TBR News October 1, 2016

Oct 01 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C.  October 1, 2016: “Government-friendly information sites like Wikipedia claim that the US is the world’s leading producer of oil. In fact, they are number three with Russia in the lead. The US is, however, the leading user of oil and this accounts for the animosity towards Russia and a strong desire to get their hands on as much cheap oil as they can so as to satisfy the needs of the public. Diplomacy has never been a hallmark of American policy threats of violence backed up by military actions has. With Saudi Arabia soon running out of oil, the US has to find other sources for that vital fluid and since Russia is gaining a strong foothold in Middle Eastern areas that have it, either diplomacy takes the place of force or we give up driving entirely.”

Greedy guzzlers: US gasoline consumption higher than ever

October 1, 2016


August was the biggest month ever for US gasoline consumption, the latest data shows, with Americans using a staggering 9.7 million barrels per day. That’s more than a gallon per day for every US man, woman and child.

This new spike comes despite government pledges to cut down on gasoline consumption. In 2012, the government’s official source of energy data, the Energy Information Administration, projected that gasoline consumption would steadily decline by around 7 percent over the next 25 years. This view was shared by energy expert Daniel Yergin who also said in 2012, “The US has already reached what we can call`peak demand.”

Their forecasts appeared sound; US gasoline consumption had declined for five years in a row as of 2012, when it was a million barrels per day below its July 2007 peak.

President Obama also announced aggressive new fuel economy standards in 2012 that would push average vehicle fuel economy to 54 miles per gallon.

Fast forward to 2016, and US gasoline consumption has increased steadily four years in a row, hitting a new peak.

Lucas Davis, Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, constructed data using statistics from the US Department of Energy, and said this dramatic spike has important consequences for petroleum markets, the environment and the US economy.

Davis explained how this happened, “With incomes increasing again and low gasoline prices, Americans are back to buying big cars and driving more miles than ever before.”

Davis pointed out that the slowdown in US gasoline consumption between 2007 and 2012 occurred during the worst global recession since World War II. The National Bureau of Economic Research dates the Great Recession as beginning December 2007, exactly at the beginning of the slowdown in gasoline consumption.

Davis said that economists have shown through studies that when people have more to spend, gasoline consumption goes up. During the Great Recession, Americans traded in their vehicles for more fuel-efficient models, and drove fewer miles. But now, with incomes on the rise, Americans are buying bigger vehicles with bigger engines, and driving more total miles.

The other important explanation, Davis says is gasoline prices. During the first half of 2008, gasoline prices increased sharply. However, in the last few months of 2014, gasoline prices plummeted and it appears Americans have been on a gasoline buying frenzy ever since.

Another factor, is that last year was the biggest year ever for US vehicle sales, with trucks and SUVs leading the charge. With the average retail price for gas at $2.24 per gallon on August 29, 2016, the lowest Labor Day price in 12 years. No wonder Americans are driving more.

It’s predicted that Americans will drive 3.2 trillion miles in 2016, more miles than ever before. Why wouldn’t they? Gas is cheap!

World’s top oil producers

CNN Money

Millions of barrels per day during the first 3 months of 2016

Russia 10.5

Saudi Arabia 10

United States 9.2

Iraq 4.3

China 4.1

Canada 3.8

Iran 3.5

UAE 2.7

Kuwait 2.5

Venezuela 2.4

How a high-profile Texas sheriff is tied to a rogue Navy unit facing a criminal probe

September 30, 2016

by Craig Whitlock

Washington Post

Even among the colorful pantheon of Texas lawmen, Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West has seized his share of the limelight. In his 16-year career patrolling the West Texas outback, he has busted crooner Willie Nelson for pot, accused the Mexican army of invading U.S. territory and repeatedly ripped the federal government on television over border security.

Less well known are the country sheriff’s strange connections to a rogue Navy intelligence office at the Pentagon that has been under criminal investigation for the past three years.

The former director of the intelligence unit, David W. Landersman, a civilian, is facing federal conspiracy charges for allegedly orchestrating a mysterious scheme to equip Navy commandos with hundreds of untraceable AK-47 rifle silencers.

A new wrinkle in the case, however, has recently emerged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., where prosecutors have suggested that Navy officials from the intelligence unit also sought to funnel military equipment to rural Hudspeth County and set up a secret training base near the Mexican border.

Even more unusually, two of Landersman’s former subordinates have testified that when they were not working full time on intelligence matters at the Pentagon, they moonlighted 1,600 miles away as reserve deputy sheriffs in Hudspeth County, a desolate, Connecticut-size jurisdiction east of El Paso.

Also serving as deputies to Sheriff West were Landersman, his son, and the husband of one of the Navy intelligence officials, according to two Pentagon officials and others familiar with the case.

Why so many Pentagon officials and their relatives were working on the side as sheriff’s deputies in Texas has not been explained in court, where much of the evidence has been sealed to protect national security. What a training base would have been used for there is just as murky.

West, who was first elected as Hudspeth County sheriff in 2000, did not respond to several phone calls and emails seeking comment. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Hudspeth County is home to only 3,300 people but covers an enormous stretch of parched terrain in the Rio Grande basin. It is best known for a Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 10 where drug-sniffing dogs nab hundreds of motorists a year for carrying small amounts of marijuana.

Besides Nelson, other musical performers who have been arrested on drug charges while passing through Hudspeth County include Snoop Dogg, Fiona Apple and Nelly.

West, who has been described by NPR as “a stout, swaggering lawman” with a sign over his office that reads “Boss Hog,” has just 14 full-time deputies under his command. To compensate, he has sometimes recruited outsiders to provide extra muscle.

In 2011, he pinned a reserve deputy sheriff’s badge on Hollywood tough guy Steven Seagal. Insisting the move was not a publicity stunt, West predicted the action star would bring “a wealth of tactical experience and dedication as a peace officer” and teach martial arts to others in the department.

Exactly what the Pentagon officials did during their stints as deputy sheriffs in Hudspeth County remains unknown. But apparently the work could be dangerous.

Worried about threats from Mexican drug lords, West required his special deputies to carry a firearm for self-protection when they flew on commercial airlines, according to Sterling Gill, a civilian Navy official who served in Hudspeth County.

The policy even applied when they traveled outside Texas. At a court hearing this September, Gill testified she once carried a gun on a flight between Washington and San Francisco.

“My sheriff, who has had several threats against his life by the drug cartel and has a bounty on his head, insists that all of his deputies fly armed at all times,” Gill added, noting that she filled out the proper paperwork to carry a weapon on board.

Gill holds personal ties to Hudspeth County through the 32,000-acre Circle Ranch, a property owned by her in-laws. At the court hearing, she acknowledged that Landersman — her boss at the Pentagon and a fellow onetime Marine — had visited the ranch on at least four occasions.

In a brief line of questioning, prosecutors asked Gill whether she and Landersman had tried to set up a military training center at the ranch, along with new roads, an airstrip and $14,000 worth of radios from the Defense Department.

Gill said the radios were intended for the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office. She denied the other allegations without elaborating.

Gill has not been charged in the case. She testified that the Navy has suspended her indefinitely without pay and that she is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Her attorney, Christopher Man, said Justice Department officials have told him it is unlikely they will bring charges. He declined further comment.

The Texas connection represents another puzzle in an already enigmatic case involving the Navy intelligence unit.

Blandly known as the Office of Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration, the small agency has about 10 people on staff, mostly civilians, and is supposed to focus on policy matters. Somewhere along the way, however, it started to become more directly involved in secret missions, prompting one former senior Navy official to describe the group as “wannabe spook-cops.”

The office came under scrutiny in January 2013 when one of its civilian executives appeared at a Defense Intelligence Agency office in Arlington, Va., and asked for a badge that would allow him to carry weapons on military property, according to prosecutors.

The executive flashed a set of credentials stamped with the letters LEO — an acronym for “law enforcement officer” — even though he lacked police powers. That prompted federal agents to search his office at the Pentagon, where they found more suspicious badge materials.

The investigation broadened as NCIS agents uncovered evidence that the intelligence unit had arranged an unauthorized, sweetheart contract to purchase AK-47 silencers from Landersman’s brother, Mark, a California hot-rod mechanic.

Under terms of the deal, Mark Landersman produced a batch of 349 homemade, unmarked silencers in a machine shop and sold them to the Navy for $1.6 million, even though they cost only $10,000 in parts and labor to make.

After a federal trial, Mark Landersman was convicted of conspiracy in October 2014 along with a Navy intelligence official who helped arrange the contract, Lee M. Hall. Both men are appealing the verdicts.

The silencers’ intended use remains hazy. Many details are classified, but some court filings suggest they were part of a top-secret operation to help arm Navy SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed Osama bin Laden.

David Landersman, who was indicted after his brother’s conviction, has pleaded not guilty. His attorney has argued that the intelligence-unit director was kept in the dark about the contract between his brother and the Navy and that a subordinate orchestrated the deal without his knowledge.

Adding to the air of mystery have been revelations in court that Navy security officials burned and shredded piles of sensitive documents shortly after The Washington Post first reported on the existence of the investigation in November 2013.

David Landersman’s attorneys have argued that the case against their client should be thrown out because the destroyed files would show that other Navy officials oversaw the silencer contract.

They have hinted that Navy officials also wanted to get rid of the documents because they contained other embarrassing information, including notes about sexual misconduct at the Pentagon and files related to a massive bribery investigation into the Navy’s 7th Fleet.

Richard Kent Ford, the Navy security officer who supervised the destruction of documents, has said that he was purging old files in accordance with Navy regulations. He originally testified in 2014 that he was unaware that Landersman, Gill and others from the intelligence unit were under investigation or that there had been news coverage of the case.

At a court hearing this September, however, Landersman’s attorneys confronted Ford with an email Ford had written alerting several Navy officials to The Post’s front-page article shortly before he oversaw the elimination of the files.

“He lied to this court straight up,” said Stephen M. Ryan, one of Landersman’s defense lawyers, adding that Navy officials had demonstrated “more than a whiff of bad intent” by destroying evidence.

Ford denied lying on the stand, saying he had forgotten about The Post’s coverage. Records from a separate personnel hearing, however, show that the Navy booted Ford from his job after concluding he was “not truthful” in his original testimony in the silencer case.

Justice Department officials said that Navy security officers destroyed the documents without their knowledge. They also argued that the files were not relevant to the case.

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema is scheduled to rule whether to dismiss the charges against Landersman or proceed to trial. “It’s certainly a messier-than-normal case,” she said at a hearing.

DEA’s Army of 18,000 Informants Pocketed $237 Million Over Five Years

September 30, 2016

by Ryan Devereaux

The Intercept

It’s no secret that the Drug Enforcement Administration relies heavily on an army of confidential sources — men and women compelled, coerced, or enticed to share information with law enforcement, sometimes to alleviate their own legal troubles, sometimes for cash.

Precisely how those relationships play out, however, is often shrouded in secrecy.

A recently published audit by the Department of Justice has now offered a startling glimpse behind the scenes of those operations, revealing a world in which hundreds of millions of dollars have been doled out to thousands of informants over the last five years. Those informants include package delivery personnel, bus company employees, and Transportation Security Administration agents moonlighting as drug war spies — all operating with abysmal oversight and scant evidence of return on investment.

Published Thursday by the DOJ’s Inspector General, the audit reports that from 2010 to 2015, the DEA boasted more than “18,000 active confidential sources assigned to its domestic offices, with over 9,000 of those sources receiving approximately $237 million in payments for information or services they provided.” By comparison, the FBI is said to maintain a roster of some 15,000 informants.

Exactly how useful the DEA’s sources are is unclear — even, apparently, to the DEA itself.

“Because DEA’s files do not detail the universe of information provided by its sources, it is unable to examine their reliability and whether they frequently or rarely provide useful information, or whether the information DEA agents acted upon resulted in identifying individuals involved in illegal activity or instead caused DEA to regularly approach innocent civilians for questioning,” the audit noted.

“We are deeply concerned about this inability to assess source reliability, which seriously impairs DEA’s ability to oversee and manage the activity of these sources and the Confidential Source Program overall.”

Built on 50 interviews with DEA and DOJ officials, the report examined data from nine field site locations, as well as the agency’s Office of Special Intelligence and its Special Operations Division.

So-called limited-use informants, the audit found, are among the highest earners in the DEA’s ecosystem of sources, with 477 such informants earning an estimated $26.8 million during the period the DOJ examined — an average of about $56,000 per source.

Ostensibly, limited-use sources are “tipsters” who require the lowest level of supervision and operate independent of law enforcement direction. In reality, the DOJ reports, these sources have frequently worked hand in hand with the DEA, often for many years, sometimes for decades, unbeknownst to their employers. Many are cultivated by DEA interdiction units, which typically target “employees in the travel and parcel industries with access to passenger information or private facilities,” who are then “paid to conduct searches on proprietary databases, or access packages shipped through private companies, to provide traveler and package information to the DEA to assist in interdiction activities.”

The audit identified at least 33 DEA sources working at Amtrak, including train attendants and ticket agents, who collectively were paid more than $1.4 million over four years. On a daily basis, these sources would provide the DEA with printouts of passenger manifests and other information, allowing special agents to conduct background checks or brief interviews based on that information. In reviewing the DEA’s relationship to its well-paid Amtrak sources, the DOJ determined the information the sources dug up could have been provided by Amtrak authorities to the DEA at no cost to the federal government — DEA officials claimed that going through the proper channels to obtain the information was too time consuming. In one case, the DOJ identified an Amtrak employee who had worked as a DEA informant for 20 years, earning $962,615 for providing information.

In a statement to The Intercept, Amtrak said it “participates in a joint task force with the DEA to share intelligence about suspected criminal behavior … at no cost to the federal government.”

“The DEA violated federal regulations by selectively approaching and paying Amtrak employees for information that the DEA would have received for free,” the company said of the DOJ audit. “Amtrak does not tolerate fraud, waste, abuse or any behavior inconsistent with our company values and standards of conduct. Our employees are expressly prohibited from sharing information for personal gain.”

The DOJ also found at least eight TSA employees who had secretly worked as DEA informants, marking the extension of a practice the Inspector General had first flagged as a problem earlier this year. Security screeners were used to “identify and provide the DEA with information pertaining to suspicious passengers carrying large sums of money that were identified during the course of the sources’ TSA duties,” the audit noted. “The OIG’s investigation found that registering a TSA security screener as a confidential source violated DEA policy, which precludes registering as a confidential source ‘employees of U.S. law enforcement agencies who are working solely in their official capacity with DEA.’”

DEA informants were also found working in the commercial airline industry — “because they had access to corporate airline databases containing detailed passenger information” — and for private intercity bus companies. In particular, the DOJ focused on DEA informants in the parcel and packing industry, noting that these sources were attractive to the agency “because they had access to company databases, access to parcels en route, or authority to administratively open parcels without a search warrant, which increases the potential for identifying suspicious parcels.”

In one case, the DOJ found a parcel company employee who had worked for the DEA for 12 years, earning more than $1 million. Over the course of the source’s secret employment for the agency, the individual intercepted more than 180 parcels, which were regularly forwarded on to the DEA. No drugs were ever found.

The DOJ cited numerous problems with DEA’s limited-use sources, including the agency’s payment to other government or quasi-government employees to act as its eyes and ears outside the official structures of intergovernmental cooperation. In addition to raising the prospect of widespread Fourth Amendment violations, the audit noted that in the case of the TSA, employees are already required by law to share information of suspected criminal activity with law enforcement, “therefore the DEA agreed to pay for information that the screener was already obligated to provide.”

The TSA did not respond to a request for comment.

The audit also describes tens of millions of dollars paid to hundreds of sources whose status was “deactivated” by the DEA, meaning their relationship to law enforcement was meant to be cut off because they had an arrest warrant or had committed a serious offense. In one case, a source who was deactivated for providing false testimony in trials and depositions was reactivated by senior DEA officials, earning more than $400,000 over five years before being terminated again for providing false statements to a prosecutor.

While the DEA’s secretive Intelligence Division was unable to provide a list of its payments to sources, the IG’s office estimated that “during the five-year period of our review, the Intelligence Division paid more than $30 million to sources who provided narcotics-related intelligence and contributed to law enforcement operations, $25 million of which went to just nine sources.”

“The report is certainly pretty damning,” said Sean Dunagan, a former DEA intelligence analyst, in an email to The Intercept. Dunagan, who is now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization seeking to end the war on drugs, highlighted the audit’s focus on the DEA’s use of so-called sub-sources — essentially informants working under other known DEA informants — as a major area of concern.

According to the audit, “The DEA has no controls, policies, or procedures for interactions with these ‘sub-sources.’” Though his work was focused abroad, in Mexico, Dunagan said, “The use of sub-sources is very sketchy” and offers the DEA “a workaround that leaves no room for oversight.”

Reacting to the DOJ’s findings, Michael German, a fellow at New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice, told The Intercept, “If the policies around domestic sources are this loose, I’d be very concerned about what’s happening overseas.” (While the IG audit was limited to the DEA’s domestic operations, the agency indeed maintains a significant presence abroad, often working closely with other members of the intelligence community on secretive programs and initiatives — in 2014, The Intercept revealed the DEA’s involvement in a sweeping top-secret NSA program aimed at collecting the content of every cellphone call made in the Bahamas.)

German, who spent 16 years in federal law enforcement, including as an undercover special agent with the FBI, said he found it “surprising to see a report like this in 2016″ given the instances of federal agencies coming under criticism for their use of informants in recent years. “So many other agencies have been through such public criticism over those activities you’d think [the DEA] would have curbed that long before this IG report came out.”

The DEA did not respond to a request for comment.

The US is your know-it-all friend who should just keep his mouth shut

September 29, 2016

by Stephen Kinzer

Boston Globe

When makers of American foreign policy dream of an ideal world, they fixate on one word: primacy. It used to be called “full-spectrum dominance.” On the street, it comes out as “Don’t even think about it.” Tough guys in Western movies put it differently: “This town ain’t big enough for both of us.”

However it is phrased, “primacy” is the view that the United States rules and all must accept our power. It is the new buzz word in Washington. Nothing about the idea, though, is new. The drive for global primacy is what sunk us into Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all of our other overseas disasters. This pernicious doctrine — now summed up in a single word — has sapped American power and palpably weakened the United States. Nonetheless, it is widely accepted in the corridors of American power. That guarantees future failures on the scale of those that have already cost us dearly in blood and treasure.

Primacy is the demon spawn of “exceptionalism.” It is based on the belief that the United States is the “indispensable nation,” the only force standing between civilization and barbarism. Wherever there is conflict or trouble or upheaval in the world — and even where there is none — the pursuit of primacy requires that the United States intervene. This doctrine holds that no problem in the world can be solved without American guidance. It ignores overwhelming realities. The solutions we propose are often impractical because they are based mainly on what is good for the United States. Affected nations and peoples reject them. Our visionary projects — we will liberate millions, show them the benefits of free enterprise, and bring them under our benevolent wing — collapse amid unimaginable human suffering. Just as bad, at least from the perspective of an American, they undermine our security, turn entire regions against us, and degrade our national life by absorbing resources we need for schools, urban reconstruction, and other projects that, unlike foreign wars, truly contribute to our national strength.

Primacy assumes that there is only one good way to live and Americans have found it. It tells us that countries willing to submit to our power are friends, and the others are enemies. Worst of all, it means that “enemy” countries cannot be tolerated or allowed to survive while they navigate their path through history. They must be crushed — or at least made to realize that rejecting American power is a recipe for trouble.

This would be a dangerous policy in a world the United States dominated. It is even more self-defeating in today’s multipolar world. Promoters of the primacy idea believe that we know what the world needs better than the world itself knows. More than a century ago, President McKinley declared that invading the Philippines was a good idea even though Filipinos opposed it. “Did we need their consent to perform a great act for humanity?” he asked. “We had it in every aspiration of their minds, in every hope of their hearts.” This same precept guides our foreign policy today. It tells us that although ignorant foreigners may believe they don’t want our intervention, it is actually good for them. We are puzzled when they don’t agree — and take their disagreement as further proof of their backwardness and their need for our guidance.

Today the United States is telling East Asian countries that they should not seek compromises with China but defy China and reject its influence. In Europe, we are angry that Germany, France, Italy, and other countries want to strike a conciliatory deal with Russia; we want them to adopt our policy of confrontation. Meanwhile, the dictator of Kazakhstan just died! Nigeria is facing an insurgency! Afghanistan has made a deal with a longtime terrorist! Hungary is succumbing to authoritarian rule! Bolivia may legalize cocaine! To many in Washington, every day’s news brings the same question: How should the United States “manage” these crises?

The obvious answer is that we should not manage them at all. People in other countries are different from us. They are formed by their own histories and traditions. They resolve problems differently. Most prefer a “bad” solution of their own to a “good” one imposed from far away. We can offer to help them, but when we insist on telling them what to do, we push them away and create new enemies.

Exaggerating threats to the United States and downplaying the high cost of reckless intervention have become the daily bread of countless lobbyists, pundits, and politicians. Many would be out of work if we accepted the reality that our country is strong and safe. In the gloriously isolated Washington hothouse, there is no penalty for failure. We have forgotten the disastrous miscalculations of those who assured us that American bombs would bring stable prosperity to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. They remain at the heart of our foreign policy establishment and are still taken seriously when they insist that the United States must pursue primacy everywhere in the world.

The impulse that has drawn the United States into foreign wars over the last 120 years now has a new name. It is just as dangerous as ever. The pursuit of primacy is the pursuit of our own slow and increasingly violent decline. America becomes stronger when we meet our challenges at home and respect the independence of others, not when we try to rule the world.

Turkey pulls plug on 20 radio, TV channels in post-coup emergency decree

September 30, 2016

by Ayla Jean Yackley


ISTANBUL-Turkey has ordered the closure of 20 television and radio stations, including one that airs children’s programs, on charges they spread “terrorist propaganda”, adding to fears that emergency rule is being used to stifle the media.

President Tayyip Erdogan has said he wants a three-month state of emergency, imposed after a failed coup attempt in July, to be prolonged past October so authorities can eradicate the threat posed by a religious movement blamed for the attempt, as well as Kurdish militants who have waged a 32-year insurgency.

The banned channels are owned or operated by Kurds or the Alevi religious minority, according to Hamza Aktan, news editor at IMC TV, a news broadcaster slated for closure. He cited a copy of the decision obtained by his channel, which was based on powers given the government in a decree issued in July.

This has nothing to do with the coup. It is an effort to silence the last independent media covering the Kurdish issue and violations committed by the state,” Aktan told Reuters.

IMC has aired reports looking at security forces’ conduct during 14 months of military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has killed thousands.

Among the 12 shuttered television channels are Govend TV, which plays folk music, and Zarok TV, which airs Kurdish-language children’s cartoons. The decision also shut 11 radio stations for harming national security, Aktan said.

“Turkey is targeting a wide swath of cultural and political expression by shuttering minority broadcasters,” Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists said. “When the government sees even children’s programming as a threat to national security, it is clearly abusing its emergency powers.”


An official at the Radio and Television Supreme Council, the state watchdog, confirmed 20 stations were being closed.

Erdogan argues the state of emergency is helping authorities swiftly root out supporters of the military uprising by bypassing parliament to enact laws and suspend rights.

Turkey blames U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen for masterminding the coup in which 240 soldiers, police and civilians were killed trying to stop rogue troops who had commandeered fighter jets and tanks to bomb parliament and shoot protesters. Another 100 people behind the putsch were killed.

Some 100,000 state employees suspected of links with the Gulen movement have been purged, and 32,000 people are in jail for their alleged role in the coup. Gulen denies involvement.

Authorities have also targeted the media, arresting dozens of members of the press to make Turkey the world’s biggest jailer of journalists and shutting down scores of media outlets.

Aktan and other IMC staff continued airing segments on Friday while waiting for police to arrive at their offices. Other stations on the closure list were raided and sealed off on Thursday, newspapers and CPJ said.

IMC, founded in 2011, has faced other punitive measures. In February, its satellite feed was cut while prosecutors investigate if it supports the PKK.

Aktan denied any links between IMC and the militants, citing the channel’s principles of objectivity.

(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Pentagon chief says Duterte Hitler remarks ‘deeply troubling’

Pentagon chief Ash Carter has condemned comments made by Philippines President Duterte, in which he likened his war on drugs to Hitler’s efforts to exterminate the Jews. Carter said the comparison was “deeply troubling.

October 1, 2016


Speaking on the sidelines of a security summit with Southeast Asian nations in Hawaii, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter told journalists he had not yet discussed President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest inflammatory statements with his Philippine counterpart, Delfin Lorenzana.

But “just speaking personally for myself, I find these comments deeply troubling,” he said.

On Friday, the Philippine leader provoked an outcry from Germany when he drew parallels between his deadly anti-drug campaign and the Holocaust.

“Hitler massacred 3 million Jews … there’s 3 million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said, seemingly unaware that nearly 6 million Jewish people were killed during the Nazi’s Third Reich.

“At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…” he added, pointing to himself.

War on drugs

Since taking office at the end of June, Duterte’s war on drugs has claimed the lives of 1,247 suspects. The president has refused to back down or apologize for his violent policies, saying that scare tactics were necessary to solve the country’s trafficking and drug abuse problems.

Carter, who is hosting defense ministers from 10 countries at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that the Philippines is a longtime US treaty ally. When asked his opinion on pursuing greater military cooperation with the Philippines in light of Duterte’s comments, he said:

“Like all alliances, it depends on the continuation of a sense of shared interests. So far in US-Philippine history we have had that. We look forward to continuing that. But that’s something that we continue to discuss with the Philippine government.”

International outrage

The German Foreign Ministry released a statement Friday, blasting Duterte’s remarks and requesting the Philippine envoy to “come to the ministry for a discussion on this issue.”

“It is impossible to make any comparison to the unique atrocities of the Holocaust,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer in Berlin.

The World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder likewise labeled the Philippine leader’s comments as “revolting,” calling on him to apologize.

“Drug abuse is a serious issue. But what President Duterte said is not only profoundly inhumane, but it demonstrates an appalling disrespect for human life that is truly heartbreaking for the democratically elected leader of a great country,” Lauder said in a statement.

The Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, remarked it was baffling that someone would compare themselves to “one of the largest mass murderers in human history.”

After just a few short months in power, Duterte has already become famous around the world for his inflammatory rhetoric – famously calling US President Barack Obama “a son of a whore” – though he later distanced himself from that comment. On Friday, however, he added more fuel to the fire by calling his critics in the European Union a “group of idiots in the purest form.”

‘I stopped Netanyahu from catastrophic attack on Iran’ – Peres’ statement concealed ‘til death

October 1, 2016


In a statement that was not to be made public until his death, the former Israeli President told Jerusalem Post he stopped PM Benjamin Netanyahu from a “catastrophic” military strike against Iran, at the time the world leaders were engaged in nuclear deal talks.

Israel has been the most ardent critic of Iran’s nuclear program for decades, viewing Tehran’s progress in this sphere as a direct threat to Israel and regional security. For years the country has resisted the P5+1 negotiations on Iran’s nuclear future.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s cartoon of a nuclear bomb which he presented to the UN General Assembly in September 2012 certainly grabbed the world’s attention. Having incessantly talked about “red lines” for Iran’s nuclear development, four years ago he literally drew one across the bomb to illustrate the point at which the international community should take decisive action. Netanyahu set his literal red line at the 90 percent threshold of uranium enrichment.

Up until P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany) announced the agreement with Iran in July 2015, to limit the country’s nuclear development in exchange for sanction relief, Israel was threatening to take unilateral action against Tehran.

A day after the funeral of Shimon Peres, Jerusalem Post published the former president’s revelation which was shared with the publication two years ago, revealing that he was solemnly responsible for stopping Netanyahu’s plan. With this revelation, it seems that plans to attack Iran at the time were not just empty threats.

The conversation between Peres and Jerusalem Post Managing Editor David Brinn took place at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa on August 24, 2014. During the exchange, Brinn asked Peres what he would consider the greatest achievement of his presidency (2007-2014), to which the elderly president responded by saying that he had personally intervened to stop Netanyahu from attacking Iran’s nuclear sites.

Brinn, in a JP article, published some notes from that conversation, which quoted Peres as saying:“I stopped Netanyahu from attacking Iran.”

“I don’t want to go into details, but I can tell you that he was ready to launch an attack and I stopped him. I told him the consequences would be catastrophic,” Peres was quoted as saying.

When asked by the publication if they have his permission to report on the claim, Peres replied: “When I’m dead.”

After suffering a stroke, Peres died on September 28, 2016, near Tel Aviv, allowing his years-long claim to be made public.

While details of the possible strike were not shared by the former president, the attack could potentially have followed the blueprint of Operation Opera, which was a surprise Israeli air strike on June 7 1981, that destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction 17 kilometers southeast of Baghdad.

US government ends formal oversight role for internet address system

Despite a last-minute legal challenge, the long-planned end to US government oversight of the internet address system is being passed to a non-profit entity. It is being called the most significant change in years.

October 1, 2016


The California-based not-for-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages the internet’s so-called “root zone.” The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is a department of ICANN responsible for coordinating some of the key elements that keep the internet running smoothly.

Industry commentators are calling the change the most significant for a generation in the way the internet functions. The contract essentially defined how the internet has grown and has been structured for nearly 20 years. While nothing will change for ordinary internet users, it marks the first time that a new communications technology has been released from government control, rather than drawn into it.

Lawrence Strickling, who heads the Commerce Department unit which has managed these functions, issued a brief statement early Saturday confirming the transition of the IANA which controls numbers for protocols, the Country Code Top Level Domains and maintains IP Address allotments. “As of October 1, 2016, the IANA functions contract has expired,” he said.

ICANN’s board chairman Stephen Crocker was one of the engineers who developed the early internet protocols. He welcomed the end of the contract: “This transition was envisioned 18 years ago, yet it was the tireless work of the global internet community, which drafted the final proposal, that made this a reality,” he said in a statement.

ICANN manages the database for top-level domain names such as .com and .net and their corresponding numeric addresses that allow computers to connect to the internet.

“This community validated the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance,” Crocker said. “It has shown that a governance model defined by the inclusion of all voices, including business, academics, technical experts, civil society, governments and many others is the best way to assure that the internet of tomorrow remains as free, open and accessible as the internet of today.”

The plan to move ICANN to international oversight began in the 1990s. The formal plan was announced in March 2014.

Legal challenge

On Wednesday, the transfer met a last-minute legal challenge from the Republican states of Arizona, Texas, Nevada and Oklahoma. Their lawsuit against the federal government argued the handover was unconstitutional and required congressional approval.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas had called the transfer a “giveaway to Russia” and other governments, as it could allow authoritarian regimes to seize control.

But in a ruling on Friday, a federal judge in Texas denied the lawsuit to halt the transition.

This teenager was walking for hours to and from work — until a police stop changed his life

September 30, 2016

by Amy B Wang

Washington Post

As its name might suggest, Industrial Way is not known for being pedestrian-friendly.

The road in the Northern California city of Benicia is lined with trucking companies, warehouses and metal-finishing factories. As it curves north, before it turns into Channel Road, the street cuts under busy Interstate 680.

So when Cpl. Kirk Keffer of the Benicia Police Department spotted a lone, lanky teenager walking on Industrial Way during the graveyard shift a few Saturdays ago, he was curious. It was after 11 p.m. and dark outside, and the boy was just nearing the highway overpass.

“Usually in the industrial area, there’s no foot traffic, so it was kind of weird to see someone walking around on foot,” Keffer told The Washington Post.

He stopped his patrol car, got out and called out to the pedestrian.

Was he okay? What was he doing out there by himself?

The teenager, 18-year-old Jourdan Duncan, was equally startled at first.

“I was absolutely nervous,” he said. “I thought, okay, um, did I do anything wrong? Is he going to put me in cuffs? I didn’t do anything bad.”

Duncan told Keffer he was walking back to his parents’ home in Vallejo. He had just gotten off from his job at Pro-Form Laboratories, where the teen worked on the packaging line from 3 p.m. until around midnight.

“Vallejo? That’s like seven miles away,” Keffer said he remembered saying to Duncan.

Soon, he had cleared out the passenger seat in his patrol car and offered Duncan a ride home.

On the drive, Keffer asked the teen more questions. Why Benicia? Why not drive to work?

He was agog that anybody would walk more than two hours each way, every day.

Duncan explained that he had just graduated from Jesse Bethel High School the year before. He had gotten a job at Pro-Form Laboratories in May, and enjoyed being around his co-workers. He was saving money for college, he said — but really wanted to be an officer with the California Highway Patrol, to follow in the footsteps of some relatives who were in law enforcement.

When the timing belt and an engine valve on his 2001 Volvo broke in July, Duncan got a few rides from friends and co-workers, but soon decided he would try to walk to avoid burdening others.

“I didn’t want to always call somebody and be like, ‘Hey, can you pick me up?’ ” he said. “That would have took a lot of people’s time.”

Duncan never told his parents he started walking. (“They thought I was getting rides every day,” he admits.) The first time he plotted out a walkable route on Google Maps, it spit out an estimated commute time of 2 hours and 15 minutes.

“This is going to be a long walk,” Duncan thought. On his first day going to work by foot, he didn’t know what to expect. “The whole way there I just had my earphones in, kept quiet and I just power-walked the whole way.”

That was in July. Gradually, the foot commute grew easier for him.

“The walk now, it’s not a problem for me,” he said.

By the time Keffer pulled up to Duncan’s parents’ house that night — all of 15 minutes later, by car — the police officer was impressed. Most people won’t even walk down to the store, he joked.

“I was just like, wow, Jourdan, that’s really impressive, your dedication and your hard work,” Keffer said. “At age 18, that’s a good work ethic to have, and I said, you know, I admire that. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

They parted ways and Keffer returned to the police department in Benicia. Still, he couldn’t get Duncan’s commute out of his head. He mentioned his interaction to his shift supervisor, who, like Keffer, happened to be a board member of the Benicia Police Officers’ Association.

“So I hit him up and say, ‘I just had this contact with this young man,’ ” Keffer said. ” ‘He’s walking five hours a day, and I think it should be rewarded. What if we help him out?’ ”

They emailed the rest of the board to seek approval to buy a bicycle. It was, he said, one of the fastest votes they’ve ever taken: Within an hour, enough board members wrote back in agreement. And so, the following day, Keffer visited Wheels in Motion, a local bike shop.

He was looking for a good mountain bike, Keffer explained to the owner. Something with a reliable gearing system that could handle Benicia’s steep hills. The longtime shop owner, Greg Andrade, helped him pick out a $500 Giant-brand bicycle — and loved the teen’s story so much that he also donated a lighting system, brake light and helmet.

The only matter left was how to surprise Duncan.

Keffer looked up Pro-Form Laboratories and dialed the company, asking for Duncan’s boss. Then, he explained their encounter the night before. Was Jourdan scheduled to work Monday? Would they mind if a few officers stopped by the warehouse to surprise him with something?

That Monday night, Sept. 19, Duncan’s supervisor called him out and told him to go outside. Some policemen were waiting for him.

Once again, Duncan was taken aback. His boss assured him he was not in trouble.

Outside, he spotted Keffer, along with some other Benicia police officers.

“‘We have something for you,’” he said they told him, pulling the bicycle out from behind a car. “‘This is your bike’ … I was like, wait, what? Is this some kind of trick?”

The bike was a token of their gratitude, the officers said.

“We would like to acknowledge your hard work and dedication for what you do and setting the example for kids your age,” Keffer said they told him. “Hopefully this’ll make your trip easier.”

Duncan said he was bowled over by the gift, but also stymied by the attention. Several local news stations wanted him on their shows. Normally reserved, he shyly agreed to talk to all of them — “I was so nervous; I’ve never been on TV” — but couldn’t help but think: They want to interview me for walking?

“The walk isn’t hard,” he said. “It’s like a challenge. To me, it was like a challenge to see if I was willing to do whatever it takes to get to work.”

Keffer said that was precisely what moved him to do something for Duncan. And Duncan said the bicycle has made him “feel more at ease” with his commute, which has now been cut down to an hour.

Duncan said he and Keffer are keeping in touch, and that Keffer has offered to take him on a ride-along so he can get a better idea of what being a police officer is all about.

“It’s something I’ve been interested in since high school. A lot of my family members, they’re in law enforcement,” Duncan said. “It’s like, what they do and, due to a lot of people thinking that there are bad cops out there, I want to prove that all cops aren’t bad — which is true, due to what just happened to me.”

Suing governments over terror no sure thing despite U.S. September 11 law

September 29, 2016

by Mica Rosenberg


New York-Families of Sept. 11 victims and others who may seek to sue foreign governments accused of supporting terrorism in the United States still face significant legal hurdles, despite a boost from passage of a law allowing such cases to proceed.

The new Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, grants an exception to the legal principle of sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism on U.S. soil.

Passage of the law over a presidential veto could allow relatives and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to move forward with a case they filed more than a decade ago against Saudi Arabia in New York federal court.

Still, it will be hard to prove a foreign nation is responsible for acts of terrorism, said attorneys and professors with expertise in international law, who expected drawn-out legal wrangling.

“We may find that at the end of the day, after years of litigation, that the link is not sufficiently established even for Saudi Arabia,” said Curtis Bradley, a law professor at Duke University.

The law says plaintiffs must show the foreign state “knowingly or recklessly provided material support or resources” to designated terrorist groups, not that the countries were simply negligent or looked the other way.

Congress on Wednesday overwhelming voted to pass the law, overturning President Barack Obama’s veto. Before the law, American victims of terrorist acts could only sue countries designated by the U.S. State Department as state-sponsors of terrorism, currently Iran, Syria and Sudan.

Now, any country can be sued if there are allegations of support for known terrorists that carry out attacks on U.S. soil.

Existing tort law requires plaintiffs to prove that support played a “substantial factor” in the victims’ injuries, a high bar, said Jimmy Gurule an expert in international criminal law at the University of Notre Dame.

This could be challenging in the Sept. 11 case since an independent commission on the 2001 attacks did not find sufficient evidence of Saudi involvement. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks and most of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

“We have a high degree of confidence we can meet that burden. The Saudis think we can’t,” said Jack Quinn, co-counsel for more than 2,000 family members of Sept. 11 victims.

The families sued Saudi Arabia in 2003, seeking to hold the country responsible. The proceedings have been stalled on the question of Saudi Arabia’s immunity

Quinn said the plaintiffs will now ask the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the issue in light of the new law.

If the court says the case can move forward, both sides will use discovery to seek documents and take depositions of witnesses and experts.

“We will next attempt to complete the development of evidence and find out what the truth is and on the basis of that, let the chips fall as they may,” said Quinn.


But even under the new law, the White House can still request a court to halt this and other potential lawsuits.

The law allows a court to put a proceeding against a foreign state on hold if the United States says it “is engaged in good faith discussions” with the country to resolve the claims.

The stay provision and other changes were added to address concerns raised by the White House, Saudi Arabia and companies like General Electric and Dow Chemical Co.

Obama is likely to request such a stay, said Bradley.

Stephen Vladeck of the University of Texas School of Law, said this revision and others injected uncertainty into the law and could result in litigation aimed at clarifying the bill’s language.

“The next step in this is either a whole bunch of lawsuits being placed on indefinite hold or a whole bunch of litigation to figure out the meaning of all these obstacles that Congress snuck back into the bill at the last minute,” said Vladeck.

Even with the revisions, detractors of the new law worried that it could inspire other countries to retaliate by enacting their own statutes that could drag the United States or U.S. companies into court. Some U.S. lawmakers said Congress may revisit the law to narrow it further.

Ultimately, though, if the victims of terrorist acts win a court judgment against a foreign government, other cases have shown that collecting damages can be a slog.

A Reuters analysis last year found that in the 10 years following the Sept. 11 attacks, the number of lawsuits filed under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act and similar laws more than tripled compared to the decade before with plaintiffs winning billions of dollars worth of judgments in U.S. courts.

But judgments awarded against organizations or governments are often unenforceable and even when there are assets that can be claimed in the United States, their value often falls short of the award. (reut.rs/2dexDdV)

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Noeleen Walder and David Gregorio)

The CIA’s Orange Revolution

Meet the Americans Who Put Together the Coup in Kiev

March 25, 2014

by Steve Weissman

If the US State Department’s Victoria Nuland had not said “Fuck the EU,” few outsiders at the time would have heard of Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the man on the other end of her famously bugged telephone call. But now Washington’s man in Kiev is gaining fame as the face of the CIA-style “destabilization campaign” that brought down Ukraine’s monumentally corrupt but legitimately elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

“Geoffrey Pyatt is one of these State Department high officials who does what he’s told and fancies himself as a kind of a CIA operator,” laughs Ray McGovern, who worked for 27 years as an intelligence analyst for the agency. “It used to be the CIA doing these things,” he tells Democracy Now. “I know that for a fact.” Now it’s the State Department, with its coat-and-tie diplomats, twitter and facebook accounts, and a trick bag of goodies to build support for American policy.

A retired apparatchik, the now repentant McGovern was debating Yale historian Timothy Snyder, a self-described left-winger and the author of two recent essays in The New York Review of Books – “The Haze of Propaganda” and “Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine.” Both men speak Russian, but they come from different planets.

On Planet McGovern – or my personal take on it – realpolitik rules. The State Department controls the prime funding sources for non-military intervention, including the controversial National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which Washington created to fund covert and clandestine action after Ramparts magazine and others exposed how the CIA channeled money through private foundations, including the Ford Foundation. State also controls the far-better-funded Agency for International Development (USAID), along with a growing network of front groups, cut-outs, and private contractors. State coordinates with like-minded governments and their parallel institutions, mostly in Canada and Western Europe. State’s “democracy bureaucracy” oversees nominally private but largely government funded groups like Freedom House. And through Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, State had Geoff Pyatt coordinate the coup in Kiev.

The CIA, NSA, and Pentagon likely provided their specialized services, while some of the private contractors exhibited shadowy skill sets. But if McGovern knows the score, as he should, diplomats ran the campaign to destabilize Ukraine and did the hands-on dirty work.

Harder for some people to grasp, Ambassador Pyatt and his team did not create the foreign policy, which was – and is – only minimally about overthrowing Ukraine’s duly elected government to “promote democracy.” Ever since Bill Clinton sat in the Oval Office, Washington and its European allies have worked openly and covertly to extend NATO to the Russian border and Black Sea Fleet, provoking a badly wounded Russian bear. They have also worked to bring Ukraine and its Eastern European neighbors into the neoliberal economy of the West, isolating the Russians rather than trying to bring them into the fold. Except for sporadic resets, anti-Russian has become the new anti-Soviet, and “strategic containment” has been the wonky word for encircling Russia with our military and economic power.

Nor did neoconservatives create the policy, no matter how many progressive pundits blame them for it. NED provides cushy jobs for old social democrats born again as neocons. Pyatt’s boss, Victoria Nuland, is the wife and fellow-traveler of historian Robert Kagan, one of the movement’s leading lights. And neocons are currently beating the war drums against Russia, as much to scupper any agreements on Syria and Iran as to encourage more Pentagon contracts for their friends and financial backers. But, encircling Russia has never been just a neocon thing. The policy has bi-partisan and trans-Atlantic support, including the backing of America’s old-school nationalists, Cold War liberals, Hillary hawks, and much of Obama’s national security team.

No matter that the policy doesn’t pass the giggle test. Extending NATO and Western economic institutions into all of a very divided Ukraine had less chance of working than did hopes in 2008 of bringing Georgia into NATO, which could have given the gung-ho Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvilli the treaty right to drag us all into World War III. To me, that seemed like giving a ten-year-old the keys to the family Humvee.

Western provocations in Ukraine proved more immediately counterproductive. They gave Vladimir Putin the perfect opportunity for a pro-Russian putsch in Crimea, which he had certainly thought of before, but never as a priority. The provocations encouraged him to stand up as a true Russian nationalist, which will only make him more difficult to deal with. And they gave him cover to get away with that age-old tool of tyrants, a quickie plebiscite with an unnecessary return to Joseph Stalin’s old dictum once popular in my homestate of Florida: “It’s not the votes that count, but who counts the votes.”

Small “d” democrats should shun such pretense. Still, most journalists and pollsters on the scene report that – with the exception of the historic Tatar community – the majority of Crimeans want to join the Russian Federation, where they seem likely to stay.

Tensions will also grow as the US-picked interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk – our man “Yats” – joins with the IMF to impose a Greek, Spanish, or Italian style austerity. Hard-pressed Ukranians will undoubtedly fight back, especially in the predominantly Russian-speaking east. According to Der Spiegel, a whopping three quarters of the people there do not support the coup or government. What a tar patch! A domestic conflict that could split Ukraine in two will inevitably become even further embroiled in the geo-strategic struggle between Russia and the West.

On Planet Snyder, as in most Western media, these realistic considerations make absolutely no difference. Ideology rules, masked as idealism. Fine sounding abstractions fill the air. Ukrainians are making their own history. They are acting with great courage. They are seeking the rule of law and their rightful place in “European Civilization.” They are defending “sovereignty” and “territorial integrity.” Russians remain vicious. Big bad Vlad is the new Hitler. He is seeking his own Eurasian empire (as opposed to NATO’s), which could soon include parts of Moldova, Belarus, and Kazakhstan that the West needs like a “lok in kop,” a hole in the head. And those watching in the West must abandon what Snyder calls “our slightly self-obsessed notions of how we control or don’t control everything.”

“It was a classic popular revolution,” proclaims the professor. An undeniably popular uprising against “an unmistakably reactionary regime.”

Writing in The Nation, Professor Stephen Cohen shreds Snyder’s argument. My concern is more pointed. Popular uprisings deserve our support or opposition depending on who comes to control them and to what ends. As McGovern puts it, “The question is: Who took them over? Who spurred them? Who provoked them for their own particular strategic interests?”

Detailed evidence provides the answers. For all the courage of the Ukrainian minority who took to the barricades, US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and his team spurred the protests in Kiev and exercised extensive – though never complete – control over them. Tactically, Pyatt and his fellow diplomats showed unexpected skill. Strategically, they should have stayed home.

Revolution on Demand

Arriving in the Ukrainian capital on August 3, Pyatt almost immediately authorized a grant for an online television outlet called Hromadske.TV, which would prove essential to building the Euromaidan street demonstrations against Yanukovych. The grant was only $43,737, with an additional $4,796 by November 13. Just enough to buy the modest equipment the project needed.

Many of Hromadske’s journalists had worked in the past with American benefactors. Editor-in-chief Roman Skrypin was a frequent contributor to Washington’s Radio Free Europe / Radio Libertyand the US-funded Ukrayinska Pravda. In 2004, he had helped create Channel 5 television, which played a major role in the Orange Revolution that the US and its European allies masterminded in 2004.

Skrypin had already gotten $10,560 from George Soros’s International Renaissance Foundation (IRF), which came as a recommendation to Pyatt. Sometime between December and the following April, IRF would give Hromadske another $19,183.

Hromadske’s biggest funding in that period came from the Embassy of the Netherlands, which gave a generous $95,168. As a departing US envoy to the Hague said in a secret cable that Wikileaks later made public, “Dutch pragmatism and our similar world-views make the Netherlands fertile ground for initiatives others in Europe might be reluctant, at least initially, to embrace.”

For Pyatt, the payoff came on November 21, when President Yanukovych pulled back from an Association Agreement with the European Union. Within hours Hromadske.TV went online and one of its journalists set the spark that brought Yanukovych down.

“Enter a lonely, courageous Ukrainian rebel, a leading investigative journalist,” writes Snyder. “A dark-skinned journalist who gets racially profiled by the regime. And a Muslim. And an Afghan. This is Mustafa Nayem, the man who started the revolution. Using social media, he called students and other young people to rally on the main square of Kiev in support of a European choice for Ukraine.”

All credit to Nayem for his undeniable courage. But bad, bad history. Snyder fails to mention that Pyatt, Soros, and the Dutch had put Web TV at the uprising’s disposal. Without their joint funding of Hromadske and its streaming video from the Euromaidan, the revolution might never have been televised and Yanukovych might have crushed the entire effort before it gained traction.

For better or for worse, popular uprisings have changed history long before radio, television, or the Internet. The new technologies only speed up the game. Pyatt and his team understood that and masterfully turned soft power and the exercise of free speech, press, and assembly into a televised revolution on demand, complete with an instant overdub in English. Soros then funded a Ukrainian Crisis Media Center “to inform the international community about events in Ukraine,” and I’m still trying to track down who paid for Euromaidan PR, the website of the Official Public Relations Secretariat for the Headquarters of the National Resistance.

Orange Revolution II

Preparing the uprising started long before Pyatt arrived in country, and much of it revolved around a talented and multi-lingual Ukrainian named Oleh Rybachuk, who had played several key roles in the Orange Revolution of 2004. Strangely enough, he recently drew attention when Pando, Silicon Valley’s online news site, attacked journalist Glenn Greenwald and the investor behind his newFirst Look Media, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Trading brickbats over journalistic integrity, both Pando and Greenwald missed the gist of the bigger story.

In 2004, Rybachuk headed the staff and political campaign of the US-backed presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko. As the generally pro-American Kyiv Post tells it, the shadowy Rybachuk was Yushchenko’s “alter ego” and “the conduit” to the State Security Service, which “was supplying the Yushchenko team with useful information about Yanukovych’s actions.” Rybachuk went on to serve under Yushchenko and Tymoshenko as deputy prime minister in charge of integrating Ukraine into NATO and the European Union. In line with US policy, he also pushed forprivatization of Ukraine’s remaining state-owned industries.

Despite US and Western European backing, the government proved disastrous, enabling its old rival Yanukovych to win the presidency in the 2010 election. Western monitors generally found the election “free and fair,” but no matter. The Americans had already sowed the seeds either to win Yanukovych over or to throw him over, whichever way Washington and its allies decided to go. As early as October 2008, USAID funded one of its many private contractors – a non-profit called Pact Inc. – to run the “Ukraine National Initiatives to Enhance Reforms” (UNITER). Active in Africa and Central Asia, Pact had worked in Ukraine since 2005 in campaigns against HIV/AIDS. Its new five-year project traded in bureaucratic buzzwords like civil society, democracy, and good governance, which on the public record State and USAID were spending many millions of dollars a year to promote in Ukraine.

Pact would build the base for either reform or regime change. Only this time the spin-masters would frame their efforts as independent of Ukraine’s politicians and political parties, whom most Ukrainians correctly saw as hopelessly corrupt. The new hope was “to partner with civil society, young people, and international organizations” – as Canada’s prestigious Financial Post laterparaphrased no less an authority than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

By 2009, Pact had rebranded the pliable Rybachuk as “a civil society activist,” complete with his own NGO, Center UA (variously spelled Centre UA, Tsenter UA, or United Actions Center UA). Pact then helped Rybachuk use his new base to bring together as many as 60 local and national NGOs with activists and leaders of public opinion. This was New Citizen, a non-political “civic platform” that became a major political player. At the time, Pact and Soros’s IRF were working in a joint effort to provide small grants to some 80 local NGOs. This continued the following year with additional money from the East Europe Foundation.

“Ukraine has been united by common disillusionment,” Rybachuk explained to the Kyiv Post. “The country needs a more responsible citizenry to make the political elite more responsible.”

Who could argue? Certainly not Rybachuk’s Western backers. New Citizen consistently framed its democracy agenda as part of a greater integration within NATO, Europe, and the trans-Atlantic world. Rybachuk himself would head the “Civil Expert Council” associated with the EU-Ukraine Cooperation Committee.

Continuing to advise on “strategic planning,” in May 2010 Pact encouraged New Citizen “to take Access to Public Information as the focus of their work for the next year.” The coalition campaigned for a new Freedom of Information law, which passed. Pact then showed New Citizen how to use the law to boost itself as a major player, organize and train new activists, and work more closely with compliant journalists, all of which would seriously weaken the just-elected Yanukovych government. Part of their destabilization included otherwise praiseworthy efforts, none more so than the movement to “Stop Censorship.”

“Censorship is re-emerging, and the opposition is not getting covered as much,” Rybachuk told the Kyiv Post in May 2010. He was now “a media expert” as well as civic activist. “There are some similarities to what Vladimir Putin did in Russia when he started his seizure of power by first muzzling criticism in the media.”

One of Rybachuk’s main allies in “Stop Censorship” was the journalist Sergii Leshchenko, who had long worked with Mustafa Nayem at Ukrayinska Pravda, the online newsletter that NED publicly took credit for supporting. NED gave Leshchenko its Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellowship, while New Citizen spread his brilliant exposés of Yanukovych’s shameless corruption, focusing primarily on his luxurious mansion at Mezhyhirya. Rybachuk’s Center UA also produced a documentary filmfeaturing Mustafa Nayem daring to ask Yanukovych about Mezhyhirya at a press conference. Nothing turned Ukrainians – or the world – more against Yanukovych than the concerted exposure of his massive corruption. This was realpolitik at its most sophisticated, since the US and its allies funded few, if any, similar campaigns against the many Ukrainian kleptocrats who favored Western policy.

Under the watchful eye of Pact, Rybachuk’s New Citizen developed a project to identify the promises of Ukrainian politicians and monitor their implementation. They called it a “Powermeter” (Vladometer), an idea they took from the American website “Obamameter.” Funding came from theUS Embassy, through its Media Development Fund, which falls under the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Other money came from the Internews Network, which receives its funding from the State Department, USAID, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and a wide variety of other government agencies, international organizations, and private donors. Still other money came from Soros’s IRF.

New Citizen and its constituent organizations then brought together 150 NGOs from over 35 cities, along with activists and journalists like Sergii Leschchenko, to create yet another campaign in 2011. They called it the Chesno Movement, from the Ukrainian word for “honestly. ” Its logo was agarlic bulb, a traditional disinfectant widely believed to ward off evil. The movement’s purpose was “to monitor the political integrity of the parliamentary candidates running in the 2012 elections.”

This was a mammoth project with the most sophisticated sociology. As expected, the Chesno monitoring found few honest politicians. But it succeeded in raising the issue of public integrity to new heights in a country of traditionally low standards and in building political interest in new areas of the country and among the young. The legislative elections themselves proved grim, with President Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions taking control of parliament.

What then of all New Citizen’s activism, monitoring, campaigning, movement-building, and support for selective investigative journalism? Where was all this heading? Rybachuk answered the question in May 2012, several months before the election.

“The Orange Revolution was a miracle, a massive peaceful protest that worked,” he told Canada’s Financial Post. “We want to do that again and we think we will.”

He Who Pays the Piper

Rybachuk had good reason for his revolutionary optimism. His Western donors were upping the ante. Pact Inc. commissioned a financial audit for the Chesno campaign, covering from October 2011 to December 2012. It showed that donors gave Rybachuk’s Center UA and six associated groups some $800,000 for Chesno. PACT, which regularly got its money from USAID, contributed the lion’s share, $632,813, though part of that came from the Omidyar Network, a foundation set up by Pierre and his wife.

In a March 12th press release, the network tried to explain its contributions to Rybachuk’s Center UA, New Citizen, and the Chesno Movement. These included a two-year grant of $335,000, announced in September 2011, and another $769,000, committed in July 2013. Some of the money went to expand Rybachuk’s technology platforms, as New Citizen explained.

“New Citizen provides Ukrainians with an online platform to cooperatively advocate for social change. On the site, users can collectively lobby state officials to release of public information, participate in video-advocacy campaigns, and contribute to a diverse set of community initiatives,” they wrote. “As a hub of social justice advocates in Kiev, the organization hopes to define the nation’s ‘New Citizen’ through digital media.”

Omidyar’s recent press release listed several other donors, including the USAID-funded Pact, the Swiss and British embassies, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the National Endowment for Democracy, and Soros’s International Renaissance Foundation. The Chesno Movement also received money from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Figures for fiscal year 2013 are more difficult to track. Washington’s foreignassistance.govshows USAID paying PACT in Ukraine over $7 million under the general category of “Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance.” The data does not indicate what part of this went to Center UA, New Citizen, or any of their projects.

What should we make of all this funding? Some of it looks like private philanthropy, as back in the days when the CIA channeled its money through foundations. Was the Soros and Omidyar money truly private or government money camouflaged to look private? That has to remain an open question. But, with Rybachuk’s campaigns, it makes little difference. USAID and other government funding dominated. The US Embassy, through Pact, coordinated most of what Rybachuk did. And, to my knowledge, neither Soros nor Omidyar ever broke from the State Department’s central direction.

Strategic Containment, OK?

When Ambassador Pyatt arrived in Kiev, he inherited Pact and its Rybachuk network well on its way to a second Orange Revolution, but only if they thought they needed it to win integration into Europe. That was always the big issue for the State Department and the Ukrainian movement they built, far more telling than censorship, corruption, democracy, or good governance. As late as November 14, Rybachuk saw no reason to take to the streets, fully expecting Yanukovych to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union at a November 28-29 summit in Vilnius. On November 21, Yanukovych pulled back, which Rybachuk saw as a betrayal of government promises. That is what “brought people to the streets,” he told Kyiv Post. “It needed to come to this.”

Euromaidan would become a “massive watchdog,” putting pressure on the government to sign the association and free trade deal with the EU, he said. “We’ll be watching what the Ukrainian government does, and making sure it does what it has to do.”

That is where the State Department’s second Orange Revolution started.

Furthermore, the significance of Ukraine for the EU as a transit country from Russia mostly in terms of oil and natural gas is high. The high dependence of the EU countries on Russian natural resources was visible during the Russian-Ukraine gas disputes in 2006 and the beginning of 2009. As a consequence, the EU stressed the essentiality of integration of Ukraine into the unified framework of EU. Before the first gas dispute in 2005, the Memorandum of Understanding of Energy was signed which focused on the safety of energy deliveries. However, since 2008, the cooperation in the field of efficiency of energy and renewable resources is included into this treaty. The peak in this aspect came in October 2009 when Ukraine joined the Energy Community Treaty (EnCT), which created integrated market with electricity between the European Community and contractual parties. Signing of this treaty meant another substantial advance in the mutual relations of the EU and Ukraine (Ukrainian Energy 2013: 5).

The Orange Revolution, as it was known at the time, was a classic CIA-engineered plot to impose their political outcome on the Ukrainian people. And they succeeded with flying colors.

That CIA-sponsored coup d’etat was so successful that it has since been used as a model for every other CIA-manufactured scheme that has toppled governments and reversed fair election outcomes the world over. In fact, the Ukraine is where the various social network utilities were used so effectively that the new MO has become known as the digital blitzkrieg. Never in human history have so many citizens been stampeded in the direction of overthrowing their government while being completely ignorant of the real forces manipulating the cattle prods.

The state of Ukraine during the 2004 presidential election is considered an “ideal condition” for an outburst from the public. During this time Ukrainians were impatient while waiting for economic and political transformation.[1] The results of the election were thought to be fraudulent and considered “a nail in the coffin” of the preceding events.

The U.S. and NATO Have Been Trying to Encircle Russia Militarily Since 1991

The American press portrays Putin as being the bad guy and the aggressor in the Ukraine crisis.

Putin is certainly no saint. A former KGB agent, Putin’s net worth is estimated at some $40 billion dollars … as he has squeezed money out of the Russian economy by treating the country as his own personal fiefdom. And all sides appear to have dirt on their hands in the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

But we can only see the bigger picture if we take a step back and gain a little understanding of the history underlying the current tensions.

Indeed, the fact that the U.S. has allegedly paid billions of dollars to anti-Russian forces in Ukraine – and even purportedly picked the Ukrainian president – has to be seen in context.

Veteran New York Times reporter Steven Kinzer notes at the Boston Globe:

From the moment the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States has relentlessly pursued a strategy of encircling Russia, just as it has with other perceived enemies like China and Iran. [Background here, here and here.] It has brought 12 countries in central Europe, all of them formerly allied with Moscow, into the NATO alliance. US military power is now directly on Russia’s borders.

“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,” warned George Kennan, the renowned diplomat and Russia-watcher, as NATO began expanding eastward. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely, and it will affect their policies.”

Stephen Cohen – professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University who has long focused on Russia – explained this weekend on CNN:

We are witnessing as we talk the making possibly of the worst history of our lifetime. We are watching the descending of a new cold war divide between west and east, only this time, it is not in far away Berlin, it’s right on Russia’s borders through the historical civilization in Ukraine. It’s a crisis of historic magnitude. If you ask how we got in it, how we got into the crisis, and how therefore do we get out, it is time to stop asking why Putin – why Putin is doing this or that, but ask about the American policy, and the European Union policy that led to this moment.

***I don’t know if you your listeners or views remember George Kennan. He was considered [a] great strategic thinker about Russia among American diplomats but he warned when we expanded NATO [under Bill Clinton], that this was the most fateful mistake of American foreign policy and that it would lead to a new Cold War. George lived to his hundreds, died a few years ago, but his truth goes marching on. The decision to move NATO beginning in the 90′s continuing under Bush and continuing under Obama, is right now on Russia’s borders.

And if you want to know for sure, and I have spent a lot of time in Moscow, if you want to know what the Russian power elite thinks Ukraine is about, it is about bringing it into NATO. One last point, that so-called economic partnership that Yanukovych, the elected president of Ukraine did not sign, and that set off the streets – the protests in the streets in November, which led to this violence in and confrontation today, that so-called economic agreement included military clauses which said that Ukraine by signing this so called civilization agreement had to abide by NATO military policy. This is what this is about from the Russian point of view, the ongoing western march towards post Soviet Russia.

Jonathan Steele writes at the Guardian

Both John Kerry’s threats to expel Russia from the G8 and the Ukrainian government’s plea for Nato aid mark a dangerous escalation of a crisis that can easily be contained if cool heads prevail. Hysteria seems to be the mood in Washington and Kiev, with the new Ukrainian prime minister claiming, “We are on the brink of disaster” as he calls up army reserves in response to Russian military movements in Crimea.

Were he talking about the country’s economic plight he would have a point. Instead, along with much of the US and European media, he was over-dramatising developments in the east, where Russian speakers are understandably alarmed after the new Kiev authorities scrapped a law allowing Russian as an official language in their areas. They see it as proof that the anti-Russian ultra-nationalists from western Ukraine who were the dominant force in last month’s insurrection still control it. Eastern Ukrainians fear similar tactics of storming public buildings could be used against their elected officials.

Kerry’s rush to punish Russia and Nato’s decision to respond to Kiev’s call by holding a meeting of member states’ ambassadors in Brussels today were mistakes. Ukraine is not part of the alliance, so none of the obligations of common defence come into play. Nato should refrain from interfering in Ukraine by word or deed. The fact that it insists on getting engaged reveals the elephant in the room: underlying the crisis in Crimea and Russia’s fierce resistance to potential changes is Nato’s undisguised ambition to continue two decades of expansion into what used to be called “post-Soviet space”, led by Bill Clinton and taken up by successive administrations in Washington. At the back of Pentagon minds, no doubt, is the dream that a US navy will one day replace the Russian Black Sea fleet in the Crimean ports of Sevastopol and Balaclava.


Vladimir Putin’s troop movements in Crimea, which are supported by most Russians, are of questionable legality under the terms of the peace and friendship treaty that Russia signed with Ukraine in 1997. But their illegality is considerably less clear-cut than that of the US-led invasion of Iraq, or of Afghanistan, where the UN security council only authorised the intervention several weeks after it had happened. [Indeed, top American leaders admit that the Iraq war was for reasons different than publicly stated. And the U.S. military sticks its nose in other countries’ business all over the world.  And see this.] And Russia’s troop movements can be reversed if the crisis abates. That would require the restoration of the language law in eastern Ukraine and firm action to prevent armed groups of anti-Russian nationalists threatening public buildings there.

Again, we don’t believe that there are angels on any side.  But we do believe that everyone has to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, calm down and reach a negotiated diplomatic resolution.

And see this, this, this and this (interview with a 27-year CIA veteran, who chaired National Intelligence Estimates and personally delivered intelligence briefings to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and the Joint Chiefs of Staff).

Pushing boundaries: US eyes Russian encirclement via NATO ‘Trojan horse’

November 19, 2013


The US is using the NATO as a Trojan horse in order to take over militarily and politically the whole of Eastern Europe, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and this is an open provocation vis-à-vis Russia, Rick Rozoff, manager of Stop NATO told RT.

RT: What’s the problem with NATO doing more war drills? We do live in a dangerous world and practice makes perfect doesn’t it?

Rick Rozoff: Right, we have to put matters into context. If we are talking about the most recent NATO war games in the Baltic Sea, so-called operations or exercise Steadfast Jazz 2013. We have to keep in mind it’s the largest joint military exercise held by NATO in seven years. And it was with the expressed intent of solidifying what is called the NATO response force, which is a global military strike force and was conducted in two countries – Latvia and Poland – that share borders with Russia. And it was again a large-scale: 6,000 troops, air and naval and as well land and infantry components in countries bordering Russia. It’s not an everyday affair, as your comments may have indicated. If anything analogous to this were to occur on an American border, say Mexico and Canada, and troops from 40 countries, all NATO members, and a number of NATO partners were to engage in joint war games on the American border, you’d hear something from Washington, I’m going to assure you. And this isn’t an innocuous everyday affair of one nation, two nations, holding war games; this is the largest military bloc in history, to be honest, with 24 members, with partners of over 70 countries in the world, which is over a third of the nations in the world, and in the UN, for example. So this is a further indication that the US-led military bloc that is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, inspires, first of all, to hold what could be construed as reckless and perhaps even dangerous war games near Russia’s borders and at the same time design to further develop and give a body to activate its international response force.

RT: These exercises do not come cheap though – and many European nations aren’t in the best shape financially. Is it really worth it for them?

RR: Of course not, this is a phantom, an imagined threat that has been combated. It’s worth noting that the Secretary-General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen and other NATO officials including the Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow, who is the former US Ambassador to Russia, made comments on the war games conducted in Latvia and Poland were meant to consolidate the gains that have been made over the last 12 years in Afghanistan, where NATO, through the International Security Assistance Force, has consolidated – in its own words – its operability with military forces of over 50 different nations. Can the peoples of Europe, the citizenry of the respective 26 NATO member states in Europe afford this sort of extravagance? No, of course, they cannot. So what we’re left to believe is that the United States finds it expedient to use NATO and it’s prepared to underwrite the majority of what it costs to conduct the war games or set up military installations, and further the United States’ geopolitical interests in Europe and in the world.

RT: NATO’s just wrapped up exercises in Poland and the Baltic states. Any reason why it picked these specific locations?

RR: If you are talking about the rapid response force, which is a NATO mechanism used presumably to interfere as the NATO intervene militarily, as NATO has over the last 14 years outside of the area of responsibility of the self-declared area of protection of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. What we’re talking about of course is a serious military action, serious as war is, in fact. In south-eastern Europe 14 years ago, in former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan over the last 12 years, in Asia and two years ago in Libya and North Africa, then they have chosen such a sensitive spot vis-à-vis Russia – the Baltic states, the north-west border of the Russian Federation – almost looks like a provocation to me. But the official NATO explanation is that now having established itself as an international military expeditionary force which can conduct military actions in Africa, in the Middle East, in the Gulf of Aden, in the Indian Ocean, in South and Central Asia, now has to re-establish its ability to defend its member-states. Who else but Russia could be intended when NATO states, and, in the case of Latvia and Poland – they have to be able to defend their new NATO member-states such as Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland – that any one nation that could be potential aggressor in that context and of course it is  Russia. So this is an open provocation vis-à-vis Russia.

RT: Next year NATO will finish up its Afghanistan combat mission, which lasted over a decade. What will all these troops be doing after the 2014 withdrawal?

RR: There is going to be a period of rest and recuperation for the actual ground forces. And keep in mind that the NATO commanders in Afghanistan and US military commanders have mooted about retaining as many as 8,000-14,000 US and other NATO troops in Afghanistan for the indefinite future. And this is of course an addition to the US sustaining and perhaps even expanding its presence and its strike capability in major airbases that the US has upgraded in Shandan, in Kandahar, and the ground bases outside Kabul, the capital, and so forth. So what the NATO evidently intends to do, and the US in first instance, is having integrated the military structures of over 50 countries – this a very significant event, there’s nothing like this even remotely comparable has occurred before in history. We have to be honest about this. There have been no military personnel from 50 countries in any war, not even the WW2, much less on one side, much less in one theater of war and in one nation. So what NATO has done is it used 12 years of indecisive war affair in Afghanistan in order to build up global NATO, in fact. And coming out of that with the NATO summit that was in Chicago, you know, the last NATO Summit in May 2012, immediately before that the NATO announced another partnership program. And this is one is the first that is not defined geographically, such as those in the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East region or Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia. In this case it’s called Partners Across the Globe. This is the latest NATO initiative, which includes initially eight nations of the Greater Asia-Pacific region: Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia. Mongolia of course, like Kazakhstan, which is a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, borders both Russia and China. So what we are seeing is that despite all these efforts to seduce the world into believing it has become an adjunct to the UN, or that it’s a peacekeeping apparatus of some sort, has in fact extended itself into a global military force. It may have a limited capacity to extend itself, at least not to what it would choose to. But its intent is still clear. The new NATO headquarters in Brussels which will cost over a billion dollars to construct are going to come online very shortly. Well, there is no intent by NATO to accept another budgetary constraint and other factors mitigating its shrinking, its ambitions are even more grandiose than they have ever been before.

RT: What does the future hold for the organization in general? How can it continue to stay relevant and be an important force in the world?

RR: We will find out at the next summit in Berlin next year, in 2014. What we do know is that at the summit of Chicago last year, one of the more significant decisions was that the so-called phased adaptive approach interceptor missile system that the US – initially under the George W. Bush administration and now fully-integrated with NATO under the Barack Obama’s administration – has achieved initial operational capability meaning plans to base ultimately hundreds of intermediate- and medium-range interceptor missiles on the ground in nations like Romania and Poland, and also on destroyers and other kind of warships in the Mediterranean. Ultimately, I suspect, in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, that the US is using the NATO again as a Trojan horse, not only to take over militarily, but also politically the entire Eastern Europe, the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Every single member of the Warsaw Pact, with the exception of Russia itself, is now a full member of NATO. Half of the states of the former republic of Yugoslavia are now full members of NATO. So what we see is that the US uses NATO to extend military from Berlin, you know, at the end of the Cold War all the way to the Russian border. And the most alarmingly of late is that it intensified its efforts to incorporate Ukraine, which has a sizeable border with Russia, as a major NATO partner. Ukraine is joining the response force, as well as Georgia, Finland and Sweden. Of course Sweden is the only one of those countries that doesn’t have a border with Russia. Finland, Ukraine and Georgia have sizeable borders. What we are seeing is that NATO in one form or another is continuing the push-up to Russia’s borders and effectively the military encirclement of the Russian Federation.

But while the gains of the orange-bedecked “chestnut revolution” are Ukraine’s, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.

Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.

Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko.

That one failed. “There will be no Kostunica in Belarus,” the Belarus president declared, referring to the victory in Belgrade.

But experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus has been invaluable in plotting to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma in Kiev.

The operation – engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience – is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people’s elections.

In the centre of Belgrade, there is a dingy office staffed by computer-literate youngsters who call themselves the Centre for Non-violent Resistance. If you want to know how to beat a regime that controls the mass media, the judges, the courts, the security apparatus and the voting stations, the young Belgrade activists are for hire.

They emerged from the anti-Milosevic student movement, Otpor, meaning resistance. The catchy, single-word branding is important. In Georgia last year, the parallel student movement was Khmara. In Belarus, it was Zubr. In Ukraine, it is Pora, meaning high time. Otpor also had a potent, simple slogan that appeared everywhere in Serbia in 2000 – the two words “gotov je”, meaning “he’s finished”, a reference to Milosevic. A logo of a black-and-white clenched fist completed the masterful marketing.

In Ukraine, the equivalent is a ticking clock, also signalling that the Kuchma regime’s days are numbered.

Stickers, spray paint and websites are the young activists’ weapons. Irony and street comedy mocking the regime have been hugely successful in puncturing public fear and enraging the powerful.

Last year, before becoming president in Georgia, the US-educated Mr Saakashvili travelled from Tbilisi to Belgrade to be coached in the techniques of mass defiance. In Belarus, the US embassy organised the dispatch of young opposition leaders to the Baltic, where they met up with Serbs travelling from Belgrade. In Serbia’s case, given the hostile environment in Belgrade, the Americans organised the overthrow from neighbouring Hungary – Budapest and Szeged.

In recent weeks, several Serbs travelled to the Ukraine. Indeed, one of the leaders from Belgrade, Aleksandar Maric, was turned away at the border.

The Democratic party’s National Democratic Institute, the Republican party’s International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO and billionaire George Soros’s open society institute.

US pollsters and professional consultants are hired to organise focus groups and use psephological data to plot strategy.

The usually fractious oppositions have to be united behind a single candidate if there is to be any chance of unseating the regime. That leader is selected on pragmatic and objective grounds, even if he or she is anti-American.

In Serbia, US pollsters Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates discovered that the assassinated pro-western opposition leader, Zoran Djindjic, was reviled at home and had no chance of beating Milosevic fairly in an election. He was persuaded to take a back seat to the anti-western Vojislav Kostunica, who is now Serbian prime minister.

In Belarus, US officials ordered opposition parties to unite behind the dour, elderly trade unionist, Vladimir Goncharik, because he appealed to much of the Lukashenko constituency.

Officially, the US government spent $41m (£21.7m) organising and funding the year-long operation to get rid of Milosevic from October 1999. In Ukraine, the figure is said to be around $14m.

Apart from the student movement and the united opposition, the other key element in the democracy template is what is known as the “parallel vote tabulation”, a counter to the election-rigging tricks beloved of disreputable regimes.

There are professional outside election monitors from bodies such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, but the Ukrainian poll, like its predecessors, also featured thousands of local election monitors trained and paid by western groups.

Freedom House and the Democratic party’s NDI helped fund and organise the “largest civil regional election monitoring effort” in Ukraine, involving more than 1,000 trained observers. They also organised exit polls. On Sunday night those polls gave Mr Yushchenko an 11-point lead and set the agenda for much of what has followed.

The exit polls are seen as critical because they seize the initiative in the propaganda battle with the regime, invariably appearing first, receiving wide media coverage and putting the onus on the authorities to respond.

The final stage in the US template concerns how to react when the incumbent tries to steal a lost election.

In Belarus, President Lukashenko won, so the response was minimal. In Belgrade, Tbilisi, and now Kiev, where the authorities initially tried to cling to power, the advice was to stay cool but determined and to organise mass displays of civil disobedience, which must remain peaceful but risk provoking the regime into violent suppression.

If the events in Kiev vindicate the US in its strategies for helping other people win elections and take power from anti-democratic regimes, it is certain to try to repeat the exercise elsewhere in the post-Soviet world.

The places to watch are Moldova and the authoritarian countries of central Asia.





















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