Families of journalists murdered by ISIS threatened with prosecution

By Niles Williamson
15 September 2014

New details have emerged of threats of prosecution made against the families of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were brutally beheaded on video by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The gruesome murders of Foley and Sotloff have been seized upon as highly opportune events by the Obama administration, quite consciously and rapidly exploiting their deaths to justify expanding its war in the Middle East and operations targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Under the pretense of fighting ISIS—which has benefited from funding and arms coming from the CIA and its allies in the region—the US Congress will vote on a bill this week that would approve $500 million for training and arming Syrian opposition forces.

Diane Foley, speaking in an interview last week, said that a member of the Obama administration’s National Security Council staff threatened the family with criminal prosecution for “material support” of terrorism on multiple occasions if they paid the ransom that was being demanded by ISIS for Foley’s release.

According to Philip Balboni, the chief executive of Foley’s employer GlobalPost, ISIS had demanded a ransom of approximately $132 million prior to his murder.

“We were told very clearly three times that it was illegal for us to try to ransom our son out and that we had the possibility of being prosecuted,” Foley’s mother told ABC News.

“I was surprised there was so little compassion. It just made me realize that these people talking to us had no idea what it was like to be the family of someone abducted… I’m sure [the U.S. official] didn’t mean it the way he said it, but we were between a rock and a hard place. We were told we could do nothing; meanwhile our son was being beaten and tortured every day,” she said.

“It was very upsetting because we were essentially told to trust that the way they were handling things would bring our son home.”

The Foley family was kept largely in the dark about what the American government was doing to rescue their son as he was being held captive by ISIS in Syria. US Special Forces allegedly made an attempt in early July to free Foley and other hostages being held by ISIS, but the military has said that the hostages were moved from the location where it was suspected they were being held captive.

Foley’s brother, Michael, told ABC News that he had been threatened by a State Department official with prosecution as well. The threats “slowed my parents down quite a bit,” he said. “They didn’t want to do anything that could get them in trouble. It slowed them down for months in raising money. Who knows what might have happened?”

Barak Barfi, a spokesman for the family of Steven Sotloff, told Yahoo News that the Sotloffs were told by a White House counterterrorism official in a meeting last May that they could face prosecution if they paid their son’s ransom. “The family felt completely and utterly helpless when they heard this,” Barfi said. “The Sotloffs felt there was nothing they could do to get Steve out.”

The Foley and Sotloff families’ decisions to come forward about the threats from the US government drew denials from multiple individuals within the Obama administration.

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough responded to the family’s claims by denying that anyone in the administration ever threatened Foley’s family. “We didn’t threaten anybody, but we made clear what the law is,” he said. “That’s our responsibility, to make sure we explain the law and uphold the law.”

Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson for the National Security Council, denied that the families were threatened but reiterated that “the US does not grant concessions to hostage takers. Doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive. That is what we convey publicly and what we convey privately.”

Other revelations by the family of Steven Sotloff about the circumstances that led to his death raise questions about the relationship of ISIS to elements that make up the so-called moderate rebels being funded and armed by the United States and its allies.

Last week the Sotloff family’s spokesman revealed that Steven had been sold to ISIS by a supposedly moderate rebel group at the Syrian border. “We believe these so-called moderate rebels that people want our administration to support—one of them sold him probably for something between 25,000 and 50,000 dollars and that was the reason he was captured,” Barfi said.

On Sunday the AFP news service reported that a ceasefire had been reached between moderate rebels and ISIS forces in Hajar al-Aswad, a suburb south of Damascus. An official from the US-backed Syrian National Coalition admitted that a temporary ceasefire had been reached between the supposedly moderate Free Syrian Army forces and ISIS in that area, but denied that a lasting deal had been reached.

Obama administration asserts unlimited powers for new war


 …in Iraq, Syria

By Joseph Kishore
13 September 2014

The Obama administration is moving rapidly to extend the US bombing campaign into Syria, while expanding the training and arming of US-backed “rebels” seeking to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad.

The escalation of military operations follows Obama’s speech on Wednesday, in which he used the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as a pretext for launching a new war throughout the oil-rich Middle East.

On Friday, White House and Pentagon officials declared that the US was at “war” with ISIS, a rhetorical change from statements a day earlier that what was planned was not a war but an extended “counter-terrorism” operation. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Friday, “In the same way that we are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, we are at war with ISIL.”

The shift in language underscored the far-reaching scale of the war plans being developed behind the backs of the American people by White House and Pentagon officials. Earnest said that surveillance missions over Syria that began last month had already mapped out targets for American bombs. “These targets have been exposed because of the president’s early decision to ramp up our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets that were operating in the region,” he said.

There are also discussions about the introduction of ground troops, including Special Operations forces to coordinate a bombing campaign in Syria. While Obama on Wednesday claimed the military action would not involve additional combat troops, Secretary of State John Kerry made clear that this pledge would be quickly scrapped if there are “very, very dramatic changes.” Already, some 1,500 US troops are in Iraq, in addition to private contractors.

Political leaders of both parties have declared their support for a resolution, to be passed separately or as part of a larger spending bill, to provide $500 million for the arming of Syrian “rebels.” The training of these forces is to be coordinated by Saudi Arabia, which has been heavily involved in CIA operations over the past several years to fund Islamist forces in Syria, including ISIS, waging war against Assad.

“We ought to give the president what he’s asking for,” said House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, on Thursday, adding that many in Congress felt that “a lot more needs to be done.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, announced that the funding proposal would likely pass within a week.

While the Obama administration is seeking funding authorization for arming Syrian rebels, it is insisting that it does not need any additional authorization for the war itself, including the extension of bombings in Iraq, Syria and beyond. In doing so, it is asserting its claim that the president has unlimited powers to declare and wage war, in direct violation of the US Constitution and the War Powers Act of 1973.

The War Powers Act, passed toward the end of the Vietnam War, requires that the president obtain congressional authorization within 60 days of “hostilities.” It stipulates that if this authorization is not obtained, US forces must be withdrawn within 30 days.

In a transparently pseudo-legal argument, the White House is claiming that this authorization is not needed because the war ostensibly targeting ISIS falls within the framework of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed thirteen years ago in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. White House spokesman Earnest said Thursday that the president believes the AUMF “continues to apply to this terrorist organization that is operating in Iraq and Syria.”

The AUMF, which has been cited to justify endless war and assaults on democratic rights under both Bush and Obama, refers only to “nations, organizations, or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the September 11 attacks. This clearly does not apply to ISIS, which was formed long after these attacks were carried out.

In any case, the Obama administration has previously asserted that the AUMF is not necessary for launching war in any part of the world. In May, Defense Department General Counsel Stephen Preston argued that the AUMF did not give the president any war-making powers that he did not already have from the Constitution, a declaration of unlimited executive power.

In an opinion piece published in the New York Times on Friday, Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman wrote that the moves by the Obama administration in relation to Iraq and Syria “mark a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition. Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris.”

Ackerman noted that the invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) were preceded by votes in Congress. “In contrast,” he wrote, “the Obama administration has not even published a legal opinion attempting to justify the president’s assertion of unilateral war-making authority. This is because no serious opinion can be written.”

When it led the campaign to overthrow Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the White House claimed that it did not need authorization from Congress because the operation did not rise to the level of “hostilities” as described in the War Powers Act. Even this specious argument has been dispensed with in relation to the present escalation.

The launching of a new war in the Middle East in flagrant violation of the Constitution underscores the connection between permanent war abroad and the destruction of democratic rights within the United States. Foreign policy is worked out behind the scenes by a cabal of intelligence agents and political and military officials, along with their associated think tanks, and sold to the population on the basis of lies.

America’s deadliest export and the endless war on terror

by William Blum on September 11, 2014

Post image for America’s deadliest export and the endless war on terrorPraise for America’s Deadliest Export: “Blum concentrates on matters of great current significance, and does not pull his punches” — Noam Chomsky.

This is an extract from America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy — The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else by William Blum (Zed Books, 2014). Zed Books have just reissued Blum’s three classic books, America’s Deadliest Export, Rogue State and Killing Hope in new updated editions.

A safer world for Americans… if they don’t leave home

Supporters of US foreign policy have been repeating the point ever since the attacks of September 11, 2001: US counterterrorism policy has worked. How do they know? Because there haven’t been any successful terrorist attacks in the United States in all the years since that infamous day.

True, but there weren’t any terrorist attacks in the United States in the six years before September 11, 2001 either, the last one being the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995. The absence of terrorist attacks in the US appears to be the norm, with or without a War on Terror.

More significantly, in the years since 9/11 the United States has been the target of terrorist attacks on scores of occasions, not even counting those in Iraq or Afghanistan — attacks on military, diplomatic, civilian, Christian, and other targets as­sociated with the United States; in the Middle East, South Asia, and the Pacific; more than a dozen times in Pakistan alone. The attacks include the October 2002 bombings of two nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, which killed more than 200 people, almost all of them Americans and citizens of their Australian and British war allies; the following year brought the heavy bombing of the US-managed Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, the site of diplomatic receptions and 4th of July celebrations held by the American embassy; and other horrendous attacks in later years on US allies in Madrid and London because of the war.

Land of the Free, Home of the War on Terror

David Hicks is a 31-year-old Australian who in a plea-bargain with a US military court served nine months in prison, largely in Australia. That was after five years at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, without being charged with a crime, without a trial, without a conviction. Under the deal, Hicks agreed not to talk to reporters for one year (a terrible slap in the face of free speech), to forever waive any profit from telling his story (a slap – mon Dieu! – in the face of free enterprise), to submit to US interrogation and testify at future US trials or international tribunals (an open invitation to the US government to hound the young man for the rest of his life), to renounce any claims of mistreatment or unlawful deten­tion (a requirement which would be unconstitutional in a civilian US court). ‘If the United States were not ashamed of its conduct, it wouldn’t hide behind a gag order,’ said Hicks’s attorney Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Like so many other ‘terrorists’ held by the United States in recent years, Hicks had been ‘sold’ to the American military for a bounty offered by the US, a phenomenon repeated frequently in Afghanistan and Pakistan. US officials had to know that, once they offered payments to a very poor area to turn in bodies, almost anyone was fair game.

Other ‘terrorists’ have been turned in as reprisals for all sorts of personal hatreds and feuds. Many others — abroad and in the United States — have been incarcerated by the United States simply for working for, or merely contributing money to, charitable organizations with alleged or real ties to a ‘terrorist organization,’ as determined by a list kept by the State Depart­ment, a list conspicuously political.

It was recently disclosed that an Iraqi resident of Britain is being released from Guantánamo after four years. His crime? He refused to work as an informer for the CIA and MI5, the British security service. His business partner is still being held in Guantánamo, for the same crime.

Finally, there are those many other poor souls who have been picked up simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. ‘Most of these guys weren’t fighting. They were running,’ General Martin Lucenti, former deputy commander of Guantánamo, has pointed out.

Thousands of people have been thrown into hell on earth for no earthly reason. The world media have been overflowing with their individual tales of horror and sadness for years. Guantá­namo’s former commander, General Jay Hood, said: ‘Sometimes we just didn’t get the right folks.’ Not that the torture they were put through would be justified if they were in fact ‘the right folks.’

Hicks was taken into custody in Afghanistan in 2001. He was a convert to Islam and like others from many countries had gone to Afghanistan for religious reasons, had wound up on the side of the Taliban in the civil war that had been going on since the early 1990s, and had received military training at a Taliban camp. The United States has insisted on calling such camps ‘terrorist training camps,’ or ‘anti-American terrorist training camps,’ or ‘al-Qaeda terrorist training camps.’ Almost every individual or group not in love with US foreign policy that Washington wants to stigmatize is charged with being associated with, or being a member of, al-Qaeda, as if there’s a precise and meaningful distinction between people retaliating against the atrocities of American imperialism while being a member of al-Qaeda and retaliating against the atrocities of American imperialism while not being a member of al-Qaeda; as if al-Qaeda gives out membership cards to fit into your wallet, and there are chapters of al-Qaeda that put out a weekly newsletter and hold a potluck on the first Monday of each month.

It should be noted that for nearly half a century much of southern Florida has been one big training camp for anti-Castro terrorists. None of their groups — which have carried out many hundreds of serious terrorist acts in the US as well as abroad, including bombing a passenger airplane in flight — is on the State Department list. Nor were the Contras of Nicaragua in the 1980s, heavily supported by the United States, about whom former CIA director Stansfield Turner testified: ‘I believe it is irrefutable that a number of the Contras’ actions have to be characterized as terrorism, as State-supported terrorism.’

The same applies to groups in Kosovo and Bosnia, with close ties to al-Qaeda, includ­ing Osama bin Laden, in the recent past, but which have allied themselves with Washington’s agenda in the former Yugoslavia since the 1990s. Now we learn of US support for a Pakistani group called Jundullah and led by a Taliban, which has taken responsibility for the kidnappings and deaths and of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials in cross-border attacks. Do not hold your breath waiting for the name Jundullah to appear on the State Department list of terrorist organizations; nor any of the several other ethnic militias being supported by the CIA to carry out terrorist bombing and assassination attacks in Iran.

The same political selectivity applies to many of the groups which are on the list, particularly those opposed to American or Israeli policies.

Amid growing pressure from their home countries and inter­national human rights advocates, scores of Guantánamo detainees have been quietly repatriated in recent years. Now a new analysis by lawyers who have represented detainees at this 21st century Devil’s Island says this policy undermines Washington’s own claims about the threat posed by many of the prison camp’s residents. The report, based on US government case files for Saudi detainees sent home over the past three years, shows inmates being systematically freed from custody within weeks of their return.

In half the cases studied, the detainees had been turned over to US forces by Pakistani police or troops in return for financial rewards. Many others were accused of terror­ism connections in part because their Arab nicknames matched those found in a computer database of al-Qaeda members, docu­ments show. In December, a survey by the Associated Press found that 84 percent of released detainees — 205 out of 245 individuals whose cases could be tracked — were set free after being released to the custody of their native countries.

‘There are certainly bad people in Guantánamo Bay, but there are also other cases where it’s hard to understand why the people are still there,’ said Anant Raut, co-author of the report, who has visited the detention camp three times. ‘We were struggling to find some rationality, something to comfort us that it wasn’t just random. But we didn’t find it.’

The report states that many of the US attempts to link the detainees to terrorist groups were based on evidence the authors describe as circumstantial and ‘highly questionable,’ such as the travel routes the detainees had followed in flying commercially from one Middle Eastern country to another. American officials have associated certain travel routes with al-Qaeda, when in fact, says the report, the routes ‘involve ordinary connecting flights in major international airports.’ With regard to accusations based on similar names, the report states: ‘This accusation appears to be based upon little more than similarities in the transliterations of a detainee’s name and a name found on one of the hard drives.’

Raut said he was most struck by the high percentage of Saudi detainees who had been captured and turned over by Pakistani forces. In effect, he said, for at least half the individuals in his report the United States ‘had no first-hand knowledge of their activities’ in Afghanistan before their capture and imprisonment.

When Michael Scheuer, the former CIA officer who headed the Agency’s Osama bin Laden unit, was told that the largest group in Guantánamo came from custody in Pakistan, he declared: ‘We absolutely got the wrong people.’ Never mind. They were all treated equally: all thrown into solitary confinement; shackled blindfolded, forced to undergo excruciating physical contortions for long periods, denied medicine; sensory deprivation and sleep deprivation were used, along with two dozen other methods of torture which American officials do not call torture. (If you tortured these officials, they might admit that it’s ‘torture lite.’)

‘The idea is to build an anti-terrorist global environment,’ a senior American defense official said in 2003, ‘so that in 20 to 30 years, terrorism will be like slave-trading, completely discredited.’

When will the dropping of bombs on innocent civilians by the United States, and invading and occupying their country, without their country attacking or threatening the US, become completely discredited? When will the use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs and CIA torture renditions become things that even men like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld will be too embarrassed to defend?

Australian/British journalist John Pilger has noted that in George Orwell’s 1984 ‘three slogans dominate society: war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. Today’s slogan, war on terrorism, also reverses meaning. The war is terrorism.’

Saved again, thank the Lord, saved again (August 18, 2006)

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear — kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor – with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.

– General Douglas MacArthur, 1957

So now we’ve (choke) just been (gasp) saved from the simultane­ous blowing up of as many as ten airplanes headed toward the United States from the UK. Wow, thank you Brits, thank you Homeland Security. And thanks for preventing the destruction of the Sears Tower in Chicago, saving lower Manhattan from a terrorist-unleashed flood, smashing the frightful Canadian ‘terror plot’ with seventeen arrested, ditto the three Toledo terrorists, and squashing the Los Angeles al-Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airliner into a skyscraper.

The Los Angeles plot of 2002 was proudly announced by George W. in 2006. It has since been totally discredited. Declared one senior counterterrorism official: ‘There was no definitive plot. It never materialized or got past the thought stage.’

And the scare about ricin in the UK, which our own Mr Cheney used as part of the build-up for the invasion of Iraq, telling an audience on January 10, 2003: ‘The gravity of the threat we face was underscored in recent days when British police arrested … suspected terrorists in London and discovered a small quantity of ricin, one of the world’s deadliest poisons.’ It turned out there was not only no plot, there was no ricin. The Brits discovered almost immediately that the substance wasn’t ricin but kept that secret for more than two years.

From what is typical in terrorist scares, it is likely that the individuals arrested in the UK on August 10, 2006 were guilty of what George Orwell, in 1984, called ‘thoughtcrimes.’ That is to say, they haven’t actually done anything. At most, they’ve thought about doing something the government would label ‘terrorism.’ Perhaps not even very serious thoughts, perhaps just venting their anger at the exceptionally violent role played by the UK and the US in the Middle East and thinking out loud how nice it would be to throw some of that violence back in the face of Blair and Bush. And then, the fatal moment for them that ruins their lives forever: their angry words are heard by the wrong person, who reports them to the authorities. (In the Manhattan flood case the formidable, dangerous ‘terrorists’ made mention on an Internet chat room about blowing something up.)

Soon a government agent provocateur appears, infiltrates the group, and then actually encourages the individuals to think and talk further about terrorist acts, to develop real plans instead of youthful fantasizing, and even provides the individuals with some of the means for carrying out these terrorist acts, like explosive material and technical know-how, money and trans­portation, whatever is needed to advance the plot. It’s known as ‘entrapment,’ and it’s supposed to be illegal, it’s supposed to be a powerful defense for the accused, but the authorities get away with it all the time; and the accused get put away for a very long time.

And because of the role played by the agent provocateur, we may never know whether any of the accused, on their own, would have gone much further, if at all, like actually making a bomb, or, in the present case, even making transatlantic flight reservations, since many of the accused reportedly did not even have passports. Government infiltrating and monitoring is one thing; encouragement, pushing the plot forward, and scaring the public to make political capital from it are quite something else.

Prosecutors have said that the seven men in Miami charged with conspiring to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and FBI buildings in other cities had sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda. This came after meeting with a confidential government informant who was posing as a representative of the terrorist group. Did they swear or hold such allegiance, one must wonder, before meeting with the informant? ‘In essence,’ reported the Independent, ‘the entire case rests upon conversations between Narseal Batiste, the apparent ringleader of the group, with the informant, who was posing as a member of al-Qaeda but in fact belonged to the [FBI] South Florida Terrorist Task Force.’

Batiste told the informant that ‘he was organizing a mission to build an “Islamic army” in order to wage jihad.’ He provided a list of things he needed: boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, vehicles, binoculars, bullet-proof vests, firearms, and $50,000 in cash. Oddly enough, one thing that was not asked for was any kind of explosive material. After sweeps of various locations in Miami, government agents found no explosives or weapons. ‘This group was more aspirational than operational,’ said the FBI’s deputy director, while one FBI agent described them as ‘social misfits.’ And, added the New York Times, investigators openly acknowledged that the suspects ‘had only the most preliminary discussions about an attack.’ Yet Cheney later hailed the arrests at a political fundraiser, calling the group a ‘very real threat.’

It was perhaps as great a threat as the suspects in the plot to unleash a catastrophic flood in lower Manhattan by destroying a huge underground wall that holds back the Hudson River. That was the story first released by the authorities; after a while it was replaced by the claim that the suspects were actually plot­ting something aimed at the subway tunnels that run under the river.16 Which is more reliable, one must wonder, information on Internet chat rooms or WMD tips provided by CIA Iraqi informers? Or information obtained, as in the current case in the UK, from Pakistani interrogators of the suspects, none of the interrogators being known to be ardent supporters of Amnesty International.

And the three men arrested in Toledo, Ohio, in February 2006 were accused of — are you ready? — plotting to recruit and train terrorists to attack US and allied troops overseas. For saving us from this horror we have a paid FBI witness to thank. He had been an informer with the FBI for four years, and most likely was paid for each new lead he brought in. In the Sears case, the FBI paid almost $56,000 to two confidential informants, and government officials also granted one of them immigration parole so he could remain in the country.

There must be millions of people in the United States and elsewhere who have thoughts about ‘terrorist acts.’ I might well be one of them when I read about a gathering of Bush, Cheney, and assorted neocons that’s going to take place. Given the daily horror of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Palestine in recent times, little of which would occur if not for the government of the United States of America and its allies, the numbers of people having such thoughts must be multiplying rapidly. If I had been at an American or British airport as the latest scare story unfolded, waiting in an interminable line, having my flight canceled, or being told I can’t have any carry-on luggage, I may have found it irresistible at some point to declare loudly to my fellow suffering passengers: ‘Y’know, folks, this security crap is only gonna get worse and worse as long as the United States and Britain continue to invade, bomb, overthrow, occupy, and torture the world!’ How long would it be before I was pulled out of line and thrown into some kind of custody?

If General MacArthur were alive today, would he dare to pub­licly express the thoughts cited above?

Policymakers and security experts, reports the Associated Press, say that ‘Law enforcers are now willing to act swiftly against al-Qaeda sympathizers, even if it means grabbing wannabe terrorists whose plots may be only pipe dreams.’ The capture of dangerous would-be terrorists has been a growth industry in the United States ever since the events of Sep­tember 11, 2001. Do you remember the ‘shoe bomber’? Richard Reid was his name and he was aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on December 22, 2001; he tried to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes, didn’t succeed, and was overpowered by attendants and passengers. It’s because of him that we have to take our shoes off at the airport.

There was also ‘the underwear bomber,’ Umar Farouk Abdul­mutallab, referred to above, who tried to set off plastic explosives sewn into his underwear while aboard a Northwest Airlines flight as the plane approached Detroit airport in 2009. But he failed to detonate them properly, producing only some popping noises and a flame; another passenger jumped him and restrained him as others put out the fire. It’s because of Mr Abdulmutallab that we now virtually have to take our underwear off at airports.

And the reason we have strict rules about carrying liquids and gels aboard an airplane? We can thank some other young clowns in Europe in 2006 with pipe dreams about blowing up ten airliners with liquid explosives; they scarcely made it to step one. Since the ‘bomb made from liquids and gels’ story was foisted upon the public, several chemists and other experts have pointed out the technical near-impossibility of manufacturing such a bomb in a moving airplane, if for no other reason than the necessity of spending at least an hour or two in the airplane bathroom.

Then there was Faisal Shahzad, the ‘Times Square bomber,’ who on May 1, 2010 parked his car in the heart of New York City, tried to detonate various explosive devices in the car, but succeeded in producing only smoke. He then walked away from the car, after which he was arrested. It’s because of him that cars are no longer permitted in Times Square. (No, that’s a joke, but maybe not for long.)

The incompetence of these would-be bombers in being unable to detonate their explosives is remarkable. You’d think they could have easily gotten that critical and relatively simple part of the operation down pat beforehand. What I find even more remark­able is that neither of the two men aboard the airplanes thought of going into the bathroom, closing the door, and then trying to detonate the explosives. An 8-year-old child would have thought of that. Are we supposed to take the ‘threat’ posed by such men seriously?

‘The Department of Homeland Security would like to remind passengers that you may not take any liquids onto the plane. This includes ice cream, as the ice cream will melt and turn into a liquid.’ This was actually heard by one of my readers at Atlanta airport in 2012. He laughed out loud. He informs me that he didn’t know what was more bizarre, that such an announcement was made or that he was the only person that he could see who reacted to its absurdity.

Another example of the frightful terrorist threat was in October 2010 when we were told that two packages addressed to Chicago had been found aboard American cargo planes, one in Dubai, the other in England, containing what might, or might not, be an explosive device; which might, or might not, have exploded. Authorities said it was not known if the intent was to detonate the packages in flight or in Chicago.

Now get this. Terrorists, we are told, are shipping bombs in packages to the United States. They of course would want to make the packages as innocuous looking as can be, right? Nothing that would provoke any suspicion in the mind of an already very suspicious American security establishment, right? So what do we have? The packages were mailed from Yemen… and addressed to Jewish synagogues in Chicago… Well folks, nothing to see here, just keep moving.

A tale of two terrorists

Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person ever charged in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001 attacks, tes­tifying at his 2006 trial in Alexandria, Virginia: the sobbing September 11 survivors and family members who testified against him were ‘disgusting’… He and other Muslims want to ‘extermi­nate’ American Jews… executed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was ‘the greatest American.’ Moussaoui expressed his willingness to kill Americans ‘any time, anywhere’… ‘I wish it had happened not only on the 11th, but the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th.’

Orlando Bosch, one of the masterminds behind the October 6, 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane, blown out of the sky with seventy-three people on board, including the entire young Cuban fencing team, interviewed on April 8, 2006 by Juan Manuel Cao of Channel 41 in Miami:

Cao: Did you down that plane in 1976?
Bosch: If I tell you that I was involved, I will be inculpating myself … and if I tell you that I did not participate in that action, you would say that I am lying. I am therefore not going to answer one thing or the other.
Cao: In that action 73 persons were killed…
Bosch: No chico, in a war such as us Cubans who love liberty wage against the tyrant [Fidel Castro], you have to down planes, you have to sink ships, you have to be prepared to attack anything that is within your reach.
Cao: But don’t you feel a little bit for those who were killed there, for their families?
Bosch: Who was on board that plane? Four members of the Communist Party, five North Koreans, five Guyanese… Who was there? Our enemies.
Cao: And the fencers? The young people on board?
Bosch: I saw the young girls on television. There were six of them. After the end of the competition, the leader of the six dedicated their triumph to the tyrant. She gave a speech filled with praise for the tyrant. We had already agreed in Santo Domingo, that everyone who comes from Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks as those men and women that fight alongside the tyranny.
Cao: If you ran into the family members who were killed in that plane, wouldn’t you think it difficult … ?
Bosch: No, because in the end those who were there had to know that they were cooperating with the tyranny in Cuba.

The difference between Zacarias Moussaoui and Orlando Bosch is that one of them was put on trial and sentenced to life in prison while the other walks around Miami a free man, free enough to be interviewed on television. In 1983 the City Commis­sion of Miami declared a ‘Dr Orlando Bosch Day.’

Bosch had a partner in plotting the bombing of the Cuban airliner: Luis Posada, a Cuban-born citizen of Venezuela. He lives as a free man in the United States. His extradition has been requested by Venezuela for several crimes, including the downing of the airliner, part of the plotting having taken place in Venezuela. But the Bush and Obama administrations have refused to send him to Venezuela, for, despite his horrible crime, he’s an ally of the empire; Venezuela and Cuba are not. Nor will Washington try him in the US for the crime. However, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation (1973), of which the United States is a signatory, gives Washington no discretion. Article 7 says that the state in which ‘the alleged offender is found shall, if it does not extradite him, be obliged, without exception whatsoever and whether or not the offense was committed in its territory, to submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.’

Extradite or prosecute. The United States does neither.

William Blum is a writer, historian, and renowned critic of US foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope, Rogue State and America’s Deadliest Export. For more information, visit his website.


Obama’s speech on ISIS


Perpetual war in Iraq, Syria and beyond

12 September 2014

In his speech Wednesday night to the American people, President Obama presented a perspective of open-ended and unlimited military conflict throughout the Middle East and beyond.

The threat of a terrorist group that few Americans could identify six months ago, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL), is supposedly so great that it requires a major mobilization of US military and intelligence assets.

“This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist,” Obama said, thereby declaring that there is no geographical limitation to the new US military intervention. Besides Iraq and Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are all potential arenas for battle.

Moreover, given the roots of ISIS in the CIA-organized airlift of Islamist fighters and weaponry from Libya to Syria after the 2011 US-NATO war that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, US military action across North Africa and the Sahara is a likely extension of Obama’s new stage in what the Bush-Cheney administration once called the “global war on terror.”

The media barrage over the grisly ISIS executions of two American journalists has no doubt had at least a temporary effect on US public opinion. However, the United States is not going to war to avenge James Foley and Steven Sotloff, or to express outrage over the beheading of innocents. Otherwise, the US target would be the barbaric monarchy of Saudi Arabia—the most important US ally in the Middle East, after Israel—which, according to one report, beheaded 113 prisoners during the time Foley was held captive by ISIS.

The real reasons for the new US intervention in the Middle East are the same as those that drove the Bush-Cheney administration in the previous round of bloodletting: the drive of American imperialism to control oil resources and maintain a dominant strategic position in the Middle East and, more broadly, the entire Eurasian continent.

In particular, the intervention against ISIS represents an effort by the White House to reverse the foreign policy debacle it suffered last year in Syria. Exactly one year ago, Obama pushed for air strikes against the government Bashar al-Assad, with the goal of replacing it with a pro-US stooge regime. He was forced to pull back, in humiliating fashion, because of opposition from Russia, divisions within the US ruling elite, the failure of key US allies like Britain to join in the drive to war, and popular opposition.

The American ruling class responded by preparing the ground for a massive escalation in the Middle East, while organizing a coup in Ukraine targeting Russia, threatening to unleash a full-scale war with the second largest nuclear power in the world.

Obama’s explicit statement that the US is planning on bombing targets in Syria—“I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq,” he said—underscores the determination of the ruling class to use the offensive by ISIS that began in June as a convenient pretext to finish what it started.

Immediately after the speech, plans were announced for a flood of military aid and training for US-backed oppositional forces that have been engaged in a protracted civil war in the country. The aid is to be coordinated by Saudi Arabia, one of the main backers of Islamic fundamentalist forces battling Assad, and a regional opponent of both Syria and Iran.

In pursuing its objectives in the Middle East, Obama’s pledge not to resort to “boots on the ground” has zero credibility. Already, hundreds of US troops and advisors have been dispatched to the region. Even before Obama went on national television, his secretary of state, John Kerry, was telling a Baghdad press conference that US combat troops would not return to Iraq unless “obviously, something very dramatic changes.” As former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton, a fixture in the foreign policy establishment, observed, “That’s a loophole a mile wide.”

As always, decisions that impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people have been made behind closed doors by a small cabal, with plans drawn up in advance presented as a fait accompli to be rubber-stamped by Congress and sold by the media on the basis of lies.

In pursuing its objectives—what Obama referred to as the “core interests” of the United States—the ruling class operates without any legal constraint. Significantly, Obama admitted that there was no evidence that ISIS forces, which control much of eastern Syria and overran parts of western and northern Iraq during the summer, pose any threat to the United States. He argued instead, “If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States.”

This amounts to a full-scale embrace of the doctrine of preventive war, espoused by Bush and Cheney as the basis for the invasion and conquest of Iraq. This doctrine is in direct defiance of international law, which declares that a country can initiate a war only in self-defense and forbids any country from launching a war by claiming to be responding to a potential threat arising in the future. The launching of such wars is the principal crime for which the Nazi leaders were indicted and convicted at the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal.

White House officials have argued that Obama has “all the authority he needs” to escalate the war in the Middle East, citing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) adopted by Congress after the 9/11 attacks. Here again, Obama follows in the footsteps of Bush and Cheney, who used the AUMF as an all-purpose justification not only for military action overseas, but also for mass surveillance and indefinite detention at home.

The implementation of the new war in the Middle East underscores the mortal danger confronting the working class—in the region, in the United States and around the world. The American oligarchy has embarked on a permanent and ever-expanding war. Amidst an intensifying social and economic crisis, it is seeking to resolve its problems at home and abroad by asserting its domination in every region of the globe.

Patrick Martin

Hunter S. Thompson’s 9/12/01 ESPN Column Predicted Exactly What Would Happen In The Aftermath Of 9/11

By / 09.11.14

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Not sure how Hunter S. Thompson was ever able to ever be lucid enough to achieve such spooky clairvoyance — what with his booze and cocaine-laden daily routine — but dude basically predicted the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks less than 24 hours after they happened, when Howard Stern and the rest of us were irrationally losing our minds and screaming for blood as virtually all sense of clarity and calm seemed to vanish with the fall of the World Trade Center towers.

From Thompson’s ESPN.com column on 9/12/01:

The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy.

We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for WAR seem to know who did it or where to look for them.

This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won’t hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force.

Sadly, I doubt anyone was more right at the time about what was to come.

(Via Deadspin)


Why American policy abroad strengthens groups like ISIS.


Since 9-11 America’s Insane Foreign Policy — Continued Under Obama — Has Killed a Million and Created ISIS

 Editor’s note: On Wednesday night President Barack Obama gave a nationally televised address in which he vowed that the United States would “degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.”

Thirteen years ago, a draft dodger from Texas stood on a pile of rubble in New York City and promised, “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” Of course, the people who flew the planes into the World Trade Center could not hear anybody, as their remains were buried in the rubble beneath Bush’s feet. And our government’s extraordinary relationship with one of the world’s last and most brutal absolute monarchies ensured that any accomplices still in the U.S. were quickly flown home to Saudi Arabia before the crime could be investigated. In 2003, Bush meekly complied with Al-Qaeda’s most concrete demand, that he withdraw U.S. forces from military bases in Saudi Arabia.

A month after September 11, Donald Rumsfeld stood at a podium in front of a $2 billion B-2 bomber at Whiteman AFB in Missouri and addressed the aircrews of the 509th Bomber Wing, before they took off across the world to wreak misdirected vengeance on the people of Afghanistan. Rumsfeld told them, “We have two choices. Either we change the way we live, or we must change the way they live. We choose the latter. And you are the ones who will help achieve that goal.”Since then, the United States has launched more than 94,000 air strikes, mostly on Afghanistan and Iraq, but also on Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Rumsfeld’s plan has undoubtedly achieved his goal of changing the way people live in those countries, killing a million of them and reducing tens of millions more to lives of disability, disfigurement, dislocation, grief and poverty.

A sophisticated propaganda campaign has politically justified 13 years of systematic U.S. war crimes, exploiting the only too human failing that George Orwell examined in his 1945 essay, “Notes on Nationalism.” As Orwell wrote, “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” Orwell listed “torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians.” The U.S. has committed all these atrocities in the past 13 years, and Americans have responded exactly as the “nationalists” Orwell described.

But some of the horrors of the U.S. invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan found their way into the conscience of millions of newly war-wise Americans, and President Obama was elected on a “peace” platform and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. To the deep disappointment of his former supporters, Obama has overseen the largest military budget since WWII; an eight-fold increase in drone strikes; special forces operations in at least 134 countries, twice as many as under Bush; and a massive increase in the special forces night raids or “manhunts” originally launched by Rumsfeld in Iraq in 2003, which increased from 20 in Afghanistan in May 2009 to 1,000 per month by April 2011, killing the wrong people most of the time according to senior officers.

Like Eisenhower after Korea and other Presidents after Vietnam, Obama turned to methods of regime change and power projection that would avoid the political liabilities of sending young Americans to invade other countries.  But the innovations of Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war have only spread America’s post-9/11 empire of chaos farther and wider, from Ukraine to Libya to the seas around China. Covert wars are no secret to their victims, and the consequences can be just as dire. The U.S. dropped more tonnage of bombs in its secret war on Cambodia than it dropped on Japan in WWII. As Cambodia imploded in an orgy of genocide, the CIA’s director of operations explained that Khmer Rouge recruiting “has been most effective among refugees subjected to B-52 strikes.”

As Western politicians and media breathlessly follow the escalation of U.S. bombing in Iraq, they neglect to mention, or maybe haven’t even heard as Orwell suggested, that Obama has already launched more than 24,000 air strikes, mostly in Afghanistan, with the same results as in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Iraq, killing thousands of people and making implacable enemies of millions more. These air strikes are an integral component of Obama’s covert war doctrine, but they are only covert in the sense that they are unreported.

In Libya, the U.S. and its NATO allies launched 7,700 air strikes in a war that killed at least 25,000 people and plunged the country into endless chaos. NATO’s illusory and short-lived success in Libya led to airlifts of weapons and fighters to Turkey, where British special forces provided training and the CIA infiltrated fighters into Syria to try and duplicate the overthrow and butchering of Gaddafi.The sobering experience of watching a CIA operation in Afghanistan in the 1980s lead to the crime of the new century in New York on September 11 should have led U.S. officials to reject new alliances with Islamist jihadis. But the Obama doctrine embraced the use of Islamist militias to destabilize Libya, providing them with weapons, equipment, training and air support. Leadership on the ground came from Qatar’s mercenary “special forces,” many of whom are veterans of the Pakistani military and its ISI intelligence agency, which works with the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These Qatari special forces are part of the Libyan template that was transposed onto Syria, where they embedded with the al-Nusra Front. They and/or their Turkish allies probably trained al-Nusra in the use of chemical weapons for the “false flag” attack that almost triggered another U.S. bombing campaign in 2013.

With U.S. support, Qatar spent $3 billion and flew 70 planeloads of weapons to Turkey to support its proxies in Syria, while its regional rival Saudi Arabia sent volunteers and convicts, and paid for weapons shipments from Croatia to Jordan. Wealthy Gulf Arabs paid up to $2,000 per day to hardened mercenaries from the Balkans and elsewhere. As first al-Nusra and then ISIS established themselves as the dominant rebel group, they absorbed the bulk of the fighters and weapons that the U.S. and its allies poured into the country.

The chaos that Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war has wreaked in Libya, Syria and Iraq should be a reminder of one of the obvious but unlearned lessons of September 11, that creating and arming groups of religious fanatics as proxies to fight secular enemies has huge potential for blowback and unintended consequences as they gain power and escape external control.  Once these forces were unleashed in Syria, where they had limited local support but powerful external backers, the stage was set for a long and bloody conflict.  But the U.S. and its allies, the U.K., France, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were so committed that they schemed to undermine Kofi Annan’s 2012 peace plan and pledged ever more support, funding and weapons to the rebels as the conflict escalated into a full-blown civil war.

The current view of ISIS (or ISIL or IS) in Western media and political debate is distorted by a dangerous confluence of interests between Western propaganda and ISIS’ own public relations in playing up its strength and its atrocities. On the other hand, when the U.S. and its allies downplayed the role of ISIS in Syria and pretended to be funding and arming only “moderate” forces, this allowed ISIS to quietly gain strength and eliminate its rivals. So Western propaganda has effectively helped ISIS at every turn.

This reckless pattern in Western propaganda extends back to the origins of ISIS. When the original leader of its precursor, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the “terrorist mastermind” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was crowned as America’s new public enemy in Iraq in 2004, U.S. military intelligence officers explained his propaganda value to Adrian Blomfield of the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph as follows:

“We were basically paying up to $10,000 a time to opportunists, criminals and chancers who passed off fiction and supposition about Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq… Back home this stuff was gratefully received and formed the basis of policy decisions. We needed a villain, someone identifiable to latch on to, and we got one.”

After Zarqawi’s death in 2006, Al-Qaeda in Iraq was rebranded as the Islamic State of Iraq, but it continued to fulfill the same function in U.S. propaganda, helping to paint the Iraqi Resistance as dangerous, bloodthirsty religious fanatics rather than people legitimately and bravely resisting the illegal invasion and occupation of their country. The Bush administration claimed that ISI was responsible for 15% of violent incidents in Iraq, but this was debunked by a Congressional Research Service investigation in 2007, which held ISI responsible for only 2% of violent incidents. Of course, all such analyses completely ignored the far greater violence of U.S. air-strikes, night-raids and other uses of excessive and indiscriminate force in Iraq, as well as the the root cause of all the violence, the U.S. invasion and occupation itself.

As the Western- and Arab royalist-backed proxy war took hold in Syria in 2012, the rump of ISI, which had been reduced to as few as 1,000 men under arms in Iraq, found a new lease on life. In March 2013, when rebels led by the al-Nusra Front captured Raqqa, a provincial capital with a population of 220,000, ISIS took control of the provincial and local government.  Raqqa was once the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate that stretched from North Africa to Central Asia in the ninth century, so it serves both a symbolic and practical role as the capital of ISIS’s new caliphate or Islamic State.

Now that ISIS is once again fighting in Iraq as well as Syria, we have come full circle and Western propaganda and ISIS itself have again found common cause in exaggerating its strength and highlighting its brutality. But its true role in Iraq and its relationship with other Resistance forces there is ambiguous. The gains of Resistance forces, now spearheaded by ISIS, are the result of a political crisis that has been brewing ever since the U.S. invasion. The sectarian Maliki government politically and economically marginalized the mainly Sunni Arab areas of northern and western Iraq, and its security forces have dealt with dissent and political demands from these areas with utter brutality.

Part of the U.S. response to resistance in Iraq was to recruit, train and direct Iraqi death squads, mostly from the Badr Brigades Shia militia. It unleashed these forces in a reign of terror in Baghdad in 2005 and 2006, torturing and killing tens of thousands of mainly Sunni Arab men and boys and ethnically cleansing most of the city. Deputy Interior Minister and Badr Brigade commander Adnan al-Asadi, who oversaw that campaign, remains in office today and has run the Interior Ministry while the formal position of Interior Minister has remained vacant for years on end. The forces he commands, originally called the Special Police, were rebranded the National Police after their al-Jadiriyah torture center was exposed in November 2005, and then rebranded again as the Federal Police, but these are the same forces that have terrorized Sunni Arabs and other minorities and dissidents in Iraq since the darkest days of the U.S. occupation.  The Interior Ministry has responded to the current crisis with a new upsurge in death squad activity.

During the Arab Spring in 2011, Iraqis took to the streets, held rallies and set up protest camps like their counterparts across the Arab world to protest their repressive, sectarian government. They were met by security forces sealing off public squares, arrests, beatings, torture, snipers firing from roof-tops and U.S. helicopters flying over to dump garbage on a protest camp in a square in Mosul.

A new round of protests broke out on December 21st 2012 after security forces raided the home of a popular Sunni politician, Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi, and arrested his staff and bodyguards. Dr. al-Issawi was the director of Fallujah Hospital during the two U.S. Marine massacres in 2004 and a vocal opponent of Prime Minister Maliki, and he had already survived an assassination attempt a year earlier. Three weeks after the arrest of his bodyguards, he survived another bomb attack.

Within two weeks, protests shut down major highways near Fallujah and Ramadi, and spread to at least 13 other cities, from Nasiriyah in the south to Kirkuk in the north, while tribal delegations from all over the country traveled to Fallujah and Ramadi to support the main protests. Government security forces responded with typical brutality, opening fire on protesters in Mosul and Fallujah. On January 25, they killed seven protesters and wounded 70 in Fallujah. Tribal leaders in Anbar issued a joint declaration that they would launch jihad against government forces if the killers were not brought to justice, but protests remained mainly peaceful, even as government forces killed more protesters.

In March 2013, Dr. Issawi and Izz al-Din al-Dawla, the Minister of Agriculture, resigned from the government, and Bunyan al-Obeidi, a protest leader in Kirkuk, was killed by a government death squad. In April, after an Army officer was killed in Hawija, near Kirkuk, the government besieged Hawijaand at least 56 people were killed in armed clashes between the residents and government forces.  Peaceful protests gradually gave way to armed resistance across the north and west of Iraq. The government banned 10 satellite TV channels, including Al-Jazeera, to censor news of the uprising. In May 2013, the UN reported the highest monthly death toll in Iraq in 5 years, with hundreds of people killed. By the end of the year, the UN estimated that 7,818 civilians and over 1,000 Army and Interior Ministry troops had been killed.On Dec. 28, 2013, government forces raided the home of Ahmed al-Alwani, a Member of Parliament from Ramadi, killing his brother and 5 of his guards. Two days later, the government sent in Federal Police commandos to destroy the Ramadi protest camp, and 10 protesters and three police commandos were killed. Forty Sunni members of Parliament resigned, and a general tribal uprising forced Army and Interior Ministry forces to withdraw from Fallujah and Ramadi.

Over the next few days, hundreds of ISIS fighters appeared in Fallujah, Ramadi and around Anbar province, and formed a sometimes uneasy alliance with other Iraqi resistance groups and tribal leaders. As in Syria, they have come to dominate and lead the uprising that has swept through western and northern Iraq in the past nine months. ISIS’ main allies have been secular ex-Baathist military officers, still under the umbrella of the Baath Party and formally headed by General Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, now aged 72; and tribal leaders led by Ali Hatem al-Suleiman of Anbar’s Dulaim tribe and the Anbar Tribes Revolutionary Council. Douri eventually announced a split with ISIS in July 2014 after it launched an ethnic cleansing campaign against Christians in Mosul, but this has only led to a few localized clashes between ISIS and other resistance forces.

Suleiman has claimed that ISIS fighters make up only 5-7% of Resistance fighters in Iraq, and that the resistance could oust ISIS from regions it controls. But he has said it will not do so until government forces withdraw from northern and western Iraq and a political transition grants civil and political rights denied to the people of these regions. Another tribal leader from Anbar, Abu Muhammad al-Zubaai, echoed Suleiman’s claims in an interview two weeks ago. Zubaai told the BBC’s Jim Muir, “We don’t want guns from the Americans, we want a real political solution, which the U.S. should impose on those people it installed in the Green Zone. The IS problem would end. If they guarantee us this solution, we’ll guarantee to get rid of IS.”

Zubaai described a clash at Garma, near Fallujah, that killed 16 ISIS fighters, but added, “We had to choose between a comprehensive confrontation with IS, or ceding control of that area and keeping a low profile. We decided to stand down because we are not ready to fight IS in the current circumstances—who would we be fighting for?  On the daily bombing of Fallujah and other cities by the Iraqi air force, with heavy civilian casualties, Zubaai said, “Our biggest concern now is a political solution. A security solution will achieve nothing.  The bombing has to stop.”

These tribal leaders claim to represent 90% of Sunni-majority tribes in Iraq. They have tried to approach U.S. officials, but without any response. Zubaai sees the options facing the U.S. as a stark choice between solidly supporting a genuine political transition and fueling an out-of-control spiral of violence, “If things stay the same, a new generation will emerge, beyond the control of the U.S. or Iran or Syria-hundreds of thousands of young men will join up with IS.”President Obama’s bombing campaign to support a repressive, sectarian government and Kurdish separatists will reduce more Iraqi cities to rubble, kill thousands more civilians and turn ISIS into the unstoppable monster that Zubaai predicts. But, as he says, the President still has another choice. He can provide full diplomatic and political support for a legitimate political transition in Iraq that would honor the civil and political rights of all Iraqis.  This could begin to solve the long-running political crisis caused by the U.S. invasion, which has led millions of Iraqis to see an alliance with ISIS as a lesser evil than submission to the brutal U.S.- and Iranian-backed regime in the Green Zone.

Like the crisis in Iraq, every part of the current crisis in U.S. foreign policy is amenable to serious diplomacy.  We are on the verge of a diplomatic solution to the phony crisis over Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program.  There is global consensus on ending the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with only the United States clinging to its effective support for a territorial expansion that the world will never recognize. The framework for a peace process in Syria was agreed on in Geneva on June 30, 2012, more than two years ago, but stalled as the U.S. and its allies reintroduced their precondition that President Assad must resign first. The coup regime in Ukraine and its Western backers may finally be ready to accept long-standing Russian proposals for a political and diplomatic resolution based on regional autonomy and international neutrality.  And ISIS’s allies in Iraq are offering to “get rid of” it in exchange only for the basic civil and political rights that the U.S. promised them when it invaded their country.

But as Robert Parry noted recently, there’s an “old woman who swallowed a fly” quality to neoconservative U.S. foreign policy.  The proposed solution to any U.S. foreign-policy failure is always some kind of escalation, invariably leading to an even more dangerous crisis.  Instead of developing more rational policy goals in response to their overreaching and failures, neoconservative policymakers instead keep doubling down to take on more powerful adversaries and risk even greater disasters.  Thus a failed CIA coup in 1996 and the impending collapse of the UN sanctions regime led to the invasion and destruction of Iraq; the U.S. defeat in Iraq led to targeting Syria and Iran; and Russia’s role in Syria led to a U.S.-led coup in Ukraine and a U.S.-Russian confrontation that has raised the specter of nuclear war: “There was an old lady who swallowed a horse. She died of course.”

The U.S. propaganda system presents Americans with a looking-glass view of the world, in which our “shining city on a hill” is a bastion of peace, democracy and prosperity, while the rest of the world is a dreadful mess riven by endless crises and insoluble problems. The dirty little secret that our propaganda system cannot mention is that the current crises are all deeply rooted in U.S. policy. At this point in our history, most of those roots lead back to the fateful decision to respond to a mass murder in New York City with 94,000 air strikes, an opportunistic global military expansion and a doubling of the military budget. So Zubaai’s plea for Iraq echoes through the larger crisis in U.S. foreign policy, “Our biggest concern now is a political solution. A security solution will achieve nothing. The bombing has to stop.”


Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of “Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.” Davies also wrote the chapter on “Obama At War” for the book, “Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.”