“There is but one way out for you”: Read the uncensored letter J. Edgar Hoover wrote to MLK

Historian discovers unredacted copy of longtime FBI chief’s chilling letter

"There is but one way out for you": Read the uncensored letter J. Edgar Hoover wrote to MLK

Martin Luther King, Jr., J. Edgar G. Hoover (Credit: AP)

The mutual contempt between civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and longtime Federal Bureau of Investigation chief J. Edgar Hoover was hardly a well-kept secret. It was 50 years ago this month that Hoover denounced King as “the most notorious liar in the country” after King publicly took the bureau to task for its woefully inadequate enforcement of civil rights protections. In the years since, historians have documented the FBI’s smear campaign against King, which primarily consisted of wiretapping the activist and digging up dirt on his sexual rendezvous. Perhaps the most chilling piece of evidence uncovered in investigating the FBI’s crusade against King was a threatening 1964 letter — confirmed by U.S. Senator Frank Church’s investigative committee as Hoover’s handiwork — in which Hoover, posing as a disillusioned black supporter, warned that King’s “countless acts of adultery and immoral conduct” would be exposed. For the first time, that letter is available in uncensored form.

 Previous versions of the letter redacted details about King’s sexual liaisons, but while conducting research for a biography of Hoover this summer, Yale University historian Beverly Gage happened upon an uncensored version “tucked away in a reprocessed set of his official and confidential files at the National Archives,” she writes in the forthcoming New York Times Magazine.

Containing no fewer than six uses of the word “evil,” the letter assails King as a fraud and appears to have been sent along with a wiretapped recording of the civil rights activist engaged in an extramarital encounter.

“Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure,” Hoover writes in one passage.

“You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all of us Negroes,” the letter reads. “You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that,” Hoover later adds.

Hoover vows that King will soon be “exposed on the record for all time.”

“Yes, from your various evil playmates on the east coast to [here an individual's name is redacted because Hoover's allegations about her have not been confirmed or debunked] and others on the west coast and outside the country you are on the record. King you are done,” Hoover declares.



The letter concludes with a menacing declaration that “there is only one thing left for you to do,” giving King a deadline of 34 days before he would be exposed.

“You are done,” Hoover writes. “There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

As Gage notes, King told associates that he was convinced that someone — likely Hoover — was trying to provoke him to commit suicide.

“One oddity of Hoover’s campaign against King is that it mostly flopped, and the F.B.I. never succeeded in seriously damaging King’s public image,” Gage writes. “Half a century later, we look upon King as a model of moral courage and human dignity. Hoover, by contrast, has become almost universally reviled. In this context, perhaps the most surprising aspect of their story is not what the F.B.I. attempted, but what it failed to do.”

Read the letter below, via Gawker:

Luke Brinker is Salon’s deputy politics editor. Follow him on Twitter at @LukeBrinker.

Turkey Is Supporting ISIS

We Shouldn’t Be Surprised

http://kielarowski.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/24af3-turkterrorist.jpg?w=410&h=269

by BEN NORTON

In one of the most contemptible of recent political developments, we now know that the great secular, democratic nation of Turkey is directly aiding ISIS fascists in order to crush the secular, left-wing Kurdish resistance.

This proud member of NATO sat on its hands for weeks, watching across the Syrian border as Daesh fascists tried to take over the town of Kobane, a Kurdish stronghold under-equipped resistance forces have valiantly defended with their lives. Many Western pundits were perplexed by Turkish inaction, going to great lengths to craft risible theories. Clear-eyed analysts, on the other hand, understood what Turkey’s modus operandi was all along: “The enemy of the enemy is my friend.” Secular, leftist Kurdish opposition forces are a threat to Turkish hegemony. President Erdoğan would clearly prefer brutally violent Sunni ethnoreligious supremacist extremists over secular, leftist, autonomous Kurds.

As of 10 November, 363 brave Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters have been martyred. 609 ISIS fascists have been taken down with them.

Until recently, it was speculated that Turkey had provided indirect support to Daesh; there did not appear to be evidence showing direct Turkish assistance to ISIS fascists. New evidence leads to the latter conclusion.

On 7 November, Newsweek published “’ISIS Sees Turkey as Its Ally’: Former Islamic State Member Reveals Turkish Army Cooperation.” The piece is based on testimonies by a former ISIS communications technician who goes by the pseudonym Sherko Omer. Omer traveled to Syria to fight against the bloody Assad regime — a regime with brutal state terrorist campaigns of mass bombingtorturestarvation, and rape of civilians, including children — yet soon “found himself caught up in a horrifying sectarian war, unable to escape.” He never planned on joining ISIS; he was not a Salafi extremist. Omer was trapped in a terrifying snare — a sectarian, international proxy war — and feared for his life, knowing full well that Daesh murders defectors.

Omer managed to escape by surrendering to Kurdish forces (ISIS extremists would not have spared his life after such a surrender), and subsequently detailed to Newsweek what he saw in his time working for the fascist group.

He notes that Turkey allowed trucks from the Daesh stronghold in Raqqa to cross the “border, through Turkey and then back across the border to attack Syrian Kurds in the city of Serekaniye in northern Syria in February.” He later adds that, not only did they travel “through Turkey in a convoy of trucks,” they even stayed “at safehouses along the way.”

As a communication technician, Omer recalls “connect[ing] ISIS field captains and commanders from Syria with people in Turkey on innumerable occasions,” reporting that he “rarely heard them speak in Arabic, and that was only when they talked to their own recruiters, otherwise, they mostly spoke in Turkish because the people they talked to were Turkish officials.”

“ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks,” Omer says.

Newsweek indicates that, until October, “NATO member Turkey had blocked Kurdish fighters from crossing the border into Syria to aid their Syrian counterparts in defending the border town of Kobane,” and “that people attempting to carry supplies across the border were often shot at.”

YPG spokesman Polat Can claimed:

There is more than enough evidence with us now proving that the Turkish army gives ISIS terrorists weapons, ammunitions and allows them to cross the Turkish official border crossings in order for ISIS terrorists to initiate inhumane attacks against the Kurdish people in Rojava [north-eastern Syria].

We now know that he was indeed correct.

“ISIS and Turkey cooperate together on the ground on the basis that they have a common enemy to destroy, the Kurds,” Omer divulged.

Not a New Policy

Newsweek states that it could not independently verify Omer’s testimony, but “anecdotal evidence of Turkish forces turning a blind eye to ISIS activity has been mounting over the past month.” There have even been reports of the Turkish military shooting Kurdish civilians who are trying to flee into Turkey for safety.

Turkish journalist Fehim Taştekin has been writing for months about how “armed groups like al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front cross the [Turkish] border freely.” In just one horrific example, in May 2014, he tells of an incident in which the Turkish military killed a Syrian Kurdish mother, in front of her own children, as they fled from Daesh fascists. (On the same day, the Turkish military shot 14-year-old Ali Ozdemir in the face, causing him to lose both of his eyes. He had crossed the border to visit his grandmother.)

Syrian journalist Bazran Halil explained in May 2014, months before the ISIS siege on Kobani:

The canton of Kobani is surrounded by ISIS. There is no electricity, no water. People drink water from wells. We are threatened by cholera. Turkey is the only place where people can meet their needs. Think, we don’t even have chickens. For Turkey to close the border means, ‘Go surrender to ISIS.’ In the border segments under control of Islamist organizations, everything is allowed to cross. Factories looted in Aleppo are carried across in trucks, and nobody says anything.

The Turkish policy, nevertheless, is to shoot, and to shoot to kill. The chairman of the Bar Association in Diyarbakir, a large southeastern Turkish city, insists that execution is the proper punishment to mete out to refugees “illegally” crossing the border. The chief of Diyarbakir’s Human Rights Association explains that soldiers on the border are ordered to shoot to kill. This is Turkey’s “Rojava policy” — that is to say, its plan to quash the resistance and kill the Kurds.

In fact, while Daesh was carving out huge swaths of Syrian territory in which to impose a fascist “caliphate” (that is recognized by approximately zero of the world’s prominent Muslim scholars, leaders, and institutions), Turkish fighter jets bombed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)  — a secular, leftist organization affiliated with the YPG — for the first time since their 2012 ceasefire. Turkey insisted the bombs were not meant to defend ISIS (there is certainly no way attacking resistance groups as they courageously battle against ethnoreligious supremacist terrorists fighting desperately to take over their land could possibly be construed as implicitly supporting that fascist menace).

Given the long and egregious history of anti-Kurdish racism in Turkey, institutionalized under Atatürk, we should not be surprised. Yet Erdoğan’s regime is doing much more than crushing YPG/PKK freedom fighters — something much, much more perilous. Turkey is fanning the flames of a bloody and mushrooming sectarian conflagration that has already engulfed much of the Middle East and may very well extend further, consuming all in its wake.

Ben Norton is an artist and activist. His website can be found at http://bennorton.com/.

 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/11/turkey-is-supporting-isis/

 

Israel committed war crimes in Gaza, Amnesty International finds

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By Jean Shaoul
10 November 2014

Amnesty International (AI) has concluded that Israel used disproportionate military force during last summer’s 50-day Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

Israeli bombs killed entire Palestinian families in their homes without warning or military purpose, which would constitute war crimes.

A damning Amnesty report, Families Under Rubble, says, “Israeli forces killed scores of Palestinian civilians in attacks targeting houses full of people, which in some cases have amounted to war crimes.” It accuses Israel of “callous indifference” towards the lives of civilians, adding that the country’s military may be guilty of war crimes.

Amnesty has detailed eight instances in which people’s homes were attacked with large aerial bombs without warning, resulting in the deaths of at least 104 civilians, including 62 children. It gives numerous accounts of eyewitnesses who describe the horror of sifting through the rubble of their destroyed homes for loved ones. One survivor describes holding a bag full of the “shreds” of her son’s body.

Philip Luther, director of AI’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said, “Israeli forces have brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused.”

In some of the cases, Amnesty was unable to identify any obvious military target, in which case the attacks deliberately targeted civilians and would constitute war crimes. Israeli officials refused to provide justification for the attacks cited in the report or even acknowledge that they happened.

In other cases, Amnesty identified possible military targets that could have justified attacks but stressed that the mass loss of civilian lives accompanying the strikes clearly outweighed any advantages. Luther said, “The repeated, disproportionate attacks on homes indicate that Israel’s current military tactics are deeply flawed and fundamentally at odds with the principles of international humanitarian law.

“What is crucial now is that there is accountability for any violations of international humanitarian law that have been committed. The Israeli authorities must provide answers.”

Luther called for the UN Security Council to refer the issue to the International Criminal Court (ICC) so that the prosecutor could investigate allegations of crimes under international law by all parties. But both organisations are subject to US dictates and bullying. Washington has traditionally vetoed all resolutions in the Security Council hostile to Israel, while last Thursday the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she would not be taking action over Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed ten Turkish activists. She said that despite “reasonable basis” that war crimes had been committed, the ICC had to prioritise larger-scale events.

“I have concluded that the potential case(s) likely arising from an investigation into this incident would not be of ‘sufficient gravity’ to justify further action by the ICC,” she said.

Israel dismissed the report as “a propaganda tool for Hamas and other terror groups” and questioned its methodology. This was because Amnesty, along with other well-known international human rights organisations, had been denied access to Gaza since 2012, and had thus been forced to carry out the research for the report remotely, in conjunction with two fieldworkers based in Gaza.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Amnesty “ignores documented war crimes perpetrated by Hamas” and “The report does not mention the word terror in relation to Hamas or other armed Palestinian groups, nor mentions tunnels built by Hamas to infiltrate Israel and perpetrate terror attacks.”

This is a barefaced lie, as AI pointed out that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes by firing thousands of rockets indiscriminately into Israel, killing six civilians, including one child.

Israel announced that it would not co-operate with the Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council. While Israel claims to be carrying out investigations into 90 separate incidents, nothing will come of them.

Amnesty International was not alone in accusing Israel of war crimes. Human Rights Watch, the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem and UN officials also charged Israel with breaching international law.

Unable to provide any progressive response to the decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and confronting mounting social tensions among Israelis and Palestinians alike, the Israeli government launched a homicidal campaign against the defenceless Palestinians in Gaza.

According to UN figures, Operation Protective Edge killed 2,192 Palestinians, including 1,523 of whom 519 were children, injured tens of thousands more, and destroyed or damaged at least 18,000 homes, making up to 10 percent of the population homeless. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) attacked schools, including UN schools, hospitals, water plants, sewage treatment plants, ambulances and journalists. Their indiscriminate assassination attempts against leaders of the Islamist Hamas movement killed dozens of their family members. Israel in contrast lost six civilians, one migrant worker, and 64 soldiers.

Oxfam, the international aid agency, said that, “under current restrictions and rate of imports it could take more than 50 years to build the 89,000 new homes [those destroyed in previous wars have still not been rebuilt], 226 new schools, as well as the health facilities, factories and water and sanitation infrastructure that people in Gaza need.”

This savage war had the backing of the Obama administration and the European powers until angry international protests and demonstrations against Israel’s inhumanity threatened to set off a widespread anti-war movement that would cut across Washington’s plans for a wider war in Iraq and Syria. Israel was therefore forced by the imperialist powers to bring the war to a temporary end, agreeing to a deal that would see the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas police Gaza on Israel’s behalf.

While various Arab and Western governments pledged $5.4 billion at a donor conference hosted in Cairo last month, more than half will go to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its security forces, already the largest in the world relative to its population. A massive 26 percent of the PA’s budget, ahead of education (16 percent) and health (9 percent), goes on security, while nearly half of its workforce is employed in security.

The Palestine Liberation Organization told the Ma’an News Agency last Sunday that no date had been set for implementing reconstruction projects in Gaza.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking about the Amnesty report, told a New York meeting of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs that he thought the Israel Defence Force “did what they could” to avoid civilian casualties. “I actually do think that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties,” he declared. “In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticized for civilian casualties.”

Dempsey said that the Pentagon had three months ago sent a “lessons-learned team” of senior officers and non-commissioned officers to work with the IDF to see what could be learned from the Gaza operation.

For the European Union, it was business as usual. The EU’s new Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini went to Israel on Friday to see Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. While she criticised recent terrorist attacks and Israel’s settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, she said nothing about the Amnesty report.

In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, tensions are rising amid widespread fears of another intifada. Within Israel itself, angry riots broke out when a Palestinian youth was shot and killed in a town near Nazareth by security forces, whose fabricated justification was exposed by a video clip. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UNlXJ7QQGM#t=15].

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/11/10/isra-n10.html

The Staggeringly High Number of Muslim Countries the U.S. Has Bombed or Invaded Since 1980


Glenn Greenwald lambasts American hypocrisy when it comes to Islamic violence.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

 As the inevitable two-year campaign for the White House gears up, foreign policy is likely to be a hot topic, particularly within the Republican Party, where hawks like Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) may face off with more restraint-oriented lawmakers like Sen. Rand Paul (KY).

Journalist Glenn Greenwald points to a Washington Post op-ed by Andrew Bacevich laying out the case that our foreign relations with the Muslim world are fraught with too much violence – with Syria being the 14th country we’ve bombed or occupied since 1980:

As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extent into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.

Greenwald comments on the statistic by referencing the recent controversies of Sam Harris and Bill Maher attacking Islam as uniquely violent, “Those who sit around in the U.S. or the U.K. endlessly inveighing against the evils of Islam, depicting it as the root of violence and evil (the “ mother lode of bad ideas“), while spending very little time on their own societies’ addictions to violence and aggression, or their own religious and nationalistic drives, have reached the peak of self-blinding tribalism. They really are akin to having a neighbor down the street who constantly murders, steals and pillages, and then spends his spare time flamboyantly denouncing people who live thousands of miles away for their bad acts. Such a person would be regarded as pathologically self-deluded, a term that also describes those political and intellectual factions which replicate that behavior.”

Read Greenwald’s full article here.

 

Zaid Jilani is the investigative blogger and campaigner for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He is formerly the senior reporter-blogger for ThinkProgress.

http://www.alternet.org/world/staggeringly-high-number-muslim-countries-us-has-bombed-or-invaded-1980?akid=12451.265072.JKEBIf&rd=1&src=newsletter1026338&t=19

Noam Chomsky: America, the World’s Leading #1 Terrorist State

U.S. covert operations routinely resemble acts of terrorism.

“It’s official: The U.S. is the world’s leading terrorist state, and proud of it.”

That should have been the headline for the lead story in The New York Times on Oct. 15, which was more politely titled “CIA Study of Covert Aid Fueled Skepticism About Helping Syrian Rebels.”

The article reports on a CIA review of recent U.S. covert operations to determine their effectiveness. The White House concluded that unfortunately successes were so rare that some rethinking of the policy was in order.

The article quoted President Barack Obama as saying that he had asked the CIA to conduct the review to find cases of “financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.” So Obama has some reluctance about continuing such efforts.

The first paragraph of the Times article cites three major examples of “covert aid”: Angola, Nicaragua and Cuba. In fact, each case was a major terrorist operation conducted by the U.S.

Angola was invaded by South Africa, which, according to Washington, was defending itself from one of the world’s “more notorious terrorist groups” – Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. That was 1988.

By then the Reagan administration was virtually alone in its support for the apartheid regime, even violating congressional sanctions to increase trade with its South African ally.

Meanwhile Washington joined South Africa in providing crucial support for Jonas Savimbi’s terrorist Unita army in Angola. Washington continued to do so even after Savimbi had been roundly defeated in a carefully monitored free election, and South Africa had withdrawn its support. Savimbi was a “monster whose lust for power had brought appalling misery to his people,” in the words of Marrack Goulding, British ambassador to Angola.

The consequences were horrendous. A 1989 U.N. inquiry estimated that South African depredations led to 1.5 million deaths in neighboring countries, let alone what was happening within South Africa itself. Cuban forces finally beat back the South African aggressors and compelled them to withdraw from illegally occupied Namibia. The U.S. alone continued to support the monster Savimbi.

In Cuba, after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, President John F. Kennedy launched a murderous and destructive campaign to bring “the terrors of the earth” to Cuba – the words of Kennedy’s close associate, the historian Arthur Schlesinger, in his semiofficial biography of Robert Kennedy, who was assigned responsibility for the terrorist war.

The atrocities against Cuba were severe. The plans were for the terrorism to culminate in an uprising in October 1962, which would lead to a U.S. invasion. By now, scholarship recognizes that this was one reason why Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev placed missiles in Cuba, initiating a crisis that came perilously close to nuclear war. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later conceded that if he had been a Cuban leader, he “might have expected a U.S. invasion.”

American terrorist attacks against Cuba continued for more than 30 years. The cost to Cubans was of course harsh. The accounts of the victims, hardly ever heard in the U.S., were reported in detail for the first time in a study by Canadian scholar Keith Bolender, “Voices From the Other Side: an Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba,” in 2010.

The toll of the long terrorist war was amplified by a crushing embargo, which continues even today in defiance of the world. On Oct. 28, the U.N., for the 23rd time, endorsed “the necessity of ending the economic, commercial, financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba.” The vote was 188 to 2 (U.S., Israel), with three U.S. Pacific Island dependencies abstaining.

There is by now some opposition to the embargo in high places in the U.S., reports ABC News, because “it is no longer useful” (citing Hillary Clinton’s new book “Hard Choices”). French scholar Salim Lamrani reviews the bitter costs to Cubans in his 2013 book “The Economic War Against Cuba.”

Nicaragua need hardly be mentioned. President Ronald Reagan’s terrorist war was condemned by the World Court, which ordered the U.S. to terminate its “unlawful use of force” and to pay substantial reparations.

Washington responded by escalating the war and vetoing a 1986 U.N. Security Council resolution calling on all states – meaning the U.S. – to observe international law.

Another example of terrorism will be commemorated on Nov. 16, the 25th anniversary of the assassination of six Jesuit priests in San Salvador by a terrorist unit of the Salvadoran army, armed and trained by the U.S. On the orders of the military high command, the soldiers broke into the Jesuit university to murder the priests and any witnesses – including their housekeeper and her daughter.

This event culminated the U.S. terrorist wars in Central America in the 1980s, though the effects are still on the front pages today in the reports of “illegal immigrants,” fleeing in no small measure from the consequences of that carnage, and being deported from the U.S. to survive, if they can, in the ruins of their home countries.

Washington has also emerged as the world champion in generating terror. Former CIA analyst Paul Pillar warns of the “resentment-generating impact of the U.S. strikes” in Syria, which may further induce the jihadi organizations Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State toward “repairing their breach from last year and campaigning in tandem against the U.S. intervention by portraying it as a war against Islam.”

That is by now a familiar consequence of U.S. operations that have helped to spread jihadism from a corner of Afghanistan to a large part of the world.

Jihadism’s most fearsome current manifestation is the Islamic State, or ISIS, which has established its murderous caliphate in large areas of Iraq and Syria.

“I think the United States is one of the key creators of this organization,” reports former CIA analyst Graham Fuller, a prominent commentator on the region. “The United States did not plan the formation of ISIS,” he adds, “but its destructive interventions in the Middle East and the War in Iraq were the basic causes of the birth of ISIS.”

To this we may add the world’s greatest terrorist campaign: Obama’s global project of assassination of “terrorists.” The “resentment-generating impact” of those drone and special-forces strikes should be too well known to require further comment.

This is a record to be contemplated with some awe.

Washington-backed “rebels” surrender US arms to Al Qaeda in Syria

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By Bill Van Auken
4 November 2014

Washington’s strategy in its three-month-old war in Iraq and Syria appeared to suffer another humiliating blow over the weekend as one of the last remaining strongholds of US-backed “moderate rebels” in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib fell to the Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda.

The collapse of the US-backed force in Syria came amid reported plans for a major retraining of the Iraqi army in preparation for a US-orchestrated offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq sometime next year.

Both developments underscore the unreliability of the proxy forces the Obama administration has indicated are to serve as the “boots on the ground” in the two countries and point to the inevitable expansion of the number and role of US troops deployed to prosecute the new Middle East war.

Washington Post correspondent Liz Sly, who has been one of the most enthusiastic media propagandists for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the so-called “moderate rebels,” questioned whether the FSA would “manage to survive the trouncing inflicted in recent days” by the Nusra Front. She described the events in Idlib as “throwing the rebels into disarray and upending the Obama administration’s hopes for a moderate alternative to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

The “trouncing” was accomplished without a shot being fired. Two US-backed groups, the Syrian Revolutionary Front and Harakat Hazm (Steadfastness Movement), surrendered without opposing the Al Qaeda-linked militia. It was reported that a large number of their members went over to the Nusra Front, while others fled.

The clashes between the various “rebel” groups have been developing and growing in intensity for over a year, pitting the Nusra Front and ISIS (which Al Qaeda disavowed earlier this year) against other US-backed groups as well as against each other. While these conflicts have been attributed in some instances to Islamist ideological differences, they have often arisen over control of oil and gas fields, border crossings and other sources of wealth.

One of the reasons for the latest clashes appears to be the US air strikes against Nusra Front positions in Syria, carried out under the pretext of disrupting a previously unheard of “Khorasan group,” which was supposedly plotting attacks against the West. The reaction of the Nusra Front, which had previously fought together with the Western-backed militias against ISIS, has been an offensive against US-backed groups, which it sees as a threat. The US attacks also have led to a mending of fences between the Nusra Front and ISIS, which have recently fought together in joint operations.

In the latest developments, significant stocks of arms supplied by the US, including heavy weapons such as TOW anti-tank missiles and Grad rockets, have been turned over by the so-called moderates to the Nusra Front, which is classified by Washington as a foreign terrorist organization.

“For the United States, the weapons they supplied falling into the hands of Al Qaeda is a realization of a nightmare,” the British daily Telegraph commented.

Following the overrunning of the northern Idlib province villages previously held by the Syrian Revolutionary Front and Harakat Hazm, Nusra Front fighters have reportedly begun massing near a strategic Syrian town on the Turkish border, Bab al-Hawa, which has served as a key pipeline for arms and supplies funneled by Washington and its allies to the “rebels.” It is also a major smuggling route, providing whoever controls it with a reliable source of revenue.

Despite support from the US, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf State monarchies, the so-called “moderate rebels” never developed into a serious force, with the Western-backed war for regime-change in Syria remaining dominated by extreme Islamist groups such as ISIS and the Nusra Front. Nonetheless, Washington had hoped to draw on these “moderate” militias to carry out its stated plan to train 5,000 fighters a year as a new force to be turned against both ISIS and the Assad government. That plan now lies in ruins.

An article by independent journalist Theo Padnos in the Sunday magazine section of the New York Times on his abduction and two-year imprisonment by the Nusra Front in Syria is instructive in terms of the reliability and allegiance of supposedly “vetted” forces.

In the article, entitled “My Captivity,” Padnos recounts how not once, but twice, he managed to escape from his Nusra Front captors and seek aid from the so-called moderates of the Free Syrian Army, only to be quickly handed back to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group.

He also writes that FSA soldiers, who were fighting alongside the Nusra Front group that was holding him about 20 miles east of Damascus, told him that they had recently returned from training at a US base in Jordan, ostensibly for the purpose of combating groups such as the Nusra Front and ISIS.

Asked by Padnos about fighting the Nusra Front, one of the FSA fighters replied, “Oh that, we lied to the Americans about that.”

In Iraq, meanwhile, the New York Times reported Monday that US and Iraqi officials have agreed to prepare a “major spring offensive” against ISIS, which the newspaper notes “is likely to face an array of logistical and political challenges.”

At the center of these plans is the US training of three new Iraqi divisions, some 20,000 troops, to replace units that disintegrated in the face of the ISIS offensive last summer, with commanders deserting and troops throwing down their weapons, tearing off their uniforms and fleeing for their lives. The Pentagon had spent $25 billion over the course of eight years to train those forces.

To prepare for the planned offensive, the Pentagon, according to the Times, has set up a new task force under Lt. Gen. James Terry, the top Army commander for CENTCOM, which oversees all US forces in the Middle East. The newspaper reports that as these preparations are implemented “the American footprint is likely to expand from Baghdad and Ebril to additional outposts,” including in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province, which has been largely overrun by ISIS.

Citing senior US officials, the Times reported that “Army planners have drafted options that could deploy up to an additional brigade of troops, or about 3,500 personnel, to expand the advisory effort and speed the push to rebuild the Iraqi military.”

No matter how many US “advisers” Washington deploys to the country, however, the contradictions underlying the US intervention—not least the bitter sectarian divisions provoked by a decade of US war and occupation—are overwhelming. The Iraqi army that Washington claims will do the fighting in predominantly Sunni areas such as Anbar is some 90 percent Shia and is seen by the population in these areas as an occupying force. Moreover, in recent fighting, the army has leaned heavily on Shia militias that have openly engaged in ethnic cleansing operations against Sunni populations.

Until now, Washington has tried to paper over these contradictions while waging a sporadic campaign of air strikes that has had little effect on ISIS’ control over a broad swath of Iraq and Syria. The real war is still to come and will be launched in earnest once today’s midterm elections are over. Given the sorry state of Washington’s chosen proxy forces in both Iraq and Syria and the real aims that it is pursuing—US imperialist hegemony over the entire Middle East—sooner rather than later this new war will involve large numbers of US ground troops in another killing spree.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/11/04/isis-n04.html

Aldous Huxley on Drugs, Democracy, and Religion

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“Generalized intelligence and mental alertness are the most powerful enemies of dictatorship and at the same time the basic conditions of effective democracy.”

In 1958, five years after his transcendent experience induced by taking four-tenths of a gram of mescalin, Aldous Huxley — legendary author of Brave New World, lesser-known but no less compelling writer of children’s books, modern prophet — penned an essay titled “Drugs That Shape Men’s Minds.” It was originally published in the Saturday Evening Post and eventually included in Moksha: Aldous Huxley’s Classic Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary Experience (public library) — a selection of Huxley’s fiction, essays, and letters titled after the Sanskrit word for “liberation.” In the essay, Huxley considers the gifts and limitations of our wakeful consciousness, our universal quest for transcendence, and the interplay of drugs and democracy.

Huxley begins by considering why religion is nothing more nor less than an attempt to codify through symbolism our longing for what Jack Kerouac called “the golden eternity” and what Alan Lightman described in his encounter with the ospreys — a sense of intimate connection with the universe, with something larger than ourselves:

Every fully developed religion exists simultaneously on several different levels. It exists as a set of abstract concepts about the world and its governance. It exists as a set of rites and sacraments, as a traditional method for manipulating the symbols, by means of which beliefs about the cosmic order are expressed. It exists as the feelings of love, fear and devotion evoked by this manipulation of symbols.

And finally it exists as a special kind of feeling or intuition — a sense of the oneness of all things in their divine principle, a realization (to use the language of Hindu theology) that “thou art That,” a mystical experience of what seems self-evidently to be union with God.

The ordinary waking consciousness is a very useful and, on most occasions, an indispensable state of mind; but it is by no means the only form of consciousness, nor in all circumstances the best. Insofar as he transcends his ordinary self and his ordinary mode of awareness, the mystic is able to enlarge his vision, to look more deeply into the unfathomable miracle of existence.

The mystical experience is doubly valuable; it is valuable because it gives the experiencer a better understanding of himself and the world and because it may help him to lead a less self-centered and more creative life.

He echoes Mark Twain’s lament about religion and human egotism, Huxley examines the self-consciousness at the heart of worship:

We love ourselves to the point of idolatry; but we also intensely dislike ourselves — we find ourselves unutterably boring. Correlated with this distaste for the idolatrously worshipped self, there is in all of us a desire, sometimes latent, sometimes conscious and passionately expressed, to escape from the prison of our individuality, an urge to self-transcendence. It is to this urge that we owe mystical theology, spiritual exercises and yoga — to this, too, that we owe alcoholism and drug addiction.

Huxley then turns to how drugs have attempted to address this human urge and the interplay of those attempts with religion:

Modern pharmacology has given us a host of new synthetics, but in the field of the naturally occurring mind changers it has made no radical discoveries. All the botanical sedatives, stimulants, vision revealers, happiness promoters and cosmic-consciousness arousers were found out thousands of years ago, before the dawn of history.

In many societies at many levels of civilization attempts have been made to fuse drug intoxication with God-intoxication. In ancient Greece, for example, ethyl alcohol had its place in the established religion. Dionysus, or Bacchus, as he was often called, was a true divinity. His worshipers addressed him as Lusios, “Liberator,” or as Theoinos, “Godwinc.” The latter name telescopes fermented grape juice and the supernatural into a single pentecostal experience. . . . Unfortunately they also receive harm. The blissful experience of self -transcendence which alcohol makes possible has to be paid for, and the price is exorbitantly high.

Huxley argues that while the intuitive solution seems to be to enforce complete prohibition of mind-altering substances, this tends to backfire and “create more evils than it cures,” while also admonishing to the diametric opposite of this black-and-white approach, the “complete toleration and unrestricted availability” of drugs. Peering into the future of biochemistry and pharmacology, he foresees the development of “powerful but nearly harmless drugs,” but also notes that even if these were invented, they’d raise important questions about use and abuse, about whether their availability would make human beings ultimately happier or more miserable. He finds reason for concern in medicine’s history of overprescription of new drugs and writes:

The history of medical fashions, it may be remarked, is at least as grotesque as the history of fashions in women’s hats — at least as grotesque and, since human lives are at stake, considerably more tragic. In the present case, millions of patients who had no real need of the tranquilizers have been given the pills by their doctors and have learned to resort to them in every predicament, however triflingly uncomfortable. This is very bad medicine and, from the pill taker’s point of
view, dubious morality and poor sense.

He then turns to how these psychopharmacological tendencies might be exploited in a political context:

The dictatorships of tomorrow will deprive men of their freedom, but will give them in exchange a happiness none the less real, as a subjective experience, for being chemically induced. The pursuit of happiness is one of the traditional rights of man; unfortunately, the achievement of happiness may turn out to be incompatible with another of man’s rights — namely, liberty.

Wondering whether it would even be possible to “produce superior individuals by biochemical means,” Huxley points to an experiment Soviet researchers embarked upon in 1956, a five-year plan to develop “pharmacological substances that normalize higher nervous activity and heighten human capacity for work” — in other words, psychic energizers. Rather ironically given the context of subsequent geopolitical history of despots, from Putin to Yanukovych, Huxley considers the fruits of these experiments an assurance against despotism:

Let us all fervently wish the Russians every success in their current pharmacological venture. The discovery of a drug capable of increasing the average individual’s psychic energy, and its wide distribution throughout the U.S.S.R., would probably mean the end of Russia’s present form of government. Generalized intelligence and mental alertness are the most powerful enemies of dictatorship and at the same time the basic conditions of effective democracy. Even in the democratic West we could do with a bit of psychic energizing. Between them, education and pharmacology may do something to offset the effects of that deterioration of our biological material to which geneticists have frequently called attention.

Huxley ties this back to religion and the parallel artificiality of the transcendent experience:

Those who are offended by the idea that the swallowing of a pill may contribute to a genuinely religious experience should remember that all the standard mortifications — fasting, voluntary sleeplessness and self-torture — inflicted upon themselves by the ascetics of every religion for the purpose of acquiring merit, are also, like the mind-changing drugs, powerful devices for altering the chemistry of the body in general and the nervous system in particular. Or consider the procedures generally known as spiritual exercises. The breathing techniques taught by the yogi of India result in prolonged suspensions of respiration. These in turn result in an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood; and the psychological consequence of this is a change in the quality of consciousness. Again, meditations involving long, intense concentration upon a single idea or image may also result — for neurological reasons which I do not profess to understand — in a slowing down of respiration and even in prolonged suspensions of breathing.

(Coincidentally, scientists have just begun to shed light on why meditators hallucinate — Huxley was, once more, ahead of his time.)

He concludes by reminding us of the deeper spiritual and psychoemotional roots of both drug-induced and religious experiences:

That men and women can, by physical and chemical means, transcend themselves in a genuinely spiritual way is something which, to the squeamish idealist, seems rather shocking. But, after all, the drug or the physical exercise is not the cause of the spiritual experience; it is only its occasion.

He once again peers into the future:

For most people, religion has always been a matter of traditional symbols and of their own emotional, intellectual and ethical response to those symbols. To men and women who have had direct experience of self-transcendence into the mind’s Other World of vision and union with the nature of things, a religion of mere symbols is not likely to be very satisfying. The perusal of a page from even the most beautifully written cookbook is no substitute for the eating of dinner. We are exhorted to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

[…]

My own belief is that, though they may start by being something of an embarrassment, these new mind changers will tend in the long run to deepen the spiritual life of the communities in which they are available. . . . From being an activity mainly concerned with symbols, religion will be transformed into an activity concerned mainly with experience and intuition — an everyday mysticism underlying and giving significance to everyday rationality, everyday tasks and duties, everyday human relationships.

Whether one considers Huxley a madman or a prophet-genius, Moksha is a fascinating read and an unusual, dimensional lens on the human longing for transcendence. For a wholly different side of Huxley, see his only children’s book.

 

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