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TBR News January 22, 2016

Jan 22 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. , January 22, 2016: “In some Beltway circles, it is well-known that one of our intelligence agencies has the Israeli Embassy under tight and comprehensive observation. Israel is livid with rage because of America’s deals with Iran and are determined to reverse them at the earliest opportunity. They know they will have no clout with Obama so they are awaiting the next Presidential elections with great hopes. Since Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are both Jewish, the election of either one would be a great victory for the control-freaks in Tel Aviv.”

Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.

http://www.amazon.com/Conversations-Crow-Gregory-Douglas-ebook/dp/B00GHMAQ5E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450147193&sr=8-1&keywords=conversations+with+the+crow

 

Conversation No. 29

Date: Tuesday July 30, 1996

Commenced: 8:30 AM CST

Concluded: 8:55 AM CST

 

GD: Good morning, Robert.

RTC: And the same to you, Gregory.

GD: Robert, I know you were not in the CIA’s technical branch but I often wonder when I am on the phone, am I being listened to? RTC: You don’t have to be from the technical people to know the answer to that one. It’s not so much that you are being snooped on but that you can be observed by almost anyone at any time. We listened in on people and opened mail. That’s the reason why Jim was sacked but that was only an excuse. He was getting crazy. But as far as the telephone is concerned, yes, you could be listened to at any time. It’s not a bug on your phone so much as full and complete cooperation by the telephone people with various agencies. We did it, the FBI and the NSA do it and probably others as well. Your mail can be opened, addresses copied and so on. For instance, if you have a private Swiss bank account, we have the postal people copy down and forward to us the cover of any letter sent by a Swiss bank to an American addressee. We don’t have to open the letter to know it’s a monthly bank statement. And then we know where your account is. And the NSA listened in on each and every phone call overseas. You see, they tap into the communications satellites. Of course there are huge numbers of calls every day so their computers are set to pick out certain words. Like Abu Nidal for instance. Once a key word comes up, the conversation is taped and listened to later. 

GD: And the television sets can be used as a monitoring device but only if they’re connected to the cable TV system.

RTC: I’ve heard that but then I rarely watch the garbage on television.

GD: You can circumvent that simply by disconnecting your set from the cable system. Just take out the plug. Put it back later. Or, what I would do, would be to hold a really sizzling but totally fake disinformation conversation right in front of the set. You know…’the Russians really pay well for that information…’ and also ‘ yes the entire building has been mined. One push of a button and we can make the front pages of every newspaper in the world.’ Can you imagine the uproar on the other end? Of course you never are specific and just enough to drive them into a frenzy. I’ve done this a number of times but only twice did I ever find out what a huge stink I caused. Loved it then and I love it now.  Oh yes, Bill told me the other day that he saved Bobby Inman from exposure once. When I asked him from what, he shut down. Can you comment on this?

RTC: Probably the homosexual issue. They are very sensitive to that one.

GD: Why? And is Inman a faggot?

RTC: Now, now, I’ll let Bill discuss this with you. My information would only be second hand. And it has been long felt that if an agent were a fairy, he could be gotten at by the Russians and blackmailed or set up and turned.

GD: Well, that makes sense but there are so many people like that in DC that it would be difficult not to find a few in various agencies. I think it must be the military bases with their legions of muscled hustlers that draws these people. And the, of course, one gets into an agency and of course has to have company.

RTC: Yes. The Jews are the same way. You let one in and pretty soon, the office looks like a synagogue. And it’s always us against them. The same way with the fairies. That’s the main reason why I object to having them on board.

GD: But the problem with Inman….

RTC: Back in 1980 there was a fairy scare over at NSA. Real McCarthy purges, finger pointing, anonymous letters and so on. A number of the top brass there were scared shitless lest they, too, got exposed. Bill knows some of this and he has known Inman for a long time. There was an ugly incident when he was in law school. I was told that Bill was able to shut the matter down. That is one of the reasons Bill has such good rapport in certain circles.

GD: He’s blackmailing them?

RTC: In a sense. During the Carter days, Bill could pretty well get what he wanted from certain highly placed intelligence people. I think I should leave it at that, Gregory. Talk to Bill about this if you like but I doubt he’ll tell you anything and, yes, you are right. Washington is indeed full of those people. A lot in Congress, the military, especially the Air Force and various agencies. The FBI is rather picky but we and NSA have quite a few queers on board. The NSG has more than its share. And if you go into some of the faggot bars here, you might see a number of the prominent dancing around in mesh stockings and wearing really bad wigs.

GD: Oh, I’ve seen these in San Francisco. The wigs look like dead cats. They don’t look any more like women than my dog but who argues with self-delusion? Five kids and a wife at home and into the lavatories with the holes in the partitions after work. During the week, his name is George but on Saturdays, his name is Phyllis.

RTC: (Laughter) Yes, we are overrun here.

GD: Well, at least you can’t dump that one on Clinton although God knows that the weird Christian freaks might try. My God, they hate him and as far as I am concerned, these bone headed twits are far worse than the queens. They believe in the strangest things and are really obnoxious swine. They believe the world is only six thousand years old, that Noah’s ark came to ground at 5,000 feet on a mountain side and God only knows what other myths. I mean, Robert, if another religious cult arose that worshipped the Easter Bunny, it wouldn’t any more unbelievable than the Evangelicals. By the way, did you know that Crisco’s main production plant in New Jersey burned down last night? Yes. Millions now living will never fry.

RTC: (Laughter) Ah, Gregory, I can see why so many hate you so much.

GD: Well, one day, it will come out that Heini Mueller, head of the Gestapo and number two man on the wanted Nazi escapee list was living right near you and visiting the White House.

RTC: We may have to wait a while before that gets to be public knowledge. My God, the Hebes would scream so loud we would have to stuff hundred dollar bills into their mouths like a mama bird shoving worms into her babies. They are such arrogant and demanding people.

GD: Yes, God’s chosen people, Robert. I wonder what God chose them for? Probably to wait in line for the showers somewhere in Poland.

RTC: If that’s true, Gregory, God should have finished the job.

 

(Concluded at 8:55 AM CST)

 

Israel says will seize West Bank land; demolishes EU structures

January 21, 2016

by Maayah Lubell

Reuters

Israel confirmed on Thursday it was planning to appropriate a large tract of fertile land in the occupied West Bank, close to Jordan, a move likely to exacerbate tensions with Western allies and already drawing international condemnation.

In an email sent to Reuters, COGAT, a unit of Israel’s Defence Ministry, said the political decision to seize the territory had been taken and “the lands are in the final stages of being declared state lands”.

The appropriation, covers 154 hectares (380 acres) in the Jordan Valley close to Jericho, an area where Israel already has many settlement farms built on land Palestinians seek for a state. It is the largest land seizure since August 2014.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon denounced the move and Palestinian officials said they would push for a resolution at the United Nations against Israel’s settlement policies.

“Settlement activities are a violation of international law and run counter to the public pronouncements of the government of Israel supporting a two-state solution to the conflict,” Ban said in a statement.

The land, in an area fully under Israeli civilian and military control and already used by Jewish settlers to farm dates, is situated near the northern tip of the Dead Sea.

Palestinian officials denounced the seizure.

“Israel is stealing land specially in the Jordan Valley under the pretext it wants to annex it,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters. “This should be a reason for a real and effective intervention by the international community to end such a flagrant and grave aggression which kills all chances of peace.”

The United States, whose ambassador angered Israel this week with criticism of its West Bank policy, said it was strongly opposed to any moves that accelerate settlement expansion.

“We believe they’re fundamentally incompatible with a two-state solution and call into question, frankly, the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution,” Deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Wednesday.

In a development likely to further upset Europe, Israeli forces demolished six structures in the West Bank funded by the EU’s humanitarian arm. The structures were dwellings and latrines for Bedouins living in an area known as E1 – a particularly sensitive zone between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

Israel has not built settlements in E1, with construction considered a “red line” by the United States and the EU. It could potentially split the West Bank, cutting Palestinians off from East Jerusalem, which they seek for their capital.

“This is the third time they demolished my house and every time I rebuilt it, this time also I will rebuild it and I am not leaving here. If we leave they will turn the place into a closed military zone,” said Saleem Jahaleen, whose home was razed.

RISING TENSION

Israeli officals did not respond to requests for comment on the demolitions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week the EU was building illegally in the area.

“They’re building without authorization, against the accepted rules, and there’s a clear attempt to create political realities,” he told the foreign media.

Netanyahu was scheduled to address the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday. He met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry there but it was not clear if the issue was raised.

The Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

There are now about 550,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem combined, according to Israeli government and think-tank statistics. About 350,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem and 2.7 million in West Bank.

Israel is hoping that in any final agreement with the Palestinians it will be able to keep large settlement blocs including in the Jordan Valley, both for security and agricultural purposes. The Palestinians are adamantly opposed.

The last round of peace talks broke down in April 2014 and Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged in recent months.

Since the start of October, Palestinian stabbings, car-rammings and shootings have killed 25 Israelis and a U.S. citizen. In the same period, at least 148 Palestinians have been killed, 94 of whom Israel has described as assailants.

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said on Thursday he had revoked the residency rights of four Jerusalem Palestinians involved in two fatal attacks on Israelis, one in September and one in October, a spokeswoman said.

The measure, described as rare, was meant to deter others from carrying out attacks, Deri said in a statement.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell, Luke Baker, Ali Sawafta; Nidal al-Mughrabi; editing by Luke Baker and Angus MacSwan)

 

The White House Asked Social Media Companies to Look for Terrorists. Here’s Why They’d #Fail.

January 20, 2016

by Jenna McLaughlin

The Intercept

The White House asked internet companies during a counterterrorism summit earlier this month to consider using their technology to help “detect and measure radicalization.”

Should we explore ways to more quickly and comprehensively identify terrorist content online so that online service providers can remove it if it violates their terms of service?” asked a White House briefing document that outlined the main topics of conversation for the meeting. The document, which was obtained by The Intercept, is now posted online.

The briefing suggested that the algorithm Facebook uses to spot and prevent possible suicides might be a helpful model for a technology to locate terrorists, asking: “Are there other areas where online providers have used technology to identify harmful content and remove it? … Something like Facebook’s suicide process flow?”

Government officials also want to use such an algorithm for law enforcement purposes. “Are there technologies that could make it harder for terrorists to use the internet … or easier for us to find them when they do?” read the briefing.

We are interested in all options to better identify terrorist networks, or indications of impending plots. … Are there ways to glean from changes in patterns of use of these platforms involvement in preparations for violence?”

An increasingly large proportion of terrorism investigations these days start with tweets or posts, generally flagged by family members or informants. Civil libertarians worry that the FBI is using protected speech to identify potential subjects of entrapment. But the FBI’s concern is that it’s not seeing everything it needs to see.

And at the same time, there’s increased pressure for social media companies to deny radical groups an open platform for speech.

No wonder the government wants an algorithm.

But there are some major problems with trying to use computer code to find “terrorists” or “terrorist” content.

First of all, it doesn’t work. Many experts, including people with law enforcement, academic, and scientific backgrounds, agree that it’s practically impossible to boil down the essential predictive markers that make up a terrorist who is willing and capable of carrying out an attack and then successfully pick him out of a crowd.

Many believe that data mining is the crystal ball that will enable us to uncover future terrorist plots. But even in the most wildly optimistic projections, data mining isn’t tenable for that purpose,” wrote Bruce Schneier, prominent cryptologist and fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, in 2006.

Despite hyped-up cable news coverage and fearmongering messages from government officials, terrorism is an incredibly rare event in the United States. According to the New America Foundation’s attack tracker, there have been a total of nine “violent jihadist attacks” on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001, resulting in 45 deaths.

Algorithms are good at some things — like correctly concluding that your credit card has been stolen. But that’s because it happens so commonly, there are not many variables, and incidents follow a predictable pattern.

Something as unique and rare as terrorism — that’s what makes this different from credit card fraud,” Schneier told The Intercept.

Consider medical testing, Schneier said. “When a disease is very rare, if your test tests positive, it’s almost always wrong, because your chances of having that disease are one in a million.”

Think about that for a minute: Imagine you’re trying to determine who has that incredibly rare disease, and it can be spotted by genetic testing.

Say your test is 90 percent accurate in determining whether someone suffers from that disease. That means it is also wrong 10 percent of the time. One out of 10 of your patients will test positive, even though chances are that none of them have the disease.

Out of a million people, 10,000 would test positive — but chances are only one would really have the disease. And you wouldn’t know which one.

Now imagine the odds are one in 100 million, amid many hundreds of millions of social media postings. Imagine how many posts would be deleted or referred to law enforcement in error.

And keep in mind there’s no real way to come up with a test for terrorism that’s even 90 percent accurate. There’s not even a good statistical database of people charged for terrorism-related crimes, just for starters.

False positives when using algorithms to spot suspected credit card fraud have little cost. “A call to the customer from a credit issuer will reassure the customer whether he or she is correctly targeted or not,” said Jim Harper, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on data mining in 2007.

But “identifying” terrorists is a different matter. “Because of the statistical impossibility of catching terrorists through data mining, and because of its high costs in investigator time, taxpayer dollars, lost privacy, and threatened liberty, I conclude that data mining does not work in the area of terrorism,” Harper said.

Of course there’s no way for software to identify and remove terrorists or terrorist content from online media,” Phil Rogaway, a computer science professor at UC Davis, wrote in an email to The Intercept. “A group of humans would routinely disagree if a given email or post constitutes terrorist content, so how on earth is a program to make such a determination?”A 2008 government study also concluded that counterterrorism data-mining programs seeking patterns in personal information, like travel records, phone records, and website browsing history, were ineffective and should be evaluated for privacy impacts.

Local “fusion centers” designed to share intelligence and data on terrorism and report back to the Department of Homeland Security were described by Senate investigators in 2012 as “oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”And what if such an algorithm is put into action, and starts automatically deleting posts?

In the briefing document, the administration asks whether “technologies used for the prevention of spam” might be useful in locating and removing terrorist content.

But a filter like that could easily snatch up First Amendment protected speech.

Censorship has never been an effective method of achieving security, and shuttering websites and suppressing online content will be as unhelpful as smashing printing presses,” said former FBI agent Michael German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

I shared some passages from the White House briefing with him. “These passages make clear that the government continues to cling to long-disproven, simplistic theories of terrorist radicalization, which suggest that the exposure to extreme ideas leads to terrorist violence,” he wrote in an email to The Intercept. “If ideas are identified as the problem, the only solution can be the suppression of those expressing such sentiments.”

Algorithms that filter content are “a really powerful tool for a more authoritarian government,” said Schneier.

Electronic monitoring and censorship can be effective for chilling political dissent, removing much content that authority frowns upon, and making people fearful of discussing political subjects online,” UC Davis’ Rogaway wrote in an email. “China already does this quite effectively.”

The government briefing does acknowledge that “respecting U.S. First Amendment commitments to human rights such as freedom of expression” would be important in any sort of system of identifying and reporting radical online posts.

But overall, the briefing document “reveals a troubling amount of magical thinking on the part of government officials,” German wrote. “It seems they are going to continue ignoring the vast amount of research that describes terrorism as a complex behavior that can only be understood in the context of the political situation in which it arises, and continue investing in snake-oil salesmen who promise a simple solution that identifies the ‘bad guys’ right before they strike.”

 

 

The Coming Mortgage Disaster and Its Background

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

 

There has been little of a serious nature written for publication about MERS, the Federal mortgage agency, and the unpleasant truth that because of peculations, deliberate and accidental, the bulk of MERS’s 70 million American mortgages are so sliced and diced that property owners can never, ever find out who actually holds there title and therefore, can never get clear title when the mortgage is paid off. 

I have obtained an official U.S. government agency investigative file on the man behind what is one of the largest swindles in history, passing even his friend and co-religionist Bernie Madoff. This man helped organize the Mozillo Countrywide mortgage scams of a few years back in which many, many false credit reports were deliberately made by Mozillo’s co workers to enable people with no credit and little income to buy houses. The falsified mortgages were then packaged, like sausage, and sold by the bigger banks overseas. The man behind this is one Alan G. Shapiro and I am going to pass along some information about Alan.

Bernie got off with 65 billion, only some of which was recovered but Alan got off with nearly 200 billion, not one cent of which can ever be recovered because, like Bernie, he put his loot into Israeli banks and lending establishments from whence it will never return.

Here is some information on Alan for you:

  • The Shapiro’s family are Lithuanian, Orthodox Jewish, from Wilno and originally named Speyer. His father, Chaim, a rabbi , fled Lithuania in January of 1939 and went to Stockholm. While in Sweden, Chaim married Esther Domeratsky at Viborg on February 17, 1941. The family emigrated to Israel in September of 1949
  • Alan was born on September 8, 1958, in Tel Aviv and emigrated to the United States, through Canada,  in August of 1979. Alan was a supporter of the Israeli think tank, JINSA. the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs 
  • Shapiro has been closely associated with the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidics, who follow the Qabala and hold very extremist and insulting views of non-Jews.
  • Shapiro was taught colloquial English as a child and when he was finished with his obligatory IDF service, he came to the United States to find his fortune and better serve his employers, the Israeli government and people. In due time, Alan became connected with a number of the Hebraic Illuminati in and around Washington, an area that has proven to be of rich pickings for some. At one period or another, Alan was:
  • An associate of William Kristol who published the Weekly Standard, a Rupert Murdoch-financed magazine that promotes the neocon credo a must-read in Cheney’s office.
  • Was a member of the Defense Department’s National Security Study Group, at the Pentagon
  • Worked closely with the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a Washington-based Israeli outfit which distributed articles translated from Arabic newspapers portraying Arabs in a bad light
  • Worked even more closely with top members of the Bradley Foundation, one of the largest and most influential right-wing organizations in America. It set up the PNAC led by William Kristol
  • Was heavily involved with Israeli think tank ‘The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)’ and worked very closely with the Israeli Embassy out of 3514 International Dr NW, Washington, DC 20008, dealing with a Lev Aedelstein, later identified as a senior Mossad operative

At one point in his career as a more successful Jonathan Pollard, Shapiro received both Top Secret-SCI (sensitive compartmented information) and Top Secret “NATO/COSMIC” security clearances.

And while reaping what other had sown, Alan also worked closely with Angelo Mozilla, head of Countrywide Mortgage which specialized in falsified credit backed mortgages. Countrywide was founded in 1969 as Countrywide Credit Industries

Alan G. Shapiro has often been confused with another Alan who owns TAG Inc. of Orange County, CA, Threat Assessment Group designed  to prevent workplace violence. The latter Alan has nothing to do with his namesake.

Madoff founded the Wall Street firm Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in 1960, and was its chairman until his arrest on December 11, 2008. The Madoff family gained access to Washington’s lawmakers and regulators through the industry’s top trade group. The Madoff family had long-standing, high-level ties to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the primary securities industry organization. Bernard Madoff sat on the Board of Directors of the Securities Industry Association, which merged with the Bond Market Association in 2006 to form SIFMA. Former SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt has estimated the actual net fraud to be between $10 and $17 billion. Erin Arvedlund, who publicly questioned Madoff’s reported investment performance in 2001, stated that the actual amount of the fraud will never be known, but is likely between $40 and $70 billion.
DHS investigations, based on computer searches conducted from their Frenso, California office, indicated that money stolen by Madoff has been traced directly to: Union Bank of Israel Ltd, Bank Massad Ltd, Leumi Mortgage Bank Ltd, Total Money International Ltd. Hadar Weitzman Group. Bernie, like Alan, stole billions but the American authorities were never able to ascertain where much of the stolen money went. The U.S. investigative agencies strongly believed that all of it was safe in Israeli banks but could never figure out how the stolen m money got there. All banking wire transactions are automatically reported and the transfer of so much money would be easy to spot. What both Bernie and Alan did was to buy gold. They bought bar gold and coins with their money because, unlike paper money, gold will keep its value. And how did they get such enormous weights of gold to Israel? On a plane? No, in the hold of Alan’s yacht. His yacht, once called ‘The Polar Queen’ is large enough to carry all the gold in Ft. Knox across the Atlantic and in great comfort for her passengers.

MERS claims to be a privately-held company and their function is keeping track of a confidential electronic registry of mortgages and the modifications to servicing rights and ownership of the loans.  However, if you dig deeper into MERS and their shareholders you will find the same crony bankers that have led our economy off the financial cliff.  shareholders include AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, WaMu, CitiMortgage, Countrywide, GMAC, Guaranty Bank, and Merrill Lynch.  It is a stunner how these same players show up in every financial war we have been dealing with.

MERS was founded in 1995 under the pretext that it would lower the cost of recording an assignment of ownership in county land records.  By the way, as someone that has bought property in multiple states the filing fee is the lowest cost in acquiring a home. 

If you cannot afford the tiny fee in recording the deed then you probably shouldn’t be buying a home. 

The reality of course is MERS allowed for the mortgage backed security business to explode since it allowed mortgages to be shipped off to Wall Street to be minced into tiny tranches and sold off by the big investment banks to pensions, foreign investors, retail investors, and everyone else that wanted a piece of the mortgage bubble.

 

Staggering’ violence: The direct consequence of Western regime change ops

January 21, 2016

by Neil Clark

RT

Almost 13 years on from the so-called ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’, a new UN report has documented the continuing ‘staggering’ violence suffered by civilians in Iraq.

According to the report, at least 18,802 civilians were killed and another 36,245 wounded between January 2014 and October 2015, while another 3.2 million people were internally displaced due to violence.

The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has said the death toll in Iraq may even be considerably higher.

It is hard to get one’s head round the suffering the people of Iraq have endured since Bush and Blair’s illegal invasion of 2003. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in the carnage that engulfed the country after Saddam Hussein was toppled.

We’ve moved on from the Iraq war, but Iraqis don’t have that choice,” wrote the great John Pilger in 2013.

Yet the very obvious link between the invasion of 2003 and the ongoing violence in Iraq today is something we’re not really supposed to mention.

The reality is that Iraq did not see hundreds of thousands of people killed in the years before 2003, but it did in the years following. So it does seem quite reasonable to infer that something quite important happened in 2003 which led to the huge increase in violence. And that ‘something’ is unlikely to have been Arsenal’s 1-0 FA Cup Final win against Southampton.

John Pilger writes how three years before the invasion of Iraq he drove the length of the country ‘without fear’. “On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence. Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of ‘Shock and Awe’ and the civil war that followed.”

It’s not only in Iraq that ‘staggering’ violence has been unleashed by the US and its allies’ regime change ops.

Libya six years ago enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa. Education and medical treatment were free for all citizens. Electricity was free too. A bursary, worth $5,000 was given to all mums with new born babies. It was also a very safe country for tourists to visit. In 2005, with UN sanctions lifted, it returned to cruise ship itineraries.

In 2007, it received one million ‘same-day’ visitors.

In 2010, cruises along the coast of Libya were listed in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Six of the Best’ Exotic Cruises feature.

A year later though, the NATO bombs started to fall in pursuit of ‘regime change’ and Libya’s days as a safe place to live, work and visit were over. Muammar Gaddafi’s warning that many of the so-called anti-government rebels were extremists linked to al-Qaeda was dismissed as the ravings of a madman.

But it wasn’t the ’mad’ Gaddafi who was telling lies in 2011, but the regime changers in suits.

Like Iraq, Libya post-regime change, is a country where violence has become a part of daily life.

Earlier this month, around 60 people were killed and over 200 injured in a bomb attack on a police training centre in Zliten. In November, UNICEF expressed concern over the impact that armed-conflict related violence was having on Libyan children- saying that 270,000 children in Benghazi alone needed some form of support.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) now advises British citizens against all travel to the country which was listed as one of the ‘Six of the Best’ places to cruise just six years ago.

The situation throughout the country remains dangerous and unpredictable,” the FCO says. “Fighting continues in many parts of Libya. It can be unclear in some areas which faction has control…..There is a high threat from terrorism. There are continued attacks across Libya including in major cities, leaving significant numbers of people dead or injured. There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout Libya. There have been a number of kidnappings, including of British nationals….”

What a truly great job of ‘liberating’ Libya David Cameron and William Hague did!

Syria was also a safe place to live, work and visit before the West’s regime changers got going.

Despite being depicted in the Western media as a land full of terrorists and similar nasties, Syria is really a safe country to travel in. It is quite safe to walk around at any time of the day or night, which is more than can be said for most Western countries”- these words come not from a SANA press release – but the Lonely Planet ‘travel survival kit’ to Jordan and Syria of 1987. As for being worried about crime, the guide told us “Theft, or more precisely the lack of it, has got to be one of the most refreshing things about travelling in Syria… Your bags will be quite safe left unattended virtually everywhere.”

I travelled around Syria in 1999 and never once felt threatened or in danger. I met some incredibly kind and hospitable people – but no terrorists. As for the lack of theft, I left a bag full of valuables on a table in a canteen at Tishreen University in Latakia, and as my friends assured me, it was still there, with all its contents intact, when I came back.

In 2006, Mary Wakefield, deputy editor of the Spectator magazine, travelled to Syria and like so many others, was pleasantly surprised with what she found. “Assad’s Ba’ath party is a long way from Saddam’s. It has lifted the ban on internet access and mobile phones, and ordinary Syrians seem free not just from fear, but from regular Western misanthropy as well,” she noted.

Throughout Syria, passers-by paused to say ‘welcome’ and invite me in for mint tea – no furtive looks, no soviet-style reluctance to be singled out.”A fascinating glimpse of everyday life in pre-war Syria was provided by the BBC/Open University series ‘Syrian School,’ which screened in 2010. “Syria is a country where, from poetry to politics, you can have an intellectual debate. You can re-imagine the world there in a way that we seem to have lost in the West, where even the credit crunch hasn’t dented the orthodoxy of Liberal Capitalism, where “The X-Factor” seems now to have become the cultural pinnacle,” wrote the BBC‘s Max Baring.With its secular government Syria – like Iraq and Libya – was a bulwark against al-Qaeda and similar terrorist groups. In 2006 the Syrian authorities foiled an attack by Islamist militants on the US Embassy in Damascus.

The US expressed gratitude, but we know from WikiLeaks that secret plans for regime change in Syria were already being hatched.

Under the guise of the ’Arab Spring’, regime change in Damascus would be pursued by funding and arming violent rebels hell-bent on overthrowing President Assad.

The Syrian government did put forward a new constitution in 2012 which ended the Baath party’s forty year monopoly on political rule and genuine moderates embraced the political reform process. But the regime changers continued to pour petrol onto the fire. In 2013, Britain and France pushed other EU members to lift the arms embargo on the so-called Syrian ’rebels’.

In 2015 the UN estimated that 250,000 people had died in Syria’s war – with more than 11 million people forced from their homes.

Today, travelling around Syria simply isn’t an option for Western tourists. The country where you could walk around safely ‘at any time of the day or night’, is now far too dangerous.

The FCO advises against ‘all travel’ to the country.

Meanwhile the Department of State “continues to warn US citizens against all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that US citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately.”

Syria, like Iraq and Libya, has been engulfed by ‘staggering’ violence directly attributable to the actions of the Western regime changers, and their regional allies.

If these countries had been left alone, it is inconceivable that violence of the scale we have witnessed would have occurred. The governments might have been authoritarian ones which were intolerant of dissent, but the reality is that daily life for the majority of the citizens in the countries concerned was better than it is today. Acknowledging that doesn’t make one an ‘apologist for dictatorship’- just someone who doesn’t try to spin chaos and carnage as ‘success’. In any case, there’s no doubt that some of the crimes of the governments that were targeted for ‘regime change’ were exaggerated, or in some cases even made up by the neocon war lobby. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations found no evidence to back up the NATO claims that Gaddafi ordered his forces to commit mass rapes in 2011.

Saddam’s notorious ’people shredder’ was never found and of course those WMDs which we were told could be assembled in 45 minutes didn’t show up either.

And here is Amnesty’s annual report on Syria from 2010.

It’s hardly impressive, but it’s interesting to compare it to the Amnesty report from the same year on Saudi Arabia, a strong western ally.

If you supported ‘regime change’ in Syria on human rights grounds then logically you would have to support the same in Saudi Arabia, whose record on human rights was worse. But the Western regime changers and ’democracy promoters’ weren’t calling for the toppling of the government in Riyadh, showing the hypocrisy of their position.

The foundation of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), which we’re now told is the biggest threat to Western civilization, was a direct consequence of the invasion of Iraq, and its growth was a direct result of the regime change plans for Syria.

In the words of John Pilger: “ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity.”

WikiLeaks revealed how in 2010, the US rejected an offer from the secular Syrian government to work together against extremist groups like IS.

Far from wanting to defeat IS, the regime changers welcomed its rise.

In August 2012, a declassified secret US intelligence report discussed the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria”, saying that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

The refugee crisis which hit Europe in 2015 was directly attributable to regime change ops too. If Iraq, Libya and Syria hadn’t been targeted, we’d still be able to visit those countries safely as tourists. Most important of all, the people in those countries would still be able to go about their everyday lives without the fear of being blown to kingdom come, or beheaded, for having the ‘wrong’ faith.

All things considered, the regime changers have an awful lot to answer for. So it’s hardly surprising, given the blood that’s on their hands, that the warmongers try and maintain the deceit that the ’staggering’ violence in Iraq, Libya and Syria is nothing to do with them.

 

The Craziest Conspiracy Theory of Them All

The British government’s report on the death of Alexander Litvinenko reads like a bad thriller

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

To those of us who grew up during the cold war years, it’s just like old times again: Russian plots to subvert the West and poison our precious bodily fluids are apparently everywhere. Speaking of poisoning plots: the latest Russkie conspiracy – and the most imaginative by far – was the alleged assassination by poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko , a former agent of the Russian intelligence services who fled to the West to become a professional anti-Russian propagandist and conspiracy theorist with a talent for the improbable. According to his fantastic worldview, the many terrorist attacks that have occurred in Russia have all been committed by … Vladimir Putin. Aside from championing the Chechen Islamo-terrorists who actually committed these crimes, Litvinenko’s stock-in-trade was an elaborate conspiracy theory in which he regularly accused Putin of blowing up Russian apartment buildings and murdering schoolchildren and then diverting attention from his own nefarious plots by blaming those lovable Chechens. Not very believable – unless one is predisposed to believe anything, so long as it casts discredit on those satanic Russians.

The conspiracy theory promulgated by the British government – and now memorialized in this official report – surpasses anything the deceased fantasist might have come up with. According to the Brits, Litvinenko was poisoned on British soil whilst imbibing a cup of tea spiked with a massive dose of radioactive polonium-210 – and, since Russia is a prime source of this rare substance, and since the Russians were supposedly out to get Litvinenko, the FSB – successor to the KGB – is named as the “probable” culprit.

Looking at the report, one has to conclude that they don’t make propaganda the way they used to: the certitude of, say, a J. Edgar Hoover or a Robert Welch has given way to the tepid ambiguity of Lord Robert Owen, the author of this report, whose verdict of “probably” merely underscores the paucity of what passes for evidence in this case.

To begin with, if the Russians wanted to off Litvinenko, why would they poison him with a substance that left a radioactive trail traceable from Germany to Heathrow airport – and, in the process, contaminating scores of hotel rooms, offices, planes, restaurants, and homes?  Why not just put a bullet through his head? It makes no sense.

But then conspiracy theories don’t have to make sense: they just have to take certain assumptions all the way to their implausible conclusions. If one starts with the premise that Putin and the Russians are a Satanic force capable of anything, and incompetent to boot, then it’s all perfectly “logical” – in the Bizarro World, at any rate.

The idea that Litvinenko was a dangerous opponent of the Russian government who had to be killed because he posed a credible threat to the existence of the regime is laughable: practically no one inside Russia knew anything about him, and as for his crackpot “truther” theories about how Putin was behind every terrorist attack ever carried out within Russia’s borders – to assert that they had any credence outside of the Western media echo chamber is a joke. So there was no real motive for the FSB to assassinate him, just as there is none for the FBI to go after David Ray Griffin.

The British report doesn’t bother presenting any real evidence: instead, we are given a detailed account of the lives of the alleged killers – Dmitri Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy – that reads like a Daily Mail article. Included in this compendium of character assassination and gossip is the testimony of one of Kovtun’s ex-wives that he “wanted to be a porno star.” That this factoid would find its way into an official report of the United Kingdom is extraordinary – but not, I fear, unexpected. Salaciousness has its place in contemporary fiction, particularly the pulp-thriller genre, of which this report is a prime (if pedestrian) example.

The rest of the report is a complicated account of every move Kovtun, Lugovoy, and Litvinenko made in the days leading up to Litvinenko’s poisoning. It neither compromises nor exonerates the accused: presumably it was included to give the report the appearance of substance. The meat of the matter – the real “evidence” – is hidden behind a veil of secrecy. Lord Owen’s inquiry was for the most part conducted in secret closed  hearings, with testimony given by anonymous witnesses, and this is central to the “evidence” that is supposed to convict Kovtun, Lugovoy, and the Russian government. Lord Owen, explains it this way:

Put very shortly, the closed evidence consists of evidence that is relevant to the Inquiry, but which has been assessed as being too sensitive to put into the public domain. The assessment that the material is sufficiently sensitive to warrant being treated as closed evidence in these proceedings has been made not by me, but by the Home Secretary. She has given effect to this decision by issuing a number of Restriction Notices, which is a procedure specified in section 19 of the Inquiries Act 2005. The Restriction Notices themselves, although not, of course, the sensitive documents appended to them, are public documents. They have been published on the Inquiry website and are also to be found at Appendix 7 to this Report.”

In other words, the “evidence” is not for us ordinary mortals to see. We just have to take His Lordship’s word for it that the Russian government embarked on an improbable assassination mission against a marginal figure that reads like something Ian Fleming might have written under a pseudonym.

Yes, you might say, but Litvinenko was poisoned. So who killed him?

As I pointed out here:

Litvinenko was an employee of exiled Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky – whose ill-gotten empire included a Russian syndicate of car-dealerships that had more than a nodding acquaintance with the Chechen Mafia – but was being slowly cut out of the money pipeline. Big-hearted Boris, who had initially put him on the payroll as anti-Putin propagandist, was evidently getting sick of him, and the out-of-work “dissident” was reportedly desperate for money. Litvinenko had several ” business meetings ” with Lugovoi in the months prior to his death, and, according to this report , he hatched a blackmail scheme targeting several well-known Russian tycoons and government officials.”

Indeed, Litvinenko, in the months before his death, had targeted several well-known members of the Russian Mafia with his blackmail scheme. That they would take umbrage at this is hardly shocking.

Furthermore, there are indications that Litvinenko was engaged in the smuggling of nuclear materials. That he wound up being contaminated by the goods he was peddling on the black market seems far more credible than the cock-and-bull story about a vast Russian plot originating in the Kremlin,. Apparently Lord Owen has never heard of Occam’s Razor.

 

Britain had more motivation to kill Aleksandr Litvinenko than Russia, brother claims

January 22, 2016

RT

The brother of Aleksandr Litvinenko says the UK government had more motivation to kill him than Russia did, despite a British public inquiry which concluded that President Putin “probably” approved the assassination.

Maksim Litvinenko, Aleksandr’s younger brother who lives in Rimini, Italy, responded to the Thursday report by saying it was “ridiculous” to blame the Kremlin for the murder of his brother, stating that he believes British security services had more of a motive to carry out the assassination.

“My father and I are sure that the Russian authorities are not involved. It’s all a set-up to put pressure on the Russian government,” Litvinenko told the Mirror, adding that such reasoning is the only explanation as to why the inquiry was launched 10 years after his brother’s death.

He called the British report a “smear” on Putin, and stressed that rumors claiming his brother was an enemy of the state are false. He added that Aleksandr had planned to return to Russia, and had even told friends about the move.

Litvinenko went on to downplay his brother’s alleged role as a spy, working for either Russia or MI6, adding that the Western media is to blame for such characterization.

“The Russians had no reason to want Alexander dead,” he said. “My brother was not a spy, he was more like a policeman…he was in the FSB [Russian Federal Security Service] but he worked against organized crime, murders, arms trafficking, stuff like that.”

Litvinenko was murdered in London in 2006, when assassins allegedly slipped radioactive polonium 21 into his cup of tea at a hotel. But his brother Maksim cast doubt on whether that was actually the poison used, saying he believes it could have been planted to frame the Russians.

“I believe he could have been killed by another poison, maybe thallium, which killed him slowly, and the polonium was planted afterwards,” he said. He added that requests to have his brother’s body exhumed, in order to verify the presence of polonium, have been ignored by Britain.

“Now after 10 years any trace [of polonium or thallium] would have disappeared anyway, so we will never know,” he said, adding that British authorities had not collaborated with Russian investigators on the case.

This case became a big PR campaign against the Russian government and its president in particular,” Maksim Litvinenko told RT in an interview in 2014. “The West is pressuring Russia very hard now. The MH-17 crash, Crimea, the war in Ukraine, sanctions against Moscow and now this inquiry – I’m not buying that this is a coincidence.”

When asked why Aleksandr Litvinenko’s widow Marina continues to maintain that the Kremlin is responsible for the murder, he said: “She lives in London, to survive she has to play the game and take this point of view. She can’t say anything else.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry has also dismissed the British report, blaming London for politicizing the “purely criminal” case of Litvinenko’s death.

Russia’s UK ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, told RT that the inquiry’s conclusion was “not justified,” and that the investigation was “very politicized” and “biased.”

In order to prove something, you have to present the facts. As soon as the British side proves…their conclusions, we will be ready to consider [them],” the ambassador said, adding that the Russian side “did not even have a chance to study the documents [of the investigation].”

 

The Pentagon’s Progress: Will American “Successes” Lead to More Iraqi Military Failures?

January 22, 2016

by Nick Turse

TomDispatach

 

There’s good news coming out of Iraq… again. The efforts of a 65-nation coalition and punishing U.S. airstrikes have helped local ground forces roll back gains by the Islamic State (IS).

Government forces and Shiite militias, for example, recaptured the city of Tikrit, while Kurdish troops ousted IS fighters from the town of Sinjar and other parts of northern Iraq. Last month, Iraqi troops finally pushed Islamic State militants out of most of the city of Ramadi, which the group had held since routing Iraqi forces there last spring.

In the wake of all this, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter touted “the kind of progress that the Iraqi forces are exhibiting in Ramadi, building on that success to… continue the campaign with the important goal of retaking Mosul as soon as possible.”  Even more recently, he said those forces were “proving themselves not only motivated but capable.”  I encountered the same upbeat tone when I asked Colonel Steve Warren, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, about the Iraqi security forces.  “The last year has been a process of constructing, rebuilding, and refitting the Iraqi army,” he explained. “While it takes time for training and equipping efforts to take effect, the increasing tactical confidence and competence of the ISF [Iraqi security forces] and their recent battlefield successes indicate that we are on track.”

Progress.” “Successes.”  “On track.”  “Increasing tactical confidence and competence.”  It all sounded very familiar to me.

By September 2012, after almost a decade at the task, the U.S. had allocated and spent nearly $25 billion on “training, equipping, and sustaining” the Iraqi security forces, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.  Along the way, a parade of generals, government officials, and Pentagon spokesmen had offered up an almost unending stream of good news about the new Iraqi Army.  Near constant reports came in of “remarkable,” “big,” even “enormous” progress for a force that was said to be exuding increasing “confidence,” and whose performance was always improving.  In the end, the U.S. claimed to have trained roughly 950,000 members of the “steady,” “solid,” Iraqi security forces.

And yet just two and a half years after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, that same force collapsed in spectacular fashion in the face of assaults by Islamic State militants who, by CIA estimates, numbered no more than 31,000 in all.  In June 2014, for example, 30,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi troops abandoned their equipment and in some cases even their uniforms, fleeing as few as 800 Islamic State fighters, allowing IS to capture Mosul, the second largest city in the country.

Blaming the Victim

When U.S. forces departed Iraq in 2011, it was after helping the Iraqi government create an entirely new Iraqi Security Force following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime,” Major Curtis Kellogg, a spokesman with U.S. Central Command, explained to me last year.  It almost sounded as if the old regime had toppled of its own accord, a new government had arisen, and the U.S. had generously helped build a military for it.  In reality, of course, a war of choice — based on trumped up claims of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction — led to a U.S. occupation and the conscious decision to dissolve Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s military and create a new army in the American mold.  “[T]he Iraqi security forces were a fully functioning element of the Iraq Government,” Kellogg continued, explaining how such an Iraqi military collapse could occur in 2014. “However, the military standards established and left in place were allowed to atrophy following the departure of U.S. troops.”

More recently, Colonel Steve Warren brought up another problem with Iraq’s forces in an email to me.  “The Iraqi army that we left in 2011 was an army that had been trained for counterinsurgency. That means route clearance, checkpoint operations, and IED [improvised explosive device] reduction, for example.  The Iraqi army that collapsed in 2014 was… not trained and… not ready for a conventional fight — the conventional assault that ISIL brought to Mosul and beyond.”

Both Kellogg and Warren stopped short of saying what seems obvious to many.  Kalev Sepp, the adviser to two top American generals in Iraq and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and counterterrorism, shows no such hesitation. “We had 12 years to train the Iraqi Army… We failed.  It’s obvious.  So when this lightly-armed insurgent group, the so-called Islamic State, invaded the country, the Iraqi army collapsed in front of it.”

It’s taken billions of dollars and a year and a half of air strikes, commando raids, advice, and training to begin to reverse the Islamic State’s gains.  According to Warren, the U.S. and its partners have once again trained more than 17,500 ISF troops, with another 2,900 currently in the pipeline.  And once again we’re hearing about their successes. Secretary of Defense Carter, for example, called the fight for Ramadi “a significant step forward in the campaign to defeat this barbaric group,” while Secretary of State John Kerry claimed the Islamic State had “suffered a major defeat” there.

Still, the tiny terror group seems to have no difficulty recruiting new troops, is ramping up attacks in the district of Haditha, carrying out complex attacks in Baghdad and the town of Muqdadiya, and continues to hold about 57,000 square miles of Syrian and Iraqi territory, including Mosul. With questions already being raised by Pentagon insiders about just how integral the Iraqi security forces were to the retaking of Ramadi and doubts about their ability to clear cities like Mosul, it’s worth taking a look back at all those upbeat reports of “progress” during the previous U.S. effort to build an Iraqi Army from scratch.

Nothing “Succeeds” Like “Success”

After the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein’s government in April 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bush administration began remaking the battered nation from the ground up.  One of the first acts of L. Paul Bremer III, the top American civilian official in the occupied country, was to dissolve Iraq’s military.  His plan: to replace Saddam Hussein’s 350,000-man army with a lightly armed border protection force that would peak at around 40,000 soldiers, supplemented by police and civil defense forces.  In an instant, hundreds of thousands of well-trained soldiers were unemployed, providing a ready source of fighters for a future insurgency.

“In less than six months we have gone from zero Iraqis providing security to their country to close to a hundred thousand Iraqis… Indeed, the progress has been so swift that… it will not be long before [the Iraqi security forces] will… outnumber the U.S. forces,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld suggested in a cheery assessment in October 2003.

Major General Paul Eaton, tasked with rebuilding the Iraqi Army, similarly articulated his upbeat vision for the force.  Schooled by Americans in “fundamental soldier and leadership skills” and outfitted with all the accoutrements of modern Western troops, including body armor and night-vision equipment, the new military would be committed to “defend[ing] Iraq and its new-found freedom,” he announced at a Baghdad briefing in January 2004.  Soon, Iraqis would even take over the task of instruction.  “I would like to emphasize that this will be an Iraqi Army, trained by Iraqis,” he said. “As Iraq is reborn,” he added, “we believe that her armed forces can lead the way in unifying” the country.

Paul Eaton and his team did an extraordinary amount for the Iraqi Security Force mission,” his successor Lieutenant General David Petraeus would say a couple of years later.  “They established a solid foundation on which we were able to build as the effort was expanded very substantially and resourced at a much higher level.”

Retired Special Forces officer Kalev Sepp, who traveled to Iraq as an adviser five times, had a different assessment. “General Eaton was direct in letting me know that he wanted to be remembered as the father of the new Iraqi Army,” he told me. “I thought his approach was conceptually wrong,” Sepp recalled, noting that Eaton “understood his mission was to create an army to defend Iraq from foreign invasion, but he completely overlooked the internal insurgency.” (A request to interview Eaton, sent to the American Security Project, a Washington D.C.-based think tank with which the retired general is affiliated, went unanswered.)

General Eaton would later blame the Bush administration for initial setbacks in the performance of the Iraqi Army, thanks to poor prewar planning and insufficient resources for the job.  “We set out to man, train, and equip an army for a country of 25 million — with six men,” General Eaton told the New York Times in 2006.  He did, however, accept personal responsibility for the most visible of its early failures, the mutiny of a freshly minted Iraqi battalion en route to its first battle in April 2004.

In the years that followed, America’s Iraq exploded into violence as Sunni and Shiite militants battled each other, the U.S. occupiers, and the U.S.-backed Baghdad government.  On the fly, U.S. officials came up with new plans to build a large, conventional, heavily armed force to secure Iraq in the face of sectarian strife, multiple raging insurgencies, and ultimately civil war.  “The Iraqi military and police forces expanded rapidly from 2004 to 2006, adapting to the counterinsurgency mission,” according to a report by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.  As chaos spread and death tolls rose, estimates of the necessary numbers of Iraqi troops, proposals concerning the right types of weapons systems for them, and training stratagems for building the army were amended, adjusted, and revised, again and again.  There was, however, one constant: praise.

In September 2005, as violence was surging and more than 1,400 civilians were being killed in attacks across the country, General George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force-Iraq, reported that the security forces were “progressing and continuing to take a more prominent role in defending their country.”  He repeatedly emphasized that training efforts were on track — a sentiment seconded by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.  “Every single day, the Iraqi security forces are getting bigger and better and better trained and better equipped and more experienced,” he said.

I think we did a very effective job of training the Iraqi military recruits that were brought to us,” Casey told me last year, reflecting on U.S. efforts during his two and a half years in command.  The trouble, he said, was with the Iraqis.  “The political situation in Iraq through 2007 and even to this day is such that the leadership of the Iraqi government and the military never could instill the loyalty of the troops in the government.”

At the time, however, American generals emphasized progress over problems.  After Petraeus finished his own stint heading the training effort, he was effusive in his praise. “The bottom line up front that I’d like to leave with you today is that there has been enormous progress with the Iraqi security forces over the course of the past 16 months in the face of a brutal insurgency,” he boasted in October 2005, adding that “considerable work” still lay ahead. “Iraqi security force readiness has continued to grow with each passing week.  You can take a percentage off every metric that’s out there, whatever you want — training, equipping, infrastructure reconstruction, units in the fight, schools, academies reestablished — you name it — and what has been accomplished… would still be remarkable.”  (Messages seeking an interview sent to Petraeus at Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co., the investment firm where he serves as chairman of the KKR Global Institute, were not answered.)

In November 2005, President Bush voiced the same sentiments.  “As the Iraqi security forces stand up, their confidence is growing,” he told midshipmen at the Naval Academy.  “And they’re taking on tougher and more important missions on their own.”  By the following February, General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was similarly lauding that military, claiming “the progress that they’ve made over this last year has been enormous.”

The next month, Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, who succeeded Petraeus as commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) and later served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, chimed in with glowing praise: “What we’re seeing now is progress on a three-year investment in Iraq’s security forces.  It’s been a big investment, and it’s yielding big progress.”

I asked retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations emeritus at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, how so many American officials could have seen so much progress from a force that would later collapse so rapidly and spectacularly.  “I think there’s a psychological need to see progress and, of course, it’s helpful to parrot the party line.  I do think that, psychologically, you need to be able to persuade yourself that your hard-earned efforts — this time spent away from home in lousy conditions — actually produced something positive.”

Kalev Sepp, who traveled all over Iraq talking to the commanders of more than 30 U.S. units while conducting a seminal counterinsurgency study known simply as the “COIN Survey,” told me that when he asked about the progress of the Iraqi units they were working with, U.S. officers invariably linked it to their own tour of duty. “Almost every commander said exactly the same thing.  If the commander had six months left in his tour, the Iraqis would be combat-capable in six months.  If the commander had four months left, then the Iraqis would be ready in four months.  Was a commander going to say ‘I won’t accomplish my mission.  I’m not going to be done on time’? All the other units were saying their Iraqis were going to be fully trained.  Who was going to be the one commander who said ‘I don’t think my Iraqi unit is really ready’?”

Official praise continued as insurgencies raged across the country and monthly civilian death tolls regularly exceeded 2,000, even topping 3,000 in 2006 and 2007.  “The Iraqi security force continues to develop and grow, assisted by embedded transition teams,” Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, commander of the Multinational Corps-Iraq, announced to the press in May 2007.  “Yes, there are still problems within the Iraqi security forces — some sectarian, some manning, and some to do with equipping.  But progress is being made, and it’s steady.”  A 2008 Pentagon review also indicated remarkable progress with 102 out of 169 Iraqi battalions being declared “capable of planning, executing, and sustaining counterinsurgency operations with or without Iraqi or coalition support,” up from just 24 battalions in 2005.

Years later, Odierno, still in charge of the command, then known as United States Forces-Iraq, continued to tout improvement.  “Clearly there’s still some violence, and we still need to make more progress in Iraq,” he told reporters in July 2010. “But Iraqi security forces have taken responsibility for security throughout Iraq, and they continue to grow and improve every day.”

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, was also upbeat, noting in 2010 that the $21.3 billion already spent to build up the then-660,000-man security force had “begun to pay off significantly.”  Don Cooke, head of the State Department’s Iraq assistance office, agreed.  “We have built an Iraqi security force which is capable of maintaining internal security in Iraq… And four or five or six years ago, there were people who were saying it was going to take decades.”

In October 2011, as U.S. forces were preparing to end eight years of occupation, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta offered up his own mission-accomplished assessment.  “You know, the one thing… we have seen is that Iraq has developed a very good capability to be able to defend itself.  We’ve taken out now about a hundred thousand [U.S.] troops [from Iraq], and yet the level of violence has remained relatively low.  And I think that’s a reflection of the fact that the Iraqis have developed a very important capability here to be able to respond to security threats within their own country,” he said of the by then 930,000-man security forces.

Winners and Losers

As the U.S. was training recruits at bases all over Iraq — including Camp Bucca, where Iraqi cadets attended a U.S.-run course for prison guards — another force was also taking shape.  For years, U.S.-run prison camps were decried by many as little more than recruiting and training sites for would-be insurgents, with innocents — angered by arbitrary and harsh detentions — housed alongside hardcore militants.  But Camp Bucca proved to be even more dangerous than that.  It became the incubator not just for an insurgency, but for a proto-state, the would-be caliphate that now lords over significant portions of Iraq and neighboring Syria.  

Nine top commanders of the Islamic State did prison time at America’s Camp Bucca, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader who spent nearly five years there.  “Before their detention, Mr. al-Baghdadi and others were violent radicals, intent on attacking America,” Andrew Thompson, an Iraq War veteran, and academic Jeremi Suri wrote in a 2014 New York Times piece. “Their time in prison deepened their extremism and gave them opportunities to broaden their following… The prisons became virtual terrorist universities: The hardened radicals were the professors, the other detainees were the students, and the prison authorities played the role of absent custodian.”

So how could U.S. officials have so successfully (if inadvertently) fostered the leadership of what would become a truly effective fighting force that would one day best the larger, far more intensively trained, better-armed military they had built to the tune of tens of billions of dollars?  “The people we imprisoned didn’t leave with skills when they finally got out of prison, but they did leave with will,” says Andrew Bacevich.  “What we were doing was breeding resentment, anger, determination, disgust, which provided the makings of an army that turns out to be more effective than the Iraqi Army.”

General George Casey, who went on to serve as Army Chief of Staff before retiring in 2011, sees the failure of Iraq’s Shiite government to reach out to minority Sunnis as the main driver of the collapse of significant portions of the country’s army in 2014.  “You hear all kinds of reasons why the Sunni forces [of the Iraqi military] ran out of Mosul, but it wasn’t a surprise to any of us who had been over there.  If your country doesn’t support what you’re doing, there’s no reason to fight for them,” Casey explained in a phone interview last year.  “People probably give short shrift to what we in the military call ‘the will to fight.’  When it comes right down to it, that’s what it’s all about.  And we can’t instill the will to fight in the heart of a soldier from another country.  We just can’t do it.”

We can talk about how appalling Daesh is,” adds Kalev Sepp, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, “but their fighters believe in what they’re doing and that adds a particular steel to one’s backbone.”  Bacevich, who has recently finished writing a military history, America’s War for the Greater Middle East, echoed this sentiment, noting the stark difference between U.S.-trained Iraqi forces and their brutal opponents.  “Whatever else we may think of ISIS, their forces appear to be keen to fight and willing to die in order to promote their cause.  The same cannot be said of the Iraqi Army.”

And yet, in the wake of the implosion of Iraq’s security forces, the United States — as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, its campaign against IS — began a new advisory and training effort to assist and re-rebuild Iraq’s army.  In June 2014, President Obama announced that up to 300 advisors would be sent to Iraq.  The size of the U.S. presence has increased steadily ever since to roughly 3,500.

As per policy we do not disclose specific numbers of troops and their roles,” Colonel Warren, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, explained to me.  He did, however, note that there are approximately 5,500 Coalition personnel from 17 partner nations including the United States conducting advise and assist missions and training at “Building Partner Capacity sites.”

Despite the poor results of the prior training effort, even some of its critics are hopeful that the current mission may succeed.  “American advisors could have a positive effect,” Sepp, now a senior lecturer in defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, told me.  He explained that a pinpoint mission of training Iraqis to take back a particular city or defend a specific area stands a real chance of success.  Casey, his former boss, agreed but insisted that such success would not come easily or quickly.  “This is going to take a long time.  This is not a short-term thing.  People want to see ISIS defeated — whatever that means — quickly.  But it’s not going to be ‘quickly’ because the problems are political more than military and that’s going to take the Iraqis some time to come to grips with.”

Doomed to Repeat It?

History suggests that time is no panacea when Washington attempts to prop up, advise, or build armies.  In the early 1950s, the U.S. provided extensive support to the French military in Indochina — eventually footing nearly 80% of the cost of its war there — only to see that force defeated by a less advanced, less well-equipped Vietnamese army.  Not long after, the U.S. began an expensive process that continued into the mid-1970s of building, advising, equipping, and bankrolling the South Vietnamese military.  In those years, it ballooned into a million-man army, only to disintegrate two years after the U.S. ended its own long, unsuccessful combat effort in that country.

The assumption that we know how to create armies in other parts of the world is a pretty dubious proposition,” Andrew Bacevich, a veteran of that war, told me.  “Yes, Vietnam was a vivid demonstration of a failed project to build an effective army, but you don’t even have to cite Vietnam.  Iraq obviously is another case.  And more generally, the Pentagon exaggerates its ability to create effective fighting forces in parts of the developing world.”

Indeed, recent U.S. training efforts around the globe have been marked by a string of scandals, setbacks, and failures.  Last year, for example, the Obama administration scrapped a $500 million program to train anti-Islamic State Syrian rebels.  It was supposed to yield 15,000 fighters over three years but instead produced only a few dozen. Then there’s the 13-year, $65 billion effort in Afghanistan that has yielded a force whose rolls are filled with nonexistent “ghost” troops, wracked by desertions, and hobbled by increasing casualties. It has been unable to defeat a small, unpopular, Taliban insurgency now growing in strength and reach. The short-term loss by U.S.-backed Afghan forces of the city of Kunduz late last year and recent Taliban gains in Helmand province have cast a bright light on this slow-motion fiasco. 

These efforts have hardly been anomalies. A U.S.-trained Congolese commando battalion was, for example, implicated by the United Nations in mass rapes and other atrocities.  One effort to train Libyan militiamen ended up stillborn; another saw militants repeatedly raid a U.S. training camp and loot it of high-tech equipment, including hundreds of weapons; and still another saw advisers run out of the country by a militia soon after touching down. Then there were the U.S.-trained officers who overthrew their governments in coups in Mali in 2012 and Burkina Faso in 2014.  In fact, a December 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service noted:

Recent events, particularly the battle between the Afghan government and the Taliban over K[u]nduz, the inability of [Department of Defense]-led efforts to produce more than a ‘handful’ of anti-Assad, anti-Islamic State (IS) forces in Syria, and the collapse of U.S.-trained forces in Iraq in the face of the Islamic State, have called into question — including in the Congress — whether these [building partner capacity] programs can ever achieve their desired effects.”

Despite all of this, the Pentagon remains committed to creating another Iraqi Army in the American mold with, as Colonel Warren recently explained to me, “modern American equipment, modern conventional training, and of course, supported by air power.”  The U.S. has, he notes, already spent $2.3 billion arming and equipping this new force.

Andrew Bacevich once again sees crucial flaws in the American plan.  “Our trainers, I suspect, are probably pretty good at imparting technical skills… I’m sure that they can teach them marksmanship, how to conduct a patrol, how to maintain their weapons, but I can’t imagine that we have much of a facility for imparting fighting spirit, sense of national unity, and that’s where Iraqi forces have been deficient. It’s this will versus skill thing.  We can convey skills.  I don’t think we can convey will.”

For his part, Secretary of Defense Carter seems singularly focused on the skills side of the equation. “ISIL’s lasting defeat still requires local forces to fight and prevail on the ground.  We can and will continue to develop and enable such local forces,” he told the House Armed Services Committee in June 2015.  “That’s why [the Department of Defense] seeks to bolster… Iraq’s security forces to be capable of winning back, and then defending and holding the ISIL-controlled portions of the Iraqi state.”  Last month, Carter assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was still “urging the Iraqi government to do more to recruit, train, arm, and mobilize Sunni popular mobilization fighters in their communities.”

This presumes, however, that there is a truly functioning Iraqi state in the first place.  Andrew Bacevich isn’t so sure.  “It may be time to admit that there is no Iraq.  We presume to be creating a national army that is willing to fight for the nation of Iraq, but I don’t think it’s self-evident that Iraq exists, except in the most nominal sense.  If that’s true, then further efforts — a second decade’s worth of efforts to build an Iraqi army — simply are not likely to pan out.”

 

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