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TBR News August 11, 2016

Aug 11 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. August 11, 2016:” When I read about certain American states legalizing marijuana growing and selling, it occurred to me that Federal law always supersedes state law. If the State of California, for instance, legalized the purchase of automatic weapons by minors, the BATF could, and would, arrest small children with automatic weapons. This is now the case with so-called medical marijuana but especially with any cash that might be lying around carelessly in bank accounts or safes. Arrests are not made but cash and other valuables are “confiscated” and the marijuana destroyed. Government agents have been seizing millions of dollars from travelers without recourse and will continue to do so with impunity.Because of thieving that goes on at airports by the TSA goons, I never fly commercial but always on private aircraft. The highway police in many states pull over expensive out of state cars and grab any money they can find. In older days these men were called highwaymen but now they are called highway police.”

#PayToPlay: Hillary Clinton faces corruption scandal after links between donors & State Dept exposed

August 10, 2016

RT

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who often lectured African countries about corruption as Secretary of State, now faces her own scandal for questionable ethics and the trending hashtag #PayToPlay.

A number of emails that the former first lady failed to turn over to the US government, but were released after a Freedom of Information Act request, show donors and associates of the Clinton Foundation and its Global Initiative seemingly having special access inside the State Department.

The conservative group Judicial Watch released 296 pages of unseen State Department records Tuesday, including 44 previously unreleased emails

In 2009, the same year Hillary Clinton told Kenyans: “The government has to reform itself if Kenya will be all that it can be,” Clinton Foundation official Doug Band emailed her top aides at the time, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, stating that it’s “important to take care of [Redacted].”

Abedin replied to Band within 10 minutes, telling him that they “have all had him on our radar” and that “personnel has been sending him options.”

It is not known whose name has been redacted.

Band, who helped negotiate Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state job with the Obama administration, emailed Abedin and Mills a few days later, stating that “we need Gilbert Chagoury to speak to the substance person re Lebanon. As you know, he’s a key guy there and to us and is loved in Lebanon. Very imp.”

Abedin responded a few hours later that the “substance person” is Jeffrey Feltman, who was the US ambassador to Lebanon at the time.

“I’m sure he knows him. I’ll talk to Jeff,” added Abedin.

Band replied again minutes later, urging her to phone Feltman quickly. “Now preferable. This is very important,” said Band.

The Gilbert Chagoury referred to in the emails is a billionaire businessman in Nigeria who has been at the center of a number of investigations and was convicted by Swiss authorities in 2000 for money laundering

.He is also a ‘FOB’ (“friend of Bill” Clinton) and contributed to various campaigns for both members of the power couple as well as up to $5 million to their foundation and a $1 billion pledge for their global initiative, according to ABC News.

Chagoury had trouble leaving the US in 2010 when he was found on the government’s “no-fly list,” although he was reportedly able to fly to France on a private jet after obtaining a waiver from Washington.

In 2015, Republican Senator David Vitter wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, stating that questions remained over whether Clinton’s relationship with Chagoury influenced the State Department’s decision against designating Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization while she was in office.

While Clinton’s campaign has said that “neither of these emails involve the secretary or relate to the Foundation’s work,” they have been described as further proof of the corruption Clinton has been involved in, particularly while in office.

The emails cover mainly the first three months of Clinton holding the office of Secretary of State – and precede those comments she made during a trip to a number of African countries in which she condemned government corruption.

True economic progress in Africa… also depends on responsible governments that reject corruption, enforce the rule of law, and deliver results for their people,” Hillary Clinton said during a trade meeting with sub-Saharan countries according to Reuters, a repeat of the message delivered the previous month by Obama in Ghana. “This is not just about good governance, this is about good business.”

Another email, dating from February 2009, also reveals Hillary Clinton requesting a meeting with Stephen Roach, then chairman of the Asian branch of Morgan Stanley and one of her big donors who had emailed her several days earlier.

Clinton tells Abedin to see if Roach can “come to embassy or other event” while she is in Beijing during an upcoming trip to Asia.

Judicial Watch noted that such communications are in breach of the ethics agreements that Clinton agreed to in order to be appointed secretary of state.

“I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which The William J. Clinton Foundation (or the Clinton Global Initiative) is a party or represents a party,” Hillary Clinton wrote in a letter to State Department Designated Agency Ethics Official James Thessin in January 2009.

“No wonder Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin hid emails from the American people, the courts and Congress,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “They show the Clinton Foundation, Clinton donors, and operatives worked with Hillary Clinton in potential violation of the law.”

Following the release of the emails, social media users have started using the hashtag “PayToPlay,” describing the content of the emails as further evidence of the corruption Clinton was involved in a well maintained pipeline is that it keeps on flowing.

“I Ran the CIA” Man Piles on Trump

Michael Morell “Calls it like he sees it.” Or does he?

August 9, 2016

by Philip Giraldi

UNZ

Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell has written a New York Times op-ed entitled “I Ran the CIA. Now I’m endorsing Hillary Clinton.” Morell’s story begins with the flat assertion that “Mrs. Clinton is highly qualified to be commander in chief. I trust she will deliver on the most important duty of a president – keeping our nation safe…Donald J. Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.”

Morell arrived at his judgement regarding the upcoming election based on his four years of interaction with Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. He admired her preparation, diligence and her willingness to “change her mind if presented with a compelling argument.” Morell “also saw the secretary’s commitment to our nation’s security: her belief that America is an exceptional nation that must lead in the world for the country to remain secure and prosperous; her understanding that diplomacy can be effective only if the country is perceived as willing and able to use force if necessary; and – her capacity to make the most difficult decision of all – whether to put young American women and men in harm’s way.”

“I Ran the CIA” Morell goes on to cite how Hillary was a “proponent of a more aggressive approach [in Syria], one that might have prevented the Islamic State from gaining a foothold…” and he credits her with not politicizing national security when she rejected moving the raid to kill bin Laden back one day so it would not conflict with the White House Correspondents Dinner. Throughout his piece Morell implies that Hillary’s “keeping us safe” policies will somehow actually benefit the country, but he does not explain why and never once mentions what actual American national interests might be served through global “leadership” backed up by force majeure.

And then there is Trump. Morell runs through the litany of the GOP candidate’s observed personality and character failings while also citing his lack of experience but he delivers what he thinks to be his most crushing blow when he introduces Vladimir Putin into the discussion. Putin, it seems, a wily ex-career intelligence officer, is “trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities… In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

How can one be both unwitting and a recruited agent? Some might roll their eyes at that bit of hyperbole, but Morell goes on to explain why a claim that would be rather difficult to validate matters. He is unflinching and just a tad sanctimonious in affirming that his own intelligence training means that “[I] call it as I see it.” He derides Trump’s naivete in affirming that “Mr. Putin is a great leader…ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.”

Comments in The Times suggest that many readers are actually buying Morell’s argument, such as it is. They are perhaps ignorant of a number of facts about the author and where he stands ideologically and politically speaking, but first of all Morell’s bluster deserves a bit of a fact check. That the U.S. is “an exceptional nation” obliging it to lead the world, using force without hesitation whenever necessary, might well be questioned by many, particularly in light of the ineffective – or one might say disastrous? – policies instituted over the past fifteen years, policies which, I might add, both Morell and Clinton were parties to.

Contrary to Morell’s assertion, a hawkish Hillary Clinton has never hesitated to put young Americans or anyone else in “harm’s way.” His advocacy of Hillary’s promotion of using military force to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria can be easily challenged by even cursory reflection on the dreadful results produced by similar efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. A Syria with no government or a regime made up of a mixture of enemies of al-Assad would have become an open door for the development and expansion of ISIS, which is currently being most effectively opposed by the Syrian Army. And the Russians.

And yes, the Russians. For Morell and apparently Clinton they are the eternal enemy, but Trump’s often stated willingness to work with Putin and the nuclear armed state he heads is somehow seen as a Russian interest, not an American one. That Russia allegedly “invaded” two neighbors and forcibly annexed Crimea is a comic book version of what actually took place and which continues to roil the region. And there is no evidence whatsoever that Moscow either broke into the Democratic Party files or that it intends to invade the Baltic states. So much for the presumed insider knowledge coming from the man who “ran the CIA.”

As for the clincher about Trump being a Moscow run Manchurian candidate, I would suggest that Morell might have been a top analyst at the Agency but he never acquired or ran an actual spy in his life so his comments about The Donald having been recruited by Putin should be taken for what they are worth, which is precisely nothing. Indeed, as I have noted, calling someone an “unwitting agent” is itself meaningless as it implies being somehow recruited to engage in espionage but without realizing it and without being actually called upon to do anything. I would doubt that many real CIA Operations Officers would agree with Morell’s glib assessment or use such an expression. Trump for all his failings is presumably patriotic and no fool. He just might understand that dealing with a powerful foreign leader who is not completely to one’s liking just might be better than nuclear war. Perhaps Morell and Clinton should consider that option.

Michael Morell is, in fact, a product of Washington groupthink and a major beneficiary of Establishment politics, the very tradition that Hillary Clinton represents. Many readers have no doubt seen his serious, somewhat intense gaze as a television expert on terrorism. His career trajectory depends on there being major threats to the United States and this requires him to be constantly searching for enemies. Morell has covered for Hillary in the past, most notably over Benghazi where he altered the talking points of his Congressional testimony to make CIA’s assessment closer to Clinton’s version of events. That he has attached himself to the Hillary Clinton campaign should surprise no one.

When not fronting as a handsomely paid national security consultant for the CBS television network, Morell is employed by Beacon Global Strategies as a Senior Counselor, a company co-founded by Andrew Shapiro and Philippe Reines, members of the Clinton inner circle. As he has no experience in financial markets, he presumably spends his time warning well-heeled clients to watch out for random terrorists and Russians seeking to acquire “unwitting agents.” The clients might also want to consider that unless Morell is being illegally fed classified information by former colleagues his access to valuable insider information ended three years ago when he retired from CIA.

The national security industry that Morell is part of runs on fear. His current lifestyle and substantial emoluments depend on people being afraid of terrorism and foreigners in general, compelling them to turn to a designated expert like him to ask serious questions that he will answer in a serious way, sometimes suggesting that Islamic militants could potentially bring about some kind of global apocalypse if one does not seek knowledgeable counsel from firms like Beacon Global Strategies. And the Russians and Iranians are inevitably behind it all.

Morell, also a CIA torture apologist and a George Tenet protégé, was deeply involved in many of the intelligence failures that preceded and followed 9/11. He also has a book out that he wants to sell, positing somewhat ridiculously that he and his former employer had been fighting The Great War of Our Time against Islamic terrorists, something comparable to the World Wars of the past century, hence the title. Morell tends to see the world in Manichean terms. If he were at all introspective he might question the bad guys versus good guys narrative that he possibly peddles for commercial reasons but that is a road he does not choose to go down. His credentials as a warrior are somewhat suspect in any event as he never did any military service and his combat in the world of intelligence consisted largely of sitting behind a desk in Washington and providing briefings to George W. Bush and Barack Obama in which he presumably told them what they wanted to hear, though I am sure he would deny that.

It is certainly unseemly that the self-serving Morell has felt it appropriate to invoke his former government position to provide authenticity for a series of comments that in reality are little more than his own opinion. And, unfortunately, self-advancement by virtue of a government-private sector revolving door is not unique. He is but one of a host of pundits who are successful in selling the military-industrial-lobbyist-congressional-intelligence community’s largely fabricated narrative regarding the war on terror and diversified foreign threats. Throw in the neoconservatives as the in-your-face agents provocateurs who provide instant intellectual and media credibility for developments and you have large groups of engaged individuals with good access who are on the receiving end of the seemingly unending cash pipeline that began with 9/11.   And the good thing about a well maintained pipeline is that it keeps on flowing. Is Michael J. Morell anticipating a high position in the Hillary Clinton Administration? You betcha.

Earliest Americans could not have arrived by dry land, study indicates

Research shows that ice age corridor between Siberia and Alaska would have been too inhospitable a migration route, contradicting longstanding theory

August 10, 2016

by Tim Radford

The Guardian

The first Americans – the earliest people to cross from Siberia to Alaska and begin the colonisation of two vast continents linked by a narrow isthmus – could not have simply followed the deer and the buffalo across dry land during the last ice age 13,500 years ago. They would have been in the right place, but at the wrong time, a new study shows.

What is now the Bering Strait would indeed then have been dry land. There was, as scientists have known for many years, an open 1500km corridor of grassland between two great ice sheets that would have made migration deep into North America possible.

But, according to a new study in Nature, this route wasn’t fully open for traffic until 12,600 years ago.

This means the very first pre-Columbian settlement of America, perhaps by people known to archaeologists as the Clovis culture, must have been either by sea, or by hugging the Pacific shoreline, long before the ice sheets retreated and the ocean closed in to flood the Bering Strait and separate the Old World from the New.

Studies based on radiocarbon dating, pollen, fossils and ancient plant and mammal DNA from lake sediments, found that before 12,600 years ago, there were no grasses, trees, bison, woolly mammoth or rabbits to serve as food and shelter along the corridor.

“The bottom line is that, even though the physical corridor was open by 13,000 years ago, it was several hundred years before it was possible to use it,” said Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist from the University of Copenhagen, St John’s College Cambridge and the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

“That means the first people entering what is now the US, Central and South America must have taken a different route. Whether you believe these people were Clovis, or someone else, they simply could not have come through the corridor, as long claimed.”

The corridor ran eastward of the Canadian Rockies between two great and retreating sheets of ice, and would have first been steppe, grazed by bison and woolly mammoth, and then a “parkland” of trees supporting moose, elk and bald-headed eagles. There would have been fish in the lakes. Around 10,000 years ago, the landscape was claimed by forests of spruce and pine. The ice cap retreated, sea levels rose and the Americas were cut off from the rest of the world. Later hunter-gatherers from Asia travelled down the corridor and differentiated into a wide range of peoples and cultures, to lose contact with the Old World for more than 9,000 years.

“What nobody has looked at is when the corridor became biologically viable,” said Willerslev. “When could they actually have survived the long and difficult journey through it?”

He and colleagues sampled DNA from the muds of Charlie Lake in British Columbia, and Spring Lake in Alberta, sites along the corridor, for traces of surviving DNA that would have accumulated with animal excrement and plant tissue.

The sequences told their own story. Before about 12,600 years ago, the region would have been inhospitable. But since a prehistoric people with distinctive stone tools had already colonised what would become the United States 13,000 years ago, they must have come by another route: perhaps along the shoreline of Alaska and Canada, over beaches, dunes and estuaries long since covered by the Pacific Ocean. How they did this is speculative: there is no evidence from that era of any boat travel.

But Mikkel Winther Pederson, of the University of Copenhagen Centre for Geogenetics, and a co-author, sees a possible parallel with the modern Inuit peoples of the Arctic region, who find their food and skins both on land and at sea.

“In caves along the coast archaeologists have found evidence of bear and reindeer dating back 16,000 years; this suggests that the coastal route would have been open earlier for human migration,” he said.

“However, as the coastlines at this time have been inundated by the sea level rise the majority of the archaeology is now underwater.”

Do tools belonging to Stone Age hunters found on U.S. east coast prove the first Americans came from Europe NOT Asia?

  • New discovery of European-style tools being heralded as among the most important archaeological breakthroughs for decades
  • Supports the theory that Stone Age humans could make the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic during Ice Age

February 28, 2012

by Jill Reilly

Daily Mail/UK

America was first discovered by Stone Age hunters from Europe, according to new archaeological evidence.

Across six locations on the U.S. east coast, several dozen stone tools have been found.

After close analysis it was discovered that they were between 19,000 and 26,000 years old and were a European-style of tool.

The discovery suggests that the owners of the tools arrived 10,000 years before the ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World, reported The Independent.

Finding the tools is being heralded as one of the most important archaeological breakthroughs for several decades.

Archaeologists are hopeful that they will add another dimension to understanding the spread of humans across the world.

Three of the sites were discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware, while another one is in Pennsylvania and a fifth site is in Virginia.

Fishermen discovered a sixth on a seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast, which in prehistoric times would have been dry land.

Previous similar discoveries before the recent artefacts, dated back 15,000 years ago, which was long after Stone Age Europeans had stopped making those tools, and as a consequence, most archaeologists had refuted any possibility of a connection.

But the age of the newly-discovered tools are from between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago and are virtually exactly the same as western European materials from that time, reported The Independent.

Professor Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter, were the two leading archaeologists who analysed the evidence.

They have argued that Stone Age humans were able to make the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic ice and suggested that from Western Europe, Stone Age people migrated to North America at the height of the Ice Age.

About three million square miles of the North Atlantic was covered in thick ice for all or part of the year at the peak of the Ice Age.

However, beyond the ice, the lure of the open ocean began would have been extremely rich in food resources for hunters.

But until now there was relatively little evidence to support their thinking.

They are presenting their theory and evidence in a new book – Across Atlantic Ice – which is published this month.

Buoyed by the recent discovery, archaeologists are now turning to new locations in Tennessee, Maryland and even Texas, all sites which are they believe will produce more Stone Age evidence.

But most of the areas where the newcomers stepped off the ice on to dry land are now up to 100 miles out to sea – along with any possible evidence.

Military attaches, diplomats flee Turkey’s post-coup inquiry

August 11, 2016

by Orhan Coskun and Ece Toksabay

Reuters

ANKARA-Two Turkish military attaches in Greece fled to Italy, others were caught overseas and some diplomats were on the run after being recalled as part of an inquiry into last month’s failed military coup, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Thursday.

Turkey, which has NATO’s second-biggest armed forces, has dismissed or detained thousands of soldiers, including nearly half of its generals, since the July 15 coup bid, in which rogue troops commandeered tanks and warplanes in an attempt to seize power.

Western allies worry President Tayyip Erdogan is using the failed putsch and purge to tighten his grip on power. But many Turks are angered by what they see as a lack of Western sympathy over a violent coup in which 240 people died.

“Democracy rallies”, largely attended by Erdogan supporters but also some parts of the opposition, have been held night after night since the putsch. Pollster Metropoll said on Thursday its monthly survey showed a surge in approval for Erdogan to 68 percent in July from 47 percent a month earlier.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told private broadcaster NTV that two military attaches in Greece — a naval officer and an army officer — had fled by car and ferry to Italy, but that Turkish officials would seek their return.

Cavusoglu said a military attache based in Kuwait had also tried to escape through Saudi Arabia, but had been sent back, as well as two generals based in Afghanistan who had been caught in Dubai by UAE authorities and returned to Turkey.

The hunt for fugitive Turkish officers and officials overseas expands from the crackdown at home, where tens of thousands of troops, police, and bureaucrats have been detained, dismissed or investigated for alleged links to the coup, which authorities blame on U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen denies any involvement and has condemned the coup bid. But he says Erdogan is using the purges to shore up his own power in Turkey.

“TIME HAS RUN OUT”

“There are those who have escaped. There have been escapees among our diplomats as well,” Cavusoglu told NTV in an interview. “As of yesterday, time has run out for those initially called back. We will carry out the legal operations for those who have not returned.”

Interior Minister Efkan Ala was quoted on Thursday as saying almost 76,100 civil servants have now been suspended.

The Greek foreign ministry said the two attaches fled before Ankara asked them to return to Turkey, and before officials canceled their diplomatic passports.

U.S. officials told Reuters this week that a Turkish military officer on a U.S.-based assignment for NATO is also seeking asylum in the United States after being recalled by the government.

A total of 160 members of the military wanted in connection with the failed coup are still at large, including nine generals, officials have said.

One official said the foreign ministry sent instructions to Turkish diplomatic missions around the world where those suspected of links to the plotters were thought to be working, ordering them back to Ankara as part of the investigations.

Five employees of Turkey’s embassy in the Netherlands were recalled on suspicion of involvement with the Gulen movement, the Turkish charge d’affaires told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper this week.

“It wasn’t the cook or the servants,” Kurtulus Aykan, acting head of Turkey’s mission to the Netherlands, was quoted as saying. “These were high-ranking staff members. Talented people, with whom I had an excellent working relationship. I suspected nothing. That’s the talent of this movement. They infiltrate silently.”

Cavusoglu has previously said around 300 members of the foreign ministry have been suspended since the coup plot, including two ambassadors. He said on Thursday two officials in Bangladesh fled to New York, and another official had fled to Japan through Moscow.

“We will return these traitors to Turkey,” Cavusoglu said.

“PARALLEL STATE”

Erdogan accuses the U.S.-based cleric Gulen of staging the attempted putsch, harnessing his extensive network of schools, charities and businesses built up in Turkey and abroad over decades to create a “parallel structure”.

The abortive July 15 coup and the subsequent purge of the military has raised concern about the stability of Turkey, a key member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State and battling an insurgency at home by Kurdish militants.

Turkey has been angered by the Western response to the attempted coup, viewing Europe as more concerned about the rights of the plotters than the events themselves and the United States as reluctant to extradite Gulen.

That has chilled relations with Washington and the European Union, bringing repeated Turkish warnings about an EU deal to stem the flow of migrants. Erdogan has also repaired ties with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a detente Western officials worry may be used to pressure the West.

“Sooner or later the United States of America will make a choice. Either Turkey or FETO,” Erdogan told a rally late on Wednesday, using an abbreviation standing for the “Gulenist Terror Group” which is how Ankara refers to Gulen’s movement.

The purge inside Turkey also presses on. Turkey has canceled the work permits of 27,424 people working in the education sector as part of its investigations, Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz said on Thursday.

Ankara prosecutors on Thursday also ordered the detention of 648 judges and prosecutors suspended a day earlier, Hurriyet newspaper and broadcasters said. They are among 3,500 judges and prosecutors — a quarter of the national total — suspended in the coup probe, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

(Additional reporting by Michele Kambas in Athens, Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo, Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

Ukrainian president orders forces on border with Crimea and eastern Ukraine on highest alert

August 11, 2016

RT

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has instructed all military units near Crimea and the eastern Ukrainian Donbass region to be at the highest level of combat readiness.

Poroshenko announced the order after a military meeting on Thursday.

The Ukrainian security forces at the border with Crimea are ready “for any turn of events,” the aide to the Ukrainian border service, Oleg Slobodyan, told journalists at the briefing.

He added that “any tasks are carried out in collaboration with the military and the national police,” as quoted by RIA Novosti.

Poroshenko said he has ordered Ukraine’s foreign minister to initiate phone conversations with Russia’s President Putin, as well as the German, French, and US leaders, and the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

It comes after Russia’s security service said Wednesday it had foiled a terrorist attack in Crimea plotted by Kiev.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said it had found a group of infiltrators in Crimea, near the Ukrainian border. The infiltrators were preparing to target Crimea infrastructure, the agency said. Explosive devices and ammunition were also discovered at the scene.

A network of agents from Ukraine’s chief intelligence directorate has been uncovered in Crimea, according to the FSB.

Meanwhile, security in the region has been tightened due to the discovery, the FSB announced, saying that additional security arrangements have been made near major infrastructure objects, in crowded places, and on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Kiev denied claims that it was behind the terrorist plot, and accused Moscow of provocation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Ukraine has turned to “the practice of terrorism” and “is playing a dangerous game,” calling Kiev’s actions “stupid and criminal.”

On Thursday, Putin held an urgent meeting with the Russian Security Council, to discuss stepping up security measures “on the land, sea, and air borders” in Crimea, following the foiled terrorist plot attempt, the Kremlin press service reported. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu were among those who took part in the meeting.

US drug agency declines to change marijuana’s strict drug designation

Bipartisan group of legislators had argued to DEA that Schedule I drugs classification creates risks for businesses in states that have deemed it legal

August 11, 2016

by Megan Carpentier

Reuters

The Drug Enforcement Agency will not remove marijuana from the Schedule I drugs list, its head Chuck Rosenberg has announced, despite a bipartisan group of state legislators calling for it.

Rosenberg’s decision was based on a report by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and is subject to abuse.

Schedule I drugs are defined by the US Controlled Substances Act as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”.

Rosenberg’s move, in response to a 2011 petition by Washington state governor Christine Gregoire and then-Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee, came with one caveat: the DEA will allow universities to apply to grow marijuana for research purposes. Currently, only the University of Mississippi is licensed to do so, which scientists say limits their ability to research the medical uses of marijuana – which is what the FDA and DEA would require to change marijuana’s Schedule I classification.

“If our understanding of the science changes,” said Rosenberg, “that could very well drive a new decision.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) adopted its resolution at Wednesday’s business meeting that means the organization will, under its bylaws, “lobby the Congress, the White House and federal agencies” to change marijuana’s designation under the law. Schedule I is the strictest designation under the federal law. Amongst those drugs listed in the less restrictive Schedule II are methamphetamine and opium.

Oregon state representative Ann Lininger, who introduced the resolution, explained that, since 25 states plus the District of Columbia and Guam have legalized marijuana under some circumstances – be it for medical or recreational use – the continuing classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance creates both risks for businesses in states that have deemed it legal and difficulties for states seeking to regulate a growing industry.

“There are 5,000 legal cannabis businesses in the United States” said Lininger, a Democrat. “And they don’t have reliable access to banking services.”

“It creates a public safety risk,” she said, because the classification of marijuana means that banks and other federally regulated financial services companies cannot do business with dispensaries. That, in turn, necessitates that all marijuana businesses operate strictly in cash, which often leads to robberies and muggings. Besides, which, she said, “there’s an inability to track sales for oversight and regulation,” she said. “And it probably affects tax compliance.”

The resolution notes that “the federal Bank Secrecy Act and its implementing regulations impose substantial administrative and operational burdens, compliance risk and regulatory risk that serve as a barrier” to financial services companies wishing to do business with legal marijuana companies, and that the 2014 “clarification” memo issued by the Department of Treasury’s financial crimes enforcement network “is inadequate to create a regulatory environment as it does not change applicable federal laws, imposes significant compliance burdens and is subject to change at any time” – including with a new administration in the White House.

“States should have to ability to chart their own way forward on cannabis regulation, outside of federal oversight,” Lininger said, calling it a states’ rights issue that had led many legislators of a more conservative bent on marijuana policy to support the resolution.

The National Conference of State Legislatures, which is made up of member state legislatures and legislator participants, serves as both a research and advocacy organization for the interests of state legislatures, as determined by a bipartisan plurality of participants. The resolution process determines the organization’s priorities in its efforts “to fight unwarranted federal preemption of state laws, unfunded mandates and federal legislation that threatens state authority and autonomy”.

Domestic Cannabis Eradication / Suppression Program

August 1, 2016

DEA

Marijuana is the only major drug of abuse grown within the U.S. borders.  The DEA is aggressively striving to halt the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States.  To accomplish this, the DEA initiated the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP), which is the only nationwide law enforcement program that exclusively targets Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) involved in cannabis cultivation.

The DCE/SP began funding eradication programs in Hawaii and California in 1979.  The program rapidly expanded to include programs in 25 states by 1982.  By 1985, all 50 states were participating in the DCE/SP.  In 2014, the DEA continued its nation-wide cannabis eradication efforts, providing resources to support the 128 state and local law enforcement agencies that actively participate in the program.  This assistance allows the enhancement of already aggressive eradication enforcement activities throughout the nation.  In 2014, the DCE/SP was responsible for the eradication of 3,904,213 cultivated outdoor cannabis plants and 396,620 indoor plants for a total of 4,300,833 marijuana plants. The total marijuana plant seizure in 2014 was close to the total seizures in 2013.  In addition, the DCE/SP accounted for 6,310 arrests and the seizure in excess of 27.3 million dollars of cultivator assets.  The program also removed 4,989 weapons from cannabis cultivators.

The success of the DCE/SP is directly attributed to the decision of the participating agencies to share intelligence, technology and manpower.  In many areas of the U.S., cultivators have been forced to abandon large outdoor cannabis plots in favor of smaller, better concealed illicit gardens.  Cultivators are also growing outdoor cannabis under the cover of various states legal cannabis grows.

Additionally, cultivators have turned to sophisticated technology to cultivate cannabis plants indoors.  The use of hydroponics (growing plants in a nutrient laden solution rather than conventional soil) and other technological advances have enabled cultivators to increase the potency of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis plants. Despite cultivator efforts, the DEA and the cooperating DCE/SP agencies continue to identify and eliminate cannabis grow sites throughout the United States. A growing trend is the extraction of THC using various methods such as the Butane method which has seen an increase of grow sites exploding due to this volatile method of extracting THC.

‘We want cash’: Drug agents seize $209mn in random profiling of 5,200 travelers – report

August 11, 2016

RT

In 10 years, US drug agents have seized nearly $210 million from 5,200 Americans at airports and Amtrak train stations, a USA Today report revealed. Federal agents allegedly collected private data from paid informants, but only two people were real suspects.

Sources have told USA Today that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) profiled random people at nearly every major US airline at 15 airports and Amtrak train across the country.

In most cases, people stopped for questioning fell under suspicion for travelling one-way to California, for paying for a ticket in cash or having checked luggage.

According to one court filing seen by USA Today, in 2009 DEA agents took $44,010 from two people traveling on a train to Denver after picking them out during “a routine review of the computerized travel manifest for Amtrak.”

In another case, Christelle Tillerson was forced to hand over $25,000 found in her suitcase after being questioned by the agents prior to boarding a flight from Detroit to Chicago. The Justice Department claimed that Tillerson turned into a suspect after the DEA “received information” that she was going to Los Angeles, but had a one-way ticket. Despite her profile of a former convict, she was not even questioned in relation to her drug trafficking case.

In 2015, traveler Zane Young was traveling from Orlando to Los Angeles when he suddenly became a suspected drug courier. The agents decided he fit the profile because had bought a last-minute, one-way ticket from Orlando to Las Vegas. Agents seized $36,000 from Young’s bags.

In neither of the two cases, profiled people were formally detained, arrested or charged, so as thousands of other single-outed passengers.

In fact, in most cases, the agents gave the suspected drug couriers a receipt for the cash and let them go without ever charging them with a crime.

USA Today identified 87 cases in recent years, but said that there many more travelers-agents encounters and money seizures because very few of them ever make it to court. In fewer cases, people managed to get at least some of their money back.

Thus, Tillerson managed to fight $21,000 back as $4,000 the government decided to withhold as “a small percentage of the funds should be forfeited.” Zane Young only got a half of the sum seized from him back.

Sources that USA Today spoke to, say that this practice has nothing to do with security and protection, but serves as just another source of the DEA’s budget.

“They count on this as part of the budget,” Louis Weiss, a former supervisor of the DEA group assigned to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, told the newspaper. “Basically, you’ve got to feed the monster.”

A lawyer, who has also commented on the issue, has agreed.

“Going after someone’s property has nothing to do with protecting them and it has everything to do with going after the money,” the Institute for Justice’s Renée Flaherty said.

To profile those “suspects” and harvest travel records, federal agents created a wide network of such informants, five current and former agents told USA Today.

Two years ago, Amtrak’s inspector general revealed that in nearly two decades, drug agents paid a secretary $854,460 in exchange for passenger information.

Court records suggest that agents have been profiling passengers on most major airlines, including American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United and others, usually without the companies’ consent.

“Basically, it’s what that Amtrak guy was doing, but at the airport,” said a senior DEA agent told USA Today speaking on the condition of anonymity

Of those nearly 90 cases USA Today looked into, only two people were real suspects, who were charged with a drug-trafficking related crime.

“We want the cash. Good agents chase cash,” George Hood, who supervised a drug task force assigned to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago before he retired in 2007, told the newspaper. “It was just easier to get the asset, and that’s where you make a dent in the criminal organization.”

On August 10, a federal judge has ruled that the DEA would keep nearly $18,000 that a passenger found in a backpack aboard an Amtrak train at Washington, DC’s Union Station in 2014.

Civil asset forfeiture has been an issue of concerns across the nation as one of the threats to property rights. According to the Institute of Justice’s report “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” police take hundreds of millions of dollars in cash, cars, homes and other property annually. This confiscation does not depend on the owners’ guilt or innocence and no charges or convictions are usually required.

Assange Strongly Implies DNC Staffer Was Murdered for Being Wikileaks Source

August 10th, 2016

by Alex Griswold

mediate

In an interview with Dutch television show Nieuwsuur, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange strongly implied that a DNC staffer murdered in July was his source for the leaked DNC emails and hinted that he may have been killed for that reason.

“Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material, and often very significant risks,” Assange said. “As a 27-year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington.”

“That was just a robbery I believe, wasn’t it?” asked the host, referring to the death of DNC data analyst Seth Rich.

“No,”Assange said. “There’s no finding.”

So what are you suggesting?” asked the host.

“I’m suggesting that our sources take risks,” Assange replied. But when asked point-blank whether Rich was a Wikileaks source, Assange refused to confirm or deny it.

The interview came the same day that Wikileaks offered a $20,000 reward to anyone who could offer information about Rich’s death. The offer appeared to intentionally play into a budding conspiracy theory that Rich was murdered by Hillary Clinton or one of her supporters.

Germany to ease deportations for migrant criminals

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere reacted to recent violent incidents in Germany with a raft of new security measures. These included a new cybercrime unit and easing the deportation of foreigners deemed dangerous.

August 11,2016

DW

The German government is planning a host of new security measures in the wake of a few violent incidents in Würzburg, Ansbach and Munich, including an increase in police personnel, a central crime unit for pursuing crime on the Internet, easier deportation for migrants who have committed crimes, and depriving Germans who join foreign “terror militias” of their citizenship.

“I am convinced that these proposals will increase security quickly,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in a special press conference in Berlin on Thursday, before adding that all the proposals could be implemented in this legislative period, which ends next fall.

One of the proposals was designed to make it easier to deport migrants guilty of crimes – or even potentially guilty. As part of Germany’s Residence Act for foreign nationals, “endangering public safety” will be introduced as a reason to deport someone. “In this way, we will in future increasingly use the instrument of deportation for foreign criminals and people likely to cause a threat,” the minister said in his statement.

On top of that, a new task force will be created to concentrate on speeding up individual cases of foreign criminals who are in line for deportation. A pilot project along such lines has already been set up in North Rhine-Westphalia.

New cyber-investigation unit

De Maiziere insisted that security forces had been continually strengthened throughout his tenure, but that new measures were still necessary. Apart from a 2-billion-euro ($2.2 billion) increase in funding for the federal police, de Maiziere said that “technical capabilities” for “cyber-investigation” would be gathered in a new joint unit – the “Central Office for Information in Security Sphere” (ZITiS).

ZITiS will support security forces by developing “methods, products and strategies to fight criminality and terrorism on the Internet.” The new office will be set up at the beginning of next year and will eventually include 400 officials, including investigators specializing in trawling the so-called “darknet” for illegal weapons trading and terrorist communication. The teenager who shot nine people in a Munich shopping mall on July 22 is believed to have bought his gun illegally via the darknet.

De Maiziere also announced an increase and upgrade of video surveillance technology in German railways stations.

Patient-doctor confidentiality

De Maiziere also tried to diffuse the row that has developed in the last few days over his alleged plans to weaken doctors’ obligation to patient confidentiality – potentially forcing doctors to report mental health patients who might pose a threat to public safety. The German Medical Association had preemptively warned against any such plans on Wednesday.

The minister said he was “aware of the sensitivity” of this problem and for that reason proposed a meeting between the government and the association’s president, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, to disucss “how we can preserve the duty to confidentiality while reducing the risks for citizens as much as possible.”

Similarly, de Maiziere sought a compromise on the row over dual nationality, another issue where state interior ministers (two of whom are caught in election campaigns) have been pushing for an outright ban. Instead, de Maiziere said that German citizens who fight for “terror militias” abroad would be deprived of their citizenship. On top of that, “sympathetic promotion” of terrorism would also become a crime.

Germany’s new security plans also involve better prevention, with integration teachers being trained to deal with war trauma. On top of this, refugees will be offered better opportunities to report signs of psychological changes or signs of radicalization among their peers.

‘Slap in the face for populist agitators’

Meanwhile, de Maiziere resisted calls from state interior ministers – and also members of his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – to ban the face-covering Islamic dress the burqa in Germany. He called the idea “constitutionally problematic” and added: “You can’t ban everything you oppose, and I oppose wearing the burqa.”

Sigmar Gabriel, vice chancellor and head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), junior partner in Germany’s governing coalition, showed satisfaction with the minister’s plan, a day after warning the CDU against knee-jerk reactions.

“The SPD is ready to talk about anything that will contribute to heightening security,” he told the “Funke Mediengruppe” newspaper group. “But we’re not available for populist rush jobs.”

He added that de Maiziere’s refusal to entertain blanket bans on the burqa and dual nationality had been a “slap in the face” for the “agitators” of the CDU.

Opposition politicians were less enthusiastic about the tightening of laws governing foreign nationals in Germany. Volker Beck said de Maiziere’s plans would do little to increase security. In a statement, the Green party’s migration spokesman dismissed threatening jihadists with losing their German citizenship as “despairing politicking.”

And Beck added that speeding up deportations was not as easy as de Maiziere suggested, not least because many refugees do not have valid papers. “The fact is that not a few embassies simply refuse to issue passports for those affected,” he said. “Accusations and tightening residence laws makes precious little difference. We’d be better advised to give all people whose deportations are impossible for actual reasons, the prospect of staying.”

Military Dissent Is Not an Oxymoron

Freeing Democracy from Perpetual War

by William J. Astore

TomDispatch

The United States is now engaged in perpetual war with victory nowhere in sight.  Iraq is chaotic and scarred. So, too, is Libya. Syria barely exists. After 15 years, “progress” in Afghanistan has proven eminently reversible as efforts to rollback recent Taliban gains continue to falter. The Islamic State may be fracturing, but its various franchises are finding new and horrifying ways to replicate themselves and lash out. Having spent trillions of dollars on war with such sorry results, it’s a wonder that key figures in the U.S. military or officials in any other part of America’s colossal national security state and the military-industrial complex (“the Complex” for short) haven’t spoken out forcefully and critically about the disasters on their watch.

Yet they have remained remarkably mum when it comes to the obvious.  Such a blanket silence can’t simply be attributed to the war-loving nature of the U.S. military.  Sure, its warriors and warfighters always define themselves as battle-ready, but the troops themselves don’t pick the fights.  Nor is it simply attributable to the Complex’s love of power and profit, though its members are hardly eager to push back against government decisions that feed the bottom line. To understand the silence of the military in particular in the face of a visible crisis of war-making, you shouldn’t assume that, from private to general, its members don’t have complicated, often highly critical feelings about what’s going on. The real question is: Why they don’t ever express them publicly?

To understand that silence means grasping all the intertwined personal, emotional, and institutional reasons why few in the military or the rest of the national security state ever speak out critically on policies that may disturb them and with which they may privately disagree. I should know, because like so many others I learned to silence my doubts during my career in the military.

My Very Own “Star Wars” Moment

As a young Air Force lieutenant at the tail end of the Cold War, I found myself working on something I loathed: the militarization of space.  The Air Force had scheduled a test of an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile to be launched at high altitude from an F-15 fighter jet.  The missile was designed to streak into low earth orbit to strike at the satellites of enemy powers.  The Soviets were rumored to have their own ASAT capability and this was our answer.  If the Soviets had a capability, Americans had to have the same — or better.  We called it “deterrence.”

Ever since I was a kid, weaned on old episodes of “Star Trek,” I’d seen space as “the final frontier,” a better place than conflict-ridden Earth, a place where anything was possible — maybe even peace.  As far as I was concerned, the last thing we needed was to militarize that frontier.  Yet there I was in 1986 working in the Space Surveillance Center in Cheyenne Mountain in support of a test that, if it worked, would have helped turn space into yet another war zone.

It won’t surprise you to learn that, despite my feelings, which couldn’t have been stronger, I didn’t speak up against the test.  Not a peep.  I kept my critical thoughts and doubts to myself.  I told myself that I was doing my duty, that it wasn’t my place to question decisions made at high levels in the administration of then-President Ronald Reagan.  You can’t have a disciplined and orderly military if troops challenge every decision, can you?  Orders are to be obeyed, right?  Ours not to reason why, ours but to do or die — especially since we were then at war with the Soviets, even if that war fell under the label of “cold.”

So I buried my misgivings about facilitating a future shooting war in orbit.  I remember, in fact, hoping that the ASAT test would go well and that I’d be seen as effective at my job.  And in this I think I was probably pretty typical of military people, then and now.

The F-15 ASAT program was eventually cancelled, but not before it taught me a lesson that’s obvious only in retrospect: mission priorities and military imperatives in such a hierarchical situation are powerful factors in suppressing morality and critical thinking.  It’s so much easier, so much more “natural,” to do one’s job and conform rather than speak out and buck a system that’s not made for the public expression of dissenting views.  After all, a military with an ethos of “we’re all volunteers, so suck it up — or get out” is well suited to inhibiting dissent, as its creators intended.

To those who’ve been exposed to hierarchical, authority-heavy institutions, that lesson will undoubtedly come as no surprise.  Heck, I grew up Catholic and joined the military, so I know something about the pressures to conform within such institutions.  In the Church, you learn — or at least you did in my day — that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, and the “old guard” priests and nuns I encountered were more than ready to encourage that fear.  In the military, you learn from day one of basic training that it’s best to put up and shut up.  No grumbling in the ranks.  No quibbling.  Yes, sir; no, sir; no excuse, sir.  Cooperate and graduate.  That conformist mentality is difficult to challenge or change, no matter your subsequent rank or position.

There’s a sensible reason for all this.  You can’t herd cats, nor can you make a cohesive military unit out of them.  In life and death situations, obedience and discipline are vital to rapid action.

As true as that may be, however, America doesn’t need more obedience: it needs more dissent.  Not only among its citizens but within its military — maybe there especially.

Unfortunately, in the post-9/11 era, we’ve exalted and essentially worshipped the military as “our greatest national treasure” (the words of former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta at the recent Democratic convention).  The military has, in fact, become so crucial to Washington that aspiring civilian commanders-in-chief like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump lean on retired generals to anoint them as qualified for the job. (For Trump, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn did the honors; for Hillary, General John Allen.)

The Pentagon has, in a very real sense, become America’s national cathedral.  If we’re going to continue to worship at it, we should at least ask for some minimal level of honesty from its priests.  In militarized America, the question of the moment is how to encourage such honesty.

Call it patriotic dissent.  By “dissent” I mean honest talk from those who should know best about the hazards and horrors of perpetual war, about how poorly those conflicts have gone and are going.  We desperately need to encourage informed critics and skeptics within the military and the Complex to speak their minds in a way that moves the national needle away from incessant bombing and perpetual war.

Yet to do so, we must first understand the obstacles involved.  It’s obvious, for example, that a government which has launched a war against whistleblowers, wielding the World War I-era Espionage Act against them and locking away Chelsea Manning for a veritable lifetime in a maximum security prison, isn’t likely to suddenly encourage more critical thinking and public expression inside the national security state. But much else stands in the way of the rest of us hearing a little critical speech from the “fourth branch” of government.

Seven Reasons Why It’s So Hard to Break Ranks  

As a start, it’s hard for outsiders to imagine just how difficult it is to break ranks when you’re in the military.  So many pressures combine to squelch dissent — everything from feelings of loyalty and patriotism to careerist concerns and worries about punishment.  I wasn’t immune from such pressures, which is why my story is fairly typical.  As I’ve said, I had my criticisms of the military, but I didn’t begin to air them until 2007, two years after I’d retired.

Why the delay?  I can offer explanations but no excuses.  Unless you’ve been in the military, you have little idea how all-enveloping and all-consuming such a life can be.  In a strange way, it may be the closest thing to true socialism in America: base housing provided and tied to your rank, government doctors and “socialized” medicine for all, education for your children in base schools, and worship at the base chapel; in other words, a remarkably insular life, intensified when troops are assigned to “Little Americas” abroad (bases like Ramstein in Germany).  For Star Trek: The Next Generation fans, think of Ramstein and similar bases around the world as the Borg cubes of American life — places where you’re automatically assimilated into the collective.  In such a hive life, resistance is all but futile.

This effect is only intensified by the tribalism of war.  Unit cohesion, encouraged at all times, reaches a fever pitch under fire as the mission (and keeping your buddies and yourself alive) becomes all-consuming.  Staring at the business end of an AK-47 is hardly conducive to reflective, critical thinking, nor should it be.

Leaving military insularity, unit loyalty, and the pressure of combat aside, however, here are seven other factors I’ve witnessed, which combine to inhibit dissent within military circles.

  1. Careerism and ambition: The U.S. military no longer has potentially recalcitrant draftees — it has “volunteers.” Yesteryear’s draftees were sometimes skeptics; many just wanted to endure their years in the military and get out. Today’s volunteers are usually believers; most want to excel.  Getting a reputation for critical comments or other forms of outspokenness generally means not being rewarded with fast promotions and plum assignments.  Career-oriented troops quickly learn that it’s better to fail upwards quietly than to impale yourself on your sword while expressing honest opinions.  If you don’t believe me, ask all those overly decorated generals of our failed wars you see on TV.
  2. Future careerism and ambition: What to do when you leave the military? Civilian job options are often quite limited. Many troops realize that they will be able to double or triple their pay, however, if they go to work for a defense contractor, serving as a military consultant or adviser overseas. Why endanger lucrative prospects (or even your security clearance, which could be worth tens of thousands of dollars to you and firms looking to hire you) by earning a reputation for being “difficult”?
  3. Lack of diversity: The U.S. military is not blue and red and purple America writ small; it’s a selective sampling of the country that has already winnowed out most of the doubters and rebels. This is, of course, by design. After Vietnam, the high command was determined never to have such a wave of dissent within the ranks again and in this (unlike so much else) they succeeded.  Think about it: between “warriors” and citizen-soldiers, who is more likely to be tractable and remain silent?
  4. A belief that you can effect change by working quietly from within the system: Call it the Harold K. Johnson effect. Johnson was an Army general during the Vietnam War who considered resigning in protest over what he saw as a lost cause. He decided against it, wagering that he could better effect change while still wearing four stars, a decision he later came deeply to regret.  The truth is that the system has time-tested ways of neutralizing internal dissent, burying it, or channeling it and so rendering it harmless.
  5. The constant valorization of the military: Ever since 9/11, the gushing pro-military rhetoric of presidents and other politicians has undoubtedly served to quiet honest doubts within the military. If the president and Congress think you’re the best military ever, a force for human liberation, America’s greatest national treasure, who are you to disagree, Private Schmuckatelli?

America used to think differently.  Our founders considered a standing army to be a pernicious threat to democracy.  Until World War II, they generally preferred isolationism to imperialism, though of course many were eager to take land from Native Americans and Mexicans while double-crossing Cubans, Filipinos, and other peoples when it came to their independence.  If you doubt that, just read War is a Racket by Smedley Butler, a Marine general in the early decades of the last century and two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor. In the present context, think of it this way: democracies should see a standing military as a necessary evil, and military spending as a regressive tax on civilization — as President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously did when he compared such spending to humanity being crucified on a cross of iron.

Chanting constant hosannas to the troops and telling them they’re the greatest ever — remember the outcry against Muhammad Ali when, with significantly more cause, he boasted that he was the greatest? — may make our military feel good, but it won’t help them see their flaws, nor us as a nation see ours.

  1. Loss of the respect of peers: Dissent is lonely. It’s been more than a decade since my retirement and I still hesitate to write articles like this. (It’s never fun getting hate mail from people who think you’re un-American for daring to criticize any aspect of the military.)  Small wonder that critics choose to keep their own counsel while they’re in the service.
  2. Even when you leave the military, you never truly leave: I haven’t been on a military base in years. I haven’t donned a uniform since my retirement ceremony in 2005.  Yet occasionally someone will call me “colonel.”  It’s always a reminder that I’m still “in.” I may have left the military behind, but it never left me behind.  I can still snap to attention, render a proper salute, recite my officer’s oath from memory.

In short, I’m not a former but a retired officer.  My uniform may be gathering dust in the basement, but I haven’t forgotten how it made me feel when I wore it.  I don’t think any of us who have served ever do.  That strong sense of belonging, that emotional bond, makes you think twice before speaking out.  Or at least that’s been my experience.  Even as I call for more honesty within our military, more bracing dissent, I have to admit that I still feel a residual sense of hesitation.  Make of that what you will.

Bonus Reason: Troops are sometimes reluctant to speak out because they doubt Americans will listen, or if they do, empathize and understand.  It’s one thing to vent your frustrations in private among friends on your military base or at the local VFW hall among other veterans.  It’s quite another to talk to outsiders.  War’s sacrifices and horrors are especially difficult to convey and often traumatic to relive.  Nevertheless, as a country, we need to find ways to encourage veterans to speak out and we also need to teach ourselves how to listen — truly listen — no matter the harshness of what they describe or how disturbed what they actually have to say may make us feel.

Encouraging Our Troops to Speak More Freely

Perpetual war is a far greater threat to democracy in our country than ISIS, Russia, or any other external threat you want to mention.  To again quote former President Eisenhower, who as supreme commander of Allied forces in World War II had learned something of the true nature of war, “Only Americans can hurt America.”

The military and the entire apparatus of the burgeoning national security state should exist for a single purpose: to defend the country — that is, to safeguard the Constitution and our rights, liberties, and freedoms.  When it does that, it’s doing its job, and deserves praise (but never worship).  When it doesn’t, it should be criticized, reformed, even rebuilt from the ground up (and in more modest, less imperial fashion).

But this process is unlikely to begin as long as our leaders continue to wage war without end and we the people continue to shout “Amen!” whenever the Pentagon asks for more weapons and money for war.  To heal our increasingly fractured democracy, we need to empower liberty and nurture integrity within the institution that Americans say they trust the most: the U.S. military.  Dissenting voices must be encouraged and dissenting thoughts empowered in the service of rejecting the very idea of war without end.

Some will doubtless claim that encouraging patriotic dissent within the military can only weaken its combat effectiveness, endangering our national security.  But when, I wonder, did it become wise for a democracy to emulate Sparta?  And when is it ever possible to be perfectly secure?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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