TBR News March 28, 2011

Mar 29 2011

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., March 26, 2011: “This country was founded on certain principles and one of the better ones is that a man is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Under the vicious Bush administration, the reverse has been the practiced case. Take the matter of Bradley Manning, a very young soldier now being abused while in U.S. military custody and will the knowledge and approval of the Department of Justice and the White House. Manning is maltreated on a regular basis and the excuse for this is that he is a “spy.” None of this has been proven in any court of law but this does not bother the government. I am surprised that they have not waterboarded him but perhaps the gleeful and sadistic CIA specialists who love to do this to people are busy elsewhere, probably in Egypt. I recall the remarks made by German pastor Niemoeller when he was rescued from a concentration camp after the war. He had been locked up because he was a determined opponent of Hitler. He said: “When they came for the Communists, I did not object because I disliked them. When they came for the Jews, I did not object because I did not care but then when they came for me, there was no one left to defend me.” What happens to young Manning can easily happen to any American citizen if this matter is not addressed and addressed in public. It is not a question of his guilt or innocence; that has not been established but his treatment is in direct violation of the concept, long established and long practiced, that a man is innocent until proven guilty and in a court of law, not the White House.”

Is Bradley Manning being punished before trial?

Military prosecutors have said they will seek life imprisonment for Bradley Manning, the US soldier charged with leaking state secrets to the WikiLeaks website. Newsnight’s Matt Prodger has been to the US to find out more about a case which is dividing opinion there.

March 25, 2011

BBC News

For eight months Private Bradley Manning has been awaiting trial over 34 charges relating to the leaking of 720,000 diplomatic and military documents.

He is being held at the maximum security jail on the Quantico US military base in Virginia – kept in a single cell 23-hours-a-day, isolated from other prisoners, and not allowed to exercise.

Few people have seen him since his arrest. One of the handful who has is David House, a computer researcher and friend of the soldier, who has visited him 16 times.

Chained hand and foot

Mr House said that meetings with his friend happen in a visitation room in which the pair is separated by a pane of bullet-proof glass.

“Going in to see Bradley you can tell when they’re about to bring him out because a call goes out throughout the brig: ‘brig’s going into lockdown’, and they repeat it several times, you hear doors shutting and then from far away you hear this rattling of chains. Very ghostly,” Mr House said.

“The door opens and this diminutive figure, only five feet three, is led in and sat on a metal stool. And he’s done up in chains from his feet, looped through a leather belt around his waist to his hands… And he’s sat down.”

Amnesty International has described the treatment of Pte Manning, whose mother is Welsh, as “unnecessarily harsh and punitive” and has called on the British government to intervene.

In a letter released by his lawyers, Pte Manning claims he is routinely stripped each night and his prescription glasses are confiscated, leaving him with limited vision.

Clothes removed

Mr House backed this version of events, saying that as well as being held in isolation 23-hours a day with the exception of visiting hours, Pte Manning is been denied access to writing materials, newspapers and is forcibly prevented from exercising.

He also claimed that Pte Manning is “made to stand nude in front of other prisoners in the mornings” and “mistreated by his marine captors after media events or after protests happen at the brig”.

The Pentagon has said that Pte Manning is being treated in much the same way as any other maximum security prisoner deemed to be at risk to themselves.

He is on Prevention of Injury Watch which allows the imposition of measures for his own safety, such as the removal of his clothes at night, in favour of a sleeping smock.

Pte Manning, his lawyer and several military psychiatrists who have seen him have denied that he presents such a risk.

When asked whether he thinks Pte Manning is being punished prior to his trial and if so why, Mr House said that his friend was the victim of a co-ordinated pressure campaign:

“I think that all of this together is not just a confluence of random events, but actually is a concerted effort on the part of the brig and perhaps the US government to get Bradley Manning to undergo psychological and emotional devastation ahead of his trial,” he said.

National security

Earlier this month, US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley was forced to resign after he said that what was being done to Pte Manning by colleagues at the Department of Defence was “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”.

However, Mr Crowley did say that Pte Manning was “in the right place”.

Mr Crowley’s former boss, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned the disclosure of classified documents on the WikiLeaks website as a threat to national security.

Pte Manning’s friends and supporters say the threat to national security is why he is being treated so harshly, and there has also been speculation that it is part of an attempt to make him confess that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange helped him extract the classified information.

The man who turned Pte Manning in to the authorities, Adrian Lamo, said that he for one would like to see Mr Assange in custody:

“I regret that he [Bradley Manning] is sitting in a cell while Julian Assange is free,” he said.

Death threats

Adrian Lamo, a convicted computer hacker, turned informant, is at the heart of the prosecution case against Pte Manning. It was to him that Pte Manning allegedly confessed in conversations via text-based instant messaging that he had been gathering and leaking classified information whilst working at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq.

Mr Lamo reported to the FBI that Pte Manning had told him during online chats in May 2010 that he had downloaded material and passed it to WikiLeaks.

“The reason that I took the information to the military authorities was that I had become convinced that I was dealing with the real thing as a result of statements that Pte Bradley Manning made to me that I have authenticated with a former special agent in army counter-intelligence,” Mr Lamo said.

Mr Lamo, who is currently in hiding after getting death threats because of his decision, said:

“I acted out of what I believed and continue to believe to be the good of the many rather than the good of Bradley Manning.”

It is the good of the many which has driven Pte Manning’s actions too, according to one of his staunchest supporters, Daniel Ellsberg.

Mr Ellsberg knows what it is like to be accused of treachery for leaking secrets; in 1971 he leaked the Pentagon Papers, which showed the US government had lied about the Vietnam War.

“He said ‘I’m ready to go to prison for life or even be executed to get this information out to the American public and to the world’,” Mr Ellsberg said of Pte Manning. “He saw America supporting corrupt dictatorships all over the world and thought Americans should know that – but also the people of those areas should know.”

Big picture

However, Mark Rasch, former head of the US Justice Department’s Computer Crime Unit and current cyber security director for CSC, said that while people with access to sensitive information, like Pte Manning, may believe that what they are doing is in the public interest, they are not equipped to make that decision:

“The problem is you don’t understand the context and the milieu in which the information has been classified. And so something that looks to you as being simple or improperly classified may result in all kinds of harm that you can’t anticipate because you don’t have the whole picture,” he said.

That is certainly the view of Shelly Otto, a former soldier, whose husband is a marine at the prison where Pte Manning is being held. She sees it as most Americans do:

“I think if you give up secrets that impact our military when they are operating in a war zone then you get what you get. You have to be punished. You can’t just go ‘here’s all our secrets’ and expect nothing to happen.”

PJ Crowley: ‘No regrets’ over Bradley Manning remarks

March 28, 2011

BBC News

Ex-US state department spokesman PJ Crowley, who quit after criticising the treatment of the man accused of leaking secret cables to Wikileaks, has told the BBC he has no regrets.

Mr Crowley told the HARDtalk programme that the treatment of Bradley Manning was undermining “a very legitimate” effort to prosecute him.

Pte Manning has been held in shackles in solitary confinement.

Mr Crowley left the department after calling his treatment “stupid”.

“I thought the treatment of Bradley Manning was undermining what I considered to be a very legitimate prosecution of an individual who has profoundly affected US national security,” Mr Crowley said in his first public remarks since stepping down on 13 March.

He said he had not anticipated his criticism of another arm of the US government – the military – would spark such a controversy, and said it was appropriate for him to step down because his remarks had put President Barack Obama in a “difficult position”.

“Quite honestly I didn’t necessarily think the controversy would go as far as it did but I don’t regret saying what I said,” Mr Crowley said.

Mr Crowley, a former Air Force officer and national security aide to former President Bill Clinton, declined to say whether he had been asked to resign.

Pte Manning is being held at the US Marine Corps base in Quantico in the US state of Virginia, pending trial on 34 charges related to the leaking of 720,000 secret US military and diplomatic documents to the Wikileaks website.

Supporters say he has been held under harsh conditions, confined to a spartan cell for for 23 hours a day without a pillow, sheets, and personal possessions, and forced regularly to disrobe.

‘Counterproductive, stupid’

At a forum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this month, Mr Crowley was asked to comment on the matter.

“What is happening to Manning is ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid, and I don’t know why the DoD [Department of Defence] is doing it,” he said. “Nevertheless, Manning is in the right place.”

Mr Crowley affirmed his remarks were on the record but later clarified the opinions were his own, not those of the state department.

“I’m a believer in something like strategic narratives,” he told HARDtalk on Monday, “that the US, as an exceptional country in the world, has to be seen as practicing what we preach.”

Taxman chases overseas Americans and their bankers

by Muhammad Cohen

HONG KONG – The United States government believes that Americans abroad avoid billions of dollars in taxes and it’s trying to collect. America’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – apparently misnamed since it’s going after citizens’ external revenue – has imposed a raft of new reporting rules on US expatriates and aims to enlist foreign financial institutions in its effort to narrow the US deficit.

The IRS estimates that will collect more than US$165 billion in additional taxes from Americans overseas over the next decade through the new Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and enforcement of the Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR) requirement. Critics question both the IRS’s focus and its math.

“The perspective from the IRS is that they are uncovering wealthy

tax evaders when in reality they are destroying average, hardworking people’s lives, many who have simply made errors of oversight,” American Citizens Abroad (ACA) executive director Marylouise Serrato says.

Uncle Sam will spend billions on new compliance and enforcement procedures, including hiring 600 new overseas examiners, and force banks across the globe to share records with the US government.

“If the foreign banking community states that compliance will cost them many billions, there must be a heavy cost and administrative burden on the IRS side as well,” ACA director Jackie Bugnion says. “FATCA is described by many as an administrative monster which creates such an enormous haystack that no needle will be found.”

Aside from the potential time and money to find a fraction of the $800 billion given to the wealthiest 2% of Americans through extension of their George W Bush era tax cuts, numerous US citizens and money managers believe the new requirements are an invasion of privacy, the financial equivalent of full body scanners used in airports, according to one adviser based in China who requested anonymity.

Come clean – or else

Before the government hunts for undeclared overseas holdings, Americans have one last chance to “come clean” – , in the words of IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman – under its voluntary disclosure plan, which features fines and penalties including partial confiscation of hidden assets. Americans have long been required to reveal overseas bank accounts, with taxes due on interest payments and other investment income from any source. But there were previously no penalties for failing to file the FBAR form, so many expats and accountants ignored it.

“What disturbs me most about the scare tactics that the IRS appears to be using now, with its new voluntary disclosure program, is that the people who can afford it the least are being penalized more than anyone else,” US accountant Laurence Lipsher, author of Larry’s 2011 Tax Guide for US Expats and Green Card Holders in User Friendly English, says.

ACA has compiled case histories on the high price of voluntary disclosure. Under a more lenient voluntary disclosure regime that expired last year, one citizen revealed his US$300,000 life savings in a foreign bank. Taxes and penalties due on interest amounted to US$150, but the citizen was fined US$60,000, 20% of the highest amount in the unreported account. “This is extremely abusive on the part of the IRS,” ACA’s Bugnion contends.

Fear factor

The IRS would not comment on this case or answer other questions for this article. In an interview with Fox Business News, IRS Commissioner Shulman warned, “A big part of our voluntary disclosure program is that, you come in, need to tell us what financial institutions you’ve been working with, what law firms, what other advisors you have helped to facilitate your tax evasion. Through that process, we’re getting a lot of leads, and so you should expect us in the future to be pursuing other financial institutions, other intermediaries, as well as lots of other taxpayers.”

“Why do we have a tax bureaucracy that provokes fear?” asks Lipsher, who has challenged Shulman to a debate on FATCA. “What has happened to our country when it is now easier to work with the State Administration of Taxation in China than it is with the IRS?”

As with most US economic and fiscal evils, look behind the curtain and you’ll find Phil Gramm. The former US senator from Texas was the godfather of deregulation that lay behind the Enron-led corporate crisis of the early 2000s and the 2007 collapse of global financial markets. He resigned from the senate in 2002 and reemerged in public during the 2008 presidential campaign as an economic adviser to John McCain. Frequently cited as a key architect of the 2008 economic crisis, Gramm denied there was any problem at all. “[T]his is a mental recession,” he said in a July 2008 interview, “We have sort of become a nation of whiners, you just hear this constant whining …”

Gramm preached free-market economics, tax cuts, and small government, though as a University of Texas economics professor and elected official, he had little direct experience of the private sector. His wife, Wendy, by contrast, spun in the revolving door between government appointments and corporate boards.

The senator (and spouse) from Enron

In an example of the power couple in action, Phil Gramm spearheaded legislation enabling the deregulation of energy trading. Wendy, meanwhile, chairing the agency that regulated futures markets, allowed the trading of energy futures, then joined the board of directors at Enron – the company that benefited most from her decision, collecting some $2 million for her services. As a final touch, to underscore the couple’s personal integrity and honesty, she professed complete ignorance of Enron’s financial troubles (although a member of the audit committee) but stopped accepting Enron stock options and insisted on cash payments from 1999 on.

After resigning his senate seat in 2002, Phil Gramm became a vice chairman of Swiss bank UBS, which coincidentally owned Enron’s post-bankruptcy energy trading business. Like other banks, UBS was a massive beneficiary of Gramm’s deregulatory efforts. It’s unclear precisely what Gramm does with UBS, though it seems logical that he and UBS talk about US strategy and compliance with US regulations. Be that as it may, in 2008, UBS faced charges of helping some 50,000 wealthy Americans to evade taxes. Court cases revealed UBS officers helped Americans living in the US set up overseas accounts and offshore corporations to mask their ownership.

“Everyone in Switzerland – and I live in Switzerland – was extremely critical of the UBS for setting up such stupid illegal structures to help US citizens in the United States hide assets from the US government,” ACA’s Bugnion says. UBS settled with the US government by paying $780 million and revealing 4,500 top tax cheats, and US pressure on the Swiss government effectively broke its banking secrecy laws.

Paper avalanche

UBS was helping US citizens in America evade taxes, but the remedial focus on overseas banking and investment accounts hits US expats. Virtually every American living overseas needs a foreign bank account – especially given post-9/11 fees on foreign transactions through US banks.

While destinations such as Singapore are lining up to become the new Switzerland for so-called wealth management services, US law taking effect from this year will require all banks and other financial institutions with US customers or investments to provide the US government with financial information on US citizens, including overseas credit card transactions.

“What is most astounding is that the overseas banking community anticipates that their compliance will cost them tens of billions of dollars to put the reporting system in place and then billions more every year to ensure filing compliance – way out of proportion with the estimates thrown out by the IRS of revenue from FATCA,” Bugnion says.

“I cannot possibly see the IRS being able to handle the avalanche of paperwork it is about to start receiving,” Lipsher, also the author of The Tax Analects of Li Fei Lao, a survey of tax laws across Asia for foreigners, says. “It cannot handle what it has now.”

Former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen told Americas story to the world as a US diplomat and is author of Hong Kong On Air , a novel set during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie. Follow Muhammad Cohen’s blog for more on the media and Asia, his adopted home.


The Case against Intervention

John Chuckman

French air force planes struck the first blows: using “intelligent” munitions, the planes struck tanks and artillery which threatened the people of Benghazi.

Now, who wouldn’t be heartened to learn that mechanized forces being used against civilians, civilians whose only demand was freedom from tyranny, were destroyed?

One might easily regard intervention, limited strictly to such targets, as both ethical and desirable, but the truth is that intervention is never limited to such targets, and the realities motivating it are loaded with error and, most importantly, with intentions at odds with high-sounding public statements.

The record for intervention is one of greater death and destruction than the threats it is supposed to stop where it is used and of allowing monstrous crimes to go unchallenged where it is avoided. Indeed, it has been avoided always where monstrous crimes are involved, the very situations in which its human costs might be more than offset by what it prevents. Nowhere in the record is there any consistency with regard to principle despite the press releases accompanying every new bombardment.

The glimmer of moral satisfaction we feel at the first instance of an event such as the French jets destroying some of Gaddafi’s armor about to attack a city is badly misplaced, for if ethics or morality is to mean anything, it must absolutely be consistent in application. You cannot meaningfully speak of selective ethics.

At the very time of the events in Libya, we have the same civil unrest and demands for an end to absolute and unaccountable government in Yemen and Bahrain, and they have been met with fairly large-scale abuse and killings by police. Literally scores have been shot dead in the streets. In the case of Bahrain, we have troops from Saudi Arabia – an absolute monarchy much resembling something from the 14th century – entering the country to assist Bahrain’s government in stopping its people seeking freedom.

Now, anyone who knows anything about the Mideast knows that Saudi Arabia would not march a single platoon of soldiers across its border without explicit approval from Washington. It just cannot be otherwise because America keeps an intensely close watch on matters affecting its client-state, Israel, and because Saudi Arabia’s advanced weapons come from America, and also because, following 9/11, most of the perpetrators having been Saudi nationals, Saudi Arabia has had to work long and hard to gain some trust back from Washington.

So where is the moral or ethical balance? Help the tyrant in Bahrain and attack the one in Libya? Why is only Libya a target?

There are many reports, not carried in the mainline press, about Israel supplying the African mercenaries who have been doing most of the bloody work in Libya. They are said to have been supplied by an Israeli military contracting firm connected to Mossad at the kind of high per diem rates which Gaddafi’s oil wealth allows. One of Gaddafi’s sons also made a visit for private talks in Israel in the early days of the rebellion’s repression. Such events, we can be absolutely sure, also do not happen without approval from Washington.

It appears America has both indirectly helped the tyrant while directly, albeit belatedly, fighting him. I don’t see any evidence of ethics in that situation.

Gaddafi certainly has grown into an unpleasant figure, displaying signs of deteriorating mental health while commanding the powers of a fairly rich small state. His early days as a rather dashing and intelligent revolutionary figure – few people recall he was featured in a cover story of the New York Times Magazine decades ago portraying him in rather flattering son-of-the-desert terms, the kind of article about a foreign leader which always has the imprimatur of the CIA – are lost in the reality of a mumbling old tyrant who has proved ready to strike down civilians to maintain his position. Naturally, people feel exhilarated to see him lose some military advantage.

Most humans do appear to be programmed by nature to cheer in situations where there is a clear bad guy and a good guy going after him. That is why blockbuster Hollywood movies and professional wrestling generate billions of dollars in revenue by repeating endlessly the same simple plot with only changes of costume. But world affairs are never so simple.

Just consider Israel’s assault on Gaza a few years ago, a place which is essentially a large, fenced-in refugee camp possessing no serious weapons. Israel killed something like 1,400 people, including hundreds of children, estimated at 400 young souls, and its soldiers committed such barbarities as using children as human shields. One saw pictures on the Internet of blood running like sewer overflow in the streets of Gaza. Yes, hundreds of children killed and with no rebuke from Washington or Paris or London and certainly no threat of having a no-fly zone or other violent measures imposed.

Up to the point of intervention, information from Libya suggests nothing on quite that scale of barbarism had occurred, rather there was the beginning of a conventional civil war with one side having better resources. So why the immense difference in response between the two situations? Why did we see Libyan victims on television, but the worst of what Israel committed could only be found on the Internet? Selectivity is at work always in these matters from the very start.

Not long before the Gaza atrocity, we had yet another invasion of Southern Lebanon by Israel. More than a thousand people were killed in their own land, and here we had the added horror of hundreds of thousands of bomblets from that cruellest of weapons, American cluster bombs, being showered over civilian areas, destined to kill and cripple for years to come. Along the way, Israel showed its contempt for international law by deliberately targeting a group of United Nations’ observers who died bravely doing their duty.

Yet there was no effort to punish or even restrict Israel as we see today imposed on Gaddafi. How can anyone claim that the response in Libya is ethical?

Libya is now being so heavily bombed that some Muslim states which joined the “coalition” are making loud noises about the United Nation’s mandate being exceeded. If you read newspapers from Britain as well as North America, you will know that there is disagreement between the public statements of the British and American governments as to what constitutes legitimate targets.

But when it comes to bombing, America never does anything by halves.

Shortly after the French attack at Benghazi, 124 cruise missiles, mostly American, began destroying targets in Libya. Reports say four B-52s flew from Europe, each with 30 tons of bombs, and three B-2 stealth bombers, carrying a total of 45 two thousand-pound, “bunker-buster” bombs, flew from the United States. And that was just the start.

Despite protestations, American targets certainly included sites associated with Gaddafi himself, his own compound having been destroyed.

And there you have another of many problems with intervention, or, as some like to call it, ethical war: it depends upon the Frankenstein military of the United States because no one else has its destructive capacities, forces which we have seen, again and again, not only kill in great excess but which typically are directed to dark tasks not featured in the propaganda leading up to the effort.

Recall the American “humanitarian” mission in Somalia in the early 1990s, the one that ended with “Blackhawk down.” We were all conditioned by endless pictures of starving Somalis to welcome efforts at their relief, but the American military, instead of serving the roles of distributing relief supplies and guarding those distributing relief supplies – the ostensible purposes of the mission – almost immediately went after what they regarded as “the bad guys.”

They attempted to kill one of the major local warlords with special planes equipped with modern Gatling guns, circling the sky and spraying large-calibre shells in built-up areas, at the rate of thousands per minute, much of that indiscriminate firepower killing innocent people and destroying property in a poor region. Hundreds of Somalis were killed by the American efforts, and some reports put the number at 10,000.

But we will never learn the truth from the American government, which, since its debacle in Vietnam, always suppresses the numbers it kills. It did so in the first Gulf War where tens of thousands of poor Iraqi recruits sitting behind sand walls in the desert were carpet-bombed by B-52s, their bodies later bulldozed into the ground. It did so in Afghanistan, where it regularly has killed civilians for ten years. And it did so in that pure war crime, the invasion of Iraq.

America’s effort to get the “bad guy” in Somalia was an act of complete arrogance and sheer stupidity, clearly reflecting America’s ingrained streak of hell-and-damnation Puritanism and its Captain Ahab obsession with chasing the white whale over whole oceans. All Americans achieved was to make a deadly enemy, as they shortly learned. They ended up, pretty much leaving the country shamefully and forgetting their first purpose in going there, distributing relief to the starving, something Canada’s soldiers and others routinely do without creating such aggression and such violent results.

Recall again President Clinton’s launching a large salvo of missiles in 1998 towards targets in the Afghan mountains and at a Sudanese plant in Khartoum. They were said to be aimed at terrorist targets, but the public was given no detailed information. We do know the plant in Sudan proved to be just what it was claimed by locals, a pharmaceutical plant, Dozens of innocent people were killed and property worth many millions of dollars was destroyed to no purpose, based entirely on incorrect information.

Clinton also launched 23 cruise missiles towards targets in Baghdad in 1993, supposedly in retaliation for an Iraqi-sponsored attempt on former-President George Bush when he visited Kuwait, although the public was given no details of the supposed plot. Even granting there was a plot, if you are entitled to hurl thousands of pounds of high explosives at a distant city owing to a faulty dark operation, what are we to say of the many countries and millions of people who have been victims of America’s many dark operations? What principle is at work here other than might makes right?

Ethical war is an absurd term, just as is the idea of bombing for democracy is. Always and anywhere, as soon as the military engines are started, just as is said for truth, ethics are left behind. War is a playground for adventurers and psychopaths. Just recall those American pilots during the first Gulf War whose cockpit transmissions were broadcast on television while they strafed Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait City: their chilling words included, “Hey, this’s like shootin’ fish in a barrel!” And readers should remember that that first Gulf War was itself little more than an American dark operation intended to put Hussein into a compromising position and topple him.

Deeply discrediting the whole confused concept of ethical war are not just the many crimes committed in its name but the many greater omissions. Genocide has become one of the most abused and misused terms of our time, someone ignorantly using it every time a group of people is killed anywhere, but we have had several authentic genocides since World War II, and I think we can all agree if ever there could be a case for ethical war, it would be the case of genocide. But it is precisely in the case of genocide that all the powers simply hide, the United States having a completely shameful record.

In the case of Indonesia, following the downfall of President Sukarno in 1967, about half a million people had their throats slashed and their bodies dumped into rivers because they were, or were suspected of being, communists. The entire nation was turned temporarily into an abattoir for humans, and where was the United States, defender of freedom, during the horror? Rather than any effort to stop the terror, it had employees of the State Department on phones around the clock feeding the names of people they’d like to see included in the extermination.

In the case of Cambodia during the late 1970s, the “killing fields” saw about a million people murdered by the mad ideologues of the Khmer Rouge. Where was the United States? Nowhere to be seen or heard, off licking its wounds from its long, pointless war in Vietnam, except when Vietnamese forces finally crossed the border to stop the bloodshed, the United States yelped, “See, we told you so, the ‘domino effect’ is now at work!” And to this day, few Americans take any responsibility for their county’s role in creating the “killing fields.” In its desperate efforts to win in Vietnam, President Nixon’s government launched huge aerial bombardments and incursions by troops into a neutral country, finally so destabilizing it that the Khmer Rouge took power.

In the case of Rwanda in 1994, the world watched something on the order of 800,000 people hacked to pieces, the victims selected merely for their ethnic identity. President Clinton knew every detail from the beginning but made every effort to avert his eyes and prevent the United States from being involved.

So much for the notion of ethical war in the very cases where it could conceivably have made a difference.

The United States’ motives for intervening in Libya are complex and anything but ethical. It was reluctant even to speak out at first. The truth is that stability in the Middle East – stability as defined by the bloody likes of Henry Kissinger – at the complete expense of democratic values or human rights has been bedrock American policy for decades. This policy had the duel objectives of securing the production of oil and making a comfortable climate for Israel.

The United States dithered during recent momentous events in Egypt precisely because Israel benefited from that country’s dictator and was not interested in seeing anything resembling democracy emerge in large Arab states, despite its hypocritical and much-repeated refrain about being the only democracy in the region. Numerous Israeli leaders made the most embarrassingly revealing and shameful statements while the scales were tipping against President Mubarak. But the events proved so unprecedented and so overwhelming and pretty much unstoppable without immense bloodshed that the United States finally came down on the right side, working to restrain Mubarak and to ease the transition in power.

The North African version of Europe in 1848 is very much viewed as a threat by Israel. Imagine all the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank and Gaza, some four million people, plus the non-Jewish people of Israel proper, about a million, stirred by events in North Africa, rising up to demand their rights? Stopping the series of rebellions against unrepresentative governments along the Mediterranean shores must be high on Israel’s list of current foreign policy objectives because it is clear that continued successes encourage new attempts.

Even further, as we have seen, Chancellor Merkel of Germany has rebuked Prime Minister Netanyahu in public for doing nothing for peace, asserting rightly that the changing conditions of the Arab world make it incumbent upon Israel to pursue genuine peace.

There is some hard truth assiduously avoided in Western mainstream press and by Western governments in their public communications: that what anyone outside of Israel would call peace has simply never been an objective of Israel’s government. There is no other way of understanding Israel’s actions over decades than its aiming to acquire virtually all the Palestinian lands without the Palestinians, or, at least, with a reduced number of Palestinians put into utterly subservient arrangements with no political integrity and very limited rights.

But again in Libya, events soon outdistanced United States’ policy. Images of freedom-fighters there being attacked by bloody mercenaries and mechanized forces affected public opinion and allowed of no further dithering, as did the initiatives taken by Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron and France’s President Sarkozy, each for their own political and economic reasons. The truth is that most people are decent, and the general public is always sympathetic with the victims seen in such images, which is precisely why American networks never show images of American troops brutalizing Iraqis or Israelis brutalizing Palestinians.

Gaddafi has long been a disliked third-world leader in the West – independent-minded leaders never are liked by the American government and there is a long list of them who have been overthrown or assassinated regardless of their democratic bona fides – and in a sense the West’s own past extravagant claims about his being a grand sponsor of terror has blown back on it. Added to the fact that he now appears rather mad and to the image of heroic Libyans winning and then losing in their fight for freedom, public opinion has made the course the United States intended difficult if not impossible.

But that does not mean public opinion is right about intervention, a subject not well understood by the average citizen. Even the case of a no-fly zone, something judging from the glib words seems to be considered by many a not very aggressive form of help, is not well understood. A no-fly zone is a complex and highly destructive operation, pushing the operator into something approaching a state of war, and yet having little likelihood of success in turning events on the ground.

Planes first had to fly all over Libya to get the radars turned on. Then attack planes and missiles quickly had to follow-up to destroy the located radars. Airfields and parked planes are also targets. Many people on the ground get killed in the effort, but that’s only the beginning. Twenty-four hour-a-day flyovers must be maintained afterwards to assure radars are not replaced and to attack planes which break the ban, all of which involves more civilian deaths.  And from the first day in Libya, the air attacks have gone beyond imposing a no-fly zone, as we saw in the French attack at Benghazi and, at this writing, British attacks on Libyan armor at Ajdabiya.

Anyone who has kept track of American pilots’ efforts in Afghanistan and in Iraq knows that they have killed very large numbers of innocent people, and that even in situations where they have complete air superiority. They still kill innocent Afghans regularly, scores at a time, thousands in total.

The record of no-fly zones is not a happy one. The United States maintained one against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq for a decade after the first Gulf War, a decade of flying over the country and shooting up anything suspicious. There were countless incidents of American planes shooting and bombing people, but the no-fly zone did not prevent Saddam Hussein from achieving his objectives. Unless you are prepared to do to a country what the United States did to Japan during World War II – incinerate whole cities both with conventional or atomic weapons – air power cannot determine the direction of events on the ground with a determined opponent.

Reports at this writing from Libya suggest exactly the same result.

Once the no-fly zone is established, frustration over the opponent’s success on the ground creates a constant temptation to say, “In for a penny, in for a pound,” and to commit more force. You may easily find yourself engaged in yet another war. And everywhere and always in the modern era, the victims of war are mainly not the enemy soldiers or their “bad guy” leaders but the people just trying to live their lives. Just think about the roughly one million people who have perished in Iraq plus the more than two million refugees who fled their country, and consider the fact that one of the Arab world’s most advanced countries is now reduced to a generation without jobs, without dependable electric power and clean water. Saddam Hussein never dreamed of doing that much damage to his people despite his atrocities.

When your objectives going in are confused and uncertain, as are those of the United States, what is the hope for a good outcome? Not great I think. It’s a little like pouring concrete without having constructed a mold. And that is another reason why war for ethical of humanitarian motives has such a poor record: huge investments in death and destruction are made suddenly, upon the occurrence of unanticipated events, and often involving quick turns-around against long-established policy.

Perhaps the worst charge against intervention is that each instance only makes it easier and more acceptable in the future. The long list of minor to major interventions by the United States in the postwar era – most of them with no pretence of international legality or an ethical nature – should serve as a severe warning against going in this direction. From toppling democratic governments in Iran, Guatemala, or Chile to the holocaust in Vietnam with its estimated three million victims and a land left saturated with poisons and landmines, there is virtually no case for intervention that does not make future abuse and horror more likely by those with great power.

It is also well to remember that we have a greatly changed world political environment since the events of 9/11. Today the United States, without hesitation, sends drones into a country with which it is not even at war, Pakistan, and kills hundreds of innocent people. Its so-called “kill-teams” perpetrate horrors in Afghanistan, and recent events suggest they have been at work in Pakistan. It still holds people prisoner with no proper law in the secret locations of its CIA international gulag. The abomination of Guantanamo remains. The honouring of international law and agreements has suffered greatly in favour of doing as you please so long as you have the might.

Even the accepted institution for warranting ethical war, the United Nations, as it exists is a highly inadequate institution to exercise such authority. The United States frequently stands against pretty much the entire world there in opposing perfectly appropriate resolutions and gets its way. And when it wants a resolution approved, member states are subject to behind-the-scenes bribes, cajoling, and threats to produce the votes America wants. No one else has such vast economic, financial, and diplomatic leverage to get what they want there. America has exercised its unique power over the organization many times, from the Korean War to the invasion of Afghanistan. Sometimes, rarely, its demands are so unreasonable that enough of the world’s countries find themselves in a position to resist, as was the case for invading Iraq.

Conversations with the Crow

When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert  T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.

Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.

Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:


Here is the sixty-seventh  chapter

Conversation No. 67

Date: Sunday, February 16, 1997

Commenced: 10:45 AM CST

Concluded: 11:15 AM CST

GD: I got your packet today, Robert, and thank you for it. I have a problem with the classification stamps on them. Would I have any problem putting these into a book with the stamps showing?

RTC: I would suggest that you use them for reference, Gregory, and would appreciate it if you did not photo copy them. As you say, there could be serious trouble for both of us if you did. What did you think of them?

GD: Amazing. I had no idea the blessed Republicans were so underhanded and vicious.

RTC: The Democrats, and my father was an active one, are more interested in social issues, but the GOP wants unfettered economic power and to get and keep it, they have no scruples. Clinton may be left of center, but he’s economically pretty sound. The Republicans, and I used to be the man for connections with really big business, don’t forget, have two goals and two only. They want to establish an ideological police state that is anti-black, anti-Mexican, anti-intellectual and in this category, anti-Jew. Once they have this, their next goal would be to allow unfettered capitalism to rage unchecked throughout the land so that they and their friends can get rich quick on crooked businesses like the huge fraud now going on in the electronics stock. It goes up, Gregory, because it’s rigged and I just know it will go higher and higher.

GD: Yes, and what goes up, must come down. And if it goes up too fast, when it crashes, it takes legitimate businesses with it. My grandfather got out of the market in September of ’29 because it was going up too fast and businesses were heavily overcapitalized. This electronic business is not genuine?

RTC: No, it’s rigged. How it works is this way: The stock fraud people grab some engineering student from MIT, set him up in a nice office in San Francisco and then incorporate him with some fancy, arty name. Next step is to get the stock listed on the New York board. After that, a ring of very reputable stock brokers call up their friends with an offering. They tell them they are going to buy a certain stock at ten dollars for them and then sell it when it gets to, let’s say, twenty. The client goes along with this and when this is repeated across the country, the stock shoots up. The original investors get double their money back, minus brokerage fees, and then the brokers do it again, and again. This forces almost all technology stock up into the heavens. Maybe some of the initial investors gripe when they see stock they bought at ten and sold at twenty up at two hundred, but when all of it will come crashing down, they are satisfied that they have a safe return.

GD: Well, gravity works on the market as well as fat women’s tits.

RTC: (Laughter) There you go again, Gregory, illuminating a serious economic lecture with lewd remarks.

GD: A little levity to offset crude capitalism.

RTC: Oh, if the Republicans have their way, all the restrictions on Wall Street would be lifted and everything would shoot up. Some of it rigged and the rest just being copycats.

GD: You’re not a Republican?

RTC: No, a relatively modest Democrat, but not a poor one.

GD: It’s none of my business, Robert, but what do you have your money in?

RTC: Not communications stock, I can tell you that. Very conservative investments. And you?

GD: I’m almost broke, Robert. I don’t make that much money on the books and now that the rodent brigades from the CIA are starting to squeal that I am a really terrible liar, the sales are slowing down some. But I have an idea that might pay off. I told you about the gold Jimmy Atwood and I dug up in ’90. Well, I have some old gasbag down in Florida who wants me to go over with him to Austria in the future and dig up more. Only this one doesn’t want to dig up gold. He wants to put a party together and get the money from them and come back with me later to get the money which we can split up.

RTC: The concentration camp money?

GD: Oh, yes and lots of it. We had to quit in ’90 because one was sick and the other a total asshole. And Atwood, being one of your people, tried all kinds of transparent tricks to cheat me. Didn’t work. But this Florida phony wants to work with me. I could always go back with him, or stay there after his rich friends went home, and dig up more money. Of course, this time he could have a boating accident and fall into the lake. It’s very deep and very cold. What goes down into it Robert, does not come up.

RTC: And how would you get the loot back?

GD: I would keep it in Europe and invest it.

RTC: Probably not a bad idea. How much did you get last time?

GD: About five million and there must be five times that still left. Yes, I think a boating accident. Sort of like Colby’s assisted departure. If he has any family, I can tell them he ran off to Sofia with a Bulgarian whore instead of being refrigerated at the bottom of a deep lake in Austria. Well, we will see. I have a friend in the electronics business. How long before the stock boom busts?

RTC: I have no idea but eventually. Two years, three years…who knows? You don’t have any electronics stock, do you?

GD: God no. If I did have money, I would stay as far away as I can from the trendy stocks that the press loves to shill for. No, if I had a lot of money, I would put it in gold and property.

RTC: Anything left from your late jaunt?

GD: I invested it in long-term property and kept some of the gold. Of course I got the wedding rings and had to melt them all down and put them into bullet molds I bought in Klagenfurt. Poor Aunt Minnie’s ring is gone forever.

RTC: I wouldn’t let the Jews find out about that, Gregory. They would be very angry with you.

GD: Well, who is to prove that this ring or that gold coin came from such and such a person? The people who owned these are long dead and mostly forgotten. So what?

RTC: For God’s sake, Gregory, don’t even hint at this in your books. Hell hath no fury like a Jew deprived of money.

GD: Well, his own or someone else’s? Jimmy and I got all kinds of gold crucifixes, wedding rings, coins and other material and I melted most of it down. Used a portable acetylene torch and bullet molds working in an Italian hotel room. Cheap hotel and no one complained about the smell of melting metal. Took two weeks to melt it all down. Just think, so many precious memories, gone forever and all mine, Robert, all mine.

RTC: Well, just be discreet.

GD: I don’t mind the concept of screeching and imploring Hebrews, so I invest elsewhere because I would mind the screeching and other problems of the IRS.

RTC: Yes, that would be different, wouldn’t it?

GD: Oh, yes. Now Atwood could get away with it because he belongs to your agency, but I have no such cover. Jimmy got bagged for all kinds of thefts but your people got him off the hook…I think it was in ’62. Anyway, we make our own way in life, don’t we? And remember, we have a pool on how long it will be before the Company ices poor Jimmy for his loud mouth.

RTC: Yes, I remember.

GD: Ah, well, I am going to leave you, Robert, and go to church and see what sort of really awful pornography I can slip into the hymnals.

RTC: Now that’s not Christian, is it?

GD: Disagree, Robert. Quintessentially Christian, absolutely

(Concluded at 11:15 CST)

Dramatis personae:

James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy

James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.

William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.

John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.

James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.

Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.

Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.

Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organizaion eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.

Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”

Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.

Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller  became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.

Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.

Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarian and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.

Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers

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