TBR News May 12, 2016

May 12 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. May 12, 2016: “ For centuries, Muslim men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Muslim Afghanistani Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern Afghanistan towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means “boy player.” The men like to boast about it.

The Pashtun are Afghanistan’s most important tribe. For centuries, the nation’s leaders have been Pashtun.

As for Karzai, an American who worked in and around his palace in an official capacity for many months told me that homosexual behavior “was rampant” among “soldiers and personnel on the security detail. They talked about boys all the time.”

In Kandahar, population about 500,000, and other towns, dance parties are a popular, often weekly, pastime. Young boys dress up as girls, wearing makeup and bells on their feet, and dance for a dozen or more leering middle-aged men who throw money at them and then take them home. A recent State Department report called “dancing boys” a “widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape.”

A recent (July 2010) Department of State analysis, heavily classified,not only discusses rampant homosexual pedophilia among Muslims, not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq, Iran and, especially, in Saudi Arabia. The thesis that American and NATO forces fighting and dying to defend tens of thousands of proud, aggressive pedophiles, is a subject that has been forbidden of discussion by orders from the White House itself. Fear of “energizing’ the Muslim world and creating more active terrorists is the maini motive for this concern.

Sociologists and anthropologists say the problem results from interpretation of Islamic law. Even after marriage, many men keep their boys, suggesting a loveless life at home. A favored Muslim expression goes: “Women are for children, boys are for pleasure.” Fundamentalist Muslim imams, exaggerating a biblical passage on menstruation, teach that women are “unclean” and therefore distasteful. That helps explain why women are hidden away – and stoned to death if they are perceived to have misbehaved. Islamic law also forbids homosexuality. But the pedophiles explain that away. ‘It’s not homosexuality,’ they aver, ‘because they aren’t in love with their boys’.They only sodomize them because they view women as unclean and the Prophet approved of pedophelia .”



The Müller Washington Journals   1948-1951

At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.

His name was Heinrich Müller.

Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.

This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.

When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.

Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.

The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.

Sunday, 3 April 1949

A scandal about Forrestal. It has been decided “at the highest level” that F. has become dangerously mad and must be removed from Washington. He goes to Florida with guards and doctors. He believes that the Russians are after him. Why? No answer yet. But out of sight. A keeper of secrets but which ones? T. is supposed to be “highly concerned” about Forrestal’s breakdown. The rumor is that F. might say something he should not.

Received a bank draft for $6,500 for one of the paintings in the last shipment and we can cash that and put the money in the safe along with other things.

A response from Pasing. Everything is as expected.


Müller’s family lived in Pasing, a suburb of Munich. The breakdown of Forrestal was to have a bizarre and very tragic ending in the next month.

Wednesday, 6 April 1949

The Philbrick evidence is being introduced today. He will testify that the communists here were ordered to prepare for violent actions after it was obvious that the U.S. was planning to confront Stalin in Europe. The diversification of the party membership is also to be highlighted. Just as it was in Germany. Important men were never allowed to express sympathy for communist causes and could never be members of the party.

That dubious privilege was reserved for the idiots alone. The aircraft industry was a target then (about a year ago) and indicates Stalin’s interest in gaining technical information the Russians could never develop and then prepare for sabotage in case a war breaks out.

Bundez, once a very active party member, is scheduled to reveal more negative information from a prominent insider. Understand he has things to say about Lattimore, Service and several others. Naturally, he will be discredited and verbally abused by the left wing here. Their usual tactics are to vilify anyone who could make trouble for them.

They like to strike first and start rumors, lies and general slanders about their victims. They generally don’t kill them like Krivitski but then one never knows.

In the event that assassinations occur, I have strongly suggested that two can play at that game and a great death dance can proceed behind the curtains that keep the public from knowing anything more than it needs to. They don’t have the complete press control we did but there are severe restraints anyway. A docile, obedient and cooperative press is useful but only to the party in power.

Hearst has been mentioned as a valuable resource for getting public acceptance for our attacks on the communists here as well as McCormick who publishes the paper in Chicago which revealed Roosevelt’s secret war plans in 1941.


Herbert Philbrick, born in 1916, resided in Massachusetts and had been a member of the American Communist Party since 1944 and involved with various left wing causes since he was 24. Philbrick had volunteered his services to the FBI and supplied them with valuable information. A number of those whom he accused immediately denied everything. Louis Budenz later gave information about Owen Lattimore who also immediately denied any communist connections. Walter Krivitsky was a Soviet GRU operator who defected in 1937. Soviet agents murdered him in a hotel room on February 10, 1941 as a punishment for his defection. The murder was never solved because there was official reluctance to press the matter.

Friday, 8 April 1949

Today I weeded out all my pieces that I plan to sell off. I have nearly forty items acquired by various people after the Degenerate Art business. What did not go to Lucerne in 1939 stayed safely in Germany. Göring kept more than his share but what with Hitler’s views, no one dared to display any of the artists involved so they were relatively easy to pick up. Three Braques, eight Noldes, a Barlach, two very early Picassos, a Gauguin, eight Chagalls, three Dixs, eighteen Klees, a Van Gough and a collection of over a hundred Klees which he had prepared as a statement against the NS people and had hidden with a friend before fleeing to Switzerland and so on.

I personally dislike all of these pieces and the Van Gough is obviously the product of a very disordered mind. Still, this sort of crude daubing is very popular here in the United States and my connection in New York is absolutely delighted to get his hands on the collection.

I shall get perhaps $10,000 from him plus several very nice watercolors by Turner and an excellent Richter work that has sentimental value for me. It is a view of the Watzmann which I have climbed several times and which could be seen from the terrace of the Berghof. Looted by a GI I believe. The cash is always helpful here and I will have now retired my debt of $25,000 with his firm.

Everyone worries and complains about their income taxes but this is a worry I do not have. All of my payments now are in cash and I keep everything in my safe in the bedroom. No bank accounts or cancelled checks for me.

I told a joke yesterday to someone that I ought to write down. What does one call an abortion in Prag? A cancelled Czech of course! Americans have no sense of humor and their military have less. While Americans are worrying about how much to pay the government, I sleep well at night secure in the fact that the government here gets not one pfennig from me.

Tuesday, 12 April 1949

Objections in the Congress about the DP (Displaced Persons, ed.) laws here. More immigration is wanted. I have warned that many Soviet agents can creep into the country unless a very careful series of controls are put in place and implemented. Americans are very softhearted and have no idea at all what dangers they face from infiltrating agents.

Thursday, 14 April 1949

More witnesses to appear in the New York trials. Three, perhaps four former communists will tell their tales to the Grand Jury there.

Considerable very high-level concern about Forrestal who is now in the lunatic ward of the Naval hospital in Maryland. He apparently has gone quite mad and is raving about all kinds of matters that those in charge here wish he would not talk about. Even assuming that most of what he says is delusional, if any of it were actually true, and F. was in a position to know certain matters, it would not do for it to become public.

Washington is not a city to keep its secrets after all.

Tuesday, 19 April 1949

Tomorrow will be the Chief’s (Hitler’s, ed.) birthday. He would have been sixty. Well, that was a time for all of us and if it were not for him, I would still be a policeman in Munich living at home with little privacy and less money. We will celebrate the day here, of course.

My entire staff will participate and one of my new friends from the Pentagon, who knows who I am, wants to come as well because he says he is a “true supporter” of the Chief and also says, often and very heatedly, that, “Hitler was right after all.”

Americans have no idea at all about German history; most of them don’t even know about their own history. I am constantly amazed by the staff officers who praise Hitler to me. Amazing indeed! Of course only a few at the very top know who I am but I do have an accent, although they are all told it is Swiss, and they assume an accent means I am a secret Nazi.

I never was a practicing Nazi but we cannot discuss that either because a number of my superiors are secret sympathizers and that would not impress them at all. I am now a true Party member and fighter against communism!

It seems that the best way to get hired by the Americans these days is to have a terrible, black record. Gehlen is filled with the very worst people. I must confess in good humor I was responsible for his hiring most of them. G. is such a pompous ass and Willi (Krichbaum, ed.) does like to pull their legs. He tells me the CIA people there are stupid as posts and God alone knows how many former RSHA people they have given employment to. Well, we must all take care of our friends after all.

And the uproarious thing is that the Army is still looking for Hitler!




Nationalism, Patriotism, and Libertarianism

The nation isn’t the government

May 11, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


I was struck by a tweet from libertarian Republican congressman Justin Amash, who has become the “new Ron Paul” now that the three-time presidential candidate and libertarian icon has taken a well-deserved rest from politics. The other day he tweeted:

“Patriotism & nationalism are profoundly different. Patriotism is love of country. FA Hayek called nationalism ‘a twin brother of socialism.’”

Amash, who has vowed to never support GOP frontrunner and likely presidential nominee Donald Trump, undoubtedly had the New York real estate mogul in mind, but no matter what one thinks of The Donald, Amash is quite wrong about the nature of American nationalism and the meaning of “patriotism.”

To begin with, Hayek was clearly talking about European nationalism, not the American variety. I’ll get to the difference between them, but I want first to point out the irony of Amash’s citation of this particular Hayek quote, because the great libertarian theorist was here talking about the problem of centralization: that is, the growing tendency of smaller political units to be subordinated to and swallowed up by bigger entities.

If we place Hayek’s discussion in the present context, then it becomes clear that nationalism is not the enemy but a (potential) friend of liberty. For the modern trend is toward supra-national entities, like the European Union, the UN, and the North American “Free Trade” Agreement, which are engaged in erecting precisely that “society which is consciously organized from the top” so abhorred by Hayek. When nationalism is arrayed against globalism, i.e. against the concept of a regional super-state, or even a World State, libertarians must clearly take sides with the former.

Furthermore, what is a “nation,” exactly?

The libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard takes on this question in his trenchant essay “Nations By Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State,” and his ability to cut through to the heart of any question underscores the error made by Amash and anti-nationalist libertarians in general:

“Libertarians tend to focus on two important units of analysis: the individual and the state. And yet, one of the most dramatic and significant events of our time has been the re-emergence – with a bang – in the last few years of a third and much-neglected aspect of the real world, the ‘nation.’ When the nation has been thought of at all, it usually comes attached to the state, as in the common word nation-state, but this concept takes a particular development in recent centuries and elaborates it into a universal maxim. In recent years, however, we have seen, as a corollary of the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, a vivid and startlingly swift decomposition of the centralized state or alleged nation-state into its constituent nationalities. The genuine nation, or nationality, has made a dramatic reappearance on the world stage.

“The nation, of course, is not the same thing as the state, a difference that earlier libertarians, such as Ludwig von Mises and Albert Jay Nock understood full well. Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that  everyone is born into a family, a language, and a culture. Every person is born into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a country; he is always born into a specific time and place, meaning neighborhood and land area.”

In short, the “nation” consists entirely of non-governmental structures and institutions: it is the web of social interactions and cultural context which the government spends most of its energy trying to bend to its will.

In a free society, this effort is largely unsuccessful: in a dictatorship, the state has replaced the nation and substituted its own “culture,” imposed from the top, for the traditions and values that have been established over time by the voluntary actions and decision-making of individuals.

What Amash forgets, or never knew, is that from a libertarian perspective American nationalism is sui generis. Nationalism, after all, is by definition the valorization of a nation’s heritage, its traditions, and most especially its origins. And how did the American nation originate? Why, in the first – and only – successful libertarian revolution in world history.

“Constitutional conservatives” of Amash’s sort are constantly invoking the Constitution as some sort of sacred canon, the libertarian ur-text through which all issues must be viewed. We’ll pass over just how libertarian this document is – there’s a large and persuasive school of libertarian thought that views the adoption of the Constitution as a counterrevolution – and ask: where does Amash think that holy writ came from? It was made possible by those who had fought a revolution and established a nation, one founded on the supremacy of individual liberty.

This is what differentiated it from the nations of Europe, and what, in the end, separated American nationalism out from the European varieties. In Europe, nationalism inevitably meant the growth of State power at the expense of regional autonomy and individual liberty: in America, it meant the victory of a libertarian revolution and the establishment of a government that respected both the rights of the separate states and individual autonomy.

Walled off by two oceans from a world dominated by monarchs and aggressors, born in a revolt against imperialism, imbued with a culture that nurtured the free individual, America is truly the exceptional nation, albeit not in the way today’s purveyors of “American exceptionalism” usually mean it. An American nationalist isn’t a Bismarckian:  he’s a Jeffersonian.

Mutants like Teddy Roosevelt – and his contemporary fan club, the neoconservatives – are the exception that proves the rule. Speaking very generally, American libertarianism is consistent nationalism: not the expansionist, militaristic nationalism of Europe, but that of the Founders.

In this country, a nationalist necessarily upholds the American tradition of limited government, the rule of law, and – yes – “isolationism” (“She goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy”). No wonder John Kerry preaches the virtues of a “borderless world,” and warns graduating students of the dangers of “looking inward”! Empires aspiring to world hegemony don’t recognize the legitimacy of borders, and as for looking inward – why do that when we have a whole world to conquer?

In a world where supranational bureaucracies – who want to centralize economic and political decision-making and put it in the hands of a trans-national elite – are actively subverting the very idea of national sovereignty, nationalists are on the right side of the barricades. Should Catalonia be forced to be a part of Spain? Should England be dragooned into the European Union? Should the American economy be ruled by a World Central Bank? What “libertarian” can answer yes?

I am struck, in the Rothbard quote cited above, by the phrase a “much-neglected aspect of the real world.” Libertarians, all too often, have to be constantly reminded of the real world, as opposed to the world of floating abstractions they sometimes seem to inhabit. It is one thing to have principles: it’s quite another, however, to apply those principles to reality – not by compromising them, but by recognizing that one-dimensional models of human behavior will not chart a course to liberty.

And now a word about “patriotism”: this concept has been used as a bludgeon against opponents of every war in American history, and is trotted out to smear government critics as “unpatriotic,” if not outright traitors. Such expressions of “patriotism” as the Pledge of Allegiance (authored by a socialist), and the odious maxim “My country right or wrong,” are nothing more than state-worship, the very opposite of true nationalism in the American sense.


Turkey ‘losing hope’ for EU visa-free deal

May 11. 2016

BBC News

The Turkish minister for European Union affairs has told the BBC he is losing hope of getting a deal on visa-free travel for Turks within Europe.

Volkan Bozkir said changing anti-terror laws in Turkey would be impossible.

The EU insists that Turkey needs to narrow its definition of terrorism – as well as meet four other key criteria – to qualify for visa-free travel.

It is part of a larger agreement between the two sides aimed at easing Europe’s migration crisis.

‘We’ll go our way’

On Wednesday, Mr Bozkir told the BBC that his hopes of getting visa-free travel for Turkish nationals were “getting less and less”.

He admitted that the negotiations had reached a crucial phase, stressing that Turkey had already done enough.

His comments came after a day of meetings with senior members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the EU that Ankara would not change its anti-terror laws.

“We’ll go our way, you go yours,” he said.

The EU and rights groups have accused Ankara of using its broad anti-terror legislation to intimidate journalists and stifle dissent.

Ankara rejects this, saying it needs the laws to fight militant groups.

The visa-free deal is supposed to be in place by the end of June, but that timetable looks increasingly unlikely, the BBC’s Jonathan Blake in Strasbourg reports.

The European Commission earlier this month said it was satisfied that the majority of the 72 conditions had been fulfilled by Turkey.

But the European Parliament is refusing to vote until all the criteria are met, our correspondent says.

The deal was offered in return for Turkey taking back migrants who crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece.

The EU fears that without it, Turkey will not control migration.

Turkey has threatened to stop taking back migrants from Greece if the EU fails to deliver on visa liberalisation.

The large influx of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe from Turkey, and from North Africa, has caused a political crisis among EU states.

Under the EU-Turkey agreement, migrants who have arrived illegally in Greece since 20 March are to be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected.

For each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, the EU is to take in another Syrian who has made a legitimate request.


Angry about Facebook censorship? Wait until you hear about the news feed

Peeved about Facebook’s curation of trending topics? Its news feed is reinventing censorship for a technological age, and humans need not apply

May 11, 2016

by Alex Hern

The Guardian

Bad news: Facebook is censoring the internet every day, warping your understanding of the world around you to benefit its corporate interests, and fundamentally changing the media landscape in a potentially apocalyptic fashion.

Good news: that has little to nothing to do with the fact that the human curators of its trending topics feature are a bit sniffy about linking to Breitbart News.

The most surprising thing about Facebook’s trending stories isn’t that the human editors behind them occasionally exercise their own judgement in which stories they do or don’t link to; it’s that even with humans working directly on the feature, it’s still awful. The output of the feature is so bad that I and many others assumed it must be entirely algorithmic: how else would you end up with bizarre gnomic statements like this, taken verbatim from the “science and technology” section of my feed today:

Quebec, Canada: Parts of Province Experience Snowfall, Report Says”

But no. Facebook has an entire team of writers working on these statements, according to a report from Gizmodo, and those writers are apparently encouraged to focus on mainstream news sites such as the BBC and CNN over fringe right-wing outlets like Breitbart or Newsmax.

Facebook, for its part, denies censoring trending topics, saying that it wouldn’t even be “technically feasible” to do what the whistleblower alleged. That hasn’t stopped outrage at the report reaching the highest levels: Republican Senator John Thurn spoke out on Tuesday, asking the site to explain itself.

If Thurn is outraged about stories not appearing on trending topics – a small sidebar which has an unclear influence on web traffic, fails to shape discussion, and is buried on mobile devices – wait until he finds out about the news feed.

The jewel in Facebook’s crown is a hotbed of censorship. Don’t believe me? Try to post a picture of Aboriginal women in traditional dress – that is, topless – on your Facebook feed and see how long it lasts.

The company’s moderation team is notorious for its heavy-handed approach to topics like nudity, even as it also gets slated by governments worldwide for not removing and reporting content glorifying terrorism rapidly enough.

But being a community moderator at Facebook is a thankless task. The work, often outsourced to companies like Manila-based contractor TaskUs, is performed with little remuneration or training. And even the best-paid highly skilled employees would have trouble drawing a consistent plan of action out of Facebook’s vague attempts at drawing up community standards.

Say what you like about moderation, though: at least you can see it happening. What seems so disturbing about the alteration of trending topics is that the sites which were kept off the list had no way of knowing that they had even had a chance. There’s no reports feeding back why a curator decided to place or leave a story. It’s an opaque system.

Except, of course, that we can speak to former curators of trending topics to find out what they did and didn’t post.

With the news feed, there’s no such luck. The algorithm that drives it makes just as many editorial choices as the trending topic curators, but you can’t interview it to ask why. It will never be fired and decide to speak out about its decisions under the cloak of anonymity. Instead, it just sits there, day in day out, totally dictating the content seen by more than a billion users of the biggest social network in the world.

Perhaps because of that, the majority of Facebook users don’t even realise that the news feed is edited at all. A 2015 study suggested that more than 60% of Facebook users are entirely unaware of any algorithmic curation on Facebook at all: “They believed every single story from their friends and followed pages appeared in their news feed”, the authors wrote.

The news feed algorithm takes in so many signals when deciding what should be promoted and what should be buried that it’s likely the case that there is no one person at Facebook who can list them all. But we know some choices the algorithm makes: it promotes live video as much as possible, and pre-recorded video almost as heavily – although in both cases, only if the video is delivered through Facebook’s own platform.

It pushes articles that you spend a long time reading, as well as links posted by your closest friends, over the alternative. If you run a business page on the site, it will show your posts to a tiny fraction of people who’ve subscribed, and then ask for cash to show it to anyone else.

These decisions don’t feel outrageous, because Facebook sells them under the veneer of neutrality. Articles with a longer read time aren’t shown because Facebook made an editorial decision that you shouldn’t read short pieces; instead it’s because “the time people choose to spend reading or watching content they clicked on from news feed is an important signal that the story was interesting to them”. And so Facebook promotes stories with a high read time, because it wants the news feed to be full of “interesting” stories.

You could, of course, argue that the decision to focus on interesting stories, as opposed to important, or pleasing, or humorous ones is itself an editorial decision.

But that argument probably wouldn’t be very interesting. So no one would read it, because it wouldn’t show up on Facebook. Oh well.


Facebook launches facial recognition app in Europe (without facial recognition)

The social network wants you to share more pictures, and its new app Moments is how it’s going to encourage that – if it isn’t scuppered by data protection law

May 11, 2016

by Alex Hern

The Guardian

Almost a year after it came out in the US, Facebook is releasing its facial recognition-powered photo app Moments in Europe.

Except the new version won’t actually include any facial recognition technology, thanks to the company’s long-running fight with the Irish data protection commissioner over whether the technology is actually legal in the EU.

Launched in June, Moments is Facebook’s answer to dedicated photo management applications like Google Photos and Apple’s Photos. The app bundles pictures together by the event they’re taken at, and applies facial recognition technology to identify who’s in each picture.

Facebook takes the offering a step further than Apple or Google, by leveraging its social network: once you’ve created your “moments”, you can share them with other people at the same event, to ensure that they have the photos of them, and you have the photos of you. And, naturally, you can then post them to your wall with just a click, creating some new original content that Facebook so desperately needs.

The core idea is solid. As Facebook says: “It’s hard to get the photos your friends have taken of you, and everyone always insists on taking that same group shot with multiple phones to ensure they get a copy. Even if you do end up getting some of your friends’ photos, it’s difficult to keep them all organised in one place on your phone.”

But will the app work without facial recognition technology at its core? Rather than simply uploading an album and hitting sync, European users have to individually, manually, tag friends. Facebook helps a bit, by “clustering” pictures of the same person together (so you can tag all the photos of the groom at a wedding at once, say). That’s the most it can do while still complying with data protection regulations. It’s a laborious process, and one that isn’t much simpler than simply uploading the pictures publicly and letting friends tag themselves.

The big difference that remains is the ability to privately share pictures, though, and it’s one that cuts to the core of Facebook’s issues today. The company has to deal with a user-base increasingly aware of privacy issues, and can often be unwilling to post publicly where they would once share copiously. The ability to share images privately with others could reverse that trend.

Facebook would probably like to release the full version of Moments in Europe, but its longstanding issues with European privacy regulations prevent that. In 2011, for instance, Germany ruled that Facebook’s “tag suggestions” feature, which applied facial recognition to public pictures, violated privacy laws and offered potential for “considerable abuse”. In 2012, Irish data protection regulators reiterated that tag suggestions weren’t fit for Europe.

In that, the regulators are currently looking fairly prescient. Last month, a Russian photographer showed just how powerful facial recognition can be for invading privacy, tracking down multiple people on “Russia’s Facebook”, VKontake, using just a picture taken on the St Petersburg metro and a site called FindFace.

“Nobody noticed that I photographed them, but I used a simple camera and I didn’t try to hide it,” the photographer, said Yegor Tsvetkov.

“One girl in the project texted me after the publication and said that it was a bad feeling when she saw herself … but she fully understood my idea.”


The middle class is shrinking just about everywhere in America

May 11, 2016

by Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham

The Washington Post

The great shrinking of the middle class that has captured the attention of the nation is not only playing out in troubled regions like the Rust Belt, Appalachia and the Deep South, but in just about every metropolitan area in America, according to a major new analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Pew reported in December that a clear majority of American adults no longer live in the middle class, a demographic reality shaped by decades of widening inequality, declining industry and the erosion of financial stability and family-wage jobs. But while much of the attention has focused on communities hardest hit by economic declines, the new Pew data, based on metro-level income data since 2000, show that middle-class stagnation is a far broader phenomenon.

The share of adults living in middle-income households has also dwindled in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Denver. It’s fallen in smaller Midwestern metros where the middle class has long made up an overwhelming majority of the population. It’s withering in coastal tech hubs, in military towns, in college communities, in Sun Belt cities.

The decline of the American middle class is “a pervasive local phenomenon,” according to Pew, which analyzed census and American Community Survey data in 229 metros across the country, encompassing about three-quarters of the U.S. population. In 203 of those metros, the share of adults in middle-income households fell from 2000 to 2014.

Pew defines middle-income households here as those making between two-thirds and twice the national median household income. For a three-person household in 2014, that means an income between about $42,000 and $125,000.  The fact that median incomes have declined over this same time frame also means that the bar to get into the middle class is actually lower now than it was in 2000. Pew’s metro-level data are also adjusted for household size and local cost of living.

The shrinking middle class is in part a reflection of rising income inequality in America, and of the same underlying and uneven economic forces that have fueled the rise of Donald Trump. And as the middle class has been shrinking, median incomes have fallen, too. In 190 of these 229 metros, the median income dropped over this same time

As the middle class has shrunk, Pew points out, the lower and upper classes in America have grown in size and significance. In some metros, the middle class is dwindling primarily because families are falling out of it and into the lower class. The share of households in this bottom tier has skyrocketed since 2000, for instance, in Goldbsoro, North Carolina, a railroad junction with an Air Force base.

But in other places, the shrinking middle class is actually a sign of economic gains, as more people who were once middle class have joined the ranks at the top. This has been the case in booming energy hubs like Midland, Texas.

In the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, the share of adults living in lower-income households has actually held steady over this time. The households disappearing from the middle-class, rather, are reflected in the growing numbers at the top (this does not mean, though, that the same middle-class families are necessarily becoming wealthier; changes in the population makeup of the region may also reflect who moves away from the area and who migrates in).

In total, 172 of these 229 metros saw a growing share of households in the upper-income tier. About as many — 160 — saw a growing share at the bottom. And 108 experienced both: The middle class shrank as the ranks of both the poor and the rich grew.

The places with greatest net economic losses — where the shrinking middle-class has meant a sizable influx of households among the poor — are metro areas that have historically relied heavily on manufacturing, like Detroit, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Springfield, Ohio.

In only about a quarter of all of these metros does the middle class make up less than a majority of the adult population today. But the largest metros in the country fall into this group, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington. In each of these metros, the middle class is relatively small because the upper-class share of the population is larger than average.

These same metros also tend to have wider income inequality, reflecting the broad spectrum of jobs in industries from the low-paying service sector to finance and biotech. As a result, not surprisingly, Pew’s data shows that metros with greater income inequality tend to have smaller middle classes. When the income distribution is narrower, on the other hand, more people are likely to be clustered in that middle tier between $42,000 and $125,000.


Turkey’s President Erdogan Fails to Silence German Publisher

May 10, 2016

by Melissa Eddy

The New York Times

BERLIN — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey tried again to silence one of his German critics, but failed this time when a court denied his request on Tuesday to block an open letter by the head of one of Germany’s most powerful media companies expressing support for a comedian who lampooned the Turkish leader.

The court’s decision to refuse Mr. Erdogan an injunction against the letter by Mathias Döpfner, the chief executive of the media firm Axel Springer, is the latest round in a fight over free expression in Germany that began when the comedian, Jan Böhmermann, read on television a crude, satirical poem he has said was intended to insult Mr. Erdogan.

The Turkish president, who has jailed critics and cracked down on free speech in his own country, took the comedian’s bait: He seized upon a little-known German law, dating from 1871, to press charges against Mr. Böhmermann.

Although Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed the proceedings to go ahead, German citizens responded with outrage at what they saw as an attempt by a foreign leader to stifle freedom of expression in their country.

Mr. Döpfner wrote an open letter to Mr. Böhmermann on April 10 that said he was willing to defend the comedian’s every word in the name of Germany’s tradition of “freedom of expression, art and satire.”

That public show of support for one of Mr. Erdogan’s critics further angered the Turkish leader, who this week won a preliminary injunction against the filmmaker Uwe Boll, for criticizing Mr. Erdogan in a video posted online.

Ralf Höcker, a lawyer representing Mr. Erdogan in Germany, said he had a mandate to seek an injunction against anyone who publicly insults the Turkish president, to try to stop what he described as an “avalanche” of scornful abuse.

“Everyone thinks they are allowed to insult Mr. Erdogan in any way that they want because they do not find him very sympathetic,” Mr. Höcker said. “But this is not about sympathy, it is about human dignity, namely to protect it.”

In its ruling on Tuesday, the Cologne state court upheld Mr. Döpfner’s right to freedom of expression, saying his comments were “a contribution to building public opinion in a controversial debate.”

His staunch letter in support of Mr. Böhmermann’s satire drew widespread attention, in part because Axel Springer, the media company led by Mr. Döpfner, has a conservative reputation.

Prosecutors in Mainz are still investigating whether to formally open proceedings against Mr. Böhmermann on grounds that he offended a foreign leader with his satirical poem.

Mr. Böhmermann’s show, which was taken off the air after the sketch that ignited the diplomatic spat, is to return to German public television later this week. But the comedian has said he will avoid addressing Turkey in his repertoire for the time being.

Ms. Merkel has defended her decision to allow the judiciary to decide where the boundary between freedom of expression and insult lies in the case of Mr. Böhmermann’s comedy.

The chancellor has been the chief proponent of a European Union deal with Turkey that has helped stem the number of migrants reaching Europe in exchange for billions of dollars in aid and other concessions to Turkey, including looser visa restrictions for the country’s citizens.

But Mr. Erdogan has used his new leverage to pursue his critics in Europe, extending a crackdown at home that has targeted more than 1,800 opponents, including journalists, for insulting him.

Edda Fels, a spokeswoman for Axel Springer, said the company considered Mr. Erdogan’s motion “baseless.”

Mr. Erdogan has the right to challenge the ruling and Mr. Höcker, his lawyer, said he would recommend that his client appeal to a higher court.

“Our intention is to stop this unbridled online lynch mob,” Mr. Höcker said. “Everyone has lost all restraint and believes they can do as they please. We intend to stop this.”


3 Killed, 45 Wounded in Turkey Car Bombing Blamed on Kurds

May 10, 2016

by Dominique Soguel and Suzan Fraser,

Associated Press

Istanbul-A car bomb on Tuesday struck a police vehicle that was carrying officers escorting seven recently detained Kurdish militants in the mainly-Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, killing three people and wounding 45 others, officials said.

No group had claimed responsibility for the attack in Diyarbakir’s Baglar neighborhood, but the state-run Anadolu Agency said it was carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as the bus was passing by.

The police vehicle was transporting nine police officers taking the seven suspected PKK militants for medical checks. The three victims were seriously wounded in the attack and later died in hospital, the Diyarbakir governor’s office said in a statement.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the dead included any of the PKK suspects or police officers.

A total of 12 police officers and 33 civilians were wounded in the attack, including people who were passing by or sitting at a nearby open-air cafe, the statement said.

The seven PKK suspects inside the vehicle were detained for allegedly seizing a factory in Diyarbakir, the governor’s office said, without providing details.

Kurdish rebels have been targeting police and military targets since July, when a fragile peace process collapsed.

Earlier Tuesday, two police officers were killed while attempting to defuse a roadside bomb in the eastern province of Van, Anadolu said.

The agency also blamed those deaths on the PKK. Ankara and its allies consider the group a terrorist organization, and Anadolu said air-backed operations were underway to hunt down Kurdish rebels in Van.

The PKK, which wants greater autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds, has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state in a conflict that has claimed 40,000 lives.

PKK-linked rebels have staged multiple bomb attacks against Turkish police and troops, which in turn have carried out tank-backed security operations in flashpoint areas.


Kurdish Repression in Turkey

by Dominique Callimanopulos

Cultural Survival

The Kurds, a group of approximately 18 million people, are the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East. Occupying a region of 500,000 square miles in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and the USSR, the Kurds are one of the most persecuted minorities of our time. Nowhere is their future more threatened than in Turkey where Kurds are one quarter of the population. Since World War I, Kurds in Turkey have been the victims of persistent assaults on their ethnic, cultural, religious identity and economic and political status by successive Turkish governments.

With the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the allies created the modern Middle-East. And while the Treaty of Sevres provided for an independent Kurdistan, it was never ratified. In 1923 the treaty of Lausanne created the modern states of Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, but Kurdistan was ignored. During Turkey’s war for independence, Turkish leaders, promised Kurds a Turkish-Kurdish federated state in return for their assistance in the war. After independence was achieved, however, they ignored the bargain they had made.

Months after the declaration of a Turkish republic, Ankara, under the pretext of creating an “indivisible nation,” adopted an ideology aimed at eliminating, both physically and culturally, non-Turkish elements within the Republic. These “elements” were primarily Kurdish and Armenian.

A 1924 mandate forbade Kurdish schools, organizations and publications. Even the words “Kurd” and “Kurdistan” were outlawed, making any written or spoken acknowledgement of their existence illegal.

According to Association France-Kurdistan, between 1925 and 1939, 1.5 million Kurds, a third of the population, were deported and massacred.

In 1930 the Turkish Minister of Justice declared, I won’t hide my feelings. The Turk is the only lord, the only master of this country. Those who are not of pure Turkish origin will have only one right in Turkey: the right to be servants and slaves.

While Kurdish persecution became more selective during World War II, largely restricted to Kurdish intellectuals, the overall policy in Turkey has remained consistent. This stranglehold is reflected in Kurdish literature. In this century only about a dozen works have been produced in Kurdish. The authors have usually received prison sentences.

Evidence indicates that Kurdish provinces in Turkey are deliberately and consistently underdeveloped. From 1968 to 1975, 10.7 billion lira were invested in East Anatolia and the Southeast, areas densely populated by Kurds. This represents 2.4 percent of national investment compared to 31.1 percent in Marmara, 20.8 percent in the Agean region and 16.4 percent in the Mediterranean area. National per capita investment was 266 lira in 1970, but only 148 provinces.

Under Turkey’s present military regime, Kurds are hard hit by the policies of a junta fearful of political opposition. Since 1980 the Eastern and Southeastern provinces have reportedly been subjected to at least five military maneuvers aimed at terrorizing Kurds. The New York Times has reported that in the nine months that followed the military takeover 122,609 people were allegedly taken into custody. Of 40,386 formally charged, the death penalty was sought for 900. Of 70,000 current political detainees, more than 20,000 are reportedly Kurdish, and 90 percent of these are reputed to have been peaceful protestors for Kurdish cultural rights. To date, arrests in Kurdish provinces have totalled 81,634. Of these, 378 have allegedly been tortured to death, and 374 have been killed in night-time attacks.

The most frequent legal justification for these arrests are Articles 141 and 142 of the Turkish penal code that “protect the economic institutions and social foundations of the nation” and prescribe 5-15 years imprisonment for those “seeking to destroy the political and legal order of the state.”

Among the non-Kurds arrested is Ismail Beshikchi, an author and sociologist who has been repeatedly imprisoned for his criticism of official policy. Previously arrested for refuting the official claim that Turks had spawned all the world’s great civilizations, Beshikchi is currently in jail for attacking Turkish “Kemalism,” an ideology he described as racist and colonialist, one intended to subsume autonomous institutions – the media, syndicates, universities and schools – under its rubric.

Kurdish insignia are outlawed. In Diyarbakir 12 persons were arrested for selling Kurdish music cassettes. The owners of shops with Kurdish names – HEVAL (comrade) or WELAT (homeland) – were threatened and ordered to change the signs within the hour. One tailor who refused to comply was thrown into prison for two days and his sign was altered.

It is illegal for parents to give children Kurdish names; they must select Turkish names or face punishment.

In a raid on the village of Doganbey, the gendarmerie, whose garrison commander was quoted as saying, “We shall exterminate all Kurds,” tortured the imam (holy man) of the village for several hours. The inhabitants were then forced to speak Turkish. The women, who did not speak Turkish, however, could not understand the commands. When the village guard translated them into Kurdish he was beaten. When he tried to explain that he had to translate because the women spoke no Turkish, the commander ordered the villagers tortured because they did not speak Turkish.

Such tactics have not been restricted to interaction between Kurds and Turks. Two members of a French, human rights organization (Medecins Sans Frontiéres), Luc Devineau and Marie-Annick Lanternier, were travelling through Turkey to Iran when they were arrested for possessing a cassette of Kurdish music. They were also carrying a brochure in French about Kurds. They were sentenced by military tribunal to 51/2 months in prison. German tourists have also been arrested for “making Kurdish propaganda.” One tourist was recently tortured and expelled after being held for 10 days without being able to contact his embassy.

Turkey is not content to persecute Kurds within its borders. In 1980 the Turkish Embassy in Denmark ordered the Union of Workers from Turkey to discontinue a Kurdish language course organized by the Copenhagen Evening School. The course was aimed at incorporating Kurdish in the home language teaching program in Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and West-German schools. The Embassy Councillor asked, “Are you not Turkish citizens? You must not teach Kurdish to Kurdish children.”

Turkey is in clear violation of the UN declaration of human rights and the European convention of Human rights. As both a member of the UN and the Council of Europe, Turkey is supposed to respect the fundamental human rights of its minorities.

The Council of Europe has condemned Turkey for its “suppression of political parties and organizations, imprisonment and torture of political dissidents” and its judiciary processes that “guarantee no protection for the accused.” The Council has demanded that Turkey reinstate democratic institutions, including the right to free speech and safeguards for religious minorities and that it release political prisoners and permit a Red Cross examination of prison conditions.

Turkey’s junta justifies its policies as being essential for the restoration of democracy. The International Commission of Jurists responds, “It is difficult to understand why in a country where terrorists have always been a minority compared with the great mass of population…all public freedoms should have been restricted…the fact that this action has been taken by an authority that wishes to save democracy constitutes a contradiction in the official attitude.”

Moreover, the constitutional and statutory provisions reportedly being considered by the National Security Council do not leave much hope for the eventuality of a restored democracy. Revisions now being proposed would increase Executive power in the government, and diminish the independence of the judiciary. A new “State Security Court,” answerable only to the Executive, would have virtually unchecked power over political cases, would ban political activities of labor unions and professional associations and eliminate all political organizations except the two major centrist parties.

Given present attitudes towards political opposition within Turkey, international opinion may be the only effective lever against the incorporation of such measures in the new constitution – measures that not only annihilate opposition but also render the ethnocide of Kurds in Turkey ever more efficient.

The persecution of Kurds is without contemporary equivalent in Europe, yet is condoned by the silence of Western powers who continue to furnish Turkey with military and economic aid. The West may well fulfill the role hypothetically cast for it by Turan Gunes, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, at a recent session of the Council of Europe, as he responded to the issue of Kurdish independence:

Let me tell you, with the tolerance of just a few countries like West Germany, France and England, we will have no problem liquidating millions of Kurds.


Almost two thirds of Germans believe Islam ‘does not belong in Germany,’ poll finds

A survey has found that 60 percent of Germans believe Islam “does not belong in Germany.” The figures come amid growing skepticism towards the religion, particularly among center-right and right-wing German parties.

May 12, 2016


The poll, published on Thursday, found that 34 percent of respondents believe Islam is a part of Germany, which has a population of between 2.1 million and 4 million Muslims.

The figures show a significant shift in public opinion since 2010, when the then German President Christian Wulff said in a speech that Islam is part of Germany. At the time, 49 percent of respondents agreed with the president while 47 percent rejected his statement.

Reservations over Islam were also more apparent among older Germans, with 71 percent of those aged over 64 stating that Islam does not belong to Germany. In contrast, almost half of Germans aged between 18 and 34 said that Islam does belong there.

Concerns over influence of Islam

The survey, carried out by Infratest dimap for German public broadcaster WDR, comes amid growing skepticism towards Islam in Germany, particularly among supporters of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) and free-market Free Democratic Party (FDP).

According to the poll, just over three quarters of surveyed FDP supporters believed that Islam does not belong in Germany. Among AfD supporters, figures were even higher, coming in at 94 percent.

A majority of 58 percent of Germans were also found to believe that the country’s established parties – the Christian Democrats (CDU), the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian social Union (CSU), the Social Democrats, (SPD), the Greens, the Left, and the FDP – are failing to take concerns about radical Islam seriously enough.

These are concerns the AfD has drawn upon in recent months, much to its advantage. The right-wing populist party is now represented in eight of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. At the national level, the AfD has made strong gains, with opinion polls suggesting that they now hold between 12 percent and 14 percent of the vote.

Half of Germans also said they were concerned about the influence of Islam in Germany because of the number of refugees entering the country, the poll found. Germany took in some 1.1 million migrants in 2015 – the largest influx since the Second World War.

The number of arrivals has significantly decreased in recent months, however, largely due to the closure of the Balkan migrant route in early March, which left thousands of refugees stranded in Greece.

Fear of a terrorist attack by Islamist extremists in Germany also remains relatively high, with 72 percent of respondents fearing such an attack. A quarter of Germans didn’t have this fear, the poll found.

The Infratest dimap representative survey was carried out on May 2 and 3, with around 1,000 participants.


Crimean energy bridge completed from mainland Russia

May 12, 2016


Work on the fourth and final power line to deliver electricity from mainland Russia to the Crimean peninsula has been completed.

President Putin oversaw the launch of the energy bridge by video link from the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

We managed to break through the energy blockade of Crimea within a short period of time, and we will likewise do away with any other blockade against Russia, should someone wish to test us again,” said the president addressing workers on the power line.

The energy bridge connects the mainland with the peninsula with a series of undersea cables running across the Kerch Strait. The new line will provide Crimea with total power supply of 800 megawatts a day that aims to satisfy the peninsula’s demand combined with its own capacity. The overall cost of the construction totaled 47.3 billion rubles ($720 million).

Crimea will have enough electricity to meet the holiday season, when tourists significantly boost the population and provide the peninsula with a major source of revenue, according to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

Last November, local authorities had to declare a state of emergency after all four Ukrainian power lines providing electricity to the peninsula were blown up, leaving Crimea in total blackout.


Washington’s Military Addiction

And The Ruins Still to Come

by Tom Engelhardt


There are the news stories that genuinely surprise you, and then there are the ones that you could write in your sleep before they happen. Let me concoct an example for you:

“Top American and European military leaders are weighing options to step up the fight against the Islamic State in the Mideast, including possibly sending more U.S. forces into Iraq, Syria, and Libya, just as Washington confirmed the second American combat casualty in Iraq in as many months.”

Oh wait, that was actually the lead sentence in a May 3rd Washington Times piece by Carlo Muñoz.  Honestly, though, it could have been written anytime in the last few months by just about anyone paying any attention whatsoever, and it surely will prove reusable in the months to come (with casualty figures altered, of course).  The sad truth is that across the Greater Middle East and expanding parts of Africa, a similar set of lines could be written ahead of time about the use of Special Operations forces, drones, advisers, whatever, as could the sorry results of making such moves in [add the name of your country of choice here].

Put another way, in a Washington that seems incapable of doing anything but worshiping at the temple of the U.S. military, global policymaking has become a remarkably mindless military-first process of repetition.  It’s as if, as problems built up in your life, you looked in the closet marked “solutions” and the only thing you could ever see was one hulking, over-armed soldier, whom you obsessively let loose, causing yet more damage.

How Much, How Many, How Often, and How Destructively

In Iraq and Syria, it’s been mission creep all the way.  The B-52s barely made it to the battle zone for the first time and were almost instantaneously in the air, attacking Islamic State militants.  U.S. firebases are built ever closer to the front lines.  The number of special ops forces continues to edge up.  American weapons flow in (ending up in god knows whose hands).  American trainers and advisers follow in ever increasing numbers, and those numbers are repeatedly fiddled with to deemphasize how many of them are actually there.  The private contractors begin to arrive in numbers never to be counted.  The local forces being trained or retrained have their usual problems in battle.  American troops and advisers who were never, never going to be “in combat” or “boots on the ground” themselves now have their boots distinctly on the ground in combat situations.  The first American casualties are dribbling in.  Meanwhile, conditions in tottering Iraq and the former nation of Syria grow ever murkier, more chaotic, and less amenable by the week to any solution American officials might care for.

And the response to all this in present-day Washington?

You know perfectly well what the sole imaginable response can be: sending in yet more weapons, boots, air power, special ops types, trainers, advisers, private contractors, drones, and funds to increasingly chaotic conflict zones across significant swaths of the planet.  Above all, there can be no serious thought, discussion, or debate about how such a militarized approach to our world might have contributed to, and continues to contribute to, the very problems it was meant to solve. Not in our nation’s capital, anyway.

The only questions to be argued about are how much, how many, how often, and how destructively.  In other words, the only “antiwar” position imaginable in Washington, where accusations of weakness or wimpishness are a dime a dozen and considered lethal to a political career, is how much less of more we can afford, militarily speaking, or how much more of somewhat less we can settle for when it comes to militarized death and destruction.  Never, of course, is a genuine version of less or a none-at-all option really on that “table” where, it’s said, all policy options are kept.

Think of this as Washington’s military addiction in action.  We’ve been watching it for almost 15 years without drawing any of the obvious conclusions.  And lest you imagine that “addiction” is just a figure of speech, it isn’t.  Washington’s attachment — financial, tactical, and strategic — to the U.S. military and its supposed solutions to more or less all problems in what used to be called “foreign policy” should by now be categorized as addictive.  Otherwise, how can you explain the last decade and a half in which no military action from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen to Libya worked out half-well in the long run (or even, often enough, in the short run), and yet the U.S. military remains the option of first, not last, resort in just about any imaginable situation?  All this in a vast region in which failed states are piling up, nations are disintegrating, terror insurgencies are spreading, humongous population upheavals are becoming the norm, and there are refugee flows of a sort not seen since significant parts of the planet were destroyed during World War II.

Either we’re talking addictive behavior or failure is the new success.

Keep in mind, for instance, that the president who came into office swearing he would end a disastrous war and occupation in Iraq is now overseeing a new war in an even wider region that includes Iraq, a country that is no longer quite a country, and Syria, a country that is now officially kaput.  Meanwhile, in the other war he inherited, Barack Obama almost immediately launched a military-backed “surge” of U.S. forces, the only real argument being over whether 40,000 (or even as many as 80,000) new U.S. troops would be sent into Afghanistan or, as the “antiwar” president finally decided, a mere 30,000 (which made him an absolute wimp to his opponents).  That was 2009.  Part of that surge involved an announcement that the withdrawal of American combat forces would begin in 2011.  Seven years later, that withdrawal has once again been halted in favor of what the military has taken to privately calling a “generational approach” — that is, U.S. forces remaining in Afghanistan into at least the 2020s.

The military term “withdrawal” may, however, still be appropriate even if the troops are staying in place.  After all, as with addicts of any sort, the military ones in Washington can’t go cold turkey without experiencing painful symptoms of withdrawal.  In American political culture, these manifest themselves in charges of “weakness” when it comes to “national security” that could prove devastating in the next election.  That’s why those running for office compete with one another in over-the-top descriptions of what they will do to enemies and terrorists (from acts of torture to carpet-bombing) and in even more over-the-top promises of “rebuilding” or “strengthening” what’s already the largest, most expensive military on the planet, a force better funded at present than those of at least the next seven nations combined.

Such promises, the bigger the better, are now a necessity if you happen to be a Republican candidate for president.  The Democrats have a lesser but similar set of options available, which is why even Bernie Sanders only calls for holding the Pentagon budget at its present staggering level or for the most modest of cuts, not for reducing it significantly.  And even when, for instance, the urge to rein in military expenses did sweep Washington as part of an overall urge to cut back government expenses, it only resulted in a half-secret slush fund or “war budget” that kept the goodies flowing in.

These should all be taken as symptoms of Washington’s military addiction and of what happens when the slightest signs of withdrawal set in.  The U.S. military is visibly the drug of choice in the American political arena and, as is only appropriate for the force that has, since 2002, funded, armed, and propped up the planet’s largest supplier of opium, once you’re hooked, there’s no shaking it.

Hawkish Washington

Recently, in the New York Times Magazine, journalist Mark Landler offered a political portrait entitled “How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk.”  He laid out just how the senator and later secretary of state remade herself as, essentially, a military groupie, fawning over commanders or former commanders ranging from then-General David Petraeus to Fox analyst and retired general Jack Keane; how, that is, she became a figure, even on the present political landscape, notable for her “appetite for military engagement abroad” (and as a consequence, well-defended against Republican charges of “weakness”).

There’s no reason, however, to pin the war-lover or “last true hawk” label on her alone, not in present-day Washington.  After all, just about everyone there wants a piece of the action.  During their primary season debates, for instance, a number of the Republican candidates spoke repeatedly about building up the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, while making that already growing force sound like a set of decrepit barges.

To offer another example, no presidential candidate these days could afford to reject the White House-run drone assassination program.  To be assassin-in-chief is now considered as much a part of the presidential job description as commander-in-chief, even though the drone program, like so many other militarized foreign policy operations these days, shows little sign of reining in terrorism despite the number of “bad guys” and terror “leaders” it kills (along with significant numbers of civilian bystanders).  To take Bernie Sanders as an example — because he’s as close to an antiwar candidate as you’ll find in the present election season — he recently put something like his stamp of approval on the White House drone assassination project and the “kill list” that goes with it.

Mind you, there is simply no compelling evidence that the usual military solutions have worked or are likely to work in any imaginable sense in the present conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa.  They have clearly, in fact, played a major role in the creation of the present disaster, and yet there is no place at all in our political system for genuinely antiwar figures (as there was in the Vietnam era, when a massive antiwar movement created space for such politics).  Antiwar opinions and activities have now been driven to the peripheries of the political system along with a word like, say, “peace,” which you will be hard-pressed to find, even rhetorically, in the language of “wartime” Washington.

The Look of “Victory”

If a history were to be written of how the U.S. military became Washington’s drug of choice, it would undoubtedly have to begin in the Cold War era.  It was, however, in the prolonged moment of triumphalism that followed the Soviet Union’s implosion in 1991 that the military gained its present position of unquestioned dominance.

In those days, people were still speculating about whether the country would reap a “peace dividend” from the end of the Cold War. If there was ever a moment when the diversion of money from the U.S. military and the national security state to domestic concerns might have seemed like a no-brainer, that was it.  After all, except for a couple of rickety “rogue states” like North Korea or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where exactly were this country’s enemies to be found?  And why should such a muscle-bound military continue to gobble up tax dollars at such a staggering rate in a reasonably peaceable world?

In the decade or so that followed, however, Washington’s dreams turned out to run in a very different direction — toward a “war dividend” at a moment when the U.S. had, by more or less universal agreement, become the planet’s “sole superpower.”  The crew who entered the White House with George W. Bush in a deeply contested election in 2000 had already been mainlining the military drug for years.  To them, this seemed a planet ripe for the taking.  When 9/11 hit, it loosed their dreams of conquest and control, and their faith in a military that they believed to be unstoppable.  Of course, given the previous century of successful anti-imperial and national independence movements, anyone should have known that, no matter the armaments at hand, resistance was an inescapable reality on Planet Earth.

Thanks to such predictable resistance, the drug-induced imperial dreamscape of the Busheviks would prove a fantasy of the first order, even if, in that post-9/11 moment, it passed for bedrock (neo)realism.  If you remember, the U.S. was to “take the gloves off” and release a military machine so beyond compare that nothing would be capable of standing in its path.  So the dream went, so the drug spoke.  Don’t forget that the greatest military blunder (and crime) of this century, the invasion of Iraq, wasn’t supposed to be the end of something, but merely its beginning.  With Iraq in hand and garrisoned, Washington was to take down Iran and sweep up what Russian property from the Cold War era still remained in the Middle East.  (Think: Syria.)

A decade and a half later, those dreams have been shattered, and yet the drug still courses through the bloodstream, the military bands play on, and the march to… well, who knows where… continues.  In a way, of course, we do know where (to the extent that we humans, with our limited sense of the future, can know anything).  In a way, we’ve already been shown a spectacle of what “victory” might look like once the Greater Middle East is finally “liberated” from the Islamic State.

The descriptions of one widely hailed victory over that brutal crew in Iraq — the liberation of the city of Ramadi by a U.S.-trained elite Iraqi counterterrorism force backed by artillery and American air power — are devastating.  Aided and abetted by Islamic State militants igniting or demolishing whole neighborhoods of that city, the look of Ramadi retaken should give us a grim sense of where the region is heading. Here’s how the Associated Press recently described the scene, four months after the city fell:

“This is what victory looks like…: in the once thriving Haji Ziad Square, not a single structure still stands. Turning in every direction yields a picture of devastation. A building that housed a pool hall and ice cream shops — reduced to rubble. A row of money changers and motorcycle repair garages — obliterated, a giant bomb crater in its place. The square’s Haji Ziad Restaurant, beloved for years by Ramadi residents for its grilled meats — flattened. The restaurant was so popular its owner built a larger, fancier branch across the street three years ago. That, too, is now a pile of concrete and twisted iron rods.

“The destruction extends to nearly every part of Ramadi, once home to 1 million people and now virtually empty.”

Keep in mind that, with oil prices still deeply depressed, Iraq essentially has no money to rebuild Ramadi or anyplace else. Now imagine, as such “victories” multiply, versions of similar devastation spreading across the region.

In other words, one likely end result of the thoroughly militarized process that began with the invasion of Iraq (if not of Afghanistan) is already visible: a region shattered and in ruins, filled with uprooted and impoverished people.  In such circumstances, it may not even matter if the Islamic State is defeated.  Just imagine what Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and still in the Islamic State’s hands, will be like if, someday, the long-promised offensive to liberate it is ever truly launched.  Now, try to imagine that movement itself destroyed, with its “capital,” Raqqa, turned into another set of ruins, and remind me: What exactly is likely to emerge from such a future nightmare?  Nothing, I suspect, that is likely to cheer up anyone in Washington.

And what should be done about all this?  You already know Washington’s solution — more of the same — and breaking such a cycle of addiction is difficult even under the best of circumstances.  Unfortunately, at the moment there is no force, no movement on the American scene that could open up space for such a possibility.  No matter who is elected president, you already know more or less what American “policy” is going to be.

But don’t bother to blame the politicians and national security nabobs in Washington for this.  They’re addicts.  They can’t help themselves.  What they need is rehab.  Instead, they continue to run our world.  Be suitably scared for the ruins still to come.

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