Thursday, 30 June 2011

Death Of Detainees - Criminal Investigation

'Holder did not identify the two death cases. But former and current U.S. officials who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation said Durham was looking at the deaths of Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi.

Rahman died in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2002, after being shackled to a cold cement wall in a secret CIA prison in northern Kabul, Afghanistan, known as the Salt Pit. He was suspected of links to the terrorist group al-Qaida. Rahman is the only detainee known to have died in a CIA-run prison.

Al-Jamadi died in 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The death has been known to the public for years and a military autopsy declared al-Jamadi's death a homicide.' Full details here.

Gillard On Afghanistan

If you were in any doubt (hopefully not) about what a ragbag of chancers and sycophantic opportunists NATO is, just listen to the leaders of Australia and Canada recently. Julia Gillard is the worst. She said recently 'we ''must stand firmly by" the US, and that there was "a new international strategy in place - focused on counterinsurgency". The obvious question for Gillard then is, what has changed in nine months? When is she going to explain what impact America's apparent loss of faith in the counterinsurgency strategy will have on Afghanistan? Is Obama's announcement an "enormous" propaganda victory for terrorists? Or has the Prime Minister been less than straight with us about why we are in Afghanistan?
Contrast Gillard's rhetoric with that of Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who is withdrawing all combat troops from Afghanistan. In a farewell visit last month to Kandahar, where Canadian troops have been based, he told soldiers Afghanistan "does not represent a geostrategic risk to the world. It is no longer a source of global terrorism".
Read more:

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Is Libya Action A War Or Not?

Last week David Cameron told the House of Commons: “We are at war in Libya”. But Barack Obama continues to insist that his country’s role in the NATO mission doesn’t even constitute ‘hostilities’. And the US drones firing missiles at Gaddafi-regime targets? No, not ‘hostile’ at all, it seems. All because if Obama admitted that he’d got the US involved in ‘hostilities’ he would have to deign to go to Congress and get their approval since the War Powers Act came into being. But Obama’s denial of ‘hostilities’ risks what remains of his credibility. Before he became president, Obama stated: ‘the President does not have the power under the constitution to unilaterally authorise a military attack in a situation that does not involve the stopping of an actual or imminent threat to the nation’.” Maybe he thought the Libya action would have ended quickly and quietly gone away. Votes in the House of Representatives last week show that it hasn’t – Republican members stopped short of trying to cut funding but delivered a stinging rebuke. Even Hillary Clinton’s attempt to shame them (asking “Which side are you on?”) fell flat, especially from an administration which has made a great play of adhering the rule of law. Republican senator Bob Corker said: “I don’t think anyone in this congress had any idea the president would take such a narrow, narrow interpretation of hostilities.”
The longer Ghaddafi hangs on, the longer the operation continues, the longer Obama will be left to defend his  bizarre position and NATO will again be left dangling on the rope of absurdity.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

250,000 Afghans Driven From Homes by US Raids

A quarter of a million Afghans have been displaced from their homes in the last 2 years.A report by Refugees International is especially critical of home raids and air strikes, both of which have displaced tens of thousands of Afghan civilians. Some leave because their homes are destroyed, others because they no longer feel safe in their villages.
"In Faryab province [alone], heavy bombardments by ISAF and [Afghan forces] targeting the Taliban displaced nearly 10,000 people in January and more than 12,000 in May 2011," the report states.
Both have also caused deep resentment among Afghans. Karzai has demanded that NATO forces stop raiding homes and air attacks. But NATO has actually increased its air strikes since Karzai's ultimatum - it carries out around 12 per day - and home raids continue as well. Full report linked here.

Obama's 'Drawdown' - US Public Opinion Poll

Obama will be quite happy with this. Not much support for the war as usual in the figures. Even less in  Europe.

Some Recent Afghan History Rarely Told

From Michael Parenti of Global Research.

'While claiming to be fighting terrorism, US leaders have found other compelling but less advertised reasons for plunging deeper into Afghanistan. The Central Asian region is rich in oil and gas reserves. A decade before 9/11, Time magazine (18 March 1991) reported that US policy elites were contemplating a military presence in Central Asia. The discovery of vast oil and gas reserves in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan provided the lure, while the dissolution of the USSR removed the one major barrier against pursuing an aggressive interventionist policy in that part of the world.
US oil companies acquired the rights to some 75 percent of these new reserves. A major problem was how to transport the oil and gas from the landlocked region. US officials opposed using the Russian pipeline or the most direct route across Iran to the Persian Gulf. Instead, they and the corporate oil contractors explored a number of alternative pipeline routes, across Azerbaijan and Turkey to the Mediterranean or across China to the Pacific.
The route favored by Unocal, a US based oil company, crossed Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. The intensive negotiations that Unocal entered into with the Taliban regime remained unresolved by 1998, as an Argentine company placed a competing bid for the pipeline. Bush’s war against the Taliban rekindled UNOCAL’s hopes for getting a major piece of the action.' Full article here.

'War On Terror Air Conditioning' Has Cost US $20.2 Billion

Swaraaj Chauhan describes the financial madness below but the price of an Afghan life for a Blackwater killer adds up to 2.5 years in jail (he is free meantime) : 

'The Obama administration had at least the guts to justify the continued squandering of public money on the so-called war-on-terror in Afghanistan by formally handing over the foreign policy to the CIA and the Pentagon with a seemingly “limitless budget”.(see here). But why is the American media quiet on the cost of war that is crippling US economy — such as the U.S. military’s expenditure of $ 20.2 billion on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan every year?
“That’s more than NASA’s budget,” reports NPR. “It’s more than BP has paid so far for damage during the Gulf oil spill. It’s what the G-8 has pledged to help foster new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.”
Steven Anderson, who is a retired brigadier general who served as Gen. David Patreaus’ chief logistician in Iraq, says: “”When you consider the cost to deliver the fuel to some of the most isolated places in the world — escorting, command and control, medevac support — when you throw all that infrastructure in, we’re talking over $20 billion.”
Why does it cost so much?
“To power an air conditioner at a remote outpost in land-locked Afghanistan, a gallon of fuel has to be shipped into Karachi, Pakistan, then driven 800 miles over 18 days to Afghanistan on roads that are sometimes little more than ‘improved goat trails,’ Anderson says. ‘And you’ve got risks that are associated with moving the fuel almost every mile of the way.’
“Anderson calculates more than 1,000 troops have died in fuel convoys, which remain prime targets for attack. Free-standing tents equipped with air conditioners in 125 degree heat require a lot of fuel. Anderson says by making those structures more efficient, the military could save lives and dollars.

“Still, his $20.2 billion figure raises stark questions about the ongoing war in Afghanistan. In the wake of President Obama’s announcement this week that about 30,000 American troops will soon return home, how much money does the U.S. stand to save?…”
… “When you have this many people in a country that doesn’t want you there — that has no economy, no infrastructure and a corrupt government — and you’re trying to stabilize it and build them into a viable nation? I’m not sure we have enough time, and I definitely know we don’t have enough money….”

Monday, 27 June 2011

Stated Objectives in Afghanistan - Obama's Report Card

There were four stated objectives for what Bush laughably called Operation Enduring Freedom:
  • Capture al-Qaida's leaders, including Osama bin Laden.
  • Destroy all 'terrorist' camps and supporting infrastructure within Afghanistan.
  • Remove the Taliban regime, which 'supported al-Qaida.'
  • End 'terrorist' activities originating in Afghanistan.
The US, despite Obama's tortuous rhetoric and smoke and mirrors has failed in all four objectives as any reasonable observer would agree. The killing of Osama could be seen as a partial success, but it is no more than that, and will not save a single life in Afghanistan. It may be the cause of many more deaths. How Obama will turn this scenario of abject failure into 'haven't we done well - mission accomplished' will test even the verbal chicanery of his most cynical speech-writers. The 'Peace of Obama's speechwiters' in Iraq will be lost on the families of, for example, the eleven US service personnel who have died there in the last 3 weeks (the heaviest monthly toll for 2 years). It won't stop a similar gloss being  put on the debacle of Afghanistan, particulary in the months before Obama will, inevitably, be re-elected.

Failure in Afghanistan - Some Yardsticks

  • Thousands of ordinary Afghan men, women and children have been killed.
  • There are no credible or palpable signs of improvement for Afghan citizens.
  • Afghans' social and political structure is no better than it was before. 
  • Election results are being overturned in the courts
  • The Taliban are stronger than ever
  • The Taliban are growing.
  • Billions have been spent in the various initiatives as bad money has been thrown after even worse money.
Is the death of Osama Bin Laden a step forward? Only in the spin war. It gives Obama some bragging rights and a few more soundbites for a spurious 'Mission Accomplished' routine. The drawdown is a charade. Unfortunately for the Afghans the Americans are going nowhere.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Israel Threatens Media Over Gaza Flotilla

'The threat came as pro-Palestinian activists prepared to set sail for Gaza from Greece and elsewhere in an effort to break Israel's blockade of the coastal territory.
Eleven ships - nine passenger boats and two cargo ships - carrying about 1,000 activists from 20 countries are said to be taking part in the second Freedom Flotilla.
Among the activists are many Israelis, including Amira Hass, a prominent journalist of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
"If the steps are taken, it will reflect an unwise policy and a losing proposition," Jay Bushinsky, from Foreign Press Association in Israel, told Al Jazeera. He questioned the constitutionality of the Israeli government's warning and said it could be overruled by Israeli courts.
The attempt by the activists to break the Israeli siege comes a year after a similar flotilla was violently intercepted by Israeli commandos.
Nine activists on board the lead ship Mavi Marmara were shot dead and 40 others were wounded in the Israeli assault that evoked global condemnation.' Full story.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Story Of Another Raid

This happens in Afghanistan nearly every night. Sometimes the men turn out to be bombmakers or fighters, sometimes ordinary civilians. But in every case there are angry family members who feel violated or mistreated.
The U.S. will likely rely more and more on night raids as it shifts to a strategy of using special operators and drones to track down and kill Taliban leaders following President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday that 30,000 U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by next summer.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly condemned night operations as unnecessary and humiliating. From here.

Drone Attacks To Increase

'Although there has been no official announcement on the use of air assets in Afghanistan, and the covert use of air strikes in Pakistan, senior research fellow for air power and technology at the defence think-tank Rusi, Elizabeth Quintana, told Channel 4 News a "surge" in drone strikes to kill suspected militants along the border is a possibility.
"Generally speaking if you look at drawdown in Iraq, the use of air power has not decreased, but it has certainly been used to maintain air superiority, I expect the same thing to happen in Afghanistan," Ms Quintana said.
She added that drone strikes could increase when General Petraeus, the current Nato commander in Afghanistan, moves to head the CIA later in the year, considering the CIA is believed to be operating unmanned drones in Pakistan.' MORE

Friday, 24 June 2011

Thursday, 23 June 2011

How Toning Down A Failed Aggressive War Is 'Aggressive'

At a House of Representatives committee hearing, Adm Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said Mr Obama's decisions were "more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept".
"More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course. But that does not necessarily make it the best course," he said.
"Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take."
In a Senate committee hearing, Mrs Clinton said the 10-year-old US military effort in Afghanistan had "broken the Taliban's momentum".
"We do begin this drawdown from a position of strength," she said. 'Bollocks', the world said.

More, if your stomach will take it.

Afghan Withdrawal - Selection Of Weasel Words

A selection of quotes from world leaders on the announced withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan. It's hard to say which is the most mendacious. Probably the NATO one. Stop Press - UK and France announce 'drawdowns' within hours of Obama's speech. As usual the spin is better orchestrated and co-ordinated than the invasion or occupation campaign has been.

US President Barack Obama

In Afghanistan, we have inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of their strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilise more of the country.
After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support.
We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Given the progress we have seen [in Afghanistan], France will begin a gradual withdrawal of reinforcement troops sent to Afghanistan, in a proportional manner and in a timeframe comparable to the withdrawal of American reinforcements.
In consultation with the government, the president confirmed that France remained fully committed with its allies alongside the Afghan people to bring to its conclusion the transition process.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai

The people of Afghanistan will be protecting their homeland. The transition of the security and the withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan means the Afghan forces must be strengthened.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again wants to make it clear that the solution for the Afghan crisis lies in the full withdrawal of all foreign troops immediately and until this... happens, our armed struggle will increase from day to day.

Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

We can see the tide is turning. The Taliban are under pressure. The Afghan security forces are getting stronger every day. And the transition to Afghan security lead is on track to be completed in 2014.

US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney

We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we shouldn't adhere to an arbitrary timetable.

Obama's Afghan Sunset Speech

Looks like most of our predictions yesterday came true. A few thoughts on reading the full transcript:

- US Election pending (public opinion becoming more important than generals' opinions)
- No proper acknowledgement of the Arab Spring. I wonder why!
- Big acknowledgement of America's inability to afford nation-building. A dollar short and a day late, to coin an American saying. But true, nonetheless.
- The Libya reference, to facilitating allies to take the initiative, is unfortunate. Libya is unravelling by the day. The UK for one cannot sustain any (not even the current inept one) campaign in Libya. France will blunder on so long as Sarkozy thinks it takes the focus off  his abject domestic failures and possibly enhances his slim chance of re-election. He is wrong about that.
A lot of debris is lying around, thanks to the destruction the US has caused. Not just in Afghanistan but in Pakistan (not mentioned in the speech) and through the Central Asian steppes and the ancient Indus Valley. Obama has sent shivers of fear through the region. Central Asians will worry how the  return of the Taliban will play out among the forces of Islamism in their countries, already facing up to the Arab Spring. 
- The Taliban will take the message to read: ' Unless you surrender we are going to quit'. They are rubbing their hands.

Obama's Drawdown Speech

Comprehensive take from James Gundun at the Trench:
The idea that “Biden won and Petraeus lost,” as CNN wrongfully concluded, is exposed in this paragraph. Vice President Joe Biden and his crew reportedly sought a severely reduced force that instead will remain above 60,000 through 2013. General David Petraeus never utilized true COIN, but a militarized version dressed up in softer rhetoric. Even this tone started to fade once he was forced to defend his night-raids. Now Petraeus is off to further his counter-terror operations abroad, sliding right into his 2009 Special Forces directive that authorized covert military operations in every international hotspot.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Revolving Doors In Afghanistan

In Iraq Bush, Blair and later Brown used to spin the normal rotation of tours of duty by drawing attention to the numbers coming home at a given time. I wonder if the US media will keep an eye on whether Obama is doing this with his 'drawdown' speech. At Afghanistan War we don't really care. We believe America is staying in Afghanistan because they have painted themselves into an infernal corner. They are afraid of who will replace their brand of chaos with another. As usual, the ordinary, poor local people are the victims of US foreign policy. This clip (it's from News International) forgets to mention the civilian victims of course.

Obama's 'New Strategy' - Some Predictions

Here are some of our own predictions about Obama's latest resuscitation of impending speech on his Afghanistan 'strategy'.
-  He will pay tribute to 'our brave men and women in the field' 'sacrifices' 'service' etc.etc. as prev.
-  He will talk about '30,000' leaving although he will mean 20,000 of whom 10,000 (or perhaps all) will go back again later
-  The phasing will be timed to ensure the maximum electoral advantage to himself
-  He will blusteringly play down talks with the Taliban while not ruling them out. This makes him sound tough.
-  The only people who will feel satisfied or vindicated will be the Taliban.

'It's Like NATO Was Never Even Here'

L'Enlisement De L'OTAN - NATO In The Vortex

A Look Into The Dark Heart Of Halliburton/KBR

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

UK Presence In Afghanistan Damaging Our Security

Crispin Black: 
Getting British troops out of Afghanistan is not ‘cutting and running’ - it’s commonsense
The justification for the presence of British troops in Afghanistan since 2001 has been to prevent the country becoming once again a haven for al-Qaeda ­ a place where they can train and plot attacks against the West.
The terrorist threat originated from 'over there' so best deal with it 'over there' before it reached the streets of London and Bradford.
There is just one problem with this comforting analysis that jihadism in the UK is an external problem ­ it's not. The facts on the ground do not support this view.
In the UK it's mainly an internal problem. British jihadists are more likely to be graduates of British universities and adventure training courses in Wales than they are of ramshackle al-Qaeda boot camps high in the Hindu Kush.
Far from improving the UK's security, our military presence in Afghanistan makes it worse. We pretend to address the problem of terrorism but actually avoid it. Military activity in Afghanistan is an expensive displacement activity for more useful defensive action elsewhere.
At home our borders remain ridiculously porous both ways. Even when the authorities discover a foreign jihadist-with-all-the-trimmings in our midst it is impossible to have him removed.
Worse, our public discourse is so crippled by an extravagant and appeasing political correctness that Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, appears more worried by Afro-Caribbean Christian attitudes to homosexuality than British Muslim attitudes to blowing people up on the London Tube.
And abroad we discover after nearly 10 years of fighting that Osama bin Laden isn't after all directing al-Qaeda from a remote and mountainous cave in Afghanistan but living in what looks like a Pakistani intelligence safe house just outside the back gate of their Sandhurst. Whoops! We have been in the wrong country.
If you think the problem of Pakistan is being overstated, answer this trivial pursuit question. After the US special forces bumped off Bin Laden, Pakistani counter-intelligence officers arrested:
• The guys who had helped Bin Laden?
• The guys who had helped the Americans?
As reported here last week, the answer is the latter.
Controlling a near rogue state like Pakistan is not going to be easy. We should contribute special forces and intelligence to the American plan (revealed last month) to take control, in extremis, of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. But it is hard to see how the presence of a British brigade in Afghanistan for two more years is going to help.

French attack kills 5 Afghan civilians
Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:15AM

A truck carrying bodies of people who are said to have been killed by NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan's Lashkar Gah in Helmand province. (file photo)
At least five people have been killed and several others left wounded in a French missile attack on a school in Kapisa Province in central Afghanistan.

According to Afghan media, the French rocket attack on a school in Kapisa Province's Tagab district claimed the lives of at least five people, including four students and a principal, and injured several other students and teachers on Sunday, a Press TV correspondent reports. 

A member of the Kapisa provincial council has also confirmed the attack. 

The Afghan government and local sources, however, say that only the school's principal was killed and seven people, including two teachers and five students, were injured in the attack. 

The French forces and NATO are yet to comment on the incident. 

Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in US-led airstrikes and ground operations in various parts of Afghanistan over the past few months, with Afghans becoming increasingly outraged over the seemingly endless number of deadly assaults. 

US-led forces in Afghanistan regularly launch attacks on alleged militant hideouts, but the strikes usually result in civilian casualties. 
US raid kills civilian in Afghanistan - PTV
Tue Jun 21, 2011 6:18PM

US-led troops during a house search operation in Afghanistan
The US forces have killed at least one civilian and detained three others during a night raid on a residential area in the troubled northern Afghanistan, officials say.

According to Afghan officials, the incident took place in Kunduz Province on Monday night, a Press TV correspondent reported. 

The district governor of Imam Sahib Mohammad Ayub Haqyar said the US troops carried out operation without coordination with Afghan forces. 

NATO earlier said its forces had killed several Taliban militants during a military operation in the troubled region. 

Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in US-led airstrikes and ground operations in various parts of Afghanistan over the past few months, with Afghans becoming more outraged over the seemingly endless number of deadly assaults. 

Civilian casualties have long been a source of friction between the Afghan government and US-led foreign forces. The loss of civilian lives at the hand of foreign forces has dramatically increased anti-American sentiments in Afghanistan. 

The war in Afghanistan, with civilian and military casualties at record highs, has become the longest war in US history. 

US Kill Team And Sadism In Afghanistan

Reveling in the Pain of Others: Moral Degeneracy and Violence in the "Kill Team" Photos

by: Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis

Cpl. Jeremy Morlock poses with the body of an unarmed Afghan boy named Gul Mudin in the village of La Mohammad Kalay. (Photo: US Army)
The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could have occurred in the midst of more or less civilized and innocent people.... The coldness of the societal monad, the isolated competitor, was the precondition, as indifference to the fate of others.... Regressive tendencies, that is, people with repressed sadistic traits, are produced everywhere today by the global evolution of society.... Everywhere where it is mutilated, consciousness is reflected back upon the body and the sphere of the corporeal in an unfree form that tends toward violence. -Theodor Adorno
War, violence and death have become the organizing principle of governance and culture in the United States as we move into the second decade of the 21st century. Lacking a language for the social good, the very concept of the social as a space in which justice, equality, social protections and a responsibility to the other mediate everyday life is being refigured through a spectacle of violence and cruelty. Under such circumstances, ethical considerations and social costs are removed from market-driven policies and values just as images of human suffering are increasingly abstracted from not only their social and political contexts, but also the conditions that make such suffering possible. Moreover, as public issues collapse into privatized considerations, matters of agency, responsibility and ethics are now framed within the discourse of extreme individualism. Unexpected violence, aggression and the "'masculine' virtues of toughness, strength, decisiveness and determination ... are accentuated," along with the claims of vengeance, militarization and violence.(1) The collapse of the social and the formative culture that make human bonds possible is now outmatched by the rise of a Darwinian ethic of greed and self-interest in which violence, aggressiveness and sadism have become the primary metric for living and dying. As the social contract is replaced by social collapse, a culture of depravity has emerged in American society. The spectacle of violence permeates every aspect of the machinery of cultural production and screen culture - extending from television news and reality TV to the latest Hollywood fare. Of course, this is not new. What is new is that more and more people desire spectacles of high-intensity violence and images of death, mutilation and suffering and their desires should no longer be attributed to an individual aberration, but instead suggest an increasingly widespread social pathology.
Death and violence have become the mediating link between US domestic policy - the state's treatment of its own citizens - and foreign policy, between the tedium of ever expanding workdays and the thrill of sadistic release. Disposable bodies now waste away in American prisons, schools and shelters just as they litter the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. America has become a permanent warfare state, with a deep investment in a cultural politics and the corollary cultural apparatuses that legitimate and sanctify its machinery of death. The American public's fascination with violence and death is evident in the recent popular obsession with high-octane action films, along with the ever-expanding volume of vampire and zombie films, TV shows and books. We also see death-dealing and violent acts accrue popularity with Hollywood films such as the 2010 academy-award winning "The Hurt Locker," in which the American bomb disposal expert, William James (Jeremy Renner), repeatedly puts himself at risk in the face of defusing various bomb threats - thus to highlight the filmmaker's concern with a growing "addiction" to war. As Mark Featherstone points out, there is more represented here than the reckless behavior of immature and hyper-masculine soldiers. He writes, "James takes unnecessary risks and lives for the limit experience.... [H]e feels most alive when he is closest to death ... When James ... throws the bomb suit away and stands before the bomb with no protection, he puts himself at the mercy of the bomb, the embodiment of the death drive."(2)
"The Hurt Locker" is only one of a number of serious films that address, if not mirror, a psychological state in which the production of a virulent masculinity now augurs both a pathological relationship with the body, pain and violence and a disdain for compassion, human rights and social justice. The death drive in American society has become one of its fundamental characteristics and, undoubtedly, its most disabling pathology. More than a trace of this mode of aggression and moral indifference now dominates contemporary American life. Marked by a virulent notion of hardness and aggressive masculinity, a culture of depravity has become commonplace in a society in which pain, humiliation and abuse are condensed into digestible spectacles of violence endlessly circulated through extreme sports, reality TV, video games, YouTube postings and proliferating forms of the new and old media. But the ideology of hardness and the economy of pleasure it justifies are also present in the material relations of power that have intensified since the Reagan presidency, when a shift in government policies first took place and set the stage for the emergence of an unchecked regime of torture and state violence under the Bush-Cheney regime. Conservative and liberal politicians alike now spend millions waging wars around the globe, funding the largest military state in the world, providing huge tax benefits to the ultra-rich and major corporations, and all the while draining public coffers, increasing the scale of human poverty and misery and eliminating all viable public spheres - whether they be the social state, public schools, public transportation, or any other aspect of a formative culture that addresses the needs of the common good.
Mainstream politicians now call for cutbacks in public funding in order to address the pressing problems of the very deficit they not only created, but gladly embrace, since it provides an excuse either to drastically reduce funding for vital entitlements such as Medicare and early childhood education or to privatize public education, transportation, and other public services, while putting more money into the hands of the rich and powerful. The real deficit here is one of truth and morality. The politics of austerity has now become a discourse for eviscerating the social state and forcing upon cities, families and individuals previously unimaginable levels of precarity, suffering and insecurity. As Rania Khalek points out, conservatives want to "exploit the budget crisis in order to starve government…. The truth is that the economic crisis, sparked by decades of deregulation and greedy financial forms, caused high levels of unemployment that dramatically reduced state and local tax revenues. Add to that years of tax cuts for the wealthy and decades of corporate tax-dodging and you've got yourself a budget crisis."(3) The discourse of "deficit porn" now justifies the shift in public policy and state funding further away from providing social protections and safeguarding civil liberties toward the establishment of legislative programs intent on promoting shared fears and increasing disciplinary modes of governance that rely on the criminalization of social problems.(4)
The broader cultural turn toward the death drive and the strange economy of desire it produces is also evident in the emergence of a culture of depravity in which the American public appears more and more amenable to deriving pleasure from images that portray gratuitous violence and calamity. As mentioned above, exaggerated violence now rules screen culture. The public pedagogy of entertainment includes extreme images of violence, human suffering and torture splashed across giant movie screens, some in 3D, offering viewers every imaginable portrayal of violent acts, each more shocking and brutal than the last. The growing taste for sadism can be seen in the recent fascination on the part of the media with Peter Moskos' book "In Defense of Flogging," in which the author seriously proposes that prisoners be given a choice between a standard sentence and a number of lashes administered in public.(5) In the name of reform, Moskos argues, without any irony, that public flogging is more honest and a sure-fire way of reducing the prison population. Not only is this book being given massive air time in the mainstream media, but its advocacy of corporal punishment and flogging is treated as if it is a legitimate proposal for reform. Mind-crushing punishment is presented as the only choice left for prisoners outside of serving their sentences. Moreover, this medieval type of punishment inflicts pain on the body as part of a public spectacle. Moskos seems to miss how the legacy of slavery informs his proposal, given that flogging was one of the preferred punishments handed out to slaves and that 70 percent of all current prisoners in the United States are people of color. Surely, the next step will be a reality TV franchise in which millions tune in to watch public floggings. This is not merely barbarism parading as reform - it is also a blatant indicator of the degree to which sadism and the infatuation with violence have become normalized in a society that seems to take delight in dehumanizing itself. MORE HERE.

'Peace Talks' Part Of The Drawdown Spin?

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by

Monday, 20 June 2011

Libya - More Nato Victims

Reporters were then taken to a hospital in nearby Sabrata where they were shown nine bodies, including those of two children.
The Libyan government said they had all been killed in the Sorman attack.
"Nato regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives and takes great care in conducting strikes against a regime determined to use violence against its own citizens," Mr Bouchard said.
"Although we are still determining the specifics of this event, indications are that a weapons system failure may have caused this incident."
The Italian foreign minister has warned that the accidental killing of civilians was endangering the alliance's credibility. What credibility would that be?

The Russians In Afghanistan

Yuri Andropov, then head of the KGB, and Andrei Gromyko, the foreign minister, were contemptuous of the notion that what had taken place in Kabul was a revolution. Andropov had learned a few lessons from his experience as Soviet ambassador in Hungary during the 1956 uprising. As far as he was concerned what had happened in Kabul was a coup d’├ętat, carried out by a relatively small communist faction in the armed forces. Unlike the South Yemeni revolution of the same period it had limited mass support. That was a huge problem. Sending in the Red Army to support the PDPA would, he concluded, be counterproductive. Article from LRB here. 

Nato Civilian Casualties In Libya - Clip

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Afghan Withdrawal - Cameron Slammed By Commons Committee

By David Maddox
DAVID Cameron will face severe criticism from a powerful committee controlled by Coalition MPs for setting too firm a timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan.The Defence Select Committee, chaired by Tory MP James Arbuthnot, is preparing to publish its findings into its Afghanistan inquiry within the next few weeks.It has concluded the Coalition Government's haste to set an "absolute" date for departure has badly undermined the military campaign, Scotland on Sunday has learned.In what is already being billed a hard-hitting report, chiefs of staff, including the former Chief of General Staff General Sir Mike Jackson, are expected to be heavily criticised for the push into Helmand province in 2006.Cameron made a surprise announcement that troops would be pulled out of combat duty in Afghanistan at a summit in Toronto in June 2010, just a few weeks after he became Prime Minister.Despite the Obama administration also indicating a timetable for withdrawal, the clear deadline set by the Prime Minister alarmed the US. Cameron agreed to slightly extend the stay in the war-torn country during the President's state visit to the UK last month.But the committee believes the date set for withdrawal by Cameron - by the end of 2014, now extended to 2015 - has made it almost impossible to win the war and may also have undermined efforts to negotiate with the Taleban. The report is also likely to question the rationale of the timing, which some members believe was motivated by political reasons rather than strategic ones.A committee member said: "The Taleban now have a calendar with a date on it when we are going to withdraw. They have a point to hold on to. If you look at our line of questioning, it is clear we believe that this absolute time- table set by the Prime Minister has seriously undermined any chance of winning this war."

'Pressure' on Pakistan Army Head Over US Ties

'Pressure' on Pakistan army head over US ties - Central & South Asia - Al Jazeera English

Peace Talks In Afghanistan?

Talks have been going on for years. This is another red herring and a spin-job by Karzai. As usual NATO/ISAF don't know what is going on. Nobody knows who the Taliban are anyway. In French Algeria, different groups were negotiating with the French government at any given time. The real fighters, La Fronde Pour La Liberation Nationale (FLN) only spoke to the French authorities when they knew they were leaving. Their leader, Boumedienne, became the President in post occupation Algeria.

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by