Obama’s legacy: Identity politics in the service of war

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29 July 2016

Barack Obama concluded his address to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Wednesday night by declaring himself ready to “pass the baton” to the party’s nominee and his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Accounts of the address in the corporate media have repeatedly referred to the US president casting Clinton as the continuator and custodian of his “legacy.”

But what is the legacy of Obama? In its essential political terms, it consists of his having succeeded in overcoming internal divisions on the question of war that have plagued the Democratic Party for half a century. His administration marks the return of the Democrats to their roots as the premier party of US imperialism, a status the party maintained though two world wars and the subsequent Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Obama, who was swept into office on a wave of popular antiwar sentiment, will enjoy the dubious distinction of being the first president to keep the US at war throughout two full terms in office.

He has continued the wars he inherited in Afghanistan and Iraq, while launching a new one that toppled the government and decimated the society of Libya; engineering a proxy war for regime change that now includes US troops deployed in Syria; and carrying out attacks in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and beyond.

With its “pivot to Asia” and steady buildup of US-NATO forces in Eastern Europe, Washington’s military might has been increasingly directed against Russia and China, in a relentless quest for global hegemony that poses the growing danger of a third world war.

Obama’s administration will also be remembered for its vast expansion of drone warfare, targeted assassinations and kill lists, along with vicious attacks on civil liberties and the militarization of America’s police.

What is extraordinary in the face of all of this is that war was not even a subject of discussion at the convention in Philadelphia. The silence on the matter was guaranteed by the fraudulent opposition candidate Bernie Sanders, who publicly backed Obama’s wars during his campaign, and officially ended his “political revolution” by uncritically endorsing Clinton, the chosen candidate of both Wall Street and the massive US military and intelligence apparatus.

In advance of both major party conventions, there were many comparisons in the media of this presidential election year with that of 1968, with predictions that, once again, there could be violence in the streets.

While no doubt the Trump campaign has escalated the atmosphere of violence in American politics, wholly ignored in these largely superficial analogies was the core issue that brought about the violence of 48 years ago: mass popular opposition to the Vietnam War, which ended up tearing the Democratic Party apart.

The incumbent Democratic President Lyndon Johnson was unable to run for re-election because of the hostility within his own party to the war in Vietnam, expressed in support first for the candidacy of Eugene McCarthy and then for that of Robert Kennedy, who broke with Johnson on the issue.

While Robert Kennedy’s assassination was followed by the nomination of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a supporter of the war, and his subsequent defeat by Republican Richard Nixon, Vietnam shattered the ideological foundations of the old Democratic Party, based on the filthy deal that was the foundation of Cold War liberalism: lip service to social reform at home, combined with unwavering support for US imperialism abroad.

In 1972, the antiwar candidate George McGovern won the nomination and was defeated by Nixon. Nonetheless, the Democratic Party was compelled to take antiwar sentiment into account, in its political calculations, for decades after the war in Vietnam ended.

A chasm had opened up between the party’s leading personnel within the US capitalist state and the Washington think tanks, who remained committed proponents and strategic thinkers of US imperialism, and a political base, including academics and upper layers of the middle class, in which there remained broad hostility to war.

This produced internal conflicts within the party in one election after another. On the one hand, Democratic candidates were compelled to posture publicly as opponents of war, in order to retain credibility with broad sections of the party’s electoral constituency. On the other hand, the Democratic candidates sought desperately to maintain credibility with the corporate and military-intelligence establishment, which expected that the candidate, once elected, would conduct foreign policy with the necessary ruthlessness.

In the aftermath of the election of George W. Bush came the mass antiwar demonstrations of 2003, and the subsequent attempts by various pseudo-left forces to channel this opposition back into the Democratic Party.

With the 2004 presidential election, Howard Dean emerged as an early favorite, campaigning as the representative of the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” and appealing to antiwar sentiment within the party. Even after his candidacy was derailed by the party establishment and the media, John Kerry, who had supported the war, was compelled to posture as an opponent, tying himself up in political knots and handing a re-election victory to Bush.

Finally, in 2008, the decisive reason that Barack Obama won the nomination and Hillary Clinton lost it was Clinton’s vote in 2002 to authorize the US war in Iraq.

In the promotion of Obama’s candidacy, his racial background was presented, particularly by the pseudo-left, as some kind of credential for progressive and antiwar politics, even as a close examination of his political record showed that he was no opponent of militarism. His family and professional connections to the US intelligence apparatus, meanwhile, were kept out of the news.

While Obama’s election was hailed by the pseudo-left as “transformative,” what has emerged over the course of his administration, facilitated by these same political forces, has been the utilization of identity politics in the furtherance of US imperialism.

This formula was on full display at the Philadelphia convention, where identity politics—the promotion of race, gender and sexual orientation as the defining features of political and social life—was woven directly into an unabashed celebration of American militarism.

This found carefully crafted expressions in Obama’s speech, including his declaration that “our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity, forged into common service,” a claim that could be made on behalf of another “all volunteer” imperialist fighting force, the French Foreign Legion.

He went on to state, “When we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. And if you doubt that, just… ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband that he loves.”

The US military had long been a bastion of fanatical homophobia, with over 114,000 service members forced out, with dishonorable discharges, over the issue between World War II and the scrapping of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011. That allowing gays into the military would erode discipline had been an article of faith for the US command.

Central to support for changing this policy was the recognition, within both the ruling political establishment and decisive layers of the military brass, that it would prove politically useful in winning support for the military among a privileged upper middle class layer that had identified with the politics of American liberalism.

The message at the convention was explicit: “These are your troops. These are your wars. They are being fought in your interests.”

Similar issues of identity politics were employed by the Obama administration in its attempts to whip up the anti-Russian hysteria that was on display in Philadelphia. Thus, well-orchestrated campaigns were mounted around Pussy Riot and statements made by Putin in relation to gays during the Sochi winter Olympic games.

In response to the heated rhetoric at the convention, the Washington Post’ssecurity columnist wrote a piece entitled “Clinton has now made the Democrats the anti-Russia party.” He noted: “In their zeal to portray Donald Trump as a dangerous threat to national security, the Clinton campaign has taken a starkly anti-Russian stance, one that completes a total role reversal for the two major American parties on US-Russian relations that Hillary Clinton will now be committed to, if she becomes president.”

The anti-Russian campaign has been ratcheted up sharply in response to the WikiLeaks release of Democratic National Committee emails exposing the collaboration of the DNC leadership and the Clinton campaign in the attempt to sabotage the campaign of her rival, Bernie Sanders, and rig the nomination.

Clinton and her supporters have attempted to quash any discussion of the damning contents of these emails by casting their release as a “national security” issue, with the absurd charge that Vladimir Putin was the real author of the leak, aiming to subvert the US elections.

The same method, it should be recalled, was employed in response to earlier exposures of US imperialism’s crimes abroad and wholesale spying at home, with Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden bearing the consequences in the form of vicious persecution, imprisonment and exile.

Opposition to this relentless repression, as well as to war, found no expression in the Democratic convention. Needless to say, Clinton not only supported, but participated in both.

Most tellingly, a whole political layer, commonly referred to as the “neoconservatives,” which broke with the Democrats in the 1960s and 1970s and moved into leading positions with the Reagan and Bush administrations, have now come home, issuing open letters and statements in support for Hillary Clinton.

This political evolution of the Democratic Party is not merely the matter of machinations within the party leadership and the state apparatus. It has a social base within a privileged social layer that has moved sharply to the right, providing a new constituency for war and imperialism. The systematic fixation on the issues of race, gender and sexual orientation—deliberately opposed to that of class—has provided a key ideological foundation for this reactionary turn.

The convention in Philadelphia has exposed a party that is moving in direct opposition to, and preparing for a confrontation with, a growing radicalization of the American working class.

The next period, as the class struggle emerges powerfully, will see a resurgence of opposition by American workers to war.

The Socialist Equality Party is the only party campaigning to prepare and give conscious political expression to this development, fighting for the political independence of the working class and the building of a mass international movement against war based on a revolutionary socialist program. We urge all of our readers to support and build the SEP campaign of Jerry White for president and Niles Niemuth for vice president.

Bill Van Auken

WSWS

Obama’s “moderate rebels” behead 12-year-old in Syria

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By Bill Van Auken
21 July 2016

A horrific video circulated on social media records an incident in the Syrian city of Aleppo in which so-called “rebels” of the Nour al-Dine Zinki Islamist militia cut off the head of a young boy they had captured on Tuesday. The executioner is seen holding the boy down on the bed of a pickup truck, sawing away at his neck with a small, dull knife and then holding the severed head in the air in triumph after the deed is done.

The episode sums up the whole filthy operation mounted by the Obama administration in the attempt to bring about regime-change in Syria. Those who carried out this savage killing either are, or at least were until recently, armed by and on the payroll of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The murdered child, identified as Abdullah Issa, was just 12 years old. His captors claimed that he was a fighter with Liwa al-Quds (Al Quds Brigade), a Palestinian militia fighting on the side of the Syrian government.

Liwa al-Quds, however, issued a report saying that he was not one of their fighters but rather the child of a poor refugee family, who was taken hostage in the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp in northern Aleppo. The boy, who appears dazed, had apparently been taken while receiving medical treatment, as an intravenous drip attached to his arm is visible in the video.

In the video, one of the child’s tormentors can be heard shouting, “We’ll leave no one in Handarat!” This is apparently a threat by the militia to “ethnically cleanse” the camp of its Palestinian population. Liwa al-Quds described the grisly execution of the child as “cheap and despicable revenge” by the jihadists for losing a battle for control of the area.

In a statement, Nour al-Dine al-Zinki’s leadership formally condemned the barbaric murder of the child, while claiming it represented “individual errors that represent neither our typical practices nor our general policies.”

The video itself, however, shows a number of the group’s fighters cheering on the beheading and recording the tormenting of the boy and his execution on their cell phones.

Moreover, the incident comes just two weeks after Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, issued a report titled “Armed opposition groups committing war crimes in Aleppo city.” In addition to Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, and three other Islamist militias, the report accuses Nour al-Dine Zinki (named first in the report) of having “carried out a chilling wave of abductions, torture and summary killings” in Aleppo and elsewhere in northern Syria. It further charges the US and its regional allies with arming and supporting these groups, which operate with impunity.

The Obama administration’s response to this atrocity has been ambivalent at best. Asked whether the execution of the child “would affect assistance” to the group responsible, State Department spokesman Mark Toner responded that “if we can prove that this was indeed what happened and this group was involved in it, I think it would certainly give us pause.”

Pressed as to what consequences it would have in terms of US support, Toner sidestepped the question: “I can’t say what that consequence will be, but it will certainly give us, as I said, serious pause.”

According to a December 2014 report by the McClatchy news organization, Nour al-Dine Zinki was one of the only CIA-backed groups not to be cut off as the al-Nusra Front began making serious gains, either absorbing these militias or seizing their weapons.

According to McClatchy, the CIA was paying the salaries of the Nour al-Dine Zinki fighters at the rate of $150 a month. The militia was also the recipient of US TOW anti-tank missiles manufactured by the Raytheon Company, in addition to so-called “non-lethal” supplies.

The savage murder of young Abdullah Issa is a grim exposure of the real character of the forces described by the Obama administration as the “moderate opposition”—and by its pseudo-left apologists as Syrian “revolutionaries.”

Like Al Qaeda before them, they are a Frankenstein’s monster created by US and Western imperialism and unleashed upon the people of Syria and the broader region to achieve definite strategic aims by means of regime-change.

Responsibility for the torture and beheading of a Palestinian child, along with the killing of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and the driving of millions more from their homes, lies with the Obama White House, the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department, whose chief officials, from the American president on down, are war criminals who must be held accountable.

WSWS

Inside Milo’s “gays for Trump”

Far-right leaders Milo Yiannopoulos, Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders gave pro-Trump, pro-LGBT, anti-Muslim speeches

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Inside Milo's "gays for Trump," virulently anti-Islam party at the RNC
Milo Yiannopoulos at the “Wake Up!” pro-Trump, anti-Muslim LGBT party at the RNC (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

The most far-right party at the 2016 Republican National Convention may have also been the most pro-LGBT.

Breitbart provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos held a “gays for Trump” party late Tuesday night in Cleveland.

He was joined by far-right anti-Muslim leaders Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders. All three gave adoringly pro-Trump speeches full of anti-Muslim vitriol.

The rhetoric was strikingly reminiscent of the extreme anti-Semitism of the early 20th century, yet directed at Muslims instead of Jews. All of the speakers explicitly condemned Islam itself, not just Islamic extremism.

LGBT for Trump founder Cris Barron stressed the importance of defending “Western civilization” from the existential threat posed by Muslims.

Wilders spoke of a “war” against Islam. He proclaimed “Islam is the problem” and condemned refugees for turning Europe into “Eurabia.”

Geller joined the speakers in applauding Trump’s “ban on Muslims from jihad nations,” which she called a “logical, rational and reasonable” policy.

Milo called Trump “the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history” and proclaimed, “The left’s stranglehold on homosexuals is over.”

Not one speaker mentioned U.S. and European foreign policy and wars, instead conflating the Islamic extremism fueled by Western-backed military conflicts and the political Islamism spread by Western allies with the millennium-old religion practiced by 1.6 billion Muslims.

The speakers all also excoriated the left, which they accused of supporting Islamism and of valuing Muslims over LGBT people.

Chris Barron (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

Chris Barron (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

The art used to publicize the event is a cartoon depicting Donald Trump as a superhero, joined by sidekicks Milo and Geller.

The party, which was officially named “Wake Up! (the most fab party at the RNC),” was a big event for the so-called “alt-right,” a far-right movement that supports liberal social policies and portrays itself in certain ways as libertarian, but harbors some extreme right-wing, fascistic views.

A large yellow Gadsden flag reading “Don’t tread on me,” a common libertarian symbol, was in fact hung on the wall behind the DJ, but the speakers are people who have no problem with big government when it comes to Muslims and migration.

Unlike the so-called New Atheists, who claim they oppose all religions equally — although they reserve particular hatred for Islam and Muslims — the alt-right does not feign impartiality.

Milo mentioned his Catholicism, and Geller openly argued that Christianity and Judaism are better religions than Islam, insisting Islamic law subjugates non-Muslims while Canon and Jewish law do not repress those of other faiths.

Chris Barron, the founder of the pro-LGBT conservative NGO GOProud and the leader of the “LGBT for Trump” campaign, introduced the speakers.

Barron set the tone of the event right from the get-go, warning a “radical Islamic ideology” threatened LGBT Americans. He called it a “life or death situation.”

Barron and the other speakers blamed the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June on Islam, although the U.S.-born shooter was likely himself gay and had previously attended the club. Additionally, a former gay lover of his called it a “revenge” attack.

Trump not only supports LGBT people, Barron claimed, but also employs them, “making gay people part of the Trump empire.”

None of the speakers mentioned Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, although the Trump poster on the podium clearly displayed his name.

Protesters outside the event uniting under the name Queers Against Racism emphasized that Pence has a long history of openly opposing LGBT rights, including voting for legislation that allows business to deny services to people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

While they stood behind the Trump-Pence poster, all the speakers also stood in front of photography depicting young slim white men wearing “Make America great again” hats. These works are part of a series by art photographer Lucian Wintrich titled “Twinks4Trump.” Wintrich told Salon he will soon be having a Trump-themed gallery exhibit in New York City’s East Village.

Barron noted that the event was funded by far-right website Breitbart; Andrew Marcus, director of the film “Hating Breitbart”; and Mike Flynn, the founding editor of Breitbart’s Big Government blog, who passed away in June. Barron also thanked Fox News for its support.

Geert Wilders (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

Geert Wilders (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

Geert Wilders, a far-right politician from the Netherlands who has frequently beendescribed as a fascist, was the first to speak at the party.

Barron introduced Wilders as the “hope for Western civilization,” rhetoric the Dutch leader himself frequently uses.

Wilders opened his speech warning Europe has been turned into “Eurabia,” due to Arab and Muslim migration.

“Europe is imploding,” he claimed, adding it has been flooded with “jihadis.”

“It will only get worse,” Wilders insisted, because Europe’s “stupid governments” keep letting in refugees from Muslim-majority countries.

He called open borders “the worst policy ever.” He also condemned “cultural relativism, the biggest disease in Europe today.”

Wilders claimed refugees and migrants are not integrating and assimilating into white European culture, leading to a “suicide policy.”

The far-right Dutch leader stressed that the enemy is not just Islamic extremism, but Islam itself.

“Get rid of your political correctness,” Wilders declared, as the audience went wild. “Islam and Sharia law are exactly the same,” he said, warning Americans not to “allow Islam to be planted in your soil.”

He accused Muslim migrants of being behind an “explosion of crime, rape… of harassment of our daughters, of the gay community.”

“We are at war,” Wilders proclaimed and reiterated, claiming Sharia law is being implemented in Europe and the U.S.

“Islam is the problem,” he stated clearly, condemning “bullshit about ‘radical Islam.’” The audience applauded loudly, and a young man with a Trump hat on shouted, “Send them back!”

“I don’t want any more mosques in the Netherlands,” Wilders said. He proposed closing borders to Muslim refugees and migrants and deporting those in the country. Then the government should “de-Islamize” society, he said, not expanding on what exactly he meant.

Wilders called for electing new far-right leaders. “We are no longer represented,” he lamented, and boasted that his far-right Freedom Party is on the verge of taking state power, having topped the polls for a year.

“We have no alternative,” Wilders concluded. “We will win this war.”

Pamela Geller (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

Pamela Geller (Credit: Salon/Ben Norton)

Pamela Geller, a leading figure in the anti-Muslim hate movement in the U.S., was next to speak.

“Pamela has been fighting against the jihad for several years,” LGBT for Trump founder Chris Barron said as he introduced her.

In May 2015, Geller and Wilders were attacked by Islamic extremists at a “Draw Mohammad” event in Garland, Texas. Geller said the “Wake Up!” RNC party was her first public speaking engagement since the attack in Garland.

Geller opened her speech with a joke: “A jihadi walks into a gay bar,” she began, to laughs from the audience. What does he order? “Shots for everyone,” she said.

The room erupted in laughter. Geller replied, “It’s not funny, because it’s true.”

She said she supports Trump, LGBT rights and “freedom,” proudly calling the Republican Party “the party against jihad.”

Geller — who backs a presidential candidate who wants to deport 11 million people and ban refugees from particular racial and ethnic groups — went on to accuse the left of becoming “increasingly authoritarian.”

“You’ve got to love Trump, ’cause he gives them all the middle finger,” she said simultaneously. “His ban on Muslims from jihad nations is logical, rational and reasonable.”

Geller criticized more mainstream right-wing pundits like Bill Kristol. People in the audience shouted “cuckservative” (a popular insult in the alt-right) and “traitors!”

At one point, she stopped her speech to join the audience in a “Trump! Trump!” chant.

Like Wilders, Geller claimed “Muslim gangs” are raping young girls and threatening LGBT people in the U.S.

The GOP supports “equality for all,” she claimed, ensuring “no special treatment for special classes.”

“Islamophobia,” Geller maintained, “doesn’t exist; it’s a myth.”

The left, she added, is embracing Islamism. “It’s not PC; it’s Sharia,” Geller said.

In his speech, Milo Yiannopoulos reaffirmed many of the same points, with his characteristic narcissistic flair.

Barron introduced the Breitbart columnist as “the world’s most dangerous faggot.”

“It’s a war,” Milo began his speech, “a culture war.” He insisted that politicians should stop talking about economics and politics and instead talk about culture.

Milo argued that the left no longer defends LGBT rights, that it is only the right that does so.

“Radical Islam, or let’s say it, Islam” threatens gay people, he said, while the left is “welcoming a religion that wants us dead.”

Muslims are fundamentally incapable of integrating into capitalist democracy, Milo claimed, which he called “the only system that works.”

Milo, who is British, pointed to Europe as a “warning” to Americans. He said he will soon be traveling to Sweden to lead “a gay pride march through the Muslim ghetto in Stockholm.” A man in the audience shouted, “Bring bacon!”

Unlike the other speakers, who focused almost exclusively on Muslims and the left, Milo also made his hatred of journalists very clear.

“Most journalists are idiots,” he stated casually. He later swore that he is “dedicated to the destruction of liberal media.”

“I have the entire American media at my disposal,” he taunted at one point, listing the leading news outlets who had reporters at the party. “Fuck the lot of you; fuck you,” he said to the room full of journalists.

Milo accused the left of “shutting down free speech” with political correctness. To the room full almost exclusively of white people, he joked about his sexual preference for Black men, claiming they have big penises and do not know who their fathers are.

Trump is “the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history,” he asserted.

“The left’s stranglehold on homosexuals is over,” Milo concluded, summarizing the underlying thesis of the event.

Outside of the event, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, protesters could be heard chanting “8-6-4-2, if you love Trump we don’t love you!”

A few dozen people gathered for a few hours, carrying a large banner reading “Queers Against Racism.” They soon began chanting, “No more queer Muslim hate!”

Salon spoke with a protester who declined to be identified. “We heard there was a gay pro-Trump event and we were like, hell no!” she explained.

She said the demonstration was not organized by a group, but rather by a collection of individuals. The protesters were from all around the country, not just Ohio, and had convened to protest the RNC.

The protesters did not like speaking with the press, so they passed out a “Queers Against Islamophobia, Racism and Fascism” handbill reading:

“There’s nothing fabulous about racism. You can’t hide racism and Islamophobia behind gayness.

Our grief is not a catalyst for xenophobia. We will not be opportunistically used to promote Trump’s rhetoric of hate.

What happened in Orlando is a result of a homegrown culture of homophobia promoted by Trump, Pence and conservatives for decades.

Racism and xenophobia further erodes the safety of LGBTQ people, many of whom are Muslims, refugees, immigrants and people of color.

We will fight for the liberation of all people!

Only self-hating gays love Trump.”

Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at@BenjaminNorton.

Erdogan Is Using the Failed Coup to Get Rid of the Last Vestiges of Secular Turkey

WORLD
The number of people detained so far is at 6,000 including soldiers.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The sweeping purge of soldiers and officials in the wake of the failed coup in Turkey is likely to be conducted with extra vigour because a number of close associates of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are among the 265 dead. The number of people detained so far is at 6,000 including soldiers, and around 3,000 judges and legal officials who are unlikely to have been connected to the attempted military takeover.

On Sunday, Erdogan attended the funeral of the elder brother of his chief adviser, Mustafa Varank. Varank’s older brother, Dr Ilhan Varank, studied at Ohio State University, and was the chairman of Computer and Technology Education Department at Istanbul’s Yildiz Technical University, according to Anadolu Agency (AA). It says that the 45-year-old was shot at and killed as he demonstrated in front of the Istanbul Municipality building on the night of the coup, 15 July.

Another name close to Erdogan, Erol Olcak, was shot and killed along with his 16-year-old son at the Bosphorus Bridge, local media reported. Having met the president many years ago when they both belonged to the same Islamic party known as Prosperity Party, Olcak became a prominent name in AKP’s media and publicity campaigns since the party was founded in 2001. Olcak and his son were at the Bosphorus Bridge to protest the coup attempt when they were shot by soldiers.

The coup plotters clearly saw the importance of detaining or eliminating Erdogan but were unable to find him at the holiday resort of Marmaris, in south west Turkey, where he was staying, as is shown by the film of shootings there. They also tried to target his most important aides by taking them into custody. His secretary Fahri Kasirga was taken prisoner by rebel soldiers, according to his son, who tweeted on the night of the coup that “they wanted [pro-coup forces] to force my father to stay in his house, but when he resisted, the bloody traitors took him into an ambulance and drove off.” The story is confirmed by Erdogan himself who said as he headed to the airport at Marmaris that “they took my secretary. What are you going to do with my secretary?”

The failed coup is serving as an excuse for a massive round-up of members of the judiciary and army officers, far greater than anything seen in Turkey for years, and is presumably a bid to secure Erdogan’s grip on the Turkish state. So numerous are those detained that a sports stadium is being used to hold some of them, a development that has ominous similarities with mass arrests in South American coups in the last century. Some 140 out of 387 judges in the Court of Appeal have been detained along with 48 out of 156 from the Council of State.

It may be that Erdogan is using the coup to eliminate the most powerful officials seen as loyal to Turkey as a secular state.

Patrick Cockburn is a Middle East Correspondent for the Independent. He has written four books on Iraq’s recent history—The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the Sunni Revolution, Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq, The Occupation, and Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession (with Andrew Cockburn)—as well as a memoir, The Broken Boy and, with his son, a book on schizophrenia, Henry’s Demons, which was shortlisted for a Costa Award. 

http://www.alternet.org/world/erdogan-using-failed-coup-get-rid-last-vestiges-secular-turkey?akid=14447.265072._IQl9H&rd=1&src=newsletter1060372&t=16

Torture and murder in streets of Turkey

Tortura y asesinato de soldados en Turquía a manos de partidarios islamistas de Erdogan.

Harrowing scenes are reported by the world’s media as soldiers are beaten, tortured and murdered in open streets all around Turkey today.

The aftermath of the military coup that began last night is proving to be quite bloody as horrific scenes takes place by Islamist Erdogan supporters all around Turkey today.

The police are reported to be allowing it to happen without intervention.

UPDATED: More photos was just sent to AMN;

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https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/torture-murder-streets-turkey/

US releases Saudi documents: 9/11 coverup exposed

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16 July 2016

The public release Friday afternoon of a section of the Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks, which had been kept secret for 13 years, has provided fresh evidence of a deliberate coverup of the role played, not only by the Saudi government, but US intelligence agencies themselves, in facilitating the attacks and then covering up their real roots.

The 28-page segment from the report issued by the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001” provides abundant and damning evidence of extensive Saudi support for the 9/11 hijackers—15 out of 19 of whom were Saudi nationals—in the period leading up to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that claimed nearly 3,000 lives.

The Obama White House, the CIA, the Saudi monarchy and the corporate media have all tried to portray the documents—released on a Friday afternoon to assure minimal exposure—as somehow exonerating the Saudi regime of any culpability in the 9/11 attacks.

“This information does not change the assessment of the US government that there’s no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi individuals funded al-Qaeda,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary said Friday, boasting that the main significance of their release was its proof of the Obama administration’s commitment to “transparency.”

In reality, the 28 pages have been kept under lock and key since 2002, with only members of Congress allowed to read them, in a Capitol Hill basement vault, while prohibited from taking notes, bringing members of their staff or breathing a word of their content.

The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, maintained this secrecy for several reasons. First, it was concerned that the documents would jeopardize its relations with Saudi Arabia, which, after Israel, is Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East, a partner in bloody operations from Afghanistan to Syria to Yemen, and the world’s biggest buyer of American arms.

Even more importantly, it was concerned that the 28 pages would further expose the abject criminality of the US government’s role in facilitating the attacks of 9/11 and then lying about their source and exploiting them to justify savage wars of aggression, first against Afghanistan and then against Iraq. These wars have claimed over a million lives. The false narrative created around the September 11 attacks remains the ideological pillar of the US campaign of global militarism conducted in the name of a “war on terror.”

Media reports on the 28 pages invariably refer to the absence of a “smoking gun,” which presumably would be tantamount to an order signed by the Saudi king to attack New York and Washington. The evidence is described as “inconclusive.” One can only imagine what would have been the response if, in place of the word “Saudi,” the documents referred to Iraqi, Syrian or Iranian actions. The same evidence would have been proclaimed an airtight case for war.

Among those who were involved in preparing the report, John Lehman, the former secretary of the navy, directly contradicted the official response to the release of the previously censored section. “There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” he said. “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.”

Similarly, former Florida Senator Bob Graham, who chaired the committee that carried out the investigation, suggested that the information released Friday was only the beginning. “I think of this almost as the 28 pages are sort of the cork in the wine bottle. And once it’s out, hopefully the rest of the wine itself will start to pour out,” he said.

What clearly emerges from the newly-released document, which is titled “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters,” is that there were multiple indications of funding and support for the 9/11 hijackers and Al Qaeda in general, but that investigations were either shut down or never initiated because of the close ties between Washington and the Saudi monarchy, and between US and Saudi intelligence.

“While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government,” the document begins. It cites FBI sources as indicating that some of these individuals were “Saudi intelligence officers.”

It goes on to indicate that FBI and CIA investigations of these links were initiated solely in response to the Congressional inquiry itself. “[I]t was only after September 11 that the US government began to aggressively investigate this issue,” the report states. “Prior to September 11th, the FBI apparently did not focus investigative sources on [redacted] Saudi nationals in the United States due to Saudi Arabia’s status as an American ‘ally.’”

The report focuses in part on the role of one Omar al-Bayoumi, who was described to the FBI as a Saudi intelligence officer, and, according to FBI files, “provided substantial assistance to hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi after they arrived in San Diego in February 2000.”

The inquiry report deals with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar only from after they arrived in California, and says nothing about the circumstances under which they were allowed to enter the country in the first place. Both were under CIA surveillance while attending an Al Qaeda planning meeting in 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and placed on a “watch list” for FBI monitoring if they came to the United States. Nonetheless, the two men were allowed to enter the United States on January 15, 2000, landing at Los Angeles International Airport, eventually going to San Diego. From then on, they were permitted to operate freely, attending flight training school in preparation for their role as pilots of hijacked planes on September 11, 2001.

Al-Bayoumi, the report establishes, “received support from a Saudi company affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of Defense,” drawing a paycheck for a no-show job. The report states that the company also had ties to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

According to the report, al-Bayoumi had previously worked for the Saudi Civil Aviation Association and, in the period leading up to 9/11, was “in frequent contact with the Emir at the Saudi Defense Ministry responsible for air traffic control.” Phone records showed him calling Saudi government agencies 100 times between January and May of 2000.

FBI documents also established that the $465 in “allowances” that al-Bayoumi received through the Saudi military contractor, jumped to over $3,700 shortly after the arrival of al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. During this period, al-Bayoumi initially allowed the two future hijackers to stay in his apartment before finding them their own place—with an informant of the San Diego FBI—cosigning their lease and advancing them a deposit and the first month’s rent.

The report states that FBI investigations following 9/11 indicated that al-Bayoumi had “some ties to terrorist elements.” His wife, meanwhile, was receiving a $1,200 a month stipend from Princess Haifa Bint Sultan, the wife of Prince Bandar, then the Saudi ambassador to the US and later head of Saudi intelligence.

Also named in the document as a likely Saudi intelligence agent is one Osama Bassnan, who lived across the street from the two hijackers in San Diego and was in telephone contact with al-Bayoumi several times a day during this period. He apparently placed the two in contact with a Saudi commercial airline pilot for discussions on “learning to fly Boeing jet aircraft,” according to an FBI report. Bassnan’s wife also received a monthly stipend from Princess Haifa, the Saudi ambassador’s wife, to the tune of $2,000 a month. As well, the FBI found one $15,000 check written by Bandar himself in 1998 to Bassnan. The report states that FBI information indicated that Bassnan was “an extremist and supporter of Usama Bin Ladin,” who spoke of the Al Qaeda leader “as if he were god.”

Appearing before the Congressional inquiry in October 2002, FBI Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Pasquale D’Amuro reacted with undisguised cynicism and contempt when asked about the payments from the Saudi ambassador’s wife to the wives of the two reputed intelligence agents involved with the 9/11 hijackers.

“She gives money to a lot of different groups and people from around the world,” he said. “We’ve been able to uncover a number of these… but maybe if we can discover that she gives to 20 different radical groups, well, gee, maybe there’s a pattern here.” Spoken like a man who believes he is above the law in defense of a figure that he clearly sees as untouchable.

Among other material in the report was the recounting of an FBI interrogation of Saleh al-Hussayen, a prominent Saudi interior ministry official, who stayed in the same Virginia hotel as three of the hijackers the night before the 9/11 attacks. While he claimed not to know the hijackers, the FBI agents “believed he was being deceptive.”

According to the report, al-Hussayen “feigned a seizure” and was released to a hospital, which he left several days later, catching a flight back to Saudi Arabia without any further questioning. During the same period, nearly 1,200 people, with no links to the attacks, were being rounded up and held incommunicado on little more evidence than that they were Arab or Muslim.

Also in the report was the fact that a phone book belonging to Abu Zubaydah, the Al Qaeda operative who is still held at Guantanamo after extensive torture at the hands of the CIA, was found to contain the unlisted numbers of companies that managed and provide security for Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar’s residence in Colorado, as well as that of a bodyguard at the Saudi embassy who, the report states “some have alleged may be a [words redacted].”

Redactions of this sort recur throughout the document in relation to individual Saudis, suggesting their membership in some sort of secret service whose name must remain unmentioned. This is only part of what the secret material still conceals. Members of the inquiry’s staff reportedly protested angrily over the failure to clearly present the evidence of Saudi involvement, leading to the firing of at least one staffer.

If the government is determined to continue to shield such Saudi connections, it is undoubtedly because they would expose the involvement of the US intelligence agencies themselves in the events of 9/11.

If such whitewashes are required, it is because elements within the US government were aware that Al Qaeda was preparing an operation on US soil, turned a blind eye to it and even facilitated it because they knew it could be used as a pretext to carry out longstanding plans for aggressive war in the Middle East.

The release of even the limited material on the Saudi-US-9/11 connection is a devastating exposure of the criminals in the US government, from George W. Bush on down, and the lies they employed to engineer wars that have devastated the lives of millions.

These new facts demand a thorough, impartial and international investigation, as well as the indictment and arrest of top-level officials, both American and Saudi. Only a powerful intervention of the international working class, on the basis of a socialist program, will see these war criminals brought to justice.

Bill Van Auken

WSWS

America’s a Super Power — But What Does That Mean If the Entire World Is Falling Apart?

WORLD
The United States is the default superpower in an ever more recalcitrant world.

Photo Credit: Gianna Stadelmyer / Shutterstock

Vladimir Putin recently manned up and admitted it. The United States remains the planet’s sole superpower, as it has been since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. “America,” the Russian president said, “is a great power. Today, probably, the only superpower. We accept that.”

Think of us, in fact, as the default superpower in an ever more recalcitrant world.

Seventy-five years ago, at the edge of a global conflagration among rival great powers and empires, Henry Luce first suggested that the next century could be ours.  In February 1941, in his magazine LIFE, he wrote a famous essay entitled “The American Century.”  In it, he proclaimed that if only Americans would think internationally, surge into the world, and accept that they were already at war, the next hundred years would be theirs.  Just over nine months later, the Japanese attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, plunging the country into World War II.  At the time, however, Americans were still riven and confused about how to deal with spreading regional conflicts in Europe and Asia, as well as the rise of fascism and the Nazis.

That moment was indeed a horrific one, and yet it was also just a heightened version of what had gone before.  For the previous half-millennium, there had seldom been a moment when at least two (and often three or more) European powers had not been in contention, often armed and violent, for domination and for control of significant parts of the planet.  In those many centuries, great powers rose and fell and new ones, including Germany and Japan, came on the scene girded for imperial battle. In the process, a modern global arms race was launched to create ever more advanced and devastating weaponry based on the latest breakthroughs in the science of war.  By August 1945, this had led to the release of an awesome form of primal energy in the first (and thus far only) use of nuclear weapons in wartime.

In the years that followed, the United States and the Soviet Union grew ever more “super” and took possession of destructive capabilities once left, at least in the human imagination, to the gods: the power to annihilate not just one enemy on one battlefield or one armada on one sea but everything.  In the nearly half-century of the Cold War, the rivalry between them became apocalyptic in nature as their nuclear arsenals grew to monstrous proportions.  As a result, with the exception of the Cuban Missile Crisis, they faced off against each other indirectly in “limited” proxy wars that, especially in Korea and Indochina, were of unparalleled technological ferocity.

Then, in 1991, the Soviet Union imploded and, for the first time in historical memory, there was only one power that mattered.  This was a reality even Henry Luce might have found farfetched.  Previously, the idea of a single power so mighty that it alone loomed over the planet was essentially relegated to fictional fantasies about extraordinary evil.  And yet so it was — or at least so it seemed, especially to the leadership that took power in Washington in the year 2000 and soon enough were dreaming of a planetary Pax Americana.

In a strange way, something similarly unimaginable happened in Europe.  On that continent laid waste by two devastating twentieth-century wars, a single “union” was formed, something that not so long before would have been categorized as a madly utopian project. The idea that centuries of national rivalries and the rabid nationalism that often went with it could somehow be tamed and that former great powers and imperial contenders could be subsumed in a single peaceful organization (even if under the aegis of American global power) would once have seemed like the most absurd of fictions.  And yet so it would be — or so it seemed, at least until recently.

A Planetary Brexit?

We seldom take in the strangeness of what’s happened on this curious planet of ours.  In the years after 1991, we became so inured to the idea of a single superpower globe and a single European economic and political union that both, once utterly inconceivable, came to seem too mundane to spend a lot of time thinking about.  And yet who would have believed that 75 years after Luce urged his country into that American Century, there would, in military terms, be no genuine rivals, no other truly great powers (only regional ones) on Planet Earth?

So many taken-for-granted things about our world were considered utterly improbable before they happened.  Take China.  I recall well the day in 1972 when, after decades of non-contact and raging hostility, we learned that President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, were in Beijing meeting congenially with Communist leader Mao Zedong.  A friend called to tell me the news.  I thought he was joking and it struck me as a ridiculously lame joke at that.

There’s almost no way now to capture how improbable this seemed at the time — the leading communist revolutionary on the planet chatting cheerily with the prime representative of anti-communism.  If, however, you had told me then that, in the decades to come, China would undergo a full-scale capitalist revolution and become the economic powerhouse of the planet, and that this would be done under the leadership of Mao’s still regnant communist party, I would have considered you mad.

And mind you, that’s just to begin to mention the improbabilities of the present moment.  After all, in what fantasies — ever — about a globe with a single dominant power, would anyone have imagined that it might fail so utterly to bring the world to anything approximating heel? If you had told Henry Luce, or me, or anyone else, including the masters of the universe in Washington in 1991, that the only superpower left on Earth, with the best-funded, mightiest, most technologically destructive and advanced military imaginable, would, on September 11, 2001, be goaded by a group so modest in size and power as to be barely noticeable into a series of never-ending wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa, we would have found that beyond improbable.

Who would have believed a movie or novel in which that same power, without national enemies of any significance in any of the regions where the fighting was taking place, would struggle unsuccessfully, year after year, to subdue scattered, lightly armed insurgents (aka “terrorists”) across a disintegrating region?  Who could have imagined that every measure Washington took to assert its might only seemed to blow back (or blow somewhere, anyway)?  Who would have believed that its full-scale invasion of one weak Middle Eastern country, its “mission accomplished” moment, would in the end prove a trip through “the gates of hell”?  Who would have imagined that such an invasion could punch a hole in the oil heartlands of the region that, 13 years later, is still a bleeding wound, now seemingly beyond repair, or that it would set loose a principle of chaos and disintegration that seems to be spreading like a planetary Brexit?

And what if I told you that, after 15 years of such behavior, the only thing the leaders of that superpower can now imagine doing in the increasingly wrecked lands where they carry on their struggles is yet more of everything that hasn’t worked in all that time?  Meanwhile — how improbable is this? — in its “homeland,” there is essentially no one, neither a movement in the streets, nor critical voices in the corridors of power protesting what’s happening or even exploring or suggesting other paths into the future.

Imagine that, wherever you looked, except in the borderlands of (and waters off) Russia and China, that single superpower was essentially unopposed and yet its ability to apply its unique status effectively in these years has been in eternal free-fall — even in perfectly peaceable areas to which it was closely allied.  As an example, consider this: the president of that sole superpower flies to London and, in an England that (like much of Europe) hasn’t said no to Washington about anything of genuine significance in decades, strongly urges the British not to exit (or “Brexit”) the European Union (EU).  He backs up his suggestion with a clearly stated threat.  If they do so, he says, our closest trans-Atlantic partner will find itself at “the back of the queue” when it comes to future trade deals with Washington.

Remember, we’re talking about a country that has, in these years, seconded the U.S. endlessly.  As David Sanger of the New York Times recently (and delicately) put it:

“No country shares Washington’s worldview quite the way Britain does, [American officials] say; it has long been the United States’ most willing security ally, most effective intelligence partner and greatest enthusiast of the free-trade mantras that have been a keystone of America’s internationalist approach. And few nations were as willing to put a thumb as firmly on the scales of European debates in ways that benefit the United States.”

By now, of course, we all know how the populace of our most loyal ally, the other side of that “special relationship,” reacted — with anger at the president’s intervention and with a vote to exit the European Union not long after.  In its wake, fears are rising of further Frexits and Nexits that might crack the EU open and usher in a new era of nationalist feeling in Europe.

Failed World?

As goes Britain, so, it seems, goes the world.  Give Washington real credit for much of this.  Those post-9/11 dreams of global domination shared by the top leadership of the Bush administration proved wildly destructive and it’s gotten no better since.  Consider the vast swath of the planet where the devastation is most obvious: the Greater Middle East and North Africa.  Then ask yourself: Are we still in the American Century?  And if not, whose (or what) century are we in?

If you had told me in 1975, when the Vietnam War finally ended some 34 years after Luce wrote that essay and 28 years before the U.S. invaded Iraq that, in 1979, Washington would become involved in a decade-long war in Afghanistan, I would have been stunned.  If you had told me in 1975 that, in 2001, it would invade that same country and launch a second Afghan War, still underway 15 years later with no end in sight, I wouldn’t have believed you.  A quarter-century of American wars and still counting in a country that, in 1975, most Americans might not have been able to locate on a map.  If you had added that, starting in 1990, the U.S. would be involved in three successive wars in Iraq, the third of which is still ongoing, I might have been speechless.  And that’s not to mention interventions of various sorts, also ongoing, in Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria — none, by the way, by any normal standards successful.

If you were to do a little tabulation of the results of these years of American Century-ism across the Greater Middle East, you would discover a signature kind of chaos.  In the early years of this century, officials of the Bush administration often referred to the region from China’s western border to northern Africa as an “arc of instability.”  That phrase was meant to embody their explanation for letting the U.S. military loose there: to bring order and, of course, democracy to those lands.  And with modest exceptions, it was indeed true that most of the Greater Middle East was then ruled by repressive, autocratic, or regressive regimes of various sorts.  It was, however, still a reasonably orderly region.  Now, it actually is an arc of instability filled with states that are collapsing left and right, cities and towns that are being leveled, and terror outfits, each worse than the last, that are spreading in the regional rubble.  Religious and ethnic divisions of every sort are sharpening and conflicts within countries, or what’s left of them, are on the rise.

Most of the places where the U.S. has let its military and its air power loose — Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Syria – are now either failed or failing states.  Under the circumstances, it might be reasonable to suggest that the very term “failed state” is outdated, and not just because it places all the blame for what’s happened on the indigenous people of a country.  After all, if the arc of instability is now in any way “united,” it’s mainly thanks to spreading terror groups and perhaps the Islamic State brand.

Moreover, in the stunted imagination of present-day Washington, the only policies imaginable in response to all this are highly militarized and call for more of the same: more air power in the skies over distant battlefields, more boots on the ground, more private contractors and hired guns, more munitions and weaponry (surprising amounts of which have, in these years, ended up in the hands not of allied forces, but of Washington’s enemies), more special operations raids, more drone assassination campaigns, and at home, more surveillance, more powers for the national security state, more… well, you know the story.

For such a world, a new term is needed.  Perhaps something like failed region.  This, it seems, is one thing that the American Century has come to mean 75 years after Henry Luce urged it into existence.  And perhaps lurking in the undergrowth as well is another phrase, one not quite yet imaginable but thoroughly chilling: failed world.

With this in mind, imagine what the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia could mean in the long run, or the recent U.S.-NATO pivot to the Baltics and Eastern Europe.  If huge swaths of the planet have begun to disintegrate in an era when the worst the U.S. faced in the way of opponents has been minority insurgencies and terror outfits, or more recently a terror caliphate, consider for a moment what kinds of chaos could come to regions where a potentially hostile power remains.  And by the way, don’t for a second think that, even if the Islamic State is finally defeated, worse can’t emerge from the chaos and rubble of the failed region that it will leave behind.  It can and, odds on, it will.

All of this gives the very idea of an American Century new meaning.  Can there be any question that this is not the century of Henry Luce, nor the one that American political and military leaders dreamed of when the Soviet Union collapsed?  What comes to mind instead is the sentiment the Roman historian Tacitus put in the mouth of Calgacus, a chieftain in what is now Scotland, speaking of the Roman conquests of his time: “They make a desert and call it peace.”

Perhaps this is no longer really the American century at all, despite the continuing status of the U.S. as the planet’s sole superpower.  A recent U.N. report estimates that, in 2015, a record 65 million people were uprooted, mainly in the Greater Middle East. Tens of millions of them crossed borders and became refugees, including staggering numbers of children, many separated from their parents.  So perhaps this really is the century of the lost child.

What could be sadder?