TBR Newes May 17, 2013

May 16 2013

The Voice of the White House


             Washington, D.C. May 16, 2013: ”Once, we had the manic fascistic behavior of the drunk, George W. Bush and his greedy Vice President (who reaped millions of dollars for sending government contracts to his former company, on in which he held extensive stock options) and now we have the Obama White House authorizing CIA drone attacks on civilians, punishing government employees who reveal corruption, illegal behavior or worse. Obama and Cass Sunstein have made it very plain that they wish to take over the Internet and shut down any objectionable site. The useless and overbearing DHS is groping tinies at airports, keeping two year old babies from flying because they are listed as terrorists and doing everything they can to expand and get their nose deeper into the public-funded hog trough.”



The major sea change in media discussions of Obama and civil liberties


The controversies over the IRS and especially the AP phone records appear to have long-lasting effects


May 15, 2013

by Glenn Greenwald



Due to the controversies over the IRS and (especially) the DOJ’s attack on AP’s news gathering process, media outlets have suddenly decided that President Obama has a very poor record on civil liberties, transparency, press freedoms, and a whole variety of other issues on which he based his first campaign. The first two paragraphs of this Washington Post article from yesterday, expressed in tones of recent epiphany, made me laugh audibly:


“President Obama, a former constitutional law lecturer who came to office pledging renewed respect for civil liberties, is today running an administration at odds with his résumé and preelection promises.


“The Justice Department’s collection of journalists’ phone records and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups have challenged Obama’s credibility as a champion of civil liberties – and as a president who would heal the country from damage done by his predecessor.”


You don’t say! The Washington Post’s breaking news here is only about four years late. Back in mid-2010, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero, speaking about Obama’s civil liberties record at a progressive conference, put it this way: “I’m disgusted with this president.” In the spirit of optimism, one can adopt a “better-late-than-never” outlook regarding this newfound media awakening.


As a result of the last week, there is an undeniable and quite substantial sea change in how the establishment media is thinking and speaking about Obama. The ultimate purveyors of Beltway media conventional wisdom (CW), Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, published an article yesterday headlined “DC turns on Obama”, writing that “the town is turning on President Obama – and this is very bad news for this White House” and “reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.” The Washington Post’s political reporter, Dan Balz, another CW bellwether, wrote that these controversies “reflect questions about the administration that predate the revelations of the past few days”. About the AP story, Balz wrote that “no one can recall anything as far-reaching as what the Justice Department apparently did in secretly gathering information about the work of AP journalists.”


This morning, the New York Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote about the AP story and the broader War on Whistleblowers, and said that Obama’s presidency is “turning out to be the administration of unprecedented secrecy and of unprecedented attacks on a free press.” She added:


This isn’t just about press rights. It’s about the right of citizens to know what their government is doing. In an atmosphere of secrecy and punishment – despite the hollow promises of transparency – that’s getting harder every day.”


The New York Times itself editorialized today that “the Obama administration, which has a chilling zeal for investigating leaks and prosecuting leakers, has failed to offer a credible justification” for its “spying on the AP”; the NYT editors also quoted a letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to Attorney General Holder stating that the AP spying “calls into question the very integrity” of the administration’s policy toward the press. The New Yorker this morning published an article by its general counsel, Lynn Oberlander, denouncing the DOJ’s conduct as “cowardly”; she wrote: “Even beyond the outrageous and overreaching action against the journalists, this is a blatant attempt to avoid the oversight function of the courts.” Former New York Times general counsel James Goodale, who represented the paper during its Pentagon Papers fight with the Nixon administration, said in an interview yesterday that Obama is worse than Nixon when it comes to press freedoms.


Those are all media venues generally sympathetic to and supportive of Obama. But this anger has infected even the most Obama-loyal circles. Journalist Jonathan Alter, who has literally written books using what he touts as his “unmatched access” that are paens to Obama’s greatness and Goodness, yesterday demanded: “Obama should simply apologize to the AP and its reporters. It’s the least he can do to show he still believes in the First Amendment.” Even at MSNBC, its most influential host, Rachel Maddow, broadcast a 20-minute segment vehemently condemning the Obama DOJ on the AP matter that featured an interview with an AP lawyer and used Nixon’s attacks on Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg as the historical context. Maddow then broadcast another segment on the IRS’ targeting of right-wing groups in which she correctly pointed out that there is no evidence of Obama’s personal role in that targeting but that it will create serious problems for his administration. Even Harry Reid – the Senate’s top Democrat – denounced the DOJ’s actions as “inexcusable”, saying “there is no way to justify this.”


There are two significant points to make from these events. First, it is remarkable how media reactions to civil liberties assaults are shaped almost entirely by who the victims are. For years, the Obama administration has been engaged in pervasive spying on American Muslim communities and dissident groups. It demanded a reform-free renewal of the Patriot Act and the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, both of which codify immense powers of warrantless eavesdropping, including ones that can be used against journalists. It has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined, threatened to criminalize WikiLeaks, and abused Bradley Manning to the point that a formal UN investigation denounced his treatment as “cruel and inhuman”.


But, with a few noble exceptions, most major media outlets said little about any of this, except in those cases when they supported it. It took a direct and blatant attack on them for them to really get worked up, denounce these assaults, and acknowledge this administration’s true character. That is redolent of how the general public reacted with rage over privacy invasions only when new TSA airport searches targeted not just Muslims but themselves: what they perceive as “regular Americans”. Or how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman – once the most vocal defender of Bush’s vast warrantless eavesdropping programs – suddenly began sounding like a shrill and outraged privacy advocate once it was revealed that her own conversations with Aipac representatives were recorded by the government.


Leave to the side how morally grotesque it is to oppose rights assaults only when they affect you. The pragmatic point is that it is vital to oppose such assaults in the first instance no matter who is targeted because such assaults, when unopposed, become institutionalized. Once that happens, they are impossible to stop when – as inevitably occurs – they expand beyond the group originally targeted. We should have been seeing this type of media outrage over the last four years as the Obama administration targeted non-media groups with these kinds of abuses (to say nothing of the conduct of the Bush administration before that). It shouldn’t take an attack on media outlets for them to start caring this much.


Second, we yet again see one of the most significant aspects of the Obama legacy: the way in which it has transformed and degraded so many progressive precincts. Almost nobody is defending the DOJ’s breathtaking targeting of AP, and with good reason: as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press made clear yesterday, it’s unprecedented:


“In the thirty years since the Department issued guidelines governing its subpoena practice as it relates to phone records from journalists, none of us can remember an instance where such an overreaching dragnet for news gathering materials was deployed by the Department, particularly without notice to the affected reporters or an opportunity to seek judicial review.”


But there are a few people excusing or outright defending the DOJ here: namely, some progressive blogs and media outlets. They are about the only ones willing to defend this sweeping attempt to get the phone records of AP journalists.


As I noted yesterday, TPM’s Josh Marshall – who fancies himself an edgy insurgent against mainstream media complacency as he spends day after day defending the US government’s most powerful officials – printed an anonymous email accusing AP of engineering a “smear of Justice”. Worse, Media Matters this morning posted “talking points” designed to defend the DOJ in the AP matter that easily could have come directly from the White House and which sounded like Alberto Gonzales, arguing that “if the press compromised active counter-terror operations for a story that only tipped off the terrorists, that sounds like it should be investigated” and that “it was not acceptable when the Bush Administration exposed Valerie Plame working undercover to stop terrorists from attacking us. It is not acceptable when anonymous sources do it either.” It also sought to blame Republicans for defeating a bill to protect journalists without mentioning that Obama, once he became president, reversed his position on such bills and helped to defeat it. Meanwhile, the only outright, spirited, unqualified defense of the DOJ’s conduct toward AP that I’ve seen comes from a Media Matters employee and “liberal” blogger.


During the Bush years, it was conservatives who supported the Bush DOJ and Alberto Gonzales’ threats against the press on national security grounds; now, defenders of such threats to press freedoms are found almost exclusively from progressive circles (similarly, many of the most vicious and vocal attacks on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning have come from progressives).


This is such an under-appreciated but crucial aspect of the Obama legacy. Recall back in 2008 that the CIA prepared a secret report (subsequently leaked to WikiLeaks) that presciently noted that the election of Barack Obama would be the most effective way to stem the tide of antiwar sentiment in western Europe, because it would put a pleasant, happy, progressive face on those wars and thus convert large numbers of Obama supporters from war opponents into war supporters. That, of course, is exactly what happened: not just in the realm of militarism but civil liberties and a whole variety of other issues. That has had the effect of transforming what were, just a few years ago, symbols of highly contentious right-wing radicalism into harmonious bipartisan consensus. That the most vocal defenders of this unprecedented government acquisition of journalists’ phone records comes from government-loyal progressives – reciting the standard slogans of National Security and Keeping Us Safe and The Terrorists – is a potent symbol indeed of this transformation.




DHS Cracks Down on Bitcoins


Orders Account of Largest Exchange Seized in ‘Ongoing Investigation’


May 15, 2013

by Jason Ditz



            The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has fired the first salvo in what appears to be a crackdown on the secure online currency Bitcoins this week, ordering the seizure of accounts related to the largest exchange for the currency, Mt. Gox.


            Tokyo-based Mt. Gox is by far the largest Bitcoin exchange, handling an estimated 63 percent of the global market of the currency, amounting to roughly $450 million worth of volume.


            The DHS Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, which has effectively become a catch-all for crackdowns on online activity objected to by the US government, served a warrant (PDF) claiming that despite being foreign-based, Mt. Gox was violating US money exchange laws by operating without a license. They ordered a bank account belonging to Mt. Gox’s subsidiary Mutum Sigilium seized in the crackdown.


            The seizure was ordered as part of what officials are referring to as an “ongoing investigation” into the currency in general and Mt. Gox in particular. They have refused to provide additional information, beyond that contained in the warrant.


            Mt. Gox issued an initial statement insisting they were unsure of the “scope and/or the reasons” for the move, but has promised additional information as it learns more.


            The US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has claimed broad authority over all use of “virtual currencies” and has imposed an onerous set of “guidelines” on who it believes is responsible for keeping detailed records of money transfers.


            Since Bitcoins are by design a decentralized, secure currency, there is literally no physical way for the US government to effectively shut them down. At the same time, the DHS move reminds us that this isn’t necessarily a deterrent for hostile action at anything the US government deems a threat to policy, and moves against the major public exchanges of Bitcoins could have a deleterious effect on the currency’s use in many perfectly legal transactions.



CIA Pays the Potentate


Afghanistan’s problems can’t be solved by bribing President Karzai


May 7, 2013

by Philip Giraldi 

The American Conservative


            The New York Times is reporting that the CIA has been paying Afghan President Hamid Karzai millions of dollars every month. The money, which Karzai has acknowledged and described as an “easy source of petty cash,” does not go directly to the president but instead is delivered in bundles of $100 notes via bags or even suitcases to the presidential office, where it is distributed by the Afghan National Security Council. That an intelligence service just might try to put a foreign head of state on the payroll should not necessarily surprise anyone, though why that should be done with a basket case client state like Afghanistan might raise some disturbing questions about the real nature of the sometimes fractious bilateral relationship. What is apparently more concerning to the Times is the implication that much of the money has been invested by the Karzai government in buying the loyalty of warlords, who, ironically, have done so much to weaken the authority of Karzai’s own central government. As bags of cash are quite fungible, some money likely even found its way into the hands of the Taliban further down the food chain, suggesting that U.S. tax dollars are being used to fund the insurgents who are killing American soldiers.


            But looking at the situation from Karzai’s perspective it is necessary to reckon with the fact that he will be an ex-president after elections in April 2014 since he cannot run again. What power he currently enjoys will go to whoever replaces him, possibly a hand-picked successor but equally possibly someone who does not like him very much. If Karzai wants to maintain his viability in Afghanistan and protect his interests he has to have his own powerbase and he is doing that in the time honored Afghan fashion by working with tribal and local power brokers. So no one should be surprised that Karzai regards the CIA cash, which he refers to as “ghost money,” as a gift from Washington that he can use to buy the personal loyalty of regional heavyweights and ensure both his future relevance and his safety.


            From the CIA point of view, the money being given to the president’s office is a pittance relative to the cost of the war. Assuming that Karzai is not being completely frank with his State Department interlocutors, a likely assumption, having another channel to him might be regarded as not only desirable but essential. It would give Washington an extra seat at the table in the Afghan presidential office. The income stream is also an inducement for the Karzai administration to be cooperative on issues that are considered to be vital. And the moves by Karzai to create his own political powerbase independent of his office would also be regarded as a plus by Langley as it could suggest that he might continue to be a viable source or even an agent of influence for years to come.


            On the downside, the monumental corruption of the Karzai regime must have been a concern, as was the demonstrated connection of the president’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai (now deceased) with drug trafficking. Even for a senior level bureaucrat in Washington it would have been presumptuous to believe that more under the table money would buy influence without fueling still more corruption. Indeed, the Times quotes one U.S. official as saying off the record that “The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States.” Nor would money received directly in any way diminish the enormous profits coming from drugs, which is all part and parcel of the political and personal patronage network that makes the Afghan government operate like a criminal cartel. And as for buying access and influencing policy, Karzai has been resistant to some initiatives being advanced by Washington, including the plan for the CIA to continue to run counter-insurgency operations using its own militias post 2014.  Karzai is insisting that the Afghan government will take charge of the effort. The Times even suggests that Karzai’s unwillingness to be accommodating is a demonstration that he cannot be bought. Or at least that he cannot be bought for a paltry few million dollars.


            There is a long history of CIA buying foreign heads of state. In the Middle East, the late King Hussein of Jordan received $7 million yearly from the Agency and a succession of Christian presidents of Lebanon and their parties benefited similarly. Nearly all the Generals who headed military style governments in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s were on the CIA payroll. In Europe, the process was more subtle, with the money generally going to a political party or even a faction within a party rather than to a politician.


            As one who has personally carried and delivered bags of CIA cash to buy foreign politicians, I must confess to having generally negative feelings regarding the process. Prior to 9/11, the money very often went to politicians and leaders who were either anti-communist or accommodating of U.S. commercial interests. Today, the money generally winds up in the hands of a leader who will cooperate with U.S. global security policies regarding counter-terrorism and in opposition to the so-called rogue states Iran and North Korea.


            Back in the 1970s and 1980s allegations that a left leaning political party might be supported by Moscow frequently led to the funding of other organizations willing to publicize and oppose that connection. This pattern was repeated throughout Western Europe, most notably in countries like France and Italy where local Communist parties, associated unions, and front organizations were believed to be capable of winning elections.


            The CIA’s efforts were sometimes successful, but many of the schemes concocted on the fly to counter the red menace and economic nationalism turned out to be counterproductive in achieving the stated goal of US foreign policy, the development of stable multi-party democracies. In Italy, for example, the CIA interfered in elections through the 1970s in its attempt to keep the Partito Communista Italiano (PCI) out of power even though it was hardly a pawn of Moscow, and the US government’s support of the various unstable coalitions propped up around the Christian Democrats institutionalized corruption that continues to this day. It also inhibited the development of a genuine democratic opposition party.


            CIA-fueled conservative political dominance inevitably produced what is now referred to as “blowback.” It empowered the Communists in places like Portugal, Italy, France, and Spain, making them appear to be genuine nationalists—which some were—resisting American hegemony. The CIA continued to fund various political groups and labor unions into the 1990s, long after the presumed Communist threat to disrupt Western European political solidarity with the United States had subsided.


             Elsewhere, the CIA’s funding of local politicians representing military governments often had long-term consequences that eventually harmed US interests. The overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 led to a series of despotic regimes and a civil war that killed at least a quarter of a million people. The pattern was repeated in a number of other nations in Central and South America, to include El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Colombia, and Bolivia, countries that are only now recovering from the years of military or authoritarian rule.


            In all the examples cited above, the CIA was able to influence political development in the countries involved, for better or for worse. So does Agency cash delivered to the Karzai president’s office accomplish anything along similar lines if one assumes that the United States will have vital interests in Afghanistan after 2014? Probably not. Karzai will be gone and will likely be enjoying his hundreds of millions of corruption-generated dollars in a place like Dubai, leaving behind a new set of thieves in the presidential palace. Afghanistan will continue its slow slide into chaos as the few remaining donor nations that actually come up with the cash become nervous about long term prospects due to the corruption. The Agency will continue to tout the belief that it has some special access to senior level Afghan officials, who it will continue to pay off with some regularity, but the “Great Game” in Central Asia has already moved far beyond the point where it can be fixed by buying a president.


            Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.



Bombings Make a Bitter Bookend for F.B.I.’s Director



May 9, 2013

by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael S. Schmidt…:

New York Times


WASHINGTON — Robert S. Mueller III was awakened at home close to 1:30 a.m. on April 19 as one suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing was in cardiac arrest and the other was on the run.


By 3 a.m., after an F.B.I. agent had used a fingerprint scanner on the dying suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in a hospital emergency room to learn his identity, Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director, had arrived in a suit and tie at his agency’s headquarters in downtown Washington.


His agents gave him the bad news: two years earlier, the F.B.I. had interviewed, and closed its file on, Mr. Tsarnaev. Mr. Mueller took it in without showing emotion, his aides said. He turned to a deputy and ordered the release of the information — knowing it would call into question whether the F.B.I. failed to head off one of the most spectacular attacks on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.


Now, Mr. Mueller’s 12-year tenure under two presidents is facing scrutiny, months from his longtime plans to step down in September, as hearings begin on Capitol Hill into what happened in Boston and why.


Although his privileged roots and sometimes wooden personality have not made him a beloved figure in the F.B.I.’s beer-and-brats culture, he has always had supporters in both parties in Congress. Now, instead of coasting into retirement, Mr. Mueller will spend his final months answering tough questions about how the bombing suspects slipped away.


On Thursday, Boston’s police chief testified to the House Homeland Security Committee that the F.B.I. had not shared with the Boston police information it received in 2011 about Mr. Tsarnaev, or about the bureau’s subsequent inquiry, which found no evidence of ties to Muslim extremists. Although the information appeared to raise questions about whether Mr. Tsarnaev would commit terrorist acts in Russia, Edward Davis, the police commissioner, said that had his department learned about the tip, “we would certainly look at the individual.” He could not say whether he would have come to a different conclusion.


For Mr. Mueller, who took over the F.B.I. one week before the Sept. 11 attacks, the hearings stand as an unwelcome bookend to a long law enforcement career.


“If an attack of this scale happens toward the end of your tenure and there is evidence that the F.B.I. had its hands on the people years ago and missed them, that is what people will remember,” said Julian E. Zelizer, a Princeton historian and author of a book on the politics of national security.


Lee H. Hamilton, the co-chairman of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, was blunt. “He can’t avoid it,” he said. “It happened, so it’s part of his legacy.” Mr. Mueller declined to be interviewed for this article.


His defenders, including President Obama, praise the bureau for its fast work in identifying Mr. Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, ethnic Chechen immigrants who the F.B.I. believes learned to make explosives from an Al Qaeda-affiliated online magazine. For days after the bombings, the F.B.I. flew its planes, including a Gulfstream 5 jet, between Boston and Washington, ferrying evidence gathered at the scene to the F.B.I.’s crime laboratories for DNA analysis in a frantic effort to learn who the bombers were.


The break came with the fingerprint scan — technology ordinarily used to identify enemy fighters in Afghanistan — that set in motion Mr. Mueller’s decision to make public the F.B.I.’s previous contact with Mr. Tsarnaev. That the agency had crossed the suspect’s path did not come entirely as a surprise, aides said. Inside the bureau, where F.B.I. agents under orders since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to check out the smallest terrorist tip have built databases of millions of names, the view was that it was only a matter of time before the agency would be blamed for the next attack. From the agents’ perspective, the F.B.I. is vigilant, not incompetent. “In some ways, they’re a victim of their own success,” said Kenneth Wainstein, a former chief of staff to Mr. Mueller and former general counsel at the F.B.I.


Whether blame is deserved or not, by 10 a.m. on April 19, Mr. Mueller had made the short trip from the F.B.I.’s headquarters to the White House, where he briefed Mr. Obama in the Situation Room. Boston was on lockdown and an extensive manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was under way. Using what Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, described as a “very factual” tone, Mr. Mueller did not apologize to the president for the F.B.I.’s closing of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s case.


“His view is that the F.B.I. has thousands upon thousands of leads that they investigate, and it’s the nature of the business that if you don’t find derogatory information about somebody in that investigation, it’s just not going to trigger a detention or a deportation,” Mr. Rhodes said. “It wasn’t defensive at all.”


But a few days later, when Mr. Mueller briefed House members behind closed doors, one lawmaker said he seemed uncharacteristically tense. “He was ill at ease, not his normal confidence,” said the congressman, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the session was classified. “He wasn’t himself.”


Three days before the Boston bombings, Mr. Mueller, 68, delivered a rare and unusually personal speech at the University of Virginia, where he received his law degree 40 years ago.


“I love doing bank robberies, drug cases, homicides — as a prosecutor, that’s what I thought I was going to be overseeing when I got to the bureau,” he said. But, he said, Americans “expect us to prevent the next terrorist attack.”


Mr. Mueller’s words — which have since become, at minimum, awkward — also described his transformation of the F.B.I. He became director on Sept. 4, 2001; faced investigations into the failures to prevent the Sept. 11 plot; then set about changing the culture of the F.B.I. — 56 field offices, each fiercely protective of its turf — from a domestic crime-fighting agency into a counterterrorism operation.


“It was an enormously difficult challenge, and he went at it with great energy and skill,” Mr. Hamilton said. “Some agents bought into it, and others did not.”


Mr. Mueller expanded the bureau’s presence overseas, deployed agents to gather evidence on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and pressed for expanded surveillance powers. He nearly resigned over the George W. Bush administration’s electronic eavesdropping program, and instructed his agents not to participate in brutal interrogation techniques used by the C.I.A. But there is no evidence that he put his objections in writing or took them to the White House.


Mr. Mueller’s years at the F.B.I. — traditionally the proletarian competitor to the Ivy Leaguers at the C.I.A. — are the logical culmination of a long career spent fighting criminals, though not necessarily of his origins. Born into an affluent New York family, Mr. Mueller graduated from the elite St. Paul’s School in the same 1962 class as Secretary of State John Kerry, followed his father’s footsteps to Princeton, earned a master’s degree in international relations from New York University, then saw combat when he led a rifle platoon in Vietnam.


He went on to become United States attorney in both San Francisco and Boston, and supervised cases like the prosecution of the crime boss John J. Gotti and the investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland when he ran the Justice Department’s criminal division under the first President George Bush. Friends say law enforcement had always drawn him in.


“He really hates the bad guys,” said William F. Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, who preceded Mr. Mueller as the United States attorney in Boston.


In recent years, friends say Mr. Mueller has grown increasingly concerned about the potential for other homegrown attacks like the one in Boston. Leon E. Panetta, the former defense secretary who ran the C.I.A. from 2009 to 2011 and who counts Mr. Mueller as a friend, said the two often talked of the changing nature of the terror threat.


“The one area that I think we were always concerned about was the Lone Wolf Syndrome,” Mr. Panetta said, using law enforcement jargon for criminals who act alone, “largely because the real challenge is, how do you locate these people? How do you get ahead of it?”


In his University of Virginia speech, Mr. Mueller said he measured success on how many attacks had occurred on American soil over the past 10 to 12 years. As he wrapped up his remarks, he offered to take questions, alluding to the skills he has developed in Washington through many a Congressional hearing, and more to come.


“I’ll either answer ’em,” he said, “or duck ’em.”



Where Has All the Money Gone? 

How Contractors Raked in $385 Billion to Build and Support Bases Abroad since 2001 

by David Vine



Outside the United States, the Pentagon controls a collection of military bases unprecedented in history. With U.S. troops gone from Iraq and the withdrawal from Afghanistan underway, it’s easy to forget that we probably still have about 1,000 military bases in other peoples’ lands. This giant collection of bases receives remarkably little media attention, costs a fortune, and even when cost cutting is the subject du jour, it still seems to get a free ride.


With so much money pouring into the Pentagon’s base world, the question is: Who’s benefiting?


Some of the money clearly pays for things like salaries, health care, and other benefits for around one million military and Defense Department personnel and their families overseas. But after an extensive examination of government spending data and contracts, I estimate that the Pentagon has dispersed around $385 billion to private companies for work done outside the U.S. since late 2001, mainly in that baseworld. That’s nearly double the entire State Department budget over the same period, and because Pentagon and government accounting practices are so poor, the true total may be significantly higher.


Not surprisingly, when it comes to such contracts and given our recent wars, the top two countries into which taxpayer dollars flowed were Afghanistan and Iraq (around $160 billion). Next comes Kuwait ($37.2 billion), where the military has had a significant presence since the first Gulf War of 1990-1991, followed by Germany ($27.8 billion), South Korea ($18.2 billion), Japan ($15.2 billion), and Britain ($14.7 billion). While some of these costs are for weapons procurement, rather than for bases and troop support, the hundreds of thousands of contracts believed to be omitted from these tallies thanks to government accounting errors make the numbers a reasonable reflection of the everyday moneys flowing to private contractors for the world of bases the United States has maintained since World War II.


Beyond the sheer volume of dollars heading overseas, an analysis of Pentagon spending reveals a troubling pattern: the majority of benefits have gone to a relatively small group of private contractors. In total, almost a third of the $385 billion has flowed into the coffers of just 10 top contractors, including scandal-prone companies like KBR, the former subsidiary of Halliburton, and oil giant BP.


In addition, Pentagon spending on its baseworld has been marked by spiraling expenditures, the growing use of uncompetitive contracts and contracts lacking incentives to control costs, outright fraud, and the repeated awarding of non-competitive sweetheart contracts to companies with histories of fraud and abuse. There’s been so much cost gouging that any attempt to catalog it across bases globally would be a mammoth effort. The $31-$60 billion in contracting fraud in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars alone, as calculated by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, which Congress established to investigate waste and abuse, suggests the global total could be astronomical.


Since 2001, U.S. taxpayers have effectively shipped hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country to build and maintain an enormous military presence abroad, while major Pentagon contractors and a select group of politicians, lobbyists, and other friends have benefited mightily.


Peeling the Potatoes and Bringing Home the Bacon


While a handful of overseas bases, like Guantánamo Bay, date to the turn of the twentieth century, most have existed since the construction of thousands of bases during World War II. Although the number of installations and troops ebbed and flowed in the Cold War years and shrank by about 60% once it was over, a significant infrastructure of bases remains. Scattered from Aruba and Belgium to the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, the Pentagon’s global landholdings are bigger than all of North Korea and represent by far the largest collection of foreign bases in history.


Once upon a time, however, the military, not contractors, built the barracks, cleaned the clothes, and peeled the potatoes at these bases. This started to change during the Vietnam War, when Brown & Root, better known to critics as “Burn & Loot” (later KBR), began building major military installations in South Vietnam as part of a contractor consortium.


The use of contractors accelerated following the Cold War’s end, part of a larger trend toward the privatization of formerly public services.  By the first Gulf War, one in 100 deployed personnel was a contractor. Later in the 1990s, during U.S. military operations in Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Italy, and especially the Balkans, Brown & Root received more than $2 billion in base-support and logistics contracts for base construction and maintenance, food services, waste removal, water production, transportation services, and much more.


By the second Gulf War, contractors represented roughly one in two deployed personnel in Iraq, with the company now known as KBR employing more than 50,000 people, or enough to staff 100 army battalions.  Burger Kings, Starbucks, and car dealerships, as well as air conditioning, steak, and ice cream became regular features of often city-sized bases. However, this wasn’t a phenomenon restricted to war zones. U.S. bases worldwide look much the same, which helps explain the staggering taxpayer dollars they consume.


Calculating Costs in a “Dysfunctional” System


The problem is, it’s remarkably difficult to figure out who’s been benefiting from all the taxpayer money. The government doesn’t bother to compile such information. This meant I had to pick through hundreds of thousands of contracts and research scores of companies in countries worldwide.


I began with publicly available government contract data and followed a methodology for tracking funds used by the Commission on Wartime Contracting. This allowed me to compile a list of every Pentagon contract with a “place of performance” — that is, the country where most of a contract’s work is performed — outside the United States since the start of the Afghan war (fiscal year 2002).


There were 1.7 million of them.


Scrolling through 1.7 million spreadsheet rows, one for each contract, offered a dizzying feel for the immensity of the Pentagon’s activities and the money spent globally. Generally, the companies winning the largest contracts have been doing one (or more) of four things: building bases, running bases, providing security for bases, and delivering fuel to bases. Among those 1.7 million contracts, there was one for $43 for sand in South Korea and another for a $1.7 million fitness center in Honduras.  There was the $23,000 for sports drinks in Kuwait, $53 million in base support services in Afghanistan, and everything from $73 in pens to $301 million for U.S. Army industrial supplies in Iraq.


Cheek by jowl, I found the most basic services, the most banal purchases, and the most ominous acquisitions, including concrete sidewalks, a traffic light system, diesel fuel, insect fogger, shower heads, black toner, a 59” desk, unskilled laborers, chaplain supplies, linen for “distinguished visitor” rooms, easy chairs, gym equipment, flamenco dancers, the rental of six sedans, phone cards, a 50” plasma screen, billiards cues, X-Box 360 games and accessories, Slushie machine parts, a hot dog roller, scallops, shrimp, strawberries, asparagus, and toaster pastries, as well as hazardous waste services, a burn pit, ammo and clips, bomb disposal services, blackout goggles for detainees, and confinement buildings.


The $385 billion total is at best a rough estimate; the real totals are surely higher.  The Federal Procurement Data System that’s supposed to keep track of government contracts “often contains inaccurate data,” according to the Government Accountability Office. Harvard University economist Linda Bilmes calls the system “dysfunctional.” For example, hundreds of thousands of contracts have no “place of performance” listed at all. There are 116,527 contracts that list the place of performance as Switzerland, even though the vast majority are for delivering food to troops in Afghanistan and at bases worldwide.


The unreliable and opaque nature of the data becomes clearer when you consider that the top recipient of Pentagon contracts isn’t a company at all, but a category labeled “miscellaneous foreign contractors”; that is, almost 250,000 contracts totaling nearly $50 billion, or 12% of the total, have gone to recipients we can’t identify. As the Commission on Wartime Contracting explains, “miscellaneous foreign contractors” is a catch-all “often used for the purpose of obscuring the identification of the actual contractor[s].”


The reliability of the data only worsens when we consider the Pentagon’s inability to track its own money or pass an audit. Identifying the value of contracts given to specific companies is made more difficult by a general lack of corporate transparency, as well as complicated subcontracting arrangements, the use of foreign subsidiaries, and frequent corporate name changes.


Still, examining the top contractors is illuminating.  Let’s start with the top three whose names we know:


1. KBR: Among the companies bringing home billions, the name Kellogg, Brown & Root dominates. It has almost five times the contracts of the next company on the list and is emblematic of broader problems in the contracting system.


KBR is the latest incarnation of Brown & Root, the company that started paving roads in Texas in 1919 and grew into the largest engineering and construction firm in the United States. In 1962, Halliburton, an international oil services company, bought Brown & Root. In 1995, Dick Cheney became Halliburton’s president and CEO after helping jump-start the Pentagon’s ever-greater reliance on private contractors when he was President George H.W. Bush’s secretary of defense.


Later, while Cheney was vice president, Halliburton and its KBR subsidiary (formed after acquiring Kellogg Industries) won by far the largest wartime contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s difficult to overstate KBR’s role in the two conflicts. Without its work, there might have been no wars.  In a 2005 interview, Paul Cerjan, a former Halliburton vice president, explained that KBR was supporting more than 200,000 coalition forces in Iraq, providing “anything they need to conduct the war.” That meant “base support services, which includes all the billeting, the feeding, water supplies, sewage — anything it would take to run a city.” It also meant Army “logistics functions, which include transportation, movement of POL [petroleum, oil, and lubricants] supplies, gas… spare parts, ammunition.”


Most of KBR’s contracts to support bases and troops overseas have come under the multi-billion dollar Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). In 2001, KBR won a one-year LOGCAP contract to provide an undefined quantity and an undefined value of “selected services in wartime.” The company subsequently enjoyed nearly eight years of work without facing a competitor’s bid, thanks to a series of one-year contract extensions. By July 2011, KBR had received more than $37 billion in LOGCAP funds.  Its experience reflected the near tripling of Pentagon contracts issued without competitive bidding between 2001 and 2010. “It’s like a gigantic monopoly,” a representative from Taxpayers for Common Sense said of LOGCAP.


The work KBR performed under LOGCAP also reflected the Pentagon’s frequent use of “cost-plus” contracts. These reimburse a company for its expenses and then add a fee that’s usually fixed contractually or determined by a performance evaluation board. The Congressional Research Service explained that because “increased costs mean increased fees to the contractor,” there is “no incentive for the contractor to limit the government’s costs.” As one Halliburton official told a congressional committee bluntly, the company’s unofficial mantra in Iraq became “Don’t worry about price. It’s ‘cost-plus.’”


Not surprisingly, in 2009, the Pentagon’s top auditor testified that KBR accounted for “the vast majority” of wartime fraud. The company has also faced accusations of overcharging for everything from delivering food and fuel and supplying housing for troops to providing base security services.


After years of bad publicity, in 2007, Halliburton spun KBR off as an independent company and moved its headquarters from Houston to Dubai. Despite KBR’s track record and a 2009 guilty plea for bribing Nigerian government officials to win gas contracts (for which its former CEO received prison time), the company has continued to receive massive government contracts. Its latest LOGCAP contract, awarded in 2008, could be worth up to $50 billion through 2018.


2. Supreme Group: Next on the list is the company that’s been described as the KBR for the Afghan War. Supreme Group has won more than $9 billion in contracts for transporting and serving meals to troops in Afghanistan and at other bases worldwide. Its growth perfectly symbolizes the soldiers-to-contractors shift in who peels the potatoes.


Supreme was founded in 1957 by an Army veteran who saw an opportunity to provide food for the hundreds of U.S. bases in Germany. After expanding over several decades into the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, the company won multi-billion-dollar “sole source contracts” that gave it a virtual monopoly over wartime food services in Afghanistan.


Today, in a prime example of the revolving door between the Pentagon and its contractors, Supreme’s chief commercial officer is former Lieutenant General Robert Dail. From August 2006 to November 2008, Dail headed the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which awards food contracts. In 2007, Dail presented Supreme with DLA’s “New Contractor of the Year Award.” Four months after leaving the Pentagon, he became the president of Supreme Group USA.


Recently, Supreme has faced growing scrutiny over the way it’s won competition-free contracts, with service fees as high as 75% of costs and reportedly for more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in overbilling. Last month, Supreme had the chutzpah to sue the Pentagon for awarding a new $10 billion Afghanistan food contract to a competitor that underbid Supreme’s offer by $1.4 billion.


3. Agility Logistics: Next on the list is Agility Logistics, a Kuwaiti company. It won multi-billion-dollar contracts to transport food to troops in Iraq. When the Pentagon decided against awarding similar contracts in Afghanistan to a single firm, Agility partnered with Supreme in exchange for a 3.5% fee on revenues. In 2009 and 2010, grand juries indicted Agility for massive contracting fraud, and the Pentagon suspended the company and 125 related companies from receiving new contracts. In 2012, a judge issued a default judgment against Agility in a whistleblower suit seeking more than $1 billion for overcharging the government.


The Rest of the Top 10: A Pattern of Misconduct


Things don’t get much better farther down the list. Next come DynCorp International and Fluor Intercontinental, which along with KBR won the latest LOGCAP contracts. Awarding that contract to three companies rather than one was intended to increase competition. In practice, according to the Commission on Wartime Contracting, each corporation has enjoyed a “mini-monopoly” over logistics services in Afghanistan and other locations. DynCorp, which has also won large wartime private security contracts, has a history littered with charges of overbilling, shoddy construction, smuggling laborers onto bases, sexual harassment, and sex trafficking.


Although a Fluor employee pled guilty in 2012 to conspiring to steal and sell military equipment in Iraq, it’s the only defense firm in the world to receive an “A” on Transparency International’s anti-corruption index that rates companies’ efforts to fight corruption. On the other hand, number seven on the list, ITT (now Exelis), received a “C” (along with KBR and DynCorp).


The last three in the top ten are BP (which tops the Project on Government Oversight’s federal contractor misconduct list) and the petroleum companies of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. After all, the U.S. military runs on oil.  It consumed five billion gallons in fiscal year 2011 alone, or more than all of Sweden. In total, 10 of the top 25 firms are oil companies, with contracts for delivering oil overseas totaling around $40 billion.


Spreading the Love


Contractors are hardly alone in raking in the dollars from the Pentagon’s baseworld. Pentagon officials, military personnel, members of Congress, and lobbyists, among others, have all benefited — financially, politically, and professionally — from the giant overseas presence. In particular, contractors have spread the love by making millions in campaign contributions to members of Congress. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, military contractors and their employees gave more than $27 million in election donations in 2012 alone, and have donated almost $200 million since 1990.


Most of these have gone to members of the armed services and appropriations committees in the Senate and House of Representatives. These, of course, have primary authority over awarding military dollars. For the 2012 elections, for example, DynCorp International’s political action committee donated $10,000 to both the chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and made additional donations to 33 other members of the House and Senate armed services committees and 16 members of the two appropriations committees.


Most contractors also pay lobbyists hundreds of thousands of dollars to sway military budgeteers and policymakers their way. KBR and Halliburton spent nearly $5.5 million on lobbying between 2002 and 2012, including $420,000 in 2008 when KBR won the latest LOGCAP contract and $620,000 the following year when it protested being barred from bidding on contracts in Kuwait. Supreme spent $660,000 on lobbying in 2012 alone. Agility spent $200,000 in 2011, after its second indictment on fraud charges, and Fluor racked up nearly $9.5 million in lobbying fees from 2002 to 2012.


Shrinking the Baseworld


Today, there are some signs of baseworld shrinkage. The hundreds of bases built in Iraq are long gone, and many of the hundreds built in Afghanistan are now being shut down as U.S. combat troops prepare to withdraw. The military is downsizing an old base in the Portuguese Azores and studying further base and troop reductions in Europe. While many in Congress are resisting an Obama administration request to reduce “excess capacity” among thousands of domestic bases through two new rounds of the Base Realignment and Closure process, at least some current and former members of Congress are calling for a parallel effort to close bases abroad.


At the same time, however, the military is building (or exploring the possibility of building) new bases from Asia and Africa to the Persian Gulf and Latin America.  Small drone bases are on the rise from Niger to Saudi Arabia.  Even in Europe, the Pentagon is still building bases while closing others.


Much work remains to be done to figure out who’s been benefiting from the Pentagon’s baseworld. The billions in contracts that sustain our bases, however, are a good reminder that there are immediate savings available by reducing troop deployments and Cold War bases abroad.  They are also a reminder of where we should look when we’re told there isn’t enough money for Head Start or hospitals or housing.


For decades, tens of billions of dollars in overseas spending have ended up in the coffers of a select few, with many billions leaking out of the U.S. economy entirely. Stemming those leaks by cutting overseas spending and redirecting precious resources toward long-neglected non-military needs is an important way to help revive an economy that has long benefited the few rather than the many.


Top 25 Recipients of Pentagon Contracts Abroad

1.  Miscellaneous Foreign Contractors         $47.1
2.  KBR, Inc.           44.4
3.  Supreme Group             9.3
4.  Agility Logistics (PWC)             9.0
5.  DynCorp International             8.6
6.  Fluor Intercontinental             8.6
7.  ITT/Exelis, Inc.             7.4
8.  BP, P.L.C.             5.6
9.  Bahrain Petroleum Company             5.1
10.  Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company             4.5
11.  SK Corporation             3.8
12.  Red Star Enterprises (Mina Corporation)             3.8
13.  World Fuel Services Corporation             3.8
14.  Motor Oil (Hellas), Corinth Refineries S.A.             3.7
15.  Combat Support Associates Ltd.             3.8
16.  Refinery Associates Texas, Inc.             3.3
17.  Lockheed Martin Corporation             3.2
18.  Raytheon Company             3.1
19.  S-Oil Corporation (Ssangyong)             3.0
20.  International Oil Trading Co./Trigeant Ltd.             2.7
21.  FedEx Corporation             2.2
22.  Contrack International, Inc.             2.0
23.  GS/LG-Caltex (Chevron Corporation)             1.9
24.  Washington Group/URS Corporation             1.6
25.  Tutor Perini Corporation (Perini)             1.5
  SUBTOTAL      $201.8  
   All Other Contractors:




David Vine, a Tom Dispatch regular, is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC.


Editorial: Bringing drones out of the shadows


Even ex-Obama administration officials are expressing qualms about targeted killings.


May 13, 2013




            The use of unmanned aircraft to kill suspected terrorists, a practice that has dramatically escalated during the Obama administration, is receiving fresh and welcome scrutiny in Congress and elsewhere even as the number of drone strikes seems to be on the decline. Last week, Rep. William M. “Mac” Thornberry (R-Texas), the chairman of a House armed services subcommittee, introduced legislation to require the Pentagon to promptly inform Congress about every drone strike outside Afghanistan as well as about operations to kill or capture terrorists away from declared war zones.


And in a speech at Oxford University, Harold Koh, who until recently served as the State Department’s legal advisor, criticized the administration for not being “sufficiently transparent to the media, to the Congress and to our allies.” He urged the administration to publicize its standards for placing targets — Americans and others — on kill lists and to offer a clear tally of civilian casualties.


This page has repeatedly criticized the administration for its lack of transparency about the targeted killing of terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, and for its troublingly elastic definition of what constitutes an “imminent” attack on Americans that would justify the killing of a U.S. citizen abroad by drones or other means. The legality of targeting citizens without due process of law is an urgent issue.


But a debate about drones and targeted killings can’t be limited to questions about disclosure, accountability to Congress and legal standards. Nor should legitimate concern about the killing of Americans obscure the fact that about 3,000 foreigners have been killed in drone attacks, some of them high-level Al Qaeda operatives but many others “unknown extremists.”


As Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor and former Pentagon official, put it in recent testimony before a Senate judiciary subcommittee: “Over the last decade, we have seen U.S. drone strikes evolve from a tool used in extremely limited circumstances to go after specifically identified high-ranking Al Qaeda officials, to a tool relied on in an increasing number of countries to go after an eternally lengthening list of putative bad actors, with increasingly tenuous links to grave or imminent threats to the United States. Some of these suspected terrorists have been identified by name and specifically targeted, while others are increasingly targeted on the basis of suspicious behavior patterns.”


Though estimates vary, it seems that hundreds of civilians also have died in drone strikes, a source of anti-American outrage in Pakistan and Yemen. That drones are more precise than manned jet bomber is small consolation for the families of those victims. In testimony before the Senate committee, Farea Al-Muslimi, a Yemeni activist and writer educated in the United States, described the effects on his village of a strike: “For almost all of the people in Wessab, I’m the only person with any connection to the United States. They called and texted me that night with questions that I could not answer: ‘Why was the United States terrifying them with these drones? Why was the United States trying to kill a person with a missile when everyone knows where he is and he could have been easily arrested?”


When even former officials of the Obama administration are expressing qualms about drones and targeted killings, it behooves the president and his advisors to reconsider the scope and utility of the policy. There are indications that such a reappraisal is underway. The Times has reported that administration officials are moving to shift authority for drone strikes from the CIA back to the Defense Department. There also have been reports that the administration will eliminate so-called signature strikes that are aimed not at particular individuals but at suspicious behavior, such as the massing of vehicles in areas thought to be under the control of Al Qaeda or similar groups.


            For all their technological novelty, drones are weapons, and their use raises the perennial question of when and under what safeguards deadly force should be used to protect the national interest. More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks that provided the ultimate authority for the drone campaign, it’s time to take stock of whether that policy still makes sense.


2 new viruses could both spark global outbreaks


May 15 2013

by Maria Cheng




LONDON (AP) — Two respiratory viruses in different parts of the world have captured the attention of global health officials — a novel coronavirus in the Middle East and a new bird flu spreading in China.


Last week, the coronavirus related to SARS spread to France, where one patient who probably caught the disease in Dubai infected his hospital roommate. Officials are now trying to track down everyone who went on a tour group holiday to Dubai with the first patient as well as all contacts of the second patient. Since it was first spotted last year, the new coronavirus has infected 34 people, killing 18 of them. Nearly all had some connection to the Middle East.


The World Health Organization, however, says there is no reason to think the virus is restricted to the Middle East and has advised health officials worldwide to closely monitor any unusual respiratory cases.


At the same time, a new bird flu strain, H7N9, has been infecting people in China since at least March, causing 32 deaths out of 131 known cases.


WHO, which is closely monitoring the viruses, says both have the potential to cause a pandemic — a global epidemic — if they evolve into a form easily spread between people. Here’s a crash course in what we know so far about them:


Q: How are humans getting infected by the new coronavirus?


A: Scientists don’t exactly know. There is some suggestion the disease is jumping directly from animals like camels or goats to humans, but officials are also considering other sources, like a common environmental exposure. The new coronavirus is most closely related to a bat virus, but it’s possible that bats are transmitting the disease via another source before humans catch it.


Q: Can the new coronavirus be spread from human to human?


A: In some circumstances, yes. There have been clusters of the disease in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Britain and now France, where the virus has spread from person-to-person. Most of those infected were in very close contact, such as people taking care of a sick family member or health workers treating patients. There is no evidence the virus is spreading easily between people and all cases of human-to-human transmission have been limited so far.


Q: How are people catching the bird flu H7N9?


A: Some studies suggest the new bird flu is jumping directly to people from poultry at live bird markets. Cases have slowed down since Chinese authorities began shutting down such markets. But it’s unclear exactly what kind of exposure is needed for humans to catch the virus and very few animals have tested positive for it. Unlike the last bird flu strain to cause global concern, H5N1, the new strain doesn’t appear to make birds sick and may be spreading silently in poultry populations.


Q: What precautions can people take against these new viruses?


A: WHO is not advising people to avoid traveling to the Middle East or China but is urging people to practice good personal hygiene like regular hand-washing. “Until we know how and where humans are contracting these two diseases, we cannot control them,” said Gregory Hartl, WHO spokesman.


Q: Which virus should we be more worried about?


 A: It’s impossible to know. “We really don’t want to play the game of predicting which virus will be more deadly than the other,” Hartl said. At the moment, both are worrisome since so little is known about how they are infecting humans and both appear to cause severe disease. “Any virus that has the ability to develop the capacity to spread from human to human is of great concern to WHO,” he said.


What are the End Days? A study in deception


May 15, 2013

by James Connally


‘Armageddon’ is actually purported to be a battle. According to Pentecostal interpretations, the Bible states that Armageddon will be a battle where God finally comes in and takes over the world and rules it the way it should have been ruled all along. After this vaguely-defined battle of Armageddon, Pentecostals firmly believe that there will follow 1000 years of peace and plenty which, according to their lore and legend, will be the sole lot of their sect and no other religion.

The actual scene of the fictional battle is referred to by Pentecostals as being clearly set forth in Revelation 16:14-16. It is not. The specific citation reads, in full:


            “14. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

            “15. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

                        “16. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”

            This sparse mention of Armageddon has given rise to the elaborate but entirely fictional legend of the Final Battle between the forces of good and evil. There is no mention in Revelations 16: 14-15 whatsoever of Parusia or the second coming of Jesus, the apocryphal Anti-Christ, the Rapture or the many other delightful inventions designed to bolster the Pentecostal elect and daunt their adversaries. These adversaries consist of all other branches of the Christian religion with especial emphasis placed on Jews and Catholics. The Pentecostals also loathe Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and an endless list of anyone and everyone whose views clash with theirs such as scientists and any academic who views the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel as anything but tissues of lies.

The Antichrist


The Antichrist is described by Pentecostals as the “son of perdition” and the “beast”!


They claim that this interesting creature will have great charisma and speaking ability, “a mouth speaking great things”.


The Antichrist, they allege, will rise to power on a wave of world euphoria, as he temporarily saves the world from its desperate economic, military and political problems with a brilliant sevenyear plan for world peace, economic stability and religious freedom.


The Antichrist could well haaaaave arisen out of the current chaos in the former Soviet Union. The prophet Ezekiel names him as the ruler of “Magog”, a name that Biblical scholars agree denotes a country or region of peoples to the north of Israel. Many have interpreted this to mean modern day Russia. It could also be Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, perhaps one of the Baltic States or even the lewd and dissolute Socialist Sweden.


His power base will include the leading nations of Europe, whose leaders, the Bible says, will “give their power and strength unto the beast.”


The Bible even gives some clues about his personal characteristics. The prophet Daniel wrote that the Antichrist “does not regard the desire of women.” This could imply that he is either celibate or a homosexual. Daniel also tells us that he will have a “fierce countenance” or stern look, and will be “more stout than his fellows”–more proud and boastful.


Unfortunately, the so-called Book of Daniel was written during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, not many decades earlier as its proponents claim, and has been extensively modified by early Christian writers to predict the arrival of their personal Messiah, or Christ, on the Judean scene. The so-called “wonderful” prophetic statements put into the mouth of Daniel are absolutely and wondrously accurate…up to the reign of Nero and then fall as flat as a shaken soufflé afterwards


It is well known that Pentecostals loathe homosexuals, among many other groups not pleasing to them, and would like nothing better than to shove them into a bottomless pit filled with Catholics, rock and roll fans, teenaged mothers, Communists, gun control advocates, Tarot card readers, Christian Scientists, abortionists, Wayne Newton fans, Asians, Jews, African-Americans and Latino Surnamed Hispanics.


The seven year peace-pact (or covenant) that is engineered by the Antichrist is spoken of a number of times in the Bible, and may even have already been signed in secret. The historic peace agreement signed between Israel and the PLO at the White House on September 13, 1993, vividly illustrates how dramatically events in the Middle East are presently moving in this direction, eager Pentecostals, awaiting their Celestial Omnibus, will inform anyone who is interested and a greater legion of those who are not.


Under the final terms of the fictional Covenant, Jerusalem will likely be declared an international city to which Judaism, Islam and Christianity will have equal rights. Scripture indicates that the Jews will be permitted to rebuild their Temple on Mt. Moriah, where they revive their ancient rituals of animal sacrifice.


According to modern prophecy the Antichrist will not only be a master of political intrigue, but also a military genius. Daniel describes several major wars that he fights during his 7-year reign, apparently against the U.S. and Israel, who will oppose him during the second half of his reign.


For awhile, most of the world is going to think the Antichrist is wonderful, as he will seem to have solved so many of the world’s problems. But, three-and-a-half years into his seven year reign he will break the covenant and invade Israel from the north.


At this time he will make Jerusalem his world capitol and outlaw all religions, except the worship of himself and his image. The Bible, according to the Pentecostals, says that the Antichrist will sit in the Jewish Temple exalting himself as God and demanding to be worshipped. If this passage, and many others of its kind, actually appears in the King James Version of the Bible, no one has ever been able to find it


It is at this time that the Antichrist imposes his infamous “666” one-world credit system.


It must be said that the Antichrist does, in point of fact exist. He can be seen on a daily basis on the walls of the Cathedral at Orvieto, Italy in the marvelous frescos of Lucca Signorelli. He looks somewhat like a Byzantine depiction of Christ with either a vicious wife or inflamed hemorrhoids .


Pentecostals strongly believe that U.S. public schools “departed from the faith” when in 1963 the Bible and prayer were officially banned. Now, Pentecostals believe with horror, thousands of these same schools are teaching credited courses in “the doctrines of devils”–the occult and Satanism.


Even a cursory check of curriculum of a number of American public school districts does not support this claim but then the Pentecostals have stated repeatedly that they represent 45% of all Protestants in America. The actual number, excluding the Baptists, is more like 4%.


What they lack in actual numbers they more than compensate for by their loud and irrational views so that at times it sounds like the roar of a great multitude when in truth, it is only a small dwarf wearing stained underwear and armed with a bullhorn, trumpeting in the underbrush


Frantic Pentecostals estimated that according to their private Census for Christ there are over 200,000 practicing witches in the United States and allege there are literally millions of Americans who dabble in some form of the occult, psychic phenomena, spiritualism, demonology and black magic. Their statistics claim that occult book sales have doubled in the last four years.


 What is seen by terrified Pentecostals as ‘The Occult’ today is no longer the stuff of small underground cults. They believe that many rock videos are an open worship of Satan and hell that comes complete with the symbols, liturgies, and  rituals of Satanism, and the Pentecostals firmly and loudly proclaim to anyone interested in listening, that “millions of young people” have been caught in their evil sway.


Popular music is termed “sounds of horror and torment” that Pentecostals firmly believe is literally “driving young people insane and seducing them into a life of drugs, suicide, perversion and hell.” It is forgotten now but the same thing was once said about ragtime and later, jazz. If this had been true, perhaps the real reason behind the First World War, the 1929 market crash, the rise of Franklin Roosevelt and the lewd hula hoop can be attributed to Scott Joplin and Ella Fitzgerald.


It is also to be noted that the immensely popular Harry Potter series of children’s books are loudly proclaimed as Satanic books designed to lure unsuspecting children into the clutches of the Evil One. Any sane person who has read these delightful fantasy books will certainly not agree with these hysterical strictures. In point of fact, it would be exceedingly difficult to locate any person possessing even a modicum of sanity who would believe any of the weird fulminations of the Pentecostals.


Outraged Pentecostals now firmly state that in the beginning years of the Twenty First Century, “even the most shameless acts of blasphemy and desecration are socially acceptable.”


“Acts of blasphemy and desecration” sound like human sacrifices carried out on nuns at bus stops during the noontime rush hour or lewd acts with crucifixes performed by drug-maddened transvestites on commercial airlines.


In his weird Book of Revelation the lunatic John of Patmos claimed he foresaw that in the last days the world would turn away from God in order to worship and follow Satan.


Such a prophecy would have seemed believable to previous generations, but not so in our more enlightened and secular humanist day. Hard-core Satanism has been called by rabid Pentecostals noise-makers as: “the fastest-growing subculture among America’s teens”, and the revival of witchcraft and the occult is “one of the World’s fastest growing religions!”

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