Archive for July, 2009

Gonna pick up posting again soon – just a bit busy right now. But here’s some extremely skillful but rather rather melancholic and soulful sand anime from the Ukraine (looks like it’s related to WWII in the Ukraine, then a part of the USSR). Thanks Inga.

kelly

Was Dr. David Kelly a target of Dick Cheney’s “Executive Assassination Ring”?

By Tom Burghardt

Revelations that the Central Intelligence Agency launched a world-wide assassination program, and then concealed its existence from the U.S. Congress and the American people for eight years, carries an implication that death squads may have been employed against political opponents.

The Wall Street Journal reported July 13 that “A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.”

Investigative journalist Siobhan Gorman writes, “The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn’t clear, and the CIA won’t comment on its substance.”

The Washington Post however, revealed July 16 that the assassination plan was sanctioned by President Bush. Unnamed “intelligence officials” told the newspaper that “a secret document known as a ‘presidential finding’ was signed by President George W. Bush that same month, granting the agency broad authority to use deadly force against bin Laden as well as other senior members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”

According to Post reporter Joby Warrick, Bush’s finding “imposed no geographical limitations on the agency’s actions” and that the CIA was “not obliged to notify Congress of each operation envisaged under the directive.” This implies that targets could be hit anywhere, including on the soil of a NATO ally or inside the United States itself.

According to the Los Angeles Times the program “was kept secret from lawmakers for nearly eight years at the direction of former Vice President Dick Cheney.”

Despite these reports and hand-wringing amongst congressional Democrats, there’s something fishy here. After all, isn’t the whole point of America’s “global war on terror” to “capture or kill” al-Qaeda suspects? What’s so secretive or controversial about that?

The descriptions of the operation that have so far emerged however, bear a striking resemblance to charges laid earlier this year when investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said that the Bush administration stood-up an “executive assassination ring.”

During a “Great Conversations” event at the University of Minnesota in March the veteran journalist told the audience: “After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen.”

The program was allegedly shut down by Panetta on June 23, a day after leaning of the agency’s clandestine initiative. What make these revelations all the more significant is that the CIA Director only learned of the program fully four months after assuming office.

“The implications,” socialist analyst Bill Van Auken writes, “are clear. The CIA maintained the secrecy ordered by Cheney even after the latter had left office, and continued to conceal the existence and nature of the covert operation not only from Congress, but from the Obama administration itself.”

But was the program shut down? The Washington Post further revealed that the plan, allegedly “on the agency’s back burner for much of the past eight years, was suddenly thrust into the spotlight because of proposals to initiate what one intelligence official called a ‘somewhat more operational phase’.”

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former top aide to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell hints that the program was in a “somewhat more operational phase” years earlier, despite repeated denials by CIA officials and congressional staffers.

Wilkerson told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show July 14, “What I suspect has happened is what began to happen while I was still in the government, and that was we’re killing the wrong people. And we’re killing the wrong people in the wrong countries. And the countries are finding out about it, or at least there was a suspicion that the countries might find out about it, and so it was shut down. That’s my strong suspicion.”

According to Wilkerson, the teams may have been dispatched under deep cover, using Joint Special Operations Command as a cut-out, a confirmation of charges made by Seymour Hersh in March. When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was queried by the State Department, “after some hemming and hawing, which was Rumsfeld’s forte, he finally admitted that he had dispatched some of these teams,” Wilkerson explained.

Powell’s former aide told Maddow, “It’s laughable that the CIA has never lied to Congress. “They lie to Congress on a routine basis.” Much the same can be said of General Powell who lied to the entire world “on a routine basis” during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

It must also be said there is precedence for the CIA’s alleged death squad activities during the Bush era. In Vietnam for example, the CIA and U.S. Special Forces jointly ran a secret assassination program that targeted Vietnamese dissidents. As author Douglas Valentine revealed in his definitive study, The Phoenix Program, Operation Phoenix “was a computer-driven program aimed at ‘neutralizing’, through assassination, kidnapping, and systematic torture, the civilian infrastructure that supported the insurgency in South Vietnam.”

Those programs never died and have since morphed into above top secret “Special Access Programs” used with deadly effect in Central- and South America during the 1980s and across the Middle East today.

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Wired Science published an article a couple of days ago on PBDE, a neurotoxin that also found its way into found in our food.

PBDE (PolyBrominated Diphenyl Ethers) are compounds that are used as flame retardants and therefore can be found in a wide array of products, including building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics, polyurethane foams, and textiles.

Since the 1990s scientists have questioned their safety. People are exposed to low-levels of PBDEs through ingestion of food and by inhalation. PBDEs bioaccumulate in blood, breast milk, and fat tissues. Personnel associated with the manufacture of PBDE-containing products are exposed to highest levels of PBDEs. Bioaccumulation is of particular concern in such instances, especially for personnel in recycling and repair plants of PBDE-containing products.

People are also exposed to these chemicals in their domestic environment because of their prevalence in common household items. Studies in Canada have found significant concentrations of PBDEs in common foods such as salmon, ground beef, butter, and cheese. PBDEs have also been found at high levels in indoor dust, sewage sludge, and effluents from wastewater treatment plants. Increasing PBDE levels have been detected in the blood of marine mammals such as harbor seals.

Click on the link below to read the Wired Science article.

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war trauma

Soldiers in a single Army unit killed as many as 11 people after returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the military said last week. One contributing factor? The psychological trauma of war.

NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling talks to Guy Raz about the military’s efforts to deal with soldier trauma and ease their re-entry into civilian life. Go to NPR to listen to the 4 min interview.

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Lia Tarachansky speaks to Nancy Youssef, Pentagon Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers currently based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Youssef speaks about a list recently released by Pentagon, identifying that 14% or 74 former detainees of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention center are “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist activities.” Following to story of former inmate #798, Haji Sahib Rohullah Wakil who after imprisonment for 6 years in the Bagram Airbase and Guantanamo Bay was found back on the list in spite of the allegation, Youssef says, being baseless. She says that, “It’s not really clear who compiles that list and how they determine who’s a suspected terrorist and who’s a confirmed one. As I mentioned earlier, this is the fourth list that they’ve released, and there are a lot of inconsistencies. The list is not complete. They say that there are 74 people suspected or confirmed as returned to terrorism, but the names listed is only partial ones.”

Bio

Nancy Youssef is McClatchy Newspapers’ chief Pentagon correspondent. She spent the past four years covering the Iraq war, most recently as Baghdad bureau chief. Her pieces focused on the everyday Iraqi experience, civilian causalities and how the US’ military strategy was reshaping Iraq’s social and political dynamics. While at the Free Press, she traveled throughout Jordan and Iraq for Knight Ridder, covering the Iraq war from the time leading up to it through the post-war period.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

Israeli soldiers involved in the attacks on Gaza at the start of this year claim that they were ordered to fire, regardless of the risk to civilians. Israel banned journalists from its invasion of Gaza in December and January, making it hard to verify allegations of indiscriminate firing, the use of phosphorous bombs, and forcing Palestinians to be human shields. Now an Israeli human rights group has produced a disturbing account of what it says happened in Gaza, as told by soldiers.

This Channel 4 clip is already a few days old but it’s good to get a reminder of how the anti-Semitic Nazi State of Israel operates (even though I find it hard to cope with having to listen to Mark Regev).

A very thoughtful article by Robert Jensen on his personal process of political radicalisation. Rather than two pathways that readily come to mind, the one of hands-on activism and that of intellectual endeavour, he talks about a profound sense of grief for the pain in the world without whom joy cannot exist.

baltermants.grief

Getting radicalized, slow and painful

By Robert Jensen
Robert Jensen’s ZSpace Page /ZSpace

[Rob Shetterly, the artist who created the Americans Who Tell the Truth website (http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/), asked some of the people he painted to respond to this query: “Everywhere I go, kids and adults want to know how you got started. What was the defining moment that triggered your dedication to fighting for justice or peace, or the environment?” Below are my thoughts.]

My transition to political radicalism — going to the root of problems, recognizing that dramatic and fundamental change in the way society is organized is necessary if there is to be a decent human future — involved a lot of pain, in two different ways.

The first concerned the process of coming to know about the pain of the world. I had never been a na? person who thought the world was a happy place, but like many people who have privilege (in my case, being white, male, a U.S. citizen, and economically secure, though never wealthy) I was able to remain ignorant of the depth of the routine suffering in the world. I was able to ignore how white supremacy, patriarchy, U.S. imperialism, and a predatory capitalist economic system routinely destroy the bodies and spirits of millions of people around the world. When I made a conscious choice to stop ignoring those realities — in my case, when I returned to a university for graduate education with the time to read and study — the process of coming to know about that pain was wrenching. But I found myself wanting to know more.

Why would someone with privilege press to know more about the pain of the world when that knowledge creates tension and emotional turmoil? In my case, coming to understand that the world’s pain is the product of profoundly unjust social systems helped me understand a different kind of personal pain I had been struggling with. Most of my life I had felt like a bit of a freak, like someone out of step with the culture around him. There’s nothing dramatically wrong with me physically or psychologically, but I always struggled to fit in. I had always had a lingering sense that I didn’t want what others around me seemed to want. Because of my privilege, the world offered me a lot, and I am grateful for much of what I have — work I have usually enjoyed, an adequate income, relative safety. But I could never figure out how to be normal — how to kick back with the guys; how to get excited about sports, television, or the latest hit music; how to care about what kind of car I drove. In many ways I had it made, on the surface, but that sense of being out of step always dragged me down.

The best way to deal with our individual struggles is to put them in a larger context. That means both understanding the forces that shape our world as well as placing our problems in perspective. Becoming radicalized politically allowed me to see that I was suffering because I didn’t want to fit into a world shaped by unjust systems; the problem wasn’t my values and desires but the pathology of those systems. That didn’t solve all my personal problems, but it sure helped. Radical politics also helped me understand more clearly how others were suffering much more than I; it shook me out of my self-absorption. Both realizations led me to want to continue the search for more knowledge and understanding about how this all worked, and to commit as much time and energy as I had to movements for social justice.

The paradox is that since I have immersed myself in the pain of the world, I have been able to find new joy. I still understand that the world is not a happy place, and to be truly alive we must face what my friend Jim Koplin calls the “sense of profound grief” that comes with looking honestly at the world. As the writer Wendell Berry has put it, we live on “the human estate of grief and joy” [The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996), p. 106]. Grief is inevitable, and it is only through an honest embrace of the grief that real joy is possible. The conventional world tries to sell us many pleasures, but it offers us little joy. That’s because the conventional world is also trying to sell us many ways to numb our pain, which keeps us from that grief. So long as we are out of touch with the grief, we are unable to feel the joy. We are left only with the desperate search for pleasure and a panicked scramble to avoid pain.

This process has, for me, been slow and gradual — there have been no epiphanies. I don’t believe in epiphanies, and I don’t trust people who claim to have epiphanies. I don’t think the deep understanding of the world that we strive for can come in a single moment. It comes from the long and painful struggle, with the world and with ourselves. Insight doesn’t magically descend upon us. We have to work for it, and that always takes time.

As the singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson (who also happens to be my partner) has put it, “Those are lost who/try to cross through/the sorrow fields too easily” [“He Waits for Me,” from the CD “Beautiful World,” Red House Records, 2008]. To expand on her metaphor, we cross those fields not in search of a utopia somewhere ahead. Our life is that journey across those fields, facing the grief and celebrating the joy along the way.

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Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book is All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice (Soft Skull Press, 2009). He also is the author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/index.html

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