After the US election, an escalation of the Mideast war

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29 October 2014

Last week, the Pentagon announced the death of a 19-year-old Marine, the first fatality among the estimated 1,900 US troops currently deployed in the new US war in the Middle East. This will undoubtedly be only the first of many American casualties in this war, a death toll that will be multiplied many times over for the Iraqi and Syrian men, women and children who will lose their lives in this latest imperialist intervention.

Less than one week before the midterm elections in the US, it is becoming ever more clear that, whatever the results in terms of the breakdown of Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Obama administration will embark on a major escalation of military operations once the voting is done.

Already there is a mounting drumbeat from within Washington’s vast military and intelligence apparatus—and those in politics and the media who voice its demands—for stepped-up bombing and more US “boots on the ground” in both Iraq and Syria.

This campaign for military escalation was summed up in a lead editorial published in Monday’s Washington Post entitled “Mr. Obama’s half-hearted fight against the Islamic State.” The editorial asserts that “an unlikely consensus is emerging across the ideological spectrum” in Washington that the Obama administration’s current strategy in the war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is “unworkable,” and that “the military means the president has authorized cannot accomplish his announced aims.”

The editorial criticizes the “modest tempo of airstrikes” as well as “the absence of ground trainers and special forces who could accompany Iraqi and Syrian forces.” It cites an unnamed senior Pentagon official as stating that the aim of fielding a new mercenary army of “rebels” in Syria is impossible “if you’re not on the ground to advise and assist them.”

“The United States will have to broaden its aims and increase its military commitment if the terrorists are to be defeated,” the editorial concludes. This means “a strategy to counter the Assad regime” and deploying special operations troops in combat together with Iraqi and Syrian proxy forces.

The editorial follows a report in the Post last week that US and Iraqi officials recently discussed increasing the number of US military “advisers” in Iraq, and that deploying them “in the field with the Iraqis” is under consideration, given the abysmal record of Iraqi security forces collapsing in the face of ISIS advances.

Along similar lines, Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon official and adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has written of US strategy in the Iraq-Syria war “imploding” and dismissed the campaign of air strikes in both countries as “military tokenism.” He insists that “advisers” must be deployed alongside Iraqi troops “as soon as possible,” and that the US must accept “risking combat losses.”

Then there is Lt. Col. John Nagl (ret.), the co-author of the Army’s Counterinsurgency Manual, who states that some 15,000 US “advisers” are needed on the ground, and that the war in Iraq and Syria will have to go on “for at least a generation and probably longer.”

The Vietnam War provides an instructive precedent for the steady escalation in the number of “advisers” deployed in a US overseas intervention. John F. Kennedy deployed several hundred to the country shortly after taking office. By the time he was assassinated in November 1963, they numbered 16,700. Within barely two years, 200,000 US troops had been thrown into the war, and by 1968 the number was well over half a million.

Obviously, there are vast differences between Vietnam, where Washington intervened in an attempt to crush a popular anti-colonial struggle, and Iraq and Syria, where it confronts a crisis entirely of its own making, forged through the destruction of Iraq in nearly nine years of war and the devastation of Syria by the Islamist militias that the US and its allies have armed and supported.

What they have in common, however, is that the existing forces on the ground, the Iraqi army and the so-called Syrian “moderate rebels,” are—like the South Vietnamese Army before them—wholly inadequate (or non-existent) instruments for achieving US aims. Thus, the demand for US “boots on the ground”—plenty of them and in short order.

Once again, the American people are being dragged into a criminal war of aggression based upon lies. While this war is being sold with propaganda about ISIS atrocities against minorities, beheadings, etc., the real objective is the use of military force to assert US hegemony over the strategically vital and oil-rich Middle East.

The aims of this war, which spans national boundaries, involves not only the re-occupation of Iraq, but also the overthrow of the government of Syria and its replacement with a pliant US puppet regime. These war aims, in turn, place US imperialism on a clear trajectory for military confrontation with Iran and Russia, posing the real threat of a Third World War.

Every step has been taken to preclude next week’s midterm elections from providing the slightest possibility for the American people to express their will in relation to the most important political question, that of a war which we are told may last for more than “a generation.”

Just before the bombs began falling in Iraq, the members of the US Congress scurried out of town for a two-month campaign season recess without taking any vote to authorize a war that is both unconstitutional and in violation of international law. Any vote that is taken will be held after the election in a lame-duck session of Congress, thereby assuring that no one will be held politically accountable. In the election campaign itself, the war—like virtually every other social question of vital importance to the masses of working people—is not even an issue.

Nothing could more clearly expose the entirely rotted-out character of the American political system, which is controlled lock, stock and barrel by a financial aristocracy, and in which decisions on imperialist war abroad and repression at home are made by an unelected cabal of military and intelligence officials for whom Obama serves as a mouthpiece.

The corrupt capitalist two-party system offers no means to resist the drive to war. The working class must intervene independently, mobilizing its objective strength in a mass antiwar movement based upon a socialist and internationalist program to put an end to capitalism, which is the source of war.

Bill Van Auken

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/29/pers-o29.html

Bill Maher under fire: UC Berkeley students petitioning against comedian’s commencement address

More than 1,700 people have signed the Change.org petition

Bill Maher under fire: UC Berkeley students petitioning against comedian's commencement address
Bill Maher in “Real Time with Bill Maher” (Credit: HBO/Janet Van Ham)

Due to Bill Maher’s recent controversial comments about Islam, students at University of California, Berkeley, are petitioning to have the university rescind his invitation to speak at a December graduation ceremony.

The Change.org petition, which had more than 1,700 signatures as of Monday afternoon, calls for U.C. Berkeley to stop the comedian and host of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” from delivering a commencement speech. “Bill Maher is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for,” the petition reads.

The petition was authored by ASUC Senator Marium Navid, according to Berkeley’s student paper the Daily Californian. Navid is supported by the Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian Coalition (MEMSA). The Change.org petition appears under the name of Khwaja Ahmed, who according to the Daily Californian is a member of MEMSA. From the Daily Californian:

“‘It’s not an issue of freedom of speech, it’s a matter of campus climate,’ Navid said. ‘The First Amendment gives him the right to speak his mind, but it doesn’t give him the right to speak at such an elevated platform as the commencement. That’s a privilege his racist and bigoted remarks don’t give him.’”



The controversial comments in question are from a now-infamous debate on “Real Time” between Maher and atheist author Sam Harris and actor Ben Affleck about radical Islam. At one point Affleck called Maher’s comments “gross” and “racist,” and the comments have sparked a wider conversation about religion and liberalism, and a response from author and professor Reza Aslan (among others).

Maher is not the only proposed commencement speaker to be petitioned against. In May 2014 alone there was a boom of campus protests that led to the declining of invitations by several invited speakers including former U.C. Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

According to the Daily Californian, University Relations has the final say on confirming Maher as the commencement speaker.

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

https://kielarowski.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php

After Gezi: Erdoğan and political struggle in Turkey

by Global Uprisings on October 24, 2014

Post image for After Gezi: Erdoğan and political struggle in TurkeyThe latest Global Uprisings film chronicles a year of resistance and repression that has left Turkey profoundly divided in the wake of the Gezi uprising.

Political struggles over the future of Turkey have left the country profoundly divided. Former Prime Minister, now President, Tayyip Erdogan, has fueled growing polarization through his authoritarian response to protests, his large-scale urban development projects, his religious social conservatism, and most recently, through his complicity in the Islamic State’s war against the Kurdish people in Northern Syria.

In the year after the Gezi uprising, protests continue against the government’s urban redevelopment plans, against police repression, in response to repression of the Kurdish and Alevi populations, and in honor of the martyrs that lost their lives in the uprising. Most recently, angry protests and riots have spread across the country in solidarity with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units fighting against the Islamic State in Kobanê, Rojava. This film chronicles a year of uprisings, resistance and repression since the Gezi uprising in Turkey.

After Gezi: Erdoğan And Political Struggle In Turkey from brandon jourdan on Vimeo.

Autopsy shows St. Louis teenager Vonderrit Myers was gunned down by police while fleeing

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By Thomas Gaist
25 October 2014

The results of a private autopsy indicate that St. Louis teenager Vonderrit D. Myers, who was gunned down earlier this month by an off-duty cop, was running away when he was shot, then subsequently killed execution-style with a bullet to the head, attorneys for his family said Friday.

Myers was killed on October 8, two months after the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked mass protests that were met by a militarized police crackdown.

Jerryl Christmas, an attorney for Myers’s family, said the findings contradicted claims by police that Myers had engaged in a shootout with the officer. “The evidence shows that the story we’ve been given by the Police Department does not match up. There’s no evidence that there was a gun battle going on,” Christmas said.

Jermaine Wooten, another attorney for Myers’s family, said that according to eyewitness testimony, Myers was “screaming on the ground…begging this officer to stop.”

“The officer then runs up the hill, approaches Vonderrit, and then we hear one single shot. Vonderrit is not screaming anymore,” the attorney concluded.

The officer, whose name has not been made public, remains on paid administrative leave.

The autopsy, conducted by renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht at the request of Myers’s family, showed that the 18-year-old, who family insists was unarmed, was shot six times in the back of his legs, once in the front of the leg, and once in the head.

“Six of the eight gunshot wounds were directed posteriorly. They struck Mister Myers on the rear part of his body,” Wecht said. The numerous hits to Myers’ legs strongly suggested that the teenager was running away when the shots were fired, he added.

In addition to the six shots to Myer’s back, the still-unnamed St Louis police officer fired a downward, execution-style shot to the head, which passed through the youth’s left cheek, and was lodged in his body, Wecht found. “The head wound would have rendered Vonderrit immediately unconscious,” Wecht said.

Myers’ wounds indicated that the shots to his legs traveled a “significant upward direction,” Wecht said, suggesting that they were fired at the youth’s back as he ran uphill away from the officer.

“With Vonderrit running up the hill away from the officer and the officer shooting then from a lower down position, that would fit in perfectly and explain how you have bullets that appear to move upward in the body,” Wecht noted.

Preliminary results from a separate autopsy conducted by St Louis Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Graham similarly found that Myers “was shot six to seven times in the lower extremities, with the fatal shot entering the right cheek.” Dr. Graham is currently preparing a final report.

The St Louis police department has repeatedly altered its account of events that day, eventually settling on a convoluted narrative in which Myers initially fled from the officer, then entered into a “physical confrontation” with the officer, and finally fled again up a hill before firing three shots at the officer.

Seeking to square this account with the latest autopsy results, a lawyer representing the officer involved claimed that Myers was shot as he fell forward onto the ground, while pointing his weapon at the officer 180 degrees behind him.

“He was propped up on his left elbow, and his legs were facing out at the policeman as he went down, but he was still holding the gun and pointing it at the policeman,” the lawyer said.

To substantiate their version of events, the police are pointing to a forensic report by the Missouri State Highway Patrol asserting the presence of gunpowder residue on Myers’ body and clothing. The same report acknowledges, however, that such residue could stem from any number of causes, such as being shot at close range.

“The presence of gunshot residue on a person’s hands could mean the individual discharged a firearm, was near a firearm when it was discharged or touched an object with gunshot residue on it. Individuals shot at close range can have gunshot residue deposited onto their hands,” the report states.

The St. Louis police department claims to have possession of the weapon allegedly used by Myers, but has not made it available for public scrutiny. No DNA matching samples taken from Myers’s body have been found on Myers’ alleged weapon, according to comments made by St Louis Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Graham reported in the St Louis American. “If he had been carrying the gun, it would have had his DNA,” Wooten said.

The shooting of Myers follows the August 20 police killing of 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, a mentally disturbed man who died in a barrage of a dozen shots from two police officers, including several while he was motionless on the ground. A cell phone video subsequently showed that police misled the public about important circumstances of the killing.

Despite working as a private security contractor for Hi-Tek Security Services, the officer who killed Myers was reportedly wearing official police gear and wielding a police-issued weapon.

A local store manager, who saw Myers just before the incident, described Myers as “relaxed, regular, no worries or nothing” as he walked out onto the street carrying a sandwich. Myers’ aunt and guardian similarly said that the young man had a sandwich in his hands minutes before he was shot, a claim substantiated by surveillance videos.

Defending the use of an entire clip of ammunition against Myers, a lawyer for the St Louis Police Officers’ Association stated that whenever an officer uses deadly force, “he uses deadly force until the threat is gone.”

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/25/myer-o25.html

Assange: Google Is Not What It Seems

When Google Met Wikileaks

In June 2011, Julian Assange received an unusual visitor: the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, arrived from America at Ellingham Hall, the country house in Norfolk, England where Assange was living under house arrest.

For several hours the besieged leader of the world’s most famous insurgent publishing organization and the billionaire head of the world’s largest information empire locked horns. The two men debated the political problems faced by society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network—from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin.

They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with U.S. foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to Western companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently.

In this extract from When Google Met WikiLeaks Assange describes his encounter with Schmidt and how he came to conclude that it was far from an innocent exchange of views.

Eric Schmidt is an influential figure, even among the parade of powerful characters with whom I have had to cross paths since I founded WikiLeaks. In mid-May 2011 I was under house arrest in rural Norfolk, England, about three hours’ drive northeast of London. The crackdown against our work was in full swing and every wasted moment seemed like an eternity. It was hard to get my attention.

But when my colleague Joseph Farrell told me the executive chairman of Google wanted to make an appointment with me, I was listening.

In some ways the higher echelons of Google seemed more distant and obscure to me than the halls of Washington. We had been locking horns with senior U.S. officials for years by that point. The mystique had worn off. But the power centers growing up in Silicon Valley were still opaque and I was suddenly conscious of an opportunity to understand and influence what was becoming the most influential company on earth. Schmidt had taken over as CEO of Google in 2001 and built it into an empire.

I was intrigued that the mountain would come to Muhammad. But it was not until well after Schmidt and his companions had been and gone that I came to understand who had really visited me.

The stated reason for the visit was a book. Schmidt was penning a treatise with Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas, an outfit that describes itself as Google’s in-house “think/do tank.”

I knew little else about Cohen at the time. In fact, Cohen had moved to Google from the U.S. State Department in 2010. He had been a fast-talking “Generation Y” ideas man at State under two U.S. administrations, a courtier from the world of policy think tanks and institutes, poached in his early twenties.

He became a senior advisor for Secretaries of State Rice and Clinton. At State, on the Policy Planning Staff, Cohen was soon christened “Condi’s party-starter,” channeling buzzwords from Silicon Valley into U.S. policy circles and producing delightful rhetorical concoctions such as “Public Diplomacy 2.0.” On his Council on Foreign Relations adjunct staff page he listed his expertise as “terrorism; radicalization; impact of connection technologies on 21st century statecraft; Iran.”

It was Cohen who, while he was still at the Department of State, was said to have emailed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to delay scheduled maintenance in order to assist the aborted 2009 uprising in Iran. His documented love affair with Google began the same year when he befriended Eric Schmidt as they together surveyed the post-occupation wreckage of Baghdad. Just months later, Schmidt re-created Cohen’s natural habitat within Google itself by engineering a “think/do tank” based in New York and appointing Cohen as its head. Google Ideas was born.

Later that year two co-wrote a policy piece for the Council on Foreign Relations’ journal Foreign Affairs, praising the reformative potential of Silicon Valley technologies as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Describing what they called “coalitions of the connected,” Schmidt and Cohen claimed that:

Democratic states that have built coalitions of their militaries have the capacity to do the same with their connection technologies.…

They offer a new way to exercise the duty to protect citizens around the world [emphasis added].

Schmidt and Cohen said they wanted to interview me. I agreed. A date was set for June.

Jared Cohen

Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas Olivia Harris/Reuters

* * *

By the time June came around there was already a lot to talk about. That summer WikiLeaks was still grinding through the release of U.S. diplomatic cables, publishing thousands of them every week. When, seven months earlier, we had first started releasing the cables, Hillary Clinton had denounced the publication as “an attack on the international community” that would “tear at the fabric” of government.

It was into this ferment that Google projected itself that June, touching down at a London airport and making the long drive up into East Anglia to Norfolk and Beccles.

Schmidt arrived first, accompanied by his then partner, Lisa Shields. When he introduced her as a vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations—a U.S. foreign-policy think tank with close ties to the State Department—I thought little more of it. Shields herself was straight out of Camelot, having been spotted by John Kennedy Jr.’s side back in the early 1990s.

They sat with me and we exchanged pleasantries. They said they had forgotten their Dictaphone, so we used mine. We made an agreement that I would forward them the recording and in exchange they would forward me the transcript, to be corrected for accuracy and clarity. We began. Schmidt plunged in at the deep end, straightaway quizzing me on the organizational and technological underpinnings of WikiLeaks.

* * *

Some time later Jared Cohen arrived. With him was Scott Malcomson, introduced as the book’s editor. Three months after the meeting Malcomson would enter the State Department as the lead speechwriter and principal advisor to Susan Rice (then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, now national security advisor).

At this point, the delegation was one part Google, three parts U.S. foreign-policy establishment, but I was still none the wiser. Handshakes out of the way, we got down to business.

Schmidt was a good foil. A late-fiftysomething, squint-eyed behind owlish spectacles, managerially dressed—Schmidt’s dour appearance concealed a machinelike analyticity. His questions often skipped to the heart of the matter, betraying a powerful nonverbal structural intelligence.

It was the same intellect that had abstracted software-engineering principles to scale Google into a megacorp, ensuring that the corporate infrastructure always met the rate of growth. This was a person who understood how to build and maintain systems: systems of information and systems of people. My world was new to him, but it was also a world of unfolding human processes, scale and information flows.

For a man of systematic intelligence, Schmidt’s politics—such as I could hear from our discussion—were surprisingly conventional, even banal. He grasped structural relationships quickly, but struggled to verbalize many of them, often shoehorning geopolitical subtleties into Silicon Valley marketese or the ossified State Department micro-language of his companions. He was at his best when he was speaking (perhaps without realizing it) as an engineer, breaking down complexities into their orthogonal components.

I found Cohen a good listener, but a less interesting thinker, possessed of that relentless conviviality that routinely afflicts career generalists and Rhodes Scholars. As you would expect from his foreign-policy background, Cohen had a knowledge of international flash points and conflicts and moved rapidly between them, detailing different scenarios to test my assertions. But it sometimes felt as if he was riffing on orthodoxies in a way that was designed to impress his former colleagues in official Washington.

Malcomson, older, was more pensive, his input thoughtful and generous. Shields was quiet for much of the conversation, taking notes, humoring the bigger egos around the table while she got on with the real work.

As the interviewee, I was expected to do most of the talking. I sought to guide them into my worldview. To their credit, I consider the interview perhaps the best I have given. I was out of my comfort zone and I liked it.

We ate and then took a walk in the grounds, all the while on the record. I asked Eric Schmidt to leak U.S. government information requests to WikiLeaks, and he refused, suddenly nervous, citing the illegality of disclosing Patriot Act requests. And then, as the evening came on, it was done and they were gone, back to the unreal, remote halls of information empire, and I was left to get back to my work.

That was the end of it, or so I thought.

CONTINUED:   http://www.newsweek.com/assange-google-not-what-it-seems-279447?piano_d=1

Blackwater mercenaries convicted for role in 2007 Iraq massacre

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By Thomas Gaist
23 October 2014

A federal court jury convicted four former Blackwater Worldwide mercenaries on charges of murder and manslaughter Wednesday for their role in the 2007 massacre in Nisour Square in Baghdad, which left 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians dead and another 20 wounded.

Blackwater earned global notoriety for the massacre, which was one expression of a brutal US war and occupation that has left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and laid waste to an entire society. The Nisour Square massacre stands alongside similar atrocities carried out by US forces in Haditha, Fallujah, the Abu Ghraib prison facility and elsewhere.

Former Blackwater sniper Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first degree murder. Evan Liberty, Paul Slough and Dustin Heard were all found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and using a machine gun to carry out a violent crime. The convictions carry minimum sentences of 30 years in prison for Liberty, Slough and Heard and a potential life sentence for Slatten.

The decision is subject to appeal, which could take a year or more, and the verdicts could be overturned in the process.

After 28 days of deliberation following an 11-week trial, the jury in a federal district court in Washington decisively rejected the defense team’s arguments that the mercenaries had fired on the crowd in self-defense. This story had already been thoroughly debunked by an Iraqi government study and independent investigations by reporters at the New York Times and Washington Post .

On September 16, 2007, the security contractors opened up with machine guns and grenade launchers into stopped traffic, before turning their sights on crowds of civilians seeking to flee the scene. The Blackwater forces suffered virtually no damage during the incident.

Civilian vehicles were riddled with dozens of bullets. One woman was shot as she held her dead son in her arms, with the vehicle she was in then incinerated. Blackwater helicopters also fired into cars from overhead.

Jurors were reportedly overwhelmed by the gruesome details supplied in testimony by witnesses. One juror was excused after informing the judge that testimony from a father about the death of his 9-year old son caused her to suffer from bouts of insomnia.

The massacre occurred amidst the massive wave of sectarian and ethnic bloodletting, fomented in 2007 by the US as part the “surge,” which forced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to flee their homes in a matter of months, bringing to the total number of refugees produced by the US invasion to some 3.7 million.

The Obama administration, which prosecuted the case, has sought to spin the guilty verdict as an example of the US government’s supposed democratic values.

“This verdict is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war,” US Attorney Ronald Machen said in an official statement. “Today’s verdict demonstrates the FBI’s dedication to investigating violations of US law no matter where they occur,” said top FBI official Andrew McCabe.

In reality, while the Blackwater mercenaries are guilty of horrendous crimes, these crimes flowed from the overarching crime: the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US government with the aim of extending its control over the oil-rich country.

For this crime, the entire political and military establishment stands guilty, and none of the principal architects have been prosecuted. This includes the top officials in the Bush administration: former president George W. Bush, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former vice president Dick Cheney and many others. The preparation and launching of the war of aggression was aided and abetted by Democrats and Republicans in the Congress, along with the mass media, which propagated the lies used to justify the war.

While shielding Bush-era war criminals from prosecution, the Obama administration has continued and extended the global program of war and violence of the US military. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were followed by the war in Libya, the stoking of civil war in Syria, and a massive program of murder through drone warfare, with the populations of Yemen, Libya and Somalia subject to regular volleys of cruise missiles and laser guided-weapons.

Now the Obama administration has launched a new war in the Middle East, with troops returning to Iraq and preparations being put in place for a direct war in Syria. At the same time, the US military is increasingly turning its attention to larger threats to the interests of the American ruling class, including China and Russia.

The Blackwater verdict gives expression to growing popular revulsion against the neocolonial war policies of the government and the prominent role of fascistic mercenary forces. While the Justice Department brought the case, the verdict was undoubtedly received with a mixture of shock and apprehension by the Obama administration and the military.

Contrary to numerous reports in the corporate media portraying the convictions as a long-standing goal of US policy, in reality the military, political establishment and court system made strenuous efforts to protect the Blackwater agents from prosecution. The State Department granted the mercenaries partial immunity, and a federal judge dismissed the case against them in 2009 before it was later reinstated. The US also blocked efforts by Iraq to try the men in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Blackwater, since renamed Xi and now Academi, remains a favored instrument of US foreign policy, with hundreds of its private gunmen serving as shock troops for the US-backed regime in Kiev in its terror war against the civilian population of east Ukraine. Supported by US intelligence, Blackwater operators have played a leadership role in the operations of neo-Nazi Right Sector militias and fascistic forces responsible for ongoing atrocities.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/23/blac-o23.html

Kobanê, the Kurdish struggle, and the dangers lurking ahead

by Jelle Bruinsma on October 19, 2014

Post image for Kobanê, the Kurdish struggle, and the dangers lurking aheadWhile ISIS has been driven out of Kobanê, dangers of U.S. imperial prerogatives lurk around the corner for Kurdish ambitions for democratic autonomy.

Now that various reports confirm that the amazingly brave Kurdish men and women have succeeded in holding the town of Kobanê and even driving out the ISIS fascists, it is time to reflect. How did they manage to repel ISIS? Why did the U.S. become more heavily involved? And what dangers lurk ahead?

Two weeks ago, the indomitable People’s Protection Units (YPG) came out with a defiant statement underlining the sense of their “historic responsibilities”, promising that “the defeat and extinction of ISIS will begin in Kobanê. Every single street and house of Kobanê will be a grave for ISIS.” Many admired the courage of the Kurds. Turkish and other comrades even tried to join in the defense of Kobanê and worldwide campaigns were set up to raise money for them.

But there were probably few outsiders who truly believed that ISIS’ murderous assault could be stopped, with several published articles assuming Kobanê had all but fallen. This was in large part due to Turkey’s criminal and intransigent position of blocking Kurdish supply lines, and the lack of U.S. interest in what — in their imperial calculations — was a strategically unimportant town.

Two weeks later, the situation seems to have been turned around, with ISIS reportedly retreating and a Kurdish official stating that “There is no ISIS in Kobanê now,” although fighting continues on the eastern outskirts. In these same weeks, the U.S. has stepped up its aerial bombardments of ISIS positions in and out of Kobanê, and engaged for the first time in direct talks with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). Kurdish YPG commander Baharin Kandal, meanwhile, said “her militia group had been receiving arms, supplies and fighters.” Although she did not disclose more information, journalists in the Turkish town of Suruc, 15 kilometres across the border from Kobanê, reportedly “met fighters who have been passing back and forth.” This could be due to the fighters’ intimate knowledge of the region, but a “well-placed Turk” told the BBC “that supplies had indeed been allowed across.”

As was reported on ROAR two weeks ago, if Kobanê had fallen, the U.S. and Turkey would have been to blame. Both states had the power and military capacity to stop ISIS from reaching the town. Moreover, and more importantly, various reports seemed to prove that Turkey was actively helping ISIS by:

  1. allowing wounded ISIS fighters to receive treatment in Turkish hospitals, and cross back into Syria to re-join the fight;
  2. allowing ISIS to cross the border and sell oil from the oil-fields it controls on Turkey’s black market, a fact of tremendous financial importance for ISIS;
  3. blocking the experienced PKK-forces from crossing into Syria to help defend Kobanê and fight ISIS, and likewise blocking weapons and other necessary supplies;
  4. last week this was compounded by actively re-engaging in the war against its own Kurds when it bombed PKK positions in the southeastern Dağlıca district.

Although all of the above still holds, imperial politics and calculations are complex and reflect the need to defend various and contradicting interests. In the case of Kobanê, it is obvious that Turkey was happy to let ISIS deal a heavy blow to the Kurdish forces, and potentially slaughter thousands of Kurds. It was also looking to trade off international pressure for a renewed front against Syria’s Assad. The United States, too, was perfectly happy to let these ‘unworthy victims’ die, and made clear Kobanê was of no significance to them.

What changed this situation? Although the U.S. still prioritizes fighting ISIS in Iraq, in which it has many more economic interests and its reputation to defend, it increased its air attacks on ISIS around Kobanê, possibly in coordination with the Kurds. Kurds in the region are understandably cheering on these U.S. air strikes on ISIS positions, and from the beginning the Kurdish resistance had been calling for more or more effective air strikes.

Two reasons seem to me to explain the intensified involvement of the U.S.

Firstly, the well-trained YPG-PKK forces proved the most effective military opponents of ISIS, even when highly outnumbered and outgunned. Whereas in Iraq the army — despite a decade of U.S. training and advanced weaponry — crumbled at the mere sight of ISIS fighters, the YPG-PKK forces proved their ‘worth’ for the second time, after first coming to the rescue of the Iraqi Yezidi’s. Since the United States does not want to put ‘boots on the ground’, since its regional allies have not shown any serious commitment so far, and since its aerial campaign is doomed to failure, it needs allies who are determined to fight ISIS.

Secondly, the U.S. is helping out in Kobanê for “propaganda reasons”, in the words of the BBC’s diplomatic and defense editor, Mark Urban. As in any good mafia network, in international relations reputation is everything. With the U.S. announcing it will “degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIS, and the eyes of the world on Kobanê due to the hardened bravery of the Kurdish fighters and the activism by their supporters all over the world, a massacre in Kobanê would have dealt a blow to U.S. credibility. Kobanê “is more of a symbol than a strategic asset, but its loss would strengthen the sense that [ISIS] is unstoppable”, Brookings Institution military analyst Michael O’Hanlon adds.

The Kurds have now been forced into a seemingly unavoidable but dangerous strategic alliance with the United States. Unavoidable, since they were outgunned by ISIS and needed advanced weaponry on its side to block ISIS and create breathing space. Dangerous, because Kurdish interests and intentions are diametrically opposed to those of the U.S., of which both are aware. The Kurdish attempts at creating autonomous democratic zones are just as much a threat to U.S. imperial interests as is ISIS. The cornerstone of U.S. Middle East policy has always been the support for stable regimes who could successfully block any calls for democracy or national control over the country’s natural resources. In this sense, David Graeber’s comparison of the Kurds to the Spanish anarchists in 1936 holds up; although the anarchists were fighting the same fascists, all the major western powers opposed them and blocked weapon transports, with Churchill famously preferring the fascists over the anarchists or communists.

In light of the YPG-U.S. cooperation, it is useful to recount a more contemporary history, that of the 1991 betrayal of Iraq’s Shi’ites and Kurds.

It was in 1991, but it could just as well have been 2014, that a European diplomat noted that “The Americans would prefer to have another Assad, or better yet, another Mubarak in Baghdad.” This was during the first Gulf War, initiated because erstwhile ally Saddam Hussein had disobeyed American orders by invading Kuwait. The U.S. attack on Iraq created hope among the oppressed Kurds and Shi’ites, strengthened by Bush’s open encouragement to rise up against Saddam Hussein, thereby creating the impression the U.S. would have their back. But the uncertainties of a post-Saddam Iraq made the U.S. decide to keep Saddam in power. In some of the most dreadful weeks of Iraqi history, the U.S. — in full control of Iraqi airspace — stood by and allowed Saddam Hussein to break the U.S. controlled no-fly zone and use helicopter gunships to suppress the uprisings and slaughter Kurdish and Shi’ite civilians.

The Kurds need hardly to be reminded of these facts. Their families lived through these and other imperial betrayals. At the same time they will not waste time on Western armchair philosophers who condemn any cooperation with U.S. bombs — and rightly so. It was their lives on the line.

But this new situation does pose great difficulties. The fact that the U.S. continues to emphasize the importance of Iraq over Kobanê and that the commander of the U.S. military in the Middle East, Lloyd Austin, on Friday still thought it “highly possible” that Kobanê would eventually fall to ISIS raises serious questions. How long will the U.S. continue to aid the resistance with air strikes? What is being discussed in the high-level talks between PYD representatives with the U.S. State Department? What will the U.S. try to ‘get’ from the Kurds? More active cooperation in the fight against ISIS? In exchange for what?

One answer was given today in the statement of the YPG General Command. In it they confirm that they made a deal with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the group that has been fighting the tyrannical Assad regime with a degree of Western support. They also confirm that the FSA has been fighting on its side in Kobanê and that from now on they will cooperate in “Counter-terrorism and building a free and democratic Syria.” This is a significant change in strategy which entails fighting not only ISIS, but also Assad — a key Turkish demand — and which is further based on a “true partnership for the administration of this country” with all “social classes.”

Was this the price the leftist YPG had to pay in order to open up the supply lines? It is an open question what this will mean for the social revolution in Rojava.

It is not unlikely, for instance, that the supply lines across Turkish borders have been covertly tolerated by Turkey due to U.S. pressure and/or the deal that was made with the FSA. They can also be cut off. U.S. air strikes can also be ceased, and imperial considerations can change. The list of those who, out of necessity or choice, cooperated with imperial powers but were then left to die is endless. The sad fact is that modern-day Emperors can still decide who lives or dies.

As the Kurds are aware, in the long-term, cooperation with the United States is incompatible with their own ambitions and aspirations for a region and society liberated of all forms of oppression. But whether there are any other options in the short-term is a valid question. Even for the continuous supply of much-needed heavy weaponry and the free movement of forces they are to a large extent dependent on the preferences of the imperial masters.

This time, thanks to their own bravery, they forced the imperial hand and are able to fight another day. But what about tomorrow? Turkey has for decades been one of the most important regional allies of the U.S., and although the U.S. now needs the Kurds, this will at best be a temporary alliance.

For us, as Westerners who stand in solidarity with our Kurdish comrades, it is key to keep the pressure on our own states, to keep the eyes of the world focused on Kobanê and the wider Kurdish struggle. More than that, we need to openly support the calls of the YPG for arm supplies and argue for the PKK to be taken off that monstrous ‘terrorist list’. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, the Kurds in the end can only count on themselves. The more freedom to move they have, the better armed they are, the better able they will be to protect the social revolution in Rojava and further combat ISIS.

Jelle Bruinsma is a PhD researcher in History at the European University Institute, and an editor for ROAR Magazine.

http://roarmag.org/2014/10/kobane-kurds-us-imperialism/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

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