Wisconsin Governor Walker, American workers and terrorism

Wisconisn Governor Scott Walker gestures as he addresses the second session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa

2 March 2015

On three separate occasions in the past four days, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, one of the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination, has stressed the close connection between the struggle against the working class at home and Washington’s militarist policies internationally.

Linking the suppression of workers’ protests to the fight against terrorism, he has presented his success in defying mass demonstrations that broke out in 2011 in Wisconsin against his attacks on workers’ social and democratic rights as proof of his ability to take on and defeat ISIS.

Speaking Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in suburban Washington DC, Walker cited his experience in pushing through anti-worker legislation as proof of his fitness for the presidency. “If I could take on 100,000 protesters, I could do the same across the world,” he boasted, effectively comparing throngs of state workers and students to ISIS terrorists.

The next day, speaking before the Club for Growth, an assembly of billionaires and their political advisers meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, Walker returned to the theme. He declared that “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime” was President Ronald Reagan’s smashing of the 1981 PATCO strike and mass firing of 11,000 air traffic controllers. “It sent a message not only across America, it sent a message around the world,” he said, that the Reagan administration was serious about confronting its enemies and “we weren’t to be messed with.”

Appearing two days later on “Fox News Sunday,” Walker repeated his claim that defeating public employee unions in Wisconsin was relevant to fighting ISIS terrorists, while pretending to disavow a direct comparison. “I want to make it clear right now. I’m not comparing those two entities,” he said, and then proceeded to do just that.

“What I meant was, it was about leadership,” he declared. “The leadership we provided under extremely difficult circumstances, arguably, the most difficult of any governor in the country.” He added that “if I were to run, and if I were to win and be commander-in-chief, I believe that kind of leadership is what’s necessary to take on radical Islamic terrorism.”

Walker’s initial statement at CPAC was widely described in the media as a gaffe. The problem, however, was not his implicit equation of working-class opposition with terrorist organizations that have been targeted for extermination, but rather his indiscretion in blurting out publicly what the US corporate-financial oligarchy thinks and discusses internally.

In the event, comparing public employees to ISIS terrorists has not disqualified Walker in the eyes of the media. If anything, it appears to have enhanced his stature as a serious presidential candidate.

This is certainly the case among the so-called “base” of the Republican Party that attended CPAC. Walker won the loudest ovations of any of the 13 potential candidates who addressed the group. In the CPAC straw poll, Walker vaulted from sixth place in 2014 to second place, with 21.4 percent of the vote, only narrowly behind Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

As the WSWS noted Saturday, Walker is not the first US political figure to equate the struggle against popular opposition at home with the wars waged by American imperialism overseas. In the American ruling elite, whether among Republicans or Democrats, there is less and less of a distinction made between domestic and foreign policy. The financial aristocracy increasingly sees itself besieged and compelled at home as well as abroad to resort to force and violence.

Events of the past several years demonstrate that for the American ruling class, the main enemy is at home: the jailing of protesters on terrorism charges, such as the “NATO Three”; the lockdown of Boston after the 2013 Marathon bombing; the militarized response to protests in Ferguson and other cities over police violence; the constant invocations of “home-grown” terrorism as the pretext for the dismantling of democratic rights and the buildup of a police state.

There has been comparatively little media attention given to Walker’s open linkage of suppressing strikes and protests at home with waging war for imperialist interests abroad. The television networks and national newspapers prefer to leave such discussions to in-house assemblies of the ultra-right and conclaves of the corporate elite.

There was one revealing commentary, however, posted by right-wing columnist Peggy Noonan, on the web site of the Wall Street Journal. Noonan, a White House speechwriter in the Reagan administration, responded to Walker’s invocation of the PATCO strike as a historic turning point that showed the Soviet Union Reagan’s determination to smash opposition to his policies.

She noted that the PATCO strike had a direct international dimension, since Canadian air traffic controllers carried out job actions in sympathy with their American colleagues and there was widespread support among European workers. The Reagan administration bullied the Canadian government to force a return to work.

Noonan then wrote: “Sen. Edward Kennedy and Lane Kirkland of the AFL CIO played helpful and constructive roles” in support of Reagan’s handling of the PATCO strike.

What Noonan noted in passing was a devastating admission, confirming what the Workers League, forerunner of the Socialist Equality Party, and our newspaper, the Bulletin, explained throughout the 1981 strike: the outright hostility of both the Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO officialdom to the struggle of the 11,000 strikers, who had enormous support in the working class.

Kennedy had spearheaded the deregulation of the airline industry in the late 1970s and it was one of his aides, working in the Carter administration, who drew up the plans for strikebreaking and mass firings in the event of an air traffic controllers strike, eventually implemented under Reagan.

Kirkland played the central role in the AFL-CIO’s deliberate isolation of the strike. After a mass rally brought 500,000 workers to Washington on September 19, 1981, the biggest labor demonstration in US history, led by thousands of PATCO strikers, the unions shut down all support, blocked any solidarity strike action by airline or airport workers, and tacitly supported the jailing of strikers and the outlawing and destruction of PATCO.

It is critical that workers entering into struggle, such as the US oil refinery workers now in the second month of a bitter strike, carefully consider the significance of Walker’s statements as well as the record of the Obama administration in overseeing the buildup of the forces of state repression. The ruling class will stop at nothing to defeat the resistance of workers to its assault on living standards and social conditions. It recognizes in the working class its irreconcilable enemy.

The working class must respond with the same degree of consciousness, determination and ruthlessness.

The PATCO precedent remains of decisive importance today because the twin obstacles of the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party remain the decisive barriers that the American working class must overcome in order to build a mass independent political movement that will challenge the profit system and advance a socialist and revolutionary program.

Patrick Martin




Banksy filmed himself sneaking into Gaza to paint new artwork


World-renowned street artist Banksy released a 2-minute video on his website this week that delivers an eye-opening view of life behind the guarded walls of the Gaza Strip.

The video, “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination,” invites viewers to witness the devastation of war-torn Gaza and the tribulation of the Palestinian population cordoned within its borders.

The satirical mini-documentary, which is set to the legendary East Flatbush Project’s “Tried by 12,” presents itself as an advertisement for world travelers. It begins by showing an individual, presumably Banksy himself, entering Gaza by climbing through what’s parenthetically described as an illegal network of tunnels. “Well away from the tourist track,” the caption reads.

Exiting one of the dark tunnels, Banksy ascends into the bombed-out region and is greeted by children playing amid piles of rubble. “The locals like it so much they never leave,” the video says. Cutting to a scrum of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, it continues: “Because they’re never allowed to.


The video captures four of the mysterious artist’s new pieces. The first, titled “Bomb Damage,” is painted on a door defiantly erect at the facade of a destroyed building. Potentially inspired by Rodin’s “The Thinker,” it shows a man knelt over in apparent agony. Another depicts one of the Israeli guard towers along the separation wall transformed into an amusement park swing carousel. The third and largest piece is a white cat with a pink bow measuring roughly 3 meters high; its paw hovering above a twisted ball of scrap metal like a ball of yarn.

“A local man came up and said ‘Please – what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website – but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

“This cat tells the world that she is missing joy in her life,” a Palestinian man resting nearby speaks in Arabic to the camera. “The cat found something to play with. What about our children?”

The fourth and final piece is simple red paint on a wall. It reads: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful—we don’t remain neutral.”

According to the video, much of the recorded destruction is the result of “Operation Protective Edge,” a July 2014 Israeli military campaign, the stated of goal of which was to prevent Hamas rocket fire from entering Israeli territory.

During the seven weeks of airstrikes, Gaza suffered up to 2,300 casualties, including 513 children; 66 Israeli soldiers and 5 civilians were also killed. Up to 7,000 Palestinian homes were complete destroyed, and another 10,000 severely damaged, according to the United Nations. Over half a million people were displaced by the conflict. By some estimates, rebuilding Gaza City could cost in excess of $6 billion and take more than 20 years.

Banksy isn’t new to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2005, he painted nine pieces along the 425-mile West Bank Wall, the barrier which separates Palestine and Israel.

Screenshot via Banksy/YouTube


US slaughter in Afghanistan rages on


24 February 2015

Less than two months after President Barack Obama announced an end to US combat operations in Afghanistan, top Pentagon officials have made it clear that these murderous operations are not only continuing, they are escalating, while plans for the withdrawal of American troops are being reconsidered.

At the end of last year, the American president declared that “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.” He added that the drawdown of US forces marked “a milestone for our country.”

But the war in Afghanistan rages on, with mounting evidence that more than 13 years of US military occupation—dubbed “Operation Enduring Freedom”—have produced only a debacle for US foreign policy and a humanitarian catastrophe for the impoverished Afghan population.

The longest war in US history has claimed the lives of 2,356 American troops and left another 20,066 wounded, the vast majority of these casualties having taken place during the administration of Barack Obama. The current president promoted the intervention in Afghanistan as the “good war” and more than tripled the number of US soldiers and Marines fighting it. The cost to the US economy is estimated at somewhere between $750 billion and several trillion dollars.

In his speech last December, Obama claimed that 13 years of US war and occupation had succeeded in “devastating the core Al Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives.” They had as well “helped the Afghan people reclaim their communities” and “take the lead for their own security.”

This glowing assessment was given a different spin last week when newly installed Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that Washington wanted to make sure that “the Afghans themselves are able to preserve the environment which our forces have created over the last few years—one of relative security and stability.” As a result, he said, Washington was “rethinking” its “counterterrorism” operations, as well as its stated troop withdrawal timetable.

Carter’s talk of “relative security and stability” is hogwash. All indications are that the US puppet regime in Kabul is confronting a catastrophe, and that its patrons in Washington are convinced that only an escalation of the slaughter can reverse ever more threatening trends and prevent a Vietnam-style rout.

There are presently some 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan, along with an estimated 20,000 military contractors and several hundred CIA operatives. While Obama claims to have ended US combat operations in the country, his administration has ordered a sharp increase in night assassination raids by American special forces troops against Afghan villages, as well as stepped-up aerial bombardments of suspected insurgent targets.

Both tactics aroused intense popular hostility and were formally proscribed by former President Hamid Karzai. They have received support, however, from his successor, Ashraf Ghani, who is increasingly desperate in the face of a rising offensive by anti-regime forces.

The military escalation has exacted a brutal toll upon the Afghan civilian population. The United Nations agency for Afghanistan documented 10,548 civilian casualties last year (3,699 deaths and 6,849 injuries). This represents a 25 percent increase in the number of fatalities over the previous year and the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries since the UN began systematically recording casualties in 2009.

There are mounting signs that the US-armed and trained Afghan security forces are in a state of disintegration. The special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction (SIGAR) last month quoted Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the then-commander of the US-led occupation forces, as stating that the level of casualties suffered by the Afghan forces (more than 5,000 Afghan soldiers and police were killed in 2014 alone) was “not sustainable,” nor, for that matter, was their desertion rate.

The clearest indication of the dire condition of the Afghan National Army and police was the recent decision by the Pentagon and NATO to classify all information on their combat capabilities as secret, after years of publicly releasing such data.

The economic and social situation confronting the country is, if anything, even more desperate. Afghanistan ranks 215th in the world in terms of per capita income, with close to half of the population living in dire poverty. The economy has begun to contract along with the decline in the US military presence and the level of foreign aid, the main sources of revenue.

Figures given out by US agencies boasting of dramatic strides in life expectancy, education and other indices have all been called into question by international agencies, with the numbers from Washington representing little more than war propaganda.

As opposed to the fraudulent claims of progress made by the White House and the Pentagon, polls have shown that a broad majority of the American public believes the Afghanistan war was not worth waging, while just 23 percent of the US soldiers who fought there believe their campaign was successful.

The turn by the Obama administration to an escalation of military operations in Afghanistan is driven by the same predatory geostrategic interests that led to the US invasion and occupation in the first place. These were based not on concerns about terrorism, but rather the desire to assert US hegemony over the energy-rich regions of the Caspian Basin and Central Asia and position the US military closer to the borders of both Russia and China.

Within the US ruling establishment, there are growing fears that a precipitous US withdrawal will create a vacuum that will be filled by Beijing and Moscow.

The “rethinking” of US combat operations in Afghanistan is taking place amid escalating US military interventions on a world scale. Washington has announced plans for a major US-led offensive against Mosul, an Iraqi city of 1.5 million, as it continues aerial bombardments in both Iraq and Syria. Almost simultaneously, it joined Turkey in announcing plans to train thousands of Syrian “rebels” to be unleashed nominally against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but also in a war for regime change in Syria.

In Ukraine, Washington is escalating its provocations against Moscow. The new US defense secretary has signaled his support for arming the Ukrainian regime in a war that could bring the US into direct confrontation with a nuclear-armed Russia.

At the same time, the US Navy has unveiled plans to deploy four littoral combat ships—designed for combat in coastal areas—in northeast Asia as part of the “pivot to Asia,” which includes plans to shift 60 percent of US naval assets to the region in order to confront the rise of China.

As Leon Trotsky wrote in the run-up to the Second World War, while Nazi Germany was driven to “organize” Europe, US imperialism “must ‘organize’ the world.”

“History,” he warned, “is bringing humanity face to face with the volcanic eruption of American imperialism.”

This prognosis is being powerfully confirmed in the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the threat of military confrontation with Russia and China.

Bill Van Auken



Leaked cables show Netanyahu’s Iran bomb claim contradicted by Mossad

Gulf between Israeli secret service and PM revealed in documents shared with the Guardian along with other secrets including CIA bids to contact Hamas

Netanyahu’s Iran bomb claim contradicted by Mossad, leaked spy cables show

Binyamin Netanyahu’s dramatic declaration to world leaders in 2012 that Iranwas about a year away from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service, according to a top-secret Mossad document.

It is part of a cache of hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from the world’s major intelligence services – one of the biggest spy leaks in recent times.

Brandishing a cartoon of a bomb with a red line to illustrate his point, the Israeli prime minister warned the UN in New York that Iran would be able to build nuclear weapons the following year and called for action to halt the process.

But in a secret report shared with South Africa a few weeks later, Israel’s intelligence agency concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”. The report highlights the gulf between the public claims and rhetoric of top Israeli politicians and the assessments of Israel’s military and intelligence establishment.

An extract from the document
An extract from the document Photograph: The Guardian

The disclosure comes as tensions between Israel and its staunchest ally, the US, have dramatically increased ahead of Netanyahu’s planned address to the US Congress on 3 March.

The White House fears the Israeli leader’s anticipated inflammatory rhetoric could damage sensitive negotiations between Tehran and the world’s six big powers over Iran’s nuclear programme. The deadline to agree on a framework is in late March, with the final settlement to come on 30 June. Netanyahu has vowed to block an agreement he claims would give Iran access to a nuclear weapons capability.

The US president, Barack Obama, will not meet Netanyahu during his visit, saying protocol precludes a meeting so close to next month’s general election in Israel.

The documents, almost all marked as confidential or top secret, span almost a decade of global intelligence traffic, from 2006 to December last year. It has been leaked to the al-Jazeera investigative unit and shared with the Guardian.

The papers include details of operations against al-Qaida, Islamic State and other terrorist organisations, but also the targeting of environmental activists.

The files reveal that:

The CIA attempted to establish contact with Hamas in spite of a US ban.

South Korean intelligence targeted the leader of Greenpeace.

Barack Obama “threatened” the Palestinian president to withdraw a bid for recognition of Palestine at the UN.

South African intelligence spied on Russia over a controversial $100m joint satellite deal.

The cache, which has been independently authenticated by the Guardian, mainly involves exchanges between South Africa’s intelligence agency and its counterparts around the world. It is not the entire volume of traffic but a selective leak.

One of the biggest hauls is from Mossad. But there are also documents from Russia’s FSB, which is responsible for counter-terrorism. Such leaks of Russian material are extremely rare.

Other spy agencies caught up in the trawl include those of the US, Britain, France, Jordan, the UAE, Oman and several African nations.

The scale of the leak, coming 20 months after US whistleblower Edward Snowden handed over tens of thousands of NSA and GCHQ documents to the Guardian, highlights the increasing inability of intelligence agencies to keep their secrets secure.

While the Snowden trove revealed the scale of technological surveillance, the latest spy cables deal with espionage at street level – known to the intelligence agencies as human intelligence, or “humint”. They include surveillance reports, inter-agency information trading, disinformation and backbiting, as well as evidence of infiltration, theft and blackmail.

The leaks show how Africa is becoming increasingly important for global espionage, with the US and other western states building up their presence on the continent and China expanding its economic influence. One serving intelligence officer told the Guardian: “South Africa is the El Dorado of espionage.”

Africa has also become caught up in the US, Israeli and British covert global campaigns to stem the spread of Iranian influence, tighten sanctions and block its nuclear programme.

The Mossad briefing about Iran’s nuclear programme in 2012 was in stark contrast to the alarmist tone set by Netanyahu, who has long presented the Iranian nuclear programme as an existential threat to Israel and a huge risk to world security. The Israeli prime minister told the UN: “By next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move[d] on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

He said his information was not based on secret information or military intelligence but International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports.

Behind the scenes, Mossad took a different view. In a report shared with South African spies on 22 October 2012 – but likely written earlier – it conceded that Iran was “working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate, such as enrichment reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given”.

But the report also states that Iran “does not appear to be ready” to enrich uranium to the higher levels necessary for nuclear weapons. To build a bomb requires enrichment to 90%. Mossad estimated that Iran then had “about 100kg of material enriched to 20%” (which was later diluted or converted under the terms of the 2013 Geneva agreement). Iran has always said it is developing a nuclear programme for civilian energy purposes.

Last week, Netanyahu’s office repeated the claim that “Iran is closer than ever today to obtaining enriched material for a nuclear bomb” in a statement in response to an IAEA report.

A senior Israeli government official said there was no contradiction between Netanyahu’s statements on the Iranian nuclear threat and “the quotes in your story – allegedly from Israeli intelligence”. Both the prime minister and Mossad said Iran was enriching uranium in order to produce weapons, he added.

“Israel believes the proposed nuclear deal with Iran is a bad deal, for it enables the world’s foremost terror state to create capabilities to produce the elements necessary for a nuclear bomb,” he said.

However, Mossad had been at odds with Netanyahu on Iran before. The former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who left office in December 2010, let it be known that he had opposed an order from Netanyahu to prepare a military attack on Iran.

Other members of Israel’s security establishment were riled by Netanyahu’s rhetoric on the Iranian nuclear threat and his advocacy of military confrontation. In April 2012, a former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, accused Netanyahu of “messianic” political leadership for pressing for military action, saying he and the then defence minister, Ehud Barak, were misleading the public on the Iran issue. Benny Gantz, the Israeli military chief of staff, said decisions on tackling Iran “must be made carefully, out of historic responsibility but without hysteria”.

There were also suspicions in Washington that Netanyahu was seeking to bounce Obama into taking a more hawkish line on Iran.

A few days before Netanyahu’s speech to the UN, the then US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, accused the Israeli prime minister of trying to force the US into a corner. “The fact is … presidents of the United States, prime ministers of Israel or any other country … don’t have, you know, a bunch of little red lines that determine their decisions,” he said.

“What they have are facts that are presented to them about what a country is up to, and then they weigh what kind of action is needed in order to deal with that situation. I mean, that’s the real world. Red lines are kind of political arguments that are used to try to put people in a corner.”



US expands “secret war” in Afghanistan


By Thomas Gaist
23 February 2015

The Obama administration is considering new proposals from the Pentagon to delay troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and increase the number of US forces to be stationed in the country on a permanent basis, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced this weekend during a joint conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Carter and Ghani indicated that formal arrangements for a larger long-term US troop presence, maintenance of US bases previously planned to close, and stepped up “counterterrorism” operations by US forces in Afghanistan may be finalized as early as the beginning of March.

“President Obama is considering a number of options to reinforce our support for President Ghani’s security strategy, including possible changes to the timeline for our drawdown of US troops,” Carter said.

President Ghani stressed “the comprehensive nature of the partnership” being worked out between his government and the Obama administration, adding that he was personally grateful for Obama’s executive decree in December 2014 ordering an additional 1,000 US troops to remain in the country on an indefinite basis.

More than 10,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, and an array of US Special Forces and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) paramilitary units are continuing to carry out combat missions against alleged insurgents throughout the country.

Despite the proclamation of an official end to US combat operations in Afghanistan beginning December 31, 2014, recent weeks have seen a “significant increase in night raids” and a “tempo of operations unprecedented for this time of year,” the New York Times reported in mid-February.

“The official war for the Americans—the part of the war that you could go see—that’s over. It’s only the secret war that’s still going. But it’s going hard,” said an Afghan security official cited by the Times.

The US forces are leading the missions and directly engaging targets, “not simply going along as advisors,” the Times noted.

Assassination teams are regularly dispatched against “a broad cross section of Islamist militants,” the Times reported. The US-led death squads include elite soldiers under the command of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, as well as CIA paramilitary groups, US Army Rangers and Navy SEALs.

The raids represent a continuation and intensification of the counterinsurgency strategy implemented by the US during the official occupation, which sought to stabilize the US puppet government in Kabul by murdering anyone suspected of supporting armed opposition to the Karzai regime.

As early as 2005, a top US military general declared that this strategy was leading to the total defeat of the Taliban. When the Obama administration ordered the US military to add 30,000 additional troops to its overall occupation force in 2009, General Stanley McChrystal vowed that the insurgency would be defeated by 2011.

Similar assessments were made by US leaders during the occupation of and then the “surge” of troops into Iraq, along with enthusiasm about the readiness of the Iraqi national army, which has subsequently been shattered by the seizure of large sections of the country by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Unflagging optimism of US commanders and politicians notwithstanding, the US targeted murder programs in Afghanistan have also clearly failed. Taliban forces have regained control over large portions of the country during the past year, inflicting casualties against government and US-led International Security Assistance Force coalition troops, as well as the civilian population, at the highest rate since the US occupation began in October 2001.

In the absence of substantial support from the US military, the Afghan government stands little chance of defeating the resurgent Taliban, according to experts cited by Stars and Stripes.

“The overly positive assessments are repeated so often that the leaders in the military and civilian world start to believe it,” director of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network told the Department of Defense-based newspaper.

The Pentagon’s claims that violence is down in Afghanistan is “borderline insane,” International Crisis Group’s lead Afghanistan analyst Graeme Smith told Stars and Stripes.

“You’re saying that the war is getting smaller, and its not; its getting a lot bigger. Policy needs to adjust to deal with the fact that the inferno is growing,” Smith said.

More than 5,000 Afghan security forces, who received their paychecks from the US government were killed during 2014 in fighting with Taliban and other anti-government militants, according to statistics provided by Kabul.

Civilian fatalities have reached their highest levels since 2009, according to a UN report released last week, which confirmed the deaths of at least 3,600 noncombatants and wounding of another 6,800 in 2014.

Amdist the ongoing catastrophe that is a result of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, US policy makers and generals are clearly determined to intensify operations against its population for years to come.

With reports of growing Chinese political influence in Afghanistan, including the cultivation of ties with sections of the government as well as with the Taliban, Washington is determined to maintain its military grip on the country and Central Asia as a whole, which remain important linchpins in its drive to control the Eurasian landmass.



Obama’s terror summit: An exercise in hypocrisy, falsification and self-delusion


20 February 2015

President Barack Obama, on both Wednesday and Thursday, addressed sessions of a summit on “countering violent extremism” convened in Washington and attended by representatives of 65 countries.

While repeatedly insisting on the need to talk “squarely and honestly” about “root causes” of terrorism, the American president’s remarks amounted to a string of barely coherent banalities—including quotations from a Valentine’s Day card from a 12-year-old—all aimed at covering up the incontrovertible causal connection between terrorism and the chain of catastrophes unleashed by US wars of aggression over the past decade.

The three-day talk shop involved no decisions, commitments or changes in policy. Threadbare rhetoric about religious inclusion was joined with laughable tips on how to recognize a young person being swung to “radical extremism” that seemed to have been cribbed from a Drug Enforcement Administration brochure on warning signs that your child may be using marijuana.

To the extent that the gathering had a discernible purpose, it was to bolster propaganda justifications for continuing war abroad and police state measures at home.

Obama vowed that the US would remain “unwavering in our fight against terrorist organizations,” outlining plans to continue and expand US military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and beyond.

He argued that the crusade against “violent extremism” was to be waged not just against “terrorists who are killing innocent people,” but also at the “ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists—the propagandists, recruiters, the funders who radicalize and recruit or incite people to violence,” a category so broad and ill-defined as to potentially include virtually anyone who condemns the supposedly “moderate” policies of US imperialism.

The contradictions underlying the propaganda exercise were beyond glaring. Obama proclaimed in his speech that the struggle against terrorism required “more democracy” and “security forces and police that respect human rights and treat people with dignity.” Yet Washington counts as its closest allies in this struggle the tyrannical monarchy in Saudi Arabia and the military-controlled regime that rules Egypt, infamous for their repression, beheadings and mass killings.

Obama absurdly attempted to present terrorism as the product of “twisted ideologies” of groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS along with mistaken “ideas,” “notions,” and “strains of thought” among broader sections of the Muslim world.

“The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie,” Obama insisted in his remarks. Indeed, Washington is an equal opportunity aggressor. It is preparing even bigger wars against non-Muslims from Eastern Europe to East Asia.

This “notion” may have arisen from the fact that the populations residing in countries containing some of the world’s greatest energy reserves as well as pipeline routes for their extraction happen to be majority Muslim, and therefore have borne the tragic brunt of Washington’s drive to militarily assert hegemony over these lands.

The struggle against terrorism, Obama stated, requires confronting the fact that too many people “buy into the notion that the Muslim world has suffered historical grievances—sometimes that’s accurate—… buy into the the belief that so many of the ills in the Middle East flow from a history of colonialism or conspiracy …”

Historical grievances? Who does Obama think he’s kidding? Millions throughout the Arab world do not have to harken back to French and British colonialists in pith helmets when it comes to grievances. In recent decades, US imperialism has laid waste to one predominantly Muslim country after another.

It thrust Afghanistan into never-ending carnage that has killed millions since the US-sponsored mujahideen war of the 1980s. In Iraq, it carried out an illegal war of aggression that claimed over a million lives. In Libya it backed a war for regime change that left the society in ruins and ravaged by armed conflict between rival militias. And in Syria, it has stoked a civil war that has killed nearly 200,000 and turned millions into refugees.

In Iraq, Libya and Syria, Washington has carried out interventions to overthrow secular Arab regimes, acting as the catalyst for the growth of Islamist forces like Al Qaeda and ISIS. In the last two countries, it actually armed and supported these elements, using them as proxy forces.

If the top officials in the Bush and Obama administration had been paid agents of Osama bin Laden, they could not have done a better job at promoting the rise of those ostensibly targeted by the US-sponsored summit against “violent extremism.”

All of the hypocrisy, deceit and self-delusion on display at this week’s summit could not mask the fact that the policies pursued by Washington over more than a decade have resulted in a debacle.

In the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, US imperialism embarked on a series of escalating interventions based on the conception that it could use its military superiority to offset its economic decline. The end result has been havoc and destruction.

This extends now to Ukraine which has been plunged into a civil war that has torn the country in two as its economy implodes and its army disintegrates, and which threatens to draw the US and nuclear-armed Russia into military confrontation. Washington’s fostering of a fascist-led coup to effect regime change in Kiev, portrayed as a master stroke a year ago, has only produced another disaster.

In any functioning democracy, there would be consequences for global catastrophes on the order of those produced by the last two US administrations. They would not only be the subject of public debate and congressional hearings, but the cause of forced resignations and criminal prosecutions.

In the US, there is nothing. There is no mechanism for any criticism of a government that only continues lying to the public and lying to itself. No one takes responsibility, and no one is held accountable.

With next year’s presidential campaign taking shape, the front-runners are Republican Jeb Bush, whose brother oversaw the criminal war in Iraq, and Democrat Hillary Clinton, who as secretary of state hailed the savage lynch-mob murder of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi by an Islamist militia, declaring amid gales of laughter, “We came, we saw, he died.” There could be no clearer measure of the sclerotic character of the US political system.

Responsibility extends beyond the White House, Congress and the two major parties to the media, whose “terrorism experts” continuously churn out lies and drivel justifying US militarism, and to academia, which remains either directly complicit or silent.

That every section of the US ruling establishment is deeply implicated in these crimes and catastrophes is symptomatic of profound economic, social and political crises gripping a capitalist system that is fully subordinated to the enrichment of a tiny minority engaged in financial parasitism at the expense of working people, the vast majority of the population.

With no progressive solution to these crises, the American ruling class is driven toward even more bloody military adventures, posing the increasing threat of the ultimate act of “violent extremism,” a Third World War.

Bill Van Auken



Rebuilding Kobani: call for help from a city in ruins

By Yvo Fitzherbert On February 18, 2015

Post image for Rebuilding Kobani: call for help from a city in ruinsThe liberation of Kobani was a bittersweet victory that left the town devastated. Reconstruction has begun and the need for solidarity and aid is urgent.

Photo by Bulent Kilic.

“When Kobani was liberated, it was a beautiful feeling. A feeling of freedom,” my friend Mustafa explained to me. Mustafa is a local journalist, and after being detained for two weeks by the Turkish authorities when he fled Kobani in early October, he decided to return to his hometown to work and to help facilitate journalists inside the city. For four months, Kobani had been under a brutal siege. ISIS jihadists attacked the city from the east, west and south, surrounding it from all sides. To the north lay Turkey, forever against the autonomy the Kurds of Syria had created for themselves and therefore no friend of the Kurdish resistance in Kobani.

But after four months, on January 27, Kobani was finally liberated. The Kurdish forces, led by the PKK-affiliated YPG and their female unit YPJ, but also supported by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Peshmerga of Iraqi Kurdistan, had fiercely defended the advances of the Islamic State and forced them out of the city. Aerial bombardments by the US-led coalition targeting ISIS positions in and around the city contributed to weakening the jihadist forces, but as the battle of Kobani has shown, these only play a secondary role when it comes to defeating ISIS.

“It was like being reborn again,” Idriss Nassan, the deputy foreign minister of Kobani said. Idriss had moved to the Turkish border town of Suruç when the situation became critical in Kobani in early October and had worked as foreign minister from there. Two days before the victory of Kobani, he decided to move back to his hometown and described the joy at being able to live in his city again after spending four months in Turkey.

The new center and food shortages

While the liberation of Kobani came as a long-awaited relief and was proudly celebrated by the citizens of Kobani, it was a bittersweet victory. More than 80 percent of the city has been destroyed entirely, reduced to little but a heap of rubble. Throughout the battle, YPG based its operations from the west where there was little fighting, except for ISIS’s mortar shells and the real danger of sniper fire.

As a result, the urban center has shifted west — the only part of the city where life still exists. Guerrillas, taking a break from the front-line in the villages surrounding Kobani, stroll through the streets calmly with Kalashnikovs in hand, soaking up freedom. Men and women linger at street corners, chatting about the latest YPG victory in the villages.

A school now functions, with eager children hoping to forget the pains of the conflict. In itself, the school amounts to little more than a concrete foundation of a house on the western outskirts of the city. However, when you descend into the basement — chosen for its obvious protection from ISIS shells — there is a bustling environment of alternative education.

Throughout the four-month siege, there has been a constant shortage of food. With the border controlled by the Turkish military, which decides to let in supplies at its own discretion, people have had to rely on smuggling routes. But the cornerstone of the city’s food production remains the bakery. “The bread has fed the resistance.” one citizen explained to me.

The bakery, run by a family that bravely continued its work throughout the siege, has provided bread for free for all the fighters and the citizens that stayed behind in Kobani. Due to its indispensability, it had been a target of ISIS, and as a result they hid the bakery’s location to any journalists until now. “I decided to remain in the city baking bread because I realized it was essential for the survival of the resistance,” a member of the family of bakers told me.

The larger bakery, which provided the whole city with bread before the siege, was targeted by ISIS mortars in the early days of the fighting and as a result it was already closed down five months ago. Now it has been reopened, and besides its logistical importance, this is above all a symbolic victory. Ibrahim, the bakery manager, described how it had taken them ten days to rebuild because of the damage inflicted by ISIS’s mortar shells.

Now it was finally functioning, and bread was once again being baked for the community. Ibrahim told me in an interview that “in order to feed the community, you must fight for it.” Although of little strategic significance, for Ibrahim and many other citizens of Kobani, the reopening of the bakery was a long-awaited victory for which they had fought long and hard.

Children in Kobani. Photo by author.

Aside from the daily supply of bread, the depot is where all citizens go to collect whatever supplies they need as the shops stopped functioning many months ago. I visited it one day to collect food for the house I was staying at. Behind the counter, they have piles of canned food, a selection of fresh vegetables, oil and household supplies. “It’s just like a normal shop but without money,” Mustafa joked. And it was exactly that: Kobani, the moneyless economy.

Meanwhile, families are slowly returning to Kobani after many months of anxiously awaiting the outcome of the battle in Turkey. For four months they watched the bombs rain down on their beloved city, and now they are finally back. I watched as families returned home, shouting “Long live the resistance ofKobani!” as they walked through the YPG border gate into their destroyed city.

One old woman told me upon arriving into Kobani that “the destruction of the city is incomparable to the lives we have lost.” For her, the destruction lay not in the piles of rubble confronting her arrival, but in the memories of the many members of her family who were martyred in the resistance to free the city.

Another father, who had stayed fighting throughout the battle while his family escaped to Turkey, was emotionally reunited with his family after four painful months apart. He told me that “if we didn’t have the love for our children and for our family, we couldn’t have won this battle.”

Dangers remain in a free Kobani

While people start to enjoy the slow normalization of their lives in the city,Kobani still feels very much like a ghost city, completely destroyed by the war.Unexploded bombs are scattered everywhere, often going unnoticed. Some are buried into the road, while others lie unobtrusively beneath the rubble. Children play alongside these bombs, not giving them a moment’s thought. Every now and then, a loud explosion pierces through the city, and civilians exchange fearful looks, hoping that nobody was harmed. Half a dozen people have died as a result of such accidents in the last week alone.

The government of Kobani has said that “until all bombs and explosives are removed from Kobani, the city and villages will not be safe,” and have issued a call-out for international support in clearing the city. With the town mostly destroyed and unexploded bombs dispersed all over the only inhabitable part of the city, it appears that it will take a long time for normal life to resume.

However, Kobani’s call for international assistance is likely to go unnoticed unless strong pressure is exerted to open a humanitarian corridor. Kobani — and the other Rojavan cantons of Afrin and Cezire — have consistently faced an unjust embargo from the international community over the last two years. Due to this embargo, Turkey only allows basic food supplies to cross the border, giving no permission for construction vehicles or building materials to enter Kobani.

As the HDP parliamentarian Ibrahim Ayhan says, “Until the border is fully free no help will be properly delivered.” Idriss Nassan believes the international community has a duty, stating that “if the international community wantsKobani to be rebuilt and victory to be continued, they have to open this[humanitarian] corridor.”

The reason emphasis has now been placed on the opening of a humanitarian corridor comes from a fear that, without such a corridor, Kobani will forever resemble a destroyed city. Refugees, anxious to return to the homeland they were forced to flee under the savage advances of ISIS, will not be able to return for months. The city will remain in its crumbled, depleted state, forever traumatized and scarred by the siege. Kurdish government officials recognize this, and it is for this reason that they have issued an urgent appeal for a humanitarian corridor to be opened.

From self-dependence to dependency — and back?

But is Kobani really free? While ISIS has been driven out of the town, the jihadist forces still sit uneasily on its borders. Furthermore, the city lies in ruins. The total destruction that one sees across the city is everywhere south-east of the border gate. This was ISIS’s base throughout the conflict, and as a result, a target of the US-led coalition’s bombs. Instead of targeting the supply routes that ISIS used continuously throughout the siege, they choose to target ISIS purely within the city’s confines, condemning Kobani to dust and rubble. So why did the coalition decide to bomb the city rather than the supply routes of ISIS?

Mustafa believes this decision on the part of the US military was “a form of punishment for our system.” Rojava, with its grassroots-democratic model, had painstakingly resisted international capitalist interests through its system ofdemocratic confederalism. This system, which focuses on autonomous self-dependence, has never fit easily with Western interests. As a result, many here believe the policy to bomb Kobani into oblivion has firmly forced its administration from one of self-dependence to dependency.

While the international community supported the Kurdish forces in their battle against ISIS, as of yet there has been no support to help the Kurds rebuild their city. Given the sheer extent of the destruction, it is also clear that the Kurds cannot rebuild the city alone. Since the international community bombed Kobani to the ground, it also has a duty to help it rebuild. When Rojava and its grassroots model of democratic autonomy were created, an actual city existed. The embargo that made life difficult for the Rojava administration could be negotiated around. But now that Kobani lies in total ruins, the people of Kobanineed help.

If no such help is delivered, the city will forever resemble a ghost city, trapped between freedom and imprisonment. Aid is therefore essential, which requires a concerted international effort to force Turkey to open a humanitarian corridor. Enwer Muslim, the Prime Minister of the Kobani canton, has said that “the resistance of Kobani was a victory for humanity and will stand as an example in history. In the face of ISIS’s barbarism, Kobani stood up for humanity. Now is the time for humanity and the international community to stand up for Kobani.”

With this plea for support, careful attention must be paid to ensure the rebuilding of the town will be done in the same spirit of self-dependence that was used to liberate the city.

Yvo Fitzherbert is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul. He writes for a number of different publications, with a particular focus on Kurdish politics. Follow him on Twitter at @yvofitz.

Freedom Square in the eastern part of the city. Photo by author.




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,639 other followers