questions for Michael Hastings by Scott Horton

Harper's Magazine.

Michael Hastings’s Polk Award–winning Rolling Stone article, “The Runaway General,” brought the career of General Stanley McChrystal, America’s commander in Afghanistan, to an abrupt end. Now Hastings has developed the material from that article, and the storm that broke in its wake, into an equally explosive book, The Operators, which includes a merciless examination of relations between major media and the American military establishment. I put six questions to Hastings about his book and his experiences as a war correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan:

1. Your book presents a Barack Obama who behaves uncomfortably and perhaps too deferentially around his generals, but who is also the first president since Harry S. Truman to have sacked a theater commander during wartime—and moreover, who did it twice (first, General David McKiernan, then McChrystal). How do you reconcile these observations?

I actually think the two observations reveal an evolution in the president’s relationship to the military. During my reporting, one of the conclusions I came to was that President Obama’s mistake wasn’t firing General McChrystal—it was hiring him in the first place. General McKiernan wouldn’t have been a political headache for the president; McKiernan wouldn’t have waged a media campaign to undermine the White House, nor have demanded 130,000 troops.

The president didn’t come up with the idea to fire McKiernan on his own. He was convinced to do so by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral David Mullen, and General David Petraeus. He took their advice without questioning it, really. That, I believe, was his original sin in dealing with the military. The rap on McKiernan was that he was a loser who just didn’t get it. I never bought that narrative—nor did a number of military officials I spoke to. McKiernan understood perfectly well what counterinsurgency was, and he’d started enacting it. (There were fewer civilian deaths under McKiernan than McChrystal.) But McKiernan was on the wrong team—he was the victim, essentially, of bureaucratic infighting. At the time, the president had put a lot of trust in Gates and Mullen (misplaced, in my opinion) and didn’t have the confidence to say, “Hey, wait a second, maybe McKiernan should stay.”

remainder: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/01/hbc-90008406

Noam Chomsky chooses Obama over GOPs as 2012 President

Noam Chomsky has said, "I’m not a great enthusiast for Obama, as you know, from way back, but at least he’s somewhere in the real world." He stated that the 2012 candidates are "Off the International Spectrum of Sane Behavior."

The extended view by Democracy Now's Amy Goodman with Noam Chomsky --- world-renowned activist, linguist, public intellectual and Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author and one of the most influential political analysts of our day and age --- represents what American GOP middle-class voters are lamenting, "If only we had another candidate to pick from."
This is even made more evident in Amy Goodman's latest article, "Republicans Divided, Citizens United," saying that "the Republicans are not enthusiastic about any of their candidates." In her article, Goodman forecasts that the 2012 presidential election promises to be long, contentious, extremely expensive and perhaps more negative than any in history.

Goodman asked Professor Chomsky what he thought the big difference was between President Obama, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. She also asked if he thought there would be a "drastic change in policy if a Republican were to win in 2012 and if it were Perry or Romney?" As seen in the above video, his reply was, "Politics in this country now is in a state that I think has no analogue in American history and maybe nowhere in the parliamentary system. It's astonishing."

One of things he referred to is the fact major Republican candidates deny climate change, except for Michele Bachmann when she was still in the running. "I heard a statement of hers in which she said, 'Well, yes, maybe it's happening. It's God's punishment for allowing gay marriage,' or some comment like that. I mean, this --- what's going on there is just off the international spectrum of sane behavior." He added, "The positions they're taking [the candidates] are utterly outlandish."

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/317710#ixzz1kEaBO2B7

The perils of 2012 by Joseph Stiglitz

In 2012, global economic rebalancing will accelerate, inevitably leading to political tensions.

Last Modified: 21 Jan 2012 12:07

Kolkata, India - The year 2011 will be remembered as the time when many ever-optimistic US citizens began to give up hope. President John F Kennedy once said that a rising tide lifts all boats. But now, in the receding tide, those in the US are beginning to see not only that those with taller masts have been lifted far higher, but also that many of the smaller boats had been dashed to pieces in their wake.

In that brief moment when the rising tide was indeed rising, millions of people believed that they might have a fair chance of realising the "American Dream". Now those dreams, too, are receding. By 2011, the savings of those who had lost their jobs in 2008 or 2009 had been spent. Unemployment cheques had run out. Headlines announcing new hiring - still not enough to keep pace with the number of those who would normally have entered the labour force - meant little to the 50-year-olds with little hope of ever holding a job again.

Indeed, middle-aged people who thought that they would be unemployed for a few months have now realised that they were, in fact, forcibly retired. Young people who graduated from college with tens of thousands of dollars of education debt cannot find any jobs at all. People who moved in with friends and relatives have become homeless. Houses bought during the property boom are still on the market or have been sold at a loss. More than seven million families in the US have lost their homes.

The dark underbelly of the previous decade's financial boom has been fully exposed in Europe as well. Dithering over Greece and key national governments' devotion to austerity began to exact a heavy toll last year. Contagion spread to Italy. Spain's unemployment, which had been near 20 per cent since the beginning of the recession, crept even higher. The unthinkable - the end of the euro - began to seem like a real possibility.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/01/201211416122556461.html

Clinton revives charge of 'covert' site

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's charge on Tuesday that Iran had intended to keep its nuclear facility at Fordow secret until it was revealed by Western intelligence revived a claim the Barack Obama administration made in September 2009.

Clinton said Iran "only declared the Qom facility to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] after it was discovered by the international community following three years of covert construction". She also charged that there was no "plausible reason" for Iran to enrich to a 20% level at the Fordow plant, implying that the only explanation was an intent to make nuclear weapons.

Clinton's charges were part of a coordinated US-British attack on Iran's enrichment at Fordow. British Foreign Minister William
Hague also argued that Fordow was too small to support a civilian power program. Hague also referred to its "location and clandestine nature", saying they "raise serious questions about its ultimate purpose".

The Clinton-Hague suggestions that the Fordow site must be related to an effort to obtain nuclear weapons appear to be aimed at counter-balancing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's statement only two days earlier that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons.

in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NA13Ak02.html

The shame of Guantanamo Bay by Anthony Romero

All branches of the US government must act to end one of the most shameful episodes in American history.

January 11, 2012

New York, New York - This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the first prisoner arriving at Guantanamo Bay, making it the longest-standing war prison in US history. Guantanamo has been a catastrophic failure on every front. It has long been past the time for this shameful episode in American history to be brought to a close.

President Obama has failed to shutter Guantanamo, even though on his second day in office he signed an executive order to close the prison and restore "core constitutional values". In fact, the 2012 National Defence Authorization Act that Obama signed on New Year's Eve contains a sweeping provision that makes indefinite military detention, including of people captured far from any battlefield, a permanent part of American law for the first time in this country's history. This is not just unconstitutional - it's just plain wrong.

Guantanamo was fashioned as an "island outside the law" where terrorism suspects could be held without charge and interrogated without restraint. Almost 800 men have passed through its cells. Today, 171 remain.

As documents secured by the ACLU demonstrate, Guantanamo became a perverse laboratory for brutal interrogation methods. Prisoners were subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, extreme temperatures and prolonged isolation. It started with two false premises: Those who were sent there were all terrorists picked up on the battlefield and that, as "unlawful enemy combatants", they had no legal rights. In reality, a tiny percentage was captured by US forces; most were seized by Pakistani and Afghan militias, tribesmen, and officials, and then sold to the US for large bounties.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/01/201211193555298292.html

Hobbes’s Mortal Gods: Six Questions for Ted H. Miller by Scott Horton

January 9, 2012

The last decade was clearly something of a Hobbesian moment in American history. Now, political philosopher and Hobbes scholar Ted H. Miller has written a book entitled Mortal Gods: Science, Politics, and the Humanist Ambitions of Thomas Hobbes, in which he examines the English philosopher’s work and its relationship to court politics, absolutist rule, and the seventeenth-century fascination with practical mathematics. I put six questions to Miller about his new book:

1. If the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes can be separated from that of John Locke on a single practical point, it is probably the notion of accountability of senior political figures. Locke teaches us that no man can be above the law. But for Hobbes, as you note, the sovereign is personified as a law-giver who operates outside the limitations of law. Many in America today believe we are witnessing a resurgence of notions of immunity and unaccountability that benefit the powerful and the wealthy. Is this the legacy of Thomas Hobbes?

It’s a very troubling resurgence. As a proponent of absolutist sovereignty, Hobbes plays a part, but he isn’t alone. Moreover, he might aid more than one perspective on this question. Like absolutists before and after, he taught that sovereign powers ought not to be held to law by their subjects. For some, including Locke, Hobbes’s sovereign is an untamed beast who roams his domain, a threat to subjects rather than a legitimate authority. For Hobbes himself, an unquestionable sovereign is the very condition of an ordered and lawful state. With no last word on the law, chaos results. A sovereign held accountable within the state could not do what a sovereign must: “overawe” subjects and hold them accountable. This unusual status of his sovereign as the exempt keeper of law made Hobbes a kind of beacon to critics of rule-of-law liberals in the twentieth century. They noted that Hobbes’s sovereign might suspend, or destroy and reconstitute, basic law in crisis moments.

Hobbes, however, might offer his own solution to the problem of wealthy and powerful people who stand immune and unaccountable: if they claim this immunity without sovereign warrant, then sovereign powers should exercise their force to hold them to account. Unfortunately, much of the immunity you’ve referenced gets the nod from those who claim sovereign power. Some have described the vast increases in executive power after 9/11 as a form of neo-absolutism. The creeping immunity granted those who do the state’s bidding can be seen in the same light.

remainder: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/01/hbc-90008381

The road map to the Afghan endgame

Some Taliban may set up an office in Doha, but will all Americans actually leave Kabul?

Last Modified: 07 Jan 2012 11:23

New York, New York - Once upon a time they favoured Dubai - their smuggling Mecca. Now the Taliban go-to destination of choice will be Doha.

So the Taliban will open a political office in Qatar to be engaged in negotiations "with the international community", according to Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai wanted the office to be either in Turkey or Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration applied some screws - Karzai had to accept Qatar. So much for the "sovereignty" of the man informally known as the mayor of Kabul.

The Doha operation was strictly a US, German, Qatari and Taliban "representatives" affair. Doha was specifically picked by the Obama administration. The concept of a reward was clear - as in Qatar's solid, unconditional partnership with NATO, which, by the way, is spectacularly losing a war in Afghanistan.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/01/20121610014530356.html

Obama distances US from Iran attack

January 5, 2012

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - United States President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are engaged in intense maneuvering over Netanyahu's aim of entangling the United States in an Israeli war against Iran.

Netanyahu is exploiting the extraordinary influence his right-wing Likud Party exercises over the Republican Party and the US Congress on matters related to Israel in order to maximize the likelihood that the US would participate in an attack on Iran.

Obama, meanwhile, appears to be hoping that he can avoid being caught up in a regional war started by Israel if he distances the United States from any Israeli attack.

New evidence surfaced in 2011 that Netanyahu had been serious about dealing a military blow to the Iranian nuclear program, which is suspected in some circles of being designed to produce nuclear weapons - something Tehran denies.

remainder in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NA05Ak01.html

Obama Signs the NDAA, World Does Not End (Yet) by Scott Horton

On New Year’s Eve, as most Americans were focused on parties and football games, President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012. He issued a significant signing statement in the process:

I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists… I decided to sign this bill not only because of the critically important services it provides for our forces and their families and the national security programs it authorizes, but also because the Congress revised provisions that otherwise would have jeopardized the safety, security, and liberty of the American people. Moving forward, my Administration will interpret and implement the provisions described below in a manner that best preserves the flexibility on which our safety depends and upholds the values on which this country was founded…

I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

Obama’s decision hardly provoked applause from the NDAA’s critics. The ACLU stated that it was a “blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law.” Jonathan Turley has called Obama’s decision to sign the NDAA into law America’s “Mayan moment”—the dooming moment “when the nation embraced authoritarian powers with little more than a pause between rounds of drinks.”

in full: http://harpers.org/archive/2012/01/hbc-90008380
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