Category Archives: Cluster bombs

Remnants of War

Intense fighting and hideous attacks battered Afghans throughout their country last week as negotiators in Qatar weighed the benefits and costs of  a peace agreement that might stop the bloodshed.

In Kabul at least 40 people, including one child, were killed in a complex Taliban attack. Dozens of children whose school was partially collapsed by a massive car bomb were injured. Of these, 21 were hospitalized with serious injuries.

New York Times correspondent Mujib Mashal posted (on Twitter) a photo of an elementary school child being carried into the Italian Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War in Kabul. “Blood on his face,” Mashal writes, describing the child. “Still in shock. Still clutching that pencil.”

The same attack damaged a television station, a government facility and an adjoining private war museum.

Operated by OMAR, (Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation), a group dedicated to the never-ending and often dangerous work of mine-clearance and disposal, the war museum houses ordnance and land mines used in Afghanistan during four decades of warfare. In 2012, young Afghan Peace Volunteers took me to see the museum. I recall a small exhibit showing remnants of a United States cluster bomb. The remnants are called bomblets, and each cluster bomb consists of 202 bomblets. They resemble children’s playthings, items that could be stepped on, driven over or picked up by curious children.

The U.S. dropped 1,228 cluster bombs in Afghanistan between October 2001 and March 2002 alone. The Afghan landscape is now littered by anti-personnel and anti-tank mines which OMAR is striving to remove, where permitted, before more Afghan civilians are killed. Research by the Mine Action Program of Afghanistan indicates, in the first three months of the current year, 130 Afghan boys and girls were casualties of “ERW:” “Explosive Remnants of War”.

As negotiations inched forward, two Afghan government airstrikes, possibly using United States assistance, hit civilians, killing 7 members of a family in the Baghlan province and four civilians in a clinic in Maidan Wardak province.

The Taliban, U.S. Government, and every other warring party in Afghanistan must be asked: “How many more civilians, including children, are you willing to kill and maim?”

The second time I visited the OMAR museum was with my friend Martha Hennessy. We were asked not to take photos, but Martha had already snapped a picture of a carpet carefully woven to illustrate several types of land mines Afghans should watch out for. The carpet was hung on a wall, but actual mines lie in the paths to be traversed by innocent Afghans. On the phone with me discussing the recent Kabul attack, Martha mentioned that carpet and reflected on the terrible carpeting of Afghanistan with barbarous ordnance.

Photo by Martha Hennessy

Martha now faces up to 20 years in prison for protesting the most barbarous and inhumane weaponry ever invented.

Martha, a granddaughter of the Catholic Worker Movement’s founder Dorothy Day, is one of seven Catholic activists, the “King’s Bay Plowshares Seven“, whose April 4, 2018 action was in accord with their deeply held beliefs that life is sacred, and must not be taken in war. The U.S. naval base at King’s Bay, Georgia houses nuclear-missile-armed Trident submarines. Entering without permission, they hung banners, displayed crime scene tape and poured their blood on the base grounds. They protested the U.S.’ preparations, far exceeding those of any other nation, to commit “omnicide”, to carpet the world in fire, in fallout, in the snows of a deadly “nuclear winter,” in ash. For the past fifteen months, they’ve awaited trial on charges of conspiracy, destruction of property on a naval station, depredation of government property, and trespass. They feel that U.S. readiness for war must be put on trial now, or potentially never.

Another of Martha’s co-defendants has been a guest, like us, of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Our friend Carmen Trotta recalls a visit to the Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War, an Italy-based hospital that treated many victims of the recent Kabul attacks. In 2014 we had visited the hospital to donate blood, and met Jamshaid and Farshaid, young teens who had survived a suicide bomb attack on the United States military base in Bagram. They had been standing outside their school outside the base when the attack happened. Farshaid’s leg had been amputated. Jamshaid had lost much of his vision. We asked Michaela Paschetto, a young Italian nurse, how they were faring.

“Today was a bad day for them,” she said. “Really, I don’t ask so many questions,” she continued. “It becomes too much.”

“I didn’t know what to say,” Carmen recalls. “I honestly couldn’t think of a word to say.”

Carmen, Martha and each of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 will have their say, however brief, in a Brunswick County federal court on August 7. Oral arguments will be heard including several motions as well as their belief they opposed the U.S. nuclear arsenal in accord with their religious faith. They have consistently opposed weapons and wars and just as steadfastly served, as members of Dorothy Day’s movement, their impoverished neighbors. They understand the wars, the omnicidal weapons awaiting their use at King’s Bay, and the suffering of the U.S. poor as, in some sense, all part of a global war on the poor.

Depending on whether we resist or acquiesce, grieve or complacently ignore, we ourselves risk becoming the tragic, perpetually dangerous remnants of war.

Who Orchestrated the Breakup of Yugoslavia and How?

Twenty-five years ago, on 24 March 1999, Operation Allied Force began – the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia that led to the country’s dismemberment – and the independent state of Kosovo was proclaimed. Yet these events were far from historically contingent, as some people claim. So who orchestrated the breakup of Yugoslavia and how?

These days, few remember that the Bulgarians were at the start of it all. Even the Bulgarians themselves don’t like to think about it.

In early March 1999, Bulgaria’s National Intelligence Service told Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) that it had information about a secret plan by the Yugoslav General Staff, codenamed Operation Horseshoe, to destroy/expel the entire Albanian population of Kosovo and Metohija by 1 April. The BND passed the information on to the German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joschka Fischer, who took it extremely seriously and immediately called for a military intervention in Yugoslavia, something that went against the pacifist position of the Green party from which he had been appointed foreign minister.

In reality, however, what the Bulgarians had was a map of Kosovo and Metohija that showed the positions of the 52nd Pristina Corps of the Third Army of the Yugoslav Military and police units. Visually, the position of these forces did actually resemble a horseshoe. No one stopped to think that the name of the document contained the word “potkova“, however, which is specific to the Bulgarian and Croatian languages and would be “potkovica” in Serbian. Since the main advocate for aggression against Yugoslavia was Germany, the Germans cited this plan as the primary reason for a bombing campaign, and the name of the “document” thereafter used the German word Hufeisenplan.

Map of Kosovo

It was only some ten years later that MEP Nadezhda Neynsky (Mihaylova), Bulgaria’s foreign minister in 1999, clarified that the Bulgarian intelligence services had warned the Germans that the information in the “plan” had not been fully confirmed.

But NATO had been present in Kosovo long before the spring of 1999. A NATO-facilitated ceasefire in the region had been signed on 15 October 1998, under which Yugoslav troops returned to their places of permanent deployment. Monitoring of the ceasefire was entrusted to NATO. As part of Operation Eagle Eye, NATO diplomats and military experts were present in Kosovo to observe the situation. Thus, NATO was well aware of all the Yugoslav army’s positions in Kosovo and Metohija and did not need the Bulgarian intelligence services’ “confirmed information”.

Towards the end of 1998, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a Kosovo Albanian terrorist group, was on the verge of defeat, but the Albanians felt protected by NATO and continued fighting. The ceasefire collapsed and Albanian militants attacked police patrols and Serbian villages. By the beginning of 1999, the KLA had increased its terrorist activities and the situation in the region had become extremely difficult. The Yugoslav army was forced to resume its anti-terrorist operations knowing full well that NATO was not going to be happy.

In January 1999, a battle took place for the village of Račak, which the KLA had turned into a stronghold with trenches, underground bunkers and machine-gun nests. The exact number of Albanians killed in Račak is still not clear. The KLA and its supporters in Washington maintain that there were casualties among the local population. Yet a forensic examination showed that all of those killed had gunpowder traces on their hands, and the state of the civilian clothes they were wearing was not consistent with the wounds and injuries received.

After talking with KLA field commanders, however, American diplomat William Walker and his military advisor, British General John Drewienkiewicz, insisted that Serbian soldiers had massacred women and children in Račak. Even the Hague Tribunal was subsequently forced to exclude the “incident in Račak” from the list of charges against Slobodan Milošević due to a lack of evidence. In 1999, however, Walker and Drewienkiewicz were adamant.

US diplomat William Walker visits Racak on 19th anniversary of the massacre.

Veteran US diplomat William Walker, whose declaration of a massacre in Racak paved the way for the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo, visits the village today on the 19th anniversary of the massacre. In Kosovo, he is revered as a hero.

In the end, William Walker played a key role in shaping public opinion in English-speaking countries. He maintained to the last that he had seen the headless corpses of women, children and “older men, with gray hair” with his own eyes, even when it had been completely refuted, including by Western experts. In fact, it was William Walker’s vocal position that ultimately made NATO and especially the US favour military action against Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria’s “Potkova” plan showed up at just the right time.

In February 1999, talks were held at the ancient Château de Rambouillet on the outskirts of Paris between the Serbian government and Kosovo Albanians under the auspices of the Contact Group (NATO+Russia). They were a complete failure.

NATO representatives recognised Kosovo as an autonomous province within Serbia, but called for the following: all Yugoslav army units to withdraw from Kosovo; a force of 30,000 NATO troops to be deployed in Kosovo; an unhindered right of passage for NATO troops on Yugoslav territory; and immunity for NATO and its agents to Yugoslav law.

These were controversial conditions for the occupation of Yugoslavia and the complete loss of state sovereignty. Yugoslavia and Russia refused to sign the “agreement”.

On 23 March 1999, Belgrade agreed to recognise the political part of NATO’s proposals (the autonomy of Kosovo), but once again refused categorically to allow NATO troops access to its territory, as well as withdraw its own troops from Kosovo.

On 24 March 1999, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana ordered the commander of NATO troops in Europe, US General Wesley Clark, to begin the assault against Yugoslavia. That evening, the whole of Yugoslavia, including its key cities (Belgrade, Pristina, Podgorica, Novi Sad, Kragujevac, and Pančevo), was subjected to air strikes. Overnight, the American warship USS Gonzalez fired 18 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the city of Niš.

From the very beginning of the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia, there was a clear discrepancy between the stated objectives and the operation being carried out. Initially, NATO had estimated that it would take two to three days to “end the genocide of the Albanian population of Kosovo” by attacking Yugoslav military facilities south of the 44th parallel. Should the country’s leaders continue to resist, then the attacks on targets south of the 44th parallel would be expanded and last up to a week. If Belgrade still refused to make concessions, then the whole country would be targeted, including the capital.

In reality, however, the whole of Yugoslavia, including Belgrade, Novi Sad and Podgorica, was attacked just hours after the operation began. Instead of the original two to three days, the air strikes continued for two and a half months.

The plan categorically ruled out a ground operation. A direct confrontation with the Yugoslav army on the ground was viewed as unacceptable given the predicted losses and the possible escalation of the conflict into a prolonged war due to the nature of the Serbian and Montenegrin mentalities and the resistance of these peoples to external aggression.

Throughout April and May 1999, the air strikes were relentless. Every bridge over the Danube River was demolished, up to 80 per cent of Yugoslavia’s industrial potential was wiped out, and every television and telecommunication tower was purposefully and totally destroyed. At the same time, the first strike on the General Staff building in Belgrade only took place on 30 April (three officers were killed and around 40 injured). The Americans bombed the Chinese Embassy building in Belgrade, believing that it contained radar equipment the Chinese were using to share information with the Serbian Air Defence. Chinese diplomats and embassy staff were killed in the attack.

 

A Serbian civil train, bombarded by NATO aviation at Grdelica bridge on April 12, 1999. At least 15 passengers were burnt alive.

On 12 April, an American F-15 fighter jet attacked a railway bridge over the South Morava river in the Grdelica gorge, destroying a Belgrade–Athens passenger train. Dozens of people were killed, some of whom were reduced to unidentifiable body fragments. General Wesley Clark and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana tried to defend the pilot. The British attacked the city of Niš with cluster bombs – a prohibited weapon designed to destroy enemy personnel. The bombs hit a hospital and a busy market.

On 4 June 1999, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević agreed to a peace agreement. On 12 June, NATO forces moved into Kosovo from Macedonia. On 20 June, the 52nd Pristina Corps of the Yugoslav Army left Kosovo.

Several thousand missile and bombing raids were carried out over Yugoslavia during the NATO aggression. Several tens of thousands of bombs and missiles were dropped with a total weight of more than 22,000 tons. Hundreds of industrial plants, oil depots, power plants, and infrastructure including hundreds of road and railway bridges were destroyed or seriously damaged. A large number of historical and architectural sites and monuments were destroyed, along with hundreds of schools, universities, libraries, and more than 20 hospitals. Nearly 40,000 homes were completely destroyed or damaged.

Several thousand people died as a result of the bombing, including hundreds of children. The total material damage was $103 billion.

Why did a “humanitarian intervention” aimed at “preventing the genocide of Kosovo Albanians” result in the complete collapse and breakup of Yugoslavia?

Monument to the children killed during NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, Belgrade, Serbia

The NATO aggression in 1999 was actually the final stage of the West’s solution to a crucial geopolitical task – the destruction of Yugoslavia. Following the fall of the Soviet bloc, it was not a viable option for Washington and its allies to have a country in Europe capable of pursuing independent policies and defending its own interests.

The cruel, cold-blooded and truly inhuman nature of the operation was meant to show everyone what awaits should they be brave enough to stand in the way of “Western democracy”. The political and military leaders of Yugoslavia and then of Serbia were among the first to experience hybrid warfare techniques and what is now commonly referred to as “fake news”.

US Calls for Ceasefire, Keeps Attacking Yemen

In case you missed it, US efforts to prolong the world’s most serious humanitarian crisis in Yemen continue to succeed spectacularly. US military support enables the Saudi coalition to continue to bomb markets, docks, mosques, hospitals, school buses, weddings and funerals, and other civilian targets with impunity. The Saudis’ Yemeni enemy, the Houthi rebels, have no effective air defenses. On March 26, 2015, with the blessing and tactical support of the Obama administration, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an illegal, genocidal, aggressive war on Houthi-controlled Yemen. Yemen was – and is – in the midst of a civil war in which the long-oppressed Houthis overthrew the “legitimate” government that the US and others had imposed on Yemen. Since March 2015, the US and the Saudi coalition have subjected Yemen to daily war crimes, not only killing civilians but destroying non-military targets of all sorts, causing a form of biological warfare with a cholera plague, as well as massive famine for more than half the country’s 25 million people. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) head said on September 27: “Yemen is a disaster and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel right now.” Yemen was not a significant issue in the American election, even as the Trump administration sanctioned and supported military escalation that heightened the suffering of millions (and that has already killed tens of thousands).

At the US State Department, on November 7, the press briefing focused on the ideological basis for punishing Iran for continuing to abide by the nuclear agreement that the US pulled out of (still joined by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China). The US blames Iran for Yemen, too, with little persuasive or significant evidence to support the propaganda bias. Eventually in the briefing there was a question about Yemen, and the exchange with State Department spokesman Robert Palladino went like this (edited, with emphasis added):

QUESTION: Yemen?

MR PALLADINO: Yemen? Let’s go to Yemen in the back, please.

QUESTION: The fighting around Hodedah [the Yemeni port critical to supplying food to the region’s poorest country that was a food importer before being attacked] seems to be picking up with – and UNICEF and MSF and all these aid groups who are saying children are at risk at these hospitals. And I wonder what’s happened to the U.S. call for a ceasefire.

MR PALLADINO: The – well, I would start by saying we closely are following the developments that are taking place in Hodedah. As the Secretary said, we’ve been urging all parties to come to the table, and to recognize that there’s no military victory that can be achieved in Yemen. And we continue to call for a cessation of hostilities and for all parties to support United Nations Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

QUESTION: So have there been any phone calls?…

MR PALLADINO: We are in daily contact with the special envoy….

QUESTION: Would you call on the Saudi coalition to halt this offensive that they seem to now be bearing down on in Hodedah?

MR PALLADINO: We’ve called for a cessation of hostilities…. Please, next question….

QUESTION: Have you had a miscommunication then, with the Saud-led coalition, that they’re now beginning this offensive?

MR PALLADINO: – our assessment remains the same….

QUESTION: – to put a finer point on that, I mean, did the coalition – the Saudi coalition that the U.S. supports coordinate with or tell you in advance that they were going to increase fighting around Hudaydah or did they just ignore the Secretary’s call?

MR PALLADINO: We’ve been clear with Saudi, Emirati, and Yemeni [government-in-exile] officials at every level that the destruction of critical infrastructure or destruction of the delivery of vital (inaudible) aid and commercial goods is unacceptable, and we are in close contact with our partners.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, because you’re not really answering the question, I mean, the Secretary of State issued a very explicit statement with the Secretary of Defense saying it was time for this to end and it’s not ending. Do you see that as a slap in the face, and what are you going to do about it?

MR PALLADINO: … We continue to call for a cessation of hostilities. That is a cessation of hostilities and vigorous resumption of a political track. That is the way forward. That’s how we are going to ease this humanitarian crisis. The United States’ message remains we need to end this conflict and replace this conflict with compromise, and that’s all I have on this topic for today.

Within the context of pervasive American deceit regarding Yemen, spokesman Palladino probably allows for some technical truths to appear. Yes, after the US called for a ceasefire, the Saudis escalated their bombing of humanitarian targets. The Saudis may or may not have consulted with the US, but the Trump administration has no stomach for criticizing this bloodshed any more than it actively objects to the gutting of Jamal Khashoggi.

According to Palladino, “the destruction of critical infrastructure or destruction of the delivery of vital (inaudible) aid and commercial goods is unacceptable,” which seems to be a statement of law and decency acceptable to any humane observer. Palladino implies the lie that these crimes against humanity are unacceptable to the US, but he doesn’t actually say that. Clearly, having spent years enabling the Saudis in committing war crimes, the US finds the destruction of Yemen quite acceptable. That’s what Palladino really means when he says the US is “closely following the developments,” in the hope that Yemeni carnage can somehow persuade the Iranians to trust us.

OK, what about that US call for a ceasefire, why isn’t that working?

On October 31, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke about Yemen at the US Institute of Peace with presumably unconscious irony. Mattis said, self-contradictorily and revealingly:

We’ve got to move toward a peace effort here, and you can’t say we’re going to do it sometime in the future. We need to be doing this in the next 30 days. We’ve admired this problem for long enough down there.

Later the same day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement:

The time is now for the cessation of hostilities…. Substantive consultations under the UN Special Envoy must commence this November in a third country…. It is time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise, and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction.

There was nary a tweet from the president in all this. Can one presume anything from that? In September, Pompeo certified to Congress, over the objections of staff, that the Saudis and their allies were doing their darnedest to reduce civilian casualties and the US should continue to support them. This was before the Saudi escalation on Hodedah. There is no credible evidence anywhere that the US is serious about doing anything to end the murder of Yemenis. Pompeo proposed that the ceasefire start with the Houthis ending their not very effective rocket attacks on Saudi Arabia. That’s the way the US deals with aggressive war in the 21st century: support the aggressor and demand that the victim stop resisting. And the Trump administration is even considering labeling the Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, presumably following a logic that would have made the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto resistance into terrorists. Bad faith has no limits.

Both Mattis and Pompeo tried to appear as if they were taking immediate action, while in the next breath putting off any action for the near future. The supposed ceasefire has now receded toward 2019 as the UN’s Yemen envoy bows to the reality of US inaction and Saudi escalation.

If the US were actually serious about peace and humanitarian aid for Yemen, the US could exercise leadership in the UN Security Council to force a peace process. The US could unilaterally take immediate and forceful actions to stop the war. Pompeo could rescind the bad joke of certifying the Saudis as conscientious and responsible. That might not be enough, so Mattis could disengage the US military from the genocidal bombing campaign. Without US support – including cluster bombs and other ordnance – the Saudi aggression would falter if not fail. Rather than act rationally, Pompeo and Mattis chose to posture and preen in a charade of peace-loving rhetoric.

Well, their hollow performance was on Halloween after all, and that was perhaps the point. This was high-level US dishonesty, a shabby trick-or-treat deceit. It’s all trick for Yemen and endless treats for the Saudis. And for its lack of trouble, the US gets more and more blood on its hands.

[Note: Late on Friday, November 9, the US and Saudis announced that – at some unstated future time – the US will stop refueling Saudi bombers attacking Yemen. This is a cynical charade that will do nothing to reduce the bloodbath in Yemen, but may fool the gullible in the US that protest works.

First of all, with US help, the Saudis have developed their own mid-air refueling capability. The cessation of US refueling will have zero impact on Saudi war-making capacity.

The US will continue to support the Saudi targeting program. The US will continue to provide the Saudis with military intelligence. The US will continue to supply the Saudis with weapons and ordnance, including cluster bombs (designed to kill people and most effective against civilians). The US will continue to support the Saudi naval blockade, a primary cause of hunger and famine in Yemen (as intended). None of these or other elements of US participation in this illegal, genocidal war are addressed in Defense Secretary Mattis’s expertly opaque and misleading statement:

The U.S. and the coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country’s borders, and contribute to counter al-Qaida and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region.  

The US and the coalition are the main attackers of most of the Yemeni people. The best defense for the Yemeni people is for the attackers to stop attacking, since the Yemenis remain well within their own borders. The only part of Yemen under actual Yemeni control is the northwest, where the native Houthis have governed since 2014. Southeastern Yemen is titularly under the control of the “legitimate” Yemeni government (based in Riyadh), but is effectively under a military dictatorship run by the United Arab Emirates. Eastern Yemen, which is thinly populated, is under fragmentary control of multiple forces, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, whose fortunes have been greatly enhanced by the US-Saudi obsession with preventing the Houthis from controlling their own country.

Mattis is trying to put rouge on a monster and call it beautiful. US policy in Yemen continues to be based on profound lies with no moral justification. Oh look, Mattis seems to say, we’re washing our hands of refueling bombers committing war crimes. Even in its narrow truth, this does nothing to support life or peace, and US hands remain drenched in blood.]

“Inappropriate Behaviour”: Michael Fallon, Yemen, And The “Mainstream” That Is Anything But

The truth of corporate journalism, and the great irony of its obsession with ‘fake news’, is that it is itself utterly fake. What could be more obviously fake than the idea that Truth can be sold by billionaire-owned media dependent on billionaire-owned advertisers for maximised profit?

The ‘mainstream’ worldview is anything but – it is extreme, weird, a product of corporate conformity and deference to power. As Norman Mailer observed:

There is an odour to any Press Headquarters that is unmistakeable… The unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a machine.1

A prime example of ‘mainstream’ extremism is the way the UK’s illegal wars destroying whole countries are not an issue for corporate moralists. Physicians for Global Responsibility estimate that 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. And yet it is simply understood that UK wars will not be a theme during general elections (See here and here). By contrast, other kinds of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ are subject to intense scrutiny.

Consider the recent resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and his replacement by Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson. Fallon resigned after it was revealed that he had ‘repeatedly touched the broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee at a dinner in 2002’.

Fallon was damaged further by revelations that he had lunged at journalist Jane Merrick:

This was not a farewell peck on the cheek, but a direct lunge at my lips.

The Commons leader Andrea Leadsom also disclosed that she had complained about ‘lewd remarks’ Fallon had made to her.

Sexual harassment is a serious issue, despite the scoffing of some male commentators. In the Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens shamefully dismissed women’s complaints as mere ‘squawking’.

But it is strange indeed that, while harassment is rightly deemed a resigning offence, other ‘inappropriate behaviour’ leaves ‘mainstream’ commentators completely unmoved.

Fallon voted for both the 2003 war that destroyed Iraq and the 2011 war that wrecked Libya. He voted for war on Syria. He voted for replacing the Trident nuclear missile system. Earlier this year, he even declared that Britain would be willing to launch a nuclear first strike.

After he was made Secretary of Defence in July 2014, Fallon oversaw the supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia waging war on Yemen. Two years later, Campaign Against Arms Trade reported that UK sales to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war included £2.2 billion of aircraft, helicopters and drones, £1.1 billion of missiles, bombs and grenades, and nearly half a million pounds’ worth of tanks and other armoured vehicles. British sales of military equipment to the kingdom topped £1.1bn in the first half of this year alone.

In December 2016, Fallon admitted that internationally banned cluster munitions supplied by the UK had been used in Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign. Six months earlier, Amnesty International had reported that British-made cluster bombs were being used in attacks on civilians that had claimed the lives of children. For none of these horrors did Fallon resign.

So what kind of conflict are these weapons fuelling? The Guardian reports this week:

Yemen is in the grip of the world’s worst cholera outbreak and 7 million people are already on the brink of famine.

In July, Reliefweb reported:

The scale of the food crisis in conflict-ridden Yemen is staggering with 17 million people – two thirds of the population – severely food insecure and seven million of these on the verge of famine.

Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, José Graziano da Silva, has described Yemen as the UN’s ‘largest humanitarian crisis today’, noting that conflict and violence have disrupted agriculture, with violence intensifying in areas most short of food. In December 2016, a study by UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, found that at least one child was dying in Yemen every 10 minutes. The agency found that, since 2014, there had been a 200 per cent increase in children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, with almost half a million affected. Nearly 2.2 million children were in need of urgent care.

This week, the Saudi-led coalition declared it would close Yemen’s borders to prevent an alleged flow of weapons from Iran, after it intercepted a missile attack by Houthi rebels near Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Johan Mooij, Yemen director of Care International, commented:

For the last two days, nothing has got in or out of the country. Fuel prices have gone up by 50% and there are queues at the gas stations. People fear no more fuel will come into Hodeidah port.

He added:

People depend on the humanitarian aid and part of the cholera issue [is] that they do not eat and are not strong enough to deal with unclean water.

There have been ‘daily airstrikes in Sana’a,’ Mooij said, adding: ‘People fear the situation is escalating.’

On Monday, the UN’s World Food Program said that, out of Yemen’s entire population of 28 million people, about 20 million, ‘do not know where they’re going to get their next meal’. These are Fallon’s millions, May’s millions, the ‘mainstream’s’ millions.

In the Independent, Mary Dejevsky made the only mention of Yemen in an article discussing Fallon’s resignation that we have seen in the national corporate press:

In the Middle East [on Fallon’s watch], the UK made great efforts to maintain its alliance with Saudi Arabia – and the arms sales that went with it – playing down the desperate plight of Yemen which was a by-product of this policy.

Mass death, Iraq and Libya destroyed, millions of lives torn apart, profiteering in the billions from the torture of an impoverished, famine-stricken nation – none of this was deemed worthy even of mention in considering the record of Fallon and his ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

As for his replacement, the Guardian‘s Andrew Sparrow tweeted a link to his blog piece titled: ’10 things you might not know about Gavin Williamson’. Vital facts included news that the new Defence Secretary ‘kept a pet tarantula called Cronus on his desk’, ‘likes hedgehogs’, ‘is only 41’, and ‘went to a comprehensive school’.

Sparrow was adhering to the journalistic convention that parliamentary politics should be depicted as a light-hearted, Wodehousian farce. It is all a bit of a laugh – everybody means well. Despite Williamson’s lethal new role, the word ‘war’ was not mentioned.

Preoccupied with spiders and hedgehogs, Sparrow found no space to mention that Williamson ‘almost always voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas’. He voted for war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. He voted against the Yemen motion put before the House of Commons in October 2016 that merely called on the Government to suspend its support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen until it had been determined whether they had been responsible for war crimes. The motion was defeated by 283 votes to 193, telling us everything we need to know about the ‘mainstream’s’ much-loved myth that British policy is motivated by a ‘responsibility to protect’.

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted a link to the BBC’s own comedy profile, which also discussed the tarantula and other nonsense, and made no mention of Williamson’s record on war. We asked Kuenssberg:

Will you be asking him if he has any regrets on voting against the Yemen motion to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, given the vast civilian crisis?

We received no reply.

The extreme cognitive dissonance guiding ‘mainstream’ moral outrage was again highlighted by the Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff, who tweeted:

Can’t help thinking that now would be quite a good time for the first ever female defence secretary, really

We asked:

What difference would it make to the civilians dying under our bombs in Yemen and Syria? Isn’t that the key issue on “defence”?

Hinsliff did not reply. But the answer, of course, is that it would make no difference at all.

  1. Mailer, The Time Of Our Time, Little Brown, 1998, p.457.

The CIA: 70 Years of Organized Crime

On occasion of the CIA’s 70th anniversary, Lars Schall talked with US researcher Douglas Valentine about the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Valentine, the CIA is “the organized crime branch of the U.S. government”, doing the dirty work for the rich and powerful. Douglas Valentine is the author of the non-fictional, historical books The Hotel Tacloban, The Phoenix Program, The Strength of the Wolf, The Strength of the Pack, and The CIA as Organized Crime.

*****

Lars Schall: 70 years ago, on September 18, 1947, the National Security Act created the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA. Douglas, you refer to the CIA as “the organized crime branch of the U.S. government.” Why so?

Douglas Valentine: Everything the CIA does is illegal, which is why the government provides it with an impenetrable cloak of secrecy. While mythographers in the information industry portray America as a bastion of peace and democracy, CIA officers manage criminal organizations around the world. For example, the CIA hired one of America’s premier drug trafficker in the 1950s and 1960s, Santo Trafficante, to murder Fidel Castro. In exchange, the CIA allowed Trafficante to import tons of narcotics into America. The CIA sets up proprietary arms, shipping, and banking companies to facilitate the criminal drug trafficking organizations that do its dirty work. Mafia money gets mixed up in offshore banks with CIA money, until the two are indistinguishable.

Drug trafficking is just one example.

LS: What is most important to understand about the CIA?

DV: Its organizational history, which, if studied closely enough, reveals how the CIA manages to maintain its secrecy. This is the essential contradiction at the heart of America’s problems: if we were a democracy and if we truly enjoyed free speech, we would be able to study and speak about the CIA. We would confront our institutionalized racism and sadism. But we can’t, and so our history remains unknown, which in turn means we have no idea who we are, as individuals or as a nation. We imagine ourselves to be things we are not. Our leaders know bits and pieces of the truth, but they cease being leaders once they begin to talk about the truly evil things the CIA is doing.

LS: A term of interest related to the CIA is “plausible deniability”. Please explain.

DV: The CIA doesn’t do anything it can’t deny. Tom Donohue, a retired senior CIA officer, told me about this.

Let me tell you a bit about my source. In 1984, former CIA Director William Colby agreed to help me write my book, The Phoenix Program. Colby introduced me to Donohue in 1985. Donohue had managed the CIA’s “covert action” branch in Vietnam from 1964-1966, and many of the programs he developed were incorporated in Phoenix. Because Colby had vouched for me, Donohue was very forthcoming and explained a lot about how the CIA works.

Donohue was a typical first-generation CIA officer. He’d studied Comparative Religion at Columbia and understood symbolic transformation. He was a product and practitioner of Cook County politics who joined the CIA after World War Two when he perceived the Cold War as “a growth industry.” He had been the CIA’s station chief in the Philippines at the end of his career and, when I spoke to him, he was in business with a former Filipino Defense Minister. He was putting his contacts to good use, which is par for the course. It’s how corruption works for senior bureaucrats.

Donohue said the CIA doesn’t do anything unless it meets two criteria. The first criterion is “intelligence potential.” The program must benefit the CIA; maybe it tells them how to overthrow a government, or how to blackmail an official, or where a report is hidden, or how to get an agent across a border. The term “intelligence potential” means it has some use for the CIA. The second criterion is that it can be denied. If they can’t find a way to structure the program or operation so they can deny it, they won’t do it. Plausible denial can be as simple as providing an officer or asset with military cover. Then the CIA can say, “The army did it.”

Plausible denial is all about language. During Senate hearings into CIA assassination plots against Fidel Castro and other foreign leaders, the CIA’s erstwhile deputy director of operations Richard Bissell defined “plausible denial” as “the use of circumlocution and euphemism in discussions where precise definitions would expose covert actions and bring them to an end.”

Everything the CIA does is deniable. It’s part of its Congressional mandate. Congress doesn’t want to be held accountable for the criminal things the CIA does. The only time something the CIA does become public knowledge – other than the rare accident or whistleblower – is when Congress or the President think it’s helpful for psychological warfare reasons to let the American people know the CIA is doing it. Torture is a good example. After 9/11, and up until and through the invasion of Iraq, the American people wanted revenge. They wanted to see Muslim blood flowing, so the Bush administration let it leak that they were torturing evil doers. They played it cute and called it “enhanced interrogation,” but everyone understood symbolically. Circumlocution and euphemism. Plausible denial.

LS: Do the people at the CIA know that they’re part of “the organized crime branch of the U.S. government”? In the past, you’ve suggested related to the Phoenix program, for example: “Because the CIA compartmentalizes itself, I ended up knowing more about the program than any individual in the CIA.”

DV: Yes, they do. I talk at length about this in my book The CIA as Organized Crime. Most people have no idea what cops really do. They think cops give you a speeding ticket. They don’t see the cops associating with professional criminals and making money in the process. They believe that when a guy puts on a uniform, he or she becomes virtuous. But people who go into law enforcement do so for the trill of wielding power over other people, and in this sense, they relate more to the crooks they associate with than the citizens they’re supposed to protect and serve. They’re looking to bully someone and they’re corrupt. That’s law enforcement.

The CIA is populated with the same kind of people, but without any of the constraints. The CIA officer who created the Phoenix program, Nelson Brickham, told me this about his colleagues: “I have described the intelligence service as a socially acceptable way of expressing criminal tendencies. A guy who has strong criminal tendencies but is too much of a coward to be one, would wind up in a place like the CIA if he had the education.” Brickham described CIA officers as wannabe mercenaries “who found a socially acceptable way of doing these things and, I might add, getting very well paid for it.”

It’s well known that when the CIA selects agents or people to run militias or secret police units in foreign nations, it subjects its candidates to rigorous psychological screening. John Marks in The Search for the Manchurian Candidate told how the CIA sent its top psychologist, John Winne, to Seoul to “select the initial cadre” for the Korean CIA. “I set up an office with two translators,” Winne told Marks, “and used a Korean version of the Wechsler.” CIA shrinks gave the personality assessment test to two dozen military and police officers, “then wrote up a half-page report on each, listing their strengths and weaknesses. Winne wanted to know about each candidate’s ability to follow orders, creativity, lack of personality disorders, motivation – why he wanted out of his current job. It was mostly for the money, especially with the civilians.”

In this way, the CIA recruits secret police forces as assets in every country where it operates, including occupied Iraq and Afghanistan. In Latin America, Marks wrote, “The CIA…found the assessment process most useful for showing how to train the anti-terrorist section. According to results, these men were shown to have very dependent psychologies and needed strong direction.”

That “direction” came from the CIA. Marks quoted one assessor as saying, “Anytime the Company spent money for training a foreigner, the object was that he would ultimately serve our purposes.” CIA officers “were not content simply to work closely with these foreign intelligence agencies; they insisted on penetrating them, and the Personality Assessment System provided a useful aid.”

What’s less well known is that the CIA’s executive management staff is far more concerned with selecting the right candidates to serve as CIA officers than it is about selecting agents overseas. The CIA dedicates a huge portion of its budget figuring how to select, control, and manage its own work force. It begins with instilling blind obedience. Most CIA officers consider themselves to be soldiers. The CIA is set up as a military organization with a sacred chain of command that cannot be violated. Somebody tells you what to do, and you salute and do it. Or you’re out.

Other systems of control, such as “motivational indoctrination programs”, make CIA officers think of themselves as special. Such systems have been perfected and put in place over the past seven decades to shape the beliefs and responses of CIA officers. In exchange for signing away their legal rights, they benefit from reward systems – most importantly, CIA officers are immune from prosecution for their crimes. They consider themselves the Protected Few and, if they wholeheartedly embrace the culture of dominance and exploitation, they can look to cushy jobs in the private sector when they retire.

The CIA’s executive management staff compartments the various divisions and branches so that individual CIA officers can remain detached. Highly indoctrinated, they blindly obey on a “need to know” basis. This institutionalized system of self-imposed ignorance and self-deceit sustains, in their warped minds, the illusion of American righteousness, upon which their motivation to commit all manner of crimes in the name of national security depends. That and the fact that most are sociopaths.

It’s a self-regulating system too. As FBN Agent Martin Pera explained, “If you’re successful because you can lie, cheat, and steal, those things become tools you use in the bureaucracy.”

LS: Can you tell us please what’s behind a term you like to use, the “Universal Brotherhood of Officers”?

DV: The ruling class in any state views the people it rules as lesser beings to be manipulated, coerced, and exploited. The rulers institute all manner of systems – which function as protection rackets – to assure their class prerogatives. The military is the real power in any state, and the military in every state has a chain of command in which blind obedience to superiors is sacred and inviolable. Officers don’t fraternize with enlisted men because they will at some point send them to their deaths. There is an officer corps in every military, as well as in every bureaucracy and every ruling class in every state, which has more in common with military officers, top bureaucrats, and rulers in other states, than it does with the expendable, exploitable riff raff in its own state.

Cops are members of the Universal Brotherhood of Officers. They exist above the law. CIA officers exist near the pinnacle of the Brotherhood. Blessed with fake identities and bodyguards, they fly around in private planes, live in villas, and kill with state-of-the-art technology. They tell army generals what to do. They direct Congressional committees. They assassinate heads of state and murder innocent children with impunity and with indifference. Everyone to them, but their bosses, is expendable.

LS: In your opinion, it is the “National Security Establishment’s deepest, darkest secret” that it is involved in the global drug trade. How did this involvement come about?

DV: There are two facets to the CIA’s management and control of international drug trafficking, on behalf of the corporate interests that rule America. It’s important to note that the US government’s involvement in drug trafficking began before the CIA existed, as a means of controlling states, as well as the political and social movements within them, including America. Direct involvement started in the 1920s when the US helped Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime in China support itself through the narcotics trade.

During World War II, the CIA’ predecessor, the OSS, provided opium to Kachin guerrillas fighting the Japanese. The OSS and the US military also forged ties with the American criminal underworld during the Second World War, and would thereafter secretly provide protection to American drug traffickers whom it hired to do its dirty work at home and abroad.

After the Nationalists were chased out of China, the CIA established these drug traffickers in Taiwan and Burma. By the 1960’s, the CIA was running the drug trade throughout Southeast Asia, and expanding its control worldwide, especially into South America, but also throughout Europe. The CIA supported its drug trafficking allies in Laos and Vietnam. Air Force General Nguyen Cao Ky, while serving in 1965 as head of South Vietnam’s national security directorate, sold the CIA the right to organize private militias and build secret interrogation centers in every province, in exchange for control over a lucrative narcotic smuggling franchise. Through his strongman, General Loan, Ky and his clique financed both their political apparatus and their security forces through opium profits. All with CIA assistance.

The risk of having its ties to drug traffickers in Southeast Asia exposed, is what marks the beginning of the second facet – the CIA’s infiltration and commandeering of the various government agencies involved in drug law enforcement. Senior American officials arranged for the old Bureau of Narcotics to be dissolved and recreated in 1968 within the Justice Department as the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. The CIA immediately began infiltrating the highest levels of the BNDD for the purpose of protecting its drug trafficking allies around the world, especially in Southeast Asia. The CIA’s Counter-Intelligence Branch, under James Angleton, had been in liaison with these drug agencies since 1962, but in 1971 the function was passed to the CIA’s operations division. In 1972, CIA officer Seymour Bolten was appointed as the CIA director’s Special Assistant for the Coordination of Narcotics. Bolten became an advisor to William Colby and later DCI George H.W. Bush. By 1973, with the establishment of the DEA, the CIA was in total control of all foreign drug law enforcement operations and was able to protect traffickers in the US as well. In 1990 the CIA created its own counter-narcotics center, despite being prohibited from exercising any domestic law enforcement function.

LS: Is the war on drugs also a war on blacks? Let me give you some framework for this question, because John Ehrlichman, a former top aide to Richard Nixon, supposedly admitted that: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”1 And I can quote from H. R. Haldeman’s diaries in this respect, of course. In the early stages of his presidency, more specifically on April 28, 1969, Nixon outlined his basic strategy to his chief of staff: “[President Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”2 So, is the war on drugs that started under Nixon also a war on blacks? And if so, what does this tell us about the United States?

DV: America is a former slave state and a blatantly racist society, so yes, the war on drugs, which is managed by white supremacists, was and is directed against blacks and other despised minorities as a way of keeping them disenfranchised. The old Bureau of Narcotics was blatantly racist: not until 1968 were black FBN agents allowed to become group supervisors (Grade 13) and manage white agents.

I interviewed former FBN Agent William Davis for my book about the FBN, The Strength of the Wolf. Davis articulated the predicament of black agents.  After graduating from Rutgers University in 1950, Davis, while visiting New York City, heard singer Kate Smith praising FBN Agent Bill Jackson on a radio show. “She described him as a black lawyer who was doing a fine job as a federal narcotic agent,” Davis recalled, “and that was my inspiration. I applied to the Narcotics Bureau and was hired right away, but I soon found out there was an unwritten rule that Black agents could not hold positions of respect: they could not become group leaders, or manage or give direction to whites. The few black agents we had at any one time,” he said bitterly, “maybe eight in the whole country, had indignities heaped upon us.”

Davis told how Wade McCree, while working as an FBN agent in the 1930s, created a patent medicine.  But McCree made the mistake of writing to Eleanor Roosevelt to complain that prosecutors in the South were calling black agents “niggers.”  As a result, the FBN’s legal staff charge McCree with using FBN facilities to create his patent medicine. McCree was fired with the intended ripple effect: his dismissal sent a clear message that complaints from black agents would not be tolerated.

In an interview for The Strength of the Wolf, Clarence Giarusso, a veteran New Orleans narcotic agent and its chief of police in the 1970s, explained to me the racial situation from local law enforcement’s perspective. “We made cases in Black neighborhoods because it was easy,” he said. “We didn’t need a search warrant, it allowed us to meet our quotas, and it was ongoing. If we found dope on a Black man we could put him in jail for a few days and no one cared. He has no money for a lawyer, and the courts are ready to convict; there’s no expectation on the jury’s part that we even have to make a case.  So rather than go cold turkey he becomes an informant, which means we can make more cases in his neighborhood, which is all we’re interested in. We don’t care about Carlos Marcello or the Mafia. City cops have no interest in who brings the dope in. That’s the job of federal agents.”

Anyone who thinks it is any different nowadays is living in a fantasy world. Where I live, in Longmeadow, MA, the cops are the first line of defense against the blacks and Puerto Ricans in the nearby city of Springfield. About 15 years ago, there was a Mafia murder in Springfield’s Little Italy section. At the time, blacks and Puerto Ricans were moving into the neighborhood and there was a lot of racial tension. The local TV station interviewed me about it, and I said the Al Bruno, the murdered Mafia boss, was probably an FBI informant. The next day, people I knew wouldn’t talk to me. Comments were made. Someone told me Bruno’s son went to the same health club as me. In a city like Springfield and its suburban neighborhoods, everyone is related to or friends with someone in the Mafia.

A few years before Bruno’s murder, I had befriended the janitor at the health club I belong to. By chance, the janitor was the son of a Springfield narcotics detective. The janitor and I shot pool and drank beers in local bars. One day he told me a secret his father had told him. His father told him that the Springfield cops let the Mafia bosses bring narcotics into Springfield and in exchange, the hoods named their black and Puerto Ricans customers. That way, like Giarusso said above, the cops keep making cases and the minority communities have a harder time buying houses and encroaching on the established whites in their neighborhoods. This happens everywhere in the US every day.

LS: Is it ironic to you that the whole drug trade wouldn’t exist as it does today if the drugs were not illegal in the first place?

DV: The outlawing of narcotic drugs turned the issue of addiction from a matter of “public health” into a law enforcement issue, and thus a pretext for expanding police forces and reorganizing the criminal justice and social welfare systems to prevent despised minorities from making political and social advances. The health care industry was placed in the hands of businessmen seeking profits at the expense of despised minorities, the poor and working classes. Private businesses established civic institutions to sanctify this repressive policy. Public educators developed curriculums that doubled as political indoctrination promoting the Business Party’s racist line. Bureaucracies were established to promote the expansion of business interests abroad, while suppressing political and social resistance to the medical, pharmaceutical, drug manufacturing and law enforcement industries that benefited from it.

It takes a library full of books to explain the economic foundations of the war on drugs, and the reasons for America’s laissez faire regulation of the industries that profit from it. Briefly stated, they profit from it just like the Mafia profits from it. Suffice it to say that Wall Street investors in the drug industries have used the government to unleash and transform their economic power into political and global military might; never forget, America is not an opium or cocaine producing nation, and narcotic drugs are a strategic resource, upon which all of the above industries – including the military – depend. Controlling the world’s drug supply, both legal and illegal, is a matter of national security. Read my books for examples of how this has played out over the past 70 years.

LS: Is the CIA part of the opium problem today in Afghanistan?

DV: In Afghanistan, CIA officers manage the drug trade from their hammocks in the shade. Opium production has soared since they created the Karzai government in 2001-2 and established intelligence networks into the Afghan resistance through “friendly civilians” in the employ of the opium trafficking warlord, Gul Agha Sherzai. The American public is largely unaware that the Taliban laid down its arms after the American invasion, and that the Afghan people took up arms only after the CIA installed Sherzai in Kabul. In league with the Karzai brothers, Sherzai supplied the CIA with a network of informants that targeted their business rivals, not the Taliban. As Anand Gopal revealed in No Good Men Among the Living, as a result of Sherzai’s friendly tips, the CIA methodically tortured and killed Afghanistan’s most revered leaders in a series of Phoenix-style raids that radicalized the Afghan people. The CIA started the war as a pretext for a prolonged occupation and colonization of Afghanistan.

In return for his services, Sherzai received the contract to build the first US military base in Afghanistan, along with a major drug franchise. The CIA arranged for its Afghan drug warlords to be exempted from DEA lists. All this is documented in Gopal’s book. The CIA officers in charge watch in amusement as addiction rates soar among young Afghan people whose parents have been killed and whose minds have been damaged by 15 + years of US aggression. They don’t care that the drugs reach America’s inner cities, for all the economic, social, and political reasons cited above.

The drug trade also has “intelligence potential”. CIA officers have an accommodation with the protected Afghan warlords who convert opium into heroin and sell it to the Russian mob. It’s no different than cops working with Mafia drug dealers in America; it’s an accommodation with an enemy that ensures the political security of the ruling class. The accommodation is based on the fact that crime cannot be eradicated, it can only be managed.

The CIA is authorized to negotiate with the enemy, but only if the channels are secure and deniable. It happened during the Iran Contra scandal, when President Reagan won the love of the American people by promising never to negotiate with terrorists, while his two-faced administration secretly sent CIA officers to Tehran to sell missiles to the Iranians and use the money to buy guns for the drug dealing Contras. In Afghanistan, the accommodation within the drug underworld provides the CIA with a secure channel to the Taliban leadership, with whom they negotiate on simple matters like prisoner exchanges. The criminal-espionage underworld in Afghanistan provides the intellectual space for any eventual reconciliation. There are always preliminary negotiations for a ceasefire, and in every modern American conflict that’s the CIA’s job. Trump, however, is going to prolong the occupation indefinitely.

The fact that 600 subordinate DEA agents are in Afghanistan makes the whole thing plausibly deniable.

LS: Did the U.S. employ characteristics of the Phoenix program as a replay in Afghanistan? I ask especially related to the beginning of “Operation Enduring Freedom“ when the Taliban leaders initially laid down their weapons.

DV: Afghanistan is a case study of the standard two-tiered Phoenix program developed in South Vietnam. It’s guerrilla warfare targeting “high value” cadre, both for recruitment and assassination. That’s the top tier. It’s also psychological warfare against the civilian population – letting everyone know they will be kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, extorted and/or killed if they can be said to support the resistance. That’s the second tier – terrorizing the civilians into supporting the US puppet government.

The US military resisted being involved in this repugnant form of warfare (modeled on SS Einsatzgruppen-style special forces and Gestapo-style secret police) through the early part of the Vietnam War, but got hooked into providing soldiers to flesh out Phoenix. That’s when the CIA started infiltrating the military’s junior officer corps. CIA officers Donald Gregg (featured by the revisionist war monger Ken Burns in his Vietnam War series) and Rudy Enders (both of whom I interviewed for my book The Phoenix Program), exported Phoenix to El Salvador and Central America in 1980, at the same time the CIA and military were joining forces to create Delta Force and the Joint Special Operations Command to combat “terrorism” worldwide using the Phoenix model. There are no more conventional wars, so the military, for economic and political reasons, has become, under the junior officer corps recruited by the CIA years ago, the de-facto police force for the American empire, operating out of 700 + bases around the world.

LS: In what form and fashion is the Phoenix program alive today in America’s homeland?

DV: Karl Marx explained over 150 years ago how and why capitalists treat workers the same, whether at home or abroad. As capitalism evolves and centralizes its power, as the climate degenerates, as the gap between rich and poor widens, and as resources become scarcer, America police forces adopt Phoenix-style “anti-terror” strategies and tactics to use against the civilian population. The government has enacted “administrative detention” laws, which are the legal basis for Phoenix-style operations, so that civilians can be arrested on suspicion of being a threat to national security. Phoenix was a bureaucratic method of coordinating agencies involved in intelligence gathering with those conducting “anti-terror” operations, and the Department of Homeland Security has established “fusion centers” based on this model around the nation. Informant nets and psychological operations against the American people have also proliferated since 9-11. This is all explained in detail in my book, The CIA as Organized Crime.

LS: How important is mainstream media for the public perception of the CIA?

DV: It’s the most critical feature. Guy Debord said that secrecy dominates the world, foremost as secret of domination. The media prevents you from knowing how you’re being dominated, by keeping the CIA’s secrets. The media and the CIA are same thing.

What FOX and MSNBC have in common is that, in a free-wheeling capitalist society, news is a commodity. News outlets target demographic audience to sell a product. It’s all fake news, in so far as each media outlet skews its presentation of the news to satisfy its customers. But when it comes to the CIA, it’s not just fake, it’s poison. It subverts democratic institutions.

Any domestic Phoenix-style organization or operation depends on double-speak and deniability, as well as official secrecy and media self-censorship. The CIA’s overarching need for total control of information requires media complicity. This was one of the great lesson defeat in Vietnam taught our leaders. The highly indoctrinated and well rewarded managers who run the government and media will never again allow the public to see the carnage they inflict upon foreign civilians. Americans never will see the mutilated Iraqi, Afghani, Libyan, and Syrian children killed by marauding US mercenary forces and cluster bombs.

On the other hand, falsified portrayals of CIA kidnappings, torture, and assassinations are glorified on TV and in movies. Telling the proper story is the key. Thanks to media complicity, Phoenix has already become the template for providing internal political security for America’s leaders.

LS: Is the CIA an enemy of the American people?

DV: Yes. It’s an instrument of the rich political elite, it does their dirty business.

• First published at LarsSchall.com

  1. Dan Baum: “Legalize It All – How to win the war on drugs”, published at Harper’s Magazine in April 2016.
  2. Haldeman Diary Shows Nixon Was Wary of Blacks and Jews”, published at The New York Times on May 18, 1994.

Yemen: Court Battle Exposes UK-Saudi Arms Deals And Humanitarian Tragedy

On Monday 10th July, a ruling was handed down by London’s High Court, which should, in a sane world, exclude the UK government ever again judging other nations’ leaders human rights records or passing judgment on their possession or use of weapons.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) lost their case to halt the UK selling arms to Saudi Arabia, the case based on the claim that they may have been used to kill civilians in Yemen.

Anyone following the cataclysmic devastation of Yemen would think it was a million to one that the £3.3 Billion worth of arms sold by the UK to Saudi in just two years, had not been used to kill civilians, bomb hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, decimate vital and economic infrastructure and all necessary to sustain life.

In context, a survey released by the Yemen Data Project in September last year found that between March 2015 and August 2016 in more than 8,600 air attacks, 3,158 hit non-military targets.

How casual the slaughter is, Saudi pilots (as their British and US counterparts) apparently do not even know what they are aiming at. So much for “surgical strikes” – as ever:

Where it could not be established whether a location attacked was civilian or military, the strikes were classified as unknown, of which there are 1,882 incidents.

All those “unknown” killed had a name, plans, dreams, but as in all Western backed, funded or armed ruinations “it is not productive” to count the dead, as an American General memorably stated of fellow human beings.

In context, the survey found that:

One school building in Dhubab, Taiz governorate, has been hit nine times … A market in Sirwah, Marib governorate, has been struck 24 times.

Commenting on the survey, the UK’s shadow Defence Secretary, Clive Lewis, said:

It’s sickening to think of British-built weapons being used against civilians and the government has an absolute responsibility to do everything in its power to stop that from happening. But as Ministers turn a blind eye to the conflict … evidence that Humanitarian Law has been violated is becoming harder to ignore by the day.

Forty six percent of Yemen’s 26.83 million population are under fifteen years old. The trauma they are undergoing cannot be imagined.

The original CAAT Court hearing which took place was a Judicial Review in to the legality of the UK government’s arms sales to Saudi, held on 7th, 8th and 10th of February in the High Court.

CAAT stated, relating to the case:

For more than two years the government has refused to stop its immoral and illegal arms sales to Saudi Arabia – despite overwhelming evidence that UK weapons are being used in violations of International Humanitarian Law in Yemen.

They also quoted Parliament’s International Development and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees, who opined in October 2016:

Given the evidence we have heard and the volume of UK-manufactured arms exported to Saudi Arabia, it seems inevitable that any violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK. This constitutes a breach of our own export licensing criteria. (Emphasis added.)

UK supplied arms since the onset of the assault on Yemen are:

£2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)

£1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles,

countermeasures)

£430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks.)

Contacting CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith I queried what “countermeasures” might be (point two.) He said technically, protective items.  However:

CAAT feels that the overwhelming majority will be bombs and missiles including those being used on Yemen.

On 5th June CAAT had pointed out some further glaring anomalies:

The last two months have seen three terrible terrorist attacks carried out in the UK. The attacks were the responsibility of those that have carried them out, and they have been rightly condemned.

However:

Last week it was revealed by the Guardian that the Home Office may not publish a Report into the funding of terrorism in the UK. It is believed that the Report will be particularly critical of Saudi Arabia.

Andrew Smith commented:

Only two months ago the Prime Minster was in Riyadh trying to sell weapons to the Saudi regime, which has some of the most abusive laws in the world. This toxic relationship is not making anyone safer, whether in the UK or in Yemen, where UK arms are being used with devastating results.

Nevertheless:

Delivering an open judgment in the High Court in London, Lord Justice Burnett, who heard the case with Mr. Justice Haddon-Cave, said: “We have concluded that the material decisions of the Secretary of State were lawful. We therefore dismiss the claim”.

CAAT called the ruling a “green light” for the UK government to sell arms to “brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers”.

Interestingly, in increasingly fantasy-democracy-land UK:

The Court (also handed down) a closed judgment, following a case in which half of the evidence was heard in secret on national security grounds.

What a wonderful catch-all is “national security.”

Moreover:

UK and EU arms sales rules state that export licences cannot be granted if there is a ‘clear risk’ that the equipment could be used to break International Humanitarian Law. Licences are signed off by the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox. (Emphasis added.)

Mind stretching!

So the oversight of what constitutes a “clear risk” of mass murder and humanitarian tragedy, goes to the Minister whose Ministry stands to make £ Billions from the arms sales. Another from that bulging: “You could not make this up” file.

‘The case … included uncomfortable disclosures for the government, including documents in which the Export Policy Chief told the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, then in charge of licensing: “my gut tells me we should suspend (weapons exports to the country).”

‘Documents obtained by the Guardian showed that the UK was preparing to suspend exports after the bombing of a funeral in Yemen in October 2016 killed140 civilians. But even after that mass murder, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, advised Fox that sales should continue, adding: “The ‘clear risk’ threshold for refusal … has not yet been reached.”

For anyone asleep at the wheel, Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is supposed to be the UK’s chief diplomat. Definition: “a person who can deal with others in a sensitive and tactful way. Synonyms: Tactful person, conciliator, reconciler, peacemaker.” Comment redundant.

‘CAAT presented “many hundreds of pages” of reports from the UN, European Parliament, Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Amnesty International and others documenting airstrikes on schools, hospitals and a water well in Yemen, as well as incidents of mass civilian casualties.’

However, to further batter the mind:

The reports “represent a substantial body of evidence suggesting that the coalition has committed serious breaches of International Humanitarian Law in the course of its engagement in the Yemen conflict”, the Judges wrote. “However, this open source material is only part of the picture”.

In two eye-watering fox guarding henhouse observations:

The Saudi government had conducted its own investigations into allegations of concern, the judges noted, dismissing CAAT’s concern that the Saudi civilian casualty tracking unit was working too slowly and had only reported on 5% of the incidents. The Kingdom’s “growing efforts” were “of significance and a matter which the Secretary of State was entitled to take into account” when deciding whether British weapons might be used to violate international humanitarian law.

So Saudi investigates itself and the Secretary of State overviews his own actions in the State profiting in £ Billions from seemingly indiscriminate mass murder and destruction.

There was “anxious scrutiny – indeed what seems like anguished scrutiny at some stages” within government of the decision to continue granting licences, wrote the Judges. But the Secretary of State was “rationally entitled” to decide that the Saudi-led coalition was not deliberately targeting civilians and was making efforts to improve its targeting processes, and so to continue granting licences.

Pinch yourselves, Dear Readers, it would seem we live in times of the oversight in the land of the seriously deranged.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith, said:

This is a very disappointing verdict and we are pursuing an appeal. If this verdict is upheld then it will be seen as a green light for government to continue arming and supporting brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia that have shown a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.

Every day we are hearing new and horrifying stories about the humanitarian crisis that has been inflicted on the people of Yemen. Thousands have been killed while vital and lifesaving infrastructure has been destroyed.

The case had exposed the UK’s “toxic relationship” with Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday 12th July, UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd again invoked “national security” (something Yemenis can only dream of in any context) and presented Parliament with a paltry four hundred and thirty word “summary” of the Report on the funding of terrorism, origins of which go back to December 2015.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott encapsulated the thoughts of many, telling Parliament:

 … there is a strong suspicion this Report is being suppressed to protect this government’s trade and diplomatic priorities, including in relation to Saudi Arabia. The only way to allay those suspicions is to publish the report in full.

Caroline Lucas, co-Leader of the Green Party said:

The statement gives absolutely no clue as to which countries foreign funding for extremism originates from – leaving the government open to further allegations of refusing to expose the role of Saudi Arabian money in terrorism in the UK.

Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Fallon condemned the refusal of the government to publish the Report as: “utterly shameful.”

Amber Rudd concentrated on pointing to individuals and organisations which might be donating, often unknowingly to: “ … inadvertently supporting extremist individuals or organisations.”

Peanuts compared to UK arms to Saudi Arabia.

CAAT’s appeal is to go back to the High Court and “If it fails, will go to the Court of Appeal” states Andrew Smith.

It also transpires that Saudi has dropped British made cluster bombs in Yemen, despite the UK being signatory to the 2008 Ottawa Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning their use, or assistance with their use. The Scottish National Party said it was a: “shameful stain on the UK’s foreign policy and its relationship with Saudi Arabia, as well as a failure by this government to uphold its legal treaty obligations”.

Final confirmation that the British government’s relations with Saudi over Arms and Yemen lies somewhere between duplicity and fantasy would seem to be confirmed in an interview with Crispin Blunt, MP., former army officer and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

In spite of the legal anomalies and humanitarian devastation, he assured the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse that the Saudis were “rigorous” in making sure there were no breaches of international law and adopted the sort of high standard of the British army.

In that case, the cynic might conclude, given the devastation caused by the British army in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps it is not only arms and money that are the ties that bind the two countries, but scant regard for humanity itself.