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newthinking

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Member since: Tue Feb 9, 2010, 11:51 PM
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Endless War, Undeclared and Undebated

Endless War, Undeclared and Undebated

The Obama administration is waging war all over the world — without congressional authorization.

Foreign Policy in Focus

http://fpif.org/endless-war-undeclared-undebated/

The death of six US soldiers in Afghanistan on December 21 at the hands of a Taliban suicide bomber brings to 21 the number of US combat deaths there in 2015. Once again we must confront the question of national purpose in waging war without debate or declaration. Like all other battlefield deaths in the Middle East, the Obama administration rationalizes these latest as being part of “training, advising, and assisting,” not combat. But those are merely code words for direct interventions that Congress has not authorized since 2002, in clear violation of restrictions the War Powers Resolution of 1973 places on presidential power.

There will be plenty more casualties in the Middle East for years to come, and not just because of the seemingly permanent US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Consider two recent news items. According to a plan not yet formally approved, the Pentagon wants to create a worldwide string of “hubs” as staging areas for Special Operations forces to strike quickly against terrorists. Second, most members of Congress are unwilling to introduce and debate a bill authorizing the Obama administration’s use of force in the Middle East and beyond. Thus, there is no end in sight to the US at war, both because the Pentagon has found the perfect enemy and because no one in Congress is willing to stand up to it.

The Pentagon’s plan is to have a forward presence that, in the words of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, “will enable unilateral crisis response, counterterror operations, or strikes on high-value targets.” Not long ago the Pentagon’s mantra was “places, not bases,” so as to avoid all the political problems, as well as the monetary costs, associated with a permanent military presence on foreign soil. Now “places” evidently have been modified to “hubs” and “spokes,” Pentagon-speak for small-scale leased bases of the sort already in place all over Africa. Northern Iraq and southern Europe are being considered as additional hub sites.

Beltway Resistance

Not everyone is reportedly on board with the Pentagon’s plan. The State Department correctly sees it as a power grab that may actually harm US foreign policy. The plan works at cross-purposes with diplomacy, substituting the deployment and use of force for potential opportunities to engage governments and rival groups. More US military facilities, no matter their size, invite criticism in the host countries, may become targets of terror groups, and feed the hostile propaganda of militants. In our terrorism era, however, State has no chance to win this battle.


Continued:
http://fpif.org/endless-war-undeclared-undebated/

Ukraine: When the Right Sector Runs the Courtroom

Ukraine: When the Right Sector Runs the Courtroom

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/18/ukraine-when-the-right-sector-runs-the-courtroom/

[center]

[font size=3]In Ukraine there is almost daily right-wing violence against the police and judiciary.[/font][/center]


[font size=2]On November 30, 100 members of the Right Sector stormed the Malinowski Court in Odessa. Security officers were simply pushed aside. Masked men and muscular women stood threateningly before the three judges. The judges had approved a ruling to release on bail five people detained since the violent events of May 2, 2014 in the city.

The judges were threatened by masked vigilantes if they didn’t sign letters of resignation. A video report captures the confrontation. It shows the anxious looks on the judges’ faces. They signed the resignation letters and exited the courtroom.

A short time later, the ruling to release the five anti-Maidan protesters was reversed, due, it was said, to “the failure to take account of certain facts”. Their detentions were extended for two months.

Jurisprudence in Odessa is experiencing black days in the month of December. Only five weeks ago, a committee of experts of the Council of Europe issued a lengthy report sharply criticizing the Ukrainian justice system because of the protracted investigation of the events of May 2, 2014 in Odessa. On that day 18 months ago in the city, six people were shot dead by unidentified men on both sides of a street battle between Maidan and anti-Maidan forces. Shortly after on the same day, 42 people died in an arson attack on the Trades Union House in the center of the city where government critics (anti-Maidan) had fled. Not one of the arsonists is in custody. It is not known what stage the investigation into the arson attack has reached. [The full, 91-page report of the Council of Europe is here. News reports are here in English and here in German.][/font]

Right sector threatens judges with grenades

In recent weeks, attacks by the Right Sector against judges and high government officials are piling up all over Ukraine.


Continued:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/18/ukraine-when-the-right-sector-runs-the-courtroom/

American Nightmare: the Depravity of Neoliberalism

American Nightmare: the Depravity of Neoliberalism

by Michael Welton

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/04/american-nightmare-the-depravity-of-neoliberalism/



Deciphering the meaning of Neo-liberalism as a historical force and societal form requires the energies and know-how of a sagacious sleuth like Hercule Poirot. Wendy Brown, a philosophy professor at UCLA (Berkeley) and author of Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution, has a Poirot intellectual sensibility and acuity that sees what most of us cannot.

Those of us who have written on neo-conservative politics and neo-liberalism as an economic form have illuminated many dimensions of “something new” that has emerged out of the collapse of welfare state liberal democracy in the West over the last five decades.

But putting all the pieces of this intricate puzzle together and detecting not only particular patterns but also the logic underlying neo-liberalism is a complex task.

What is the connection between the US Empire’s contempt for law and truth-telling and neo-liberalism?

And how is it that citizens can be so passive in the face of evident government prevarication, endless spinning of false narratives, the evisceration of democratic morality and countless corporate and government scandals?

Continued:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/04/american-nightmare-the-depravity-of-neoliberalism/

Phony Generosity: the Self-Serving Charity of Mark Zuckerberg

Phony Generosity: the Self-Serving Charity of Mark Zuckerberg

by Ted Rall

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/03/phony-generosity-the-self-serving-charity-of-mark-zuckerberg/

CEO Mark Zuckerberg promises to give 99% of his Facebook shares to charity — eventually.

Exact phrasing: the stock, currently worth $45 billion, will be donated “during [he and his wife’s] lives.” He’s 31 and she’s 30, so actuarial tables being what they are, by approximately the year 2065.

If Facebook or the Internet or the earth still exist.

Whoop de doo.

I would be far more impressed if Facebook would put some money into the American economy. How? By hiring more workers — a lot more workers. Facebook’s market cap is $300 billion — almost ten times more than GM. GM has 216,000 employees. I’m not sure Facebook could find work for 2 million workers — but 12,000 is pathetic. They might start by hiring a few thousand 24-7 customer service reps so they could respond quickly when some antisocial pig posts your nude photo.

Point two: this is all about control.

A donation to an independent, classic 501(c) charity can come with strings attached — the money is only for a children’s wing of the hospital, no adults — but it’s ultimately spent by the charity based on its directors’ decisions. Under the LLC structure Zuckerberg will maintain nearly dictatorial control over the funds he’s “donating” to “charity.”

It’s the difference between you giving a hundred bucks to the United Way, and taking a hundred bucks out of your wallet and dropping into a coffee can in your kitchen. Maybe the C-spot in the coffee can will go to the poor. Maybe not. It certainly isn’t accurate to claim you gave it to charity.



Full article:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/03/phony-generosity-the-self-serving-charity-of-mark-zuckerberg/

It’s not just Fox News: How liberal apologists torpedoed change, helped make the Democrats safe

It’s not just Fox News: How liberal apologists torpedoed change, helped make the Democrats safe for Wall Street

Center-left pundits have carried water for the president for six years. Their predictable excuses all ring hollow
Thomas Frank
SALON

http://www.salon.com/2015/01/11/its_not_just_fox_news_how_liberal_apologists_torpedoed_change_helped_make_the_democrats_safe_for_wall_street/

As the Obama administration enters its seventh year, let us examine one of the era’s greatest peculiarities: That one of the most cherished rallying points of the president’s supporters is the idea of the president’s powerlessness.

Today, of course, the Democrats have completely lost control of Congress and it’s easy to make the case for the weakness of the White House. For example, when Frank Bruni sighed last Wednesday that presidents are merely “buoys on the tides of history,” not “mighty frigates parting the waters,” he scarcely made a ripple.

But the pundit fixation on Obama’s powerlessness goes back many years. Where it has always found its strongest expression is among a satisfied stratum of centrist commentators—people who are well pleased with the president’s record and who are determined to slap down liberals who find fault in Obama’s leadership. The purveyors of this fascinating species of political disgust always depict the dispute in the same way, with hard-headed men of science (i.e., themselves) facing off against dizzy idealists who cluelessly rallied to Obama’s talk of hope and change back in 2008.

It is, in other words, a classic apologetic. The pundit, a clear-thinking, reality-based fellow (and yes, they are almost always fellows), knows that if you paid attention back in 2008 you understood that Obama wasn’t promising anything great. Plus, the president has delivered all kinds of subtle but awesome stuff that his soft-headed fans overlook. Besides, there are those awful racist Republicans. Good Christ! Would we rather have one of them in the Oval Office?

Continued:
http://www.salon.com/2015/01/11/its_not_just_fox_news_how_liberal_apologists_torpedoed_change_helped_make_the_democrats_safe_for_wall_street/

We created Islamic extremism: Those blaming Islam for ISIS would have supported Osama bin Laden

Excellent Piece. The historical pictures are worth a look alone! Reagan sitting with the Taliban. This period of history is remarkable (and tragic)


[font size=3]We created Islamic extremism: Those blaming Islam for ISIS would have supported Osama bin Laden in the ’80s[/font]

Jingoists conveniently forget the West's Cold War strategy was to arm the Islamic extremists that became al-Qaida
Ben Norton

http://www.salon.com/2015/11/17/we_created_islamic_extremism_those_blaming_islam_for_isis_would_have_supported_osama_bin_laden_in_the_80s/


Osama bin Laden, reported on favorably in the U.K.’s The Independent in 1993 (Credit: Imgur)

SNIP>>>>>>>


Gore Vidal famously referred to the USA as the United States of Amnesia. The late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai put it a little more delicately, quipping, “One of the delightful things about Americans is that they have absolutely no historical memory.”

In order to understand the rise of militant Salafi groups like ISIS and al-Qaida; in order to wrap our minds around their heinous, abominable attacks on civilians in the U.S., France, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Turkey, Yemen, Afghanistan and many, many more countries, we must rekindle this historical memory.

Where did violent Islamic extremism come from? In the wake of the horrific Paris attacks on Friday, November the 13, this is the question no one is asking — yet it is the most important one of all. If one doesn’t know why a problem emerged, if one cannot find its root, one will never be able to solve and uproot it.

Where did militant Salafi groups like ISIS and al-Qaida come from? The answer is not as complicated as many make it out to be — but, to understand, we must delve into the history of the Cold War, the historical period lied about in the West perhaps more than any other.


How the West cultivated Osama bin Laden


Continued: http://www.salon.com/2015/11/17/we_created_islamic_extremism_those_blaming_islam_for_isis_would_have_supported_osama_bin_laden_in_the_80s/

We needn’t reach back far into history, just a few decades.



(Credit: U.S. government)

Learning How Not to Rule the World

Learning How Not to Rule the World
John Grant

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/11/19/learning-how-not-to-rule-the-world/


(Al Qaeda’s) strategic objective has always been … the overthrow of the House of Saud. In pursuing that regional goal, however, it has been drawn into a worldwide conflict with American power.
– John Gray, Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern

Al Zarqawi … is an example of how the west has created bogeymen. Al Zarqawi is also an example of how the bogeymen have a habit of, eventually, fulfilling the role we give them.
– Jason Burke on the founder of al Qaeda in Iraq and, by extension after his death, ISIS

I know it’s not patriotic, but every time I hear some politico talk of bombing Iraq and Syria in response to the gruesome massacre in Paris I think of The Battle Of Algiers and the scene where a leader of the guerrilla movement is captured by the French military. A French reporter asks the man how he can justify the gruesome carnage from explosions in cafes and bars. “We’ll be glad to exchange our satchel charges for your jet bombers,” he says.

Always angling to be the farthest right of his fellow Republicans, candidate Ted Cruz honed in on the moral issue from Dick Cheney’s dark side. Cruz questioned whether a concern for civilian deaths was fitting when it came to the need to bomb ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Jeb! said we should only protect Christian refugees. Trump hollered to his fans, “We need to bomb the shit out of ISIS!” Rubio decried not having thorough dossiers on the refugees. The brilliant surgeon smiled beatifically. Pressed by the reactionary right of Marine Le Pen’s National Front, French President Hollande publicly declared war (whatever that meant in 2015) and increased the number of bombing raids on targets inside Syria provided by US intelligence. Reports suggested there were significant civilian casualties. Anti-Assad activists pleaded on Twitter for the French and other western forces to restrain their bombing, since, as Cruz understood, western bombs kill lots of people victimized by ISIS. Being caught in the crossfire between ISIS and the bomb-crazy West helps drive refugees to flee to Turkey and Europe. Sympathy for these refugees is evaporating rapidly, since fear-mongering demagogues are stigmatizing them as potential terrorists. Twenty US governors have said, “Not in my backyard. Send them back to where they came from.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews got worked up into a lather and wanted all the able-bodied refugee males to return to Syria as a fighting force. Not a bully Teddy Roosevelt type, the Peace Corps veteran didn’t volunteer to lead it.


Continued:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/11/19/learning-how-not-to-rule-the-world/

Dark Humor: Western Media Makes Light of Political Repression in Ukraine

Dark Humor: Western Media Makes Light of Political Repression in Ukraine

by Eric Draitser
CounterPunch


Political repression and violence are allegedly incompatible with Western liberal democratic values. Respect for human rights, freedom of expression, and protection of the rights of minorities are all purportedly the hallmarks of “free societies,” the goals toward which all nations should be striving. And yet, such standards of freedom and democracy are only selectively applied, and only when beneficial to the Western (US-UK-EU-NATO) agenda.

Western media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are quick to highlight abuses, both real and imagined, in countries where it is politically useful to do so, such as in North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and China. However, when it comes to the US-EU project in Ukraine, magically the liberal democratic values and human rights are no longer of central importance. Indeed, were one to read the Western media coverage of Ukraine, not only is political repression and violence not concerning, it’s downright funny.

The Real Story

An article published in the exalted liberal pages of Britain’s The Guardian ran with the headline The force awakens (in Ukraine): Darth Vader statue replaces Lenin monument (23 October 2015). The story highlighted the transformation of a statue of Lenin in the city of Odessa, into the Star Wars villain Darth Vader by Ukrainian artist Alexander Milov. The lighthearted tone of the piece, with tongue-in-cheek references to “the Force” (a Star Wars plot point) of the WiFi being radiated from the statue’s head belies the seriousness of the issue – the intimidation and violent repression of political forces in the ‘New Ukraine’ – which the author conveniently downplays.

The story makes only passing mention of the “decommunization laws” – conspicuously referenced in parentheses with a hyperlink, as if they were an afterthought – under which this statue has now legally been defaced and destroyed. In fact, the “controversial decommunization laws” were not merely an attempt to erase the symbols of Soviet history, but part of a broader process of political repression that has included violence, kidnappings, and death. In fact, the appropriation of the Lenin statue is merely an outgrowth of the repeated attacks upon the Communist Party and its grassroots organizers all throughout Ukraine, as the pro-fascist government and police systematically attacked, and ultimately dissolved the entire Party which had been traditionally one of the most popular in the country.

In a grossly dishonest bit of writing, the author of the article noted that, “Darth Lenin is in a factory in the Black Sea port city, which has been the location of clashes between separatist and pro-Ukraine forces, and recently saw pro-western former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili installed as governor of the region.” Note the twin distortions embedded in the excerpt.


Continued:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/11/02/dark-humor-western-media-makes-light-of-political-repression-in-ukraine/


Embracing The Dark Side: A Short History Of The Pathological Neocon Quest For Empire

An (somewhat) entertaining history of the Neocon Warmongers:

Embracing The Dark Side: A Short History Of The Pathological Neocon Quest For Empire


When Bill Kristol watches Star Wars movies, he roots for the Galactic Empire. The leading neocon recently caused a social media disturbance in the Force when he tweeted this predilection for the Dark Side following the debut of the final trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Kristol sees the Empire as basically a galaxy-wide extrapolation of what he has long wanted the US to have over the Earth: what he has termed “benevolent global hegemony.

Kristol, founder and editor of neocon flagship magazine The Weekly Standard,responded to scandalized critics by linking to a 2002 essay from the Standard’s blog that justifies even the worst of Darth Vader’s atrocities. In “The Case for the Empire,” Jonathan V. Last made a Kristolian argument that you can’t make a “benevolent hegemony” omelet without breaking a few eggs.

And what if those broken eggs are civilians, like Luke Skywalker’s uncle and aunt who were gunned down by Imperial Stormtroopers in their home on the Middle Eastern-looking arid planet of Tatooine (filmed on location in Tunisia)? Well, as Last sincerely argued, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru hid Luke and harbored the fugitive droids R2D2 and C3P0; so they were “traitors” who were aiding the rebellion and deserved to be field-executed.

A year after Kristol published Last’s essay, large numbers of civilians were killed by American Imperial Stormtroopers in their actual Middle Eastern arid homeland of Iraq, thanks largely in part to the direct influence of neocons like Kristol and Last.

That war was similarly justified in part by the false allegation that Iraq ruler Saddam Hussein was harboring and aiding terrorist enemies of the empire like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The civilian-slaughtering siege of Fallujah, one of the most brutal episodes of the war, was also specifically justified by the false allegation that the town was harboring Zarqawi.

Much more at: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-10-28/embracing-dark-side-short-history-pathological-neocon-quest-empire

NYT Hypes Russian Threat to the Internet

NYT Hypes Russian Threat to the Internet

by Ben Schreiner

As if Americans didn’t already have enough to worry about in regards to the recently resurrected Red Menace, we can now add the fear that those devious Russians are threatening to–horror of horrors–bring down the Internet.

As the New York Times‘ David Sanger and Eric Schmitt report, “Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of conflict.”

As Navy spokesman Cmdr. William Marks adds, “It would be a concern to hear any country was tampering with communication cables.”Indeed. Well, unless those tampering with international communication cables happen to be working on behalf of the “good guys” in the National Security Agency, or their equally good partners in Britain’s GCHQ. In that case, don’t consider it “tampering,” but rather something more akin to protecting the homeland from 21st century threats.

Of course whenever official Washington warns of a looming foreign cyber threat (China and Iran being the other favorite punching bags of the Times in this regard), it’s worth remembering that it was in fact the U.S., in partnership with Israel, that was the first state to actually launch a major offensive cyber attack on a sovereign nation. The attack being the Stuxnet virus set loose back in 2009 on Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. Such aggression was codified earlier this year when the Pentagon formally unveiled a cyber warfare doctrine sanctioning the use of preemptive strikes. But down the memory hole, it appears, with all that.

And so with all that out of mind, it’s back to Russia’s rising “aggression.” At least as the paper of record would have it.



http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/10/26/nyt-hypes-russian-threat-to-the-internet/



It is unfortunate that the NYT, which used to be a good paper, has been allowing itself to be a tool for the MIC in forwarding less than truthful "Narratives". The MIC needs to keep the fear up so out come stories like this which have no real substance, but do a good job working up some of the public. Thus more money for the MIC.


SALON: The NYT’s journalistic obedience

SALON: We restarted the Cold War: The real story about the NATO buildup that the New York Times won’t tell you


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