VIDEO: Are Bush and Blair above the law?

VIDEO: This Time We Went Too Far (Gaza masscre)

Finkelstein: Israel’s Gaza Disgrace Q & A

Finkelstein announces study findings on Gaza massacre


Norman Finkelstein: A History of Violence – Part 1

American Radical the trials of Norman Finkelstein

Why Israel wont let News Reporters into Gaza


Private Contractors Vital for War

Sarah Percy, professor of International Relations at Oxford University in England, discusses the kinds of services provided by private security companies like Blackwater USA, and how their rules regarding the use of force apply. Percy, author of the forthcoming Mercenaries: The History of a Norm in International Relations, speaks with Steve Inskeep.

Listen to the report

Ref: NRP

The US gas garrison

The Carter Doctrine, established 28 years ago, put the US military in service of assuring the nation’s regular supplies of imported oil. This has near-bankrupted the US and corrupted the military, yet left the US insecure in energy sources and globally loathed. The time has come to demote petroleum and stand down the troops.
By Michael T. Klare

American policymakers have long viewed the protection of overseas oil supplies as an essential matter of “national security”, requiring the threat of – and sometimes the use of – military force. This is now an unquestioned part of US foreign policy.

On this basis, the first Bush administration fought a war against Iraq in 1990-1991 and the second Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003. With global oil prices soaring and oil reserves expected to dwindle in the years ahead, military force is sure to be seen by whatever new administration enters Washington in January 2009 as the ultimate guarantor of US well-being in the oil heartlands of the planet. But with the costs of militarised oil operations, in both blood and dollars, rising precipitously, isn’t it time to challenge such “wisdom”? Isn’t it time to ask whether the US military has anything reasonable to do with American energy security, and whether a reliance on military force, when it comes to energy policy, is practical, affordable or justifiable?

The association between “energy security” (as it’s now termed) and “national security” was established long ago. President Franklin D Roosevelt first forged this association way back in 1945, when he pledged to protect the Saudi Arabian royal family in return for privileged US access to Saudi oil. The relationship was given formal expression in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter told Congress that maintaining the uninterrupted flow of Persian Gulf oil was a “vital interest” of the US, and attempts by hostile nations to cut that flow would be countered “by any means necessary, including military force”.

To implement this “doctrine”, Carter ordered the creation of a Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, specifically earmarked for combat operations in the Persian Gulf area. President Ronald Reagan later turned that force into a full-scale regional combat organisation, the US Central Command, or Centcom. Every president since Reagan has added to Centcom’s responsibilities, endowing it with additional bases, fleets, air squadrons and other assets. As the country has, more recently, come to rely on oil from the Caspian Sea basin and Africa, US military capabilities are being beefed up in those areas as well.

Global protection service
As a result, the US military has come to serve as a global oil protection service, guarding pipelines, refineries and loading facilities in the Middle East and elsewhere. According to one estimate, provided by the conservative National Defence Council Foundation, the “protection” of Persian Gulf oil alone costs the US Treasury $138bn per year – up from $49bn just before the invasion of Iraq.

For Democrats and Republicans alike, spending such sums to protect foreign oil supplies is now accepted as common wisdom, not worthy of serious discussion or debate. A typical example of this attitude can be found in an Independent Task Force Report on the “National Security Consequences of US Oil Dependency” released by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in October 2006.

Chaired by former secretary of defence, James R Schlesinger, and former CIA director, John Deutch, the CFR report concluded that the US military must continue to serve as a global oil protection service for the foreseeable future. “At least for the next two decades, the Persian Gulf will be vital to US interests in reliable oil supplies,” it noted. Accordingly, “the United States should expect and support a strong military posture that permits suitably rapid deployment to the region, if necessary”. Similarly, the report adds: “US naval protection of the sea-lanes that transport oil is of paramount importance.”

The Pentagon as Insecurity Inc
These views, widely shared, then and now, by senior figures in both major parties, dominate – or, more accurately, blanket – US strategic thinking. And yet the actual utility of military force as a means for ensuring energy security has yet to be demonstrated.

Keep in mind that, despite the deployment of up to 160,000 US troops in Iraq and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, Iraq is a country in chaos and the department of defence (DoD) has been notoriously unable to prevent the recurring sabotage of oil pipelines and refineries by various insurgent groups and militias, not to mention the systematic looting of government supplies by senior oil officials supposedly loyal to the US-backed central government and often guarded (at great personal risk) by US soldiers. Five years after the US invasion, Iraq is only producing about 2.5m barrels of oil per day – about the same amount as in the worst days of Saddam Hussein back in 2001. Moreover, the New York Times reports that “at least one-third, and possibly much more, of the fuel from Iraq’s largest refinery is [being] diverted to the black market, according to American military officials” (1). Is this really conducive to US energy security?

The same disappointing results have been noted in other countries where US-backed militaries have attempted to protect vulnerable oil facilities. In Nigeria, for example, increased efforts by US-equipped government forces to crush rebels in the oil-rich Niger Delta region have merely inflamed the insurgency, while actually lowering national oil output. Meanwhile, the Nigerian military, like the Iraqi government (and assorted militias), has been accused of pilfering billions of dollars’ worth of crude oil and selling it on the black market.

In reality, the use of military force to protect foreign oil supplies is likely to create anything but security. It can, in fact, trigger violent “blowback” against the US. For example, the decision by President Bush senior to maintain an enormous, permanent US military presence in Saudi Arabia following Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait is now widely viewed as a major source of virulent anti-Americanism in the kingdom, and became a prime recruiting tool for Osama bin Laden in the months leading up to the 9/11 terror attacks.

“For over seven years,” Bin Laden proclaimed in 1998, “the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorising its neighbours, and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight neighbouring Muslim peoples”. To repel this assault on the Muslim world, he thundered, it was “an individual duty for every Muslim” to “kill the Americans” and drive their armies “out of all the lands of Islam”.

Blowback in Iraq
As if to confirm the veracity of Bin Laden’s analysis of US intentions, the then secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, flew to Saudi Arabia on 30 April 2003 to announce that the US bases there would no longer be needed due to the successful invasion of Iraq, then barely one month old. “It is now a safer region because of the change of regime in Iraq,” Rumsfeld declared. “The aircraft and those involved will now be able to leave.”

Even as he was speaking in Riyadh, however, a dangerous new case of blowback had erupted in Iraq: upon their entry into Baghdad, US forces seized and guarded the oil ministry headquarters while allowing schools, hospitals, and museums to be looted with impunity. Most Iraqis have since come to regard this decision, which insured that the rest of the city would be looted, as the ultimate expression of the Bush administration’s main motive for invading their country. They have viewed repeated White House claims of a commitment to human rights and democracy there as mere fig leaves that barely covered the urge to plunder Iraq’s oil. Nothing American officials have done since has succeeded in erasing this powerful impression, which continues to drive calls for a US withdrawal.

And these are but a few examples of the losses to US national security produced by a thoroughly militarised approach to energy security. Yet the premises of such a global policy continue to go unquestioned, even as US policymakers persist in relying on military force as their ultimate response to threats to the safe production and transportation of oil. In a kind of energy Catch-22, the continual militarising of energy policy only multiplies the threats that call such militarisation into being.

If anything, this spiral of militarised insecurity is worsening. Take the expanded US military presence in Africa – one of the few areas in the world expected to experience an increase in oil output in the years ahead.

Time to rethink
This year the Pentagon will activate the US Africa Command (Africom), its first new overseas combat command since Reagan created Centcom a quarter of a century ago. Although department of defence officials are loath to publicly acknowledge any direct relationship between Africom’s formation and a growing US reliance on that continent’s oil, they are less inhibited in private briefings. At a 19 February meeting at the National Defence University, Africom deputy commander Vice-Admiral Robert Moeller indicated that “oil disruption” in Nigeria and West Africa would constitute one of the primary challenges facing the new organisation.

Africom and similar extensions of the Carter Doctrine into new oil-producing regions are only likely to provoke fresh blowback, while bundling tens of billions of extra dollars every year into an already-bloated Pentagon budget. Sooner or later, if US policy doesn’t change, this price will be certain to include the loss of American lives, as more and more soldiers are exposed to hostile fire or explosives while protecting vulnerable oil installations in areas torn by ethnic, religious, and sectarian strife.

Why pay such a price? Given the all-but-unavoidable evidence of just how ineffective military force has been when it comes to protecting oil supplies, isn’t it time to rethink Washington’s reigning assumptions regarding the relationship between energy security and national security? After all, other than George Bush and Dick Cheney, who would claim that, more than five years after the invasion of Iraq, either the US or its supply of oil is actually safer?

Creating real energy security
The reality of the US’s increasing reliance on foreign oil only strengthens the conviction in Washington that military force and energy security are inseparable twins. With nearly two-thirds of the country’s daily oil intake imported – and that percentage still going up – it’s hard not to notice that significant amounts of our oil now come from conflict-prone areas of the Middle East, central Asia and Africa. So long as this is the case, US policymakers will instinctively look to the military to ensure the safe delivery of crude oil. It evidently matters little that the use of military force, especially in the Middle East, has surely made the energy situation less stable and less dependable, while fuelling anti-Americanism.

This is, of course, not the definition of “energy security” but its opposite. A viable long-term approach to actual energy security would not favour one particular source of energy above all others, or regularly expose American soldiers to a heightened risk of harm and American taxpayers to a heightened risk of bankruptcy. Rather, a US energy policy that made sense would embrace a holistic approach to energy procurement, weighing the relative merits of all potential sources of energy.

It would naturally favour the development of domestic, renewable sources of energy that do not degrade the environment or imperil other national interests. At the same time, it would favour a thorough-going programme of energy conservation of a sort notably absent these last two decades – one that would help cut reliance on foreign energy sources in the near future and slow the atmospheric build-up of climate-altering greenhouse gases.

Petroleum would continue to play a significant role in any such approach. Oil retains considerable appeal as a source of transportation energy (especially for aircraft) and as a feedstock for many chemical products. But given the right investment and research policies – and the will to apply something other than force to energy supply issues – oil’s historic role as the world’s paramount fuel could relatively quickly draw to a close. It would be especially important that American policymakers do not prolong this role artificially by, as has been the case for decades, subsidising major US oil firms or, more recently, spending $138bn a year on the protection of foreign oil deliveries. These funds would instead be redirected to the promotion of energy efficiency and especially the development of domestic sources of energy.

Some policymakers who agree on the need to develop alternatives to imported energy insist that such an approach should begin with oil extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and other protected wilderness areas. Even while acknowledging that such drilling would not substantially reduce US reliance on foreign oil, they nevertheless insist that it’s essential to make every conceivable effort to substitute domestic oil supplies for imports in the nation’s total energy supply. But this argument ignores the fact that oil’s day is drawing to a close, and that any effort to prolong its duration only complicates the inevitable transition to a post-petroleum economy.

A more fruitful approach
A far more fruitful approach, better designed to promote US self-sufficiency and technological vigour in the intensely competitive world of the mid-21st century, would emphasise the use of domestic ingenuity and entrepreneurial skills to maximise the potential of renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, geothermal and wave power. The same skills should also be applied to developing methods for producing ethanol from non-food plant matter (cellulosic ethanol), for using coal without releasing carbon into the atmosphere (via carbon capture and storage, or CCS), for miniaturising hydrogen fuel cells, and for massively increasing the energy efficiency of vehicles, buildings, and industrial processes.

All of these energy systems show great promise, and so should be accorded the increased support and investment they will need to move from the marginal role they now play to a dominant role in US energy generation. At this point, it is not possible to determine precisely which of them (or which combination among them) will be best positioned to transition from small to large-scale commercial development. As a result, all of them should be initially given enough support to test their capacity to make this move.

In applying this general rule, however, priority clearly should be given to new forms of transport fuel. It is here that oil has long been king, and here that oil’s decline will be most harshly felt. It is thanks to this that calls for military intervention to secure additional supplies of crude are only likely to grow. So emphasis should be given to the rapid development of biofuels, coal-to-liquid fuels (with the carbon extracted via CCS), hydrogen, or battery power, and other innovative means of fuelling vehicles. At the same time, it’s obvious that putting some of our military budget into funding a massive increase in public transit would be the height of national sanity.

An approach of this sort would enhance national security on multiple levels. It would increase the reliable supply of fuels, promote economic growth at home (rather than sending a flood of dollars into the coffers of unreliable petro-regimes abroad), and diminish the risk of recurring US involvement in foreign oil wars. No other approach – certainly not the present traditional, unquestioned, unchallenged reliance on military force – can make this claim. It’s well past time to stop garrisoning the global gas station.

Ref: Le Monde
Michael T Klare is professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and author of several books on energy politics including Blood and Oil, Henry Holt, New York, 2005 and most recently Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, Henry Holt, 2008

The War on Terror: Why Do We Fight?

With recession in the wind neither Democratic nor Republican presidential candidates are talking much about the misbegotten war in Iraq. Even less, however, far less, do they talk about the root of that disaster—the “War on Terror.” Until the real but complex relationship between these two self-inflicted wars is understood, Americans, and the rest of the world, will be afflicted with the economic, political, and psychological burdens of both of them.

The question can be posed as follows. The Unites States went to war in Iraq to destroy Weapons of Mass Destruction that did not exist, and we fight a War on Terror now despite virtually no evidence whatsoever that a serious terrorist threat to the American homeland exists. “Why,” then, “do we fight?”

The official mantra is that we fight in Iraq because it is the “central front in the War on Terror.” The exact opposite is the case. We are trapped in fighting an unwinnable and even nonsensical “War on Terror,” because its invention was required in order to fight in Iraq. After years of slaughter in Iraq, the neocon fantasy of a series of cheap, fast neo-imperial victories, is dead. But the War on Terror, fashioned by the supremacist hawks to enlist the American public in their adventure, lives on, stronger than ever.

How did the War on Terror take on a life of its own and trap the entire political class, and most Americans, into public beliefs about the need to fight a global war on terror as our first priority, even when there’s no evidence of an enemy present in the United States? What accounts for more than $800 billion worth of expenditures, along with baseless cycles of terrorist “sleeper cell” hysteria and McCarthyist policies of surveillance and “pre-emptive prosecution” not seen in this country since the early 1950s?

Consider how Congress responded to the War on Terror. In the summer of 2003 a list of 160 potential targets for terrorists was drawn up, triggering intense efforts by Representatives and Senators, and their constituents, to find funding-generating targets in their districts. The result? Widening definitions of potential targets and mushrooming increases in the number of infrastructure and other assets deemed worthy of protection: up to 1849 in late 2003, 28,364; in 2004; 77,069 in 2005; and an estimated 300,000 in 2006 (including the Sears Tower in Chicago, but also the Indiana Apple and Pork Festival).

Across the country virtually every lobby and interest group recast their traditional objectives and funding proposals as more important than ever given the imperatives of the War on Terror. The National Rifle Association declared that the War on Terror means that more Americans should own and carry firearms to defend the country and themselves against terrorists. On the other hand, according to the gun control lobby, fighting the War on Terror means passing strict gun control laws to keep assault weapons out of the hands of terrorists. Schools of Veterinary Medicine called for quadrupling their funding. Who else would train veterinarians to defend the country against terrorists using hoof and mouth disease to decimate our cattle herds? Pediatricians declared that more funding was required to train pediatricians as first responders to terrorist attacks since treating children as victims is not the same as treating adults. Pharmacists advocated the creation of pharmaceutical SWAT teams to respond quickly with appropriate drugs to the victims of terrorist attacks. Aside from swarms of beltway bandit consulting firms and huge corporate investments in counter-terrorism activities, Universities across the country created graduate programs in Homeland Security, institutes on terrorism and counter-terrorism, all raising huge catcher’s mitts into the air for the billions of dollars of grants and contracts just blowing in the wind.

The same imperative—translate your agenda into War on Terror requirements or be starved of funds—and its spiraling consequences surged across the government, affecting virtually all agencies. Bureaucrats unable to think of a way to describe their activities in War on Terror terms were virtually disqualified from budget increases and probably doomed to cuts. With billions of dollars a year in state and local funding, the Department of Homeland Security devised a list of 15 National Planning Scenarios to help guide its allocations. To qualify for Homeland Security funding state and local governments had to describe how they would use allocated funds to meet one of those chosen scenarios. What was the process that produced this list? It was, in part, deeply political, driven by competition among agencies, states, and localities who knew that funding opportunities would depend on exactly which scenarios were included or excluded—with anthrax, a chemical attack on a sports stadium, and hoof and mouth disease included, but attacks on liquid natural gas tankers and West Nile virus excluded.

Most instructive of all was the unwillingness of the government to define the enemy posing the terrorist threat. Why? Because if a particular enemy was identified, certain scenarios, profitable for some funding-competitors, would be disqualified. Thus the enemy, in these scenarios, is referred to as “the universal adversary,” in other words, as Satan. That is how the War on Terror drives the country from responding to threats to preparing for vulnerabilities, producing an irrational and doomed strategic posture which treats any bad thing that could happen becomes a national security imperative.

The dimensions of the War on Terror are still expanding rapidly in the face of a small, if not entirely absent domestic terrorist threat. But politicians, forced into playing Chicken Little to avoid seeming to suffer from a “pre-9/11 mentality,” can offer no break on spending or War on Terror rhetoric. In all the debates that have been held among the presidential candidates, hardly any attention, certainly no critical attention, directed to the War on Terror. Far from posing the obvious question of what attacks have not occurred despite the obvious ease with which Americans can be killed by malicious gunmen, the most common comment made on the subject of terrorism is criticism of the prosecution of the War on Terror as less aggressive, less well-funded, and less comprehensive than it should be—think, in particular, of Rudy Giuliani.

But leave aside the politicians. What about those protected bastions of critical insight in American life—universities and the press? Forget about it. Neither has been willing to question the justification and expansiveness of the War on Terror. Universities rush to the counter-terror trough, where funding abounds for research on terror, on Muslims, on ever more elaborate security devices, and on degree programs in Homeland Security. For the press, it’s as good as it gets. “Hurricane Osama,” the real storm of the century, is always just about to hit and never goes away. Every false alarm of another 9/11 attack on the way sends the news media into paroxysms of sensationally foreboding, emergency-mode coverage, helping enliven the credibility of countless televisions shows, films, and potboiler novels with the same plot line—maniacal but brilliant Middle Eastern terrorists poised to strike but for the heroic exploits of a few bold souls operating within a generally incompetent government.

Most Americans have learned that the Iraq War was a mistake, a disastrously counter-productive mistake. They have yet to be able even to imagine the truth about the War on Terror more generally—that it is a self-perpetuating machine of fear and profit that serves no master and no one’s interests, ultimately, but its own. As long as politicians and pundits compete to be tougher-than-thou against terrorist enemies American voters have been trained to assume are lurking everywhere, discrete programs to deal with real security threats will be endangered, while the United States will remain, as Bin Laden himself gleefully observed in his November 2004 videotape, trapped in a maelstrom of waste, worry, and witch-hunt, that “bleeds America to the point of bankruptcy.”

Ref: e-ir

Ian Lustick is the Bess W. Heyman Professor of Political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a founder and past president of the Association for Israel Studies and past president of the American Political Science Association Politics and History Section. Lustick is the author of Trapped in the War on Terror.

KILL EVERYBODY: American soldier exposes US policy in Iraq

Also…What-happened-at-haditha??!!

What happened at Haditha?

Battle For Haditha UK DVD Trailer

Eyewitness reportage about haditha massacre

What happened at Haditha?

Haditha is an agricultural community of about 90,000 people on the banks of the Euphrates north-west of Baghdad.
It lies in the huge western province of Anbar, which became the heartland of the insurgency after US-led troops invaded Iraq in 2003.

It was a dangerous place for the US marines who control this part of Iraq – and for the inhabitants, caught between insurgents and American troops.

On the morning of 19 November 2005, the Subhani neighbourhood was the scene of an event that was then a regular occurrence – a roadside bomb targeting a US patrol.

It killed 20-year-old Lance Corp Miguel (“TJ”) Terrazas, driving one of four Humvee vehicles in the patrol, and injured two other marines.

A simple US military statement hinted at the bloody chain of events that the attack started – though subsequent scrutiny showed it to be far from the truth.

It said: “A US marine and 15 civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb in Haditha.

“Immediately following the bombing, gunmen attacked the convoy with small arms fire. Iraqi army soldiers and marines returned fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding another.”

Video footage

The tragedy of Haditha may have been left at that – just another statistic of “war-torn” Iraq – a place too dangerous to be reported properly by journalists, where openness is not in the interests of political and military circles, and the sheer scale of death numbs the senses.

However, the following day a self-styled local journalist and human-rights activist, Taher Thabet al-Hadithi, got his video camera out and filmed scenes that – whatever they were – were not the aftermath of a roadside bombing.

Haditha is considered hostile territory for US marines
The bodies of women and children, still in their nightclothes, apparently shot in their own homes; interior walls and ceilings peppered with bullet holes; bloodstains on the floor.

A couple of months later, Mr Hadithi’s tape was passed to the US newsmagazine Time, which published an account based on the footage.

The magazine also handed a copy of the tape to US military commanders in Baghdad, who initiated a preliminary investigation.

See differing accounts of Haditha deaths
Following their findings, the official version was changed to say that, after the roadside bombing, the 15 civilians had been accidentally shot by marines during a gun fight with insurgents.

Nevertheless, on 9 March 2006 the top US commanders in Baghdad began a criminal investigation, led by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS).

On 7 April three officers in charge of troops in Haditha were also stripped of their command and reassigned.

‘Pretended to die’

Eyewitness accounts suggest that comrades of TJ Terrazas, far from coming under enemy fire, went on the rampage in Haditha after his death.

A US soldier came in and shot at us, I pretended to be dead and he didn’t notice me
Safa Younis
Twelve-year-old Safa Younis appears on video saying she was in one of three houses where troops came in and indiscriminately killed family members.

“They knocked at our front door and my father went to open it. They shot him dead from behind the door and then they shot him again,” she says in the video.

“Then one American soldier came in and shot at us all. I pretended to be dead and he didn’t notice me.”

There were eight bodies in the house, including Safa’s five siblings, aged between two and 14.

In another house seven people including a child and his 70-year-old grandfather were killed. Four brothers aged 41 to 24 died in a third house. Eyewitnesses said they were forced into a wardrobe and shot.

In the street, US troops gunned down four students and a taxi driver they had stopped at a roadblock set up after the bombing.

According to a witness, they were shot by the side of the road, as they stood with their hands on their heads.

Trials and inquiries

Events in Haditha have been the subject of several official investigations as well as criminal charges against some members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment alleged to have carried out the killings.

Sgt Wuterich was the last man to have murder charges dropped
The alleged ringleader, Sgt Frank Wuterich, 28, was charged with voluntary manslaughter while L/Cpl Stephen Tatum was changed with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Murder charges were dismissed against all the marines from Kilo Company, including Sgt Sanick Dela Cruz, who was granted immunity in exchange for giving evidence to the military court.

The defendants have stuck to their initial account, that the dead were either assailants or civilians killed unwittingly in the crossfire.

Their supporters in the US have accused Mr Hadithi of being an insurgent himself, and distorting or actually fabricating the evidence.

Meanwhile, the US-backed Iraqi government launched its own inquiry, saying there was a limit to the “acceptable excuses” by the US military for causing civilian deaths, in this as well as a string of other high-profile cases in Iraq.

A report by the US military in Iraq found that senior marine commanders had been negligent in their failure to properly investigate the Haditha killings, and four officers were initially charged with dereliction and failing to report and investigate the killings.

Two had their charges dismissed by a military court in the US, but Lt Col Jeffrey Chessani became the most senior US serviceman since the Vietnam War to face a court martial for actions in combat.

Ref. BBC